Lizzie Russell

One of the many advantages of researching the history of Rosemarket is the people we meet along the way. A chance encounter during a visit to Carew Market near Tenby one Sunday morning by our Treasurer, Antony Haley, ultimately led to this article being included on our website.

In 2003, Pembrokeshire U3A (University of the Third Age), wrote and published a small book entitled ‘Looking Back at Pembrokeshire; an anthology of Memories and Photographs’. The culmination of many hours of dedicated work by a team of volunteers, it included contributions on Rosemarket.

On a spring afternoon in 1978 one of the volunteers had met with 92 year old Mrs Elizabeth Thomas at her home in Haverfordwest, where she talked of her childhood days when she had been Lizzie Russell of Rosemarket (born Mary Elizabeth (Lizzie) Russell on 4th March 1887). The details of their conversation were included in the book and we are delighted that Rosemarket Local History Society has been granted permission by Pembrokeshire U3A to reproduce it here.

The Lizzie Russell Story

“I was born in Rosemarket at Middle Bastleford and later we moved to live in the village. My father worked for the Great Western Railway (GWR). He was a checker on the pontoon at Neyland, checking the cargoes from Ireland.  [Note; the Irish Ferry moved from Neyland to Fishguard in 1906].

My mother had to keep the house going and feed us children. We were never hungry. I don’t know how mother did it. When I think of the money that goes into families today! She used to work hard and father, when he came home, as soon as he had had his dinner, went out into the garden. We always had plenty of vegetables and fruit and mother had some chickens. We never bought a thing, not an egg or anything like that.

We had two pigs in the cot, one up to fifteen score was killed just before Christmas and then we had bacon all the year. Father used to bring home a piece of beef from Neyland for Sunday dinner. We had bacon broth the rest of the week. The other pig was sold for pork earlier than the bacon pig. Father was a wonderful butcher. He jointed it up and we kiddies took it round the different places in Rosemarket at sixpence a pound. With that money we got two more pigs to go in the cot. They don’t do that today.

For clothes we bought material and Mrs John, the village dressmaker, made them up for us. My grandfather was a tailor and also the church bellringer and all the rest.

I went to Rosemarket School
It was a big school. We were all mixed up boys and girls together. It was cold there in the winter, very cold, just one stove in the centre of the school and we’d be shivering cold. The master, Mr Cattanach, came from Scotland you see, so he would say, ‘Go back to your seats. You don’t know what cold is like. You want to go up to Scotland’. He was very strict with us. If it was a bit more like that today they’d be better children. I had the cane only once. I couldn’t remember the Channel Islands – Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark. I had it on both hands. I can remember them now.

We used to go up to the Beacon to play
The playground was very rough. We played football, cricket, ball and skipping.

I remember Sir Owen Scourfield giving that plot to the children. We had a wonderful party to celebrate. There were roundabouts, stalls with cakes, a flea circus, a bonfire and a tea party. Sir Owen Scourfield also gave the children of Rosemarket School two cricket sets. We used to have matches against Williamston School on the Beacon. The girls played in the matches. I played.

We had the Day School Treat and party down on the field and School and Sunday School Trips. We’d go to Broad Haven in a big farm cart as big as a lorry today. Local farmers would loan them for the day. Trestles would be fixed all around and we’d sit on them. All the family would go. The mothers would make cake and sandwiches and we’d have home cured bacon.

My great aunts lived on The Beacon
They kept a shop there and baked for the village. I used to go to the aunts from school in the dinner hour. ‘Come on now’, they’d say, Have your dinner. Then get the balls in for us for the oven.’

They got the culm from Hook. My aunt had a little pony and cart and went over and collected it. We used to get clay from the claypit over the Moor, across the fields from The Beacon. We put the culm all in a tump, dug a hole in the centre and put the clay in. We’d put water on it and leave it for an hour or so. Then we’d go out with a hoe and chop it and mix it all up. I used to do it. I didn’t think anything of it. I thought it was my duty. I couldn’t carry the buckets though. My aunts used to do that.

