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Primrose Cottage Nursery
Ringway Road

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By Helen Morgan

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Published on Facebook 2022
Last Updated 18/03/2024


This is the story of over 100 years of the Dumville family, Primrose Cottage and the nursery

1. The Dumville Family

Recently, on our Heald Green Heritage Facebook page, there were some lovely comments made about the family. Although their family business was not in Heald Green, many residents remembered it. For this reason, I contacted Caroline Dumville and she came to my house for a chat and a brew in November 2022. She shared her memories of her parents and grandparents along with some fantastic photos. Then Jeanne Yvonne Walsh contacted me. She is Caroline’s cousin, the daughter of Alan Dumville, and she also shared her photos and memories.

As far back as 1911 John Dumville, their Great Grandfather, was classed as a market gardener in the directory for Northern Etchells, Northenden. As you can see by the professions of those around him, it was all very rural. There was always the
Tatton Arms pub to retire to at the end of a long day though! The strip of land that John rented was further down from where Primrose Cottage would eventually be sited and was nearer to the pub. 


PC 1911-001 directory Northern Etchells, Northenden.jpg

Fig. 1.1 Directory of Northern Etchells, 1911
© Stockport Library
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PC 1910-001 Dumville family c.1910 (c) Caroline Dumville.jpg

Fig. 1.2 The Dumville Family, c 1910
© Jeanne Yvonne Walsh
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PC 1900-001 Jim Dumville, left 1900s (c) Jeanne Yvonne Walsh.jpg

Fig. 1.3 Blacksmiths, c 1910
© Jeanne Yvonne Walsh
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On the left is a photo, courtesy of Jeanne, of John and his wife Rebecca (nee Brown) with their 7 children. On the back row are Nellie, Jack, Joe, Annie and Jim (their grandad). On the front row are John, Lizzie, Rebecca and Lucy. All these children married local spouses except for Jim, and all lived in the Moss Nook area. Caroline found a remembrance card to celebrate John’s life that stated he died in 1920.

Caroline said that Jim started his working life as a blacksmith, at the old Styal Road end of Ringway Road. 


PC 1924-002 Grandad Jim, Nanna Laura, St Wilfreds Northenden in colour (c) Caroline Dumvil

Grandad Jim and Nana Laura were married on 7th June 1924 at St Wilfred’s church in Northenden. Having been born in 1893 Jim was now 31, Laura Willis born in 1899 was now 25.

Just take a look at this most fabulous photograph of them on their wedding day, from Caroline, looking so dapper. With many thanks to Jonathan Nobbs for colourising the photo.


Fig. 1.4 Jim and Laura's wedding, 1924
© Caroline Dumville
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Having returned from serving in the trenches during WW1, many were offered the chance to rent land. In 1934 Jim rented a strip of land from Manchester Corporation with a cottage there too. This became their Primrose Cottage business and their home until they both passed away. Caroline’s Uncles, Alan and Brian, had already been born when they moved in but her dad, Keith, was born there in 1935. Alan, Jeanne’s dad was born in 1925.

PC 1939-001 Flowers to the gate  Caroline_s dad Keith and his mum Laura (c) Caroline Dumvi

Fig. 1.5 Primrose Cottage Gardens, 1939
Keith with his mum Laura. They are picking flowers
that grew all the way to the front gate.

© Caroline Dumville
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PC 1940-001 L to R, unsure, nanna Laura, unsure, Elsie Worthington (c) Caroline Dumville.j

Fig. 1.6 This photo has to be during WW11, as the lady on the left was Mrs Brindle, a land girl. Next to her is Laura, then Annie Dumville (Jim’s sister) and Elsie Warrington who lived at 82 Ringway Road.
© Caroline Dumville
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Jim had rented a middle strip of land and therefore had neighbours on either side. Mr Newton was on the airport side and Mr Hunter on the other side towards the Tatton Arms. The Hunter’s had a big house with a monkey puzzle tree in their garden. It may have been called Shadow Moss House. The Dumville family home of Primrose Cottage was rather primitive. In fact, there was no bathroom. Laura would visit a relative to have a bath. The boys would be bathed in a tin bath, on a Saturday night, in front of the open fire. The outside toilet was a very small building around the back and was quite literally a plank of wood with a hole and a lid. If you look carefully, you can just make out the toilet building behind the tree.

