Date of interview: 18/03/2014
Interviewed by Tracy McMahon
Transcribed by Stephen Flinn (May, 2014)
Would you like to state for the record...
My name is Pamela Cameron.
When were you born?
And can I ask you where you were born?
Whereabouts in Houghton Regis were you born?
In fact I only found out the other day, when I found my birth certificate. 30... I think it was 32, High Street, Houghton Regis. It’s not there anymore, it’s all been knocked down.
You were delivered at home then, were you?
Yes. Well everybody was in those days, weren’t they?
I don’t know. What number was it again?
I think... it was either... no, it wasn’t. It was 31 Houghton... that’s why I’m getting muddled up. 30 or... 31 High Street, Houghton Regis. That was right at the top. You know the photo that you looked at? It was up near that end of the village.
By the Top School?
It was just a little cottage. Yeah.
Who did you live with?
My mum and dad, at that time but then my dad died... I told you... when I was three-months old and my mum died when I was twenty-two months old. So my grandmother brought me up and, funnily enough, I was looking the other day and I found my mum’s will and, believe it or not, she only wrote it two days before she died. And she said something about that she left sole charge of me to her mother because my dad had a brother and he died. TB was rampant in those days. He died and he had three children and my dad’s family put them into an orphanage but my mum didn’t want me to go into an orphanage so my grandmother brought me up. But I always refer to my grandmother as mum because she said that I said to her one day, “Where’s my mum?” And she said, “I’m your mum now.” And she said, after that, I never called her anything but mum. But I don’t remember my mum anyway. I had a marvellous childhood.
Would you mind me asking... how did your parents die?
Both with TB.
It was very prevalent back then, wasn’t it?
Umm, especially in the hat factory area and my dad owned a hat factory... well, was the director of a hat factory... in Luton.
Really? That’s interesting.
And, of course, it... something to do with the steam... didn’t help, I don’t think. But there was a lot of people in that area, I think, died with it and, of course, my mum got it from me dad. Catching...
Do you know the name of the company?
The hat factory where he worked?
I don’t know the name of it. No. I mean, I used to go... mum used to take me there quite often when I was young because my mum and dad had only just died but then, once I started school, we didn’t go very often.
So you didn’t have any brothers or sisters?
Unlikely, wasn’t it?
Any cousins... anything like that in the area?
Any cousins or anything else in the area?
My dad had a sister who had two daughters and they lived in Luton but I’ve never really kept in touch with them but my mum’s brother... he had one daughter, Sonia, who lives just outside Leighton Buzzard and I do keep in touch with her.
That’s good, isn’t it?
Yeah, but not all that often but I mean I do keep in touch with her and, believe it or not, her daughter’s a sergeant in the police force.
Would you like to tell me about your schooldays? Where did you go to school?
Well, it was called the Top School because, in the village, it was the Top School or the Bottom School, which the Bottom School was a church school but it was mostly the people that lived down that end of the village that went to the Bottom School and the people up this end of the village...
Was that the one that was set up...?
That’s the photograph of the school and it was opposite Townsend Terrace.
This is Top School... this one?
Yeah, opposite Townsend Farm. Yes.
That is the whole school there.
In the vicinity where Houghton Regis Lower school would be now?
Well, it would have been... it was on The Green, where... now how does it... you know The Red House? It was more or less along that side, next door to that. And then there was... the schoolmaster lived in a house attached to the school and then there was... it was General Smy lived in a big house there. And that’s where the kennels were for the... that was where the kennels were for the Hunt.
Top School was where you went though?
And that’s the one at the top of the village.
At the top of the village, yes. And, again, that’s where...
Where the Lower school is now?
Yes, that’s it. Only it was in the front. I mean, this was... that was the back of the school but the front of the school was on... just a small playground in the front and then it looked over onto the road. But we left there... you left there when you was eleven and went to Northfields or... I actually passed my eleven-plus but I didn’t want to go to... because I had to go to Luton if you went to the Girl’s High... it was called Luton Girl’s High School and I passed my eleven-plus but I was the only one that was going. All me friends was going to Northfields so I didn’t want to go.
So you went to...?
And my mum was quite good like that. She said, “If you don’t want to go, you don’t have to.”
As you were growing up, what jobs did you have in the area?
Well, I always used to have to help mum when I was at school because we had a smallholding and my job was to water the tomato plants at night-time, when I came home from school. We had five greenhouses and every greenhouse had a hundred plants in it.
