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Library & Archives Blog – Meet a Volunteer…

Today we are meeting Sandra Smith. Born January 1944; she spent her childhood on a farm in Norfolk. Sandra was privately educated; admits to getting up to mischief at school, but made life-long friends.

Not knowing what to do next she thought the London Cordon Bleu cookery school seemed like a good idea and attended the ‘Brides’ Course, did six months practical at Eton College then returned to London to do the Advanced Course at the Cordon Bleu. This set her on the track of cooking dinner parties and Directors’ lunches in the City.

Sandra’s first job was as a Junior for a Couturier, Roger Brines, in South Molton Steet. This was basically a runner/’go for’ to the suppliers around the West End of London; handing the half-made clothes to the Fitter and was able to meet the customers and thoroughly enjoyed it. She worked with Roger Brines over several years and built up a fabulous friendship describing Roger has a father-figure. Her father, a Royal Navy Officer, had died in 1946 so she never knew him…BUT knows a lot of stories about him from many sources!  Including supervising the very young Welsh ratings joining the Navy just before the war – a frightening time for them. He looked out for them and made sure they had first pick of the food parcels from Canada!

Sandra had various other jobs over the years including Secretary of Groundwork Nottingham which was great fun and was a bit like a ‘Mother Hen’ to the young Project Officers.

In 1969 she married Ted, had two sons and now has two grandsons and one grand daughter, with part of the family living in Amsterdam. She has lived in several homes including London, Nottingham, Catalunya and finally Whitby where we have lived on Esk Terrace for 20+ years. “We love it and are well involved in local life; happily living here with our Lumpy Lab Milly who is a delight.”

Sandra became a Volunteer at the Whitby Lit & Phil Society Library where she discovered Francis Haydn William (FHW) the rebellious Unitarian Minister at Flowergate Chapel.

“I came to Whitby in January 2003 and noticed a green door at the bottom of Flowergate.  I wondered where it led and assumed it would be just another yard! How wrong I was!  Behind the green door is the Unitarian Chapel a well kept Whitby secret. The Minister between 1888 and 1910 was Rev Francis Haydn Williams (FHW). He lived at 177 Church Street with his family and soon became involved with the local population on the Eastside listening to their grievances and trying to fight their corner.” 

Below is one of Francis Hadydn Williams public protestations:

“One evening last week the town of Whitby was the scene of a curious disturbance. The leader of the movement was the Rev. Haydn Williams, the Unitarian minister at Whitby.  He having an innate conviction that the cliff on the west side of the town, which has recently been enclosed with railings, is public property, felt called to vindicate his position and the public rights.  Accordingly, he formed a procession and marched through the town to demolish the objectionable six-feet-high barriers.  Arrived at the railings the crowd hung on to them until the weight thus unexpectedly supplied uprooted them. 

And when all was completely and satisfactorily accomplished, and the barrier was completely undone, the enthusiastic crowd chaired Mr Williams through the town to his house, where he afterwards addressed his followers from a window.”

Sandra was also involved in the gathering of resources for the Our Lassies (2024) and interviewed a classic ‘Seaside Landlady’!

If you are interested in learning more about Francis Haydn Williams book an appointment with Sandra and discover some of the stories behind this colourful character. Email library@whitbymuseum.org.uk

Claire Marris Archives Development Officer

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