When looking back at his family life, Mansbridge talks very fondly of his home and family. In his chapter ‘The First Ten Years’ he admirably recollects the memories of his parents:
‘My father, a man of great capacity, was a carpenter […]. At the time of my birth the family lived in Albert Cottages, India House Lane, So they called me Albert. Three brothers were born before me. […] My mother was a keen-minded woman of Welsh and Highland Scottish descent, with mystic power, the better exercised because it was unrecognized by her; perhaps it was a “sixth sense”‘ (Mansbridge, 1940, 9).
Like many children, Albert idolised his parents at a young age. His admiration, both for his parents’ magical powers and ability to do whatever they took their hand to, perhaps nurtured in him the determination and imagination to make his mark on popular education. The home and family for Albert are where the foundations of the man he would become were laid.
Mansbridge’s words are filled with absolute joy and purest love when he discusses his family in The Trodden Road. He explains how, thanks to his wife Frances, he found his solitude vanished: ‘the walks which I had always enjoyed by myself on the commons of Clapham, Wandsworth, and Wimbledon took on a new significance in her company, and brightened the days devoted to hard work in the city and the multifarious activities in which I was involved’ (Mansbridge, 1940, 44). It is evident that his wife was the apple of his eye and someone whom he not only found comfort in, but whom he also found common purpose with.
It is also important to note that Mansbridge worked alongside his beloved wife Frances and considers her one of the driving forces behind his success. When discussing the idea of the Workers Education Association with Samuel Barnett (a close friend and endorser of the movement), he claims:
To have said “no” would have been impossible, for my wife, with characteristic vision, saw great work ahead (1940, 60).
Immediately we can see that Frances was aways aware of the brilliance behind Albert’s passion and was set on helping him achieve his dreams. She devoted a large portion of her time and effort into developing both the WEA and Albert himself. Their working relationship was as strong as their love for each other.
With regards to the notion of ‘home’, Mansbridge explains how ‘it was obvious from the account of my various activities that my home, particularly before my marriage, was a pied à terre rather than the scene of operations’ (Mansbridge, 1940, 45). From this we can see that Mansbridge was always a busy man, but his wife was what motivated him further than anything else could with regards to his work. Home became more than just a “place”; it was a symbol for everything which Mansbridge held dear. With home came his dear wife, family, and his work. Unlike most, Albert’s work was something which he took great pride and joy in (despite the occasional bout of debating his capabilities).
Home and family were the two things which drove Mansbridge in life. He could not survive without either. Albert shows great affection for his family throughout the memoir and it is clear that his family motivated him through his work constantly. His home was not only a place of joy, it was a place of education and understanding. It became unofficial headquarters where everything “behind the scenes” was manufactured. Albert Mansbridge’s memoir is no more a testament of his beliefs as it is a testament of his love for those who made him what he is. The home and family were the cornerstone of everything Mansbridge was.
- Albert and Frances Mansbridge. WEA Scotland. Web, accessed 26/10/2015.
- Mansbridge, Albert, The Trodden Road, London: Temple, 1940.