diary · family · History · memoir · World War Two

Nan’s Diary: A cold wedding day in 1947

The years straight after the Second World War were hard, with everyday essentials still in short supply and cold winters adding to the bleakness. It was against this backdrop that my Nan got married:

‘1st March 1947 was in a way the dividing line in my life – I left the urban life for exactly the opposite – to live in the depths of the country, which would be a real contrast, but not too strange as I had spent 3 years evacuation in the area.

The first thing I remember about my wedding day was the warmth of the house in London (76 St Mildred’s Road, where we had moved to in 1937). The fires had been lit in all the rooms so that everyone who arrived before going to the church could get warm – no central heating in those days – we were still in the grip of one of the worst winters on record, it was well below freezing outside. I don’t remember breakfast at all, even though it would have been the last meal I had as a single girl.

The day started for me when everyone began to arrive; the first were my Grandma and Aunt Reta. My main memory about my grandmother was the set of saucepans she gave me for a wedding present. My Aunt Reta lent me her veil – as clothes were on ration, to spend coupons on wedding gear was a real hardship, one had to go without ordinary clothes to get special things. I hired a wedding dress from a place in London – those sort of places made a bomb at this time. I wore a long woollen vest belonging to my Grandma under the dress – anything to keep warm. I expect that is why she came to my house, just to bring me this glamorous garment!

My friend Edna who was my bridesmaid had a similar woollen garment under her dress; her dress was borrowed and she wore the head-dress I had had for my Aunt Reta’s wedding. We both borrowed silver sandals and I can still feel the cold permeating from the church floor through the soles of these thin sandals.

There was no heating in the church, so it was decidedly uncomfortable. The church had been badly damaged during the bombing raids during the war and much of it was still not repaired. Many of the windows had not been replaced, so it was a pretty chilly wedding service, which I regret to say I don’t remember much about, except that it all went to plan – I expect that is why I don’t remember a lot about it! I do remember though that I was disappointed that I did not have the red roses I wanted for my bouquet – they were unobtainable at the time – so I had to have mauve tulips and lilies of the valley.

The chap who lived next door but one worked at the docks as a stevedore and did chimney sweeping in his spare time; anyway, he accompanied my father and me up the road to the church. It was a sign of good luck to be spoken to by a chimney sweep on your wedding day. His blackened face and his brush over his shoulder was quite a memorable occurrence.

There was no heating in the church, so it was decidedly uncomfortable. The church had been badly damaged during the bombing raids during the war and much of it was still not repaired.

Many of Les’s family and friends came up from Dorking by coach, about 30 people as far as I can remember. The person who provided the coach lived near my in-laws and he used to transport all the people going to football matches from Dorking – all my in-laws were connected with Dorking FC.

The wedding reception was intended to be a reunion of friends and relatives who we hadn’t seen for a long time, particularly Les, who hadn’t seen some people for years. The reception was held at the church hall, which was about half a mile away. Fortunately the hall was nice and warm, and we had got caterers to do the food, which was very nice. My mother and father had paid for the reception as part of our wedding present, but it did not include alcoholic drink as they were teetotallers at the time and didn’t approve of that sort of thing. So we had to provide the booze.

Les had acquired a taste for rum as had Edna, and during the afternoon, Les consumed a good deal and so did Edna; when it came to getting ready to go away for our honeymoon, she was supposed to have come back to the house to ‘assist’ me, but she spent the time supine on the bed recovering. My going away outfit included a large brimmed hat with a tall feather decorating it, and it proved to be the guide that Les focused on whenever he wanted to see where I was during the journey to Bournemouth. He told me afterwards that when we went to the loo at Waterloo and arranged to meet at the bookstall, the only way he recognised me was by the feather bobbing about above people’s heads on the concourse!


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