My fellow berry picker and I meet up at the village hall and drive on to the Bog Centre - and yes, there really are places in Shropshire called 'The Bog'. The Bog Visitor Centre, housed in an old school house is now something of an oasis in a wilderness, providing tea and buns, toilets, local knowledge and a little history in an area which is a magnet for walkers and holidaymakers alike. If you feel the need for a jar of SBS's pickles, more than likely you will find that too.
We'd foisted one of our books on them - and blow me, contrary to their expectations it had sold and blow me again, they wanted another. Today was a good opportunity to deliver it. We actually took two - nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Time for a coffee too before we get out on the hill picking berries. The Bog has a number of items of local history on display - this was after all one of the centres of Shropshire's lead mining industry 100 years ago. We flick through bits of this and that, scan photographs, make mental notes...I pick up a file which holds copies of pages of a 'Day Book' - it looks like a simple ledger of jobs taken on, for whom and prices charged. It's a bit selective - I gather that the pages copied are only those which relate to the Bog area. No matter, it's something to look at. The original document was obviously beautifully written in a neat copperplate hand. That hand records mainly maintenance jobs; some building, joinery, groundworks and quite a lot of coffin making. Then a man worked days to earn a pittance I noted.
I flip through idly and a name catches my eye. Cross. And then I spy Marston - yet another family name. Then Cross again and again and again. And Swain. More pertinently S.Cross snr. and later Harriet Cross; that's great grandfather and great grandmother. Crosses in 1909 are builders and joiners (though I suspect they'll turn their hands to any trade) and it seems they are employed by the writer of this Day Book. They even worked on the building we are sitting in now.
It looks too as if Sam Cross, back in his native hills after a sojourn in Birmingham, builds himself a house - and that house may have had 2 storeys (there is a flight of stairs on his bill). I have a photograph taken in the early '20s of what I believe to be his house - a single storied thatched hovel - so I must now re-think that in light of what I've read today.
John Cross and Edward Marston (brother and step-brother I believe) bury their wives in oak coffins, embellished with brass and ormolu, six months apart. They are billed for shrouds too - costing 3/- and 5/6d respectively. Was one wife larger than the other perhaps - thus accounting for the extra half-crown cost.
One of the final entries is to 'the representatives of the late Harriet Cross'. It is the bill for her coffin and shroud; a coffin of oak with electro-brass furniture and a 'best' shroud. She died on the 15th January and the bill was settled on the 28th. It was for £6. 10/-. She is my great-grandmother - a stern looking woman in my only photograph - and I now know more about her death than I do about her life.
(I doubt if most people will want a closer look - but if you do, a click should enlarge the pictures.)
We did eventually get whinberry picking - a short stroll up onto the heathered slopes of Black Rhadeley found an abundance of berries - easy picking today - and more than enough for a pie.