Frank Prevett (b.1904): Researching Writing Lives

Approaching this module, I was apprehensive, despite having experience of blogging due to taking the Social Media module in my second year. I believe I was apprehensive because the Social Media module gave you free reign over what you chose to write about. However, I have thoroughly enjoyed this module. It has been interesting to see the differences and the similarities between my generation and previous generations. Also, I feel as if I can relate to my author despite being born almost a hundred years apart.

Frank and Florence on their wedding day.

I chose Frank Prevett’s memoir, ‘Memoirs of a Railwayman’, for several reasons. Firstly, looking through the biographical entry it was clear that Frank’s memoir went into vast detail on many topics from his childhood, education and his time working on the railway. Furthermore, Frank lived in many areas in the South East of England and coming from this area myself I felt it would enhance my research as I have a brief amount of knowledge of the areas he lived and worked in as I have travelled through some of these areas myself. I did initially struggle with Frank’s memoir due to the length of the memoir. Frank’s memoir is 347 pages long. I was fully aware of this when deciding upon this memoir, but I did struggle with figuring out the best way to approach the memoir and compile my notes. I received advice from Tracey, who took this module the previous year and her author was Harold Heslop, and she advised me to break the memoir into sections and make notes depending on which topic the section was most relevant to.

Researching Frank’s life was relatively straight forward due to Frank going into great detail in his memoir. He gave information regarding where he lived and worked and the duration of time he spent in these respective places. Frank provided names for the schools his twin sons went to and names of companies that they later went on to work for. This led me to find information on his sons and what became of them following the conclusion of Frank’s memoir in 1968. Frank’s own childhood was harder to research as he only gave the name of places he lived. Frank did not give the names of schools he went to or the places he worked before starting a career on the railway. Furthermore, Frank was rather vague in relation to his family, outside of the domestic space. Frank did not reveal the names of his sisters and very few names of his extended family. Through research I was able to find Frank and his family on the 1911 census but following his marriage in 1927 he rarely mentions his family outside of his wife and his sons.

John Prevett – 2nd Top Left Peter Prevett – 2nd Bottom Right

Sharing my work on Twitter has increased my confidence in sharing my work publicly and receiving feedback not just from my peers on the Writing Lives module but also those that have an interest in the railway and the history of the railway. Through the social media project, I did have experience of sharing my work on twitter. Although, I felt that on the Writing Lives module there was a stronger sense of support as we all working on the same project and could support each other accordingly. I believe it is important to share other people’s work as it provides a greater insight into working class lives from the 19th and 20th century and improves my own knowledge of working class lives instead of having a singular focus on just my author.

Writing Lives has enhanced skills in research and improved my confidence by sharing my work with a larger audience. Ultimately, taking part in this module has proven to myself that I am a competent researcher as often our author’s memoirs provide little information in some regards, so we have had to find relevant information with little information to go off. I have thoroughly enjoyed researching Frank’s life, sharing my work, sharing my peers work and gaining a different perspective of 19th and 20th century lives.


‘Frank Prevett’ in John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall (eds) The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography 1790-1945, 3 vols. (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989): 2:638.

Prevett, Frank. ‘Memoirs of a Railwayman’, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection


Frank and Florence Prevett – ‘Memoirs of a Railwayman’

John and Peter Prevett – R. J. Hawkins

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