Grace, born in Keynsham Hospital, Keynsham, Bristol at about 7.30pm on Thursday 27th April 1933, home address 14 Sweets Road, Kingswood, Bristol, didn’t like her middle name ‘Enid’ and never used it.
She was influenced during childhood and teenage life by her grandmother, Gertrude Rosa Burgess (1874-1958), aka ‘Grand Pratt’. Grand Pratt lived with the family until her death in 1958 and was cared for by her daughter-in-law, Florence Eveline Jenner (1901-1994) aka ‘Eva’; Grace’s mother. Eva frequently said "I never had Grace until Grand Pratt died" by which time Grace was married anyway.
- As told by her mother - Eva Baglin (Florence Eveline Jenner)
"When Grace was young I asked her to watch the potatoes boil while I went out shopping. And do you know, when I came back, there she was watching them burning, the blessed thing. I asked her why she didn't turn them off and she said she was only told to watch them. Grand Pratt (Gertrude Rosa Burgess) used to be like that, she was always burning things; that used to annoy me, because if anybody ever came to the door they'd think it was me burning something.
She was a terror at school too. She wouldn't keep her gloves and hat on, no not her. We tried to make a lady out of her; but we couldn't. Then there was that time she lent her Recorder to Miss Hunt; we never had that back, and it cost £3, that was a lot of money for those days, about a week's wages.
The War years
- Mother and Daughter (Grace Russ and Eva Baglin) remember the 2nd World War
Eva, "Grace knows about the war years - She'd tell you how we used to get in and out of that shelter."
Grace, "Yeh - They were exciting times - But you spent most of the war in the Havens shelter."
Eva, "Yeh - we did, Cus theirs was so much nicer - she'd say about that now, if she meets you."
Grace, "We had an Anderson one - It was quite small, and partly buried in the ground. Theirs was a brick built one - like a garage - which had lights, benches, a radio and things like that.
"Eva, "Yeh - but they had theirs by the house, and if a bomb had gone off, we wouldn't have been safe though."
Grace, "No - ours was by the house once! But we must have moved it - as later on it was down the end of the garden by the greenhouse. That was the time Grandpa Jenner (Frederick Thomas Jenner 1877-1954) came up for dinner, and during the evening we were in the shelter during a raid. There was a lot of, sort of bomb flack, and what not - and Grandpa Jenner kept opening the door to see what was happening, and Gran Jenner (Lillian Maud England 1879-1958) kept telling him to shut the door. There we were - me and Grandpa Jenner trying to see out to see what was happening, and everyone else trying to keep the door from opening."
Eva, "Yeh - that's right and one time I had to stay in the house during a raid cus our cat was having blessed kittens."
Grace, "Yeh - and I know our dad (Edward William Burgess Baglin) didn't go down every time either."
Eva, "And sometimes we'd put you under the piano and push the table over to it - And then we'd put our heads under the table with our backsides sticking out. I used to think that to be so funny. But our Ken (Kenneth Jenner 1924-1944, Eva's youngest brother) was thrown-down by a blast once, the sleeve from his suit was all blown-off, and he was all shaken up - Otherwise he was alright, although he didn't want to go to work after that. Then there was the aeroplane that came down by Manor Park, Fishponds (Bristol)."
Grace, "Yes, I remember that. I also remember the time grandfather Jenner (Frederick Thomas Jenner 1877-1954) looked up at a plane while he was on his bicycle and went into a ditch - the lid from one of his tins of paints came off, and the paint went all over him - He was a painter and decorator at the time."
Eva, "Yes, and that was it, when we all sat on that wall watching some planes going over - I think you was with us then - We looked up and said "Ou-ah, there's a lovely lot of planes" - Until we saw the swastikas on them. Then we all scattered like mad. They dropped a bomb and some incendiary devices, they all landed in the railway embankment (Staple Hill, Bristol), and fortunately none of them went off. We had to be ready to be evacuated in an emergency, you know. We prepared - ready to be hooked out of our windows quickly, but it never happened."
Grace, "The best thing I can remember about the war was the `British Restaurants' - they sprouted up everywhere, didn't they, like mushrooms. And you could get - sort of cheap meals there - like subsidised meals - it was smashing. I can remember my dad taking me to one - In Castle Street (Bristol) I think."
