Stories

Val Newman Landscapes

                       (and family history landscapes)

The Story of the Family History Landscape


Top Left Corner - Holyrood Palace


This is a scene of Holyrood Palace - just the tower is visible - set in its beautiful grounds.  My grandmother Rebecca used to work there as a maid and I can imagine her walking across the fields from her home in Edinburgh.


Top  left Centre - Borough Market


This is a view of Borough Market around 1905. My grandfather imported and sold bananas and had the nickname of 'The Banana King'. On the right is Edvard VII before he was king.  He is looking into the next scene, which shows the bedroom of a pub he used to frequent (story to follow).  The showgirl on the left of this scene is linked to Edward VII as he was known to frequent the Moulin Rouge.  The Green background links to the Absinthe drunk in Paris around this period and is also a link to Toulouse Lautrec, who painted many such scenes.


Top right Centre - East End Pub


This scene shows my grandmother aged about 7 with the maid.  Her parents owned a pub in the East End and Edward (Bertie) used to visit it.  He was fond of my grandmother and one day he told her how to get rid of her freckles, as she really hated them.  He told her to wash her face in the morning dew.  Unfortunately the morning dew in her case was on a window box in a smoky, dirty part of the city and her face turned black.  When the maid came in to wake her up, she screamed when she saw her.


Top Right - Ghost Plane Somerset Levels


This scene is in the Somerset Levels.  I was returning home from Glastobury with my mother and as we rounded a bend near West Hay a plane suddenly appeared from the right, very low down (tree top height) and appeared to be about to crash - and it was coming straight towards the car.  I was swerving all over the place trying to avoid it and mum was shouting 'just concentrate on your driving'.  However the plane disappeared over the hedge to the left.  I waited for an explosion as it hit the ground but nothing happened.  Extremely unnerved I carried on and went home.  My husband said he thought it must have been a crop sprayer, but it did not look at all like that.


A few ,months later, we were back in the area and we stopped at Sweets Cafe.  I noticed a sign on the wall about their museum and it said 'Come and see the remains of the crashed German Bomber.  I went inside to have a look and there was a photo of the plane - and it was the plane that we had seen.  It was a Junker 88 returning from a raid on Bristol.  The four crew parachuted out, but one was killed when his parachute failed to open.


Another link with this is that during the war my mother was in the WRAF and she used to drive a lorry to collect crashed aeroplanes for recycling. 


Bottom Left - Canvey Island


My mother Betty used to live here when she was a little girl in the 1920's and it looked a lot different then to how it does now.  She used to walk to school along the dykes and had many stories to tell about her time there.


Bottom Centre - Somerset


Our current family live in Somerset not far from Crook's Peak which is shown in this painting.  However, nearly 200 years previously Mary Ann Huggins and her husband Robert James Huggins were born near Taunton. 


They later moved to London and had several children.  He was an iron founder and she was a dressmaker.


Bottom Right - Llantwit Fardre


This large scene depicts the area where my hubands great grandfather had a farm in South Wales.  The family had lived on and worked the farm for over 500 years.  However in the sixties the farm was purchased by the coal board and demolished.  The devil represents the 'pillaging' of the land for coal and the dreadful state it has been left in with derelect and dangerous buildings, mine shafts and deep water.