‘All in all I think this was a good age to grow up in. The horrors of violence and the greed for money and material things had not yet shown itself to any marked degree and our young ears were not subjected to “news of crime” and disaster as is churned out daily by our radio and television’ (38)
An extract from Winifred Till’s memoir.
Winifred Till was born in south London on the 13th November 1896 in a two story terraced house, which was shared with another family. Winifred’s memoir entitled ‘The Early Years of a Victorian Grandmother’ focuses on her childhood from 1896-1910. She writes her memoir in 1976 for her grandchildren. The main themes that can be found in the memoir include: family, childhood, education and working-class home and work life.
Winifred’s writing style was one aspect of her memoir that really attracted me to it. She writes with a lively and vivid descriptive style. Winifred’s memoir being written for her family gives it a very personal feel. This aspect of the memoir really allowed me as a reader to feel as though I was really getting to know Winifred as a person. Winifred is an excellent storyteller throughout the memoir, making on the odd occasion digressions into her thoughts and feelings as her adult self, yet all the while retaining her focus on her childhood and her experiences of it: ‘anyway I will get on with my story’.
Another aspect of Winifred’s memoir that really intrigued me was how highly she spoke of her working-class childhood during a decade that is notoriously difficult for working-class people to survive in. Winifred praises her parents’ hardworking and family orientated attitudes throughout the memoir, as they provided her with a safe and happy home. Winifred gives us very little insight into other family’s lives surrounding her in the working-class areas of London. Only very rarely does she allude to other struggling individuals which is something I find interesting, and intend to discuss in more detail during the course of my studying Winifred’s memoir.
Winifred’s passion and inspiration behind her writing her memoir is that of family life. Winifred’s memoir highlights to her grandchildren the importance of working hard and providing a happy and stable home for children during their childhood. Throughout the memoir she emphasises the importance of enjoyment, playing and activity in childhood and how she believes they all contribute to a happy childhood. Winifred is influenced by the world she now lives in to write her memoir to her grandchildren, informing them of an age where technology did not interfere with a child’s experience of life. Winifred is very passionate about teaching her grandchildren that children should grow up in a world where their minds are free from outside influences such as television and radio: ‘our minds grew naturally and we learnt to enjoy and appreciate the simple things of life’ (38).
Although Winifred’s memoir reflects on her childhood with a positive and happy outlook, she does give the reader a sense of how hard being from a working-class family was. Her memoir gives a real sense of the everyday life, struggle and hardships working-class families had to endure.
2-0763-Till, Winifred. ‘The Early Years of a Victorian Grandmother’, TS, pp.39. (c.13,000 words). Brunel University Library.
The featured image is an original photograph of Winifred sent to me by her son.