Eva, " - where the main shopping centre was. And then there was that raid while we were in the Salvation Army Hall (Staple Hill, Bristol) - singing the halleluiah chorus. We weren't allowed to leave cus there was a terrific lot of flack around - that could kill you, you know. So we kept on singing - mind you we were worried about Grace, we were on the platform and she was in the main Hall - we wondered if we could get to her in time if anything happened."
Grace, "Yes, and I remember that exciting night, on the Sunday, when we came out - And looked down towards Bristol and saw the sky was all bright red - that was really exciting - that."
Eva, "Yeh - and it was awful."
Grace, "That was the night the Bristol Blitz started, it lasted for several days."
Eva, "And if it had started on the Saturday night I would have been in that - Cus Ted (Eva's husband) and I used to go into town every Saturday night. Many a time, everybody had to dive under the shop counters during raids. Then there was that time when a bus load of school children going up Clifton way had a direct hit - Oh it was so dreadful, all the children were killed."
Grace, "And there was that time when a coach load of people from Yate, I think, went up this way - everybody on board seemed to have blood pouring from them."
Eva, "Yeh - it was so awful - though they were exciting times - they were."
Grace, "It was - It was really exciting."
Grace said that she has always been independent by nature, and found home life stifling. So, when Ernie (Ernest Raymond Russ) came on the scene she saw an opportunity to escape!! She was 18 at the time and although it didn't work out in the end, it was a happy marriage while it lasted.
Grace and Ernie planned to have two children, but unfortunately the second died shortly after birth so they had a third, me. We were a poor family, Ernie was always chopping and changing jobs, a couple of times trying self-employment which never worked-out because of his bad business sense!
In 1951 when they married they first lived in a caravan but in 1953 they moved in with Grace's parents at 14 Sweets Road, Kingswood, Bristol. Then on Saturday 17th December 1954 they moved to 77 Streamside, Mangotsfield, Bristol. Mr W.G. Smith, the Mangotsfield Urban Housing chairman of the Authority's Housing and Works Committee handed them the keys as the tenants to the 1000th Council dwelling to be build by the Mangotsfield Urban Council. When he handed them the keys he remarked to the reporter from 'The Observer' to the shortage of building land in the district.
I can remember my mother ‘Grace’ telling me about Alan (her first born) when as a baby he stuck a knitting needle in an electric socket and was thrown across the room. And, as a toddler, to young to go to school, he sometimes ‘escaped’ from the house and make his way to his Nan's (Eva's) house, about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) away!My first memories are in 1960 - When the whole family, my mother and father, Alan, my brother, and I were walking down a country lane with hedges on either side. The next thing I knew, we had came to a green wooden gate to our left; and looking through the gate down the garden path with flowers overgrown on both sides was a small cottage like house, with a large green door and four windows. This, 38 Victoria Road, North Common, Warmley, Bristol, was to be our new home for the next six years.
It was a four roomed house, two up, two down, each room about 8ft Square, and loose flag stones, with earth underneath, on the kitchen floor. The only modern amenities were electricity and a cold water tap in the Out-house. The house was bought on the understanding that Ernie’s parents would put up the money for modernising the place. However, planning permission was not granted because the Council had redevelopment plans under consideration (it was over a decade before the council demolished the building and redeveloped the site). So, Ernie made a feeble attempt to make a cesspool in the garden; a dangerous and deep hole, 6ft square and 6ft deep; and it was never used as we had moved on before its completion. For toilet facilities we used a plastic bucket; and for baths, a large tin bath, which was placed in front of the coal fire and topped up with hot water, boiled on the kitchen stove. At one point we were so poor that we survived on nettle soup for a few weeks.However, in 1966, in the dead of night, we moved on, leaving creditors behind us. Ernie had leased Angeston Nurseries in Uley, Gloucestershire, and set himself up as a self-employed Nurseryman. My mother and my brother, after he left school, helped to run the place; but after a while, in spite of Ernie’s principles, Grace got an independent job, and had a taste of freedom.
Three years after moving to Uley, due to bad management, my father was declared bankrupt, so once again we moved on; this time to Mortimer, near Reading, where he was employed as a Gardener; then moving on again, nine months later to Angus Convalescent Home, Orpington, Kent, where Ernie became `Head Gardener'.
