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Card Story

From 1908 – A Family Story

These days it could be a social media post; but in 1908 the mail was the way to stay in touch. There’s not much here to suggest this is anything other than a happy family taking a well deserved holiday at Scarborough on the Yorkshire coast. Seen in a historical context, it’s laden with poignancy. Within a few short years, Joe’s world would collapse, the confidence and hope of the Edwardian era giving way to something much darker.

It’s only a postcard but with a bit of detective work, we can get a glimpse into the lives of these people. (Although we still don’t know what was wrong with “mother’s hip”.)

“Joe” was Joseph Wilkinson Lancaster (age 39), a boot warehouse manager from Bradford, Yorkshire. Pictured with him were his wife, Emily (36), their son Cyril (11), and daughter Renie (2). Harry and Edith were two of Joe’s younger siblings, living at 22 Merton Road, the home of “mother” (in fact their step-mother and aunt). Joe’s father had died in 1907 and, as eldest son, Joe was now the patriarch of the Lancaster family. (Which is probably why he was asking Harry and Edith to send him the bill. As executor of his father’s will, he controlled the family finances.)




“It’s only a postcard but with a bit of detective work, we can get a glimpse into the lives of these people.”

You can see that they were a reasonably affluent family in their smart Edwardian attire. You might guess that Joe was something of a sportsman from his bearing and the cricket ball in his right hand. In fact he was an active member of the Airedale Harriers and competed regularly in top flight middle distance track events. He also played amateur cricket and was an avid rugby supporter (both union and league) and football fan.

38 Tennyson Avenue was a guest house only a stone’s throw from Scarborough’s Marine Road cricket club. He might have been found there if Yorkshire CCC had been playing, but their next fixture at Scarborough (against MCC) did not take place until the end of August that year. The guest house was also near Peasholm Park and its famous boating lake but Cyril would not have been able to sail his model yacht there in 1908 – the park was only opened to the public in 1912. So it seems that he probably sailed it in one of the rock pools at the beach – “We are all going in a body in (the) mng (morning) for (a) paddle…”

The holiday must have been quite a family gathering. “Mother” was Mary Wilkinson (1845-1924), sister of Joe’s mother, Eliza Matilda (1847-1886). Eliza Matilda died soon after the birth of her 10th child and Mary came to help Joe’s father manage the household. “Arthur N” was William Arthur Newell, Emily’s brother; and “Miss Gillett” (Mary Evelyne Gillett) married Arthur in 1911. Arthur lived next door to Joe and Emily in Legrams Lane, Bradford.

The sad end to this story is that Emily died in November 1914 from a “malignant disease of the intestines”. Joe found himself in much the same situation as his father in 1886. He had three children to bring up, Laurie having been born in 1911. Joe married again in 1916. His second wife, also called Emily, was a first cousin of his first wife. They had four children between 1916 and 1924.

Cyril died in 1917, only a few weeks after his 20th birthday, following a gas attack on his battalion behind the lines in Flanders. Joe died in 1948, Emily in 1963, Laurie in 1979 and Renie in 1991.



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