Brave Women of the Half Moon

This is the first of a number of articles about managers of the Half Moon Pub at Wilstone. We are still working on a timeline and comprehensive history but, in the meantime, some interesting stories are emerging. This first contribution describes and compares the experiences of two brave and capable women who were left on their own to run the Half Moon during the first and second World Wars.

Lavinia Cartwright

Lavinia was the son of Charles Collings a fishmonger who, according to the England and Wales Census of 1881, was the father of 4 children at the young age of 29. His second youngest daughter Lavinia was born on the 29th April 1879 in the Notting Hill area of London when it was much less fashionable than it is now. We do not know when Lavinia met her future husband Walter Cartwright – who had been born in Wilstone in 1874 – but it was possible that he worked for the same company as her father in London as a ‘carman’, known today as a delivery driver.

Walter and Lavinia were married at St Mary’s Church Paddington in July 1897 and their marriage record reveals that Walter’s father – described as a labourer – had by this time passed away. The couple gave the same London address, close to where Lavinia had grown up, although this does not necessarily indicate that they were living together prior to the ceremony. They set up home in the Paddington area of London and had two sons there, Walter Junior in 1898 and Harold in 1901.

We may never know what caused Walter to move the Cartwrights back to his home village of Wilstone and run the Half Moon; all we know from the census of the time is that by 1911 this is where they were. It is possible that Walter had become another ‘victim’; of the increased use of motorised transportation that was fast replacing horse drawn traffic in London by the early 20th century. The prospect of returning to the rural and slower life of Wilstone may well have been another factor in the decision.

The Cartwright Family at the Half Moon in the 1911 Census
The Cartwright Family at the Half Moon in the 1911 Census

But dark times were ahead with the start of World War 1 and this would have certainly had an impact on their trade as money was short and many men in the village went to fight the war. In 1917 their eldest son Walter Junior joined up as soon as he reached the age of 18. He joined the Suffolk Regiment at Watford and on the 19th August 1917 he arrived in France at Boulogne and was immediately despatched to the Beaumaine area of France. He received a minor injury during his time on the frontline, but it was the influenza he contracted in France in August 1918 that was to end his period of active service. Following hospitalisation and movement ‘down the line’ via various field hospitals, young Walter was returned to England on the 29th October 1918 aboard the Hospital Ship Queen Elizabeth and posted to Felixtowe in November 1918. He was demobbed on the 12th February 1919 without having returned to France.

Extract of the Service Record of Walter Cartwright Junior
Extract of the Service Record of Walter Cartwright Junior

Meanwhile, Walter senior, perhaps driven by the patriotism of his own son, decided to join up himself at the age of 43 as a driver in the Army Service Corp. There was however a cruel twist of fate as he too contracted influenza (probably the Spanish Flu) and associated pneumonia whilst in service and he died on the 24th October 1918 in his home at the Half Moon with Lavinia at his side. We do not know whether Walter saw his son again following his despatch to France and before his own death. Walter Junior had been granted leave in April 1918, but there is no record of him having returned to England at that time.

Army Pension Ledger Card for Walter Cartwright Senior
Army Pension Ledger Card for Walter Cartwright Senior

It is hard to imagine the feelings of Lavinia as she had to cope with the fear of losing both son and husband to the war while also trying to keep the Half Moon running smoothly. Although she probably knew it was unlikely that her husband would be posted abroad, it was left to her to manage the Half Moon and keep things going on ‘the home front’. She may have had the assistance of her youngest son Harold, who would have been just 17 on the death of his father.

The Half Moon 1914
The Half Moon 1914

There was better news of Walter Junior, who survived the fighting in France and recovered from the influenza that had ended his military service. After returning to the Half Moon in early 1919 he either met, or resumed a relationship, with Ella Hitchman, the daughter of Thomas Hitchman, a canal labourer from Marsworth. Walter and Ella were married in 1924 in Leighton Buzzard, after which he does not seem to have taken an active part in the running of the Half Moon, working for the cooperative society in Tring and as a waiter.

Lavinia continued at the Half Moon until at least 1929, but had certainly handed it over by 1933. In September 1939 she is recorded as living with Walter at 56 Longfield Road in Tring, where she remained until her death at the Napsley Hospital in St Albans on the 5th February 1955. Walter only outlived his mother by nine years, dying on the 13th November 1964.

Rose Cooper

Rose was born in 1874 and raised in Minchinhampton in Gloucestershire. Her father was William Townsend, a general labourer and his wife Elizabeth a wool worker in the vibrant industry that was then a staple of the local economy. How Rose met Fred Cooper we can only speculate, but we know that in 1891 she was employed as an ‘umbrella stickworker’ in Minchinhampton. Fred was three years younger and working as an apprentice to a wheelwright based in Fulham, London. They married in 1895 in Fulham and had a son, Frederick Thomas, in 1896. They had by then moved into a small, terraced house in Gastein Road Fulham where in 1901 they occupied 3 rooms and probably shared a kitchen and bathroom with the (4 strong) Baldwin family who lived at the same address.