Three years later the family broke up. I moved back to Bristol, and lived with my grandmother, Florence Eveline Baglin (1901-1994) aka ‘Eva’. Also living Eva at that time, as a lodger, was Iva. The following year Grace and Alan got a council house in Orpington, Kent. That same year Alan and Iva married, and in 1976, after the birth of their first-born, got their own council house.
In 1977, Grace returned to Bristol to look after ‘Eva’ her mother, and took a job as the `Personal Secretary to the Personal Secretary of the Lord Mayer of Bristol'. But she found life in Bristol ‘quiet’ and ‘boring’, and the job humdrum; and she was missing her ‘independence’ and ‘London life’. So when, a year later, Gillespies Brothers wrote asking if she would go back to work for them, offering a £500 pay rise, she jumped at the opportunity and went trotting off to London.
Back in London she felt happy and at home and lead a `happy go lucky' life with adventures and scrapes around every corner.
Memory Lane - by Grace Russ
Saturday 29th September 1984
I was very nearly late for my own wedding (Anniversary – 33rd), but mum (Florence Eveline Jenner) has discovered an amplified echo can be obtained by standing to the left of the stairs and yelling, provided all doors are open, of course, and the “yell” reaches a certain decibel.
She was quite unaware of my planned pilgrimage and was only concerned I should be “up and decent” before all the people started trekking in. It must be so disappointing and frustrating to her – she so desperately wants to “show me off” to her audience, yet there is nothing to “show off” is there – Well, there is a huge mass I suppose, but not the sort of mass she would like.
Having succeeded in getting me down the stairs she promptly said – “I've cooked my breakfast but didn't do you any as I didn't know if you were getting up”. So I just had some brown bread & honey and a cup of tea, and then got myself `dolled up’ ready for the trip down memory lane.
I wore the dress I had for Arthur & Helen’s wedding. Mum had kindly spent last evening, when I was with Arthur & Helen, sewing the sleeves (I’d cut the bottoms off but had never got around to finishing them). She thought it might have looked better if it had been ironed first, but I told her that Today’s fashion is for the `non ironed’ look, and anyway the heat of my body should get the creases out – eventually!!I felt quite excited as I started off at 10:15. I was married exactly 33 years ago at 10:30 so walked at a steady pace down to Downend Church, Bristol and then, after pausing to read a few tombstones, entered the Church. What an experience! It was just as if I was expected; the Church was decorated throughout so beautifully, then I realised these flowers were in aid of the Harvest Service, not me. Oh Well! It was a nice thought while it lasted. On the dot of 10:30 I wandered down the aisle, trying to recollect, but somehow the Church seemed smaller than I remembered. Still, I was only 10 stones when I’d walked down 33 years ago!
At the appropriate time I left the Church and wandered on down into Downend proper and a look around the shops. What a lot of changes since I lived there, very few of the old familiar shops are left.However, as I was on a “Nostalgic trip down Memory Lane” I thought it would round things off nicely if I went into Russ’s old shop and bought something. This is still a Greengrocer and Florist Shop, albeit having changed hands several times since the Russ family gave it up in 1949/1950.
My first purchase was a ripe, and ready for eating, honeydew Melon. After wandering around the other Downend Shops I returned to 27 Bodminton Road (the old Russ shop, Henry Russ (1889-1955)) and bought a variegated ivy – with a live ladybird crawling up the stem – for Mum, because that will go on for a long time, if not for ever, whilst the Melon will be eaten and nothing left as a memento.
Having fulfilled my needs for the pilgrimage I decided I’d better wend my way back to Staple Hill – Yet it didn't seem to be quite complete somehow, I felt the need of a coffee and sit down where I could gather my thoughts, but there are no Cafés in Downend!! Rounding the corner by the Blackhorse pub I saw a notice “Morning Coffee” so thought I’d go in. As I came to the side door I noticed it was labeled “Grace Lounge” so took that as an omen and went in and am indeed writing this nostalgic memoir from that very lounge, sipping a lovely `real’ coffee, alongside the other customers who seem to prefer their liquid in glasses.
