Mary Laura Triggle (1888-1985): Transcript – Writing Lives

Mary Laura Triggle (1888-1985): Transcript

1:719 TRIGGLEMary Laura, Series of autobiographical letters, MS, pp.25 (c.4,000 words). BruneI University Library.

Transcript by Helen Rogers, September 2018

Nb. The letters in the PDF (Brunel Special Collections Library, Brunel University) are not in sequential order. Here, the letters have been ordered in date sequence. The bracketed number below the text refers to the page number in the PDF. Page numbers without brackets at the top of the page are those inserted by Mary Triggle. 

First page of Mary Laura Triggle’s first letter to the historian John Burnett


Flat 15 Vineyard Cottages




[June] 11, 1974


Dear Sir

After hearing your talk on Saturday June 7th on W Hour at 3 oclock & asking for history of the early life of the working class, I wondered if my story would be the sort of material you were wanting? As this is really a family story & that I am the only one left to tell it & (I shall be 86 years old in October.) The story starts long before I was born it starts about my Grandfather.

I have now told my story so if it is of no use, I feel better for telling it as we as children loved both Grandma & Grandfather & to us he was a fine old gentleman tall & always wore a I think you called a Belly Cocks hat.

Yours sincerely Mrs M L Triggle





excuse mistakes & spelling. I have never tried to do any thing like this before, but I feel I have just been talking to someone & as I live alone even this has been like having company, almost as if the family were here with me.







Written June 11th 1974                               Flat 15 Vineyard Cottages




My Grandfather was born in Tewkesbury & was Christoned inTewkesbury ^Abby^ & was born into what we would think a middle class family. They already had several children 1 son & 4 or 5 girls (so when he came along perhaps they felt he was one too many) & his grandmother took him & brought him up. And his Grandmother, I was told, was the first “Lady Barber” in England (I remember when I was about 18 years old having a holiday in Tewkesbury & was shown an old shop with a sign over it stating the fact that (Madam Sutton Lady Barber) had lived there) as for the real truth of this I cant know) now back to Grandfather. He turned out to be the black sheep of the family & ran away in his early youth. (I don’t know where he went) but eventually he landed up




in Heanor Derbyshire & settled to work in a hand fram silk stockiners work shop Brittles of Belper provided the material & took the goods & paid them the wages. (I was a very small girl when I remember going into the workshop & seeing my Grandfather making black silk stockings for Queen Victoria) but this is a long story so I must leave out these details as I shall not be able to finish my story.

Grandfather was a big drinker & Gambler & also Sunday was a cockfighting day. So you can guess the very poor & destitute home my father was born into, the eldest of many more children. At the age of 9 years he went to work in a “brick yard,” to turn the bricks as they dried before they were fired. he went bare foot & very little cloothing, but at the age of 10 years he was sent down a coal mine.

Then as a youth brought up in such a home





he along with other youths went to the pubs & one especially called “The Jolly Colliers” and one Sunday afternoon they decided to go across to the small Primitive Methodist Chaple & make a disturbance. They had from a street barrow a lot of rotten oranges which they intended to throw at the preacher, But that day my father got converted in the really & truely old fashioned way & no disturbance took place. (I never heard what became of the others) But from that day my father knew he wanted to live a christian life & thro friends at the little Chaple who took a liking to him decided to help. So he bought a best suit & a pair of best boots & was able to leave them with friends, as if he took them home the Pawn shop would have them on Monday morning. Later Father decided he must leave home. so he got work in a coalmine





at Cresswell in Derbyshire & got lodgins But every Sunday he walked to Heanor so as to be at the services. Later he married one of the girls, (My Mother) & altho my Father had never been to school, my mother had been taught at an old dames school, so she helped father to find all Grandfathers family.

Grandfather after that altered all his ways & we as a family were able to meet fathers Uncle & Aunts & who strange to say were nearly all in one way or another in the hair dressing trade. I remember going to visit his Uncles business in London & was shown in a back room with what looked like a big oven & it was full of wigs on stands. They said they had the contract from Madam Tussards to clean & set all their wigs. My Grandfathers name was David Sutton.

