Aunt Maud’s Grand House

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Aunt Maud

Cousin Ray recently asked me if I knew where our Aunt Maud had been in service. Apart from the fact that she’d held a senior position in a “grand house”, I didn’t know. In fact I’d often thought about this, but I couldn’t think how to find the answer. Aunt Maud is long dead and she left no children. Her siblings too are dead, as are my aunts Ethel and Winnie who regularly visited Maud in her later years. I couldn’t think of anybody still alive who might know where Maud had worked. I decided to review what I knew about Maud to see if this exercise suggested any way forward.

Of course Maud wasn’t really our “aunt”. She was a first cousin of Joseph Walker, our maternal grandfather. Granddad’s aunt, Charlotte Lumsdon, married bricklayer Joseph Hind at St Peter’s, Sacriston, Co Durham on 14 April 1895, and they set up home at nearby Daisy Hill. Their first three children – Charlotte, Robert and John – were born there, but Robert died at the age of only one day. In 1898 or 1899 the family moved to 17 Brunel Street, Gateshead (just demolished last year), and on 9 December 1899 daughter Mary Ann was born there. Finally, on 21 July 1901, came the birth of Maud. Sadly, in March 1904, Maud’s eldest sister, Charlotte, died at the age of 8, leaving just John, Mary Ann and Maud. By 1911 the Hinds had moved to moved to 9 East View, Burnopfield, and by 1921 they were living at 5 South View, Chopwell – a house built by our great grandfather, Joseph Walker.

Maud’s sister, Mary Ann Hind, married grocer, Ernest George Dale, at St John’s, Chopwell on 28 March 1921 – Maud was a witness; and on 4 August 1924, her brother, John Hind, a power station worker, married Frances May Bushby at Christ Church, Hamsterley Colliery. Maud, however, did not marry young, instead she went into domestic service.

I don’t know if Maud had other jobs before going into service, or whether she’d gone into service straight from school, nor do I know if she stayed with the same household throughout her period of domestic service, or had moved around, but I do know that Maud was in service for a long time and rose through the ranks to a senior position in a “grand house”. I also know that she had left that position by the end of 1942, because on 2 December 1942 she married Thomas Smith who was 26 years her senior and was a chemist with a shop at Greenside. The marriage was not to last long, however, as Thomas died aged 71 on 9 December 1946, four years almost to the day after their marriage.

In garden of 15 Naylor Avenue, Winlaton Mill
In garden of 15 Naylor Avenue, Winlaton Mill

By 1949 Maud was living at 15 Naylor Avenue, Winlaton Mill (this photograph shows myself aged about 3 years with my parents in the garden of that house).  During the 1950s I can remember Maud visiting my parents’ home at Rowlands Gill, and I can remember visiting Maud at Winlaton Mill. We caught the Newcastle bus from Rowlands Gill to Winlaton Mill; walked up the steps behind the bus stop, turned right onto Naylor Avenue, and Maud’s was the second gate along. The house overlooked the valley – a beautiful view to Hollinside and Fellside.

Even as a very young lad I realised that there was something different about Maud’s house and Maud herself – everything from the way she dressed to the way she laid her table, folded her towels or made her bed, was done to perfection! My mother explained that this was because Maud had lived and worked in a “grand house” where everything had to be “just so.”

Maud lost both her parents around this time. They’d retired to 28 Mill Road, Chopwell and Maud’s mother, Charlotte, died there on 16 May 1951 at the age of 76 years. Maud’s father, Joseph, died aged 81 on 8 September 1953 at his son’s house: 24 Joseph Street, Chopwell.

