WILFRED FRANCIS (1917-
There is a great temptation to include too much detail in this chapter because it is a subject with which I am well acquainted! I only wish that my predecessors had left behind a full account of their lives; this would have rendered unnecessary a lot of my own laborious, but enjoyable researches. It is possible, even if unlikely, that some future family historian may find it interesting to learn something at first hand about an unimportant person's existence during the twentieth century. I have, therefore, written a much more detailed autobiography elsewhere and will confine myself here to a summary of that.
I was born on 22nd February 1917 at 63 Howard Road, Walthamstow. For some purposes this town came under the jurisdiction of Essex County Council. It was also regarded as part of Greater London, and it had its own Urban District Council. It is now part of the Waltham Forest District. My parents were Wilfred John and Lita Elizabeth, dealt with elsewhere in this family history.
My first school was St.Mary's Infants', which I joined in 1922. By the time I was seven I had passed through all four classes of that small establishment and then went on to Maynard Road boys' school -
At the age of ten I had some instruction in piano playing and musical theory from my maternal grandmother, Marion Hebdon, but I found it rather uninteresting at the time. Much of my leisure (and school) time was spent with a neighbour, Reg Jackson, who was six months older than I was. He had a considerable influence on my own choice of interests, and music was not one of them.
Having decided that I wanted to work in a laboratory I took my first job at the end of 1935 in the Cellulose Lab. of the famous firm of paint manufacturers, Sherwoods of Barking. We had moved to Woodford a few years before and I had acquired a bicycle. This was pressed into service to get me to Barking every day. After three years I decided to try to improve my position and so transferred to another well-
A succession of jobs followed. The outbreak of war in 1939 very much narrowed my choice as it was necessary to apply my training to "work of national importance", a somewhat vague definition! In September 1938 I married "the girl next door", Vera Daisy King, and we lived for a short time in a flat in Church Lane, Romford. Changing my job to one at British Cellulose Lacquers Ltd. at Sydenham necessitated moving house to Forest Hill and then to Beckenham.
In 1940 we returned to Woodford and I got a job at the Micanite & Insulators Co. in Blackhorse Lane, Walthamstow for a couple of years where my days were mainly spent in testing various plastics materials.
This was followed by three years at the Ford Motor Company at Dagenham, where a departure from my experience in applied organic chemistry took the form of analysing iron and steel castings produced by the Foundry. This was a hectic but humdrum way of spending anything up to 84 hours a week, day and night!
Immediately after the War in mid-
In 1949 I found it again necessary to survey the job market and was lucky enough to write to a small firm of wood finish manufacturers, Henry Flack Ltd. whose address was Borough High Street, near the Elephant and Castle. But it turned out that their factory was at Elmers End, Beckenham. I had not reckoned on travelling such a distance every day, but certain concessions were made over the hours of work and, having bought a small motorcycle the previous year, I was fairly independent of public transport and all its post-
Meanwhile Vera had divorced me in 1957 and I had married my second cousin, Ilene Florence Foreman in April 1958 at Chingford, where she lived with her widowed father. All three of us took a house in Addington Road, West Wickham between Bromley and Croydon.
Unfortunately the position at Surridge's -
The next two years (1964-
After expressing serious doubts about the advisability of taking on such a responsibility and the upheaval it would cause in our home life, I finally agreed to take up the offer that Doug Colborn had made to me. It is rather interesting that every time I changed my place of employment -
The latter half of 1966 was unsettled because of the difficulty in selling the house at West Wickham; it was one of those periods when mortgages were not easy to obtain and buyers were scarce. In November we moved to Barn Close in the hamlet of Toddington about a mile north of Littlehampton town centre, and completion of the house sale took place later.
