Albert Powell's background had been something of a mystery for many years. He was born in Ludow but lived his early
life in the village of
Leintwardine, Herefordshire. At the time of his marriage was a gardener. On his birth certificate only Albert's
mother, Elizabeth POWELL, is recorded but she later married Samuel TURNER in 1897.
It may be that Samuel Turner was Albert's father but we may never know for sure. Tellingly, Albert did not name any of his
children Samuel. Albert and his older brother, Bill would go fishing for trout
in the Clun River together and the brothers and their sister, Mary Jane TURNER appear to have been raised by their
maternal grandmother, Jane Powell and a spinster aunt, Louisa Powell while their mother was away working as a domestic
Albert Powell served as a medical porter in France during WW1. During his service he was wounded and also gassed.
He could well have been sent to the University Hospital in Birmingham for treatment and rehabilitation.
(In the nearby Lodge Hill Cemetary there are the graves of over 500 WW1 servicemen).
It is possible that it was while recovering from his wounds that he came to meet his future wife, Matilda Hoban and her
family as this was the same hospital where Matilda's older brother, Ernest Hoban, was also sent to recover from his war
Albert was said to be a clever man, well educated and well spoken for a man from such a modest background.
He stood out in the very working class, post WW1 world of Bournebrook, Birmingham. Because of ill health and
nerve problems caused by his war service and mustard gassing experiences, Albert was advised by his doctor to take up
a hobby to keep himself active. He took up watch repairs and the people in the neighbourhood would bring their clocks,
watches and other instruments to his home for repair. His workshop was a tiny room under the stairs but the whole house
was always cluttered with parts of old clocks and watches. The process of repairing the clock springs was a difficult and
delicate task which Albert eventually became very expert in. He was well liked and respected in the community and when he
died during the flu epidemic of 1957 people came out into the streets to pay their respects and watch his hearse pass by.
It was initially difficult to pin down Albert Powell's family history as he seemed to make a point of speaking little of
his family background. His daughter, Irene Powell, has a vivid childhood memory of a time when her father was overcome
with deep sadness and the two of them travelled alone a great distance by train out into the countryside.
She remembers being taken to a grand house, where both she and her father were greeted with warmth and made very welcome.
Irene was given many gifts of toys and clothes but it was never explained to her who these people were,
although it was obvious that they were very well off indeed compared with her own family back in Bournebrook,
Birmingham. It has always been a mystery where Albert took Irene and why? Did Irene's mother, Matilda, really throw
away all the gifts they brought back home with them? It hardly seems likely given that this was the time of the
'Great Depression' of the 1930s and the Powell family was struggling. It is said that Albert was disowned by his family,
possibly for marrying outside of his religion, as Matilda was Catholic, while Albert's family was Church of England.
Matilda (Tilly) HOBAN has a much more open history than her husband, living all the years of her
long life in the house in which she was raised at 15 Blossom Ave, Bournebrook, Birmingham, England. The HOBAN family (also at various times spelt Hobern, Hoborn, Habern, Hobin, Hobon & Hoben) were originally from Aston, Birmingham, moving to Bournebrook, Selly Oak a few years after Matilda was born in 1901.
Matilda Hoban had a harelip which made her speech a little odd to people who did not know her well. She had a great capacity for fun and an absolutely wicked sense of humour, she is remembered with great affection by her children and many grandchildren.
For a few weeks each summer, before WW2, the Powell family would pack up their belongings and take the train to Holt Fleet on the River Severn. At this time Holt Fleet was a favourite summer holiday and day trip destination for the ordinary working people of the midlands and a popular resort for the better off. For the poor working class folk it was often the closest they might ever come to a holiday at the seaside. Holt Fleet was a place they could relax and enjoy the fresh country air, away from the big city smog and grime of their everyday lives. There was a lot of fishing for the men folk, and a short respite from the drudgery of their housework for the women. The picture at left shows Matilda with son Ron, on one of the families' many camping holidays at Holt Fleet c.1938.
The Holt Fleet Inn and its tea gardens were once the most popular resorts on the River Severn. Holt Fleet was then a stop off point for pleasure steamers and day trippers. The popularity of Holt Fleet had its drawbacks, as a local journalist of 1901 reported, "Holt Fleet was one of the most charming spots in Worcester, but it was sadly being ruined by vulgar day trippers and in summer was visited by thousands of Black Country people, known for their disorderly conduct and rowdyism."