By the late 1950s Maud was working as an assistant in the Co-op Chemists at High Spen which was right at the top of Ramsay Street, in the shop which is currently the post office. I saw her there quite frequently when I was in that village visiting my grandmother. Maud then went to work  as housekeeper to a gentleman called Linton Lawton Henderson who lived at at 5 St Ronan’s Drive, Seaton Sluice and ran a hairdressing business in Newcastle. Linton was also a prominent Freemason, who was a Past Master of Carliol Lodge No 5419 and a founder member of White Friars Lodge No 6523. Both lodges met in Jesmond. Maud and Linton married in February 1963 but, sadly, this marriage too was to be very short-lived. Linton died at the age of 64 on 14 December 1966, and was cremated three days later at Whitley Bay Crematorium following a 10.30 am service at St Paul’s church in Seaton Sluice. Maud remained at Seaton Sluice until her death in December 1988 at the age of 87 – a long life, despite having contracted colon cancer and having a colostomy bag fitted many years earlier.

So does any of this suggest a means of identifying the “grand house” where Maud had worked? What sort of records should we be looking for anyway? We can rule out records listed by address only, such as Electoral Registers, because the address is what we are seeking. We need records indexed by name which would specify the address. Census records spring to mind – and perhaps birth and death records where Maud might have been the “informant”. Less obviously she might have been named as executor, witness or beneficiary in a will or feature in some newspaper story which refers also to her employers. We can look at these one at a time, but first we need to know the time frame in which Maud may have been in service.

Aunt Maud
Aunt Maud

Maud was born in July 1901 and for anyone born in that year, the period of compulsory education was from the age of 5 to 12. Children could leave at the the end of the term in which they attained the age of 12, so Maud would almost certainly have left school in mid July 1913, the beginning of the five-week summer holiday. In theory Maud could have gone into service in her “grand house” as early as July 1913, and, as I stated earlier, she could have served until December 1942, when she married Thomas Smith. So we have the period July 1913 – December 1942 in which to seek out relevant records.

Let’s look first at newspapers. Not all newspapers have been indexed, but many have been and many can be searched online. Unsurprisingly Maud does not feature in any of these indexes – it was very much a long shot, but it definitely needed checking.

Censuses which list everyone in every household, have been compiled every ten years since 1841 – except for 1941 when the census was cancelled because of the war. However, census records are regarded as confidential for 100 years, so at present only the censuses of 1841-1911 are available for public viewing. In 1901, the census was taken on 31st March, so Maud was born four months too late to appear on that record, but she does appear on the 1911 census at Burnopfield with her parents and her two surviving siblings, though her father misspelt her name as “Maude”. In the period of interest – 1913 to 1942 – she would have been listed on the 1921 and 1931 censuses, but unless there’s a change in the law the former won’t be public until 2022, and the latter no longer exists as the entire 1931 census was destroyed in a fire in a government storage facility in Hayes, Middlesex on 19 December 1942. So the only potential source here, the 1921 census, won’t be available for nine years. It may provide the information we seek, but I doubt it. Maud was only 19 or 20 in 1921, and even if she was in service by that date, it is far from certain that she’d have been in the “grand house” by then. The 1931 census would have been a better bet if it had it survived, but it didn’t.

What about birth and death records where she might be mentioned as informant, or probate records where she might be mentioned as executor, witness or beneficiary . Unfortunately the birth and death records aren’t indexed by informant, and probate records aren’t indexed by executor, witness or beneficiary. All are indexed by the principal subject of the record – the child in the case of a birth record, or the deceased in the case of a death or probate record. That means that we are limited to births, deaths and wills of family members. The only birth that Maud would have registered would be that of her own child – and, as far as we know, Maud never had any children. The only deaths Maud is likely to have registered would be those of a parent – and her parents died in the 1950s, outside our period of interest. Probate records are similarly useless – her father did leave a will which might well have mentioned Maud, but his death was outside our period of interest – as were the deaths of Maud’s siblings. She could have acted as witness or executor or been a beneficiary of other wills – but we have no way of finding out if she did.

So what’s left? Until 2009 I would probably have said “nothing”, but that’s no longer the case. Most family historians have long been aware that no census was taken in 1941, but not everyone knew that there had in fact been a sort of mini-census, called the National Registration, just two years earlier in September 1939, the first month of World War 2. Even fewer knew that this National Registration formed the basis of our National Health Service record system in 1948 and is still held in an accessible form by the NHS at their offices in Southport.

