The Straw Brothers

Page 157

William and Walter – The Straw Brother of Worksop


The tall three storey building on the right of the picture, standing on the edge of the Market Place was the home and shop of David Winks, the towns principal butcher. It stood just opposite the White hart Inn – its sign is clearly visible – and the premises of William Straw, grocer. After a period of “Walking Out” together, William married Florence, daughter of Mr and Mrs Winks and their sons, William and Walter were born in 1898 and 1899. This photograph , taken in the 1900s, shows a familiar scene of their boyhood days. (Photo by permission of Richard Allsopp).

“William Straw senior, came to Worksop in the late 19th century from his native Sutton-In-Ashfield.and setup in business as a grocer and seed merchant in a shop at the top of Bridge Street, facing the market. Almost opposite, one of the isolated group of buildings that stood on the edge of the market itself, was the home and butchers shop of David Winks. Not surprisingly, living in such proximity, the two families became friendly, and in 1896, in the towns Priory Church, William Straw married Florence, the butchers daughter. As was then customary, the couple made their home above the shop, gradually assembling the furniture and fittings that they were later to move to Blyth Grove and which can now be seen by visitors to that house.

The couples first child was born in 1898, a boy named William after his father. Before the next year was out, he had a brother, Walter, who bore as a second name that of his maternal grandfather, Winks. A third boy, David, lived but briefly, and did not survive.

An interest and love of Worksop, engendered at their grandfathers knee, never left the boys; William, in his time becoming the acknowledged authority on the towns past, while Walter’s interest widened to include local archaeology. Meanwhile their formal education took place at the Abbey Boys school in Worksop and the King Edward VI grammar school at Retford. The premises of the former on Potter Street  was fairly new, having been built in 1877. Prior to that the large upstairs room in the Priory Gatehouse had been used. The Abbey boys school was maintained by the church and enjoyed a reputation in town for giving its pupils a sound, if basic education.

Like most shopkeeping families of the time, the Straws lived over their business premises. Doubtless such homes could be made comfortable and the convenience of being on the spot was both time saving and a means of security. There were however disadvantages. They were cramped externally, there was no escape from the street noises and there was no space for a garden. These first two conditions were unavoidable: for the third there was an alternative. As in many towns allotments were available. Nost of these were cultivated in the traditional way to produce vegetables but one area was somewhat different. Situated off Park Street, and known as the “Gentlemens Gardens” tenancy was restricted to business men who traded on Bridge Street, the towns main shopping thoroughfare. While vegetables were certainly grown, they occupied but part of the plots as most gardens also had a well trimmed lawn, were brightened with flowers and bordered with a low neatly clipped hedge. Instead of the more visual nondescript allotment shed, many of the gentlemen’s gardens boasted a small summer house for, despite their masculine name, they were places of resort for the whole family.

By the time the country mourned the death of King Edward VII, the future outlook on life of William and Walter Straw had been moulded by the circumstances, the personalities and the values of their early years. Unlike many people, they held fast to these influences and looked back, albeit through rose tinted spectacles, to Edwardian days as an idyllic time, one to be preserved in their own lives and immediate surroundings, even though the world around them was racing on at a much faster pace. Time however refused to stand still. The boys grew up and as the Great War drew its grim and relentless curtain on the happy and settled days of their childhood, decisions had to be made on the future. William, a quiet and retiring young man of academic inclinations was to continue his education at university, while Walter, who had a more open disposition, was to tie on the grocers apron and help in the shop. Such arrangements were interrupted awhile as, like their contemporaries, both brothers experienced a short period of army service.”