44 Gastein Road, Fulham (Attribution: Google Maps)
44 Gastein Road, Fulham (Attribution: Google Maps)

They went on to have three more children, Florence in 1902, William in 1906 and Violet in 1912, but continued to live in the same small house. They must either have needed the money or liked company because another family (the Andersons) replaced the Baldwins and were sharing their small home in 1911. Fred senior continued to be employed in London until sometime between 1933 and September 1939 when he and Rose are recorded as being at the Half Moon (see photograph of them behind the bar).

Fred and Rose behind the bar of the Half Moon
Fred and Rose behind the bar of the Half Moon

This was quite a career change for a couple now aged 65 (Rose) and 62 (Fred) and who knows what caused them to make such a move at that time of life. We know that Fred carried on with his work as a wheelwright as this is confirmed by the 1939 census where he quoted both occupations.

Like her predecessor Lavinia, Rose was to find that the outbreak of war not only had an impact on their trade but also brought about personal tragedy. Her son William was killed in action in July 1941, while serving in Africa. Then husband Fred passed away in 1943, leaving Rose to follow in the footsteps of Lavinia by being left to run the Half Moon as a widow.

The Cooper Family recorded in the 1939 Register (Attribution: Ancestry.com)
The Cooper Family recorded in the 1939 Register (Attribution: Ancestry.com)

Fortunately for Rose, she was supported by eldest son Frederick and his wife Ellen who helped her to run the pub until she died at the age of 90 in 1964. Sadly Frederick died later the same year but his wife Ellen continued to run the Half Moon until she retired in 1976.

Lavinia Cartwright and Rose Cooper had much adversity to cope with but they had one thing in common; when things went against them and tragedy hit their families, they somehow kept the Half Moon going!

9 Comments on “Brave Women of the Half Moon”

  • Tracey Messenger

    says:

    Hi, are you sure on dates of when Mrs Cooper died. As i lived in Wilstone as a kid and I was born in 1966 and I can remember going to the back door of pub to get pop snd crisps. My dad also kept his car in a shed at back of pub and Mrs Cooper was still running it.

    Regards
    Tracey Messenger

    • Clive Reedman

      says:

      To make absolutely sure we have ordered the death certificate. It is always possible that there are errors in the record, but we will make sure.

    • Clive Reedman

      says:

      Dear Tracey

      I have made absolutely sure of the death date of Rose Cooper by obtaining a copy of her Death Certificate. This does confirm that she died on the 6th February 1964, aged 90 at the St Paul’s Hospital, Hemel Hempstead. The lady you remember would almost certainly have been Ellen Cooper, the wife of Rose’s son Fred who continued to run the Half Moon well into the 1970’s.

      Best regards

      Clive Reedman

  • Tim Amsden

    says:

    I too did a double-take on seeing the suggestion that Mrs Cooper had died in the 60s. I used to use the Half Moon in the 1970s and well remember the occasion of the burglary that finally persuaded her to give up. She always used to keep geese, and was convinced they would raise the alarm, as happened I forget where in Roman history. Sadly, they didn’t. Dick Gomm says that Mrs Cooper moved away on July 15th 1976, which sounds right to me, so clearly her death came later.

    • Clive Reedman

      says:

      Thanks Tim, I agree that there is some confusion over the date of the death of Rose Cooper (nee Townsend). Hopefully I will have this resolved in a few days.

    • Clive Reedman

      says:

      Dear Tim

      Please see my response to Tracey above.

      Regards

      Clive Reedman

  • Robert Cartwright

    says:

    This is fascinating thank you. My Great Grandmother Maude Durkin (nee Cartwright) and her husband John Durkin perhaps looked after the pub in the years between 1929 and when the Coopers took over. When Maude died in 1931 her death certificate says she lived there and they where publicans of the Half Moon Inn, Wilstone, Tring.

  • Maureen Chapman

    says:

    Their daughter, Violet Elizabeth, (Known as Betty) went on to marry Mr. Thomas Chapman of Folly Farm, Long Marston. She was the mother of my late husband Adrian Chapman – born 1952. – and Grandma of my two children who she never knew having died aged 69 in 1981. I have many photos, letters regarding births and deaths, and lives, and stories of their time there. I also have an old Pewter jug inscribed with the Half Moon. I believe Rose was one of the first to move into the bungalows at the bottom of Bromley, LM too. I will dig everything out and ask family for more info.

    • Robert Cartwright

      says:

      Hello Maureen, would you by any chance have any pictures of the time around 1930 when my Great grandmother Maude Durkin (a Cartwright by birth, but I haven’t found whether related or not) and her husband John apparently ran the pub?

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