PC 1980-002 Rear of Primrose Cottage c.1980 Toilet behind tree (c) Caroline Dumville.jpg

Fig. 1.7 The back of Primrose Cottage c.1980
© Caroline Dumville
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Caroline’s dad Keith, went to Shadow Moss School, that was just along from the cottage. It served as both a church and a school and closed in 1961 with the expansion of the airport. She told me that her dad hated every minute of it. He would sit in class and stare out of the window watching his dad in the fields and that was all he wanted to do. Therefore, at the age of 14, Keith left school to join his dad’s business. His brother Brian had also left school at the same age and done the same thing. Alan, his other brother, had not joined the family business and had gone off to university. 

Alan married Kathleen in 1947 and their daughter Jeanne was born the following year. Her brother Christopher was born in 1954.

PC 1946-001 Alan_s graduation Mcr Uni (c) Jeanne Yvonne Walsh.jpg

Fig. 1.8 Alan graduating from Manchester University in 1946.
© Jeanne Yvonne Walsh
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Fig. 1.9  c 1900. Laura is the baby with her mother, father, brother John Joseph and sister Mary Jane.
© Caroline Dumville
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PC 1905-001 Laura , red dress (c) Caroline Dumville.jpg

In 1958, at the age of 65, Grandad Jim passed away from pneumonia. Having been in the trenches his chest had been weakened. Caroline therefore never knew her paternal Grandfather. Jeanne did know him and worked at the nursery from about the age of 6 and became a dab hand at “pricking out” and serving in the back shop. It was during her time there that she developed an interest in bird watching. She would often go down to the “wild moss” at the end of their fields with her binoculars. It was full of wildlife. Yellow Hammers and Willow Warblers all singing their hearts out. Sadly, now gone due to the sprawl of the airport. Their Nana Laura would continue to live in the cottage until she died in 1987. She must have been a tough old lady living in a very basic cottage. Her sons had asked many times to have a bathroom installed in the cottage but were refused on the grounds that the council would move her to a better residence instead. However, the indomitable Laura wanted to stay put. I asked Caroline how her grandparents had met and I was surprised at her answer.

Laura was a Geordie from West Hartlepool. Hers is a sad tale that illustrates the shocking mortality rate in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Laura was born in 1899, the third child of the family. Mary Jane had been born in 1894 and John Joseph in 1897. As Laura never spoke about these siblings, it has been assumed that they died young. Her mother died in 1901 and her father remarried. Her stepmother, Margaret, already had a son when she married Laura’s father. They had a daughter Frances (Margaret Frances), Laura’s half-sister, in 1905. Her father then died in 1906 and her stepmother married Mr George Teal and went on to have another daughter, Daisy, in 1911. Laura referred to her as her half-sister too and yet there was no blood connection at all.


During WW1 Laura did her bit for the war effort at York Barracks. After the war, at the tender age of perhaps 20 or 21, she travelled all this way south to become a doctor’s maid at Cheadle Royal and at some point, met Jim. Her half-sister Frances would also move south, settling in Cheadle Hulme. Daisy stayed in Hartlepool.

PC 1919-001 Nana Laura York Barracks 31.7.1919 3rd row from back 2nd from left (c) Carolin

Fig. 1.10 York Barracks, 31st July 1919. Laura is 3rd row from the back and 2nd left. She was still in service after WW1 finished.
© Caroline Dumville
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PC 1980-003 Early 1980s Dad Keith, Nanna Laura, Uncle Brian outside Primrose Cottage (c) C
PC 1970-003 Uncle Brian and Nanna Laura. c1970s (c) Caroline Dumville.jpg

