EAMS: Early Memories

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

BELFIELD 1945-56. (2)

In October 1946 my father spent £5.0.11 on large trumpet daffodils, tulips and winter aconites for the garden. My mother, a keen and knowledgeable gardener, took great delight in restoring the neglected garden. She grew many plants from seed in the Conservatory, where the wooden shelving running along the length of its wooded side, made for her seedling trays, was still there when the house was for sale in 2002. My father used to tackle the heavy work - clearing brambles, pruning etc.

Near the conservatory was a stoned paved path and some shallow steps leading into a thicket of overgrown bushes and dense undergrowth. Upon clearing a way through, my parents were excited to discover a paved area within - the remains of an arbour which they reinstated.

Mr & Mrs W-----

To cope with grass cutting and the vegetable garden they employed a gardener, a retired quarryman from Portland called Mr W-----, who lived with his wife in the main street in Fortuneswell. Mrs W-----, who was extremely deaf, was a big strong woman, twice the size of her husband. She was employed to clean Belfield, but only came when we were back in London, and we would return to find everything spotlessly clean and shining.

Unfortunately she did not know her own strength, and occasionally things got damaged or broken. Dusters would be reduced to cobweb-like thinness after only a few washes, and rugs were liable to skid on her highly polished floors the moment one stepped on them. When we were there for the long summer holiday, she and Mr W----- would be invited to tea one afternoon and she would gloomily look around and remark on how dirty the house was!

Lionel W-----

The W-----s had a son called Lionel who was in the Fleet Air Arm and was the apple of his mother's eye. She presented us with a framed photograph of him in his uniform, which we would have to remember to put out in a prominent place when we knew she was coming or on our return to London.

Mrs W----- was an ardent royalist, until the day when the newly crowned Queen was driven past our house on a visit to Portland. Mrs W----- was there with her Union Flag, hanging out of her window and waving enthusiastically as the motorcade drove past. But, alas, the Queen failed to return Mrs W-----'s wave. At the critical moment, she was busy waving to the other side of the street. Mrs W----- took it as a personal insult and never forgave her.

With Mrs W----- at Belfield

Before the discovery of Mrs W-----, for a very short time, my mother had tried employing a cleaner who had recently been a patient at Herrison, then a psychiatric hospital near Dorchester. I do not remember her name, only that she seemed to be rather distrait and vague. After she left, I was told that she had "been let out of Herrison" but had to return there for further treatment. It sounded ominous and a bit sinister, and for a long time I thought that "Herrison" was some sort of limbo place, akin to Purgatory.

Odd too was a plumber who came to the house to do some work, went home at the end of the day promising to return the following morning to complete the job, but never came back. Several years later he suddenly re-appeared one day to finish the work he had long abandoned, and was surprised and taken aback to be told that in the meantime another plumber had been employed to finish it. His excuse was that when he woke up the next day, he had felt unable to get out of bed to go to work, so his wife had encouraged him to stay where he was until he felt better and he had done just that.

Work on the external renovation of the house began in September 1946 when my parents received a quote from Rendell and Son of Weymouth. For repairs and outside painting of wood and iron work to the house, conservatory and verandah, the price quoted was £135.12s and for the re-painting of stone and stucco work: £117.2s plus a further £10 for sundry repairs. Three years later, the exterior had to painted again; perhaps the quality of post-war paint was not very good. This time the contractor was F. Selby and Sons, whose quote was only £67.17.6.

Mr W-----, my mother, father and me.

After Grandpa Squibb died on June 10th 1946, a lot of his furniture and possessions came to Belfield. My parents had already started buying furniture for the house, mainly from two Dorchester antique dealers. Some from Mr Pitman, but mostly from Mr Legg who owned a shop at the bottom of High Street East which is still there, run now by his son Michael.

This was a good time to be buying antiques, as post-war prices were rock bottom, and my mother was particularly interested in Regency furniture which was not yet fashionable, so there were some good bargains to be had. She learnt a lot from Mr Legg, and I too was taught by him how to detect genuine old from reproduction furniture by running my fingers along the edges underneath tables and chairs. If they felt sharp, it was likely to be new.