Those of us who were aware of this were not particularly excited, because we fully expected that the National Registration records would be regarded as confidential for 100 years, just like the censuses. Indeed this idea seemed to be born out when a Mr Guy Etchells applied for information from the National Registration records under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act and was refused on data protection grounds. Mr Etchells, however, appealed to the Information Commissioner and was successful – the Information Commissioner ruled that the NHS could only withhold National Registration information which related to living people. Consequently the NHS has had to set up a department to handle these FoI requests, and applying has been made a very straightforward, if somewhat expensive, exercise. Anyone can now get details of the deceased members of any 1939 household, either by specifying an address, or the details of one member of that household.

aunt_maudCould these records be any help in our quest to find Maud’s “grand house?” Possibly. The National Registration was taken on 29 September 1939 and we simply didn’t know if Maud was still in her “grand house” at that date or had already returned to more mundane surroundings. There was only one way to find out – take a chance and apply. So I downloaded the application forms, filled them in requesting details of the household of which Maud Hind d.o.b. 21 July 1901 was part, and sent off the form along with my cheque. Three weeks later the information arrived by e-mail. It was just what I’d hoped for. On 29 September 1939 Maud was living at Angerton Hall near Hartburn, Northumberland – I’d identified Maud’s “grand house”.

Angerton Hall was the home of Frederic Straker, a 76 year-old banker, and his wife, Edith Gertrude, aged 69. Maud was described as “Personal Maid” and there was also a cook, a kitchenmaid, a scullerymaid, two housemaids, and one or more other servants whose details were withheld because they are still living (or at least not known to have died). Maud’s employers, known to their family and friends as Fred and Gertie, were keen supporters of the Morpeth Hunt, and Fred, who was said to be “of alarming appearance,” was a keen racing man who had several horses in training and special gallops on his estate. Angerton Hall was noted for “good food, enormous fires and every comfort.” Frederic was born on 28 April 1863, the youngest son son of John Straker of Stagshaw House who had coal and shipping interests. Frederic was educated at Harrow and at Jesus College, Cambridge – he obtained his “rowing blue” in 1884. He became a prominent banker and served as a J.P. He was also Lord of the Manor of High Angerton. He married Edith Gertrude Allgood on 6 July 1895 and they had two children, Richard, born 13 August 1896, and Gillian born 3 June 1901.

[Note that the house was somewhat larger when Maud worked there as an entire wing - the "West" or "Servants'" wing - was demolished in 1957.]   © Copyright Richard Dawson andlicensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
[Note that the house was somewhat larger when Maud worked there as an entire wing – the “West” or “Servants'” wing – was demolished in 1957.]
Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Richard Dawson and
licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Frederic Straker died at Angerton Hall on 9 February 1941 following a tragic fall a week earlier. The official verdict was “At Angerton Hall on Feb. 9th, Mr Straker died from hypostatic pneumonia consequent upon injury to the chest wall, the result of an accidental fall on the stairs leading to his bedroom at Angerton Hall on Feb. 2, 1941”

Fred remembered his long-standing servants in his will. We don’t know how long Maud worked at Angerton Hall, but if, as seems likely, she’d been there for more than ten years, she would have received a sum equal to two years’ wages. A substantial bequest indeed.

Another tragedy struck the Straker family three months later on 20 May 1941 when Fred and Gertie’s son-in-law, Major David Barnett, was killed in action in Crete. Soon afterwards Gertie moved in with her widowed daughter, Gillian Barnett, at Halton near Corbridge. Presumably this was the end of Maud’s employment with the Straker family – and the timing fits in well with Maud’s marriage to Thomas Smith in 1942.

So the mystery of Maud’s grand house is solved – I wish all family mysteries were as simple to resolve.

