I sometimes wonder just how many photographs there might be of me – probably thousands! When I was a boy my dad had a camera and recorded all the big family moments, Christmases, birthdays, holidays and so on, later I became interested in photography and had a succession of cameras as I was constantly updating and improving my photographic equipment and these days there are digital cameras and mobile phones taking millions of images every day. There are now so many images that we discard many, delete them and simply throw them away.
It wasn’t always like this and I have some precious old photographs of my family, my parents, grandparents and great-great grandparents which tell a different sort of photographic story. There aren’t hundreds of pointless snaps of them but instead just one or two which give an insight into who they might have been and my family heritage. Why did they take these pictures? They couldn’t post them on Facebook or share them through a blogging site – they were taken as personal mementos for themselves and their close families. So what might they think now when they are uploaded onto the internet for the whole world to see, which is a place that they were never meant to be.
My great grandfather Charles Edward Petcher was the fourth of seven children born in 1884 to Francis and Ellen Petcher and he had three brothers and three sisters. He married Maria Weston and they had two children, my grandfather Lawrence Edward Petcher in 1909 and a daughter, Mary, who died of tuberculosis at the age of about twenty. In the picture above he looks old and worn down but he was probably no more than forty-five years old sitting in his deck chair and enjoying his back garden.
Charles was a coal miner who worked for the Desford Coal Mining Company at the Desford colliery which was part of the North Warwickshire coalfields and the closest pit to the city of Leicester. It was a relatively modern mine that had only began production in 1902 so, and I am guessing here of course, it is likely that he started work here when he was about eighteen years old. I don’t know exactly how long he was a miner for but certainly later on he was a policeman in the city of Leicester. My dad’s brother and my uncle Peter was inspired by that to later become a Leicestershire policeman himself. Desford colliery closed in 1984.
Charles and Maria lived in Desford in the early part of the twentieth century and would probably struggle to recognise it a hundred years later. They would have been most familiar with the old part of the village consisting of High Street, Church Lane, Main Street, Chapel Lane, Cottage Lane and part of Newbold Road but not the modern developments all around it. Desford had a hosiery industry and in this picture of Maria at the garden gate I wonder if those wrinkled woolen stockings were made in a local factory?
Desford has both an industrial and an agricultural heritage and the great majority of villagers were engaged in agriculture until at least 1700, farming arable strips in four Open Fields of the parish, and pasturing their animals on the low lying meadows by the streams. In 1760, however, by private Act of Parliament, the thousand acres of the Open Fields were enclosed, and the new fields hedged and farmed separately. Some of these new large farms were owned and farmed by the Hill family and this is where my family history finds its way in because Florence Lillian Hill was my Great Grandmother, mother to Dorothy who married Lawrence Edward Petcher in the late 1920s.