Stories: Estella Jones

Story told by Pam Williams

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The family ran the corner shop at No. 33 Old Ford Road and if anyone knew them please get in touch.

My grandfather John Benjamin Jones came from mid Wales - Cardiganshire (Aberaeron), one of 15 children born in November 1885, went down with two brothers to the mines of South Wales at the age of 17.

My grandmother Estella (one of 6) was born in Llanelen, Monmouthshire, in February 1883, moved to south Wales as a child.

She met my grandfather and married in 1916, my mother Iris was born in May 1919. During the Depression, as my mother told me, they went to see my grandfather's sister Katy who had a milk round in Tottenham and did not return. This was around 1935.

The night of March 1943 my mother said the sirens went off, my grandmother didn't want to go down the tube (apparently there had been a couple of false alarms previously), my mother persuaded her 'just in case'. My mother remembers getting to the steps and she thought someone panicked because they could smell gas, a women carrying a baby fell and then everyone fell. My mother said that the ironic thing is that the first person to fall was thrown clear (don't know if this is actually true). What my mother thinks happened then was, the steps of the tube had not been finished, they were made of wood, she and my grandfather must have fallen but managed to get some air from the cracks in the steps. My grandmother was suffocated. They were taken to the local hospital, she was there for four months, she had been crushed and I suppose took a long time for things to get working again. (What was a strange coincidence that years later our local doctor Dr Dewi Griffiths worked in that very hospital as a young doctor and remembered the people being brought in).

It left my mother with a great fear of the dark, would sleep with a torch under her pillow, crowds and of course steps (something which she passed on to me, I am nervous of steps). Having been crushed it left her in later life riddled in arthritis which caused a lot of pain. She and my grandfather could not attend the funeral (she was taken back to South Wales, both my grandparents are in Penrhys Cemetery, Tylorstown). It was my aunt Katy that identified the body of my grandmother. My mother always blamed herself for her death as she felt that if she had not persuaded her to go that night she may have lived. I think my grandmother was 60 when she died.

They stayed until 1949 in London, my grandfather then wanted to come 'home'. I think my mother broke her heart, she had a lot of friends in Bethnal Green, I have photos of her in the London Welsh Club. As you can imagine coming from a city to mid Wales was a big culture shock. My mother often spoke of Lyons Corner houses, the west end, the baths. Although she enjoyed London she worked very hard in the shop, there was rationing and all the paperwork (which she did) had to be correct. She says she worked long hours. My grandfather and my mother finally settled in a small village in west Wales, Llandysul where she met my father (married in 1952) and the rest is history as they say.

She had two children - myself Pamela Estella (1954) and my brother John Gareth (known as Gareth)(1958).

My grandfather passed away in August 1969 aged 83 and my mother in February 2003 aged 83.