[Rewritten 1st August 2013 to incorporate corrections supplied by cousin Ann and information from Frederic Straker’s will.]

19 thoughts on “Aunt Maud’s Grand House

  1. I am delighted you have tracked down some info on Aunt Maud – I have always wanted to know more about her time in service.I was under the impression that the “house” was in Yorkshire but this would make more sense. I do know that -her 1st husband was a chemist, with a chemist shop in Greenside, which is why Grandpa was able to speak for her when the High Spen post became available.Linton owned at least one hairdressing business in Newcastle (I`m not sure whether it was a barbers or hairdressers).Maud went to be his housekeeper at S Sluice after his wife died. They had not met before, she came to discuss with my Mum the pros and cons of applying for the job. I used to visit them at SS every month so got to know them well.I am sure she rented the house in Winlaton, never owned it. She never had children. Linton had a son who was married and lived at Chester le Street. He inherited but paid M`s nursing home fees. Whether the 1st husband had children I don`t know.She had 2 nieces – 1 was a nurse in Canada. Liked her Country dancing and attended classes in H Spen.Maud always kept up her ideas of “standards” – always wore crochet gloves and a hat, played bridge but only ever in the afternoon as “one was always busy doing the chores in the morning”.It was always a pleasure to spend time with her, she had style when there was not a lot around in H Spen and behind the rather strict features/ramrod straight back was a great sense of the ridiculous. She was a one off!
    Thanks again for the info.

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  2. Many thanks to Ann for the additional information and corrections. I’d never considered the possibility that Maud’s house at Naylor Avenue was rented, but on reflection I think that Ann is almost certainly correct, in fact it seems very likely that the entire estate was council-owned. So there is no mystery as to how the Winlaton Mill house came into Maud’s possession – it didn’t. If I’d realised this earlier I might not have ordered the Straker wills, but I did order them and I’m pleased I did, because it turns out that Frederic Straker did indeed remember the servants in his will, which he’d written back in 1933, eight years before his death. The relevant clause reads:
    “To each and any servant of mine who shall at my death be employed in or about Angerton Hall aforesaid or the stables grounds or premises thereof whether employed or paid by the year month or week or otherwise and who shall not then be under notice to leave whether given or received the sums following in addition to any wages then due to him or her at my death (that is to say) (a) To each such servant who shall have been in my employment whether in the same or any other capacity for the ten consecutive years next preceding my death or upwards a sum equal to two years cash wages at the rate payable at my death and (b) To each such servant who shall have been in my employment whether in the same or any other capacity for the five consecutive years next preceding my death or upwards but less than ten consecutive years a sum equal to half a year’s cash wages at the rate payable at my death.”
    We don’t know how long Maud worked for Frederic Straker, but I suspect she’d been in the same job for many years and could well have received two year’s wages. A very generous bequest, but considering that Fred left £291,354 “16s ” 6d – the equivalent of about £12 million today – he could well afford it.

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  3. Brian, I have taken great pleasure in reading your information regarding ‘Maud’.
    I was brought up on the Angerton Estate and lived at Hartburn from my birth in 1946 until 1958. My father was the son of the head gamekeeper. David Philipson ( great grandson of Fred Straker ) still lives at Home Farm, High Angerton, he and I grew up together and I still keep in touch with him. Just maybe he has some information that could be of use to you. Lovely to see my photo being put to good use! Kind regards, Richard

