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Hannah (1879-1978)

'My Granny' by Peter Ostle

Over the last four hundred years, the Ostles have married into all the other old farming families of Holm Cultram except for the oldest of all The Chambers. This family's most famous member was Abbot Robert Chamber (died 1519) who built the porch at Holm Cultram Abbey which today forms the entrance into the church. At some time in the 1500's, the Chambers took over from the Barwises as the hereditary keepers of Wolsty Castle. It was a Margaret Chambers who remonstrated with Cromwell's soldiers when they came to demolish the castle. Hannah's mother was another Margaret Chambers.


Hannah with her mother and Sarah


The Four Edmondson Sisters
Jane, Hannah, Sarah
and May

Her father was William Edmonson who originated from Whitehaven but, one suspects, he was only used by the Chambers for breeding purposes. His first wife was Mary Ann Chambers but, when she died, William married her sister. At the time, this was illegal under English Law, so there is considerable doubt as to the legitimacy of Hannah and her two sisters, Sarah and Jane. Their eldest sister, May, was from William's first marriage. However, the arrangement helped perpetuate the Chambers Matriarchy. William was the only man in the house and nobody seems to recall any of his family ever visiting. The Edmondson girls were Chambers in everything but name. If it had been any one of them facing Cromwell's troops, Wolsty Castle would still be standing today.

Hannah was a true matriarch, dominating the household at the Outgang. She took in Joe Bell, her step-sister's son and brought him up beside her own two sons. After the war, her younger son, Joseph, his wife Sybil, and their family shared the house, but Hannah was always the dominant member of the household.

She disapproved of most things and most people but her strongest disapproval was reserved for her closest female relatives, in particular her daughters-in-law. Sybil and Mary seldom did anything right for her. Living in the same house as Sybil required some form of accommodation, but this was only given grudgingly. Mary was miles away and required no such consideration. At some point during the war, Hannah had sent Mary some fresh eggs from her own hens; a great luxury in war time. She had packed these carefully in a 'National Dried Milk' container and asked if Mary would return the can when next she was in Aspatria. Mary did return the can and also brought back the brown paper, the string and the cotton wool in which the eggs had been packed, pointing out that her own parents never asked for gift wrappings to be returned. This story was regularly repeated as an example of Mary's cheek and ingratitude but the incident was obviously planned as a way of annoying Mary. The words most often used to describe Hannah were 'aggravating' and 'contradictious'. Sybil had to be tolerated despite the fact that her family were lapsed Catholics and had run cinemas in Carlisle, however, she made up for these shortcomings by giving birth to me, a sickly child, on whom Hannah could dote. I am the only member of the family who can remember any public show of affection from her.


Hannah with her son Joseph,
step-daughter, Annie
and Thomas


In Blackpool with Thomas

She hated all forms of music apart from hymns, referring to everything from Bach to the Beatles as 'the tune the old cow died to'. She did however manage a smile when we played one of the old 78's called 'Misery Farm'. At some time this shellac record had been broken and someone had repaired it by screwing a metal plate over the label so we never knew who the singer was, but I still remember the chorus:

We're miserable, so miserable, down on Misery Farm,
So are the animals,
So are the vegetables,
Down on Misery Farm.

Hannah was a strict Sabatarian. No knitting or other handicrafts were allowed on Sunday. Reading matter was limited strictly to 'The Methodist Recorder' and 'The Joyful News'. Strangely I don't recall ever seeing either of my Grandparents reading the bible at home. Not only was it wrong to work on a Sunday, but it was equally sinful to do anything which caused someone else to break the Sabbath. So long as Aspatria had a manual exchange, we were not permitted to use the phone on Sundays as this required the Post Mistress to work the switchboard. Catholics were exempted from these rules since they had a 'Continental Sabbath'. The Italian Genetti family who owned the local Ice Cream Parlour were not sinning in opening on Sunday but, for certain, we would be damned if we ever went in. When she saw some members of the congregation from North Road Chapel calling in there on the way back from morning service, her disgust was hardly containable.

Despite her many faults, Hannah had a deep sense of Christian duty and charity. She had that faith which St Paul says can remove mountains, never once in her life did she doubt the absolute truth of the bible. She sent regular donations to The Poplar Missions, The Lord's Day Observance Society and other Methodist charities. Her nephew, John Ostle, had shot a neighbour as a young man. He was tried for murder and found insane. He spent almost his entire adult life in the Broadmoor Asylum. Eventually he was transferred to a mental hospital in Carlisle and Hannah was one of the few family members who ever visited him. He didn't know her.


Hannah on her 90th Birthday


With Thomas in 1950

In later life, Hannah became almost blind and then virtually bed-ridden. Eventually she had to be admitted to the geriatric ward at the Garlands Hospital in Carlisle and it was here she died in 1978, just a few months short of her hundredth birthday.

Hannah never used bad language. She once berated me severely for calling another boy 'a little devil'. She did however have one exception to this rule. When she was spending money on luxuries, an expensive new hat or new stair carpets, she would excuse her extravagance with the contemptuous phrase 'Shite on Poor Folk'. In dialect this is 'Shite a'peer folk' and it is in that form that our family still use the expression and affectionately remember Granny every time we do.

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