Nora Hampton (1895-1918): Home and Family part two – Writing Lives

Nora Hampton (1895-1918): Home and Family part two

This is my second post on Nora Hampton’s Home and Family, focusing on affective relations and memory. You can read the first post here on Nora growing up in the home that served as her father’s carpentry shop as well as the family home.

Nora expresses her vivid memories of her family through writing in detail about her relationship with her father, grandmother, sister, and how her extended family living nearby and sharing a tight family bond with its own community feeling.

Julie-Marie Strange suggests that ‘many children simply did not spend much leisure time with their fathers… playing or in activities that were for children’ (2015, p112-114). John Hampton however made the effort to interact with his children. He ‘could play the piano and violin and when he had given up his work, for an evening he would play a jig up and down the piano, which set us children dancing’ (Hampton, p.12). The same vibrant family setting could be seen at Christmas when Nora depicts how Uncle Elijah sang the song ‘Who Killed Cock Robin?’ and they all joined in the chorus. All are remembered in Nora’s memoir:

  • Aunt Martha and Uncle Jim
  • Aunt Hannah and Uncle Dick with George and Bert their sons
  • Uncle George and Aunt Ellen
  • Harold Percy and Bill
  • Uncle Elijah and Aunt Alice and Violet, their daughter who is Nora’s age.

In her book on working-class autobiographers depiction of their fathers, Julie Marie Strange suggests that Nora intertwined ‘memories of exceptional family’ to ‘mark milestones’ in her life. Often, autobiographers like Nora, she argues, convey affection for their father by relating memories of their fun and games together rather than stating explicitly how they felt about him: ‘To Nora, her father playing the piano on an evening, and the family gathering at Christmas are memories she still cherishes in her later life.’ Similarly, Albert Mansbridge, also quoted by Strange, implied that children ‘from ‘normal’ ‘decent’ working-class homes, derived ‘happiness, even exultation’ from simple pleasure’ (2015, p121).

Image from Ros Campbell – Early 1930s back garden South Road Hagley. Nora’s son Frank is the on left in the hat, and her son John is on the right.

Nora’s grandmother features heavily in her memoir, since she spent a lot of time with her as a child and looked up to her. She had ‘some quite good pictures and ornaments which I thought ugly but which would be precious antiques now’, Nora remembers: ‘There were several Staffordshire dogs and two pictures of St. John and Mark and St. Peter and James’ (Hampton, p. 9). Perhaps Nora initially began her memoir with the ambition to leave something behind for her own grandchildren. Wistfully, she wishes she had asked her grandmother more about her childhood, indicating how much she wanted to keep grandmother’s legacy alive.

When Nora was 8 years old her family moved to Park Road. It ‘still had no bathroom nor hot water system – but we were on our own with a nice back kitchen with a fire grate, a water C. and a big garden to ourselves – the garden father was soon to make into a pen run for his fowls. I have a vague memory of a pigsty and I think we had a pig once but can’t imagine mother enjoying that experience and extra work’ (Hampton, p.19). The video below made by The Black Country Living museum showcases a traditional working-class family in the 1900s that correlates with Nora’s description of her home on Park Road. It also documents how it was common for working-class families in the Black Country to own a pig. The Black Country was known for its iron and coal industries, so to supplement the family income many women would work as chain makers to supplement the family’s income, and this would be at the back of their house or just down the road.

When Nora was fifteen she moved again, this time to a house her father built on an acre of land next to his brother’s plot. The Hamptons were moving up in the world, now owning land and their own homes:

Previously we had been tenant and paid rents – now we owned our own place with quite a big garden with a tall wooden fence and a drive. There were three large bedrooms and a large kitchen with a big range which heated water for washing up etc. we also had a scullery where there was a gas cooker. We also had electric light and an electric kettle – I think dad was very forward looking to have electricity installed – it was quite an adventure at that “early age” (Hampton, p. 41).

