The Edmondsons of Briercliffe with Extwistle
Up To The Present Day
Serann and Robert Blackledge continued to work with horses and for many years ran a horse bus service between Clayton Le Woods and Chorley at weekends and on market days. They had two daughters, Lillian (my mother) born in 1895 and Evelyn Ellen born in 1901, and just the one grandchild, myself born in 1928.
Serann died on my seventh birthday, 22nd May 1935 and is buried in the graveyard at St Bedes Roman Catholic Church Clayton Green near Chorley. She kept her love of horses all her life and I remember her ability to call to hand any horse seen browsing in the fields. One of my last memories of her is seeing her, then in her early-mid 60's, kneeling in the roadway whispering into the ear of a poor old horse who had fallen whilst attached to his cart, both her arms around his neck and her long white hair spreading out over the horse's head. I recall that she had insisted that the owner release the horse from the cart and she stayed with the horse comforting him as best she could until the man came to put him to sleep.
Throughout their lives the four sisters remained a close knit family, even though two of them had moved away from the village when they married.
After their marriage Elizabeth Ellen and Serann lived within a few hundred yards of each other, and their children grew to adulthood, almost as one family. As youngsters, they all attended St Bedes R.C. School at Clayton Green, and on leaving school they all entered the cotton industry working as weavers in the local mill, where Wellington Dearden - the husband of Alice the youngest sister, was the mill Manager's son.
After a few years Wellington moved over to East Lancashire with his wife and only child, Audrey, though frequent visits kept the sisters in close touch. I have been told by Audrey (now in her 90s) of the pleasure and excitement of these visits to her aunt's and her cousins, for being the youngest she was much loved by all. At Christmas one of the aunts would buy her a doll, which would be dressed by Lilian and Gertie, the boys, Walter, Percy and Tommy would make a wooden cradle, and the girls would make the bedding. She recalls the happiness of those days and the pleasure in receiving these handmade gifts, even though her parents could provide her with far more expensive presents.
By 1910 the cotton industry underwent a slump, and many weavers lost their jobs. Wellington, now a Manager, was able to find jobs for the three eldest boys and they moved over to East Lancashire, living with their aunt and uncle during the week and returning home at weekends. Vincent, the youngest boy, was still at school, and Gertie stayed with her parents, helping out the family finances and assisting her mother in the house.
Then in 1914, came the Great War. Both Percy and Tommy volunteered to join the army and both enlisted at Chorley on 14th November. Walter, their elder brother was not in good health and his services were not required. Both Percy, aged 21, and Tommy aged 19, were assigned to the 15th Kings Liverpool Regiment to begin their training.
Within a few months of the outbreak of war, a new Corps was formed within the British Army and Percy volunteered for this new unit at the outset. This new unit was the Machine Gun Corps, known as the "Suicide Squad", and his low number indicates that he transferred very early in 1915. He very quickly gained his promotion to Lance Corporal and then to Corporal and eventually to Sergeant, but I have not been able to ascertain whether he became Sergeant before or after they were sent across to France.
I was lucky enough to find him mentioned by name in the War Diaries, which were compiled by the Officer in Charge, in the trenches, at the end of each days fighting. It is quite unusual to find "other ranks" referred to by name, as mainly it was the officers who were so mentioned, so I was extremely lucky to find at least five references to him.
In 1916 he was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field. I have not been able to ascertain the date of the award, nor in which action he was involved, but the award was shown in the London Gazette dated 21st December 1916. Audrey recalls a letter from his commanding officer sent to this parents stating that "He had continued firing when all of his men were lying dead around him" but of course on one knows what happened to that letter.
According to the War Diaries on 10th October 1918 two machine gun units (consisting of six men each) were sent up the line to defend a cross-roads which was under heavy fire by the enemy. The men set off at 2pm in motor lorries, but arrived long before their guns and ammunitions which were to follow on mule drawn limbers (a type of carrier). Them men were forced to take cover whilst waiting for their guns to arrive, and were in direct view of the enemy guns. Eventually the limbers arrived, having been delayed by the terrible ground conditions, and the men came out of their cover to begin unloading their guns. They took a direct hit whilst unloading, eight were killed and 14 were wounded. The remainder went on to relieve the guns of 32 MG Corps in Poelcappelle, near the church.
Percy and his colleagues were buried next to each other in Bard Cottage Cemetery Boesinghe, Row A.
But the anxiety and sorrow of the family back home in Whittle-le-Woods, did not end there. Tommy also was severely wounded by a German sniper whilst at a rest camp, and was treated back in England at a military hospital, from where he was honourably discharged as unable to fulfil army physical requirements.
Like practically every family in England, the cessation of hostilities brought a period of mourning for the boys who did not return home, and although I never knew Percy, his photograph stood on the piano in my home for many years - a prized possession of my mother, in a silver frame. A very handsome young man, with his MM ribbon proudly displayed.
