This is an abbreviated version of an article by Maureen Hunt.

Thomas Bratt - The Portobello Poet

Thomas Bratt (1852 – 1929) was a profuse writer of poetry, most of which had a local flavour. In his verse he recorded many of the important events of the day and commemorated sad occasions such as family deaths. A list of his works can be found in Wolverhampton Archives and Local Studies, but many of these may not have survived.

Thomas Bratt

Family History

Thomas Bratt was born on the 25th February 1852 and his birth certificate shows the family living at 'Portobello'. Thomas’s father, William was born in 1810 at Ettingshall and worked as an engineer. He married Johanna Woodnorth sometime before 1839 and they lived at Ettingshall. Their first child William was born in the same year and the family is recorded in the 1851 census as follows:  

Ten House Row William Bratt  (41) Engineer & fitter  born Ettingshall  
Anne     (28)  born Etingshall  
William (12) Apprentice engineer born Etingshall
Sophia (9)   Scholar born Etingshall  
John  (3 days) born Willenhall  


Richard Morgan (25)  Stone Miner born Salop  

By 1851 the family had moved to Ten (or twelve) House Row, which was in Portobello High Street. It is said that these houses were built for railway workers, which seems to tie in with William's job as an engineer and fitter. The family had one other child, Thomas in February 1852.

Portobello School in about 1908. From an old postcard.

The family continued to live in the Portobello area. The entry in the Electoral Register states that William Bratt was living in Stone Street in 1874 (could have been father or son) and William junior was living at 41 High Street in 1910. 

William Junior died in January 1920 and Thomas wrote a poem for the occasion called “In Memorium – William Bratt – Brother – Died Jan. 1920”. 

Thomas also mentions in another poem from December 1903, called “In Loving Memory of Stepfather – Richard Morgan” that his mother Johanna was married twice. The second time to Richard Morgan, the lodger mentioned in the 1851 census.
Sometime before 1880 Thomas married Lucy Maria, whose surname is unknown. They lived at the Gough Arms, 20 High Street, Portobello. This is listed in the 1881 census.

The Gough Arms where Thomas and his family lived.

1881 Census entry:

20 High Street Gough Ams, Willenhall. 
Thomas Bratt  (29)  Publican and Mechanic  born Portobello
Lucy Maria (29) born Heath Town
Johanna   (3) born Portobello
Clara Maria (1) born Portobello

They had at least 10 children. The others were:  

Anne (Annie)  born in 1882, Portobello
Lucy M born in 1885, Portobello
Randolph Henry Spencer Churchill  born in 1887, Portobello
Another daughter? born in 1889, Portobello
Beatrice born in 1890, Portobello
Robert John born ?, Portobello
John born ?, Portobello
Horace born ?, Portobello

Robert John and Annie died while still young and this is commemorated in two of Thomas’s poems:

1).  “In loving memory of our darling child Robert John - Died September 6th, 1899”
2).  “In loving memory of Annie Bratt – Daughter - December 1903”.  

By 1900 the family had moved from the Gough Arms to 84 High Street, Portobello. In the 1900 trade directory Thomas is listed as a greengrocer. The family was still there in 1926 as can be seen from the entry in the Electoral Register:  
Thomas Bratt 84 High Street
Lucy Maria Bratt 84 High Street
Horace Bratt 84 High Street
John Bratt 84 High Street
The same Electoral Register also has an entry for Thomas’s son Randolph Henry Spencer Churchill Bratt and Louisa Bratt (presumably his wife) living a few doors away at 74 High Street.  

Thomas’s wife Lucy Maria died in February 1927, as recorded in his poem “In loving memory of  my dearly beloved wife”. Thomas died two years later on 19th August, 1929 and was buried alongside Lucy in Bentley Cemetery. Two of his last poems were dedicated to his grandsons George Beach and Joseph Horace Abbis. They were called “In memoriam – grandson George Beach” and “In memoriam – my grandson Joseph Horace Abbis - February 1929”.

