I only had one set of surviving grandparents when I was growing up – my Yorkshire grandmother Clara and my Aberdeenshire grandfather James (Jim) – and for much of my childhood we lived fairly close by in Leeds, so I remember them well and fondly.
My grandmother Clara was a jolly person, always smiling and laughing. She was a good cook and loved making meals and baking treats for her family, as well as excellent jam from the strawberries and raspberries my grandfather grew on his allotment. Her Yorkshire Pudding was as it should be – light and fluffy, but crisp around the edges. She adored her grandchildren, kept a supply of sweets in her handbag, and loved family get-togethers and days out.
Her life was focused on family, home and neighbours: she knew everyone who lived nearby and was friends with lots of them, as well as being close to her nearby brothers and sisters. Her mother lived in the same street after being widowed in 1925, so for over 25 years Clara and her mother were close neighbours.
My grandmother’s death in 1965 from a stroke, at the age of 71, came as a huge shock to us all. She was, and still is, very much missed.
Clara Green was born on 29 July 1894 at Spark Lane, Mapplewell – which I’ve been to see – and at the time her carpenter father was working as a cart repairer at a nearby colliery. Clara was the fourth of eleven children born to Joseph Green and Charlotte Senior, nine of whom survived childhood. She lost her sister Charlotte in 1905 and baby Albert died in 1911.
In around 1899 the family left the Barnsley area, where both Joseph and Charlotte came from, and moved to Leeds, living for a few years in Hope Grove, Armley, in a house which has since been demolished. They are there in the 1901 census, Clara age 6 and her father a carpenter. Her father can be found on the electoral roll at 3 Hope Grove from 1900 to 1904. In May 1904, however, Clara’s parents had their youngest three children baptised at St Stephen’s, Kirkstall, and their address at that time was Stack Cottages, Abbey Road, Kirkstall and on the 1905 electoral roll Clara’s father is at a dwelling house at Kirkstall Forge – most probably he was working there as a carpenter.
In 1906, however, Joseph Green is on the electoral roll at 7 Vicarage Avenue, Kirkstall, the house in which Clara was to spend nearly all her life. In about 1911 the Green family moved to the bottom of the street and took a larger house at 48 Station Parade, Kirkstall – with nine children and a lodger, they must have needed the extra room. By then Clara was sixteen and working at a nearby mill as a cotton spinner. I’m not sure which mill it would have been, as there were a number of mills along the banks of the River Aire, which formed one of the borders of the parish of Kirkstall. The family moved back into 7 Vicarage Avenue in 1915, and that is the address Clara’s father gave when he did army service with the Royal Engineers at Aldershot during the war.
In November 1916 my grandfather, James Fraser of the Gordon Highlanders, was wounded during the Battle of the Somme – he was shot through the left wrist. He was sent to an army hospital that had been set up at the teacher training college at Beckett’s Park, which bordered Kirkstall. On his discharge from the army in 1917 he decided to stay in Leeds and attend a government sponsored training course in order to become a qualified painter and decorator, and he took lodgings at Vicarage View, Kirkstall. James and Clara met, and on 19 July 1919 they were married at St Stephen’s Church, Kirkstall.
(INSERT PIC OF THEM ON THEIR WEDDING DAY)
Wedding day studio photograph of James Fraser and Clara Green
James and Clara first set up home at 2 Springfield Terrace, Kirkstall, where their eldest daughter Marjorie was born, but moved into 7 Vicarage Avenue in about 1921 when Clara’s parents moved house. My mother, James and Clara’s second daughter Dorothy, was born at 7 Vicarage Avenue in October 1921.
Clara was to stay in that house for the rest of her life, and she was a housewife, mother and grandmother, except for a short time during the war when she worked in the packing department of Timothy White’s, a chain of chemists. I suspect she was glad when her war effort was over and she could go back to the life she loved, looking after her family.