Women of Church Minshull
Miss Fanny West Upson
Written by Dr Joanne Smith
In the final account of the lived experiences of women active in the village of Church Minshull, attention now focuses on Miss Fanny West Upson. Of the women researched for these mini biographical portraits, information on Miss Upson has proved to be the most elusive. Historians have often struggled to account for women's lives, largely as they are often 'hidden from history'. To a certain extent this is true of Miss Upson.
Fanny West Upson was the youngest of seven children born to John and Elizabeth Upson in September 1899. Her interest in teaching was likely to have stemmed from her family, her father had been a headmaster at an elementary school and Fanny's older sister Winifred, was also an elementary school teacher. In reflecting social attitudes of Victorian and Edwardian eras, the employment of women as teachers was seen as a respectable occupation for those who were not married.
Miss Upson was one of a number of teachers who lived and worked in Church Minshull and she served as the village school's headmistress for eleven years from 1940 to 1951. Together with Miss Eleanor Potts they were responsible for running two classes for children aged from five to fourteen years old, with Miss Upson teaching the older children. She was instrumental in ensuring that children achieved their full potential and some who fell under her tutelage went on the take places at local grammar schools in Nantwich and Winsford. The well-being of children was clearly important to Miss Upson, along with other educationalist including Miss Eleanor Potts and local postmistress and village shop owner Miss Amelia Brereton they regularly provided food and cakes and organised parties for local children.
Miss Upson lived on Over Road in one of the semi-detached lodges with her older sister Winifred who also became her housekeeper. She was active in the local community serving as Church Minshull's first Women's Institute Secretary from 1946 to 1949. Perhaps one of the most important yet least known contributions made by Miss Upson was the sheltering and providing a home for Jewish children who were fleeing Nazi persecution. Following 'Kristallnacht', the (night of broken glass) 9th November 1938, where a pogrom against the Jews resulted in over 7,000 Jewish shops and businesses being trashed and looted, and over 250 synagogues were burned; Jews were increasingly persecuted and marginalised and life became even more difficult for German and Austria Jewish children and teenagers. Already barred from entering museums, public playgrounds and swimming pools, they were now also expelled from public schools. Consequently, Jewish children like their parents had now become totally segregated in Germany and most families tried desperately to leave.
Just before the outbreak of the Second World War Alfred Rosenberg a German Jew had been sent to a concentration camp and his wife Berta Sara Rosenberg was eventually deported and murdered in Auschwitz in c. 1941-42. Alfred was released and allowed to travel to England, and when there he was in contact with a Miss Phillips to see if she could find somewhere for his children (Miriam and Hanna) to go. When Miss Upson had taken her post as Church Minshull's school headmistress in 1940 she also agreed to take in Miriam and Hanna and provide a home for them. Hanna then moved to stay with a family in Knutsford, whilst Miriam stayed with Miss Upson and went on to attend the Verdin Grammar School in Winsford. Hanna now lives in Jerusalem and Miriam lives in Appleton near Warrington and has three children.
Author's note: I am indebted to Mrs Audrey Calquhoun and Mr John Headon who kindly gave their time to discuss aspects of Church Minshull's village life. Information has also been provided from Chris Challoner and Jeanne Stockdale. For more information regarding Hanna and Miriam Rosenberg there are documents and photographs related to their family housed at Manchester County Record Office, Reference 1557. There are also records related to the Upson family on the census of 1911 and in the records at St. Bartholomew's Church.