They used to bake three days a week. On those days when I came out of school, I used to go in again. ‘Come on in’, they’d say. ‘We’ve soaked all the tables ready for you to scrub’. Great long, white tables they were and the big brown pans that had had the dough in were put into soak for me to wash. They had a tremendous lot of brass. It was my Saturday job to clean all of that and the steel knives and forks. Oh I used to hate that job. I really did. It took me all day. And those old steel knives, I cleaned them on a board with a brick, rubbing the brick over the board.

The cottage floors were sanded. A man used to come round from Freshwater with a box of sand. You’d have a mugful for a penny. The floors were made of slabs of slate and that screechy sound when you walked on the sand.

To get water we went to the well that was over the stile..
…past my grandmother’s thatched cottage, down the field to the bottom corner. It was lovely water. Two of us girls went with cans. All the water we used was carried up there except what was left in the barrel.

Saturday was a strenuous day. We used to carry the water for baths Saturday night and for washing on the Monday. All that had to be carried. Sometimes, we’d follow the stream down to where it emptied into a lake at the bottom. There was lovely watercress there and forget-me-nots. We’d dawdle a lot there.

Other people got their water from St Leonard’s Well. That was just a little chute. People used to go there to bathe their eyes in the water. It had healing qualities. I remember that.

The Vicarage Lake came down through the Vicarage Woods. It belonged to Big House Farm really I think. We used to find pebbles there to play dandies. You had five pebbles, one two, three, four and one in your hand and then you threw them up. The game was to try and pick them all up.

On Mayday we used to have a Maybush fixed up in the Square
The children used to gather cowslips and go round begging money for candles. They lit the candles, fixed them on the bush and then danced round it.

On New Year’s Day we used to go round singing carols…
…and were given a piece of cake or sweets. In Hook they went round with a little bird in a cage – the cutty wren, but I don’t remember that happening in Rosemarket.

I left school at fourteen
My mother wanted me to learn to do some sewing so that I could do things for myself. There was a dressmaker in the village called Mrs John. She took me on as an apprentice. I was with her for twelve months and then I wanted to go to Haverfordwest. Mrs Barrah of Bastleford took butter and eggs to a lady in Haverfordwest. This lady asked her if she knew a little girl leaving school who could do sewing and then the housework perhaps. Mrs Barrah asked my mother if she’d consider for me to go to this lady in Haverfordwest. I said I would love to go, so I went to Mrs Bruce in Market Street. I used to repair the sheets and all the rest of it. It was a booksellers, stationery and also sold Windsor and Newton’s (art) paints. Eventually they got me downstairs to the shop. I was in charge of the library. I loved it.

I got married from there but the wedding ceremony was held in the little church in Rosemarket”.

Rosemarket Local History Society has undertaken some additional research and discovered that the family had lived at a property on the Beacon after moving from Middle Bastleford. The 1901 Census showed the household at that time as including George Russell, his wife Elizabeth and five children. By this time, Lizzie was living in Haverfordwest, where she was listed as a ‘Servant’. George Russell’s occupation was listed as ‘Labourer on Dock’.

Records show that Lizzie married William Thomas and lived a long life, with her death listed as February 1989, aged 101 years.

The following notes are included in the book.
Dawes Well was where Lizzie collected water from. It supplied water to the top of the village including the School until mains water was provided in 1948.

St Leonard’s Well has a long tradition as a healing well. As late as the 1980s some Rosemarket folk had ‘Lannard’s water’ smuggled into hospital to speed their recovery.

Lake = Stream (Pembrokeshire dialect).

Traditionally, it is thought that Rosemarket children never ‘Carol sung’ for Christmas, only for New Year.

In some Pembrokeshire villages including Hook, a wren was put into a small wooden ‘house’ and carried by men around the houses on Twelfth Night. They sang a song about ‘The King of Birds’ and were invited in for food and drink. Some claim this tradition dates back as far as the Iron Age. The ‘cutty wren’ traditionally came to Rosemarket parish but only as far as Moor Farm, Troopers Inn, the Rosemarket Farm that was nearest to Hook.