To reveal the true colours of a dirty oil painting, he would lick his finger and rub it over the surface, but this landed me in trouble one day when I tried it out in an art gallery I was visiting with my parents.

I had gone on ahead a little way, and was looking at a large and very dark landscape which featured some cows by a river. Being curious to see how it might look if cleaned, I went up to it and did just what I thought Mr Legg would have done.

There was a squawk of outrage from a nearby attendant, who rushed over and frantically and indignantly wiped the place I had violated with his handkerchief. My parents, although secretly amused by the incident, were full of apologies, and after insisting that I meant no harm, we hurriedly left the gallery in deep disgrace!

<< Previous post · First post · Next post >>

Saturday, November 26, 2005

BELFIELD 1945-56. (1)

I cannot remember much about my first summer at Belfield in any detail other than exploring the house and garden, happy in my own world of make-believe. My companion was still, for a while, Molly: my imaginary "friend", who had come with me from Cerne. I found her a home under a beech tree, and soon after celebrated her "wedding" with lots of rose-petals from the climbing rose on the verandah, which I used for confetti. She then left my life.

My bedroom was the first room on the right at the top of the elegant curving staircase. My parents had the first on the left, but my room was the sunnier with one window facing east, to the front of the house, and the other south with a view of Portland harbour. It felt safe and cosy to lie in bed on wild stormy nights, listening to the wind and rain pounding against the windows and more wind whistling in the chimney.

One winter, when I had been kept in bed with a bad cold, a fire was lit in my fireplace which was protected by my old nursery fire-guard with its polished brass rim. I remember feeling very secure as I watched the glowing embers as I drifted off to sleep. On foggy nights, I could hear the mournful sound of the foghorn on the Shambles lightship out at sea, and on clear nights I could see the flash of its beacon light.

After five years of occupation by the Army, both the house and garden were looking the worse for wear. The tapestry panels in the dining-room were in excellent condition, having been well protected by horsehair pads attached to battens - but elsewhere all the decorations were in a poor state, with chipped paintwork on doors and skirting boards.

The War Department was obliged to pay out compensation, but it was not until October 1946 that, following a thorough survey, a Schedule of Dilapidations was agreed upon of £902.8.8 plus £50.17.0 for a rehabilitation allowance, plus interest. This included a revised claim for electrical work of £102.19.9.

One cold dark winter's evening I had lost my temper over something forgotten when, in my anger, I gave the drawing-room skirting board a hefty kick, whereupon there was a blue flash as all the lights in the house went out and apart from the firelight, we were left in darkness. Thus complete re-wiring had to be added to the bill.

Outside in the neglected garden where statues had been used for target practice, the Army had left behind two Nissen huts which my father, fearing squatters, insisted on being dismantled as soon as possible. I was rather sorry as I enjoyed playing in them, unlike the remains of an air-raid shelter in another part of the garden which I found a bit scary. The Nissen hut bases stayed though, one of them forming the base of an Italian garden which my parents designed, and the other used for a dumping place for grass-cuttings.

Nearby stood an ancient yew tree, the largest I have ever seen, in which I spent many happy hours climbing. A swing was fixed for me from one of its branches, using the For Sale board for the seat.

Today the garden consists of just over an acre, but when we lived there, there was, in addition, about another acre of woodland to the north of the house, up the hill and bordered by Belfield Park Avenue. To the east, opposite the house and across the road, was another acre. This was all that remained of the Park which had once surrounded the house and had stretched from Wyke Road, where the main entrance and lodge had been, to Buxton Road and the Stables to the south, and as far east as Cross Lane.

Before the War, Belfield had been owned by a Mrs Patterson who, although she claimed to have spent a lot of money restoring the house, had unfortunately sold most of the Park for building land. The old Drive down to the house from Wyke Road had been abandoned and an entirely new road, named Belfield Park Avenue, had been made and lots of small houses built along it. Until the 1960's this remained an "unadopted" road, very rough and stoney, especially where it wound up the hill to join Wyke Road. During heavy rain it would become a river, dislodging yet more of its surface into deep ruts.

