A history of Fred and Rose Cooper of the Half Moon, Wilstone

Frederick Ernest Cooper was born on the 20th January 1877 in the village of Harrold in Bedfordshire. His early upbringing would almost certainly have included helping out on Crow Hill Farm on which he lived with his farm labourer father Thomas and mother Elizabeth.

Agricultural labour had played the predominant role in the lives of his ancestry, with farm life being the norm for at least three generations preceding Frederick.

For reasons we cannot yet fully explain, by the age of 14 Frederick had been apprenticed to a Wheelwright named Frank Pearson and now boarded in his house at 36 Humbolt Street, Fulham in London. It was during this time that he met Rose Townsend, a young lady born and raised by her parents William and Elizabeth in Minchinhampton in Gloucestershire.

At the age of 17, Rose was described in the 1891 Census as being employed as an ‘umbrella stick worker’, presumably involved in the making of umbrellas to augment the wages of her father, who was a road construction ‘stonebreaker’ and mother who was a ‘shoddy worker’. We have to resist the temptation to believe that Rose’s mother ‘s work was of poor quality and understand that shoddy workers were in fact involved in the furniture manufacturing industry.

The young couple were married in St Andrew’s Church in Fulham on the 28th October 1895 and remained together for the next 48 years. They certainly wasted no time in starting a family with a son, Frederick Thomas being born in 1896 and by the end of March 1901 they had moved to 44 Gastein Road in Fulham. This small, terraced house would have been tight even for the Cooper family alone, but was shared with William and Louisa Baldwin and their two young children, so one can imagine it as a lively place!

I have not yet established exactly where Frederick worked whilst living in Fulham and if indeed he was self-employed. If he was then he certainly didn’t spend money on advertising himself, or his business in the local papers, or trade directories. So, I suspect he remained a ‘paid worker’ right up until the time he made the decision to move into the pub trade. However, by 1911 the family had grown from three to five with the birth of daughter Florence in 1902 and William in 1906. But by this time the Baldwin family had moved on and been replaced by Thomas and Emily Anderson and their baby daughter Nella.

The London Electoral Registers reveal that the Coopers remained in their small, but increasingly overcrowded home at least up until 1935. Violet had become the last of the children to be born to the couple in 1912. But Frederick had maintained his skilled occupation of Wheelwright throughout and in September 1939 when a register was created listing all non-service residents of the UK, Frederick’s occupation is shown as ‘Innkeeper’, but bracketed next to the entry are the words ‘and Wheelwright’. I wonder if he did in fact maintain his skill whilst also running the Half Moon?

Unfortunately, the war did take a toll on the family when William Jack Cooper who had risen to the rank of Staff Sergeant in the R.A.O.C. was killed in action on the 9th July 1941 in North Africa, leaving behind him his wife Sylvia who he had married in 1930. His grave is maintained in the Tobruk War Cemetery, Libya.

Frederick passed away on the 19th of March 1943 leaving Rose, their son Frederick Thomas and his wife Ellen to manage the Half Moon. Rose died in early 1964, tragically followed by Frederick Thomas later the same year.

The Cooper family certainly had a long association with Wilstone and I would be delighted to hear from anybody that knew them. My research will go on and I will of produce a fuller account of all the incumbents of the Half Moon in due course.

This article is an extract from previous issue of the Village News. Any mention to events in the article have probably long since passed and are for information only.

Village News June 2021

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