Monday, 26 November 2012

Betty Ethel Manley nee Taylor (1921-94)

Betty Ethel Manley nee Taylor was a half-sister of my father, Eric William Taylor, who both had the same father, William Taylor. Eric’s mother (Gertrude) was William’s first wife who died in the influenza pandemic in 1919. She was a younger sister of Betty’s mother (Ethel).

Betty was born on 31 December 1921 in Woolwich, the only child from the marriage of William Taylor to his second wife Ethel Suter nee Wilkins. William and his family lived at 16 Brewer St, Woolwich. The site of the house is now occupied by John Wilson Street, a dual carriageway that forms part of the South Circular Road (A205). The electoral register shows William living at the address from 1921 until 1933.

Betty recounted that, as a small child, she slept in a room full of “knocked off” goods from the dockyard. One of her earliest memories was of her father taking the labels off stolen canned food (stored under her bed) to resell !  She also remembered seeing big, boxed dolls one Christmas, but she was not allowed to have one, just the usual piece of coal, a satsuma, some nuts and a coin.  The only real present she remembered receiving was a watch from her elder half-brother Eric for a birthday.

Ethel (Betty’s mother) died on New Years Day 1933 aged 51 when Betty was 11. She then brought up herself with help from her half -sister Doris Suter, who lived in Seddlescombe, a small rural village in Sussex. When Betty was about 15, her father (William) found her a flat in Woolwich above a greengrocer’s shop. William married Eleanor Mary Bateman (known as Nell or Nellie) in 1938 when Betty was 16. One morning he produced a little box with a ring inside it and told Betty "I am going to marry Nell today". Betty was surprised and also hurt that she wasn’t invited.
Before the war Betty was apprenticed to a tailor, a skill she kept all her life. With the onset of World War II she went to work in a factory making swivel eyes (aircraft parts), which is where she met her future husband Frederick Cecil Manley.  He was an engineer by trade and as such, kept at home during the war. Fred was Betty’s foreman and he used to come her bench and help her knock out a nights work and then they would spend the rest of the night in the broom cupboard ! 

 Betty, as a young woman

Betty was a bridesmaid at the wedding of her half-brother Eric to Grace Ivall (my parents) in Cambridge on 12 Feb 1944. Betty was also a witness on the wedding certificate. Her address at this time was 1A Conduit Way, Stonebridge Park, Willesden, London NW10.

When the war was over Fred was called up (to the RAF) and he decided that they should marry on his return.  However, Betty and Fred had a row about the wedding arrangements.  Betty did not hear from him for several days but he eventually returned, complete with a special license and they were married on 30 November 1946 at All Hallows Church, Greenford, West London. He was aged 25 and she was 24. The witnesses were Betty’s father William and her half- brother Eric.

Initially the couple lived with Betty’s half sister Vera and her husband Frank but their first home together was Orchard Cottage, a rented property in the grounds of a large house in the village of Seddlescombe, East Sussex. They moved here to be near Betty’s half-sister Doris and husband Arthur Moore. He and Fred started a bakery machinery servicing business. Betty and Fred’s first two daughters were born in Seddlescombe. Eventually the large house was acquired by the Pestalozzi Children’s Village and the cottage was required for staff quarters. By this time Doris and her family had moved to Emsworth in Hampshire, where their third daughter was born.  Betty and Fred brought a bungalow here in 1958 for £1800.  In 1971 Fred died of lung cancer leaving Betty to bring up her three daughters alone. She knocked five years off her age and obtained a job in a factory making seatbelts for Ford cars. 

In 1981, when Betty was 59, she had a stroke from which she never fully recovered.  However she did improve sufficiently to live on her own and continue with a full and active life.  She was a well known figure in Emsworth riding a large adult three wheel tricycle around the village causing traffic chaos!!
 Betty in 1988

Having had three daughters but always wanted a son, Betty was delighted to be presented with a first grandson in 1989 and despite her disabilities she was a very hands on Grandma. She suffered a major heart attack in June 1994 and died on 2 July aged 72.

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