Norah Elliott (b.1903): Home & Family Part Two – Writing Lives

Norah Elliott (b.1903): Home & Family Part Two

This is part two on the home and family of Norah Elliott. For more of Norah’s home and family, read part one.

As part one discusses, Norah’s start to family life was by no means ordinary. Losing her mother, father and siblings had a huge effect on Norah’s outlook on the home and the family. Her memoir doesn’t ever go into great detail about her adopted parents or family, and only begins to talk about her adopted aunts, uncles and cousins during her twenties. It is obvious that Norah felt closer to those whom she was split from during childhood.

“A lane turns off the Southwell Nottingham Road and passes through the hamlet of Halloughton”

 One entry of her memoir which seems to be close to Norah’s heart, is her summer spent at Halloughton Wood Farm with her adopted Aunt and Uncle, and their nephews and nieces. One chapter entitled ‘Halloughton’, is filled with rich, heart-warming memories of her time spent in this home. Helping out on the farm, cooking, baking, blackberrying and driving in pony carts, Norah tells us she ‘spent very many happy holidays there’. It’s likely that she was so fond of Halloughton Wood Farm as the countryside was a place for independent living which resonated with many working-class citizens.[1] Her words on life at Halloughton Wood Farm resemble those by another female, working-class writer, Mrs. W.E Palmer who grows up on a farm in Sussex. 

A favourite part of mine from Norah’s memories of Halloughton is when she writes, ‘One holiday I held the gate open for a group of huntsmen. “Do you know who they were?” Jack asked, “No”. “The Prince of Wales and the Duke of Gloucester”. I wasn’t very impressed.’

Norah’s memories of Halloughton Wood Farm are a particularly important contribution to her autobiography as it is the first time, since she writes about her biological family, that she seems truly happy. She even says ‘I wonder if I was a cuckoo in the nest – Uncle had no children of his own but plenty of nephews and nieces – I was included in the thirteen residuary legatees in his will.’ It is difficult to say why Norah doesn’t talk of her adopted parents, but as David Vincent states: ‘the most striking characteristics of the autobiographers’ treatment of their family experience is not what is said but rather what is not said.’ (1980, 226) Norah may have resented her them as they were not her “real” parents, or she felt it more appropriate to stay focused on her biological mother and father when writing her autobiography, or maybe they never rekindled their relationship following their dispute over Norah’s education. Nevertheless, Norah keeps her adopted surname, Elliott, for the rest of her life.

“I shall never marry or have children”

Staying an Elliott all her life meant that Norah never married. Also, Norah never had children. Unlike women of the 19th century, 20th century women had more choices in their life, particularly surrounding work, marriage and children[2]. Norah was one of these women, choosing her teaching career over starting a family of her own. Whilst at a tea party in college, Norah is asked about her future. In reply, she recalls saying: ‘“I shall never marry or have children”’, and notes how ‘the voice that spoke was not [her] own but came from deep within and continued so that only [she] heard, : “to suffer as I have suffered”’. Sadly, her devastating family history clearly effected Norah’s outlook on family life and may be another reason for her childless spinsterhood.

Norah’s home was never a home for long, particularly during childhood. As previously mentioned, Norah was born in Hucknall, Torkard and moved to Annesley in early infancy. Due to her father’s protests, she was then moved to Bentley, in Yorkshire where she would spend her last few years with her family. Following her father’s death and her mother’s illness, Norah was adopted and moved in with Mr and Mrs Elliott, in Ruddington, Nottinghamshire (only 15 miles from her place of birth). During college, Norah lived in digs called Cintra, in Reading, and after college, she attained a teaching job in Maltby where she stayed until emigrating to Australia during World War II. It is not known where Norah lived after returning to England, but she was living in Bramley in 1951. Finally, she is writing her memoir from her home in Bradmore, Nottinghamshire up until 1984.


Works Cited

[1] Burchardt, Jeremy. Paradise Lost: Rural Idyll and Social Change Since 1800. London: IB Tauris Publishers, 2002.

[2] ‘Exploring 20th Century London: Home and Family’. Web. Accessed 10th February 2017.

Elliott, Norah. ‘Untitled’. The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography. Ed. John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall. Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989 (3 Vols) Nb. 2:242. Available at

‘Norah Elliott’ in John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall (eds) The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography 1790-1945, 3 vols. (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989): 2:242

Images Cited

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