Fig. 1.11 Laura, c.1970s, with her son Brian
© Caroline Dumville
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Fig. 1.12 Son Keith, Laura and Brian
c.1980s at the cottage

© Caroline Dumville
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2. Post WWII and The Nursery

Brian and Keith continued to run the family business after their father’s death and eventually were able to rent the strips of land on either side of them, as they became available, therefore expanding the business. They did work very long hours and as well as cut flowers were growing cauliflowers, potatoes, runner beans and cabbages along with rhubarb. This ensured they had something to sell all year round. Most of the greenhouses were full of tomatoes. Eventually these became uneconomical to grow on such a small scale and, although loved by many, they stopped growing them. They went to Smithfield Market in Manchester to sell their excess produce, after supplying local small shops and selling on site, not always getting a fair price. 

PC 1956-001 loading rhubard onto trailer Ray Hunter on top and Keith Dumville at side (c)

Fig. 2.1 Keith at the back is loading rhubarb onto a trailer with his friend Ray Hunter, c 1956. Caroline doesn’t know who the other bottom belongs to!
© Caroline Dumville
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"My friend, Ray Hunter, used to live nearby on a small nursery. My 2 other mates, one lived in Rose Cottage, Heyhead and the other had the carpentry Wheel Wrights and his name was Dick Wright.”
- Bob Finney, Facebook, 2022

PC 1970-001 Caroline and cauliflowers (c) Caroline Dumville.jpg

The ‘back shop’ in Primrose Cottage sold the home-grown produce and also fruit and veg bought from Smithfield Market, along with cut flowers. It was a mini greengrocers open Monday to Saturday. However, Caroline remembered that Nana Laura would never turn anyone away regardless of day or time. Indeed, locals would knock on the door late into an evening, or even on Christmas day if they had forgotten to buy something! Pansies, wallflowers and other bedding plants were sold from a little shed there.

Fig. 2.2 Caroline, c 1970, with cauliflowers in her hands. Ringway Road can be seen in the background. This shows just how much land there was at the time.
© Caroline Dumville
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Caroline’s dad Keith met her mum Margery and they were married in 1962. She had been born in 1939, in Carrington Moss and was the only child of a farmer. He was to die suddenly when she was 15. She was the Secretary to young farmers in Altrincham. Keith, totally out of character, had decided that he needed the social skill of dancing and had gone for lessons where he met Margery. They were wed in Ashton in Mersey and moved into newly built 39 Birchdale Avenue, Heald Green. Margery’s mum moved into the bungalow next door, number 41.

Margery worked behind the scenes at Primrose Cottage, tirelessly potting all the plants in the greenhouses. Laura would also help out pricking out seedlings well into her eighties! Brian’s wife, Ann, also worked part time at the nursery in the shop. Caroline was born in 1966 and along with her brother Mike, lived on the Birchdale estate, and said it was a nice play to grow up. She also remembered being at the nursery in the school holidays, along with her brother, where the horticultural bug rubbed off on her, but not Mike. She still shudders thinking about the spiders in the outside loo! In the late 1970s the nursery started to cater more for retail customers. The small greengrocers’ shops, who the brothers used to supply, had closed down due to the rise in supermarkets.


PC 1980-006 Mum Margery c. early 1980s (c) Caroline Dumville.jpg

Fig. 2.3 Margery in the early 1980s
© Caroline Dumville
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PC 1980-005 Laura Dumville pricking out seedlings in the 1980s (c) Caroline Dumville.jpg

Fig. 2.4  Laura doing what she loved, in the 1980s, in her 80s!
© Caroline Dumville
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The nursery continued to evolve, adding more greenhouses and having a shop to sell gardening supplies and equipment. In 1985 a greenhouse was added to the shop and this increased the size threefold and also meant that houseplants could be sold that were gaining popularity.

PC 1980-001 Keith outside new garden shop (c) Caroline Dumville.jpg

Fig. 2.5 Outside the new garden shop, March 1980
© Caroline Dumville
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PC 1984-001 Primrose Nursery (c) Caroline Dumville.jpg

Fig. 2.7 Primrose Cottage Nursery, 1984
© Caroline Dumville
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This is what Jeanne told me about her father.

