by Yoland

Bertha Francis was born in the Round House across the Platt Bridge on 6th November 1905.  Although strictly in the Parish of Baschurch, the folks who lived in the few cottages `on the other side` have always been more part of our village of Ruyton XI Towns. George Francis was a house painter and he and his wife Sarah came from Culmington, near Craven Arms to the Round House at the end of the 19th century.

This tiny dwelling was built in 1840 as an extra Toll House as the other 4 were not raising enough funds to maintain the road along the Brownhill.  It was described as being `in a parlous condition` - they should see it in the 21st century. 

George and Sarah`s daughter Mary Elizabeth, was born on 21st March 899, then Doris Emma on 18th November 1900, Bertha on 6th November 1905 and Frederick Stanton on 22nd November 1909, all born at the Round House.  The family attended the old Chapel on the Brownhill, for both morning and evening services and Sunday school.

The children grew up playing on the banks of the River Perry, then a shallow stream flowing through the Bridge Inn meadow, and they went to school in Ruyton.

In 1884, Dr. Edward Hugh Sankey opened his `Licensed House for the reception of Insane     Patients of the Upper Classes` at Boreatton Park, just a brisk walk up through the Drumbles from the Round House.  This unusual establishment seems to have been a very happy place with eccentric ladies and gentlemen and lots of young staff to mix and match.  Mary Francis married Frederick Burgess, a male nurse, Emma married the Butler, Fred Hanmer, and Bertha married Goronwy Griffiths, a male nurse from Wrexham.  Frederick worked for Dame Agnes Hunt at the Baschurch Home.

The Hanmer family lived on The Cliffe but sadly, Fred`s two brothers, Charles Henry and Edward are listed on our War Memorial.

Bertha and Goronwy moved to Stable Cottage, Bishopswood, Ross on Wye in Hereford where he was an odd job man, probably at Bishopswood House which is now available for weddings and conferences.  They had two children, Michael born in 1936 and Daphne Gillian, known as Jill, both born in Hereford.  Goronwy died on 20th July 1964 and was buried  in Ruyton Chaple graveyard, Park Gates.

Sarah Francis, Bertha`s mother was a founder member of Ruyton Women`s Institute, formed in 1920.  She died in 1955 so Bertha & Goronway moved into the Round House in 1957 to keep her father George company.  He died in 1958.

When we moved into Brownhill House in 1969, Bertha and Jill were living in the little house, probably just big enough for two people, rather than George and Sarah`s family of six.

In 1971, Jill was married to Barry Gittoes and they moved, with Bertha, to Laburnum Cottage in Holden Lane.  They had one son, Colin born in 1973.

Both Bertha and Jill were pillars of our community in Ruyton XI Towns.  They were involved with the church and Chapel, avid members of the W.I. both of them had served on the committee.  Bertha loved attending the Old Ruytonians Club and especially enjoyed the outings and competitions.  The club was started by Chris Wigley who was also secretary at the school.

Bertha loved Radio Shropshire and, in her latter days, would sit in the kitchen at Laburnum Cottage, listening to her friends, the presenters, and ringing up with her observations of broadcast items of interest. As you see below, she  was  a keen  writer of rhymes .

Jill became a dinner lady at Ruyton School when Colin was born so she knew every child in the village and watched them grow up.  She was involved with organising the Flower and Produce show and took part in the Ruyton Carnivals, whatever the event in this village, Jill would be there, selling raffle tickets.

Jill, with Margaret Lycett, put huge effort into organizing a reunion of Ruyton School in 1995, finding dozens of past pupils, from as far back as the beginning of the century, by their extensive searches.  Jill knew so much about village families from growing up here herself, working at the school and listening to the stories her mother told her.  She was always available to help, whatever the event, never a `haven`t got time` was mumbled by Jill Gittoes.

Bertha died in 1988 after a fall at her much loved neice, Anne Hanmer`s wedding.  Many thanks to Anne for help and photographs.   Barry Gittoes died in 1985 aged just 39 and Jill joined him in 2002.

Bertha and Jill, the mother and daughter of our village who cared so much for us all, losing them was such a great loss to the community.


Poems by Bertha Griffiths


How do I know I am growing old?
My hair is white which once was gold.
My hair has whitened through the years
Which brought to me both joy and tears.

My eyes in youth were sparkling bright
But now are dim with failing sight,
My glasses now fulfill my needs
I`m thankful I can see to read.

My feet which danced the whole night through
And walked the hills and valleys too
With failing steps and many stops
Go tottering to the village shops.

My hearing now is not as good
I know I don`t hear all I should
I strain my ears, but what is this?
A piece of gossip I have missed.

With faulty hearing, failing sight
Tottering footsteps, hair turned white,
In all life offers I`ll take part
Though old in years, I`m young at heart.


The Old Ruytonians is our name
And though we lay no claim to fame
In fun and games we all take part
Though old in years, we`re young at heart.

And when we at the Club do meet
It`s really nice old friends to greet
With friendly chat and cup of tea
Without our Club where would we be?
The children charm us with their plays
We`ve been to see `The Good Old Days`.
Trips to the sea and country too
Without our Club what would we do?

So. if you feel life`s let you down
Don`t stay at home and think and frown
Come join our club and you will find
Old friends and new, so good and kind



Francis family
 George & Sarah Francis with baby Bertha on Dad`s lap
George Franci, aged 81, on 14th July 1954 had lived here in peace for 52 years   The ornate chapel on the Brownhill, now long gone
Anns wedding

Bertha and her neice Anne, at her wedding in 1988
Jill Gittoes, the waitress on the right.  Ruyton carnival `Allo Allo` float in 1985

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