The War had interrupted the building process and an acre of land across the road from the front of the house was still undeveloped. This my father was quick to buy back. The part nearest the road was already well wooded with young elm trees which even then were prone to Dutch Elm Disease, but this was kept under control by pruning out diseased branches which also helped to keep up stocks of firewood for the house. My father extended this plantation in 1947 by planting a further ten trees, including Spanish poplar, maple, lime and pine as far as the southern boundary, along which was planted a screen of thirty-six macrocarpa to make a quick growing screen to hide the rather utilitarian house called "Trees" which was being built in a corner of land he had not been in time to re-purchase.

The remaining land, left to rough grass, was kept under control with a fearsome looking mechanical "Allen Scythe". There was also a mature walnut tree, and my father went on to plant a hazel "nuttery" and further mixed woodland trees along the eastern boundary to a neighbouring farmer's field.

A low stone wall was built in front of the house between the house and the road, with a Cupressus Fletcheri planted at either end, and a line of further trees continuing each side as far as the drive gates, of cherries, crab apples, almonds, thorn and prunus as well as poplar and maple.

Together with more tree planting added to the north of the house, Belfield became well screened from encroaching suburbia and one could almost imagine it still being part of a park - if rather more wooded than the original shown in early 19th century engravings when the house stood in its then idyllic setting on an "acclivity" and commanding "a fine prospect".

<< Previous post · First post · Next post >>

Monday, November 21, 2005

CERNE ABBAS 1940-1945. (11)

All I can remember of V.E. Day in Cerne is of the bunting hung along the houses in Abbey Street, but I do remember arriving at Belfiled for the first time. We came by car - perhaps it was a taxi - and were driven down Radipole Park Drive alongside Radipole Lake. On reaching the house, we were greeted in the hall by Mrs Pearse, who offered to get me a glass of milk.

Mr & Mrs Pearse had lived in the basement flat at Belfield before the War, and had written to my father that July to ask if they could become tenants again. This suited my parents very well, as they could act as caretakers when we were in London. The letter is dated 20th July 1945 and they were anxious to move in as soon as possible - so they could not have been there long before we too arrived, which was probably around the end of the month at the start of the Long Vacation.

Mr Pearse was a retired school teacher and cabinet maker, and both he and his wife had been professional photographers at some time. They had two grown-up daughters, Lois and Margaret.

Margaret had been a landgirl and had been engaged to be married - but her fiancé, whose parents lived further up Belfield Park Avenue, had been killed in action. She continued to visit frequently and would spend time in a small room in the flat with her gramophone, playing the records they had listened to together. As far as I know, she never married - but her sister Lois was married not long after we went to Belfield, probably at Whitsun the following year. Some white camelias from a bush the size of a small tree, in the garden, were used to make her wedding bouquet.

I think it unlikely we went north, either to Grange or Chester, that summer, as my parents must have been busy settling in at Belfield. A letter from my mother, written while we were still at the Pitchmarket, states with much gless that her sister May was:
"...obviously looking forward to my next effort at taking the entire house on my hands again this summer. I relish the idea of telling her later that she is in for a much shorter "complete rest" this year! How her (?) mouth must be watering already when she thinks of weeks and weeks of never touching the washing-up, dusting, sweeping, gardening, baking, even cooking. What fun to put sand in it therefore (I mean the mouth). I'm not really in a vicious mood!"

There was little love lost between the two sisters, and much resentment. May was six years older than my mother, and was deeply jealous that her younger sibling had not only been up at Oxford and got a Degree, but also a husband and child. It was said that she threw a fit on the bathroom floor when she heard the news of my birth. She was forty by then, trapped into the position of housekeeper to her parents for the rest of their lives.

They had once refused to give their permission for her to marry a man much older than herself who lived in New Zealand. They did not approve of her moving to the other side of the world: "Who will look after us in our old age?" they demanded. So their dutiful daughter stayed at home doing just that until after my grandfather died in 1959, aged ninety.

May married six years later when she was sixty-seven, to John Gee whom she met whilst out exercising her dogs.