We in our family were 5 girls & 1 boy all my sisters are gone but my brother is 84 & a retired





School master with a Cambridge MA. FRGS


Mrs M L Triggle




July 3rd 1974                                                                                     Flat 15 Vineyard Cottages

June 28th 1974                                                                                  Longnor

to Professor Burnett                                                                         Shrewsbury


Dear Mr Burnett

Thank you for your very kind letter & I’ll try & write a bit more of my own experiences & my family. I am glad you know Heanor & district, when we were young, a days outing to Nottingham was a real treat, the open market & the shops were a big draw & then down to Trent bridge & often a ride on a boat to Coalbeck park, especially in our courting days, but all that is a long way off now. I was very happily married & had one son & 1 daughter but my son was killed in a road accident in 1946 ^July 17th^ age 33, & my husband died on ^Dec 17th^ 1948 he never got over the death of our son, my daughter lives in Bayston Hill Shrewsbury, & Longnor is about 6 miles from her home





so altho I am old, I still like my own home. she is very good to me & I have most weekends with her. (both my son & my husband died in Leicester.)

My husband was a hosiery machine builder for Shibbs, & my son had been apprentice to Perry brothers as a pattern maker & was the Easter before he died was made the manager at a new factory they had just opened. (Still life has often been lonely) I am very thankfull for all the happy memories; I have & my granddaughter at ^age years^ 25 loves to get me talking of old times. I think the young to day don’t get the real joy we had, (life is never easy) but to give of ones love & service can be a great & wonderfull pleasure.

yours very sincerely & good wishes for your work

Mary Laura Triggle.






Ill try & continue the story of the Sutton family. I think I told you I was one of 6 children, Clara, Florence Emily me Laura, William (commonly called) Bill, & Ada.

We went to school at the age 3½ & left at 12 years, we had to pay 1d per week, but I think it stopped soon after I started school. It was the “National Church School” in High Street. I & R Morleys Factory was on the other side of the street & we lived in Park St at that time (so when I think about it more I feel sorry we all at that early age had to walk all that way) My brother Bill after leaving the infants dept went to Monday St boys school. It was from that School he got a scholship to go to the Heanor TEC. As it was then called (Grammar schools were unheard of then) at the age of 12 we could go to work. But mother felt we should all have 1 year at home to learn how to cook & generally do house work, & I can say





with pride we all made good wives when we married.

Now Father was still a miner & suffered from what they called in those days ‘Bronchitis’ but we now know it was the coal miners coal dust on the lungs. So of course we were not very well off & every penny was well spent. Mother made all our cloathes & Father mended our boots & we always had what we called in those days “a cottage garden.” (allotments to day) & we always had good food & were well dressed. Mother was proud of us girls, when we took part in anything at the Chapel. I remember one anniversary as we came off the platform. Someone saying, “The Sutton girls were the best turned out children there,” & Mother had never had a lesson in dressmaking: Only when there was a night class at Heanor Tec one winter.





When I was 13 I went to work at I & R Morleys factory as a stocking mender, my 3 elder sisters were already there. I got 4s.Od per week for 52 hrs. We had a dreadful overlooker she was really frightening, we were not allowed to talk to the girls who sat next to us. (We worked 5 ^full^ days) from Monday to Friday, we went to work at ½ past 6 until ½ past 8, then home to breakfast & back again at 9 oclock until 1 oclock, then home for dinner, back again at 2 untill 6 pm, & if we were 5 minutes late we found the door locked & you were out for the time according to what time of day & of course were both in disgrace & loss of pay. I never remember any of us being late as Mother always had the food on the table. Saturday we worked until 1 oclock & on Saturday morning before breakfast we were allowed to sing & we had some girls who could sing






Mother & Father encouraged us to join in everything at S School & Chapel & to take part in the social life. (By the way Mother & Father took on the work of Chapel cleaning & general caretakers) for 4s & 6d per week, & that money was put by to be sure we always had Sunday shoes. I also can look back & I think to me, at that time was the high light of my youth, the day I went to work at 13. The leaders meeting decided to invite me to be a member of the choir, & we really did learn to sing by heart, Handles Messiah & other wonderfull music. Even to day when I hear real good singing on either TV or Radio I feel transported to another world & can remember almost any hymn in the Hymn book, altho I was never a soloist just one among many.






