Let bestselling author Lindsey Hutchinson take you back in time to the Victorian Black Country, for a tale of love, hardship and fighting against the odds to succeed.
Life is tough for Ella Bancroft. After her father, Thomas, is wheelchair-bound by an accident at the tube works, the responsibility for keeping a roof over their head falls to Ella. Ella’s mother died when she was ten, and her sister Sally lives with her no-good, work-shy husband Eddy, so is no help at all. If she and her father are to keep the bailiffs from the door, then Ella must earn a living.
But Ella is resourceful as well as creative, and soon discovers she has a gift for millinery. Setting up shop in the front room of their two-up, two-down home in Silver Street, Walsall, Ella and Thomas work hard to establish a thriving business. Before long, the fashionable ladies of the Black Country are lining up to wear one of Ella’s beautiful creations, and finally Ella dares to hope for a life with love, friendship and family.
Meeting the man she longs to marry should be a turning point for Ella, but life’s twists and turns can be cruel. As the winter grows colder, events seem to conspire to test Ella’s spirit. And by the time spring is approaching, will the hat girl of Silver Street triumph, or will Ella have to admit defeat as all her dreams are tested.
The Queen of the Black Country sagas is back with a heart-breaking, unforgettable, page-turning story of love, life and battling against the odds.
Extract from The Hat Girl From Silver Street Lindsey Hutchinson
Ella Bancroft looked down at the tangled mess in her fingers and stifled a sob. She pulled at the ruined hat in an effort to rectify her error, but the steaming process had set the blunder in place.
A tear slipped from her eye and rolled down her cheek. This was her second mistake in a week. Her first was sticking her finger with a pin and leaving a blood spot on a piece of white tulle. Ivy had ranted and raved as she had snipped off the offending piece of material to rescue the hat.
Now Ella had spoilt the crown of a felt winter hat, having steamed it into the wrong shape entirely. Thinking quickly, she wondered whether, if she held it over the steamer again, she could re-form it.
About to try, Ella caught her breath as she heard footsteps on the bare wooden staircase. It was too late, Ivy was on her way up.
Ella had been employed at Ivy Gladwin’s shop for two years and yet suddenly she had begun making errors. Why? Was it because she was unhappy in her work?
‘How are you getting on with that order?’ Ivy called as she entered the bedroom, which had been converted to a work room.
‘Erm… I…’ Ella mumbled as she looked again at the floppy felt monstrosity.
‘What the…?’ Ivy gasped. Snatching the article from Ella, she held it up between thumb and forefinger. ‘How on earth…? Good grief, girl, can’t you do anything right?’
The sob Ella was holding back escaped her lips. ‘I’m sorry, Miss Gladwin, I don’t know what happened.’
‘Neither do I!’ Ivy snapped, throwing the felt onto the table. ‘It’s completely ruined! An expensive piece of material at the outset and now it’s a – oh, do stop snivelling!’
The sharp slap to her cheek caused Ella to catch her breath and she raised a hand to cover the stinging skin.
Ella sniffed and tried hard to halt the sobs racking her body.
‘I… I’m really sorry,’ she managed at last.
‘Well, you will have to pay for it out of your wages. Now, start again and for God’s sake mind what you’re doing!’ With that, Ivy strode from the room, her long bombazine skirt swishing against her side-button boots.
Ella stared at the hat on the table and thought about the last two years of her life. She had seen the advert in the local newspaper for an apprentice hat-maker. Having applied and been interrogated by Miss Gladwin for over an hour, she was given the post on a month’s trial. The pay, she was told, would be one pound and ten shillings a week but she must work a week in hand first. Any damages would be taken out of her money before she received it.
Now she was halfway through this week and already there would be two stoppages from her salary. Ella sighed as she worked out just how much she would have in her hand come Friday.
The gold flecks in her hazel eyes were accentuated as more tears brimmed before falling. Pushing a stray dark curl from her forehead, Ella moved to the workbench. With a sniff and a sigh, she began her work again, this time selecting the correct block to steam the material over.
Ella thought once more about her earnings – would there be enough to feed herself and her father? The food in the larder was running desperately low, and she knew if there was only enough for one of them to eat she would make sure it was her dad.
Lindsey Hutchinson is a bestselling saga author whose novels include The Workhouse Children. She was born and raised in Wednesbury and was always destined to follow in the footsteps of her mother, the multi-million selling Meg Hutchinson.