Family Ties....

It's been a poignant week.  My grandmother is dying and it strikes me how many things I'll never know about her and the life she's lived.  My memories of early years spent with her are precious, and with some old photographs and fragments of genealogy research lending a sketchy sense of beginning and middle, I hang onto this.  It really isn't enough though.

I am easily drawn to the past - but it's got to be based in reality.  I'm generally bored rigid by period dramas, but I could watch episodes of 'Who Do Your Think You Are?' back to back.  There's something about playing detective I find irresistible, and to be honest there's probably a good dose of it that can be put down to being middle-aged and seeking solace in nostalgia.  The world is changing and sometimes it seems like I'm not keeping pace now I'm.... (shhh!) 40.  Nana represents both a comforting time when everything seemed more understandable and an exotic and mysterious history I didn't get to experience.

Perhaps as a response to this, and whilst I really ought to have been spending all hours stripping wallpaper, I have been 'squeezing in' time to look to the past and research other people who've called Briarcourt "home".  In the process I've been especially excited by two diamond-encrusted  breakthroughs.

Norman Berry coming 'home'

Norman Berry coming 'home'

This is Norman Berry.  Can you believe it?  Actually standing by our front door!  Today!  What's more he stayed and had coffee.....

To explain, Norman's grandfather Joseph Norman Berry bought Briarcourt in 1921 and brought his family up here.  Following Joseph Norman's death in 1940, the house was sold to Huddersfield Corporation.  In the interim, if the beautiful photographs Norman shows me are anything to go by, lively fun-filled times were had by many. Norman himself was very young when the house was sold, but he still stores those random islands of recollection only a child can - the patterned velvet curtains, the lamp shining in the driveway, the wind-up bell. We vow to stay in touch and make more time to share reminscences, photographs and.....cinefilm!

Pauline Johnston coming 'home'

Pauline Johnston coming 'home'

Rewind nearly 5 years and another generation.....

This is Nanciebel Pauline Appleby Johnston visiting Briarcourt in 2010 at the age of 87.  'Pauline' as she was known, was the granddaughter of Herbert Higginson and Annie Eliza Sykes, for whom the house was originally built.  She sadly died a couple of years after this snap was taken, so it's a great personal regret that I won't be able to welcome her to the house, but I'm delighted she got to see where her mum Eileen grew up.  It turns out that her celebrity status doesn't stop at being a Sykes - Pauline married the famous cricket commentator Brian Johnston, who will always be remembered for his infectious fit of the giggles live on air.  I'm very grateful to Pauline and Brian's son, Barry for sharing this and other important jigsaw pieces with me including.....

.....a photo of Annie Eliza Sykes - WOW!

 

Annie Eliza Sykes, looking poised and beautiful - every inch The Lady of the House

Annie Eliza Sykes, looking poised and beautiful - every inch The Lady of the House

When it's very quiet now I can almost hear a crinoline sweeping up the corridor.