Also I had a good memory & liked poems & did quite a bit of reading ^[insert illegible] ^ at meetings (perhaps you can have heard of the Smiths flour spills at Longly Mill) They, that is, Mr & Mrs Smith were later made Lord & Lady William Smith) & Lady Smith was very interested in the British & Foreign Bible Society & often got concerts up to raise money & she always asked me to be the Elocutionist ? ? ? as it was printed on the programmes? I remember I told my mother I aught not to do so much, I felt I was in the public eye too often. My mother said, “God has given you a talent” use it. I think you can guess the home influence my Father & Mother had on us. Firm but loving & kind; and we all knew the struggle it was for Father very often to keep going to work. My Father






died at the age of 76, but had been in poor health for quite a few years before he died, but was always cheerfull & happy & could always see ^the^ funny side of life. Mother lived 7 years after his death We all felt very sad & lonely when they had both gone & I remember my brother saying “They walked with God.” I felt they both left us a great heritage, tho no wealth as far as this worlds goods


PS I forgot to mention that we girls at I & R Morley in Heanor were among the first to join a Hosiery union at 3 pence per week, excuse both bad writing & spelling ^old money^ mistakes I used to be good, but not any more, so shall have to go to school again, ?


July 3rd 1974                         M L Triggle




PS anafterthought   July 3rd



I have just been reading thro my story & I realize I have said very little about my sisters & brother. Well they were all happly married. (But all my sisters & their husbands have gone) Their Children & even the Grandchildren have done & are doing something worthwhile. We have 1 Tutor in Retford T Training College, 2 others are teaching, 2 dental surgeons & 1 at Guys taking his first Xams & hoping to be Dental Surgans & is at Cardiff Medical University hoping to be a Dr & 1 nurse & a girl the youngest just starting her training to be a [Dr?]. (Please don’t think I am boasting). I am not But I do think how different life could have been if Father had not gone to throw rotten fruit at the preacher (But it really was a pebble in a pond & the ripples are still going. (But God threw it for him) I began this story June 28 & finished July 3rd






That is why some of the writing may be more [serviceable?] than others. But once I started I felt I had taken the lid off something that had been bottled up for too long & it had been good to talk about it.

(Now I feel I know you,) & if next you find yourself in this part of England, you will be most welcome to call & have a cup of tea. Longnor is a pretty village not far from Church Stretton & the view (from my 1 bedroom flat) both back & front are of the Shropshire hills and really lovely.


M L Triggle




Flat 15 Vineyard Cottages



For Professor Burnett,


Dear Mr Burnett

July [23rd?] 1974

I hope you won’t mind ^me^ just adding this other bit of my story. But I have been thinking how would the growing people of to day really understand the conditions under which we worked. We could not down tools & just walk out, there was nowhere else to go & we had to eat, I am very glad things are different, but at the same time I wonder if some of life’s things come too easy & I am glad we started a union, but feel it has got out of hand these days & there is little [respect?] & where has the please & thankyou gone ? even in small children. I don’t suppose you will get this until after the holidays. But I am not





too well & fee my age & after two opperations (of several years ago) I feel so tired at time. But if my story has been any use I shall have been glad to have helped a little. I ever you come this xx way ^I hope you [will?] you will find it full of history & some lovely old Churches & houses some 15th century. My daughter took me to Shepton yesterday a lovely old Church & House, it was then that I realized I shall have to stay more at home. I loved it all, the beauty of the country was wonderful but when it came to seeing round the house & Church I could only work such a little & not be able to see all the real history those places contained.

