History of hardship revealed in Bromborough village building
We think the times we live in today are tough, but they are nothing compared to those endured by Ted Thompson and his family in the early days of Ted’s life at Laburnum Cottage, Bromborough. Here, Ted shares his story.
It was in 1933 when my family came to live in Bromborough from Liverpool, where they had a pub on ‘Scotty’ Road. I was just two and a half years old.
We had a very short stay at Neville Road but couldn’t afford the high rent so we moved to Laburnum Cottage where we lived until the end of 1939. My family included mum (Ruth) and dad (Arthur ), sisters Audrey and Eunice, brother Stan and of course, me, Ted. Another brother
Ken was born later – at the cottage.
The chalet was a two upstairs, two downstairs. There was a small utility room, a pantry and a cellar. In the back kitchen, a door led down concrete steps leading to the cellar. In the cellar there were large hooks for hanging pigs and the like.
My mother used to keep a big jaw in front of the door, to keep the children from coming down.
Outside the back kitchen wall there used to be an oven for baking bread and pies, but everything was bricked up before we moved in. .
The dining room had a large cast iron fireplace and a side oven where my mother did the cooking. She used a large cast iron kettle to boil water as there was only one cold water faucet handy and used a set of cast iron pots to cook.
The toilet was located about sixty feet just at the end of the garden. It was a bit of a run down building, which let in water when it rained. The seat was a plank of wood the full width of the toilet with a hole in the middle where the pot sat.
In the dark, in the freezing cold of winter, we children had walked two by two towards the “dunny” with only a lighted candle to show the way.
Our bathroom was a pewter tub in front of the fire. On bath days, which were every Sunday, my mother had to boil water over the fire in the large kettle and cast iron pot to heat the bath water. We, the children, went to the bath in pairs.
We dreaded winter. The cottage was cold, damp and smelled of mold. Money was so scarce we couldn’t afford to buy a lot of coal to keep it
My dad, like other fathers, had very low paying jobs and we started falling behind on rent again. I remember the landlord when he came.
My mother used to put the children under the table for us so that the man could not see us through the window. He was shouting through the mailbox, “I know you’re there, ma’am.”
Being poor was not the word for it. Christmas, Easter and birthdays were a nightmare for mom trying to find money for presents and Easter eggs.
Many times she had to pledge her wedding ring in order to put food on the table and buy clothes.
Ted in 1935 driving his little stroller outside the family home – Laburnum Cottage
Every Christmas my grandfather gave me a small pedal car as a gift, but every Boxing Day it mysteriously disappeared, only to reappear the following Christmas cleaned and reconditioned!
These were really dark and unforgiving days. But, in the end, the chalet was our home and we had to put up with it, there was nowhere else to go.
He had good and bad memories, but most of all we survived.
The family moved to Forwood Road in 1939. It was from there that Ted attended St Barnabus Church School, followed by Woodslee Primary School.
He started boxing in his early teens and later developed into rifle shooting; his NSRA badges still among his possessions when he died.
He was to meet his future wife, Maureen, at a cafe in New Ferry – cafes were the places to go out in those days, (remember “frothy coffee?).
They married in 1955 and moved to Helsby Avenue in Eastham where they had four children, Sandra, Carl, Denise and Keith.
At this time, Ted was working at Cammell Lairds, originally in the Gatehouse as a “runner,” before completing a five-year apprenticeship as a carpenter.
He then worked on “Ark Royal and” Windsor Castle “.
Sadly, Ted passed away in January 2021. He didn’t live long enough to see the published story of his youth at Laburnum Cottage.
But what about Laburnum Cottage itself?
Laburnum Cottage today – 26 Bromborough VillageRoad, home of Jo Jacques Health and Beauty
Today the chalet is at number 26 Bromborough Village Road and is the headquarters of the Jo Jacques Health & Beauty company.
The neat sandstone walls overlooking the hedge, the small front garden and the sash windows have been replaced with parking spaces and modern checkered windows.
Formerly a self-contained dwelling, its first registered occupant, Charles Davies, dates back to 1778. In 1815, property tax records show that his nephew, William Davies, was the occupant.
1840 Map of the tithe, house Laburnum arrow
The chalet is shown on the tithe map circa 1840.
The entry reads: “House, building (ie barn / stable), yard and garden” and William Davies appears as both owner and occupant. This was rare at this time, with properties generally being rented out.
The 1851 census has William Davies still in business with his wife, Jane, and four children.
But the investigation does not end there.
The Eastham Archivist was delighted to have been authorized to inspect the property in April 2021 by Jo Jaques, the current owner.
Rear elevation of Laburnum Cottage, showing where the brick upper story was added to the original sandstone building
The building remains essentially a two upstairs, two downstairs with the kitchen at the back. But it was the rear elevation that was particularly interesting, which appears to be virtually intact from the days of Ted Thompson.
The photograph shows two distinct construction phases. The lower floor is made of sandstone while the upper half is made of brick.
This could be proof that at one point the chalet was one story and probably covered with thatch.
A sandstone date is embedded in the masonry at the top of the building. It shows the initial ‘D’, subtended by ‘W’ and ‘J’, followed by the date 1837.
This clearly refers to William Davies and his wife Jane.
Could this have been the date the chalet had a second floor added?
William still owned the property in 1885, although he now lived elsewhere.
The site of the brick bread oven, described by Ted in his recollection, is clearly visible, demarcated by surrounding mortar and as Ted states on the exterior back wall of the kitchen.
The site of the bread oven described inmortar
However, there is no trace of this door in the kitchen, blocked by a mutil which led to the cellar with its butcher’s hooks.
What might the future of this once humble cottage hold, and what other memories might it reveal to later historians?
With special thanks to David Allan of the Eastham Archivist, who kindly allowed this article to be reproduced by The Globe.