Ellen Cooper (b. 1921-2000) Home and Family: Part 2

‘We had lived there for twenty four years and I will always remember it was great affection and sorrow too. It was the house I grew up in’ (pg. 8).

How can relationships and lives develop within a family home?

The family home, as a safe environment, can allow relationships and lives to positively develop. The protective nature of the home is important for many children growing up and Ellen recalls this memory is her memoir.

Let us begin with Ellen’s mother. Ellen was very fond of her mother and she influenced how Ellen viewed the family home. Her mother’s presence in the home made it a happy and safe place as she writes ‘our mother was synonymous with home’ (pg. 3). Her mother’s strong and loving presence made the house feel like a home. This experience is relatable for some children growing up. This idea is supported by Andrew August when he stated that relationships between mothers and children ‘provided the emotional core of working-class life’ (August; 2007: 21).

Ellen’s new job as a wartime engineer in London meant that she had to leave her family home for the first time. Ellen lived with her Aunt May in Camden Town, London. She enjoyed this new chapter in her life but ‘could not wait to get home at weekend’ (pg. 6). Ellen longed to be at home to be surrounded with a familiar sense of security.

Camden Town, 1930s

With the outbreak of the Second World War, London became an unsafe place. Ellen’s Aunt May, cousin Grace and her baby had no choice but to move to Ellen’s family home in Southend to escape the perils of the city. Living with family and extended family was typically normal in Britain during this time, as August reports ‘more than 90 per cent of residents of working-class districts lived with relatives’ (August; 2007, 21).

Ellen’s sister now had a soldier boyfriend who was on searchlights in Norfolk. Her sister’s boyfriend also moved into the family home as his mother died during the war and father married a younger woman. August commented that ‘non-relatives were also common in mid-nineteenth century households’ (August; 2007, 21). Ellen’s partner John also lived in Ellen’s family home as his parents moved to the Isle of Wight. Ellen’s family welcomed John lovingly stating ‘my home was his’ (pg. 8). The acceptance of non-relatives living in the family home highlights just how caring and loving Ellen’s family really are.

When Ellen’s sister married her solider boyfriend, they lived in Ellen’s family home for three years before moving to their own home in Southchurch. Ellen’s brother also married and moved to live in Epping. The dynamics of Ellen’s family home had changed once again.

When Ellen’s sister married her solider boyfriend, they lived in Ellen’s family home for three years before moving to their own home in Southchurch. Ellen’s brother also got married and moved to live in Epping. The dynamics of Ellen’ family home had changed once again.

When the Second World War ended in 1945, Ellen’s job was over and she returned home: ‘No more going away for a weekend at a time. Mum and I were delighted’ (pg. 7).

Ellen married John in 1955 and they left the family home in Southend to settle in their own home in East Ham. When Ellen made the decision to live with John, her family was faced with a difficult decision deciding on who their mother should live with. Ellen’s father had passed away a few years before this. Ellen recalls how reluctant she was to leave her mother in the family house alone. After discussions with her sister and mother it was decided that it was best for her mother to live in Southchurch with Ellen sister Lily, her husband Bert and their children, as she ‘loved them dearly’ (pg. 8).

The children of the Golding family had now grown up and moved into houses with their spouses. This meant it was time to bid farewell to the family home: ‘Everything was amicably settled and all that remained was to pack up our home’ (pg. 8). Ellen recalls how leaving the home was an emotional experience, ‘quite a few tears were shed, but a good deal of laughter too’ (pg. 8)

The last line in Ellen’s memoir brings a sense of the narrative coming full circle: ‘We had lived there for twenty four years and I will always remember it with great affection and sorrow too. It was the house I grew up in’ (pg. 8). Ellen recalls her love for her family home and how the delightful memories made in it will remain with her and her family forever.

Bibliography:

Mrs. E. Cooper ‘The house where I grew up’, unpublished memoir, 1993, 8pp, Burnett Collection of Working Class Autobiography, Special Collections Library, Brunel University

August, Andrew. The British Working Class 1832-1940. Pearson Education Limited. 2007.

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