Behind the White Wall
Perhaps some Rhodesite's may remember the gardens behind the high white wall which stretches from Croft Gates to Irk View. There were also allotments there and a large field where the bun-fights sports evenings were sometimes held after the Whit Walks.
Rhodes Cottage, where I was born in 1922, was built on this land, where my Mother and Uncle Egbert Mills were also born in 1887 and 1889. My Grandfather was foreman bleacher at the Croft Bleach Works, which was part of Schwabe's Calico Printing Works in Rhodes. We all lived together with my Grandparents.
The land was owned by the Schwabe family. They lived in the large house on the land, called Rhodes House, although for some reason, this had been demolished before I was born. My Mother used to tell me stories about the house and family. As a young girl, she and Egbert used to play cricket with the young Schwabes and their friends. Apparently the house was very grand, with a large ballroom with mirrored walls. She remembered the carriages driving up through the wide driveway, which was approached through wrought iron gates, from Manchester Old Road, near to Irk View, and all the servants attending the elegantly attired guests .
When my mother was about eight years old, my Grandmother was asked by the Schwabes, if she would agree to have a young man from Austria to stay with them at Rhodes Cottage. His name was Rudolf Rosenthal, 21 years of age, who was to learn all about the Cotton Industry, but spoke very little English. They felt it would be better for him to live in a home, where Granny could mother him a little, and also help him with the language.
Ours was a large cottage, with several entrances and a separate wing, so he would be completely self contained. But my Grandmother was concerned about the catering for him, so it was arranged for her to spend some time at Rhodes House with the chef to learn the more complicated dishes and presentation.
Rudolf came from an aristocratic family in Vorelburg, Austria. His father was a personal friend to Duke Ferdinand of Austria. My mother came to idolise him. A young handsome man, with a shy foreign accent. She told me, after dinner each evening, when she went to his sitting room to remove his tray, there was always some small gift for her lying on the tray. He had his own personal mail bag sent up from Rhodes Post Office every day and every month, a carriage would drive up Croft Road to take him to Manchester on his way home to Voralburg. In passing through London, he would send off a gift to my Grandmother.
When, after several years, he had completed his training and was about to leave Rhodes, he asked my Grandmother if she would allow him to take my Mother back with him, to be educated in Vienna, with the children of his family. Grandmother gave my mother the choice, but Agnes, being a shy girl of 11 years shook her head, and he sadly left.
The following year he returned, to introduce his new wife Rena, to his English mother. They were on their honeymoon, travelling to America. There they stayed, living in New York, where Rudolf put his experience in the printing trade of fabrics to good use. He and Rena became famous for their art and interior design business. The shop, which I believe was on 42nd Street, New York, was called “Rena Rosenthal”.
Every Christmas they sent gifts to my Grandmother and Mother and then when I came along, I was included. Always something exciting from their own collection. In 1949 when my son David was born, they sent the latest in baby clothes and toddler outfits. Sadly in 1953, Rudolph and Rena both died.
In 1954, my husband and I were living in Germany with our two young children. My parents came to stay for a holiday with us, during which, we took them touring in Germany and Austria. My husband planned the journey, but didn’t tell them until we arrived that our destination was Vorelburg. I can’t describe the delight and excitement my mother expressed, when we drove up to the Schloss in the mountains, which had been Rudolph’s home. She was determined to go inside and introduce herself and find out something about the Rosenthal family.
We were made very welcome, but it was difficult going into much detail because of the language barrier. However after several glasses of schnapps, we were shown around and told that it was furnished exactly as it had been in Rudolph’s day. Sadly, the Nazi’s had executed all the family. You see they were Jews!
Now, all that land behind the White Wall which had been my Mother’s delight and my childhood playground is covered with houses. I wonder if some happy ghosts still linger there?
Rena Griffiths (nee Patsy Pedley). August 2011.
This article was kindly sent by Bob Pedley and also featured in the publication 'Memories of Middleton' (See advert box up on the left).
Update, 2013. Rena Griffiths sadly passed away earlier this year in March. This lovely tale of her memories and the people world-wide that she has since brought together as a result will live on as a tribute to her. RIP, Rena.
A posting regarding a family memory linked the man who married the woman in who's history I am interested, Rena Rosenthal. The UK link is interesting as is the name of the man who married the elusive gallery owner. She was sister to the architect Ely Jaques Kahn and she was a discoverer of many great talents. I have found two addresses for her midtown gallery (both on Madison), but nothing is known of the pre-war endeavor, as the date of the galleries opening is given as 1919. However the date for her death I believe to have been 1966. I do not know when the gallery closed. Very recently I asked if an object could have been bought in her store and was told yes and that she knew the artist well. Rena Rosenthal was a very important exponent of modernism in America and I just learned the name of her husband, his training and trade, and perhaps a glimpse into a lost decade, thank-you.
Michael Einhorn, Sebastopol California
I have some better information. Rudolf Rosenthal married Rena Khan (both families from Hohenems, Austria) in New York City, 1901. I believe they settled in Austria for a decade, and Rudolf's second visit could be on his way back from America. I know next to nothing of the next twenty years or much about Rudolf at all except there is a photo around his wedding date published in the latest history of Ely Jaques Khan. Rudolf's parents died in the teens and twenties, his sister, Clara Heimann Rosenthal lived in the family house until 1936 when she sold it. She was the last living family member residing in Hohenems and she was deported and murdered. Twenty years ago the family home became a Jewish Museum, in a town where there are no Jewish people. However, I am told that there is a new influx of Jewish immigrant arrivals. Rena Griffiths' family memories are quite old, I think very accurate in spirit, and a testament to how much things change and stay the same. Thank-you very much.
Michael Einhorn, Sebastopol California, USA
After a long time trying to find information on Rena, my namesake, this afternoon I decided to try Rudolf and up came your fascinating tale. My mother worked with Rena and was wondering if you could connect me with one of the persons that seemed to know about her. I have pics and really don't know who they are. Could you help me?
Thanks, Rena Perez (Grossman)
Rena, I've tried to contact Michael above in order to put you both in touch but there are no responses as yet to my emails to the address I had. All I can do is put the note here and hope he visits the page again soon to see it. Here's hoping for you! Colette.
I am Hanno Loewy, the Director of the Jewish Museum in Hohenems, Austria.
I found the article "Behind the white wall" on the Middletonia homepage and I was excited to learn about the personal experiences of Rena Griffiths with the Rosenthals. In the conversation I also saw that Rena Perez (Grossman) (not identical with Rena Griffiths???) says that she has pictures (of Rena Rosenthal and others). We have a large photo archive here in the museum. Part of it is already visible in our online genealogy database www.hohenemsgenealogy.at, including Rena, Rudolf and all their relatives, i.e. the Bles from Manchester. Other photographs will go online this year.
I would love to get in touch with Rena Perez, so you might be able to help us (and her) by getting us connected.
With best regards
PS: our museum's website www.jm-hohenems.at presents rich information, also in English.