“If any boys have mice in their pockets, turn them out” (p.8).
A large amount of Francis’ memoir revolves around the fun he had throughout his life and as a young man, as well as events he attended. It is made clear throughout that Peet included elements of fun and enjoyment in common everyday occurrences which highlighted his seemingly happy-go-lucky attitude towards life.
Francis recalls his first “treat” (p.3) when he was just six years old – he attended a celebration for the Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Coronation in 1887. He reminisces on the amount of food and drinks, accompanied by sports, games and dancing, “with a bonfire and fireworks after” (p.3). Peet recalls being gifted with a toy trumpet, which made him long to join the band who were employed as the entertainment for the evening.
A Hertfordshire Parade – same week as Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.
Peet reminisces about the fun memories from his time at Birch Green School. He writes about a prank which took place one afternoon, where multiple boys from the class snuck mice into school and let them loose, which therefore “spoiled lessons for the afternoon” (p.8), which shows Peet’s cheeky and mischievous side as a young boy.
We can trace continuing patterns of recreation and leisure throughout Peet’s life and memoir through his enjoyment of bird watching and learning. Further along in the memoir, Peet goes into greater detail concerning his hobby and enjoyment of learning about birds and bird nesting, as well as the pleasures he found in collecting eggs – “from my earliest years I tried to collect eggs” (p.9). This idea of fun is carried out and drawn upon again later and throughout the memoir and his life. Francis later again revisits the idea of his fondness for bird life, noting how there are much less birds’ nests around locally in comparison to 40 years ago. He states how “I have always been interested in bird life around the Parish” (p.14). Peet tells his readers of when he first saw a magpie in real life, and how he “had never seen one until 1916 about here” (p.14).
A Hertfordshire War Memorial – prone to birds’ nests, 1887
Francis’ cultural activities are significant to his personal identity and also to his class identity, as his idea of leisure and enjoyment is fuelled by the non-expensive hobby of common bird watching. Peet gains gratification from his studying of birds and their habitats, which is something one can conduct from home. The idea of class shining through as a result of this is due to Peet’s hobby avoiding being extremely upmarket and luxurious, and is instead a relaxing pass-time.
Peet writes in reminiscence of fun times at the local Public Houses around the town. He remembers the owner, Charles Hummerstone, as being “quite the character in the village” (p.16). Although Peet does not delve into extreme detail surrounding his times at the local public houses, it is evident that he experienced joyful times and that they were a significant element of his youthful life. Ian Pritchard (2012) states that “the cultural import of the public house increased even further in nascent industrial communities” (p.330) which highlights the societal importance gained by public houses in the helping of deeper connecting individuals within society.
The Plough Inn, Hertford Public House, 1900.
551 PEET, Francis Alfred, ‘Recollections’, TS, pp.19 (c.10,000 words). Brunel University Library.
Burnett, John ed. Useful Toil: Autobiographies of Working People from the 1820s to the 1920s London: Routledge, 1994.
Pritchard, Ian. “’Beer and Britannia’: Public-House Culture and the Construction of Nineteenth-Century British-Welsh Industrial Identity”. Nations and Nationalism 18.2 (2012) 326 – 345. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8129.2011.00524.x
Image 1: Hertford War Memorial. Retrieved at: [Accessed: 27th April 2021].
Image 2: A Hertfordshire Parade. Retrieved at: [Accessed: 27th April 2021].
Image 3: The Plough Inn, Hertford Public House 1900. Retrieved at: [Accessed: 27th April 2021].