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  4. Hi Richard. Thank you for your interesting comment. Actually, it almost blew me away. You mention Fred Straker’s great-grandson, David Philipson, well when I saw the surname I had to check his ancestry as I have Philipson relations all over the North East. Once I found that David’s father was Francis Joseph Philipson “Frank” (1921-1982) I knew we were related as Frank is already on my family tree. Tracking the line back we get – grandfather Robson Philipson (1881-1947) – gt grandfather John Philipson (1881-1883) – gt gt grandfather Christopher Philipson (1809-1863) – gt gt gt grandfather John Philipson (1780-1833) – gt gt gt gt grandfather Nicholas Philipson (1744-1800). Nicholas is my gt gt gt gt grandfather too. That means that your friend, David Philipson, is my 5th cousin. I know a fair bit about the ancestors. Robson and all the earlier ancestors named above were born at Allendale – but Robson moved to Carmyes Farm, Annfield Plain, Co Durham (where Francis Joseph was born) and then South Shotton Farm, Stannington, Northumberland, which is presumably how Francis met Sheila Straker. What a coincidence this is! I’m delighted you chose to contact me. Best wishes, Brian PS Perhaps you could pass this on to David as he might be interested in his ancestors – I have much more on them if he is interested.

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  5. I was researching a family member, Alexander Hall, who was a gardnener at Angerton Hall until his death in 1891. He lived (according to the censuses) at Angerton Gardener’s House. I was looking for a picture of it when I came across this article about ‘Aunt Maud’. Does anyone know if the Gardener’s House still exists?

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    1. I’ve just come across this blog. I live in the converted Gardener’s cottages in the Walled Garden of Angerton Hall. I wonder, Brian, if this is where your relative lived?

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      1. Lovely to hear from you Ann. What a wonderful place to live. It’s very unlikely Maud lived there. The 1939 National Registrations lists each household separately and on that Maud is listed alongside Mr & Mrs Straker and the other household servants, indicating that they all lived within the hall itself. Remember there was a substantial “servants’ wing” on the hall at that time – it was demolished in 1957.

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  6. An interesting article. Aunt Maud was my aunt- John(known as Jack) Hind was my Dad. As you say my parents were married in 1924 and I was born in September 1928. I lived in Chopwell until 1947 when I then did my 2 year National Service duty. Subsequently I went to Manchester University and on graduating joined ICI working initially in Manchester and then Huddersfield . My wife is a Mancunian and we have lived in Huddersfield since 1953 bringing up three sons. We visited Aunty Maud on many occasions both at Winlaton Mill and Seaton Sluice and latterly at her Nursing Home and we attended her funeral. I remember as a child visiting our house following a trip to Switzerland with Lady Straker-she had also picked up bits of news on her travels about the Duke of Windsor’s relationship with Wallis Simpson. She was one of my godmothers and I still have a prayer and hymn book she gave me as a child. I remember George Walker and also his father who I believe was foreman joiner at Chopwell Colliery. My wife and I visited Chopwell a few years ago and we saw a number of changes; one of our sons visited the village earlier this year and he could remember going there as a child visiting Grandma and Grandad No.4 Joseph Terrace; my Dad’s other sister (Aunty May) lived at No.24 Joseph Terrace where Grandad Hind( Joseph) died. I hope my contribution is useful to you. Best wishes Douglas Hind

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  7. An additional comment-our youngest son and his wife visited Aunty Maud at the Nursing Home in North Shields in the summer of 1989 with his son who was 18 months old then; she was thrilled with the visit and made her feel very proud of her family connections.

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  8. Hello Douglas. Thank you for your fascinating comments. Particularly interested to hear of Maud visiting Switzerland with Mrs Straker. Do you have any idea when that took place? Yes, George Walker’s father was John Robert Walker who was indeed foreman joiner at the colliery.

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  9. Interesting to hear from you. Aunty Maud’s visit to Switzerland was probably in 1936 or 1937. I see your name is “Pears”-are you of Chopwell origin? One of my Dad’s colleagues at Chopwell Power Station was called “Billy Pears” and he lived in Hall Road bungalows. We used to live a few doors away before we moved to Joseph Terrace in 1935. Regards Doug Hind

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  10. No, Billy was no relation. I’ve tracked both his family and mine back six generations and found no connection. My father was Bill Pears of Watson Street, High Spen, a fitter at Vickers Armstrongs. He married Celia Walker, daughter of Joe Walker of Mersey Street, Chopwell who was a blacksmith at the colliery.

