Family tree: George Steele ancestors
George Steele was born in 1913 in a small mill town in Yorkshire. With no qualifications, he began his working life as a carpenter’s apprentice in Todmorden. At that time this meant making coffins and laying out the customers in them – not a great life for a 14 year old! Not satisfied with this he enrolled at the Technical College and by 1934, he had a First Class City & Guilds certificate in Carpentry and Joinery. This led him on to greater things and within 3 years he had passed his school matriculation which gained entry to Sheffield University where he gained a First Class Bachelors degree in Engineering in 1940 and set the standard by which he lived his life (only the best is good enough).
By 1944, George was a Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers. For glimpses of his wartime experiences (‘the adventure of his life’) from his letters sent home, click for the BBC’s WW2 People’s War website. By the end of the war he had gained the rank of Captain and had been ‘mentioned in despatches’ for his work bridging the Rhine with the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR), returning to the UK in 1947.
For many years, George and his wife Frances née Cheshire lived in a beautiful thatched house in Long Wittenham, just down the road from Clifton Hampden where, in the Barley Mow inn, Jerome K Jerome wrote Three Men in a Boat .
The Steele family in Todmorden were cotton weavers. George’s father was James Steele, a very quiet man but with a twinkle in his eye. He married Amy Sutcliffe in 1908 at Cross Stone church in Todmorden where his parents are buried. James was a volunteer in the First World War and served in the Hood Battalion of the Royal Naval Division as an Able Seaman. He was invalided out in 1917 with frost bite from the western front.
James’ father George was from Prestwich Manchester. He married Susy née Mitchell in Todmorden in 1883. His parents were from down south—his father John was a gardener from Fulham and his wife Harriet née Little was born in Wandsworth. They married in 1840 in Kensington.
Amy Sutcliffe was born in 1884 in Todmorden. She was a petite lady with long hair in a bun and a broad Yorkshire accent that her grandchildren struggled to understand.
Amy’s parents were William Sutcliffe and Martha Jane née Holt who ran the Weavers Arms in Blind Lane Todmorden. Martha’s grandson George could remember hiding under his granny’s skirts as she sat in a chair with a space big enough for him to crawl under.
William’s parents were John and Hannah Sutcliffe who lived in Blackshaw Head which can be reached via tiny tracks across the moors, if Satnav is to be believed!