Frank George Marling (1863-1954): Home and Family – Part Two

The “Old Post Office” is a double fronted house with a store room, or shop, at the side, beyond which are, or were, big doors opening in to a wide passage […] leading to a yard in which stood a large shed or workshop […] The small sitting room to the left of the front door, as also a bedroom upstairs, was occupied by a couple of maiden ladies. We had the rest of the house (p.11).

unknown artist; Eastgate Street, Gloucester; Gloucester Museums Service Art Collection;

After living in “the High Street” (p.6) and before moving to Sharpness , mentioned in part one of this post, Frank and his family had to move again. He writes about the experience of having to move from the High Street at the beginning of his memoirs: “[…] they [Frank’s parents] had not been settled in for more than six months when Ayriss [their landlord] was killed in the hunting field and his widow gave notice that she would […] require the house for her own occupation.” (p.10). Therefore, Frank’s parents had to find another home in “the Market Place, now known as  ‘The Old Post Office'” (p.10-11) as mentioned above. Frank was aged “about four years” when he moved to this house (p.11).

Having to live in a shared house was difficult for Frank and his family. He mentions how the other people living in the house caused a “great trouble ” to them all (p.46). Frank explains how the other occupants of the house would “[…] stay up late and come noisily to bed.” (p.46).  This caused Frank’s parents to move again to another home in “Salter Street” in “the Autumn before” Frank turned seven (p.47). 

 John Burnett writes how “striking” the living conditions were for many working-class writers, and how severely “overcrowded” their houses were (1994, p.219). By reading Frank’s accounts, it is clear that he and his family had to experience some form of overcrowding. Frank’s experiences also suggest to us how other working-class families in the late 19th century may have lived. Burnett notes that working-class writers did not “record” their experiences of living in overcrowded homes with “feelings of resentment”, but rather “with feelings of nostalgia” (1994, p.221).  Frank provides a long and detailed description of the Old Post Office. The description is not negative, but simply a recollection of his memories. This therefore demonstrates his “feelings of nostalgia”, rather than resent (Burnett, 1994, p.221).

With regard to my family, my wife and I were very happy together. I had joined the church […] on 29th Feb 1880 and was a Founder member. On our marriage my wife became a member and in every way, with regard to temperance, smoking, thrift, management of home and children, etc., we saw eye to eye (p.161).

Frank’s wife, Sarah Catherine Eley (Marling).

Frank does not discuss his children in his memoirs, most likely because his memoirs are unfinished. However, he does include details of their names at the beginning. He was married to Sarah Catherine Eley on the 7th September 1893, with whom he had four children, according to his records. He writes about meeting his wife for the first time when he was aged just “4 years, 4 months old” in “the first week in may 1867”, while Sarah (Kate) was only two years old (pp.161-2).

It is clear at this point that Frank was at an older stage of his life while writing this part of his memoir. There is a significant change in his handwriting, which demonstrates how he has revisited his memoirs years later. Frank also refers back to the start of his memoirs while repeating details he has already mentioned, in order to recollect the reader’s thoughts as well as his own.

Other family members who were briefly mentioned included James Eley, who was a cousin of Frank’s mother. He was also a farmer and owned a large farmhouse in Moreton. The description of this house is detailed, as Frank writes about how he had a “large pool with a big horse-chestnut tree towering over it” (p.39). It was here, that he first writes about meeting his wife of “thirtyfive years” (p.40) at the time: What I cannot claim is that I there and then fell in love with her – it would be splendid if I could – and determined one day, to make her my wife, but I can claim that she and her sister are the first girls I remember! (p.41).

unknown artist; Whitley Park Farm, Berkshire; Museum of English Rural Life;

Frank’s memoirs are filled with details of his family members and home life as a young boy living in Berkeley and Sharpness. He clearly had a great admiration for his father, as well as his brother, Allan, who is also referred to throughout Frank’s memoirs (there will be more details about Allan in my future posts). Frank seemed to have had a closer and stronger bond with the male figures in his life in comparison to the females, as he writes a great deal more about them.

Frank’s school life also makes up a great deal of his “recollections”. Read all about his school days in my next post, ‘Education and Schooling’.

Bibliography

  • Burnett, J. Destiny Obscure: Autobiographies of Childhood, Education and Family from the 1820s to the 1920s. London: Routledge, 1994.
  • ‘Frank George Marling’ in Burnett, John, David Vincent, David Mayall (eds) The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography 1790-1945. 3 vols. (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989)
  • Gagnier, R.  ‘Social Atoms: Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity, and Gender’. Victorian Studies. (Spring, 1987). 30(3), pp. 335-363.
  • Marling, Frank George. ‘Reminiscences’. Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies. Brunel University Library. Special Collection, 1:492.
  • Savage, M. Social Class in the 21st London: Penguin, 2015.
  • Seabrook, J. Working Class Childhood: An Oral History. London, 1982.

Images used

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *