The Millington family lived at 1a and 2 Monument Road in Ladywood for some 25 years from the mid-1940s to around 1968. Prior to their move into Monument Road, they lived at 3 back of 20 Garbett Street close to Florence’s family, the Claytons.
William and Florence were caretakers of the National Provincial Bank at 71 Summerhill, Edgbaston and their home in Monument Road was adjacent to and over the bank. In around 1968, William and Florence moved to the house next to the All Electric Petrol Garage on Harborne High Street. Their rear garden backed onto that of their son, Geoffrey Ernest and his wife Joan and their family at 107 Station Road. William died of lung cancer on 4th July 1969 at Westheath Hospital, not long after they moved from Ladywood to Harborne. It is speculated that his lung cancer at the age of 69 was probably caused by working in smoky foundries and he was also a cigarette smoker.
We have already learnt a lot about William’s early life, his strained relationship with his father, the early death of his mother and his service in the army in India between 1919 and 1922. As a boy William attended St John Immanuel C of E church where he pumped the organ. For most of his working life William worked in foundries and factories around Birmingham, including The Mint in Hockley and an old bell foundry on Broad Street. He later moved with this last company to a new site in Grove Lane, Smethwick. William’s last job was at Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds (GKN) in Smethwick making nuts and bolts.
William Joseph Millington (aka Granddad Mill) was a quiet and private man who is remembered as being affectionate towards his grandchildren, though often irritable towards his lifelong wife Florence in their later years. William was also a lifelong Aston Villa supporter and was said to have written a letter of disgust to Villa chairman Doug Ellis on Villa’s entry into the third division in the 1960s.
William’s oldest daughter Anne (aka Aunty Nance) recalled him as a conservative and a moral man:
“Dad didn’t like coarse language. He wouldn’t tolerate people swearing in his company. I remember when a relative and another man took dad up to a pub where there was a comedian on, dad didn’t like it because the comedian was using very lewd language. He said “I’m not sharing that bloke’s company again if he drinks in pubs where they allow that sort of thing.” ”
Nance also indicated something of her father’s hard working life:
“Dad didn’t like shaking hands with people. He had cuts all over his palms from making bells for monasteries”.
William’s wife, Florence Margaret Millington (nee. Clayton) was born at 20 Lennox Street in Newtown on 3rd August 1899 and died on the 13th March 1985 in the same hospital and, incredibly, on the same ward from which her husband had departed life sixteen years earlier.
Florence is also remembered with much affection by her family, described as a real character of her generation. In her prime she had a wonderful sense of fun and mischief, but is also remembered for being very generous and kind hearted, a lovely singer of old time songs and always able to tell a gripping story on family history. Sadly, Florence never got over the death of William in 1969 and sunk gradually into a world of distant memories and creeping dementia. In her autumn years Florence spent some time being cared for in the elegant setting of Highbury Hall in Moseley and was later cared for by her loving daughter Kathleen Robnson and husband Harry at their home in Bartley Green.
My personal memories of Nanny Mill are from when I was about 10 o 12 years old, by which stage Flossie (Florence) was a dear but fragile old lady, wandering along Harborne High Street or travelling around the city on her O.A.P. bus pass, generally seeming to be quite confused and mithered. I remember her regularly sitting on a wooden chair in Frank’s traditional sweet shop in Serpetine Road, Harborne with an ice cream in in her hand, or else emerging from the Duke of York pub, having spent her pension. Florence kept a dog called Spot and a hen named Peggy. Her house on the High Street was often a lodging house for local characters such as a tiny lady named Minnie and the village drunk whose name was Tommy.