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Photo of Catherine Manley

Catherine Manley

Munitions Worker
Birthplace County Durham Urpeth England Date of Birth: March 25, 1901 Date of Death: February 6, 1988


Full name of worker at H.M. Factory Gretna (and any other names they are known by) :

Catherine ( Kitty/Kate) Manley/Manly

Gender: Female
Date and place of birth : 25th March 1901 No Place, Urpeth, Durham ( Near Beamish)
Date and Place of Death: 6th February 1988 , Washington, County Durham
Nationality: English of Irish background

Childhood: Impoverished, father died when she was 9
Parents: Thomas Munnally ( Manley/Manly) and Catherine nee Keenan( Kinnin/Keelan)
Parents occupations: Coke Drawer
Schools / universities attended and years of attendance:  None known
Occupation: Munitionette
Place of residence at Gretna: Not known
Marital status: Married
Children : 4
Travels : None known
Awards/recognitions: None known
Positions held : None known
Trivia / any other information:  None known

Books published (Title, year of publication, publisher):
Books written about the individual or mentioning the individual (Title, year of publication, publisher):


Blogs about the individual:
Websites about the individual:

Further links, notes, and comments:


Catherine/Kitty/Kate Manley 1901- 1988 

Catherine at HM Factory Gretna. Photo courtesy of Catherine’s family.

Catherine Manley, known to her family as Kitty or Kate , was born on 25th March 1901 to Catherine nee Keenan ( Keelan) and Thomas. Catherine was born at 89 John Street, No Place, Urpeth, Durham – near Beamish. She was the 5th of 8 children born between 1891 and 1906. 

Thomas and Catherine senior were both Irish Catholics. Roman Catholic church records confirm that Thomas was born and baptised in Tallaghanduff, Co. Mayo, Ireland in 1865. His name at birth was Munnally which he changed prior to his marriage in England. Catherine senior was one of at least 11 children according to the 1881 census, her parents having been born in Ireland but she in Durham. Her father was a coke burner.  

Thomas and Catherine married at Sacred Heart Church, Byermoor on 21st January 1891. Shortly afterwards, the 1891 census revealed that they were living at Farm Cottage, Lamesley , Durham, their surname was Manly and Thomas was a coke drawer. That same year their first child, Ann(e) was born. 

Anne was followed by Mary in 1893, John in 1897, Lizzie in 1899, Catherine in 1901, Julia A who was born and died in 1903, Thomas who was born and died in 1905 and finally Matthew ( Matty ) in 1906. We learn later from the 1911 census that 3 of their 8 children died . There is no evidence of Mary after her birth. 

The 1901 census lists Thomas at  33 as a  coke drawer, Catherine 28, John 4, Lizzie 2 and Catherine 1 month. Catherine senior’s sister Margaret is also at the address and is working as a dressmaker.   

Mary is missing from this census and cannot be found on any documentation. Annie ( Anne )Manley , 12 is a patient in a Special hospital, Chester le Street. Wikipedia notes that Chester le Street hospital was founded as a workhouse and  “A new infirmary and isolation block were added to the south of the workhouse in 1898” Perhaps Annie had tuberculosis 

Before the next census in 1911 when Catherine was 10 , 3 more siblings had arrived and her father had died prematurely aged 45 on 2nd June  1910. This made Catherine, 38, head of the family. Son John at 14 was a coal miner driver underground, Lizzie, 12 was at school as was Kate ( Catherine ) 10, Matthew was 4. This 4 room dwelling at 10 Rifle Street, Stanley was also home to a young couple and their 2 year old and 4 month old as lodgers.   

Ann can be found on a separate return aged 19 living with her maternal grandparents and three unmarried uncles. Her grandfather is 72 and still working at the coke works. Annie has no occupation. They lived at Marley Hill which is where Catherine’s ( Kitty/Kate’s) mother was born. Their family name is spelled Kinnon.  

By the time Kitty was 16 in 1917 she was working as one of the youngest munitionettes at H.M. Factory, Gretna. A public member tree on includes this information and a photograph of Kitty in her Factory ‘uniform’. Many beautiful family photographs are included in the attached folder, all sourced from the same member. Having experienced the death of  her father and 3 siblings Kitty was possibly mature for 16 .  

However, some time in 1917, her mother remarried. It is unclear which came first, Kitty moving to Gretna or her mother’s marriage. The marriage to Patrick Croney took place at St Joseph’s RC church, Stanley. Patrick, born in 1862 was 55 and Catherine 44. It seems that this was Patrick’s second marriage although the date of the first is not clear we know that he was widowed in 1914.. He had several children, one of whom was lost in France on 14th September 1918. Was Catherine at her mother’s marriage? 

Kitty will have spent her time at Gretna working in the dangerous conditions of the time, living in one of the hostels or huts and enjoying the entertainment arranged in the form of dances, concerts etc. If she was there for the duration she would have left as production ground to a halt in 1918. 

