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Amelia Massey Brereton

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Women of Church Minshull
Amelia Massey Brereton

Written by Dr Joanne Smith

At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Amelia Brereton 1870-1960 was a well-established figure in Church Minshull's village community serving as its post-mistress. By this time Amelia was in her late sixties, being born in the village in 1870, she had been raised in an era of 'domestic ideology' supported by the notion that women were 'the angel in the home'. In essence, this meant that for the most part women were to conform to a life associated with the home and the hearth and with raising children. Yet for many women, particularly those who did not marry, or chose to pursue what we would today call a 'career' alternatives were often sought. Over the course of her ninety years Amelia became a central figure in Church Minshull.

Ameila's family had run the Post Office and Shop from Old House, which is today owned by Mr and Mrs Larry Bannon. Her father passed away first and her mother ran the post office for many years until she retired and this was passed to Amelia in 1898. Around this time records indicate that Amelia had ties to the Minshull Vernon church community attending the United Reform Church and signing the Minshull and District Temperance Society Pledge Book sometime between 1891 and 1902.

In 1913, Amelia's mother died and the running of the Post Office was reviewed by the Luxmore's who were the Lords of the Manor and therefore had control of the house which served as the village's Post Office. They decided against allowing Amelia to continue using Old House for this purpose. As local historian John Headon has shown, this was largely attributable to political differences of opinion between the staunchly Liberal Amelia, and the ardent Conservative Luxmores'. It is also possible that factors other than political differences could have been influential. Despite showing herself to be a capable woman; the prevalence of patriarchy and the idea that women's roles were ostensibly domestic were still clearly evident in society prior to the outbreak of the First World War. Undeterred by this Amelia, who had inherited the four cottages and land on Muslin Row from her parents authorised the building of the Post Office and Village Shop, which was completed and opened in 1915. For many years, until her death in 1960, aged ninety, she ran the Post Office and Shop, and was regularly seen on a horse and trap going to Stoke-on-Trent to collect provisions.

Amelia regularly contributed to church activities in Church Minshull and her ties to St. Bartholomew's were a central tenant of her life. Amelia was a member of the choir, and served as the church organist and church warden. In addition to this, Amelia served as a local councillor. Amelia was clearly a respected and well know woman, as a founder member of the Church Minshull Women's Institute she was elected and served as its first president in 1946. Amelia continued to serve the Church Minshull community in these various ways until she passed away in March 1960.
Author's Note: I am indebted to Mrs Audrey Colquhoun and Mr John Headon who kindly gave their time to discuss various aspects of Church Minshull's village life.