The Treasure Chest

Margaret’s memories are precious to her. She stores them up as carefully as her keepsakes. And she’s willing to share them. Margaret Heseltine was born as Queen Victoria came to the throne. She tells us of her childhood in the heart of Wensleydale. Her parents were innkeepers. As a young girl, Margaret knew only the life of the inn and the close confines of the villages of Bainbridge and Askrigg. She relished the beauty of the countryside and its familiarity. She took pleasure in the comfort and security of her family life. But there were dark times, too. Uncle John brought shame on the family. The outside world scarcely impinged on Margaret and her family. And yet life in the dale was changing. Rural poverty drove the migration of many people from the countryside into the mill towns of West Yorkshire and Lancashire. Others chose to travel further afield, to settle in Australia, America and Canada. Some of their stories are interwoven with Margaret’s. When Margaret was fourteen years old, she and her family also moved - to Lancashire, where they farmed at Hoghton, in the shadow of its brooding tower. Here they encountered the grime and relentless daily grind of the mill towns of Blackburn and Preston. It was time for Margaret and her siblings to earn their keep. The changing seasons, the needs of the land and the livestock, underscored and directed the pattern of their days. Horizons expanded. There were new engagements with books and music, new people to meet, new ideas to explore. In 1865, Margaret married James Greaves. He took on the tenancy of an inn on Deansgate, in central Manchester. Margaret worked alongside him. The city streets, blackened with the smoke from the mill chimneys, teemed with life. Mill-workers jostled with doctors and lawyers, mill-owners with vagabonds and thieves. Birth and death, joys and sorrows were familiar companions to the people of the Victorian era. And Margaret knew them too: family weddings, a miscarriage, the death of a younger brother, the births of three children in quick succession. Orange blossoms, black bonnets and layettes. In time, James achieved his ambition to become a farmer and the little family moved back to Yorkshire. While James toiled purposefully on the farm, Margaret kept house and reared her children with energy and aplomb. Nine children were born – and one passed away, a sorrow hard to bear. As the farm prospered, James and Margaret became more active in their local community, worthy and responsible citizens. Theirs was the world of church and charity, social order and stability. The tranquillity of village life was set against a landscape of rapid change. In the wider world, the age of carters and packhorses, horse and carriage, had become the age of railways and bicycles and motor cars. The indignity of the backyard privy was exchanged for the comfort of bathrooms and flushing lavatories. Households were no longer dependent on candles and oil-lamps but could enjoy the benefits of electric lights. Life brings both cheer and grief. Margaret accepted both stoically. Sickness and death became close companions. But Margaret had hope for the future – for her children’s advancement and for peace and prosperity in the world which her grandsons would inhabit. And she had her treasured memories.
ISBN: 9781788762182
Type: Paperback
Pages: 292
Published: 31 January 2018
Price: $12.95