I am sincerely Mary Laura Triggle


Just heard

PS John has passed his first Xam at Guys.





more memories of my time at I&R M


All the stockings that we had to mend were black & we mended them by gass light open flames. Once I got all my hair burnt on one side of my head. Later when Electric lamps came into use, it was just a red [wire] so we used to have to sit with both elbows on the counter to see. We had a cloak room to hang our coats & in that room was a wash basin & an ajoining WC. (How often the water was turned off in the room for several hrs,) but we could get a drink of water & also wash our hands quite often. One of the girls in turn had to clean the WCs & the cloak room on Saturday morning & one Saturday morning the water was turned off before the girl had finished the work & as the taps had no indication as to whether it was off or on. When the water was turned on Sunday & no one there the stone floor was flooded & for spite the overlooker sent for the plumber to cut the pipe to the wash basin so we






never had any more water to drink after that just a bucket to wash our hands in. But the over looker had her tea brought from her own home at 4 oclock every day, but we could not get even a drink of water So one very hot day 4 of us girls decided to take a bottle of water & in turn get down under the counter & have a little drink. The other three had had a drink & not being been caught. Then my turn came, they began to make me laugh, (& I never could laugh softly. I always really made a laugh that could start the others off) so I never got even a little drop & (it was my little bottle of water) (Try to drink out of a bottle & laugh at the same time) especially under a counter

I never earned more than 3½ per hr, I was supposed to be one of the best menders (there were only 3 of us on some [weeks?]) I had a steady hand & also a cool hand & could [save?] a lace stocking that had been damaged & take all the bad out & join the pattern correctly again, that was called doing a [“crosser’] also I could do [ravelling?]





all this needed patience & contra consintration & I really liked my work. I worked at I&RM untill I married 10 years from 1901 till 1911 I said in my other story we worked 52 ^ hrs^ it was ^56^

M L Triggle this is really a bit more of my 3rd story

July 26th 1974





Flat 15 Vineyard Cottages

Feb 19th 1977                                                                                   Longnor


Dear Professor Burnett                                                                    Salop

You will recall I wrote to you ^in^ 1974, & you very kindly accepted the story of my Grandfather & family, as past history of the working class of many years ago. I had to stop writing as I was not well & felt the weight of my years & now I am in my 89th year & still live alone & manage to do my own work & housekeeping but cant go out & do my own shopping. But sitting alone I still have many memories. But last year in late Summer I had some friends call to see me I knew them as children but now they have two daughters one in University & one nursing. But something they said made me think of quite a lot of the past






They said, How cosy & comfortable your house is & how good the furniture looks, & I said yes, but it is the first we bought in 1910 when we were thinking of getting married & it has been in constant use ever since, we had it made in Nottingham, by Laurance ^in their factory was at [??] up the river and we paid golden sovereigns for it. The look of astonesment on their faces was good to see, didnt you have any paper money then ? ? ? I then told them the first paper money I ever had was in the first world war, my husband was a soldier & as a soldiers wife I got 12s 6d & 2s 6d in postal orders for my little boy they really could not believe it was true, & thinking after they had gone, how xxx different this generation look at things





& am I right in feeling that greed is one of the biggest causes for so much disasisfaction & loss of peace & contentment ?

I do hope you will not mind my writing to you again. I don’t have many visitors, so writing letters to friends keeps one in touch with the world & helps me to keep my brain still intact.

I myself seem to have lived thro so many changes, but looking thro my windows & seeing all the beauty of the hills & the country. I realize that God is still good & I am thankfull for all I still am able to see.

Yours very sincerely

Mrs Mary Laura Triggle


PS as you knew Nottingham you perhaps know where my furniture was made





Flat 15 Vineyard Cottages

Feb 24th 1977                                                                       Longnor

Dear Mr Burnett                                                       Shrewsbury

Thank you very much for your very nice letter in answer to mine & the talk of my furniture being made in Nottingham & your family conections with Lawrence’s. It made me take another look at my home & especially the dining table, it is very square & made of solid polished oak & the grain is lovely (when it is extended in the middle (it has had lots of real parties with 12 people seated round it) but it made me remember the day we went round the factory, the gentleman who took us round, said we have now got a new line in dinning Tables, (as the ^type^ xxx was rather popular at that time for an extending table they were mostly just white scrubbed tops with big bulbus legs)






& Lawrences had started to make polished oak just square legs & casters that can be taken out (I have never seen one like mine) & after all these years it is still lovely, of course the centre piece is not in line these days). I wish you could see it, also my sideboard (has a very lovely mirror) & we were told that was made of American rose wood, the chairs have been recovered once (that is, the 4 dining chairs) but the arm chairs had them recovered last year & the furniture upholister said they were a treat to do & worth 100£ each ? ? ? (I question that price) but they are very nice & lovely to sit in, & they are covered with tapestry with a collage of flowers on a beige background & my daughter promises me they will not finish up at any (auction) she will love to keep them.