I have tried to discover what happened to his MM but without success. It is thought (by Audrey) that it was given to his fiancee Clara Waring but her descendants are unable to find it and the War Office will not produce a replica.
By the time I was born some 10 years after the end of the war, the family had dispersed somewhat, Tommy had married and was living and working in Derby, with his wife and children, and Vincent the youngest son of Elizabeth Ellen and Robert Clitheroe, had qualified in London as a teacher and took up a position in Blackburn, where he married and raised his four children. Walter too, had married and I believe that he too lived in Derby, though I am not sure of this.
Only Gertie, their sister remained in the village along with my mother Lilian and her sister Evelyn, and all three of the brothers visited regularly, as did Audrey from her married home in Skipton. Vincent became Headmaster and moved down to Southampton where he ended his days, and his four children remain in the south of England with one daughter being in the USA.
So throughout my childhood I got to know the remaining offspring of Elizabeth Ellen as well as those of Mary, who were then living over in Clitheroe and nearby districts. Evie in Clitheroe where she ran an exclusive dress shop, and her sister Eleanor in Worston where they kept the Calves Head Hotel. Eleanor had married into the Parker family of Entwistle and her husband John had inherited the hotel as his part of the estate.
We often used to visit Eleanor in Worston and I still remember the succulent aromas which filled the hotel and the superb meals which were produced for the many guests who flocked to the restaurant. My mother would sit at the huge scrubbed table with the ladies from the village preparing trays of vegetables, whilst Eleanor would tend the huge ovens which filled one wall of the kitchen. I remember large glistening fish (salmon) being brought to the kitchen and trays of chicken and ducks being sent up from the farm.
It seemed to be to be a magical place, with a stream running through the garden behind the hotel. I remember peacocks strutting around and horses and dogs in the stables. I recall one visit when John had to go off to the local market and left my Dad in charge of the bar, which he forgot to close at lunch time. I don't recall ever staying overnight, but the bus journey from Whittle via Blackburn and Clitheroe took about three hours and to me seemed interminable. After Serann my Grandmother died, her husband, who everyone then called Uncle Bob, used to go over for weeks at a time, helping out in the stables and around the farm, and he was in his element there, no doubt, reliving his past experiences with the horses.
John and Eleanor had two daughters - Ellen the eldest who was older than I and Joan more about my age, Ellen always known as Nellie and her cousin Margaret, Evie's daughter, married two brothers and Nellie died comparatively recently, certainly after I started this family history. Joan married and now lives in Tasmania with her own children and grandchildren and one of Nellie's daughters is, I believe out there some where.
So, although I was an only child my childhood was a very happy one. I adored my Dad, was fussed over and spoiled by my grandparents and well loved by my mothers sister Evelyn, who sadly never had any children of her own. Gertie was living close by still, with her husband John and their only daughter Josie and they used to call by almost daily. Mother and Aunty Eve never missed a day without seeing each other, and if even they had "words", one or other would call on the other before the end of the day to make up.
Grandmother died on my 7th birthday and Granddad continued to call on us every day. He was a hard headed Lancashire man who "called a spade a shovel" and who spoke in a broad Lancashire accent. He never seemed to have much time for his two daughters, but was always kind and generous to me. Every morning he would stand at the bus-stop when I was going to school and which he continued to do long after I married in 1949. He never thought anyone else capable of seeing me safety on to the bus. Granddad lived until 1951. My beloved father died in 1957 my mother in 1968, my aunts in 1969 and 1976 and my husband in 1983.
Sadly, I never had any children of my own, but Gertie's daughter Josie still lives close by and I see her and her husband quite regularly. I have had great pleasure in her two boys, Victor and Anthony, both now fully grown up and away from home. Victor, my godson, now a strapping six footer is a policeman with the Lancashire Constabulary and Anthony is with the DHSS but as yet, neither has married, may be later!! I have extracted a promise that if and when they should have sons of their own, the name Edmondson will be given as a middle name, hopefully to bring the name back into this part of Lancashire where it was once well known and respected. Hope springs eternal!
Finally during this research, I uncovered a ghostly story surrounding Nixon Hillock Farm. It appears that the property remained empty and desolate after the Edmondsons moved away and it wasn't until the early 1940s that efforts were made to restore the property.
It was purchased by Bobbie Charlton of footballing fame during his time with Preston North End. By the time renovations began, the house was virtually hidden from view by the large bushes and trees which had grown up around it. One of the workmen engaged on the restoration reports having seen a ghostly figure of a lady in a black skirt and blouse and wearing a white lace cap, crying and wringing her hands in distress. She was standing about two feet above the new floor level, presumably where the original floor had been.
Could this have been Ellen, following the tragic loss of her two sons, for I have a photograph of her wearing exactly the same articles of clothing!
I have tried to find out if the present owners have encountered such occurrences, but they refuse to be drawn on the matter and my enquiries remain unanswered.