The tribute to Thomas's wife reads as follows:

In Loving Memory of my dearly Beloved Wife,
God bless her whom we all do love
Although she's passed away,
She's gone to that bright Home above,
With loved ones there to stay.
And though she's in the silent grave,
We'll not forget the day,
When Jesus came her soul to crave,
She had to him obey.
She's gone to join that shining throng,
Before the great White Throne,
And sing their everlasting Song,
To millions here unknown.
She used to pray both night and morn,
To God, to bless us all,
And now I hope she will adorn
His everlasting Hall.
She was a true and faithful wife,
Both honest and sincere,
But now she's left this world of strife,
For a brighter sphere.
Farewell, from all of us, farewell,
Until we meet again,
Along with Jesus Christ do dwell
On Zion's peaceful plain.

Thomas Bratt.

After Thomas’s death his son Horace continued running the family business. He is listed in the 1940 trade directory as a fruiterer, trading at 84 High Street. Horace is also mentioned in “The Memories of Harry Cotterill” and the fruit shop window was featured in an article on Portobello that appeared in the Wolverhampton Chronicle on 23rd August, 1957. A list of Thomas's works can be found in Wolvehampton Archives and Local Studies at Snow Hill. The list includes over 430 poems and 90 sonnets.

The poems

Thomas was certainly writing poetry by 1881 because one of his earliest poems  “In memory of Lord Beaconsfield” was dedicated to Benjamin Disraeli who died in that year. He may even have been writing much earlier. His poem “In memory of Prince Leopold” could have been written in 1865 or a little later. We can learn a lot about Thomas and what he thought of life from his poems:

He was very much a royalist and expressed this in the following poems:

“In commemoration of Her Majesty’s Jubilee”
“To Victoria”
“The Royal Wedding (The Earl of Fife)”
“H.R.H. Albert Victors Last Farewell”
“H.R.H. The Prince of Wales’s Jubilee”
“For the Royal Wedding”  

Some of his works feature leading public figures of the day:  

“In Memory of Cardinal Newman”
“To the Rt. Hon. W.E. Gladstone (82nd Birthday)”
“To the Rt. Hon. C.P. Villiers (90th Birthday)”
“To Lord Tennyson”
“In Mem. Lord Salisbury”
“In Mem. Sir Ernest Shackleton”  

He was also interested in warfare:  

“The soldier and his friend”
“The Transvaal War – The Lions awake”
“A soldier’s farewell”
“A welcome to our volunteers”
“The Russo – Japanese war”
“The St. Petersburg massacre”  

Thomas was an ardent football fan:  

“Villa V. West Brom”
“W. Brom V. Villa”
“W. Brom V. Wolves”
“The Wanderers Song (English Cup Final 1893)”
“Derby City V. Stoke at Molineux (semi final)”  

Poems about local people, places and events include:  

“The Portobello Ghost”
“In Memory of Poor Tim the Newsman”
“The Willenhall Park”
“The Willenhall Fire Brigade”
“Lines on the Willenhall Locksmith’s strike”
“The Bradley Boiler Explosion”  

After many years of searching for the works of "The Portobello Poet", they have now been found. Alice Bratt, Thomas's great grand daughter has copies of the poems that have been handed down within the family. She has over 17 volumes of the handwritten poems, all in red ink, which doesn't fade. Her collection includes the poems, sonnets and an entire book of psalms in verse. She has a complete list of his works and a large number of letters of thanks, that were sent to Thomas by grateful recipients of some of his work. Many of the letters are from famous people including royalty and heads of state.

Maureen Hunt and Alice Bratt with some of her collection.

It is hoped that all of Thomas's works will be sorted and eventually published, with perhaps the psalms appearing first.

Read some of the poems  

If anyone has any of Thomas’s poems or sonnets, Maureen Hunt would love to hear from you.
Please contact her at:  

3 Slade Road
WV10 6QP
Or telephone / fax 01902 780050 

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