Mary Topps

A century of memories
Wendy Cross and Sue Middleton

Photo:Mary Topps celebrating her 100th birthday

Mary Topps celebrating her 100th birthday

From the collection of Jill Bagnall

Mrs Mary Topps celebrated her 100th birthday in the Spring of 2010. Sadly, we have to report the news that she died peacefully on Thursday, 3rd February, 2011.

Mary moved to Muston in 1926 and lived lived locally for all the rest of her long life. With and her daughter, Mrs Wendy Cross, Mary Topps recalled these memories of the 84 years that she lived in Bottesford and Muston.

Photo:Crossmichael, Dumfries and Galloway

Crossmichael, Dumfries and Galloway

From the collection of Wendy Cross

Mary Johnstone was born in the village of Crossmichael in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland on 17th April 1910.

Photo:Crossmichael school 1920 - Mary Johnstone (middle row 3rd from the left)

Crossmichael school 1920 - Mary Johnstone (middle row 3rd from the left)

From the collection of Wendy Cross

When Mary left school, she worked as a parlour maid for the Duncan family at Danevale Park House in the village.

Photo:Members of the Duncan family outside Danevale House (1920s), Crossmichael, Dumfries and Galloway (formerly Kirkcudbrightshire)

Members of the Duncan family outside Danevale House (1920s), Crossmichael, Dumfries and Galloway (formerly Kirkcudbrightshire)

From the collection of Wendy Cross

Mary's move down from Scotland was not of her own making. Margaret, known as Meg, Mary’s sister, was offered a position at Glebe House in Muston. However she would not take the post unless Mary was able to accompany her to England. Fortunately, Mary was offered a post as nursery maid.

Photo:Mary at the age of sixteen standing with her sister Margaret in their travelling clothes before their journey in 1926 from Crossmichael to Muston

Mary at the age of sixteen standing with her sister Margaret in their travelling clothes before their journey in 1926 from Crossmichael to Muston

From the collection of Wendy Cross


Photo:Mary (right) with her sister Margaret (1926) in their travelling clothes before their journey south

Mary (right) with her sister Margaret (1926) in their travelling clothes before their journey south

From the collection of Wendy Cross

So at the age of sixteen Mary, with her sister, moved to Muston and worked for the Stead family. (It is recorded in the 1901 census that the Reverend James Furnival lived at Muston Rectory but by 1926 the Rectory had become Glebe House, the home of the Steads.)

Photo:Mary working as a nursery maid with one of her charges at Glebe House, Muston

Mary working as a nursery maid with one of her charges at Glebe House, Muston

From the collection of Wendy Cross

Mary had been a Girl Guide in Scotland and when Guiding was started in Bottesford, she helped with the unit that was established and led by Mrs Royle, wife of Doctor Royle. She helped with the Brownies and Miss Margaret Taylor remembers that she was Tawny Owl when Mary was Brown Owl.

Photo:Mary in her Guide uniform with Arthur the gardener at Glebe House, in about 1928/1929. It is known that Arthur also helped in the house but there is no other information about him at present

Mary in her Guide uniform with Arthur the gardener at Glebe House, in about 1928/1929. It is known that Arthur also helped in the house but there is no other information about him at present

From the collection of Wendy Cross

In the twenties and thirties the young women of Bottesford and Muston often had to travel out of the village to find work. Mary’s second position was with the Lewis family who lived in The Park in Nottingham. J. B. Lewis were the owners of Meridian Underwear and Mary worked for the family until she married in 1934.

Photo:Mrs Lewis with children and nannies in The Park, Nottingham

Mrs Lewis with children and nannies in The Park, Nottingham

From the collection of Wendy Cross

There were several Topps families in Muston and together there were enough men to make up a football team or a cricket team. Many of the men became gamekeepers - work that certainly helped the domestic economy of large families.

In 1929, Frank Topps of Muston was working as a waggoner for Herbert Daybell. In one of the Daybell barns, there is a mark in the concrete reading 'FT 1929'.

Mary Johnstone married Frank in 1934, two years after her sister Meg had married his brother John Topps.

Photo:The marriage of John and Margaret Topps in 1932 with Mary and Frank as bridesmaid and best man

The marriage of John and Margaret Topps in 1932 with Mary and Frank as bridesmaid and best man

From the collection of Wendy Cross

After Mary and Frank's marriage, the couple moved to Bottesford. They lived at Wyggeston Cottages and their two daughters, Gina and Wendy, were born there.