It is interesting to see the transition from the Hampton’s previous home, which had a ‘hanging paraffin lamp and no light above the stairs’ (Hampton, p. 41) to having three bedrooms, heated water, gas cooker and electric lights and a kettle. The upwardly mobile Hamptons now had a detached house with many of the features of the suburban newbuilds that would become popular after the First World War.

Nora’s sister Martha Maude also plays a prominent role in Nora’s memoir. She notes that because she couldn’t pronounce Martha Maude she called her sister Cis instead. This has obviously stuck as when I was on the phone to Nora’s daughter Rosemary, she referred to Nora’s sister as Cis too. Rosemary has provided me with insights into her mother’s adult family life, telling me how they had grown up with cats, and that she and her brothers Frank and John had a privileged childhood with a lovely garden, house, and holidays. John Hampton, Nora’s father, had brought an area of land on South Road, Hagley next to his brother’s acre, which Nora and her husband Ernest bought from her parents and lived there. Nora’s father, nicknamed Nandy, was loved dearly by the whole family. Unfortunately, Rosemary revealed that Nora’s husband died of lung cancer at the age of 52 due to being offered free cigarettes when he was part of the horse regiment in Egypt during World War 2. After her husband’s death, Nora’s doctor advised her to call the Stourbridge office and apply to be a supply teacher, which she did, and then was successful in retaining a permanent position at a school in Cradley Heath.

Rosemary told me that in her later life Nora moved to Wales as she liked the mountains and had fallen in love with the place as a child when her family used to holiday there. Cis brought a house in Wales first with her husband Syd and then Nora moved and brought the house next to her. It is clear to see that Nora and her sister had an incredibly close bond, and that family meant everything to them.

Image from Ros Campbell – 3 generations, Mary Jane Hampton (Nora’s mother with Rosemary Macadam on her knee, and Nora Bealey, 1937, back garden in Hagley

Key facts from Nora’s daughter Rosemary:

1. ‘Nora had a brother Frank, who became a doctor, training at Birmingham QE. Then in 1922, she had her first child they named Frank. He had to go straight into the navy from King Edwards Grammar school Stourbridge, into the war although he had a scholarship to Oxford’.    

2. ‘Aunty Lil was Lilian Taylor who married Nora’s brother Leonard Hampton’.

3.’Cis, who was Martha Maud Hampton married Sydney Monkton. I think 3 Monkton cousins married 3 Hamptons.!!’ Just shows what a small world it was then!’  

4. ‘Nandy was what we called our Grandfather, Nora’s father, John Hampton, and we called our Grandmother, Nora’s mother, Nana. I think my brother Frank named them as he was their first grandchild, and we all just knew them as that!       Nana’s maiden name was Mary Jane Hubble and when I heard that, as a mischievous little girl, I wrote it all over her sewing things in her work-basket!    They lived next door and I was very fond of them.’

Primary sources:

  • Hampton, Nora, ‘Memories of Baptist End, Netherton, Dudley in the period 1895-1918’ Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 3:68. Accessible by:
  • 3:0068 HAMPTON, Nora, ‘Memories of Baptist End, Netherton, Dudley in the period 1895-1918’, TS, pp.63 (c.26,000 words). Brunel University Library.

Secondary sources:

  • Black Country Living Museum, 2020. 1910 House Tour. Available at: <> [Accessed 10 May 2021].
  • Campbell, R., 2021. 3 generations, Mary Jane Hampton (Nora’s mother with Rosemary Macadam on her knee, and Nora Bealey, 1937, back garden in Hagley. [image].
  • Campbell, R., 2021. Early 1930s back garden South Road Hagley. Nora’s son Frank is the on left in the hat, and her son John is on the right.. [image].
  • Strange, J.-M. (2015) Fatherhood and the British Working Class, 1865–1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO978131602705
  • Interviewing Nora’s daughter Rosemary Macadam: Macadam, R., 2021. Asking Rosemary about her life and her mothers – Nora Hampton.

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