RDP#12: Atavism

Recurrence of traits of an ancestor in a subsequent generation

Sissinghurst farm

Who were our ancestors? Some of us might know and some, like myself, inherit photos from your grandmother and 50 years later are still trying to find out who is who. Gran was the only surviving daughter with 11 brothers and was the youngest. They were all farm labourers in  Sussex, a state in the South of England. No-one was rich, but they managed. She was born in Sissinghurst Castle, so that must be something, although not the actual castle, but the so-called priest’s house. The priest had disappeared years before gran was born. I remember her as a small woman, very quiet and she baked wonderful little cakes, all from the country inheritance.

One day a gentleman from the East End of London, a cockney, was visiting relatives in the same village where my grandmother lived, and whether it was love at first sight I do not know. My dad told me that grandad was already engaged to another lady, broke off the engagement and married my grandmother. Grandmother moved from her quiet sheltered country life to the hustle and bustle and dirt of the streets of London. She never spoke cockney, but kept her nice country accent. I am not sure if traits have been repeated in my part of the family, but I used to bake cakes now and again.

This photo was taken at Sissinghurst at the hop harvest, the fruits used for brewing beer. It is probably my grandmother at the front with one of her brothers, but I am not sure. I have no idea who these people are, but bear with me when I do a reblog of something I wrote some years ago based on this photo.

“Mrs. Relf we are only have our photo done, not going to see the queen.“

“What is that supposed to mean Jed Gurr. I have put my best hat on for this photo. Not everyday that Mr. Stickells calls to us in the fields to make one of those pictures. You can talk, trimming your beard would have been a good idea. I won’t be having you standing next to me in the picture.”

“Don’t worry Mrs. Relf, I will be at the back in any case. I don’t know why the likes of me have to be there. I’ve got work to do. This picture thing is not going to pick any hops for us is it?.”

“Well, look at that here comes  Mrs. Edwards with her best hat on as well.” And Jed Gurr gave Mrs. Edwards a glance of amusement.

“Good morning Frieda” said Mrs. Relf “

“Morning Agnes” answered Frieda Edwards “Lovely day for a photo.”. She turned to her son that was walking alongside of his mother. “Reuben stop running around in that mud, you are going to make your shoes dirty.”

“Come on mum, Mr. Stickells won’t be taking any of those pictures of my feet. It is going to be my face that he is interested in.”

“Well that’s true” said his mother “So did we wash our ears this morning and what’s that grubby mark on your face. Been eating the squire’s raspberries again.?”

“Oh, leave him Frieda” said Agnes Relf “nothing that a bit of spit and a wipe of the pinafore won’t clean off.”

So Frieda Edwards decided Agnes was right and went to work on Reuben’s face. It was clean afterwards but Reuben was not very happy.

“Ow, mum that hurt, didn’t have to rub like that.”

“Well at least you are clean now. What about you Jed Gurr, you could have at least trimmed your beard.”

“Oh, leave him Frieda. He reckons he will be at the back of the photo, because he wants to get away quickly to pick some hops. Look who’s coming, more people here now than you see at the church on Sunday morning, Joan Baldock and her son Jason. Morning Joan, morning Jason. Are you joining in on the picture.”

“It was mum’s idea” said Jason “She told me to put on my best hat and jacket for the picture.”

“I would think so too, Jason. It is not every day we have our picture taken. Just imagine me and my son on a picture together, never been done before. Jed Gurr, make sure you stand behind me. I don’t want that scruffy beard of yours down at the front.”

“Now what have you all got against my beard. I combed it special for the picture. I won’t be at the front. All this new fangled stuff about pictures. Who wants to see me anyhow. I’m here to earn money by picking hops.”

“We all know that Jed Gurr. You are the one that drinks most of the beer down in the inn in the evening, so you have to make sure enough hops are picked to be brewed. “ and Agnes Relf gave Jed Gurr a disapproving glance.