Photo:Wendy and Gina Topps  - mid 1940s

Wendy and Gina Topps - mid 1940s

From the collection of Wendy Cross

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Mary Topps' page
Wendy can remember that her mother cooked on two gas rings and used the oven in the black-leaded fireplace. The radio and the iron were powered from the light socket.

At the bottom of the gardens of Wyggeston Cottages were pig sties. Most families kept a pig. Arthur Taylor, the butcher would come and kill the pig. The ladies of the Topps family would spend three days putting pork into brine and making pork pies, sausages, brawn and sausage meat and use every part of the pig.

Photo:Wendy or Gina Topps on a cart in Daybell's farm yard Bottesford

Wendy or Gina Topps on a cart in Daybell's farm yard Bottesford

From the collection on Wendy Cross

On a typical Sunday, the Topps family walked up to Stenwith to visit Uncle Jack and Auntie Meg (John and Margaret Topps) and their cousins. They lived in a cottage by what was called the ‘Jack Topps Lock’. The cottage had no piped water or electricity and it was possible to swim in the Grantham Canal. After Sunday tea, the family walked back to Bottesford.

Photo:Stenwith Lock Cottage (2007)

Stenwith Lock Cottage (2007)

Neil Fortey

As well as bringing up a family, Mary helped both Mrs Lee on Belvoir Road and Mrs Keel, the wife of Councillor Keel who lived on Grantham Road. She also helped Mrs Arthur Taylor (wife of the butcher) with her family and worked in the canteen at Barfords in Grantham.

Before World War 2 Frank Topps worked on the Grantham Canal and as a beater at Belvoir Castle. He served in the Home Guard and was a special constable after the war. In this post, Frank Topps received a special commendation for apprehending two youths who were absconding from detention

Photo:Frank Topps with his dog

Frank Topps with his dog

From the collection of Wendy Cross

The Topps family lived at the Coffee House on Market Street from 1951. Frank Topps ran the Youth Club while they lived there and Mary ran a café for cyclists passing through the village.

Photo:The Coffee House, Bottesford

The Coffee House, Bottesford

Lino cut by Bottesford children - 1930s

The Coffee House served as an office for the registrar for births and deaths. He visited  Bottesford on a Wednesday. When the school dentist had carried out his inspections at school, those unlucky children needing dental work would go to the Coffee House for those procedures to be done.

At that time Wendy Cross remembers that you entered the Coffee House through a central front door. To the left was a large room where Mary had her café and the registrar had his office. To the right of the door were the wooden stairs up to the room where the youth club was held. Directly opposite the front door was a beautiful mahogany counter with shelves behind. You had to pass through the lift-up flap of the counter to go through to the living quarters of three downstairs rooms including the kitchen, and stairs to the bedrooms above.

Frank became the grounds man at Belvoir High School when it was built in the late fifties. The family lived in the caretaker’s house at the end of Belvoir Avenue.

In the 1960s the family also lived at Craven House on Market Street (owned by Mary Kettleborough) and in a house owned by Lance Keel on Chapel Street. Wendy Cross remembers that the vegetable garden went down to the River Devon before the firm of W.J. Roberts was established there.          

When Frank and Mary lived at Clematis Cottage on Grantham Road (which later became Rose Cottage), Mary worked at the café at the garage on Grantham Road kept by the Simms family and Frank was the cellar man at the Red Lion when Brian and Margot Beacroft were the licensees.

During the years that she has lived in the village, Mary has been an active member of village organisations including the WI, the Young Wives and the Mothers' Union, receiving her 70 years membership certificate in 2003.

Photo:Mothers' Union party 1950s - Mary Topps seated facing the camera at the far end of the table

Mothers' Union party 1950s - Mary Topps seated facing the camera at the far end of the table

From the collection of Wendy Cross

She went to church every Sunday and sat in the same seat for 80 years. In later years Frank and Mary moved to Granby Drive and joined in activities at Warwick Flats. Mary was also a member of the Forget-me-not Club and the Caledonian Society in Grantham.

Photo:Mary and Frank Topps' Golden Wedding celebration in 1984

Mary and Frank Topps' Golden Wedding celebration in 1984

From the collection of Wendy Cross

Mary has now moved to Gregory House in Grantham and celebrated her 100th birthday on April 17th 2010 – a lady who has many memories of Bottesford life but is also proud of her Scottish ancestry.

