49. A Handy Family

Grandad Uses His Practical Skills

Grandad continued to use his practical skills both at work and at home.

A Drop Leaf Table

After the family moved to Welbeck Street in 1951, he made a drop leaf table for the kitchen out of a 100-year-old table that belonged to his grandfather.

A Meat Safe

He also made “a meat safe under the thrall”. Apparently meat safes were used to keep food cool pre-refrigeration. They are now sold as trendy (shabby chic!) cupboards. By thrall, he probably means “thrawl” which was a term used, mainly in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Yorkshire, for a stone slab or shelf used to keep food cool in a larder or pantry.

A Glasshouse

Demolishing the Old…

From July 1952, grandad built a glasshouse in the yard. In March 1952, grandma and grandad pulled down a greenhouse.

…And Building the New

In July 1952, grandad started work on a new glasshouse in the yard. He had wood delivered for it but sent it back as it had wormholes.

Grandad’s Approach to Planning Permission

It is not clear if someone told grandad that he needed permission to build a glasshouse but, in mid-July 1952, he noted that grandma had gone to the council offices to seek permission for the glasshouse. An assistant surveyor visited and requested plans which grandad got drawn up. He noted that he was charged £2 for these and gave the person £2 3 0. However, he had already started work on the glasshouse having got the go ahead to do so from the surveyor, a Mr Bostock. In November, he noted that he “put the last pane of glass in the glasshouse as I had word that it had been passed”.

Help with the Work

Frank Howlett helped him with this work, by building the brick walls that formed part of the structure. Grandad and Frank Howlett worked together on the floor of the glasshouse. The glass itself was delivered from Bingham in Sheffield in August 1952. In September 1952, grandad and Frank Howlett glazed the roof of the glasshouse and grandad made a front door for it.

Pulling Down a Glasshouse

In April 1954, mum recorded that grandad pulled the glasshouse down including taking the roof off. Would he really have pulled this down after having only built it a couple of years earlier? Perhaps it was another old one?

Fixing the Roof of the Glasshouse

It seems unlikely that he had permanently demolished the glasshouse as, in April 1954, he noted that he began fixing its roof! In May 1954, more wood came for the glasshouse roof at a cost of £8 10 0. That month, grandad also ordered more glass from Bingham’s and it came the same month along with some hardboard. Also, in May, grandma and grandad put all the glass they had into the glasshouse roof. Frank Howlett and grandad then finished the glasshouse roof and grandma and grandad fitted the hardboard. About ten days later, mum and dad painted the inside of the glasshouse.

Grandad’s Cabin

At the house in Welbeck Street, grandad had a “cabin” which he used as a workshop. I am not sure if he built this or if he modified an existing structure. But, in 1953, he and Frank Howlett altered the roof of the cabin. Grandad also converted part of the cabin for use as a coalhouse. In 1954, grandad and Frank Howlett did further work on the roof and grandad made good the floor of the cabin upstairs.

Conversion to a Garage

Also, in September 1954, grandad and Tom Bust converted the cabin into a garage in preparation for buying a car (see Chapter 63). In November 1954, grandad had 37 hundredweight of ashes for the garage floor for 13 shillings. In December 1954, he paid W Howlett £9 15 0 for supplying and fitting garage doors.

Grandad’s “cabin” at 96 Welbeck Street which included a coalhouse, washhouse and a workshop. At the end of 1954, it was converted into a garage

Making Things for Others

Grandad also made things for family members, including particularly for mum. He also helped his next-door neighbour, Annie Holmes, both in her home and in her garden. This included digging over the garden, repairing lattice work and a gate, building a stone wall, pulling down a hut, laying slabs and making a cold frame. Grandma helped with some of these tasks as did Annie’s other next-door neighbour, Mr Shipman, who lived at 100 Welbeck Street.

Traditional homemade cold frame = Moormand has released this into the public domain

Jobs for Chapel

Grandad also sometimes used his skills to benefit the chapel, including drilling holes to allow a light to be fitted to the pulpit (see box), laying lino,  fixing a pot which held glasses for communion, converting an organ stool into a piano stool with cupboard and repairing locks and seats.

