‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Chapel Allerton roots

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As I have spoken about in the past, my grandmother and grandad lived in Regent Terrace and I had heard them talk about snooker. My grandad, Harry Wray, was a keen and, I was led to believe, a fine snooker player in his day. I had also heard from conversations between my mother and grandma that they had lived at a snooker hall in Chapel Allerton. I remember that the building was still standing until the mid 1970s as my older brother and his wife were given the opportunity to become the caretakers and live on site. We went to have a look around and because they were newly married and had a son and a baby on the way, they decided it was not for them. The floors were still just bare flag stones and there didn’t appear to be many mod cons. The walls were damp and the wiring was ancient. It is a shame as the building was full of history, but it wasn’t a home for a young couple. My grandma was disappointed as she would have loved another generation of the family to have lived there, even if they were Camerons and not Wrays. The really sad thing is that the building should have been preserved and would have added even more to the wonderful historic Chapel Allerton.

 My mother passed away several years ago and it was within some of the photographs she gave me that I came across my only picture of my great grandmother and the home where  my mother and aunt were born. My mother wrote on the back ‘My Grandma  at  the British Workman’s Institute, where Joan and I were born.” I have restored the photograph a little, and as there is only one lady shown I suppose that she is my great grandma, but it could be the little girl. The snooker cues that the men are holding confirm it was indeed a snooker hall. I believe this building no longer exists, but my younger brother tells me that my Grandad’s name was on the honour board, as Club Captain, in the hall when we went for a whist drive with my grandma.

I only remember him as  an old gentleman and he used to love going for a pint at The Nag’s Head. I am not aware of who the little girl is in the picture or whether my great grandfather is also shown and I suppose I never will. It is possible that the girl is my grandmother. It must be the Wray family as my grandma came from farm workers who lived in a gatehouse on an estate in Leicestershire. My grandfather’s brother, Uncle Reggie, was infamous for taking a bet that he could ride his bike down Little Switzerland in GledhowValley, without using his hands. Apparently he succeeded in breaking both his legs.

 If anyone knows anything about the Institute I would be delighted to hear about it. I have looked at the photograph enlarged and  above the door is a sign that clearly says British Workmens’ Institute and a further board says Prosperity Lodge. As far as I can work out it would have been taken in the late 1800s.

Allottments from Regent Terrace
View of the allotments from Regent Terrace upstairs

I do know that my grandparents moved from the institute and during the Second World War they owned a sweet shop. I have checked with my brothers and it was Woodhouse Lane. Apparently they weren’t great business people and allowed customers to buy items on ‘tick’. My mother told me they would just avoid the shop and my grandparents when they couldn’t pay it back. The family returned to Chapel Allerton later and bought a small terrace house 6 Regent Terrace, where they remained for the rest of their lives. My grandad worked as a tailor in one of the factories that made ‘ready to wear’ suits, that Leeds became famous for.

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Harry Wray as a young man. (right) Love the shoes!

He was always a pipe smoker and I loved to watch him clean and prepare his pipe. It was quite a ritual and I loved the smell of his pipe tobacco. He would sit in the parlour of the two up- two down  house, before the coal fire, read his newspaper and puff on his pipe. Grandma was always busy in the kitchen and she seemed to wait on him hand and foot. Later in the day he would get his coat and hat and then head off to the Nags Head and after a couple of pints return for his dinner. He was a gentle man, shy to the point of hiding from anyone who came to the door. He would occasionally tell of being in the First World War with his brother when a shell exploded next to them and his brother was buried, but they managed to free him just in time. I can still hear him sitting in his chair calling, “Mary! Mary! Cup of tea, Mary.” and within a short space of time grandma would appear with a cup of tea and maybe a biscuit.

UntitledThe picture on the right shows my grandma, Mary, as a young woman. She was always a kind and generous lady who loved a laugh, loved a game of cards and later in life loved to go on day trips and holidays. The picture below shows Harry and Mary Wray on a holiday. I had no idea where it was until I checked the street sign. It says ‘Winkle Street’ and through the wonders of the internet I tracked Winkle Street to the Isle of Wight and there I found a photograph of the same building. It is the gatehouse at Westover Park and they must have been on an organized tour and I have no idea who the lady is with them, but it is likely half of  a couple they met on the trip and I assume the husband would be the person taking the photograph.

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Harry and Mary (right)

This little journey through my photographs has reminded me how linked to Chapel Allerton my family is. My father’s side was very different and I will delve into their history another time.

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