My Great Grandmother's Memories Of Castle Bromwich
Andrea Knagenhjelm shared some of her great-grandmother's memories of Castle Bromwich on the Francis Frith website:
"As I was not robust as a little child, my parents took part of a small house at Castle Bromwich, a country village, as town life did not always suit my health.
This house belonged to the village schoolmaster. His name was Mr. Barnes and he had the village school which was attached to his cottage. We all stayed from time to time with Mr. and Mrs. Barnes and loved them very much. In fact we called Mrs. Barnes, “Mamma Barnes”.
Mr. and Mrs Barnes loved us all and we were very happy with them in the country. The house and garden were very pretty. Grapes grew over the porch. There was a nice lawn to play on, and trees to climb.
I loved to sit on one of the lower branches of a tree and pretend it was a horse. I jumped up and down, while the leaves shook, so that I was really riding a horse. I remember well those pleasant days.
The butcher came once a year to kill the pig. This frightened me very much. After it was killed and cleaned, I saw it hanging up in the larder and could not bear to contemplate such a scene. After this, Mrs. Barnes was very busy making pork pies, sausage rolls, and hanging up hams from the roof of the kitchen, called “curing the ham”.
My brother Teddy joined me at times and we played happily together when he was there, but generally I was alone and had a nurse to take charge of me. A donkey was brought round sometimes to go walks with me, brought by a man who had one streak of white in this black hair, which always puzzled me. I wondered how it got here. I loved the donkey and I love donkeys to this day. They are often despised, but the Saviour Christ chose to ride on one, and that is enough for me.
I also had a pram like all children have, and the nurse was annoyed with me because I insisted upon taking all the old tin pots and saucepans into my pram that I saw thrown away by the village people. I had gathered quite a collection in the garden.
In the country life at Castle Bromwich I was playing in the sand hills near the house, gathering bluebells in the wood and listening to the rooks in the trees.
I remained long in the country with Mr. and Mrs. Barnes, making my life among the village children, among the flowers and the birds. When the children came out of school at mid-day, the crows came all round the trees in the wood and made a great noise with the Caw! Caw! I believed that they, too, were sent out from school, and were rejoicing in their liberty like the children. I ran out of the house to listen to them every day.
On Sunday we went sometimes to the big Parish Church, a red brick building covered with ivy and surrounded by a church-yard, or cemetery. The pews were very high in those times and I sat hidden, but stood up on the seat to sing. The whole business frightened me and I cannot say I liked going there at all.
I only know the village church organ, and another sort of Barbary-organ with a monkey on its back played by a man in front of the house. He also came sometimes with a “dancing bear”. Poor bear, he stood upright and danced on his two hind legs. One day there came a man with a portable harp and collected money in a big sea-shell. That instrument enthralled me and has ever been my favourite of all musical instruments.
I fervently believed in fairies and lived in a world of my own imagination, in which fairies reigned supreme. At night, in my bed, I watched the pattern of the wall paper, and it seemed to me that fairies played among the flowers. I wrote little letters to the queen of the fairies and put them under a tree in the evening. One day I found a pink letter in a very tiny writing, saying that the fairy-queen loved me very much and had received my letters. My joy was immense and I treasured that letter for a long time."
'A History of Castle Bromwich for Young People' written by William Dargue 2016 for the Castle Bromwich Bellringers.
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