The photo that started it all …

As a child in the 1970s, I couldn’t believe my mum was from such a big family! She was the second youngest and is in white, on the front row. The photo was taken in 1927, near the family home at Longfield Avenue, Poulton-le-Fylde.

There were 10 sisters and 1 brother – Uncle Billy. My grandparents died a long time before I was born, but I have memories of many of ‘the aunties’! They all lived in Poulton-le-Fylde, apart from Aunty Ada who married a GI from Minnesota, returning ‘home’ only once, in 1970.


The Armer family at Longfield Avenue, Poulton. On the back is written “Taken April 28th 1927  Jane Armer’s 21st birthday”.

In the 1911 Census, the (smaller!) family are living at Ridge Cottage, Poulton-le-Fylde. Henry is 31, Grace 28, and they have 5 children: Margery, William, Jane, Annie and Isabella. Henry is listed as a “gardener, domestic”.


I’ve enlarged the section with their names, and you can see Henry Armer listed in the censuses of 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 here (much easier to read as it comes up full screen width!).


I visited Ridge Cottage in February 2017. You can read about it in the post about my great-grandfather, Richard Armer.

In the 1901 Census Henry, aged 22, is living at Bourne Hall and is listed as a servant who “Worked Farm”. Burn Hall is top left of this 1947 map, and Illawalla, a later place of work (as remembered by a cousin), is bottom right.


Illawalla house was built in 1902 by CV Haworth, then Chairman of Blackpool’s Alhambra complex (later ‘The Palace’). He lived there until his death in 1920. It was then bought by E Broadbelt, a Manchester fruit wholesaler, connected to the Fyffe (banana) family. It changed hands again in 1942 and was used as a home for pregnant evacuees. Its new owner, Frederick Emery, took possession in 1945. He ran a cinema chain and named the house Illawalla, reflecting his spell as a government official in Australia.

The venture failed as a gentleman’s club and became a night club until it was demolished in 1996. Here’s a photo of the house in 1903 (I don’t know exactly when it was that my grandfather was a gardener there).


And here it is on a 1961 map:

illawalla-mapAt some point, Henry Armer became a railway plate layer, and the family moved to 16 Longfield Avenue in Poulton, the terraced street where the family photo was taken.

The 1911 Census is the most recent census that’s available to the public (to protect confidentiality, we have to wait until 2022 before the Office of National Statistics will release the 1921 returns) – so it’s all backwards from here!

Henry and Grace were married in 1903. They were both from Thornton, and the nice thing about marriage certificates is that they name the fathers of the bride and groom, catapulting us back a generation. The witnesses at the bottom are also interesting; Henry’s witness was Anthony, his younger brother.


To complete this generation, here are the birth certificates for Henry and Grace:



The father and mother are listed after the Boy/Girl column, and the column third from the end is the person reporting the birth, in both cases the mother. It seems that Jane Armer didn’t register Henry for almost two months. It could have been a bad winter … and he was her sixth child.

Henry and Grace’s 12 children, 22 grand-children and 59 great-grandchildren (NB I may have missed some!) are shown on the family tree:


Henry and Grace tree top

Henry and Grace tree bottom

Descendants of my grandparents, Henry and Grace Armer. The family members in the 1927 photo appear in blue. Most of the dates are from my cousin Barb (Barbara Clare Lammi above) in Minnesota

The next post looks at my great-grandparents, Richard (1845-1916) and Jane Armer (1848-1932). Richard was listed in four censuses as “Ag Lab”, agricultural labourer, the work of 80% of the population at that time.