Dad graduated as an Electrical Engineer, having avoided conscription in the war years. He went on to work for
North Western Electricity and stayed with them all his life. His final role was District Engineer, Central District, Manchester. He retired early at 56 (1981) and would spend his time helping Brian and Keith at the Nursery. He finally succumbed to bone cancer having suffered for 10 years and died comparatively young at 72 compared to his brothers. He put his cancer down to exposure to high voltage electricity in the sub stations when he was young.”

Jeanne married Mick in 1975 and they have 2 daughters Katie and Megan. Christopher married Nonny and they had a daughter Lorna. They later separated and he remarried. Sadly, Nonny died of Covid a couple of years ago. 


PC 1980-004 Keith bunching chrysanthemums 1980s. Field on airport side of nursery (c) Caro

Fig. 2.6  Keith bunching up chrysanthemums in the 1980s, in the field on the airport side of the cottage
© Caroline Dumville
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PC 1990-001 Left to right Carolines Uncle Brian and dad Keith late 80s early 90s (c) Carol

Fig. 2.8  Brothers Brian & Keith in the late 1980s or early 1990s
© Caroline Dumville
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PC 1985-001 Alan and grandaughter Lorna (c) Caroline Dumville.jpg

Fig. 2.9  Alan with his granddaughter Lorna, 1985
She now has twin boys

© Jeanne Yvonne Walsh
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Caroline started working at the nursery in 1987, after graduating from Nottingham university with a horticultural degree. She had always worked there in her spare time anyway. She told me that from the age of 5 or 6, she used to get paid 2 pence per box to prick out seedlings. In fact, she had to stand on a box to reach the bench!

Manchester Airport continued to expand and there was always the threat of some of their land being used for either the rail link or eventual road bypass. As the land was only rented, they had little option but to see the back of their fields disappear when the airport rail link began and was eventually opened in 1993. They lost a big composting shed and British Rail paid two thirds of the cost for a new building to be built nearer to Ringway Road.


PC 2022-005 Derelict site November 2022 (c) H Morgan.jpg

Fig. 2.10  The new building, 2022
© Helen Morgan
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PC 2000-003 Early 2000s (c) Caroline Dumville.jpg

Fig. 2.12 A familiar sight to everyone who remembers
the nursery.  Early 2000s   

© Caroline Dumville
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PC 1998-003 Late 1990s (c) Caroline Dumville.jpg

Fig. 2.11 By the late 1990s, coffee shops within garden centres were all the rage and Primrose Cottage was no exception.   
© Caroline Dumville
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PC 2000-001 Early 2000s Hunter family house in background (c) Caroline Dumville.jpg

Fig. 2.13 In the background is the large house of the
Hunter family.  Early 2000s 

© Caroline Dumville
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Brian still worked part time well into his 80s, finally retiring in 2014. He passed away in 2018 aged 90.

PC 2009-001 Margery and Keith c 2009 (c) Caroline Dumville.jpg

Fig. 2.14 Margery and Keith c 2009 
© Caroline Dumville
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Caroline told me that her mum and dad were devoted to each other. Unfortunately, Margery suffered a severe stroke in 2011 and passed away in 2017. That was the year that Caroline decided to close the business there, because she was lucky enough to find a new, smaller site in Styal village. They knew it would be difficult to continue on Ringway Road once it was cut off from passing traffic. Keith was reluctant to leave, having spent all his working life there, but understood her decision and supported her then and afterwards. When the family told Manchester Corporation that they were moving away, they only wanted to give them four weeks to go and they had to ask them to make it six! All that rush to get them out and yet even in 2022 nothing has replaced them. The land has become a derelict site, that the airport has had to fence off to stop trespassers.

