Ruth Cox (1890): Habits, Culture and Beliefs Part I – Writing Lives

Ruth Cox (1890): Habits, Culture and Beliefs Part I

The search for fun and excitement away from school and later, the workplace, is something that Ruth concerned herself with throughout her life!

Being from Hyde, Ruth was able to enjoy the best of both worlds in terms of surrounding space. Hyde, tucked away from the high intensity urbanisation that was taking place in Manchester, allowed Ruth the space and freedom to roam, whilst still having more enough to offer Ruth than say, a countryside would.

The Railway Hotel in Hyde, home to Ruth’s grandparents

Ruth writes that herself and her sisters and brothers would go to their grandparents every day after school. Visiting her grandparents was not like most children visiting their grandparents, as Ruth’s grandparents were the landlords of the Railway Hotel! Ruth writes how during their visits their granddad would teach them how to slice meat like a butcher would. Ruth writes, ‘Grandpa used to hand us a knife to [go] down to the cellars where sides of beef and ham were hung and we cut the slices which we preferred, then Grandma used to grill them on an open fire in her kitchen’ (2).  Ruth writes about these times spent with her family with great fondness.

Another activity which filled Ruth with enjoyment was swimming.

In the summer months we were taught to swim(2)

Ruth writes that their was a canal at the back of the hotel that her grandparents owned, she remarks that the canal was banked with sandbags on either side and that ‘we loved to swim and splash about after school’ (2). Its clear that this activity, swimming in the canal, gave Ruth something to look forward to during those long days in the classroom. The fact that this activity, did not cost any money is also important in regards to the fact that Ruth was a working-class child from a working-class family. Whereas wealthier children may have afforded the newest and latest in toys and entertainment, Hyde’s local spaces such as the canal acted as Ruth’s entertainment. Ruth and her friends used what was available to them in order to enjoy themselves.

Canal in Hyde

“What did Ruth do for entertainment when the canal froze over in the winter?” I hear you ask!

Ruth tells us that ‘When the canal was frozen over, Grandpa and other neighbours used to test it and they knew it would hold to enable us to skate on it’! (2). This is a prime example of Ruth and her family and friends using all the equipment and facilities available to them without breaking the bank! Ruth recounts her days as a youth on the canal with great fondness at the times they provided her with.

Find out more about how Ruth sought entertainment as she grew older and more in Part Two of Habits, Culture and Belief!




Cox, Ruth, ‘White Knob Row’,1:184 TS, pp.11 (c.4,000 words). Brunel University Library.


Railway Hotel photo

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