George Mason Hills and Betty Edna Berry – 26 June 1937
My Grandma, Betty Edna Berry, was born in Clapton in 1914 and lived with her parents Henry and Ethel Berry at 28 Elmcroft Street, Clapton, London.
My Grandfather George Mason Hills was born in Sheffield, son of George and Mary and brother to William and Ina. The Hills family were adventurous hill walkers and loved mountaineering.
So how did a London lass meet a lad from `up North’ in the 1930s? At that time Betty’s Aunt Kate was seriously ill, suffering from renal tuberculosis. At the beginning of the 20th century, tuberculosis was one of the UK’s most urgent health problems. Betty’s mother Ethel was looking after her sister in 1934 and Betty was shipped off out of the way. Kate died of `consumption’ in June 1936.
As it was Christmas Betty went to stay with her Aunt Nell, Uncle Stuart and cousin Tom Turner in Sheffield. The Turners were friends of the Hills family and so they came to visit a lot that Christmas. Betty was introduced to George when Tom invited some of his former school friends to meet his cousin from London. George Hills was working for the Medical Research Council in London, but was visiting his parents in Sheffield for Christmas.
As George was also living in London, Betty and George travelled back together on the train from Sheffield. George lived in digs fairly nearby in Lordship Road, Stoke Newington, lodging with Miss Prickett. He made it clear he would like to see Betty again and the rest is history…
Engagement – Summer 1935
George asked Betty if she would consider marriage in the coastal village of Beer in Devon as the Berry family were on holiday there. This was a favourite family holiday destination where they stayed in a Boarding house in the village. On a previous occasion Ralph, a local fisherman, had asked my Gran to go for a moonlight fishing trip after the village dance. The family felt he had other things on his mind other than fishing and the outing was declined!
George come down on the train from London to see Betty for the day. I have the love letter George wrote to my Gran the morning he got back:-
`49 Lordship Road, London, N16. 15:vii:35
Most darling Precious, I want to tell you all about the most marvellous journey back which I had; I never felt as happy in my life before. I not only felt as happy, as when on a country bicycle ride on a frosty, but bright sunny morning or as when seeing the sunrise during an Alpine climb, but I also felt as if I should like every-one else to feel equally happy. I felt genuinely sorry for every-one less well of than myself, who can’t even afford a cheap excursion to Beer.
Very early in the journey I got the idea that there would only have to be a suspicion of an answer `Yes’ from you and I would come over to Beer and marry you by special licence to-morrow if it could be done that quick. When I got back, after first kissing your photo-graph and then lighting the gas, I found my diary and looked up the cost of the licence and was gratified to find it was only £5. Through out the journey I continued to develop the idea. As there would be no engagement, there would be no engagement ring. Perhaps you wouldn’t like that, but with the money saved you could have a radio-gramophone. An engagement ring may make you want to dance, but you can’t get any dance-music out of it. We should have to give up the idea of a honeymoon in the Italian Alps and perhaps `our bungalow’. We shouldn’t be able to live on a fabulously lavish scale on my £250 a year. After deciding all this I suddenly realised that as you are not yet a lady your dad should have to say `Yes’ too, do you think he would? One thing is certain that if you really do want a bungalow, I don’t think I will have saved enough pennies for us to get engaged in September; because Toots, once I am engaged to you, I shall feel it impossible for us to remain unmarried for more than six months. After so much good-will I am sure it goes without saying that I hope your party at Beer have a marvellous time with marvellous weather. How can you be so good to me, Tootsy?
Yours, darling, for ever and ever, Georgie’
In the 1930s the Legal Age of Consent was 21 and 16 with parental permission. Betty was still 20 in June 1935 so they either needed to gain parental consent or wait till Betty’s birthday in the September. They were officially engaged on 1st August so permission must have been given! I am unaware as to whether my Gran did have an official engagement ring in the end. I did find these opal rings among her possessions and she was always fond of opals.
George was a country boy who loved the outdoors, hiking and alpine mountaineering. Betty was a London lass who enjoyed parties and dancing. They took up each others hobbies! As George got to know Betty he shared his love of walking with her and they even went to the Lake District for a holiday before they got married. My Gran assured me that it was all above board and they shared hostel accomodation with another couple in single sex dorms!
Soon after they married they got a dog called Chum. George and Betty did a lot of walking from their home in Chelsfield, Kent. They also bought a tandem and travelled all over the place including an adventure to the Italian Lakes by train as a belated honeymoon.
When George met Betty he hadn’t been into ballroom dancing. However, as Betty loved dancing so much, George took up dancing lessons near his digs in Lordship Road so they could go dancing together. They obviously got quite good as they won the Slow Foxtrot at a competition when they were living in Chelsfield, Kent after they were married.
I can see I have inherited a love of the outdoors and a love of dancing!
