‘Still bombing us but still here’ – Notes From Winnie’s Diary

Today’s post is written by one of our dedicated Volunteers, Margaret, who became involved with the project when she stumbled upon a portrait of her Great Aunt, Winifred Lilian Garman, amongst our collection. Upon discovering the Past on Glass project Margaret has since been a keen Negative Digitiser and Researcher and is today bringing us the the story of her Great Aunt.

We are always so lucky to find real life connections with DKW’s sitters, enriching the lives of the portraits and helping us to imagine what may have been for those that are yet to be identified. Winifred Garman may also be recognised from our ongoing exhibition, ‘Women in the Frame’ at the Honeywood Museum. The exhibition of Knights-Whittome’s female portraits continues until March 2019, where you can see Winifred’s diary, sewing machine and other artefacts for yourself!


Winifred Garman, December 1913

Winifred was born on 25th July 1889 in Beulah Road Sutton. The information collected is based on the 1891, 1901 and 1911 censuses, an extract from her family bible and a notebook compiled by her based on diaries she kept throughout her life.

Winnie was the daughter of James and Mary Garman. James was born in Wotton, Surrey and Mary in Sandhurst, Kent. James was a Gardener. They had 6 children Herbert (Bert), Arthur, Alfred, Winifred, Blanche (Pat) and Albert (Ted). Arthur was a Tailor who had his own shop in Wallington and Ted had a hardware store in Upper Mulgrave, Cheam. Alfred died in infancy at the age of 2 and Pat married and moved to Letchworth.

The 1891 census shows Winifred living with her parents and two older brothers at Camilla Lodge, Robin Hood Lane, Sutton. On the 1901 census the family had moved to 35 Morland Road, Sutton. The family continued to live in the house until 1944 when they were bombed out. The 1911 census shows Winnie to be working as a parlour maid at Ettrick Lodge, Albion Road, Sutton. She was employed by Charles Pothecary, a London solicitor, and his wife Emily.

Winnie’s notebook makes fascinating reading because it gives an insight into a different time, with references to major world events alongside the ordinary everyday happenings.

winifred lillian garman

Winifred Garman’s possessions on display at the Honeywood Museum

Winnie went to New Town School in Sutton. She remembered going to Croydon on a horse drawn bus. She had Scarlet Fever when she was 9 years old and was taken to hospital in an ambulance. She would go to Sunday school at Cheam Baptist Church on Sunday mornings and again in the afternoon, in the evening she went to church there with her family. Her religion was very important to her, she continued to be a regular Church goer throughout her life and she was a keen member of the choir.

Winnie left school at 14 and started a ‘small job’ with Mrs Cox at 2/6 per week, dinner was included and she especially enjoyed the apple turnovers. When she was 17 she went into service as a parlour maid for Mr Pothecary, a solicitor. She said that service was ‘drudgery’ and she passed the time she spent doing ‘everlasting washing up’ by propping up her Sankey’s hymn book and singing or humming the hymns. She had one afternoon and one evening off a week as well as alternate Sundays. The family had very big parties and it was here that she heard her first gramophone. She remained in service with this family and others for about 17 years before changing to shop work, working at various shops in Sutton, including Timothy Whites and for Mr Martin at 275 High Street, Sutton.

In 1931 amongst the day to day details in her diary she makes reference to an earthquake in England. On looking this up on the internet I discovered the following information:

The largest known British earthquake occurred near the Dogger Bank in the North Sea in 1931, with a magnitude of 6.1 on the Richter scale. Despite being 60 miles offshore the earthquake was still powerful enough to cause minor damage to buildings on the east coast of England.

The entries in her notebook for the years of the Second World War appear amongst entries like ‘had eyes tested’  ‘Dad not well’ and ‘went for a ride to Boxhill’ include the following:

War on Poland

Belgium and Holland invaded.

Hitler died

There are many references to the bombings such as:

‘Air raid over Croydon’, ‘raids most nights, bombs – we sleep under the stairs’, ‘bombs over Oakhill Road’, ‘ fire watching at church’ slept downstairs- how frightened and upset we were’ ‘shelter put up’, ‘doodle bombs’, ‘Mrs Burgess bombed- Banstead Road’, ‘still bombing us but still here’, ‘bombs most days’,

Winnie looked after her Dad until he died in 1944 at the age of 91. Two weeks later her house in Morland Road suffered bomb damage ‘house shattered, dirt and dust everywhere, cleared up as well as we could’. She could no longer live there but was lucky to have a good friend living at 14 St Barnabas Road, Sutton who she was able to move in with.

Winnie made this her home and continued to live at this address for the remainder of her life. She was seen regularly cycling around the area and worked part time well into her 70’s. She took an active part in local life, belonging to various local clubs at Crown Road, Vernon Hall, always going out and about with these groups on outings and continued as an active member of the church and choir.

She lived independently with some support from family and friends until she went into a local care home about a year before she died in 1983 at the age of 93. She is buried with her parents at Sutton Cemetery.2018_Women_in_the_Frame




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