The next  factual evidence of Kitty is the 31st May 1919 when at aged 19 she married Christopher ( Kit)Wardle of 9 Briscoe Street, Gateshead at St Oswald’s RC Church Wrekenton, Durham. We learn later that Christopher was a mines storeman  -but there are photographs of him in uniform (included in the attached folder). Questions arise as to whether he served at Gretna for the Ministry of Munitions or whether  he saw active service but Kitty and he must have developed a relationship before the end of the war. No service record is evident. 

Christopher ( Kit) was born in 1893 at Hewerth Colliery, Durham. He was the 3rd son of at least 7 children of William a coal storeman and Margaret. At 17 in 1911 he was working down the mine. 

Just 10 months later, aged 20, Kitty gave birth to a daughter Joan at 6 Claremont Terrace, Springwell Village, Gateshead. 11 months later on 16th February 1921 she had her first son Jack/John. A second son ,Dennis,  arrived on New Years Eve 1922, a 22 month age gap this time. Her final child arrived 12 years later , Catherine Moira ( Moyra) was born on 22nd February 1934 at 12 Wordsworth Crescent, Springwell. This was a step up from the stone built terrace previously occupied.  

In 1938, Kitty’s sister Ann died aged 46. We know that Kitty and Kit spent holidays at a relative or family friend’s cottage at Rydal in the Lake District, There are photographs of them sitting in the garden of  the Lakeland cottage.  

The 1939 register places the Wardles at 10 Palmers Villa, Washington County Durham. Christopher is a “mines storeman heavy work . Two lines are blanked out – Joan and Jack( John). Dennis is listed as a colliery repair depot ?t-wright, heavy worker. Catherine Moira is at school.   

Tragically, Kitty’s son John was “ a casualty of the war”. He was killed on 11th May 1943 at Great Yarmouth. He was a driver with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and was only 22. These details appear on His service number was 10576945 and he was buried in St Oswald’s RC Churchyard at home.  

We know that  Kitty’s mother dies in 1946 and her husband Kit on 14th June 1955 at Little Lumley. Probate indicates that his usual address is 12 Wordsworth Crescent, Springwell. He left effects of £695 2s to his widow, Catherine. The death of Kit dates all the photographs of them both in the attached folder to pre 1955.  

Son Dennis died in 1967 aged 45  

Kitty survived Kit by 33 years dying at Washington , County Durham on 6th February 1988 aged 87. We know that she had at least 3 grandchildren, 2 to Joan and 1 to Dennis. There is no evidence that Kitty remarried.  


Further information from Kitty’s family:

When Kitty was born on 25th March 1901 her family were living at 39 John Street, No Place (near Beamish), in the civil parish of Urpeth.  Her birth certificate states she was born at 89 John Street, however the 1901 census taken on 1st April 1901 has the family living at 39 John Street.  John Street still exists.


Kitty was baptised at St Joseph’s RCC at Stanley on 7th April 1901.


Kitty’s father, Thomas Manley was born in 1865 and migrated from Tallaghanduff in Co. Mayo, Ireland, sometime in the late 1880’s we believe.  He came to the North East of England with his brothers John, Michael, Dennis, Anthony and Andrew.  They all settled and married in the Stanley area.  Thomas’ sister Mary stayed in Ireland and married John Boylan in 1897.  They lived in Aghaglasheen, Co. Mayo and had 11 children.    The family name was actually Munnelly (father John ‘Jack Mor’ Munnelly and mother Mary Carolan).   The brothers all changed their name to Manley when living in England.  We don’t know if this was a deliberate attempt to anglicise their name or if their name was simply spelt this way by English officials due to how it sounded when it was pronounced by the brothers.


Kitty’s mother Catherine Keenan was one of 12 children born to Matthew Keenan and Anne Malone.  Matthew was born about 1839 in Iniskeen, Co. Monaghan, Ireland, and Anne Malone was born around 1840 in Co. Louth, Ireland.  They married around 1862 in Ireland and had their daughter Mary around Dec 1863 in Co. Louth.  The rest of their children were born in Marley Hill, Co. Durham.  Catherine was born in 1872.


Thomas and Catherine married at the Sacred Heart RCC, Byermoor on 24th January 1891.   They had 8 children between 1891 and 1906.  On the 1891 census they were living at Farm Cottage, Hedley, in the civil parish of Lamesley.   Their first child Ann was born in 1891.  Mary was born in 1893 but died of heart failure, measles, and bronchio pneumonia in 1896.  Son John was born in 1896, Elizabeth (Lizzie) in 1898, Catherine (Kitty) in 1901.   Julia Honor was born in 1903 and died 3 months later with bronchio pneumonia.  Thomas was born in 1905 and died 4 months later of bronchio pneumonia.  Youngest son Matthew (Mattie) was born in 1906.   So 3 of Kitty’s siblings died as infants, but we were not aware of these children until we researched the records.  Kitty and her surviving siblings were not known to have spoken about them at any time.  Annie, John, Lizzie, Kitty and Mattie all survived to marry and have their own children.


Kitty’s dad Thomas died on 2nd June 1910 at 10 Rifle Street, Stanley, Co. Durham.  He died of phthisis pulmonalis (TB).  Kitty always remembered her father fondly and he was described to me as ‘an angel’ by one of Kitty’s cousins.  When I asked what being an angel entailed, she said that he would spend time with his wife, going on walks with her.  She remembered a gentle man who had loved his wife.