“Now what’s going on, having a go at you are they Jed”. The sisters Emily and Isabel Pankhurst arrived on the scene. Both spinsters, but always there when something interesting was going on in the village.

“Nice day to have a picture taken” Emily said and Isabel nodded in agreement.

The Pankhurst sisters always agreed on everything
“Well I must say everyone is looking their best. I told Emily we ought to put on our best hats, you never know who might see the picture one day.” And Emily nodded in approval. She nodded in approval at everything Isabel said. They were not twins, Isabel was the oldest, but only by a year, but that year meant respect when you lived in a small country village.

“Even Reuben has nice bright and shiny face.”

“Well that’s cos me mum spit on her pinafore and rubbed it up.”

“I should think so to Reuben” his mum said “can’t have you with a dirty face on a picture now can we.”

“You are right Frieda Edwards, what would Mr. Stickells say when he arrives.”

“Talking of Mr. Stickells and his picture machine, about time he was here. I have work to do.”

“You and work, Jed Gurr, now that’s new. Thinking more about the time the inn opens up.”

“Oh leave him Agnes, as long as he stands at the back who cares.” And Emily Pankhurst found her sister Isabel was right.

“Look mum” Reuben Edwards was getting excited “Mr. Stickells is coming down the road with his three legged stand and big photo machine. Mrs. Crabb is with him as well.”

“Trust Philadelphia Crabb to want to join in on the picture.” Said Reuben’s mother. “She’s not from this village, but on the other side of the river. Only moved in a couple of years back and already thinks she belongs. “

“Morning ladies and gentlemen” said Mr. Stickells. “So are we already for having our picture made. Now get yourselves nicely organised. As I can see it we are going to make a nice picture. I think we will put the gentleman with the beard at the back in the middle and the ladies forming a row in front. The lady with her son should stand together on the right. Take these flowers in you arm I brought with me as a prop, brightens up the photo a bit, especially with your son standing next to you. Now let’s have the young man at the front on the right. But somethings missing. Can’t have a young lad on his own. Whose the girl standing over there watching.“

“That’s Reuben’s sister” said Frieda Edwards “she has just finished her work in the diary.”

“Well, young lady you come over here, take up a branch of hops like your brother and stand right next to him. Now all we need is that basket in front and I think that will be perfect. The sunlight is just right and the hops are a nice frame to the picture. Ok, everyone don’t breath, stand still, it won’t take long.”

Mr. Stickells put his head under the black cloth on the camera and pressed the button. And this photo is a moment in time in a village somewhere in East Sussex.

RDP#12: Atavism

11 thoughts on “RDP#12: Atavism

  1. This is a wonderful of the day! Maybe you got it exactly right!

    My English ancestors were also from Sussex. I could know more about them than I do, but I doubt I’ll do any more research into them. Their name was Tibbs. Once the last Schneebeli sold her name to some Copenbarger dude, and their Copenbarger daughter married Tibbs, it was all downhill as far as I’m concerned 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • They were all Baldocks and I managed to trace them back through many generations. They seemed to have believed in big families those days. Many of the names I used in this piece were names shared in my grandmother’s family. And Stickelss were a well known photographer of the time that took many old photos of the area. Their name appears on the photo and they can also be found in Internet.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. And I am sure that is EXACTLY the way it happened. It still does. “You, the tall one. I need you in the back in the center. You there, can you go down on one knee so we can see the ladies in the back. Now, everyone say ‘MONEY’ and there’s the smile.


    Liked by 1 person

    • As the third tallest in the class, I was always in the middle on the class photo standing, the back row was standing on chairs and the front row sitting on chairs.


  3. What a smashing read!
    I love this stuff.
    My grandmother was in service as a young girl and I believe she drove an ambulance during the war.
    I don’t now if there are any photos around . I really should ask my mother.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My grandmother worked in the diary at the farm in Sissinghurst castle. During the war she was bombed out with her family but they got a nice new house to live in afterwards and dad got leave from the army to help out.

      Liked by 1 person

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