My parents and me

I was born on Sunday, 10th September, 1911, at No.1, Cemetery Road, Bilston in the County of Staffordshire. This was my Mother's family home and had been built by her father, Thomas Henry Hill, a Master Builder, who had died in 1888, aged 41. Mother had returned to her parent's home for her confinement - as so many young mothers did for the birth of a first baby.

My father, Henry Rendell.

I was Baptised, Mary Louise, at Oxford Street Congregational Church, Bilston, on Sunday, 8th October, 1911.

My Father, Henry Rendell, was the son of Henry Rendell, a guard with the Great Western Railway Company, working on the Wolverhampton-Paddington route. They lived in a railway house in Alma Street, (now demolished) in Wolverhampton, though the family came originally from Honiton in Devon.

My Father attended St John's School (also now demolished) in Cleveland Street, Wolverhampton. He left at the age of 11 having obtained a School Leaving Certificate for satisfactorily going through every class. I believe one (old) penny a week was paid for education at that school.

After his father died, my Dad left home and became apprenticed to a butcher in Bournmouth and lived with the family over the shop. I recall him telling me that he frequently swam in the sea, including the ritual of doing so on a Christmas morning.

My Mother, Mary Ethel Shepherd Hill, had one brother and three sisters, survivors of the 14 children born before her mother was widowed at the age of 39. Mother's mother had married at 19 (eloping with a first cousin!) and lived to be 86 years old. Grandma did not live alone when her children married, but lived with them in turn, staying several months with each. She was happy staying with us, although our home was noisy and crowded, for there were four brothers between me and my little sister. We all loved the quiet, gentle lady who sat by the coal fire in a rocking chair, knitting garters for herself. I recall that when she was old, she had false teeth. She would carefully remove the bottom denture shortly before meals, place them in a clean white handkerchief and stow them away in the pocket of her skirt.

My mother, Mary Hill.

Grandma Hill.

My Mother's brother, Thomas Henry Hill, who was older than her, was admitted to the Royal Orphanage in Wolverhampton, as the son of a deceased 'Masterman', but only one child in a family could be there at any one time. When her older brother left the orphanage, my Mother was too old to be admitted, so her younger sister Elsie was able to go.

On leaving school, my mother went to work in a grocery shop in Bilston. Butter and lard came in large packs and were cut for each customer. Ham and bacon were sliced by hand. Sugar, tea, soda, rice, sago and oats etc. were weighed into different coloured sugar paper, made into pyramids, and the top tucked in, (No sellotape in those days!)


Meanwhile, my father had completed his apprenticeship as a butcher and had returned to Wolverhampton to live with relatives. He then became employed as a bread salesman for the 'Patent Digestive Bakery'. It was while delivering bread to the grocer's shop in Bilston that he first met my mother and eventually they started courting.

My mother's main leisure activity was roller skating and she went to the rink one night each week. My father's hobby was ballroom dancing. As neither of them was prepared to switch, they decided that they would both give up their interests and began to save their money with a view to getting married.

A tied house became available near to the bakery where father worked and on 26th September, 1910, they were married at the Independent Chapel in Bilston. They were reputed to have had the first 'taxi cab wedding' in Bilston and my mother had to remove her 'cartwheel hat' before she could get into the cab.

Grandpa Hill.

I do not know if honeymoons were common in 1910 and I never knew if my parents celebrated their marriage in that way. But at least they had a rented house of their own and made it comfortable for my arrival almost one year after their wedding.

Although I was Christened 'Mary' after my Mom, I was immediately called 'Mollie' and that name has stuck with me ever since.

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Brothers and a Sister