Gnosall Shield

Gnosall Parish Council

Heritage Group Community Archive


Source: Audio

Courtesy of: Keith Abbott | Event estimated date: 2018

Ken and Doreen Walker

Notes from interview at Grosvenor Centre, 2 March 2018

Doreen was adopted by Mr and Mrs Tom Bowell and lived on Stafford Road until she was 21.

Ken was born in 1928 to Andrew Walker and his wife Nellie nee Malpass (married 1923)

They lived at Coton.

School inspector Mr Barnwell lived at the house on the corner.

There was a farm at the back. They lived at the cottage - which had no water or electricity, they drew water from the well once a week and used oil lamps and a range - until Ken was 10 and then they moved to Cross Street.

Ken's father Andrew was self-employed as a wheelwright. He took over John Thomas Malpass's wheelwright business on Back Lane in 1958. It consisted of two cottages - wooden buildings. Alan Malpass was also in the business. The business closed in 1995. Ken started at age 14 as a carpenter; wheelwrighting was finished by then.

Doreen was born in Leek in 1940 and went to a church adoption home where she was adopted by Tom and Jessie Bowell. They lived in the last house on the right on Stafford Road and ran a grocery which was linked to a shop in Stafford opposite what is now the Nationwide. They split up and her father bought a shop in Wolverhampton.

When the owner of the shop that is now the Co-op, Mr Randall, died at a woodwork class at St Lawrence School, Mr Bowell offered to buy the shop. Mrs Randall refused but asked him to buy it a few years later. Doreen's brother and mother Jessie worked there until it became the Coop.

Ken went to Gnosall school and then the new one on Selman Street. He remembers the evacuees in 1939. They were mostly from Ramsgate. With the evacuee children and teachers it was very crowded. Jack Bernell stayed on in Gnosall and  married. Ken remembers the Italian prisoners.

Ken and Doreen discussed the posh end (N) and the better end (S) of Gnosall. Each end was self-sufficient. Everyone went to church or chapel which was a unifying factor. Doreen taught at Sunday school, and did handbell ringing, the big bells, Girl Guides, Brownies, and Rangers.

They knew everyone in the village at least by sight - it was only about 200.

Train was the main form of transport–it was cheap. The only buses were workers’ buses to Austin in the morning. Coal came by rail. There were two weighbridges, one where the chip shop is now and the other near Chippy Jumps.

There are fewer shops than they used to be. There used to be a grocery shop and Ironmonger where Texaco garage is. The only things you had to go out of town for were shoes and men's clothing.

Walker's hardware shop. They ran delivery vans. Ken's father bought the Ebenezer chapel in 1962. There were tongue in cheek stories about the memorial plaques moving. Andrew Walker died in 1958 and Ken and Doreen ran it. They had a lot of trade from the canal– Holidaymakers –and also sold seeds, seed potatoes, plants, toys …

Working boats on the canal had finished by the war.

The undertaker's business was started by Kens grandfather John Thomas Malpass in 1890, alongside the wheelwright business.  The coffins were made-to-measure in oak, pitched inside and lined. They only made about 10 year. They also mended and made farm carts, and five barred gates, 8 foot wide. Nowadays Gates need to be 22 foot wide.

Doreen was happy at Gnosall school with her friends but her father sent her to a convent school in Stafford, and then St John's in Stafford and then to Riverway Girls school in Stafford–this was on  Corporation Street and is a council office now. She would rather have stayed at the local school. Miss Hobley later joked about her adding up in the shop.

Ken and Doreen met by Ken's pickup truck which was useful for getting to the May Fair in Newport (a funfair in the main street). There was also a May Fair at Gnosall, behind the Royal Oak, but this was purely cattle, sheep and pigs. The animals were driven or came by rail.

Social life–church; Ministry of information films at the Memorial Hall in World War II. Films at Newport; three cinemas in Stafford. Lots of dances at the Memorial Hall–ballroom dancing.

Ken and Doreen married on 22 May 1961.

Working hours were 8 AM to 5:30 PM and till 1 PM p.m. on Saturdays. The only industry in the town was blacksmiths, query brickworks.

Ken had one holiday away at age 16 in Blackpool.

He went away with the Scouts camping at Llanfair, getting off the train at Kington and walking 7-8miles. The scoutmaster was Mr Hewlett who lived in the Malthouse on Audmore Road.

They had a crystal set and used a dolly tub and mangle for laundry.

Ken had four sisters, two older, two younger, the last born at Cross Street.

