Nora Hampton (1895-1918): Researching Writing Lives

I cannot believe I have come to the end of my Writing Lives journey!

Before I continue, I want to say a massive thank you to Nora’s daughter, Rosemary Macadam, Nora’s granddaughter, Ros Campbell, and Kevin Ashcroft, who is linked to Nora through the Monktons and Hamptons, for allowing me to contact them, and ask questions about their family history. It has been such a fantastic experience being able to get in contact with Nora’s family, and receiving pictures and new information has been fascinating. Above all, it has made my Writing Lives experience so exciting, and I hope I have done Nora’s work justice!

So, let’s start at the beginning, being faced with the ‘Burnett Collection of working class Autobiography’ was a nerve-racking experience, the power was in my hands to choose a memoir and put my all into the research and writing. As my mother is an English teacher, we discussed how exciting this module is and the prospect of researching someone’s life in depth. I told her that I would LOVE to find an author who was from the Midlands as that is where I grew up, and it would be so interesting to read about the places that are so familiar to me through someone else’s eyes, and in a completely different time frame.

I began scrolling down the long list of authors hoping to find a place name familiar to me, and that is when I found Nora Hampton, saying I was thrilled is an understatement!

From reading Nora’s memoir and researching into the time frame she writes has allowed me to develop an understanding how complex the term ‘working-class’ is. Before starting this module, I had always been taught that working-class individuals who lived in the 1900’s were extremely poor, in workhouses, and starving. However, Nora could not be further away from this, she had a lovely upbringing and continuously expresses how fortunate she has been. After reading Nora’s memoir my aim throughout all my themed posts was to teach others by portraying how not all working-class people at the time were in workhouses or extremely poor. Like Nora, they can be well educated, and go onto a highly regarded profession.

From connecting with Nora’s family, I gained an insight into the years which she missed out of her memoir due to falling ill and sadly passing away. I can fill the gaps through my blog posts as well as elaborate on the existing information and themes she covers. Also, I asked Nora’s family to provide me with images off her to add to and supplement her current work which has brought my blog to life. Also, adding parts of Rosemary’s life (Nora’s daughter) allows the Hampton story to become much more diverse, complex and detailed as Nora did not mention much about her children’s lives and her later life, I have now been able to fill in the gaps and build on the existing Burnett Collection of working-class Autobiography.

To continue, I have learnt that blogging is a fun way to present your work, you can express your writing style and personality through the layout of your work, adding images, and videos. Also, blogs offer accessibility for all as they are placed on the internet for free for anyone to read. Furthermore, the blogs offer a differing tone of voice to that of an essay which therefore allows for different reading abilities, you do not have to be highbrow to read a blog. Ultimately, this took the pressure off, as I could be myself and really explore what I found interesting in the hope that others would too.

Last year I took a module called Prison Voices, which was written on a similar platform to Writing Lives. I chose this module because I enjoyed prison voices so much, and I wanted to carry on developing my research skills. Furthermore, I have a great deal of experience with blogging already due to various journalism-based internships that I have undertaken alongside my academic program.

Through this module it became apparent to me how powerful social media is as a tool for research.  I was able to connect with the Black Country Museum and view various images and videos of the museum which looked extremely familiar to Nora’s description of her road, and Dudley Town centre. Because of this, I was able to gather a mental picture in my mind of what she was describing which really helped me to visualize her surroundings, and her life in that moment in time.

Finally, from taking part in this research project it has ignited a spark in me to document my life through writing. Nowadays we have our eyes glued to our screens when instead we should be experiencing the world around us. Nora has taught me that you should enjoy family company, and turn to literature for inspiration and comfort like she did.

Thank you so much to everyone who has read my work, it has been a pleasure!

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:

  • Feature image: 2016. Devin Griffiths: Untimely Historicism. [image] Available at: <https://www.boundary2.org/2016/10/devin-griffiths-untimely-historicism/> [Accessed 11 May 2021].
  • Interviewing Nora’s daughter Rosemary Macadam: Macadam, R., 2021. Asking Rosemary about her life and her mothers – Nora Hampton.

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