This light was fitted to the chapel pulpit in 1950. This is also recalled in Edith Searson’s book(let) “I Remember” (p58). She notes, “in the 1950s, a new minister came. He remarked to Ben that he had been used to a pulpit light to throw more light on the Bible when reading lessons. So, a ‘special’ was arranged and, with the proceeds, a suitable light was purchased and fixed on the reading table. It was a great help to various preachers during services. It remained so right to the closure of Bourne. I don’t know what became of it.

Working with Others

Grandad also sometimes did work with others, e.g. Dick Clover.

Paid Tradesmen

Grandad also sometimes used paid tradesmen. These included Mr Vaughan for wallpapering; H Parker for work on a boiler; W Egglestone for glazing and tiling (see box), Vardys for painting, Frank Howlett for building work and Clarkes in Sutton to reupholster a dining suite (see Chapter 51).

There was also a Dick Egglestone who did some work on the bathroom.


Grandad had a passion for his tools and spent time and money improving and enhancing these, including a sander, bench drill, circular saw, wood lathe and planing machine (see Chapter 51). He also installed electric light in the cabin.

Grandma and Mum had Similar Practical Traits

Grandma and mum were also practically-minded.

A Rug Machine

In June 1950, grandma acquired a rug machine but grandad did not think much of it. He made a stand for it but was happy when, the following week, she replaced it for a cheaper one. Grandad noted the prices. The first one cost 39/6 and the second one 28/6.

Mum as Helper

Mum sometimes helped grandad with a range of practical tasks, including making a shed door, knocking down a partition, sawing wood, making a cupboard, putting up curtain rails, laying lino and building a stone wall. However, this “helping” was not always uneventful! In October 1951, grandad noted that mum used the hedge trimmer for the first time and she cut the cable! Unsurprisingly, mum does not record this incident in her diary!

Mum Developed her Own Interests

Mum also developed her own interests.

A Leather Class

In 1950, mum attended a leather class at chapel.

Catering and Cooking

She was involved in catering for various events. For the bazaar, in March 1954, she made 26 trifles!


Both mum and dad baked (see box) and, ahead of the bazaar, dad made a competition cake. The diaries give no further details but mum had a photo labelled “Winners of the McDougalls Cake Competition, 1954” and it appears that dad won that particular competition.

In April 1954, mum iced a cake for Sylvia Bust, presumably for her seventh birthday. In June 1954, dad made another cake and some barm bread. A few days later, mum put almond paste on dad’s cake and, a few days after that, he iced it. In October 1954, dad made another cake, this time for one of his mother’s friends. Mum then put almond paste on the cake and iced it.
McDougalls Cake Competition 1954 – left to right – Mrs Munns (third prize), dad (first prize), Trevor Munns (chairman), Margaret Varnam (second prize), Mrs Ricketts (who opened the bazaar).


Both mum and grandma were keen knitters and mum’s diary recorded things they knitted included twinsets  and cardigans. She often recorded the amount of time it took her to knit a particular item.


Mum also did embroidery and, in September 1954, she enrolled for an embroidery course at Kingsway night school with Joan Storer and Margaret Varnam. Edna Bust also enrolled for a leather course.


Mum also sewed and she recorded making and altering several items including an apron, coal gloves, frocks/dresses (including evening dresses), a dressing gown and a sun suit. She and Joan Storer also made skirts as part of costumes for Rainbow Follies (see Chapter 54).


All the family were active gardeners, particularly once they had moved to Welbeck Street.

Stone and Ashes

In December 1951, grandad ordered four tons of stone and one load of ashes from Bulwell (see note box 1). But, a few days later, he cancelled the order for ashes by phone. Two days after that, he had 3 tons 12 hundredweight of stone delivered (see box note 2). Grandad noted that the paving stone cost £2 per ton and the rockery stone 25 shillings per ton. John gave him a hand to get it in.

