I WAS recently contacted by Harold “Butch” Frick from St Louis in Missouri, USA, who some years ago had bought in an antique shop a photograph of a young lady.

Ever since, he has been trying to find out more about the young lady, without much success.

Then whilst reading the online version of the Nostalgia page the thought came to Butch to contact the Bucks Free Press.

Written on the back of the print were the words “Elsie Mead 1902”, and the imprint of the well-known High Wycombe photographers Sweetlands. These were valuable clues.

It transpires that this is almost certainly the Elsie Kate Mead who was born in West Wycombe on February 21 1886.

She was the second daughter of William and Jane Mead nee Cocks, both of whom had themselves been born in the village.

William was a baker and the couple operated a grocer’s shop in the village. In addition to Elsie they had another seven children, two of whom died in infancy.

By the time of the census in 1911 they were living in a house with a total of nine rooms, so had probably moved away from the shop, which they still operated.

Elsie, like her brothers and sisters, attended the village school, being just 3 years old when she was admitted on June 26 1889. She was the only one of them to remain at the school after the normal leaving age.

She was appointed a “pupil teacher” on January 1 1902, and she remained as such until December 31 1904. The school log book records that on April 26 1902, when she would have been 16, Elsie and another girl Gertrude Holland, “attended the examination held at High Wycombe as candidates”.

On June 9 of that year the school received the news that “they had each passed the examination”. Elsie’s training required her to attend courses at the Science and Art School in Wycombe and in December 1903 she received an award at the annual prize giving ceremony. In 1905 Elsie qualified to become a “certificated teacher”.

The Mead family attended the Congregational church in West Wycombe, where from a young age Elsie played the organ. At their annual festival in 1903, when she was aged just 17, it was reported “Miss Elsie Mead deserves great credit for the way in which she accompanied the special service throughout the evening”.

It would appear that Elsie inherited her educational interests from her father, as both were members of the Literary Section of the Wesley Guild in West Wycombe. William was presiding at a meeting of the Guild in December 1908 when presentations were made on the subject of “Famous Spots in Bucks”.

Elsie presented a paper on places which had been made famous by literary men.

Elsie moved away from the village for a time in order to further her teaching career. In 1911 she was a boarder in a house in Kettering, Northants, occupied by the family of Henry Cox, who was a rent collector for the local council. Elsie was employed at that time as an elementary school teacher.

Tragedy struck the Mead family during the Great War of 1914-18, when they lost their son Gilbert. He was a Driver in the Royal Field Artillery and died of wounds on May 4, 1915.

William Mead died in 1923, and it is probable that Elsie then returned to West Wycombe to take over the running of the shop. She was certainly back there in 1929, when she was listed in the Electoral Register as the owner.

However by the outbreak of WW2 she was living in High Wycombe at No.50 in the High Street and listed in the Register of 1939 as a “Grocer and Baker, shopkeeper”.

She is not listed under High Wycombe in Kelly’s Trade Directory for that year, so presumably the shop was still the one in West Wycombe.

Elsie died on November 8, 1967 at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, when she was living at a house called The Spinneys in Fingest.

She never married, perhaps because she lost her one and only true love some fifty years earlier in the Great War. However, Robert N Giles a University Lecturer was granted probate of her estate valued at £8,887, equivalent to about £135,000 today.

Butch Frick will be very pleased to pass on his photograph of Elsie Mead to any member of her extended family, with no charge. If you are related to Elsie please contact me at deweymiked@aol.com or 01628 525207.