Marriage of George Mason Hills and Betty Edna Berry – 26 June 1937
George and Betty married at Clapton Park Congregational Chapel on Lower Clapton Road. The Round Chapel was built in 1869-71 as a non-conformist, congregational church. It is now an arts centre and is considered to be one of the finest non-conformist buildings in London.
After the ceremony catering was provided for 33 guests at a local Hired Hall.
We invited 38 guests for our Wedding breakfast so the numbers were similar with close friends and family invited.
My Gran chose George’s sister Ina and her best friend Christine Hyde as bridesmaids. The Hydes were friends of the Berry family. The best man was George’s brother William.
The 1920s had seen shorter dresses with brides showing an ankle. The wedding dress became increasingly shorter as the decade went on. In the 1930s the wedding dress became more slender and elegant. The fabric was cut on the cross so that the material fell into graceful folds and could be rather figure hugging. Silk elbow-length evening gloves were worn with a bracelet or watch on top of the gloves. Betty was a bridesmaid for her cousin Kath Spice in 1933 where the outfits were typical of the early 1930s. Kath opted to wear a hat rather than a veil. Cloche hats were typical of the late twenties/early thirties. The Cloche was a fitted, bell-shaped hat for women that was invented in 1908 by milliner Caroline Reboux and was especially popular from about 1922 to 1933. Its name is derived from cloche, the French word for “bell”. My Gran is wearing gauntlet style gloves with decorative flowing cuffs and seems to be holding a clutch bag rather than a bouquet.
Wedding fabrics were chiffon, silk, crepe-de-chine and satin cut on the bias. The formal 1930s bridal gown was floor length, and had an elaborate, long train. Chantilly lace trimmed the edges of the floor length veils that were anchored to the head with a juliet cap. Long opera length gloves completed the look of a sleeveless or butterfly sleeved bodice.
Betty chose a white wedding dress which which was more classic than the contemporary style she wore as a bridesmaid. Wedding gowns often reflect the latest fashions of an era and can be time-dated by their silhouettes, sleeve styles etc. However some brides of the 19th and 20th centuries chose to wear their mother’s or grandmother’s wedding dress or veil. This can be misleading when dating photographs. Maybe my Gran decided the figure-hugging styles of the 1930s were a bit tarty for a bride! I can’t decide if my Gran is wearing a new dress and veil or decided to wear her mum’s. I do know my mum’s wedding dress, which she made herself, was saved for my wedding day. However I couldn’t get into it as the dress was 2 sizes too small for me! The bridesmaids have fuller skirts than the latest fashion, but they are sporting cap sleeves. Betty is wearing a fashionable short finger waved hairstyle.
In my Grandparents wedding photos the guests are wearing typical 1930s Day Dresses.The most dramatic difference between the fashion of the thirties and the previous decade was the emphasis on a slim waist. The 1920s had seen a flat `boyish’ loose shape with a dropped waist. 1930s fashion saw a slender fitted style with a high natural waist accented with a belt. The belt often matched the dress using the same floral or patterned fabric. Fashion was to create interest at the top of the garment and accentuate the waist. This included caplet sleeves, puffed sleeves, and angular shoulders which, in turn, would give the illusion of a smaller waist. Femininity and pretty details were a key feature of 1930s fashion. I think I was born in the wrong era! Necklines and collars were always high with no cleavage on show. Hemlines went back down after the almost knee baring 1920s to mid calf for Day Dresses.
1930s Wedding Flowers
Money was scarce during the Great depression of the 1930s. Unless a bride came from wealth, flowers tended to be locally grown and readily available. Several styles of bouquet were popular in the 1930s and were designed to complement the dress.
Arm Bouquet This style was designed to be held in the bride’s arms and looked sleek and elegant against the slim line dress styles of the 1930s. Long stemmed flowers were used which included calla lilies, gladiolus, delphiniums and long stemmed roses. Ribbons were sometimes woven into the design.
The Nosegay or Tussie-Mussie. This style of bouquet has been around since Elizabethan times and was still popular in the 1930s. The nosegay was a small round shaped bouquet of closely filled flowers. Generally two or three flowers were the central feature surrounded by fragrant herbs and greenery. The flowers were usually roses, tulips or carnations. The Nosegay was originally intended to be put to the nose to mask unpleasant odours when bathing was not so frequent. Sage, mint, thyme and rosemary were often included as fragrant herbs.The posy was styled within a cone-shaped vessel of metal or glass known as a tussie-mussie. Ribbons were used to accent the flowers and the bouquet was often wrapped in a lace doiley. The Victorians turned the tussie-mussie into an art form giving each flower and herb a symbolic meaning.
The Cascade or Shower Bouquet. This was the style Betty chose for her wedding flowers. The bouquet is round at the top near the bride’s hands and spills over in a cascade of foliage ribbons and flowers. Choice of flowers was limited in the 1930s – carnations, roses, lilies and plenty of Maiden-hair and Asparagus fern. I am fascinated by the bouquets in my Gran’s wedding photos. The two bridesmaids have huge bouquets packed full of garden roses and trailing fern. They are also carrying Dorothy bags which are likely to contain confetti. My Gran on the other hand has a smaller, more sparse bouquet of carnations. I really can’t understand why! I prefer the abundant rose bouquets. Perhaps carnations were more highly prized and my Gran was fond of the fragrance?! There were also carnation button holes for the men in the bridal party.
