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Learning at Black Country Living Museum

WW2: The Story of Patricia Vernon

The date is  1943 and Patricia is  16 years old. She is living in the one of the "Iron Houses" (now at the Museum) on Ernest Road in Dudley  with her parents and her dog Patch. She also has an older brother, Basil, but he is away from home fighting in the RAF. Her father is a Sergeant  in Dudley Police Force.

Pat left school aged just 15 and is currently working as a secretary at nearby Jeavons Engineering Company at Tipton.   She has met a boy at Jeavons - called John - who is now her boyfriend (and soon to become her husband).

Her parents moved into the Cast Iron House when it was newly built in 1925. Although it is a council house,  they do not pay rent as police officers are eligible for free housing.  By 1943 electricity has been installed, replacing the original gas lighting and enabling the family to  have a  radio.  Food, clothing and petrol rationing are in full force,  the government has just launched the "Make Do and Mend" campaign and the garden has been  dedicated to the  Dig for Victory campaign.  

The Vernon's were luckier than most.  Police work was well respected and  Sidney was able to walk to the front of queue and  get the best cuts of meat from the butcher’s.  He could also  travel on the buses for free and  get sweets and nylons for Pat and her mother  (from the Americans) and  cakes from Wimbush’s cake shop in Dudley. 


Pat Vernon Detective Trail

Download the Pat Vernon Detective Trail below which lists  all the sites relevant to Pat's life. Your students can choose which sites they wish to visit and in which order. There is also a selection of linked activities to undertake at the different sites, including shopping lists and interesting objects to find and identify.


Investigation Resources

These are the downloadable links for all the resources associated  with Patricia Vernon. 

Please begin by downloading the  Teachers' Notes. When you are ready, download the relevant PDF documents by clicking  on the highlighted links. 



A summary of the family relationships revealed by the Census Records


This is before Pat’s father, Sidney, had married and started a family of his own.  He is living and working at a dairy farm in Panborough, near Wells in Somerset. 

  • Sidney is 16 years old.
  • His occupation is listed as "farm servant" and his place of birth is  recorded as Puriton in Somerset.
  • The farm is run by the Rossiter family. The head of the family, Lot Rossiter, has signed the census with a cross, indicating that he cannot read or write.

Pat's mother was Beatrice Ferguson.  This is the census for Beatrice's partners,  John and Rosannah. 

  • The family are living at 53 Hill Street, in Brierley Hill.
  • John and Rosannah have been married for 26 years and have had 11 children in total, although 3 have died.
  • Four of their children and one grandson are living with them.  Both sons are working - including Joseph who is only 14 years old and has left school and is working with a glass maker.
  • Although Beatrice (Pat's mother) is only 16 years old, she is no longer living at home with her parents.

  1911 Census: Beatrice Ferguson 

Beatrice is living and working as a domestic servant at Tangley, 9 Wychall Lane, King's Norton.

  • The head of the household is Cuthbert Wigham Ecroyd, a Life Assurance Manager.  He is married and has a two year old daughter.
  • There is also a boarder i the house - a Canadian, Henry John Tapscott - who is manager at the Royal Exchange Assurance Company.

This shows Sidney and Beatrice Vernon, Pat's parents,  living in the Cast Iron House on Ernest Road in Dudley.

  • Sidney is working as a Police Sergeant
  • The details of one member of the family have been hidden. This is because they are under 100 years old and so could still be alive today. As we know that Pat was living at home with her parents during the war, it is likely that the hidden details belong to her. 



These are Pat's memories of her childhood in the Cast Iron house and life on the Home Front in the Black Country during the Second World War.


Beatrice enlisted with the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) in September 1917 and was demobilised in October 1919. In May 1918 she transferred to the Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF). She remained in Britain and served at several different training camps, including St Leonard-on-Sea, East Sandling and Henlow. According to the oral history testament of her daughter, Pat, she seems to have served in the cookery division. 


This shows the location of the Cast Iron Houses  in Dudley.


Sidney met Beatrice during the First World War when they both served with the RAF. This may have been taken at East Sandling Camp, near Folkestone in Kent, where Beatrice was stationed in 1918.

This has been taken in the garden of the Cast Iron House.

Sidney is the Sergeant (with the white stripe on his right-hand arm) seated  on  the front row, eighth from the left (not counting the motor cyclist).

This has been taken in the garden of the Cast Iron House. Pat is playing with a pram and doll - expensive toys at the time. In her oral history interview Pat admitted that she had a more privileged childhood than some, being the daughter of a Police Sergeant.

This is also taken in the garden, showing it just as it was being converted into a "dig for victory" garden as part of the war effort.

Taken in the garden (note the kitchen window in the background). Pat wasn't allowed pets as a child, but in about 1947, before she was married, she had a bull terrier called Patch. Patch used to sleep in the airing cupboard in the bathroom. When Pat and her husband moved to their own house, Patch stayed with Pat's mother.

This was taken  shortly after the birth of Pat's first child. Pat and her husband are still living in the Cast Iron house and  Pat is sitting in front of the range in the kitchen. Sidney's pipes can be seen in a rack on the chimney breast. 




 WW2 Poster: Switch off the Light

This one of a series of posters issued by the ministry of Fuel and Power, 1939-45. The poster encouraged people to turn off their lights and save energy to help the war effort. 




Did you know?

interesting fact image

The first street gas lights appeared in Pall Mall, London in 1807. Today, the museum has 12 working street gas lights.

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