All in all it has been a very rewarding morning, spiritually and emotionally that is, and I shall now be able to return to the great Metropolis feeling at peace, and fulfilled. A very tall man has just entered the bar and was greeted by some very bold comments from his cronies already seated. One such comment being (in a broad Bristol accent) “Thee bis like a pregnant deck chair” to which he replied “Ah! There be Weson Super Mare printed all up the side” (He was sporting a very bright and gaudy pair of multi-coloured striped trousers – not all that unlike a deck chair material). This seems quite a cozy little bar and I feel remarkably `at home’ in it. No one is bothering me and yet I don’t feel at all on my own, or a stranger.
The little group to which the `pregnant deck chair’ belongs are now playing Crib. I can hear the odd “15-2” “15-4” coming from their table. To the right of me, on the wall, is a huge horse collar, such as used by the old working horses of yore (Middle English for "long ago"). It is a real old genuine one and looking at it, if you close your eyes and let the imagination run loose, it is possible to hear the clinking of the chains and the breathing of the Shire horse and even, if you concentrate, smell the associated smells. How dull our lives would be without our memories and the imagination to recall them.
I have just witnessed what I always understood to be “the unforgivable sin” i.e. one of the non-playing members of “pregnant deck chairs” group has gone out and purchased fish & chips!! I thought it was not allowed to bring food into a pub where they sell food, and that fish & chips were banned because of the grease getting on glasses and making the bear go flat!!The time is now 12:10 and the bar is filling up fast. I shall soon have to `share’ my little alcove with its table with others so will make a move when I've finished this coffee (my third cup). I think I recognise one of the old men from the Army (Salvation Army) As long as he doesn't recognise me its all right! Mum would be quite worried if she thought I was frequenting “a den of iniquity”. Well, I will finish here for the moment and make my way back to No. 8 Seymour Road (Staple Hill, Bristol). As I left at 10:15 (without explaining where I was going) mum will assume I have just `gone to the shops’ and will be getting concerned! In case I've been mugged, raped, kidnapped or otherwise defiled!!
I got back without mishap and found Mum quite unconcerned – she must be getting used to my odd ways! I lost those wretched view cards again this morning, and the grapefruit I’d bought especially for my breakfast yesterday!! Mum eventually found the cards in her shopping bag and I found the grapefruit in a brown bag on the stairs!! Will now write the cards this afternoon and will have the grapefruit in the morning – if I don’t lose them again in the meantime!! We have now `lost’ a glass basin. This was used yesterday, in fact I think I remember washing it up, but its present where about's is unknown. I asked Mum if she thought the house might be haunted and she said the way things disappear she is certain there is a “Kremlin” about. I said I thought she probably meant “Gremlin” and she said she did, but it always came out as “Kremlin”. I told her the Kremlin was in Russia.
She suddenly had a “flash” of memory. We were talking about births (I don’t know how we came on this subject) Anyhow, she said she was 32 when I was born and her waters broke at 4:30 pm when she was sat in the front room (of 14 Sweets Road, Soundwell, Bristol) talking to Mrs Heath and at 7:30 pm I was born. This seems an incredibly short time for a first birth, especially for someone of 32 years old. I asked her what day it was and she said, “Thursday because it was Songster Practice night and she’d always maintained I should have had a good singing voice”. I said, "I have, like a crow, or raven!!"
I have upset the Budgie!! It is sulking with its back to the telly! It likes to sit on the side nearest the TV and watch the moving pictures. Tonight I was sat in the armchair in the corner when mum suggested I pull up the easy chair to put my feet on. This I did, but as soon as I moved the easy chair from the side of the Budgie’s cage it started creating quite a fuss and swearing at me in budgie language. The Budgie is now sitting on the other side of its cage refusing to look at the TV. Its feathers are all fluffed out on its chest and it is quite obviously sulking!!
We've found’ the missing glass basin! The new Ivy plant was sitting in it on the kitchen windowsill.
Sunday 30th September 1984
Panic Stations! Not downstairs there isn't, Mum isn't aware of the extra fluttering beneath my breast. I have aroused myself, had some of the melon (for my grapefruit breakfast) this time I didn't `lose’ the grapefruit – just `forgot’ them. However, I found some jelly in the fridge from last weekend – just the `scrapings’ – so I had that with the melon and put the dish into soak. It has made quite a bit of room in the fridge. Yesterday I discovered a peculiar package that was emitting quite a strong pong; on investigation it proved to be some liver paté someone had brought in for Mum `about two weeks ago’ she thinks. She said people often bring things in for her and put them in the fridge and, because she hasn't put it in herself, she forgets it is there. The liver paté was hastily consigned to the rubbish bag.
