Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Etched Yorkstone paving recalls wedding of the milk bottle bride

Next month will mark 80 years since one of the most unusual weddings recorded in Grimsby Minster’s history.

On 19 April, 1944, the marriage took place of an airman to his dairy worker wife at a bomb-ravaged Grimsby Minster, and this is still remembered in the etched paving in St James’ Square.

The ornate paving was laid on two sections of pathway, which lead from St James’ Hotel to the Minster as part of the most recent renovation works to the square.

The Scoutmoor Yorkstone paving bears more than two dozen etchings of words, sentences, and symbols with connections to the town’s past, present and future. They are the creation of artist Adrian Riley, who spent weeks researching local heritage and speaking to people about their memories and those of their ancestors, before creating the artwork.

One of the men Adrian contacted was former Hereford School deputy headteacher Vic Jay, which resulted in the following words being etched onto one of the stones: “My parents’ wedding took place on 19th April 1944. Vera’s colleagues from the dairy provide a guard of honour with milk bottles.”

Vic, now retired and living in North Yorkshire, recounted the story of his parents’ marriage and how it took place in the Minster, then St James’ Church, on April 19, 1944 – less than a year after it had been damaged by a German bomb.

His dad Bob had been an airman in the Second World War whilst his mum Vera Stephenson worked at a dairy near Scartho – hence the milk bottles! However, to marry had not been easy for the couple. Owing to Vera’s age, she was just 19, Bob had to get permission to marry from her father. He refused and a visit to the local magistrate followed.

Vic takes up the story: “After a visit to the magistrate, my dad, wearing his R.A.F. uniform and speaking in his usual confident way, had little difficulty in persuading him that he was a fine upstanding young man, worthy of anyone’s hand in marriage. The magistrate then directed some harsh words at my grandad and gave Bob and Vera permission to marry.”

Bob, a fireman in Grimsby before working on the Humber Bank, lived happily with Vera and their three children until his death in 1974. Vic though has ensured the memory of his father, and late mother, lives on after researching and writing a book.

‘The Mallon Crew’ charts the history of Flight Engineer Bob and his fellow Lancaster bomber crew, who were piloted by New Zealander Bill Mallon. The wedding of his parents is also recounted by Vic who is proud to see a memory of that happy occasion on his family’s ‘very own paving stone’.

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