The Garratt Bench – A letter from Jenni Bond
The following is a letter received from Jenni, granddaughter of Thomas and Nellie Garratt.
Whilst visiting from my home in Australia, I came to see the bench in memory of my grandparents Thomas and Nellie Garratt. The bench has been restored after damage and placed in the Great Wyrley Memorial Garden.
Geoff Hackett and Jenni Bond (nephew and granddaughter of Mr & Mrs Garrett) August 2018
My grandfather is part of the Garratt family who have been in Great Wyrley as miners since 1830, my grandmother Nellie Hemmingsley is from a similar Cheslyn Hay family. I lived in Great Wyrley since early childhood until leaving to go to University. Ours has been a family deeply involved in the life of the village, both my parents, Jim and Marion Homeshaw being Parish and Rural District Councillors.
Thomas was one of those responsible for the building of the ‘Institute’ and establishment of a library for the use of working men. Nellie formed the Cooperative Women’s Guild which provided social and practical help for local women, many of them miners wives who lived very hard lives.
Living in Great Wyrley during World War 2 and after, I was very aware of the importance of the Memorial Gates, especially during the Remembrance Service each year.
It is important that we remember: not only those who died in the wars but also those who served in the armed forces, hospitals and ambulance
services. We must not forget those who kept us alive working in agriculture and factories.
Friends of Great Wyrley Memorial Garden (FROGS) have recently done a huge Amount of work so that it is now a place of peace, tranquillity and beauty. Many thanks are due to them and the Great Wyrley Parish Council for creating this asset in the centre of Great Wyrley.
This is only the start: updating of information and repair is necessary for the gates and the group wish to add to the site to improve information for the community and to make more widely available e.g. through the library and schools, knowledge of the history and meaning of our village and those who lived here.
I heartily support their efforts and hope funding will be made available to them.
Autumn 2017 Mr. Rob Caddick was tending the garden at the home of Mr. Eric Prichard on the Walsall Road when he discovered an eight foot bench, on closer inspection he realised the bench had an inscription on it.
“In memory of Thomas Garratt first chairman of this Fellowship and of Nellie his wife 1959″.
Apparently this bench had been removed from the Senior Citizens Centre many years before as it was being vandalised.
Rob reported his find to his mother, Cath, who mentioned it to the Local History Society. They took it upon themselves to get the bench restored. Two members of the District Council , (Cath Williams and Janet Johnson) donated towards the renovation and the Parish Council gave permission to situate the bench in the Memorial Garden, this will be done in the spring.
Mr. Owen Ingles offered to restore the bench, and a wonderful job he made of it.
Jenni Bond (nee Homeshaw), who now lives in Tasmania, and her cousin Geoff Hackett contacted the society and reported that Thomas Garratt was their Grandfather.
We would like to know what “the Fellowship” was. We assume it was held at the Co-operative Hall on the Walsall Road as the Senior Citizens centre did not open until February 1959, and Thomas died in 1951 and Nellie 1957.
Sue Bray, from the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum, made a welcome return, to talk about Francis Barber. Francis was a young black slave, who was brought to England by Colonel Richard Bathhurst, whose son was a close friend of Johnson. The Bathhursts sent Francis to Johnson as a valet, just after the death of Johnson’s wife.
When Colonel Bathhurst died he left Francis £12 and his freedom. After serving some time as an apothecary in London, he ran away to sea.
Dr. Johnson arranged for his discharge, and paid for his education. Johnson came to rely on him as a secretary as well as a valet. When Johnson died he left Francis Barber an annuity of £70 and a gold watch.
On March 30th at the Senior Citizens Centre Broadmeadow Lane, 3.00 pm until 8.00pm we are opening our archives for public viewing, everyone welcome.
We hope to arrange a coach trip to the National Arboretum, at Alrewas in June or July.
Coffee mornings are at the Senior Citizens centre at 10.00 am
Coffee morning speakers:-
February 16th Women in Focus Derek Tamea
March 16th Local Murders Anthony Hunt
March 30th Archive Viewing
April 20th Hanging Ladies Alan Rose
April 22nd St. Georges Day at Harrisons.
May 18th National Memorial Roger Halewood
The AGM will be in June NOT July as previously advertised