The Pitchmarket, Cerne Abbas

<< Previous post · First post · Next post >>

Thursday, November 17, 2005

CERNE ABBAS 1940-1945. (10)

Although it was to be another six months until V.E. Day, my father was already making plans for our future after the War was finally over, including arrangements for me to start at the City Of London School For Girls the following September, then in Carmelite Street just outside the Temple and very convenient; so plans for us to move into 5 Paper Buildings must have been under way by then too. He and my mother had also begun looking for our future weekend/holiday home in the Dorchester area, as by now my mother was anxious to move from Cerne as soon as possible.

By March 1945, the search had been narrowed down to four possibilities: The Pitchmarket, Belfield House, Radipole Manor, and Wollaston House. My mother wrote to my father:
"If possible I don't want to spend holidays in Cerne after the War. I should always be making excuses about not coming! I would dread the end of term and having to go back to all that 'to all that'. Especially in the Long Vacation. You would be away so much then."

Wollaston House, built in 1786, stands in the centre of Dorchester at the junctions of Church Street, Durngate Street and Acland Road. Whatever garden it once had has now long gone, and it is surrounded by busy roads and car parks, including the Waitrose one. My mother continued:
"Wollaston was a better thing in the War times than in peace. Time saved on your journey, easier food. But it is much less easy to run without servants than Belfield. And in peace, it would be difficult to get up much holiday spirit about coming to such a queer locality! I cannot feel it's the right place really."

As for Radipole Manor, built in the 16th century and standing only a few feet away from the church and graveyard, my father once told me that my mother refused to live there because of the close proximity of all the gravestones, although he could not see why that should have been a problem!

In the same letter she went on:
"We must have, I'm now sure, something small enough to run without servants. But the average 4 or 5 bedroom house is so undignified. Radipole was a fluke and so was Belfield, only still more (I think Radipole would have been as hard to run as Pitchmarket: think of those polished floors and all the leaded lights)."

They even discussed the possibility of a flat, but there were none on the market and anyway they wanted a garden. Belfield seems to have been my mother's number one choice from the start: "I wouldn't have missed seeing Belfield for anything", she wrote wistfully after their first visit, and continued:
"I liked everything I saw at Belfield but it would break my heart to think of an excessive unreasonable £75 a year going down the drains on Schedule A and rates. They are about double what they should be ar'n't they?"

Belfield had been requisitioned by the Army during the War, and was still in occupation when my parents were shown round the property on their first visit. Whether their guide was an officer or the estate agent I am not sure, but when he opened the upstairs bathroom door they found a soldier in there having a bath.

They seem to have made their final decision before March 20th, as my father referred in one of his letters to the research he had already begun into the history of the house. This was to culminate in his writing a booklet called Belfield and the Buxtons, which he had printed privately in 1954.

The Contract Agreement is dated 4th April 1945 and the Completion Date was on 16th May, only eight days after V.E. Day. The house had been valued at £3750, but it was finally bought for £3000; the same price that Abbey Cottage had fetched the previous year. But this price must have taken into account the tremendous amount of renovation needing to be done after five years of Army occupation.

<< Previous post · First post · Next post >>

Monday, November 14, 2005

CERNE ABBAS 1940-1945. (9)

Although the first rockets fell on London on September 8th 1944, there is no mention of them in my father's letters until 14th November when he wrote:
"The papers seem to be making a great deal of fuss about these rockets, but they do not appear to be anything like such a nuisance as the flying bombs were during the summer. I think that most of them must fall a good way from London and it is said that a lot of them explode in the air. Life must be pretty miserable in some of the German towns these days."
Perhaps he would have had a different opinion had a rocket landed on the Temple, or maybe he was just trying to reassure his father that life in London was not as dangerous as he feared; but London only survived what could have been the most dangerous of weapons because they were expensive to produce and there were too few, too late. The allied armies over-ran most of the launching sites soon after attacks began.

Toys must have been difficult to get during the War years. My Chad Valley teddy-bear had been bought early in the War, and I had a few dolls and toy animals, all much loved. When we went to stay with my Whittaker grandparents, I was allowed to play with another beautiful Victorian doll called Rosie. She was smaller than the one given to me by grandpa Squibb, but she too had an extensive wardrobe of clothes and was probably far too valuable for a young child to be playing with. However I always looked forward to being reunited with her on my visits, and took great care of her.

