A Medal and a Brief History

I bought a small parcel of medallions from eBay earlier in the week. I really only wanted one of them, and I would have liked them to be cheaper, but the drive to collect is strong and I ended up buying them. One of the items was a white metal cross awarded for attendance by the Preston Church Day Schools Association. It’s pleasant enough, though not really something I collect. There are two notable features about it, the first being the mark on the reverse of the lower arm.

At first glance it looks like accidental damage. White metal is an alloy of lead or tin used for cheap souvenir medallions and such things and is easily damaged. However, a second look reveals that the damage seems to have been done with a tool – I suspect a small hacksaw. It’s what we call a test cut in the trade, a cut inflicted on an item to check if it is silver or not. There was no need to have done this, as it clearly isn’t silver, but some people just do it automatically. Whether this is a flaw, or whether it adds to the story is something you will have to make your own mind up about.


The other interesting feature is that it is name on the reverse – to Edward Valliant, who sounds like a character from Bunyan.

Due to the unusual name I can tell you that Edward Valiant was born and baptised in 1894 in the Parish of All Saints in Preston, the son of Richard and May Valiant of 46, Lady St. Richard was a Railway Porter. In 1911 there were three boys and two girls in the family and Edward was a cotton weaver. He appears, with a short break, to have worked in the cotton industry for a large part of his life (being listed as a cotton taper in 1939. At this time cotton was the major employer in Preston, and in much of Lancashire. His father was dead by 1911 and the head of the family was his mother, though his brother Thomas signed the Census form.

Edward served in the Loyal North Lancaster Regiment during 1916-18 and appears to have avoided injury in that time. He married in 1920 and 54 years later his wife, Lily, died. Edward followed her a year later. His address at the time was 219, Fletcher Road, the same as his 1939 address. It’s a two bedroomed terraced house, which is still standing. Lady Street, his previous address has been demolished and although All Saints Church survives, the area around it has been redeveloped.

Preston School Attendance Medal (Obverse)

He appears to have been slightly more fortunate than his brothers – Thomas had two children, was listed as “Incapacitated” in 1939 and died in 1949 at the age of 58. Stephen, also having two children, also lost two at an early age and died in 1953 at 60.

Sadly, though it’s possible to build a framework of the lives, it’s frustrating that this is all I can do from the records. I imagine he must have been generally happy as he stayed married for 54 years and never moved away from Preston, but I have nothing to back this up.

16 thoughts on “A Medal and a Brief History

    1. quercuscommunity Post author

      Yes, the context is everything. Ironically, if the test cut had proved it was silver it would undoubtedly have gone for scrap, Only its inherent worthlessness saved it.

      1. Clare Pooley

        Yes – sad really. I remember watching an ancient ‘Lovejoy’ episode ( The Axeman Cometh, I think it was) where a beautiful object was valued by what it would fetch as scrap metal. Almost all of our old post boxes round here have been stolen for scrap metal (or perhaps some weird foreign collector). The world has no soul.

    1. quercuscommunity Post author

      It is nice, even if it is frustrating at times. The history of this man is similar o the history of many members of my family, who were also cotton workers in Lancashire.

    1. quercuscommunity Post author

      I have got in touch with descendants before, but they generally don’t seem interested or know more than I do. I’ve also had distant cousins write to me (twice) as a result of family history I’ve blogged about, and after I answered they never wrote back.


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