Arthur Hullatt Elliott
Arthur Hullatt Elliott was born on the 1st of January 1884 at Bolnhurst, Bedford.
He was one of 7 children born into poverty. He caught Measles when he was 7 and unfortunately, as a result of this, his hearing was impaired for the rest of his life.
When Arthur was young, he accompanied his father to seek help from the Parish Relief Fund, because their family were destitute and starving. They were not given any help then. They were living on hips, haws and blackberries from the hedgerows and rabbit when available.
He left school aged 12 with a labour certificate and also when aged 12, with the use of a treadle lathe, he turned some stair bannisters for a shop in Bedford. His father was a carpenter, so perhaps that was what set him on his way to wood turning later.
His first employment after leaving school was as an assistant to a baker and he also worked for a butcher at some point. Any orders to those shops were delivered by bicycle. Sometimes this meant a longer journey with Arthur cycling up to 5 miles to a big house in Milton Ernest to deliver the orders. The house is believed now to be used as a care home.
Arthur was called up three times to fight in WW1, but because of his deafness he was turned down each time. He turned shaving brush handles for the troops at some point.
For some time he lived in London before finally moving back to Bedford. There is no information as to his occupation whilst in London, although a photograph of him as a young man shows him smartly dressed. His future wife Mary was born and lived in London. They married in 1919 in Bedford and had 2 children.
In 1928 he managed to buy an electric motor to power his wood turning work. He had a large workshop behind the house that he and Mary rented in Bedford.
He was self- employed, and he was given wood turning work from JP White and Sons, Architectural Woodworkers and Joiners in Bedford and in addition to that, anyone who had heard about his work by word of mouth, would come to his house to employ him to make an item to be turned for them. Money was always tight and life was tough, there would often be periods of no work at all.
His work was varied and so very different in scale. The largest project that he had worked on was turning 26 columns, 20 ft tall by 2’-6” wide (6 metres by 0.75 metre) for the Civic Centre Council Chambers in Swansea, Wales and the smallest was the bored out middle of a matchstick and a very tiny pin with a pin head inside the matchstick, all done by him on his lathe.
His works were many and some are as follows and in no particular order:
• During WW2 some of his work was making wooden floats for fishing vessels because cork was not available from Spain at the time. Also, in WW2 he made parts for the Mosquito aircraft, believed to be connections/ fixings for the auxiliary fuel tanks.
• Ornamental Pieces for the top of the screening and also the columns, near the alter of St. Brides Church in London. These were done after the rebuilding works; the church having been bombed in WW2.
• Lloyds of London Insurance underwriters’ Lutine bell clock face surround and the columns around it.
• The legs for the Battle of Britain Altar table in The Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey London.
Coffee table legs for King George V1.
• Part of the cheval mirror (a turned spindle) presented to Princess Elizabeth upon her marriage to Prince Phillip as a gift from the people of Bedford.
• A lectern for St Martins in the Field Church Trafalgar Square London.
• The bezel edges surrounding the clock faces for “Stormont” the Northern Ireland Parliament.
• He made fruit bowls, candle sticks, standard lamps, mangle rollers, skittles, children’s toys, balls for throwing at the coconut shy at the Bedford fair each year, darning mushrooms, bungs for beer barrels etc.
He was working on the columns for The Percy Gee Building at Leicester University just a day before he passed away aged 79 in 1963 from heart failure.
He had a good education, even though it was extremely few years by today’s standards. He loved to complete crosswords, liked reading any literature and especially poetry which he would recite. He cycled everywhere. He always wore a trilby hat, even when woodturning.
He used to enjoy watching the cricket matches held in Bedford Park next to the Foster Hill Road cemetery.
Their son John (known as Jack) has a cremation plaque in the same cemetery near the chapel. He was a prisoner of war in WW2 and imprisoned in Stalag 8B in Poland and was one of the men who were on the long march home at the end of the war. He survived and returned to Bedford. He died in 1957 of a brain tumour aged 37 leaving a wife and son.
Arthur’s wife Mary is buried in a cemetery just outside Leicester. She had moved from Bedford to live with her family after the death of Arthur, until she passed away in 1981.
Arthur’s daughter Elsie, who is 98 at the time of this information being given (July 2021), said that her father had a wonderful sense of humour, he was mild tempered and a true gentleman.
Photographs of Arthur Hullatt Elliott at his mother’s home (left) and later in life working at his lathe whilst wearing his trilby hat.
Information prepared and written by Hilary Simpson, granddaughter of Arthur Hulatt ELLIOTT, August 2021, together with family photographs.
Photographs and restoration of Grave T. 370 – Colin Woolf & Edward Spirito, Friends of Bedford Cemetery.
January 22, 2023
October 10, 2022
August 13, 2022