Wilfred Middlebrook (b.1899-): Biographical Entry

527 MIDDLEBROOK, Wilfred, ‘Trumpet Voluntary’, MS, pp. 687 (c.126,000 words). Brunel University Library.

Born 18 Dec 1899 in Blackburn. Both parents worked as weavers in the cotton mill (‘poverty knockers’ and ‘textile slaves’). 3rd born but the first child to survive infancy. Educated at church school; council school; Bradshaw Street School; evening classes; Technical School; classes at Weaving School. Married, 1921, with 1 daughter and 2 sons. Family moved to Nelson in 1900 and author subsequently lived in Barrowford (1914-16); London (1916-19); Barrowford (1919-22); Malmesbury, Wiltshire (1922-32); Warminster (1959-), where he was still living in 1984.

Chocolate-seller at a theatre; half time ‘tenter’ in cotton mill at age 12, becoming full-time at age 13, and a weaver one year later; boy writer in Royal Ordnance Office (1916-18); enlisted in Royal Navy in 1918, receiving demobilisation in 1919; returned to weaving in 1919; unemployed (1921); overlooked in silk mills (1922-59); cloth examiner (1959-65).

Suffered from a serious stammer as a child; member of the Nelson Textile Society; published several articles on textiles in The Textile Manufacturer.

An extremely well-remembered and detailed narrative providing an excellent picture of the author’s ancestry, the struggles of his parents and their families, and childhood in the industrial north, with vivid descriptions of work in the textile industry, chronicling its gradual demise in the first half of the twentieth century. Middlebrook also offers a full record of his war work as a boy writer at Woolwich and of his naval training and service. Family life is a theme that runs throughout the text. Other topics discussed include the local slaughterhouse; children’s games; holidays in Blackpool; fairs; dress; the home and domestic chores; ‘Saturday pennies’; the cinema; shopkeeping; music lessons; courtship and ‘clicking’; life and work in London during World War I; hospital treatment; ‘love on the dole’; air raid precautions and evacuees during World War I.

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