The picture was taken in 1906 only fifty years or so before I was born but in a Merchant Ivory sort of way reveals a completely different way of life to the 1950s separated as they are by two World Wars and a global economic depression.
Edward VII was King, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was the Liberal Prime Minister and Kier Hardy was leader of the Labour Party with only twenty-nine seats in the House of Commons. Australia and Canada were Dominions of the British Empire, Theodore Roosevelt was President of the USA and across Europe Kings and Queens still ruled.
The happy couple are my great grandparents Joseph Insley and Florence Lillian Hill. Joseph was a coachbuilder who was born in 1873, one of eight children to Thomas Insley, a wheelwright, and his wife Martha who lived in the village of Shackerstone, near Market Bosworth in Leicestershire. Florence was one of seven children, the daughter of James and Emma Hill (nee. Marritt), from the nearby village of Newbold Verdon.
This wasn’t the first time that an Insley had married a Hill because nearly a hundred years before this James Hill, born in 1786 in Shackerstone married Mary Insley who was born in 1799 and was also from Shackerstone.
This is a drawing of an Insley wagon.
By all accounts these were two rather important families in their respective villages, this would have been a rural society wedding and I think the photograph gives that away. On the back row are some of the splendidly turned out brothers and sisters, Sidney Evelyn Hill and Constance Hill, Johnson Insley and then Mabel and Perceval Hill. I can remember visiting Uncle Johnson when I was young but most of all I remember Aunty Mabel; she never married and lived with her Pekinese dog called Monty and had the rather irritating habit of continually repeating ‘yes, yes…yes, yes’ whenever anyone was speaking to her, my sister Lindsay and I used to call her ‘yes, yes Mabel’. She loaned my parents the money to buy their own first house and we used to visit once a month for dad to make the agreed repayments.
On the far left, in the middle row the man with the weird beard is Thomas Insley and then Martha his wife doing her best Queen Victoria impression, the groom, Joseph, aged thirty-one and the bride, Florence (but known as Lillian), aged twenty-six and then her father, farmer James Hill and his wife Emma who was originally from Bromley in Kent. Strange to think that these people, born seventy-five years or so before me at a time when Benjamin Disraeli was the Prime Minister and the British Army were fighting the Zulus in South Africa were my great, great grandparents.
On the front row it looks like the bridesmaids, Louise Deacon and my great- grandmother’s youngest sister Dorothy who was born in 1895.
I never knew my great-grandfather Joseph because he died in 1949 but I knew my great grandmother well because she lived until 1975 (didn’t quite make it to 100). We called her Nana and we lived with her for a while in her house in Una Avenue off the Narborough Road in Leicester. It was a 1920s semi detached house with a front garden with a gate and a long back garden with fruit trees at the bottom. Inside it was dark and moody and was of that time that was the last of the Edwardian era. It was full of interesting ornaments and memorabilia, old photographs, brass ornaments, heavy velvet curtains to keep out the draughts and what I remember most, a second world war hand grenade (without any explosives of course) that used to be kept on the sideboard.
The picture below was taken in about 1910 and in the picture are Dorothy Hill on the left and my great grandmother Lillian on the right with a rather wild hairstyle and the little girl sitting on the wall of their farmhouse is my grandmother, also called Dorothy.
This is the Insley family in 1924. Joseph and Lillian are back right, the good looking young woman in the centre is my grandmother Dorothy and the three boys are her brothers, Arthur, Eric and Harold…
The final picture is from 1954 and is Lillian with her great grandson, Andrew…