Below are some family photos from this branch, although mainly my mother and father. My life didn’t overlap with any of my grandparents, so I have a fascination with the few photos of them in the family collection!

photo mum and olive with Henry

Left: the 2 youngest sisters with their dad – Olive, Henry and Ethel Armer at Longfield Avenue. Right: my mum Ethel at Aunty Grace and Uncle Leslie’s house in Shard Bridge.

photo Armers with Henry

Gathered together for a wedding or christening around 1950. Left to right: Frank Pilling (Auntie Belle’s husband), Henry Armer, unsure, Auntie Grace (white blouse), unsure, Auntie Mary, mum (Ethel), Edith, Auntie Olive and Uncle Billy

My mum’s first job after leaving school was as an assistant cook at a schools’ kitchen. Then the head cook left and mum applied for the job. Her father told her she wouldn’t get it, as the school governors were all Catholic, and their family were Protestant. As predicted, she didn’t get the job, but I suspect she would have been quite young for a promotion like this.

She must have seen an advert in one of the Blackpool newspapers for a job at Oakbank Guest House on Helm Road, Bowness – where she met my dad Allan Brockbank. My parents were married at Blackpool Register Office early in 1951.

The sisters told my dad that he was very lucky to be able to stay downstairs alone with my mum, un-chaperoned before they were married. Somebody (a parent or older sister) was always around when the other sisters brought their young men home!

My grandfather Henry Armer passed away on 22nd February 1951 which was just five weeks prior to my parents’ wedding. The old gentleman in the photos below is my grandfather on my dad’s side, Jimmy Brockbank from Windermere.

photo wedding

Left: mum and dad’s wedding, with my dad’s father Jimmy Brockbank before leaving Windermere for the wedding. Right: at the back of Longfield Avenue, Poulton – mum, dad, Auntie Olive and Jimmy Brockbank (my paternal grandfather).

All my mum’s sisters and Uncle Billy were at the wedding, which took place at Blackpool Registry Office. Someone suggested going for lunch afterwards. My dad insisted on paying, and the bill came to £11, which was his budget for the entire week!

They had a honeymoon staying at Auntie Grace and Uncle Leslie’s house, near Shard Bridge. Uncle Billy had a smallholding near-by. He saw my mum in the garden and slipped her £5 as a wedding present, much to my dad’s relief!

My brother John came along in January 1952. Dad was working long hours at Borwicks Boat Builders then, so my mum would go and visit her sisters in Poulton. My Auntie Grace and Uncle Leslie had a house in Shard Bridge, so she would stay with them and their young daughter Barbara Walshawe.

photo pram

Mum and my brother John, 1952 and ’53. On the left they are at Shard Bridge, staying with my Auntie Grace and her family. My dad came down from Windermere on the train to stay overnight and help bring the pram back. But when they got out at Oxenholme Station, there was no time to get the pram from the guard’s van. They had to wait a couple of hours on the platform for it to be sent back from Carlisle!

My sister Helen came along in 1953 and I followed after a long gap in 1965. Just before I was born, my parents moved from their council house at 8 Winfield Road, Windermere, to Mylnebeck Cottage, a spacious 3-bedroomed end terrace opposite the police station on the road to Bowness. They bought the house for £3700, quite a sum in the 1960s.

One of my earliest memories is the visit of my Auntie Ada from Minnesota in 1970. There were get-togethers in Poulton and a party at our house in Windermere. Somewhere I have a cassette tape, made from the reel-to-reel tape recording of the sing-song at the party. It must have been near Christmas, as I remember my Auntie Ada’s solo of ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’.

photo Ada and siters at Belles

My Auntie Ada’s only visit home was in 1970. This photo was taken at my Auntie Belle’s house on Westwood Avenue, Poulton. Back row: Frank Edmondson, Allan Brockbank, Leslie Walshawe, Harry Barber (married respectively to Armer sisters Mary, Ethel (mum), Grace and Olive). Front row: Ada, Mary, Olive (kneeling), Grace, Ethel and Belle.

When my mum had an operation on her varicose veins, I went to stay with my Auntie Mary in Poulton for a week. Here she is with Uncle Frank at their home on Westwood Avenue.

photo mary and frank

I love this photo of my Mary and Frank’s daughters (my cousins, though a lot older than me), from 1958.

photo Muriel and Jennifer

Muriel and Jennifer Edmonson, aged 17 and 14

My mum and dad took us on some amazing and probably quite arduous camping holidays in the Lake District and Scotland, but this is the subject of another post!



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