Alberta Vickridge was born in Bradford on 6th February 1890, the daughter of Albert Vickridge and Edith [nèe Wardlow].
Albert Vickridge was the son of a Methodist Minister and had gone into the wool trade, joining his Uncle Isaac Lancaster’s firm in Bradford. He married Edith in 1888 and it is said that Albert had a pistol in his pocket because of threats from a rival suitor.
Edith had inherited a considerable sum of money (£30,000) after the death of her parents and Albert was able to set himself up in business by borrowing from his wife. He prospered in the wool trade and eventually built up a lucrative business importing wool from Ireland.
In the early years of their marriage the family lived at 3, Ashfield, a terraced house on the Bradford Road at Frizinghall, a suburb of Bradford, opposite to where they were eventually to live from 1895 onward: Beamsley House.
Two other daughters, Marian, (known as May) born 1891, and Hilda (known as Dill), born 1892, completed the family. By 1902 the family were affluent enough to employ two live-in servants, a gardener, and a resident governess who tutored the three children until they were old enough to go to Bradford Girl’s Grammar School.
Alberta’s parents: Albert and Edith, with Maria (left), Alberta (middle) and Hilda (right), (circa 1895)
The three sisters were brought up in a strict Methodist household and attended the Toller Lane Methodist Church in Bradford. Albert was an easy-going father, but Edith was a sterner, more decisive character and did not approve of the girls having friendships away from the family.
Subsequently, the three sisters drew in on themselves; a trait Alberta never really relinquished. Alberta, the oldest, was imaginative and was always inventing games for the others. The three girls would also go for long walks with their governess, Hilda Dixon, who encouraged Alberta’s literary pursuits and instincts.
Alberta (left), Maria and Hilda (circa 1898)
In 1902, at the age of twelve, Alberta joined Bradford Girl’s Grammar School, where she stayed until she was 18. The Headmistress, Miss Roberts, was to play a significant role in Alberta’s career path, and Alberta later wrote a glowing tribute to the Headteacher in a school magazine. Alberta had written poetry for some years before starting at the Grammar School, but her education there shaped her already evident talent for writing and interest in literature.
Alberta (left), Hilda, Maria (circa 1906)
In 1905, for her 14th birthday, Alberta’s father paid for the private printing of a book of her, titled The Luck of the Youngest & Other Pieces. This contained an extended play for four characters, plus a range of Alberta’s early poems. There is an affectionate dedication to Alberta on the title page by her father.
The poems in the book suggest that Alberta was already beginning to look beyond description of nature to what she saw as its spiritual dimensions. She was, for example, beginning to draw parallels between the rise and fall of the seasons and the life and fortunes of Mankind.
The play in this early book also introduces themes that were to recur in her poetry over the years. These included myth and romantic legend, and particularly the tension between loyalty and fidelity and the darker forces of deceit and betrayal.