One of my favourite dolls was Edith. My mother made her out of some of her old lisle stockings stuffed with kapok, she was taller than me and no beauty. My mother made the head first and thought the face - with its red felt lips, eyes with half black "popper" fastenings for the pupils and black woolly hair tied in pigtails - was so ugly that I might be frightened by it. So she showed me the head first, to see my reaction, but when I just laughed at it she went ahead and made the rest. Edith wore my old dresses and had lovely floppy arms and legs.

A toy inherited from my mother was a black cat, about a foot long, called N****r. Her mother had tried to dissuade her from buying him, as she thought there were other toys in the shop which were a lot more attractive, but my mother had been determined and had insisted that N****r was the only one she wanted. He had been much loved by her, and his fur was very worn out by the time he was passed on to me, so she made him a coat out of some scraps of red leather, added some "medals" made from Christmas cracker charms, and he became a Chelsea pensioner.

So in November 1944 it must have seemed a real "find" when, with great delight, my mother found a doll's house for me. My father wrote:
"Bessie came across a great rarity in the shape of a doll's house the other day. It is so big that we have not been able to hide it until Christmas, so Elizabeth is having great fun - and I think that Bessie is enjoying herself almost as much as Elizabeth! She got the doll's house from the grocer's assistant. It seems to be of some age and has been very well kept. It will be many a long day before such a thing can be bought in a shop again, for it could not be made within the maximum price now allowed for toys."

My mother had kept all her own doll's house furniture which was an added bonus, and after the War, she had fun in Hamleys finding more. I remember the day it was given to me, and can picture it placed in the room next to the kitchen, by the right of the door leading into the hall.

My grandfather Squibb was asked if he would try to get me Alice Through The Looking Glass for Christmas, as Alice In Wonderland had been such a great success.

The last letter in the 1944 series deals with my father's birthday on December 1st, and encloses a drawing done by me of what I call "a sideways man", said to be dancing. I had been taken to lunch at Judge Jeffrey's Restaurant in Dorchester for the first time, and the waitress had given me a lump of sugar as a reward for good behaviour.

"J.J's" was to be our regular lunch time venue when in Dorchester for many years to come. We always sat at the same table, in the front window which overlooked High West Street and the Museum opposite. At that time, all the round oak tables and Windsor chairs were genuine antiques, as were the pictures on the walls: mostly coloured engravings of hunting and coaching scenes. Pieces of armour and swords hung on the walls in the back room, where there would be a blazing log fire in the huge fireplace on cold winter days. On a wall near the window hung an Act of Parliament Clock. All of these pieces were later sold and replaced with reproduction furniture when, under new management, their value as antiques came to be realised.

There was another room at the back, called the New Room. This had been built just before the War and lacked the character of the older part of the building, so we only used it if the restaurant was full. I remember the three course set lunch cost 2s 6d for quite a long time, increasing to 5s in the 1950's. The delicious bread rolls at lunch time were baked on the premises, as were the cakes at tea-time. Flapjacks were my father's favourites - he called them "cold porridge".

<< Previous post · First post · Next post >>

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

CERNE ABBAS 1940-1945. (8)

On 4th September 1944, we moved on to Chester to stay at the Blossoms Hotel for the weekend, from where we went to see my grandfather Squibb. He lived at Kent House, 147 Boughton. I can remember him fairly well, but as he died in 1946, I did not have time to get to know him really well. We visited Chester again after the War, but I cannot remember him coming to visit us in Cerne, London or at Belfield.

Reginald Augustus Hodder Squibb: 1872-1946

He was not in the best of health during the War years, and my father's letters to him throughout 1944 are always full of concern to do with the treatment of his eczema. My grandmother Squibb had died in 1930, and a housekeeper called Ella Fairfax-Jones looked after Grandpa.

During one of our visits to Chester, he gave me a lovely Victorian doll with a china face and blue glass eyes which opened and shut. She had real blond curly hair, and wore a white lawn and lace dress - a sort of Christening robe - a petticoat and a blue cloak and bonnet, trimmed with swansdown. He also introduced me to ginger-beer and fizzy lemonade.

Writing to thank him after this, our 1944 visit, my parents were concerned that we had consumed the whole of his meat ration at Sunday's lunch, and must have made inroads into his other rations too.