Wedding Present List 1937
I was delighted to find my Gran’s Wedding Present List tucked amongst her wedding photos. What a wonderful piece of social history! There are so many similarities between my Gran’s Wedding Gifts, my mum’s and mine. We all had a dinner service, casseroles, flower vases and bath towels. I either still have many of the items on the list or remember them. The list shows that amongst the wedding party guests were family, work colleagues and friends. Uncle George gave his niece towels as he worked as a Sales Rep for Christie’s towels. There are many more ornate items of cutlery and serving dishes than we received or would dream of using.
Aunt Nell and Uncle Stew gave giant fish servers made in Sheffield, which was appropriate as they lived in Sheffield. Uncle Stew had been an assistant steel overseer for the admirality.
Other cutlery items included egg spoons and pastry knives and forks. Apparently an egg spoon is a specialised spoon for use in eating boiled eggs. In comparison to a teaspoon it typically has a shorter handle and bowl, a more pointed tip and often a more rounded bowl. The pastry knives and forks given by Horace Laithwaite, a colleague of George, came in wonderful crocodile or snake skin presentation cases.
There was a lot of cut glass amongst the wedding presents. I remember having biscuits out of the Cut Glass Biscuit Barrel when I came home from school. The Cut Glass Cruet, a gift from Aunt Blanche and Uncle Arthur Mason, was always brought out for Christmas and Birthdays. Unfortunately the vinegar bottle was broken so I decided not to keep it. However it looked very like this set:-
Glassware also included grapefruit dishes, vases and a cake stand. Christmas cakes, Easter cakes and birthday cakes were always presented on the Cut Glass Cake Stand.
Betty’s Grafton China tea-set was a present from her bridesmaid Christine and her mother. All we have left now is a bread and butter plate and this bowl. The Grafton China marking is from the period 1935-1949.
Whilst I was clearing my Uncle’s house I found this lovely Amber Cloud Glass Flower Bowl Set which was given by Ethel Marsh. Unfortunately I threw the plinth out as I didn’t realise it belonged to the flower bowl! Cloud glass is a form of pressed art glass, created by applying streaks of dark coloured glass to paler glass, which creates a random swirled, “clouded” pattern. The cloud glass technique was invented by George Davidson & Co in 1923. The Pattern number is 1910SD, 6.75 inches diameter.
Ethel Marsh was a colleague of Betty at the Liverpool Victoria Insurance offices. The stories my Gran recounted about the Liverpool Vic are more to do with the social side than actual work! Betty made many good friends whilst working there, many of whom came to her wedding. In the 1930s a married woman was not expected to work. When Betty got married she was expected to give up her job. During the Second World War women were needed to work whilst the men were away at war. After the war it was more socially acceptable for married women to go out to work. My Gran recounted going on trips away with the Liverpool Vic to Brighton. The offices would be closed and they would all go off to the seaside in a charrabanc. I have pictures of the girls on the beach. Winnie Holland seemed to be a bit of a goer and is showing her knickers whilst paddling!
Winnie came to the wedding along with Mary Gallimore, Ethel Marsh and Gladys Kingdon. The Womens Record Department gave a dinner service, electric clock and meat carvers.
Other intriguing gifts were a Turkish Cigarette Box and Ashtray from Fred Dainton. I couldn’t think of anything I’d want less for a wedding present. However my Gran was partial to smoking a Turkish cigarette! Although not on the list my Gran was very fond of her Honeybee which seems to date from a similar period.
Betty’s Aunt Jennie and Lou gave her a LLoyd Loom Linen Basket, which was passed on to my mum in later years. LLoyd Loom is the name given to a woven fabric and furniture that was invented by Marshall Burns Lloyd nearly 100 years ago. Lloyd Loom weave is made from twisted paper and wire and the frames are traditionally made from steam-bent beech wood. The furniture is renowned for its longevity and durability. It inspired a generation of furniture designers in the 1920’s and 30’s, associated with the art-deco period and the classic ocean-going liners of the time. It became immensely popular in the UK before the London factory was destroyed in the war, spelling an end to large scale production.
Aunt Lou and Jennie were unable to come up from Brixham in Devon for the wedding, but were very fond of their youngest niece.
The two maiden Aunts sent a Wedding Congratulation Postcard.
Wedding Cards, Telegrams and Postcards
After the wedding celebrations Betty and George spent a wet, rainy week in the Lake District on Honeymoon. A year later they finally made it to the Italian Lakes on their tandem for a belated honeymoon. Another Epic Blog Post in the making…!
I hope you have enjoyed my Grandparents’ 1930s wedding. I certainly cherish these wonderful photos and keepsakes!