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  11. You have given me goosebumps! I am Patricia Mason (nee Dale), daughter of Mary Ann Hind and,therefore, niece of Maud. My sister, Connie Shaw, and I both live in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. I can give you alot of information about Aunty Maud. She was my inspiration as a child. Aunty Maud worked in several great houses. She first went into service in 1924 (I believe) as a general servant at a vicarage in Grinton, Yorkshire. Subsequently, went a sewing maid at Howard Castle (you may recall that Brideshead Revisited was filmed there). She used to send us postcards of Howard Castle while she was there. Her next position was with Lady Scott of Riding Mill as house parlour maid. It was during her time with Lady Scott that a fellow employee suggested that Aunty Maud could get a position as a ladies maid in a similar house. It was then that she went to Angerton Hall. She was with Mrs. Straker for approximately ten years. My mother (May), grandmother (Charlotte), my sister (Connie) and I went to visit Aunty Maud at Angerton Hall. It is a day I shall never forget. She left Angerton Hall to join the NAAFA, during the second world war. I cannot recall exact dates. Just after the war, I think she worked for a Lady Hall as a ladies maid. I have no idea where Lady Hall lived but I think it was Scotland. She left Lady Hall to return home to the north of England and that was when she started working in the chemists shop where she met her first husband.
    Because I tried so hard to emulate Aunty Maud’s way of living, I remember quite alot of detail about her personality. I would be interested in talking further if you wish.
    I am fascinated by the whole project and impressed at the extensive research you have done. I must tell you that this reply has been typed into the computer by my niece, Jill, because I am now ninety and arthritis hampers my ability to use the type.

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    1. Lovely to hear from you. Thank you very much for the wonderful detail about Maud’s career in those various houses. To add a little to what you wrote – Lady Scott of Riding Mill lived in a large house called Beauclerc, and the only Lady Hall of any consequence I could find in Scotland lived at Dunglass Castle which is on the coast near Dunbar.

      The only bit of your timeline I think is wrong is the part after the NAAFI. You say that (1) Maud went to work for the NAAFI during the war (2) then just after the war she worked for Lady Hall in Scotland and (3) then she married the chemist.

      The problem with this is that she married the Greenside chemist, Thomas Smith, half way through the war – on 2 Dec 1942. Sadly he only lived four years after his marriage – he died on 9 Dec 1946. So maybe she married Thomas Smith straight after working for the NAAFI, and then went to work for Lady Hall in 1947 soon after her husband’s death. This seems the best way to reconcile the dates, but if that is the case she can’t have worked very long for Lady Hall, as I know that she was living at Winlaton Mill by 1949.

      Thanks once again for adding so much to Aunt Maud’s story.

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  12. My grandmother was a housemaid at Angerton Hall to Mr and Mrs Straker. Her sister’ Ethel and her husband, Matt Ray were also housemaid and chauffeur respectively. Matt Ray’s family were the blacksmiths at the Dyke Neuk.

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    1. Nice to hear from you Brinley. Most interesting to read of your grandmother. Could you please tell me her name and when she was at Angerton.

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  13. I think it would have been in the 1930s. Jane (Jean) Hunter. (She married and became Baillie. Her sister and brother in law were also at Angerton. They were married from the house. Ethel Hunter who became Ethel Reay. Her husband Matt Reay was from a large local family in Whalton village.

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  14. Thanks. I hoped they would be listed on the published 1939 National Registration, but unfortunately they are not. There are two redacted names on the listing for Angerton Hall – people that the authorities think might still be alive – so it’s possible that either or both might be your relatives. There’s no way to tell.

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  15. Ok. Thank you for looking. I guess it’s possible they may have left by then. My grandmother moved to warkworth in Northumberland and my great and uncle went to work for the Enderby family I think near Hexham and then Shortt the ship building family.
    I have a photo somewhere of my great uncle in uniform wth one of Mr Straker’s cars taken on the drive at Angerton and another at the stable block.

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