Nora Hampton (1895-1918): Habits, Culture and Belief

‘On Sundays we were in our “best” cream cashmere dresses with lace in our sleeves and neckline and leghorn hats – cream with big bows’

(Hampton 29)
Example of a Methodist Church in the Midlands (image is a postcard from the 1920s)

As mentioned previously in my Home and Family posts, community is extremely important to Nora which is why religion plays an extremely significant role in both her and her family’s lives. She explains how ‘we were Baptists – puritanically disposed in those days – my grandfather and great grandfather were very intricately connected with an old chapel – called in my day the Messiah Baptist – along Cinder Bank Main Road to Dudley’ (Hampton, p6). As you can see, for Nora, religion ran deep in her family and as soon as she was of age to go to Sunday school her parents enrolled her. Rosemary (Nora’s daughter) informed me that herself and her brother also went to Sunday school and had an Immersion baptism.

Nora describes her Sunday school experience highlighting how:

‘Sundays from 9.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. was spent by all of us at the chapel and Sunday School. Mother dressed Cis and I alike and people thought us twins. On Sundays we were in our “best” cream cashmere dresses with lace in our sleeves and neckline and leghorn hats – cream with big bows. I detest being my best – as I was a ‘tomboy’ and didn’t like to have to be “careful” to keep my dress clean. I detested the trouble of changing in between times of morning service and afternoon – didn’t like Sundays at all in those days, especially the boring lay preachers and the hour’s Sermon, – all hell, fire and damnation (Hampton, p29)

Sunday school and attending the chapel was a whole day affair which also caused for a Sunday dinner attended by the whole family, it was a celebration and a chance to have a day of rest from your domestic duties, as a woman, and work, as a man. For the children it was a chance to learn respectability and meet their friends.

Nora elaborates on her Sunday school experience explaining how there was ‘a new minister – a young man fresh from college – Rev A. R. Boughen’ there was ‘200 hundred of us’ the day he arrived (Hampton, p38). Sunday school for all Black Country working class individuals was extremely important as you can see 200 children attended one Sunday school in the Black Country, imagine the total number of attendees for the whole region! Parents wanted their children to attend Sunday school as they ‘made an essential contribution to basic education, and they pro-pounded the values of industry, thrift, cleanliness, and self-discipline that the parents of the scholars themselves endorsed’ (McLeod, 1978, p3).

As Nora’s memoir occasionally jumps to her present thoughts, she expresses how ‘last year in fact – the church has been razed to the ground – which is a catastrophe as a church has been on that ground for hundreds of years – we were immersed there – married there and several of my ancestors buried there. There was a Baptist Church in Netherton in the time of Oliver Cromwell’ (Hampton, p6). Here, Nora identifies through the denotation of ‘razed to the ground’ how the church which holds significant family memories has been destroyed and swept away completely. As her father years before the church was closed kept it afloat by paying ‘Mr Boughen’s salary for some time as the chapel at the time was very poor’(Hampton, p39). The way she underlines this phrase may have been conducted intentionally to take centre stage as well as using this type of language to metaphorically convey the church being swept away has caused her family’s good doings there to be swept away and destroyed.

C.1900s Pictorial Family Bible

It is suggested that the working classes’ recreational activities consisted of ‘drinking in pubs, playing in brass bands, singing in choral societies, betting ‘on the dogs’, pigeon fancying’ (McLeod, 1978, p3) all were instances of popular cultural practices that could be understood as being inscribed with class meanings. However, Nora never mentions any of these activities being uptaken by any of her family members. Rosemary highlighted how Nora and her husband Ernest used to be part of the Church committee organising the Harvest festival and afterwards Ernest use to organise the auction sale. Rosemary also exposed how Nora and Cis used to paint, copying the cover of magazines and Cis was a fabulous painter, also one of Nora’s paintings is hanging up on one of Rosemary’s walls. Nora joined the WEA – Workers Education Association, undertook an architecture course, and was extremely interested in furniture and antiques which could have stemmed from her interest in her grandmother’s antiques I mentioned in the Home and Family post. When Nora was a child, she never mentioned her mother participating in any clubs, this is because there was a lack of associations for women where they could go and congregate together.

One yearly habit for the Hamptons was a holiday, and Rosemary told me that they used to holiday for free in Towyn, Wales at least five times a year.  Her first holiday was near Abersoch, Wales in a red stone farmhouse, and you would cross the road and be right on the sand dunes looking out onto the beach!

Sounds lovely don’t you think? 🙂

Primary sources:

  • Hampton, Nora, ‘Memories of Baptist End, Netherton, Dudley in the period 1895-1918’ Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 3:68. Accessible by: http://bura.brunel.ac.uk/handle/2438/10931
  • 3:0068 HAMPTON, Nora, ‘Memories of Baptist End, Netherton, Dudley in the period 1895-1918’, TS, pp.63 (c.26,000 words). Brunel University Library.

Secondary sources:

  • AuctionZip, n.d. C.1900s Pictorial Family Bible. [image] Available at: <https://www.auctionzip.com/auction-lot/c.1900s-Pictorial-Family-Bible_7350D99BD4> [Accessed 11 May 2021].
  • McLeod, H. (1978). Recent Studies in Victorian Religious History. Victorian Studies,21(2), 245-255. Retrieved May 9, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3827539
  • Worcester and Dudley Historic Churches Trust, n.d. Methodist: Lansdowne Road, Great Malvern. [image] Available at: <https://www.worcesteranddudleyhistoricchurches.org.uk/index.php?page=malvern-methodist-church> [Accessed 11 May 2021].
  • Feature image: Campbell, R., 2021. young wife and mother Nora Hampton 1920’s. [image].
  • Interviewing Nora’s daughter Rosemary Macadam: Macadam, R., 2021. Asking Rosemary about her life and her mothers – Nora Hampton.

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