[1] At least, I think it says Bulwell. Initially, I thought it was Birkwell but I could not find a place or company by that name.

[2] I assume the stone that was delivered was the stone grandad had ordered earlier from Bulwell but it seems to be a few hundredweight short. I had to brush up my imperial measurements! As there are 20 hundredweights in an imperial ton, this means the delivery was eight hundredweight short.
Grandad’s diary entries from 2 to 15 December 1951 including order of stone and ashes from Bulwell on the 7th

Major Garden Work

In April 1952, grandad started major work on the garden which involved taking up the path laid by grandma’s father with the help of Mr Shipman. They then laid slabs (see box note 1) around different parts of the garden creating paths with central lawns (see box note 2). Grandad then concreted the slab corners.

[1] In April 1952, grandad had 60 slabs delivered. They were 2½ feet by 2 feet and cost four and seven each. That same month, he had 40 two feet square slabs delivered. The total cost was £7 10 0. By my calculation, it means these slabs were three and nine each. 

[2] Having a central lawn surrounded by paths seems to have been a garden layout which grandad favoured as I recall this also being the layout used for their back garden when they moved to Norfolk. I recall it being great for doing “laps” on go-karts or bikes!


It appears that the garden at Welbeck Street may have been on a hill as, in June 1952, grandad and Frank Howlett started making steps in the garden.

Rustic Pole Work

One of the most striking features of grandma and grandad’ s garden in Welbeck Street was the rustic pole work. In April 1953, he noted getting 48 pieces of rustic wood for £6 and, in May that year, he got a further dozen for 25 shillings as he had used up all the ones he had.


In August 1953, grandad and Frank Howlett fixed the sundial pedestal which was a central feature on the lawn. The current owner, Timothy Curtis informs me that they still have the sundial in the garden. Grandma and grandad had first tried to buy a sundial in Nottingham in June 1953 but without success.

Mowing the Grass

Cutting the grass was a job requiring regular attention and various people did it including grandma, grandad, mum and dad. In March 1953, grandad noted having an electric lawnmower delivered from Hannam of Carlton and, in July 1953, they bought a lawn edge trimmer in Nottingham.

Photo taken in September 1953 showing garden of 96 Welbeck Street including sundial, steps and rustic lattice work


Grandma and grandad also did major work on the front wall and gates. In April 1953, they went to Nottingham and bought gates for their wall at the front. They had a double gate and Annie a single. Grandad noted that the cost of their double gate was £20 1 6 and the cost of Annie’s single gate was £7 63. That made a total of 27 7 9 less a discount of 13/3. However, grandad recorded the discounted price as £27 14 6. Presumably, he meant £26 14 6.

Front Wall

In May 1953, grandad noted that he was ready to do work on the front wall but he could not get cement. It appears that, at this time, there were intermittent shortages of building materials as a result of high demand in the post-war period. He managed to get 15 bags of cement from Frank Howlett in June 1953 for which he paid seven and six per bag or £5 12 6 overall. Also that month, grandad and Frank Howlett collected 500 bricks from Reg Edwards at a cost of thirty shillings plus 7/8 for loading.  

In September 1953, grandad, his nephew, Len, and Frank Howlett pulled down the front hedge and the Howletts, Frank and his father William (Bill), laid the foundation for a new wall. The Howletts and grandad built the front wall over a period of two to three weeks. Grandad noted that he paid the Howletts £66 10 0 for the wall.  Also, in September 1953, grandma and grandad went to Riddings concerning coping stones for the wall. These came later, in November 1953, and grandad and Frank Howlett fixed them on. He paid for these in December 1953, a total of £19 10 6.

Advert for the builders Bill and Frank Howlett in the 1969 Kirkby Directory

Front Lawn

Following this, in April 1954, grandad bought ten pounds of seed for the front garden, He paid £2 17 0 for this and paid three and six to make it bird proof. Mum and dad set a lawn at the front of the house in May 1954.