There was something I did not mention in my early papers. That my mother altho she lived to be 84 could not walk for 40 years she had that painful & crippling Rheu mat toro thritus), (may not be spelt right) but again Nottingham comes into






the picture. Someone lent us a big old fashioned 3 wheel chair to take her out in but we could not store it when not in use. But Father heard of a factory in Nottingham who made wicker chairs &c. just at that time childrens pushchairs were coming into fashion. So father & my older sister went to the Factory & asked if an invalid cane & wicker folding chair with 4 wheel could be made. So there again Mother got the first folding invalid chair made in Nottingham & it was so easy to fold & put away when not in use. Mother lived long enough to wear the first one out & we had a nother & after that I think at the factory they made quite a lot.

I feel this is just a very gossipy letter I am writing to a friend & as it has been done at several sittings I hope it is readable. (If I keep on I feel we might be related in some way) hope the book will be a great success & that I shall still be around when it is published.

Yours very sincerely M L Triggle





PS please forgive an old woman just having a little talk with you

Sorry to see all the floods both in Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire on TV all the places I knew so well as we had a cycling club in those days before the motor cars







Flat 15 Vineyard Cotts


                        Burnett                                                           Longnor

May 21st 1977                                                          Shrewsbury

Dear Mr Burnett

forgive me if I am a bit of a nusense, but I have just being thro some papers & came across this (Copy of Articles of Apprenticeship) concerning my son The original of this (apprenticeship) was of course kept by my son after he had finished & I remember how proud he was of the special mention of him being one of the best men Terry Brothers had ever had) I think I told you he got ^was^ killed in a motor accident in his 33rd year & had just been ^made^ manager of a new factory they were opening Now reading thro all this I must say I really felt shocked at




ps hope you can read this my writing gets worse


wording of the document & the restrictions put on young boys in 1929. So I wondered if it might be of any interest to you in getting your book put together. I I wonder if anything like this is still used, (surely not) yet he was such a happy boy & always loved his work & even after work, he always attended night class & Leicester Technical College until he was 26 years old, Sending this to day has made me feel I must talk to someone & hope you will understand you were the one I felt I could just have this little talk, yours M. L Triggle

PS Please I’d like you to return it,





my new                                                                      16 Berwyn Drive

address                                                                      Bayston Hill


Nov 6th 1977                                                                         Salop

Dear Mr Burnett

I am writing to give you my new address. I left the Vineyard


on Oct 21st & am very happy to be in Bayston Hill, as now I am only 5 minutes from my daughter & she calls every day to be sure I am alright. The actuall move was on my 89th birthday & lots of friends were willing to help, with both paint & cleaning material & laying of carpets so I was ^not^ inconvesed in any way. I am so happy to still be able to do my own work & look after myself But one cant put the clock back so I am rather slow at times.

I hope the book is progressing & that I shall still be aroung when it is in print, so that is why I wanted to give you my new address, & I wish you




every success in all your work

yours very sincerely

Mrs Mary Laura Triggle

My old address was

flat 15 Vineyard Cottages




My new address.

16 Berwyn Drive

Bayston Hill





PS It is very strange but altho we have never met, I feel I know you very well.

So if you should care to come this way anytime, there would always be a cup of tea







16, Berwyn Drive.

Bayston Hill.

November, 30th. 1981                                                                      Shrewsbury.



Dear Professor Burnett.

Please accept this rug. It gives me the chance to say thankyou for the opportunity to use my memory. I’d often wished I could tell the story of my Grandfather and my father’s wonderful conversion. Also to pay tribute to my mother for all she did to find the rest of Grandfather’s family.

I hope you will be able to find a place for the rug.

Yours sincerely.

  1. Laura. Triggle (Mrs).

P.S. If you have a dog, keep an eye





on the rug. Dogs like to pull pieces of material out of these rugs, our dog does anyway!


(S.M. Walker.)




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