I took charge of a staff of 30 and was pleased to note that Colborn and Maclean continued to have every confidence in my ability to run the factory. This was the first time I had had a job that was not actually at the laboratory bench but, apart from the administrative duties, a good deal of technical experience was required. Jim Maclean was about to retire when he sold his business to the large printing-
A few months at Coes at Rustington convinced me that I was a fish out of water. I knew little about the details of printing as such and I was put in charge of an office where my previous experience was quite useless. There was a peculiar lack of co-
Quite by chance I wrote to the National Printing Ink Co. of Chichester, the only firm of this type within forty or fifty miles. I was delighted to be able to join them, as sole chemist in July 1974. The working conditions suited me and I was treated generously by the directors; I remained working full-
When I started work in 1935 as a lab. assistant at Sherwood's my salary was 22/6 a week. By 1939 I had negotiated increases bringing it up to £3, a fairly good average for those days. In 1961 I was earning, £1100 a year. During all this time inflation had been kept under some control and the cost of living had risen only moderately. I left Samuel Jones in 1966 at a salary of £1400 and while I was at Shuck Maclean's it rose to well over £3000, with generous annual bonuses added to that figure. Inflation then got quite out of hand and the price of everything continued to shoot upwards for the next ten years. If I were still working full-
While at school I had some lessons on the Spanish guitar and joined one or two local amateur dance bands. Later I returned to the piano. During the 1939-
An interest Ilene and I spent considerable time on was the hobby of brass-
About 1972 we joined the newly-
Another of our leisure pursuits has been walking in the countryside and we have been members of the Ramblers' Association for over twenty years. We attended the inaugural meeting of the West Sussex Group in Chichester and I found myself on the steering committee that got the Group started and then on the permanent committee for a few years. Our active participation in the work of the Association has been much reduced in recent years but we are still very interested members.
Soon after coming to Sussex we joined the local "Archaeological and Natural Science Society", whose membership is now in the region of 150-
Apart from the more ordinary occupation of growing vegetables for our own consumption (Ilene is in charge of flowers and shrubs) and a certain amount of house maintenance from time to time, another task that absorbed an enormous amount of time and energy was the secretaryship of the Ford Flying Resistance Group, an organisation I helped to form in 1977 to combat the threat of a "business" airport becoming established on a nearby disused wartime airfield. We built up a membership of 200 individuals and got the support of thirteen organisations totalling 8,000 members. We were successful, after a great struggle, in persuading the Department of the Environment that there was no need for such an airport only two miles from Littlehampton when we already had Goodwood and Shoreham only seven and eleven miles away respectively. We had to fight the West Sussex County Council and the Civil Aviation Authority, but had the local District Council on our side. An Examination in Public and a Public Inquiry had to be prepared for and provided with all the evidence and strength of feeling gathered from our membership. In 1984 we disbanded the Group because it was agreed that the threat had now passed.
The other matter that is waiting to receive our attention is the history of Toddington. We have gathered a good deal of information on this subject and hope to put it into a readable form when this present study is completed.
My wife, Ilene Florence, was born in Shernhall Street, Walthamstow on 3rd September 1916. Her parents were Herbert and Maud Foreman and they remained there until they were "bombed out" in September 1940. Ilene went to St.Mary's infants' School at the same time as I did and we have a photo showing us both in the first class. She then went to St.Mary's Girls' School, following that with Queen's Road or the South Central School. She worked in Selfridge's in Oxford Street for a while and then in a local shop in Wood Street, Walthamstow. After that she took a job at Halex Ltd., the plastics firm at Highams Park until we were married in 1958. She has written up the material we gathered in our search for information on our joint ancestors, i.e. her mother's and my mother's, and so much more detail about Ilene's own life is to be found there.
My sister Joyce was born at 63 Howard Road, Walthamstow on 9th February 1920. As mentioned above she suffered from a serious ear trouble as a child which left her hearing slightly affected permanently. She followed me at the Infants' School and then went on the St.Mary's Girls' School in Orford Road. When we moved to Woodford she transferred to Churchfields School which was within walking distance. In 1934 she took a job in the office of a sportsgear manufacturer, The Atlas Co, in Fullers Road, Woodford.
A very old friend of Lita's was Emily Brown (née Lee) who had been at school with Lita's sister Nell. Emily and her husband William had maintained contact with the Daggetts and Hebdons over the years. They had three sons, of whom the eldest was Sydney William. He was 2 years older than I and so used to visit Jowilta during the mid-
Their daughter Valerie Elizabeth was born in January 1948 and they later moved to a self-
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