Anyhow, to revert to the present `panic’, I am starting to pack my case and get things up together and I suddenly realised it doesn't seem as it I've done much. It is true I have sorted out the back bedroom, but in the process transferred quite a lot to the front bedroom. So the rooms are now mirrored fashion to what they were when I first started. So what do I do? Put some back in the back room so they look about equal? No perhaps it would be best to leave the back room tidy – then I can always swear that was my plan – to do it in easy stages – and I'll be back to do the front bedroom in a few weeks. At which time I shall most probably `sort out’ the front and in the process manage to transfer a lot into the back bedroom!! I have a feeling I am not one of life’s “Housewives”. Housework is definitely NOT my forte.
Back in London
I ordered a taxi for 3:45 and this set me down at the Bus Station at 4:05. I then had to queue for 10 minutes for a carton of orange and Kitkat for the journey and went along to the London bay at 4:15 to find a long queue. I had the large family size suitcase, an ordinary size one and my shopping bag; handbag, plus a large carrier bag. Mum had urged me to take some oranges, a couple of pears, some tomatoes, a small loaf and a dozen eggs “because you won’t have anything to eat when you get in” Oh! and a chicken piece. All these were packed, pushed and crammed into any vacant space in the cases and bags, but guess what – yes that’s right, I left the two grapefruits behind!!
At 4:30 the coach, which had come up from Exeter, pulled into the bay from where it had been parked the other side, but it was already quite full so only a handful could get on. There was a huge mob of us left and after 10 minutes or so an Inspector came along and told us to go over to the white double decker parked at the back. This posed quite a problem for me as I had so much luggage and the large suitcase was really heavy as it contained mostly books. I managed to crossover but then saw the double decker was in the back row and we had to pass between two coaches to get to it. I looked at the gap and realised I wouldn't make it; maybe if I only had to get my body through, but not with all the luggage on each side. However, a man saw my difficulty and took the large case and by walking sideways with the small suitcase long ways on to my body in one hand and the bags in a similar position in the other I was able to sidle like a crab to the rear of the bus, where the driver was loading the cases through a side door marked “Emergency Door”. I couldn't get up much speed `sidling’ and created quite a jam behind me. Having deposited my small case I then had to make my way back to the front of the bus to get in, but I still had the shopping bag, plastic bag and handbag and, of course, had to pass all the other passengers waiting to leave their cases, so had to 'sidle’ once again, with the queue of people all having to press themselves against the side of the bus. Once inside I went upstairs, this was quite a novelty, as I've not traveled to or from London on a double decker before. Usually, as soon as the coach pulls out I get my nose in a book, but today I was keen to see the view from the top of the bus and was most surprised at the route taken. We left the bus station turned into part of Stapleton Road, St. George, up over Kingswood and down into Warmley, on through Wick and picked up the Motorway near Bath. I suppose the driver wanted to take us the `pretty way’? It was 8 o’clock when we arrived at Victoria and I then phoned Apple for a cab and got home about 8:45. Much longer than by train, but so much cheaper (if you don’t count the cabs).
Monday 1st October 1984
Oh Glory!! First day back to work and what happens? Yes, I oversleep again! I was awake at 6 am and thought I’d have just another 5 minutes lay in – not going back to sleep – just laying there – but, of course, the inevitable happened and I dozed off, only to come back to reality at 8:35 am!! It is considered quite an unforgivable sin to be late back on the first day after a holiday. Any other day of the year it is accepted, but the first day after a holiday you are supposed to be fighting fit, bushy tailed and bright eyed and present yourself early. Still, being one of life’s survivors, I fed the cats, fed myself (egg on toast). Good job mum made me bring these items back with me. Has a wash, finished unpacking the suitcases and bags then promptly re-packed the large case – but only with the small suitcase (empty) to give it a bit of substance, then went to the station (where I am scribbling this). The next London train is due 9:57 so I will get into the office 10:30ish. Much too late for your ordinary every day excuses, so I shall just walk in (with the empty suitcase), smile at my boss and he will assume I have traveled up straight into the office from Bristol, and it will be “acceptable”. It worked!! I think it is connected in someway to my upbringing. It was drummed into me as a child that it was a big sin to tell a lie, so I seem to tell my lies “by default” i.e. not actually look someone in the eye and brazenly tell a whopper, but present enough fabricated evidence to give the wrong impression – I am sure this is just as great a sin as being an honest liar – at least you know where you with one of those!! My boss asked me if I’d had a nice holiday and when I replied in the affirmative he said, “You look well anyway; but we'll soon do something about that”. I have typed just one Memo all morning, the rest of the time being spent on the Word Processor. This afternoon I have to sort through all the accumulation of papers the girls handed me this morning. I have just had “Bangers & Mash” in one of the City Cafes and am writing this whilst sipping a tea and having a cigarette.
