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The Mystery of

The Girl in White

Julian Ward-Davies

July 2021

About ten or so years previous to time of writing, the last member of the family who had occupied Elm Cottage for many decades, Albert Higgs , passed away. When the house was cleared shortly afterwards, several interesting photos were discovered. One of them, a childhood photo of Albert's sister-in-law, Flo Glover, helped us to identify various people attending Stonnall Carnival in 1936. Another, a shot pointing down Main Street towards the Swan Inn, presented something of a mystery, however.

Firstly, the photo is tiny: it is only about 2cm square. Its features were only fully revealed once it had been scanned and enlarged. The photo shows three details of interest:-

Main Street
The actual size of the photo.
© Julian Ward-Davies

The questions
Thus, the photo raises several questions:-

The time of year
Whatever the reason the girl was dressed in white, it is obvious that she was lightly clad. This would place the time of year somewhere between May and September. Would it be possible to be more precise than that? As we will see, we will be able narrow down the time of year to a particular month.

The buildings
The buildings were, in fact, a row of cottages that we know were demolished in 1939. Old Stonnall people, such as Gordon Mycock and Kathleen Broadhurst could remember them from their childhood days. They appear on the 1838 Tithe Map as property A197.

Old cottages
The cottages, heavily enlarged.
© Julian Ward-Davies

This aspect of the photo is a very welcome addition to our historic photo catalogue because it is the only known photographic image of these long-forgotten dwellings.

Main Street, Stonnall in 1838, according to the Tithe Map, with property A197 at the lower centre.
Property A200 is the Swan Inn. The Swan's barn on the lower side of the pub was demolished in about 1955.
© Julian Ward-Davies

The year
Now that we have a demolition event of 1939, we can safely say that the photo must have been taken some time before that occasion. But can we narrow down the year? The clue is the bunting, which was raised undoubtedly for a particular celebration.

The celebration
However, the problem is that in the 1930s there were two events that would have evoked public celebrations in the village. The first was the Silver Jubilee of George V, which took place on Monday, May 6, 1935. The second was the Coronation of George VI, which took place on Wednesday, May 12, 1937. Thus, we now have confirmation of the month of May, but which of these celebrations was recorded by the photo? Was it the event of 1935 or that of 1937?. The girl's white outfit presents us with a clue.

The bunting
The bunting above Main Street.
© Julian Ward-Davies

The girl's clothing
Initially, we thought that possibly the girl was returning home after playing tennis at Wordsley House, where there was a tennis court. However, on reconsideration, we noted that there is only one sport in which white attire is considered obligatory at village-level and upwards. We concluded, therefore, that the girl was on her way to participate in a match at Lynn Cricket Club.

The girl
The girl in white, heavily enlarged.
© Julian Ward-Davies

Lynn CC Ladies
We know that Lynn CC Ladies flourished briefly for a few years in the early to mid 1930s, probably under the influence and guidance of Joe Pearson, who was a player/member of Lynn CC, a cricket fanatic and who was, incidentally, the Stonnall School Headteacher. He occasionally submitted match reports and team photographs to the Lichfield Mercury. Bearing in mind that most of the female players were teenagers who would shortly be turning their attention to love, marriage and the raising of children, it is likely that the team fizzled out shortly after its heyday in the early 1930s.

Joe Pearson
Joe Pearson in his Lynn CC kit.
© Julian Ward-Davies

Therefore we believe that the photo was taken in May, 1935 and that the bunting was raised for George V's Silver Jubilee.

Who was the girl?
We know the names of many of the female Lynn CC players: sisters Eunice and Edith Bower of New Barns Farm, the Wells sisters from Thornes Hall Farm and sisters Nancy and Beatrice Lee of Chester Road, to name but a few, but we can rule out all these individuals as the girl in white because of the location.

However, there was an extended family, represented in both Lynn and Stonnall, who had sporting children. These were the Genders. John Genders of Lynn, at the age of 50, would eventually become the first man to row single-handedly across the Atlantic Ocean in 1970. But the branch of the family that we are interested in, for the purpose of this article, is those who lived in central Stonnall. Furthermore, we know that Genders girls played cricket for Lynn CC Ladies. Also, we know that they lived in a cottage very close to where the girl in white was pictured and on the same side of the road as she was walking. Could it be that the girl had emerged from her home just a few seconds before the photo was taken?

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© Julian Ward-Davies BA Hons PGC, 2021

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