He built a house on Back Lane in 1963 on his mother’s land–it belonged to the yard.

Doreen had a holiday in Bournemouth with her parents when she was 10 and went to Rhyl with the Sunday school.

Ken went to Rhyl,  Llangollen and New Brighton.

He played dominoes and darts. As self-employed the only days they had off were Christmas Day and Boxing Day. He used to listen to the light programme on the wireless.

Peter Bentley used to sell newspapers at the garage on Chapel Court–he also delivered them. He also sold fireworks. There was a newsagents where the chippy is now.

In the war they could see the fires where Coventry was bombed. A Wellington Bomber crashed on that farm and killed a horse. There were wires across Aqualat Mere to stop planes landing.

??? at weekend during the war.

People waiting for the Greenfield houses to be built were billeted in Nissen huts at Aqualate. At Little Onn a lot of Polish refugees were living in a resettlement camp–they had been deported to Siberia and then evacuated to South Africa and Tanzania.

Doreen's father was a special policeman in the war - a Sgt. Two police houses were built opposite Bank Top Garage.

There was an Observer Corps on Lowfield Lane in a wooden building. Also an underground nuclear shelter at Peartree Bank.

The Home Guard used a wooden hut near the boat, later taken over by the Roman Catholics. The Fireman were based at the Manor house on the Stafford Road. Some bombs were dropped on Moreton.

The fire engine what forward to be a 10 with a trailer. Kent was a fireman. He remembers dealing with fires at the house on Audmore road and one on Wharf Road where Mr Ritchie died in the fire. [I have a newspaper article about him and the fire - F.]

Most memorable things–the horticultural shows. All the pubs had their own horticultural show. There was bowling for a pig. The vegetables were sold off at the end. The Horns, Boat, Duke, Navigation all did a show and the team went round. In 1960 it moved to the Memorial Hall as the potato club

The Memorial Hall was originally closer to the road. There were two billiards tables in an extension at the back and tennis courts on Stacey’s Fields.

The Acres used to flood every year. The farmers use to clear the ditches. In the war of the Italian prisoners cleared the ditches is at rule. There was an Italian prisoner called Dominic who married a woman called Beryl.

Gnosall is too big now and Ken doesn't know even a quarter of the people.

A cricket ground is shown on Greenfields on an old map but Ken only remembers the football field up Audmore.

There used to be an agricultural show at the Old Vicarage –Horse jumping, cattle, boxing– In the 1950s

For the Coronation there was a parade from the boat to the old football ground and Doreen was George with a Dragon on the float. Ken was in his fireman's uniform on a horse-drawn cart with two toilet seats and the King and Queen.

The carnival started as a pram race round the block house and estate. It was started by JIll Pope and became the carnival when it got too big.

Michael Pope was a good vicar and his wife Jill was very active in the Mother’s Union and other things. His female successor wasn’t popular and church attendance slumped.


1911 census


Sch.13; Gnosall Heath; Back Lane; Cottage; [6 rooms]:

John Thomas MALPASS, H, M, 44, Wheelwright, Own account, b. STS, Knightley.

Ellen MALPASS, Wife, M, 49, b. STS, Gnosall.

Nellie Elizabeth MALPASS, Dau, 9, School, b. STS, Gnosall.

Esther Lillian MALPASS, Dau, 7, School, b. STS, Gnosall.

Rosa / Rose Mary MALPASS, Dau, 4, b. STS, Gnosall.

Other Details: Married: 10 years; Children born alive: 3; Children still living: 3.




The Grandfather of Kenneth Walker first established A. Walker & Son Funeral Directors of Gnosall in 1890. The business was originally known as Malpass that operated as a Funeral Directors Carpentry & Joinery and Wheelwright Business. It was handed down to Kenneth Walkers Father, Andrew Walker in the 1930s. The business then became known as A. Walker & Son. In the 1960s, Ken and his wife Doreen continued to run the Funeral Directing business after his father, along side the Joinery Business, and the local Hardware shop.

In the early 1990s, the carpentry & Joinery ceased trading and the Hardware shop was sold in the late 1990s. Ken and Doreen continued Funeral Directing, assisted by Robert Nicholls Funeral Directors of Stafford.

In 2005, Ken and Doreen retired and the Funeral Business was purchased by Robert Nicholls Funeral Directors of Stafford and continues to run in a Traditional Family manor to this day. Ken and Doreen are also still involved in the arranging and conducting of funerals.



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(Life story Audio Interview)

Category(s): People