Mary Elizabeth Squibb: 1869-1930

From Chester we returned to Grange for the rest of the holiday, about a week, whereupon we all caught colds - we seemed to get a lot of colds - and eventually embarked on the long and tedious return train journey back to Dorset. This involved changes at Preston, Crewe and Bristol. All the trains were very full, we had to travel in the corridor between Crewe and Shrewsbury, and nearly lost some of our luggage at Crewe when the porter disappeared into the crowd. We eventually arrived at Dorchester fourteen hours later, tired and weary - but only fifty minutes late.

The holiday seemed to have done my mother a lot of good and, apart from getting a cold, her general health had much improved.

It was while we had been away that Abbey Cottage had been sold, for a reputed £3000 - which my father found stupendous and difficult to believe, as only two years previously it had been sold for £2000. The purchaser this time was the retired tea-planter from Assam with his younger wife and two year old son, with whom it was thought I might want to play, "unless she feels too old for a playmate so young!"

October arrived, and with it my forthcoming fourth birthday. My father wrote:
"She says she wants a gun for her birthday, so we had to go round the shops on Saturday to find one. It seems strange taste for a little girl, but she is quite definite about it!"

I do not remember the gun, but I do remember the toy farm-yard which they also got for that birthday. It was thought that it would please me as I was:
"...very fond of a little girl dressed as a landgirl and some animals which the landgirl has to look after."

I was getting a cake with pink icing and four candles on it too, and on the day another little girl, probably Penelope Fry, came to tea. My grandfather Squibb sent me a copy of Alice In Wonderland with which I was very pleased, and soon started to recite: "You are old Father Wiliam".

By now the autumnal gales were blowing, and it was time to pick the apple crop - which was not a very good one. Most of the apples were very small and many had various kinds of blemishes, so would not have been good keepers. I told my father all about how I had been up Giant Hill to see the hounds and saw a lot of foxes too, which he found hard to believe! Snugly dressed in my green mackintosh and sou'wester, I was the only one enjoying the persistently wet weather, and had made friends with the newly arrived little boy at Abbey Cottage too. He called be "Mummy" - which at two, was about the only word he knew. I thought it a great joke! A week or two later I was invited to his birthday tea.

<< Previous post · First post · Next post >>

Sunday, November 06, 2005

CERNE ABBAS 1940-1945. (7)

With the general feeling that the end of the War was now in sight, it was suggested that we would go to Chester early in August, to see my Grandfather Squibb. There was worry about the extra burden our staying in the house would put upon Ella, his housekeeper, so my parents decided to stay in an hotel and bring me along to the house after breakfst, where we would stay until bedtime. My grandfather was going to book the rooms when the exact date was known, and it was stressed that they must have two rooms, with connecting doors.

July 4th 1944, and my mother still not well. Back in London during the week, life at the Oxford and Cambridge Club sounds uncomfortable. My father writes:
"There is plenty of room downstairs for those who sleep here. I had two armchairs on Monday and Tuesday nights, but on Wednesday there were beds for the eight of the most senior members, and I was one of the eight! I wonder whether I shall come in the first eight tonight. However I slept quite well in the chairs with a pillow and an eiderdown.

My impression of these flying bomb raids are much less serious than ordinary bomb-raids. All the power of these things seems to be in the blast, and they hardly penetrate at all. It would be interesting to know what proportion are being brought down. I imagine that it must be high, for while the "alerts" last a long time, one does not hear many bombs."

Indeed, these flying bombs only went at the speed of an ordinary aircraft, so were relatively easy to shoot down. The anti-aircraft guns were moved to the coast, the fighters operated inland, and by August 80% of those coming over were being destroyed. However, they still had to experience the rockets, or V2's, which were more frightening and potentially more dangerous.

Our visit to Chester had been proposed for 2nd August, after which we were going on to Grange-over-Sands to see my Whittaker grandparents; but there had been complications over our hotel rooms in Chester. Also, the Whittakers had been warned that they might have evacuees from the South billeted on them. It was thought that if the house was full of family, this might stop them getting the evacuees - so it was decided we would go to Grange first, and then on to Chester on September 4th instead.