This page was added by David Middleton on 12/02/2011.

Comments about this page

What a wonderful history Wendy. We remember your dear Mother as a warm and caring lady. We notice that all of her employment positions were looking after and being of service to many people and this ethos has obviously been a feature of her life and possibly the reason for her longevity. Liz remembers vividly a "dress up" party at the Coffee House and her patience and serenity as several young girls fought over costumes! She was a wonderful friend to Liz's Mother, Han' Ronan and is "Aunt" Mary to many unrelated friends. Fondest regards from Mick & Liz in Australia

By Liz & Mick Bradshaw
On 04/08/2010

Wendy,

I have only just got round to seeing your story and pictures re your Mum as my own Mum has been in hospital again. I would love Mum and Dad to see the pictures and your story. I will ask if anyone has a laptop so that I can show them. The story also reminded me of when you and I were young and playing at the different houses where you lived. It brought back so many happy memories. Your Mum looks so wonderful and doesn't seem to have changed a bit. Long may she have several more happy years. I will keep in touch and let you know when we are next in Bottesford. Love to all. Brenda (Turier - nee Sellers)

By Brenda Turier (nee Sellers)
On 28/08/2010

Wendy, What an excellent story on your Mum, we thought we knew her but learned so much from this site. Ann & I remember with pleasure, our last trip to the U.K. and particularly the "Oldies" Coach Outing with your Mum and yourself. Please pass on our love to your Mum and of course, our love to you, Brian and family. Ann & Alan

By Alan & Ann Cross
On 15/09/2010

Just found out that Mary Topps has died. I have great memories of her as she lived next to my Mum and Dad on Granby Drive. Dad was all ways pulling her leg as to how many drams of whisky she had been drinking. She was proud of her age and every time you saw her she would tell you I am so and so years old. We would have a laugh and a joke when we were out in the garden. Sorry to here the news. God bless Mary.

By BARRY WRIGHT
On 21/06/2011

I'm so glad to have found this page. Mary was my grandmother's nanny I think (Mrs Lewis of The Park, Nottingham, was my great grandmother). How wonderful to have found a picture of them both. Thank you for sharing.

By Hannah Keyser
On 28/02/2014

Thank you very much for getting in touch. We will pass on your comment to Wendy, Mary's daughter. I am sure will be really pleased to learn that a member of the Lewis family has been in touch. If you are able to identify where people you know are in the photograph please do get let us know. Thank you.

By David Middleton
On 28/02/2014

Just let Wendy know you have seen Mary's page. She is thrilled that you found it and will look for family photographs she has that include the Lewis family.

By David Middleton
On 01/03/2014

Am so glad I knew Mary Topps (or granny) for the short while I lived In Bottesford. What a great lady she was, and what a long a varied life she led. Her legacy lives on in her family through Wendy's children, her grandchildren. She was also a good friend to me, am so lucky to have known her.

By Pauline Limmer
On 03/03/2014

Thank you Pauline for sharing your thoughts about Mary. Great to know you are still in touch with Bottesford.

By Sue and David Middleton
On 03/03/2014

How nice. I think my grandmother is standing in the front of the picture and I assume my great-grandmother is holding my great-uncle Jimmy. I'll ask my mother to have a look so she can confirm that. I know we'd treasure the opportunity to see any pictures you have of the Lewis family. Do you have my email address?

By Hannah Keyser
On 12/03/2014

Dear Hannah, With your permission we can pass on to Wendy the email address you entered when submitting your comments.

By David Middleton
On 12/03/2014

Hello. Marjorie Wormington nee Lewis was my mother and she died on January 20th this year. Mary Topps was their maid and my mother was very fond of her and her family. Indeed Gina was her bridesmaid in 1942. My mother was in touch with Mary and Gina so we tried to get in touch when she died, but without success, so any news of the family now would be most welcome. (I'm Hannah's auntie).

By Serena Campbell
On 13/03/2014

Thanks. I'd be very happy for you to pass it on to her. As you can see, my whole family would be very interested.

By Hannah keyser
On 04/05/2014

Comments have been temporarily disabled while we develop the site ahead of a re-launch in a couple of months' time. Thanks for your patience in the meantime!