Unfortunately, we know very little about Margaret’s own family. All that can be gathered from her documented speeches is that her schoolmaster was also her father, and that she had at least one child, because the titles of the documents are addressing Margaret as ‘My Mother’. Nevertheless, the more Margaret tells us of her education, and her brief mentioning of her profession as a teacher, the more we can begin to deduce her relationship with her father. Even though it was commonplace for women to be encouraged to pursue teaching ‘if they showed any aptitude’ (2) for it. The fact her father was a teacher himself may have given her slight head start in her education, meaning that she would possess the knowledge and ability to pursue the same career her father did. It is because he may have been a large influence in this career choice it shows how important he was Margaret, possibly even idolising him, even enough to follow in his footsteps as a teacher.
‘I can look back across the years and picture my own Nursery class (only we called it Babies then)’ (1)
In one of her speeches, Margaret appears to prove her aptitude in her recital of the William Barnes poem The Geate A-Vallen To when she speaks about the simple pleasure of home. Her ability to do this may have come from her time at school because they learnt by repeatedly chanting, but reciting poems such as this would have set her apart from the rest of the students, allowing her to advance in her studies. This further helps to prove how much of an impact her father had on her life’s trajectory.
Now to consider the nuclear village family. Nineteenth-century domesticity relied heavily upon gender roles. Margaret tells us how ‘[b]oys usually found work in the village’ (2) as it was typical for them to be encouraged to take up a vocational job such as a farmer or carpenter, as these were physically demanding. Whereas for women, ‘[a]s a rule’ (2), the young girls in the community were limited to service roles or teaching, showing how society viewed women as incapable of carrying out the jobs as men. This meant that when the boundaries of domesticity were pushed by organisations like The Women’s Institute (WI), it built women’s confidence through education and solidarity (Robinson, 2011).
Before the WI began to play their instrumental role in deconstructing conformist norms, the standard village home still had women at the centre, maintaining the home and feeding her family. Margaret paints Hamworthy to be a quaint ‘typical village’ (3), surrounded by hills and valleys occupied by the shepherd’s sheep. What the families of the village called home were their cottages, which Margaret tells us ‘were rather small, and families were on the large side, but they managed’ (6). Because these families were so large it was more difficult to put food on the table, so the added cost of extra rooms was unnecessary for families out in the countryside, who had limited access to jobs outside of their town walls anyway. Even though they were small these cottages offered an abundance of happiness to children like Margaret who grew up living in them. She fondly recalls the weekly routine of ‘hetting’, a word which through research I have found to no longer exist, but it appears to be a process where the oven is cleared of the wood and coal debris to carry on making fresh bread in the upcoming week ‘and was that bread good!’ (6).
When talking about the older Hamworthy, Margaret’s tone becomes a lot more earnest in how she speaks of it as she reminisces about how different it was compared to the ‘modern’ 1950s society.
Where the carpenter’s shop stood now sits a modern bungalow, the blacksmith’s shop is a garage. All that is left of the mill is a miniature waterfall from the dam above. The cottages are all modernized. In the fields instead of the horses and the various calls of the carter is the noise of the tractor, on the roads the rush of traffic and overhead the roar of aeroplanes. (9-10)
But whilst there is a heavy tone of loss in this section of her memoir, Margaret appreciates it to be a God-given evolution into the modern age, which allows her to be more appreciative of her new environment.
Yet those things God gave us remain. The song of the birds, night and day, the shortening and lengthening of the days, and the everlasting hills that have sheltered my village all down the ages still keep their silent watch over our everchanging way of life. (10)
Ultimately, what Margaret considers home is what brings her happiness. The comfort she finds in the small details of a cottage kitchen, and the large industrial changes across the landscape of the village. These and everything in between are what makes Hamworthy Margaret’s home.
1:0886. Scutt, Margaret. (c.4,000 words). Burnett Archive of Working-Class Autobiography
Robinson, Jane. A Force To Be Reckoned With: A History of the Women’s Institute. Virago Press: London. 2011.
Cottage Interior by Thomas Faed https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/cottage-interior-104450/view_as/grid/search/keyword:cottage–location_latitude:507487635–location_longitude:-23444786–location_radius:5/page/1
Labourers’ cottages https://www.flickr.com/photos/museumwales/2217890089/in/photolist-4nZgsi-2iQxGKP-Asm1Ta-boJFRm-b6Ybwn-Ytwbgx-3oYTWc-qdN2FU-dpEmvn-RUXfPv-9Vu1XH-K7Wke-2eCYgBY-RuLvb8-5V2DRR-Qn13aG-FuuJrR-FZEawA-cWLDZo-ei2ZUe-4LcAWd-92WQQd-fsZU45-9KBMJs-2kNKsud-TAjmqu-2euEbye-284b33j-2ktSX6p-5ugifd-28aKJiY-dGyFhs-dGtgFz-qGEhQS-29cwRNP-dWzysV-26dS6vd-Xhroat-oup7jz-2kd9gx1-dGthdr-8tJTaC-wApRkg-9BfrDU-vQ99bo-M5fe2W-4pXFSC-5DTscX-C9o8B7-2iZLxtc