Following their father’s death the older children were sent off to work, sometimes with relatives.  It was not a good time for them.  Kitty went into domestic service, we are not quite sure where but possibly Gateshead or Newcastle.  She hated this work and this prompted her to go to Gretna to work in the munitions factory.  We think she was possibly just 15 when she went to Gretna, and she told us that she was actually considered too young to work at the factory so she lied and used her older sister Lizzie’s date of birth.  Lizzie always described her little sister as having a sense of adventure and mischief.


Kitty’s mother Catherine did re-marry to widower Patrick Croney on 29th Sept 1917.  The children did stay in touch with their mother and Kitty visited her but relations were reportedly strained.  Catherine’s second marriage was witnessed by her sister Elizabeth Duffy.  We do not know if any of Catherine’s children were in attendance.


We’re not sure exactly when Kitty left Gretna but she did return home to the north-east where she met and married the love of her life Kit (Christopher) Wardle on 31st May 1919, when she was just 18.  Kit was 25 at the time of their marriage at St Oswald’s RCC in Wrekenton.  He had been on active service with the Border regiment from 4th September 1914 until 9th January 1919.  We know that he’d spent time in Salonika (now Thessaloniki) in Greece, and he suffered with malaria.  At the time of their marriage Kit lived with his family at 15 Edward Street, Springwell Village, and Kitty lived at 9 Briscoe Street, Gateshead. We don’t know whether she was in service there or living with extended family.  Kit and Kitty lived in Springwell Village for the entirety of their married life.  Kit worked as a coal miner, (a Stoneman underground) a job he did not like.  We believe he’d wanted to join the police force but was persuaded to go into the mine with other male family members.  Kit was not catholic but the couple were married in the catholic church and their children were brought up in the catholic faith.


Kit was the youngest of 8 children born to William Wardle and Margaret Ann Haswell between 1877 and 1893.  He was born in Heworth in 1893 but by 1911 the family lived at Springwell Village.


Kit and Kitty had 4 children.  Joan was born on 4th March 1920 at 6 Claremont Terrace, Springwell.  Jack was born in Springwell on 16th Feb 1921.  In 1921 the family were still living in Claremont Terrace.  Dennis was born on 31st December 1922.  Then a gap of over 11 years before their youngest child Catherine Moira was born on 22nd February 1934.  The family were living at 10 Palmers Villas at the time of Catherine’s birth and were still there in 1939 (on the 1939 register).   Catherine is the only surviving member of the family, and she can still remember all of the neighbours at Palmers Villas and where each one lived.


The family moved to 12 Wordsworth Crescent in Springwell Village sometime after 1939.  Kit and Kitty were a loving and hardworking couple.  As well as Kit’s diary we also have letters sent to Kitty by Kit when he went for miner’s recuperation trips to Conishead Priory in Ulverston, Cumbria.  Kit also administered the soup kitchen in Springwell during the 1926 general strike.


Their son Jack was killed on 11th May 1943  at Great Yarmouth as you have recorded.  His death is recorded by Kit in his diary and his utter grief at the death of his son impacted his health for the rest of his life.  Jack was just 22.  He had been home on leave for his brother Dennis’ marriage just a couple of weeks before his death.


Daughter Joan joined the WAAF during WWII and Kit talks in his diary about the letters received from her while she was away.  The family wrote to each other frequently, often daily, while away from home.  When Kit was not working in the pit he would take Kitty and Catherine (always referred to as Kathleen by her family) to the cinema very often.  His diary tells us about the films they saw, and the numerous cinemas they could visit.


Daughter Catherine (my mother) recalls happy family times going for long walks, playing cards, visiting extended family, and later lots of trips to the beach at South Shields.  Her brother Dennis and his wife Suzie often instigated these beach trips, travelling on their motorbike with sidecar and inviting along friends and family.  They also spent time in Rydal, Cumbria at the home of John and Elizabeth who opened their home to visitors and became family friends.  My parents spent their honeymoon there and we continued to visit Rydal until John and Elizabeth’s deaths around 1980.


Kit tragically died in 1955 at Little Lumley aged just 61.  Kitty grieved her husband for the rest of her life.  Kit lived to see the birth of Dennis’ only child Jack (his diary records his pure delight at the name of his first grandson).  Joan married and had two children. Catherine also married and had two children.


Dennis died in 1967 aged just 44.


Kitty lived at Wordsworth Crescent in Springwell until around 1986 when she moved to a care home in Washington.  She died there on 6th Feb 1988 aged 86.   Joan died in 1991.  Catherine survives the rest of her family and now lives in Pitlochry, Perthshire having inherited Kitty’s sense of adventure.


We have fond and sharp memories of our grandmother Kitty.  Her early family circumstances meant that she missed out on a lot of education, but she was an intelligent lady and loved to take her grandchildren on walks, tell us stories, and play cards with us.  She had a sharp sense of humour but also deeply grieved the tragic losses of her husband and sons. We have the sense that her time in Gretna was an adventure, we will never know the reality of that adventure but are quite sure that she was proud to have served there.

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