PC 2022-006 Derelict site  November 2022 (c)  H Morgan.jpg
PC 2022-001 Derelict site November 2022 (c) H Morgan.jpg

Fig. 2.15 Nov 2022
© Helen Morgan
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Fig. 2.16 Nov 2022
© Helen Morgan
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PC 2010-001 Aerial view Primrose Cottage Nurseries April 2010 (c) Caroline Dumville.jpg

In 2010, Caroline’s husband had the opportunity to fly over the business and take photos. In the April of that year a volcanic ash cloud had grounded planes across the UK and Manchester Airport was shut. Andrew’s friend, Gavin Moffatt got permission from the control tower to fly over in a microlight aircraft. The photo shows that the Hunter’s large house had been demolished by then and also the proposed bypass road to the airport that would eventually be built.

Fig. 2.17 Aerial View, 2010
© Caroline Dumville
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The new Primrose Cottage on Altrincham Road, opposite the Ship Inn, replaced Croftland Nurseries. Janet and Mike Marshall had been there for 27 years.

Prior to that it had been Noel and Norma Hancock’s business, who were childhood friends of Keith. When Margery’s mum had died in 1986, the family had sold both their bungalows and moved to Hollin Lane in Styal.

Caroline and her family moved there in 2020. Setting up there in Styal, and renting the land off the
National Trust, seemed just right for them.

PC 2022-009 Dad Keith and Caroline, Caroline_s photo (c) Caroline Dumville.jpg

Fig. 2.18 Keith and Caroline at the Styal Nursery when it opened, Nov 2017
© Caroline Dumville
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Keith had continued to work full time until Ringway Road nursery closed. He didn’t like being at home without his beloved wife Margery, who had spent her last 5 years in a nursing home. He supported Caroline wholeheartedly in her new venture. He made all the timber benches for her and the big outdoor display shed for the pots. He was now in his 80s and even up to 2021 was still wanting to be useful asking Caroline “are you sure you don’t need any more benches making!” Once a nurseryman, always a nurseryman.

Sadly, in May 2022, Keith died. He had been frail but still enjoyed walking his dog. This left Caroline to move the family business forward on her own.

During Covid in 2020, her husband Andrew had helped out with deliveries. It turned out to be more like a community service for helping the elderly deal with the loneliness, that isolation from Covid brought, as he would be gone for ages after lots of long conversations!  

Caroline married Andrew in 1997 and they have two girls, Laura and Isla.


PC 2022-008 Carolines family Andrew, Isla, Laura and Caroline (c) Caroline Dumville.jpg

Fig. 2.19 Andrew, Isla, Laura and Caroline, Oct 2022
© Caroline Dumville
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PC 2010-002 Caroline_s daughter Laura and grandad Keith (c) Caroline Dumville.jpg

Fig. 2.20 Laura with Grandad Keith, 2010
© Caroline Dumville
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Caroline’s girls attend Wilmslow High School and Laura is now in Year 13.  Once her daughters have gone to university, she will then decide on her next move. This may be to southwest Scotland, where Keith had a log cabin. She finds it hard surrounded by memories of her dad all around her and the girls have no interest in the business.

Caroline’s brother Mike lives near Wigan and he works mainly from home for a finance company. Whenever and wherever she moves on to, the Dumville era will finally come to an end. However, the family and the business will live long in the memories of others.


The Dumville family grave is at St Wilfred’s in Northenden. It shows the final resting place of great grandparents John and Rebecca and grandparents James and Laura. The other John on here, who died in 1967, is actually Jack on the family photo who never married. He was named after John his father, but was known as Jack.

PC 2022-010 Dumvilee family grave St Wilfreds Northenden (c) Caroline Dumville.jpg

Fig. 2.21 The Dumville family grave
© Caroline Dumville
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Local residents posted many memories on our Facebook page.

We lived opposite the nursery from 1979 to 1985 the shop there was so handy, lovely produce. Do you remember the Dobson family? We lived next door to Frank and Albert the other side- Spent many hours at the nursery happy memories."
- Pat Wheeldon, Facebook, 2022

JTG 1961.jpg

I used to live on Woodhouse Lane. My mother in law every week said to me “go to the Dumville’s and get a pound of tomatoes. That was in 1961."
- Joan Tinley Gibbons, Facebook, 2022

This was Joan’s family home. Rose View, Woodhouse Lane, Heyhead. It is now under a Manchester Airport carpark.