Jean (the company’s Nurse who is in collusion with my Doctor) handed me three typed sheets today. Two of them are “Diet Sheets” especially designed for my lifestyle, but the third is a record sheet, and is rather weird. It is to take my pulse each morning – after I have been sitting down for at least half an hour (today it was 72 which Jean says is not at all bad). Then I have been instructed this afternoon to take the lift to the third floor and walk up to the forth, where Jean will be waiting for me to take my pulse again and note it down on this chart. However, in my cleaning job I work in an old building with no lifts. I clean the first, second and third floor offices, and the keys are kept in the basement. So I have to go down to the basement, collect the keys, climb the stairs to the ground floor and on up to the first and when that floor is done climb up to the second and after that floor is finished climb on up to the third; taking all my equipment with me. Then when everything is done I have to put my tools away on the first and take the keys back to the basement and then climb the steps to the ground floor to get out of the building, so I wouldn't think one flight of stairs in the office would affect me too much. The trouble is, if I pass that test ok they might then want me to walk up two flights, then three, and finally the whole four flights!!
Footnote by Grace Russ
"When you have your little ones, encourage them to use their imagination and instincts. If these gifts are smothered, by forcing them to “conform to society” too much, you will be doing them a great disservice."
From Cradle to Grave
Grace born at 7:30pm on 27th April 1933 weighing 5.5Ibs was christened twice on the same day; firstly at the Salvation Army Hall, Staple Hill in the morning in accordance with her parent's religion and then christened in the Church of England to please her Grandmother(Gertrude Rosa Burgess).
Two funerals, firstly at the Cremation at Falcon Wood Crematorium, London on 10 March 2006 and then in April at the burial of the Ashes at Plot A317, Mangotsfield Cemetery, Mangotsfield, Bristol, England.
Address from birth of all the homes where Grace lived.
|27 April 1933||14 Sweets Road, Kingswood, Bristol||Birth - Living with parents|
|1935||50 Seymour Road, Staple Hill, Bristol||Living with parents|
|1944||14 Sweets Road, Kingswood, Bristol||Parents living with Gertrude Rosa Pratt (nee Burgess), paternal grandmother of Grace.|
|1946||11 Crown Road, Kingswood, Bristol||Shop (ran by her mother)|
|1950||14 Sweets Road, Kingswood, Bristol||Parents back with grandmother.|
|1954||77 Streamside, Mangotsfield, Bristol||First marriage home (Council House)|
|1960||38 Victoria Road, North Common, Warmley, Bristol||First owned property|
|1966||Angeston Nurseries, Uley, near Dursley, Gloucestershire||Tied-house|
|1970||Wokefield Park, Mortimer, near Reading, Berkshire||Nine Months|
|1970||The Cottage, Angas Convalescent Home, Cudham, Orpington, Kent||Tied-house|
|1974||13 London Court, Orpington, Kent||Separated, Council Flat.|
|1976||8 Seymour Road, Staple Hill, Bristol||Living with her mother|
|1977||38 Sundorn Road, Charlton, London||Housing Association|
|c2000||Central Court, 111 Woolwich New Road, Woolwich, London||Retirement Flats|
Gallery of family homes
- The Adventures of Grace Russ - Grace Enid Baglin's Diary - based on letters (1977-1985)
- Poetry by Grace Russ
- Line from the past inspires Poet Arthur
- A short autobiography by Arthur Russ - Further reading on the life experiences of Grace Enid Baglin.
- Lady Ridley's Nettle Soup