Apparently I was very excited at the thought of going to see my Grandfather Squibb. My father wrote:
"When she is going anywhere fresh we always tell her about it, so that she can get used to the idea. I hope she will behave nicely. She is usually fairly good and behaves well when she goes out.

We took her to Weymouth on Saturday and she was very good indeed. She was disappointed at not being able to play on the sands, but she took it quite calmly and looked at the shops instead. She started playing with bricks which form a picture when put together, so when Bessie gave her a simple jig-saw she soon got the hang of it."

I remember the bricks, and still had some of them many years later.

It was hoped that the holiday in Grange and Chester would help my mother recuperate too, for she was still far from well. The use of penicillen was still in its infancy; although in use during the War, it does not appear to have been readily available, as her doctor was making some tests to see whether he could find an antidote to the poison still in her bloodstream from the septic gums. He said that a change and a rest were all that would do her any good.

We eventually made the train journey to Grange on 24th July, so as to avoid the posibility of having evacuees billeted on us in Cerne. Some evacuees had already been sent to Cerne the previous week.

We left home at 8.30 am, arriving in Grange at 9.45 pm. The next day my father wrote:
"In order to avoid taking Elizabeth through London, we came by way of Bristol. At Bristol we caught a through train to Crewe. It was most uncomfortably crowded, but we were lucky enough to get seats at Hereford. Elizabeth behaved beautifully, and did not seem nearly so tired at the end of day as Bessie and I were. She took a great interest in everything and only slept for a couple of hours in the afternoon.

Elizabeth has quickly made herself at home here. Her grandparents and aunt
[my mother's sister May] are delighted with her. There is a nice garden for her to play in and she started to explore it as soon as she had had her breakfast, so I think she is going to be very happy."

Adelaide, May & George Whittaker c.1944
at Fairbourne, Charney Rd, Grange-over-Sands

I remember the garden at "Fairbourne", Charney Road, Grange-over-Sands very clearly. The house was built on the side of a hill, and it was a very steep walk up the hill from the town. The garden was terraced, the middle terrace being a lawn on which my grandfather Whittaker played bowls. Below that was an orchard. At the top of the garden, near to the back door, was a rockery and the garden shed.

The house faced south, and there was a nice view over the sea. My father said the roads were quite as steep as those in Matlock, and the first thing he had to do on our arrival was to walk down the hill into the town to collect our emergency ration cards. I was soon taken into the town too, and went paddling in the sea. Unlike Weymouth, the beach was not sandy - despite the name - but rather rocky and muddy, so we soon nicknamed it Grange-over-Mud.

Because we had arrived earlier than originally intended, my father had to return to London during the first couple of weeks as it was still Term time. A flying bomb falling on a building on the Embankment had blown out four of the windows in Chambers, now in 3 Paper Buildings.

Back in Grange for the first Sunday in July, he was with us when I was taken to Church for the first time. I joined in "The Lord's Prayer", but they brought me out before the Sermon. Later on we went over to Cartmel Priory for a visit, and I was said to have been impressed by the Church, the largest I had ever seen. My parents were looking forward to showing me Chester Cathedral later in the holiday.

Before we left Grange and moved on to Chester, there was a visit from my mother's cousin Fred Byrne, his wife Martha, and their son Paul, who was six years my senior. Fred was my grandmother Whittaker's nephew; he had fought in the trenches during the First World War and had been badly wounded in his leg. The wound had never healed properly, and he had been left with an open ulcer, for which he had to have treatment for the rest of his long life. He did not die until 1998, shortly after his 100th birthday.

Martha was ten years younger, and died three years before Fred. Until he and Martha had to move into a residential home near their flat in Lytham, they were cared for by Paul who became a schoolmaster, but like Auntie May, never married. It might have been during that visit, or perhaps a later one, that I remember trying to persuade Paul to climb an apple tree with me (as perhaps three and three quarters was a bit young, even for me, to have been climbing trees).

Fred and Martha were very fond of my mother, but after she died they lost touch with us. It was not until after May died in 1976 that I rediscovered their address, and was able to re-establish contact with them all again.

<< Previous post · First post · Next post >>