I was brought up in Crossacres where the countryside started, but Mum used to walk us up the lanes blackberry picking and visiting the cottages for flowers, tomatoes etc. When my friends and I were older, we spent so much time around Ringway in open fields and farmland. That would be in the 1950s. We were such lucky children to have so much countryside on our doorstep and had a wonderful childhood. I well remember a cottage we would go to on Mothering Sunday with perhaps a few pence and come away with an armful of flowers for Mum. I appreciate we got real value for our pennies, the lady was very kind. I cannot remember the cottage name."
- Gladys Best, Facebook, 2022

A fabulous everyday tale of a wonderful family. I lived in Heald Green for over twenty years and worked at the airport for the same amount of time. I’d popped into the nursery several times but had no idea it was such a family venture. I’ve looked at all the lovely photographs and read the stories of the family and feel I can imagine how Caroline feels unable to go down Ringway Road. I don’t blame her."
- Brenda McDougall, Facebook, 2022

Brought back many happy memories of Primrose Cottage Nursery. I always enjoyed walking over the road to buy plants - Keith and Brian were always so very helpful. I often had a cup of coffee with Keith - they had a wonderful coffee machine in the shop, and we used to sit on the chairs in the "tropical oasis" at the back. They are both sorely missed but it is lovely to see Caroline now at the "new" location - can't believe they have been there five years."
- Irene Jagla, Facebook, 2022

Mr and Mrs Dumville had been members of our Wine Circle for many years. Lovely gentle people."
- Iris Thorley, Facebook, 2022

Awww I remember breaking down in 1988 on Ringway Road. The cars sped past me on that narrow road at high speed. An elderly lady from Primrose Cottage beckoned me over and took me into her cottage to ring my dad to come and help me. She made me a gorgeous cup of tea in a china cup and saucer. I was only 18 and very, very grateful to her. I’ll never forget how kind she was!"
- Michelle Fleming, Facebook, 2022

My dad, David Hewitt, was also born in 1935 and lived in Heyhead. He went to school with Keith Dumville. Sadly, he has also passed away this year. It’s heartbreaking what has happened to the communities of Heyhead and Moss Nook."
- Kathy Simpson, Facebook, 2022

My aunt Phillis Hill’s sister, Doris, was married to Alex Pearson, a cousin of the Dumville Family. I knew Brian and Keith very well."
- Alan Meakin, Facebook, 2022

Remember the Dumville family, Primrose Cottage Nursery on Ringway Road. Laura and Jim plus 3 boys Alan, Brian and Keith all at rest now.

As an added thought. The original Primrose Cottage itself should have been protected by National Trust Heritage."
- Nicholas David Stoney (son of Laura’s half-sister Frances), Facebook, 2022


PC 1910-002 Frances (c) Caroline Dumville.jpg

With many thanks to Caroline for her memories and her photos that have helped me to write this article for her family. So strong are her feelings, that she can’t even look over when going past on the bypass and feels she will never travel down Ringway Road again. I do hope that in time this article helps to ease her sadness and she can look back on many wonderful, happy memories instead. From me to you xx

Caroline also told me that the family name originates from Calvados in Normandy. There have been Dumville clock and watchmakers in Cheshire and there is a Dumville Wood near Monks Heath. They may have come over with William the Conqueror. I shall leave that for you to research!!

Also, many thanks to Jeanne for her memories and photos that have helped me to put this article together for the family. It must be wonderful to be able to trace your family back over 100 years, but also have photos to show that these were real people with real lives, not just names on a page. She gave me one final golden nugget to share with you.

“I met another Dumville once, on holiday in Fair Isle. He told me that 2 brothers had come over from France (it is a French sounding name). One settled in Eastern England and went into glass making, the other in the West went into agriculture. I haven’t followed any of that up, but it is possible.”

Merci Madame!! xx




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