Grandmas Gleanings from Newton's Woolsthorpe

Recollections from a Lincolnshire Hamlet By Margaret Anne Winn Published in 1994 Copyright M. A. Winn 1994

This is a collection of stories and facts, recording the childhood of the Robinson children and their way of life growing up in Woolsthorpe in the early 1900's.

Chapter 1 Faith, Hope and Charity A Family Portrait

One of my earliest childhood memories is of a large print of a photograph of my Mother and two of her sisters, hanging behind my Grandad's chair, in his cottage in Woolsthorpe. My Mother always called it Faith, Hope and Charity and which ever way you looked at it, she said, she was Hope! Annie, Helen and Alice - the Robinson girls. I remember, in my childlike way, trying to decide which of my two aunts best fitted the other two virtues. My Mother Margaret Helen Robinson, known as Helen, was born at Clark's Lodge, Easton, on 7th April 1907, the third daughter of Fred and Lizzie Robinson (nee Thorold). Annie the eldest girl was born at Ilkeston on 10th January 1903. Then came Lucy, born on 24th May 1905. Lucy was taken to live with Lizzie's Mother at Partney when Alice arrived to help to spread the load but never returned home to Woolsthorpe to live with the family again. The other sisters were very jealous of Lucy's better off existence and her good fortune in nicer clothes and more toys. Lucy was physically very tiny, like a china doll. My Mother recalled her easily walking upright underneath the big scrubbed wooden kitchen table, on her visits to Woolsthorpe with the Grand Parents. As her birthday fell on Empire Day (it was also Queen Victoria's birthday) Lucy thought she should have been called Victoria, after the Queen, and that the sometimes-allowed holiday was in her honour! The fast growing family had moved again, as was usual with farm labourers, and Lucy was born at The Dumplings Farm Cottage down Burton Lane, off what is known locally as The High Dyke.

In 1908 Fred and Lizzie moved house again to live at Woolsthorpe by Colsterworth, in one of a square block of four red brick houses on the Street (now number 20 Newton Way). Fred started work for the Morley Brothers, Farmers of Skillington and he drove a steam powered thrashing machine. To get to work Fred would have to cycle, sometimes many miles. If the farm was too far away he would stay on the farm for the whole week and return home at weekends. Poor Fred, he did not have many home comforts, as when he was just a little boy, with a baby brother, Jim, his Mother died. His Father quickly re-married, a widow with her own family, who turned out to be the typical wicked stepmother! Fred was sent out into the fields to work, scaring crows at the age of nine. Father and stepmother subsequently had a family of their own and Fred was forced out into the world at a very early age. In his equally early marriage to Lizzie he sought not only a wife, but also a mother substitute, a role which Lizzie fitted perfectly. My mother's first recollection of Woolsthorpe, as a toddler of a year old, was of falling down the front steps. She had mastered the art of walking on flat ground, but had not encountered steps before!

The move to Woolsthorpe would have been made on 6th April leaving and hiring day for farm workers. The next baby born to Lizzie and Fred was another girl, Harriet Alice, arriving on 25th November 1909. She hated the name Harriet and insisted on everyone using Alice. Of the girls she was her Dad's favourite. Annie and Alice were very fair, almost flaxen haired, whilst Helen and Lucy were equally dark haired. My Mother's hair only started to go grey in her late 800s. Frederick John a boy at last, a wonderful son!! said Fred. He was born 13th May 1912. The family was completed on 25th October 1919, when a second son, Arthur Leonard arrived. This was after a gap of seven years in which time Fred, like so many of his fellow countrymen, served in the Great War. After spending some time at the front, Fred was invalided out with a weak heart and was sent to various military and convalescent hospitals in England. He was eventually sent home to his family, but subsequently often complained of his heart missing a beat.

Fred never forgot the terrible conditions in which the army lived and died in World War One. He always wore two pairs of stout hand knitted socks for the rest of his life a lesson learned the hard way of cold wet feet in inches of water and mud in the trenches. One of his letters home was full of rejoicing as he recounted his joy at meeting his own steam traction engine Billy Elchin from England. It was being used at the front to carry supplies and was full of bullet holes he put his arms around it and cried like meeting an old friend, he said. In the early twenties the Robinsons moved again this time for good to Top Cottage (now called Redland cottage), which Fred bought for the princely sum of 75. My Mother remembered the day that her younger brother Len was born. The girls were sent out early, with young Frederick John in the pram, to walk to South Witham Station a distance of about four miles to meet their Grandmother Thorold. The first train came and went but their Grandmother was not on it, so they decided to wait for the afternoon train. It duly arrived, bringing Grandmother Thorold with it. She went in search of the carrier to take her to Woolsthorpe. Her luggage was loaded onto Frederick John's pram and the girls wearily pushed it up hill and down dale homewards. When they eventually arrived home a neighbour was in their Mother's kitchen; Where have you been you naughty girls, your Mother's been worried frantic oh, and don't make a lot of noise, you've got a new baby brother!! That was the first inkling any of them had about a new baby arriving! That was why the Grandmother had been sent for and it seems she arrived just in time!

Go to Chapter 2 - Going Gleaning