My Paternal Family
Auntie: Annie (‘Nan’) Wray (born 1896)
I was pleased to be given the photograph shown above of Annie Wray (‘Nan’) as a young lady.  I remember her when she was in her sixties and it’s good to be reminded that older people were once young. Nan was born on 19 July 1896 and baptized more than four years later. She was sent to school the day after her third birthday. I found Nan in the 1911 and 1921 censuses and the 1939 Register. Her CV was impressive:
I understand that she was also in service as a housemaid to Sir Joseph Priestley at Tatmore Place, Gosmore. When I knew her, she often seemed to live in a world of her own.  Now and again she would mutter, ‘Sorry’, for no apparent reason.  She often asked, ‘Can people read my thoughts?’.  She would purse her lips and blink deliberately.  Sometimes, if she lost a little control, my father would growl, ‘Steady!’. There has been a suggestion that her mind was affected after being jilted. Despite this, I liked Nan and I have pleasant memories of her smile.   She stayed with us at Portsmouth occasionally.  I remember being with her and my mother in the cafeteria of a department store when a stranger joined us at the table.  He asked her where she was from. “’itchin” came the reply.  It took several minutes to sort out the confusion as there is a River Itchin in Hampshire. I feel that perhaps Nan was sometimes ‘put upon’ by some of her siblings and not treated well. She was a capable, hard worker and cared for the house and garden including the chickens. She was a wonderful cook using an old fashioned, black kitchen range - her steak and kidney pudding with freshly-cooked runner beans was delicious. Her coffee and walnut sponge still lingers in one’s memory. She had a good appetite and might polish off a pheasant for her supper. She also enjoyed a glass of stout and would often join us for a drink at The Red Lion. I was recently told that Nan sometimes attended services at Bunyans Chapel and I’ve also found a note of the attendance of a ‘Miss Wray’ at a meeting re St Martins, who was likely Nan. She died on 31 March 1978 and was buried in an unmarked grave in St Martin’s churchyard.
Alfred Fowler was living at 24 Chilton Road, Hitchin (shown right) in 1911. He had retired as the Hitchin Workhouse Master in 1902/3. I can find no criticism of his methods. He stood as a local councillor in district elections and also owned a ‘considerable amount of property’ in Hitchin
In 1921, Nan was one of three domestic servants to Dr Arthur Walrond Soper who was living at 210 Anerley Road, Anerley, Bromley, Kent and working at Guys Hospital, London.
In September of 1939, Nan was the maid of Alice M Shand, a Poor Law Guardian, at Chaffers Mead, Ashtead, Leatherhead, Surrey.