That’s not really a smallholding, is it?
Well, it was. We kept pigs and we kept chickens and we kept ducks and we kept geese.
And where was this?
Where Orchard Close is. That was where our ground was.
So not far from where we are now?
You didn’t move very far, did you?
No. Well, I did because in between I... when I got married I moved to Manor Park and then, when I... I moved to London and I lived in London for thirty-one years so... then I came back to Houghton Regis and I didn’t know anything about... everywhere had changed so much.
Did you have a job when you were...?
I left school and I worked in Moore’s, the draper’s in Dunstable.
Nice, I liked it in there. We’ll move on to some of the questions about the Hall now. Did you have any contact with any of the people who lived in the Hall, worked in the Hall?
Only with the butler, who was Mr Townsend and I knew him because he was friends with mum and my auntie. And I used to do sewing for whatever he wanted. I don’t... I shouldn’t say this but he... I don’t think he looked after the colonel’s clothes that well because, when it was the Coronation, I had to mend the Colonel’s trousers because he was Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire at that time and, when the Queen’s Coronation was I had... I think it was... oh, about seventy or eighty... I’m not quite sure... moth holes in his trousers, which I had to pull the threads through from the inside to invisibly mend them.
Oh, my word. You’d have thought he could have afforded a refit.
Well, I don’t know. I mean, the things was... clothes... things were still short... I mean, I don’t think they were particularly rationed but I don’t suppose that Mr Townsend wanted the colonel to know that they’d got moth holes in. He most probably didn’t know and I used to put patches on his elbows and I used to change the collars on his shirts but that was all through the wartime because I used to do quite a lot of dressmaking.
What about the owners of the house? Was it Lord...?
Well, it was Colonel not Lord. It was... I think he was Lieutenant Colonel Dealtry Part... his name was... and Lady Part. Now, I used to go over to the woods although the woods weren’t open to the public. The park wasn’t open to the public. You could never... it had got a notice ‘Private’ up and there was a gateway up the road at the side of there. I don’t know what that was called.
At the side of the wood.
The side of the wood. Which side of the... if we were looking towards the house from The Green...
The woods on the right-hand side.
And it went right the way up to the top and there was a dirt track which the hounds... they used to take the hounds up there, I think, for a run and things like that but there was a gate at the bottom.
Would that be Rabbit Lane? Is it Rabbit Lane?
No. Rabbit Lane... I don’t think... Rabbit Lane was over the other side, wasn’t it? I mean... can I draw something and show you roughly? Have you got a piece of paper? Now you see there was a meadow which part of... now we come along the footpath that’s still there... that footpath... and that was where me mum’s ground was... and then there was a gap here, which would have been at the bottom of this road and the footpath still went across there. Then there was a big meadow here. It was... I think it was Eddy’s Meadow they called it... and then there was a gate here and that was where this road went that... now the woods was like up there. This bit comes out to The Green. Yeah, and this road up here... but here was a gate and it had got ‘Private – No Admittance’ on it.
But, because Uncle Charlie worked at the hall I used to, more or less, go there when I wanted to but you wasn’t really supposed to go there but some... this was the woods here that I’m talking about. Now I used to go there and right up at the top was a gate and I used to go through this gate and there was a footpath that I used to walk down. Sometimes I’d meet Lady Part on there... walking... but she never told me off because of Uncle working there, I suppose. In fact, she was really... I think quite fond of Uncle Charlie because he was quite... he’d worked with the horses and then he’d worked in the garden but he was one of these people... I mean, he’d lost his parents when he was young and he’d been brought up and he went into, like, service kind of thing so he was used to dealing with people like that. And he said that she’d asked the gardener to put the summer seats out and he’d do them when he felt like it but then she’d say, “Oh, Jack...” Because Uncle Charlie’s name was Charles James but she used to say, Oh, James. Can you put the summer seats out.’ And he’d put them out straightaway, which pleased her I suppose. Lewis... if he was doing something in the garden, he wouldn’t... he wouldn’t do that.
So, she was quite fond of him and now, when the horses fell and he hurt his leg or his back or something and he couldn’t get to work... it was when there was snow about and she got somebody to make a pathway all the way through this field... and here... so she could come to the house to see him.
Oh, that was nice of her.
Yeah, but she was... I mean, she was a Lady, wasn’t she? And she came... you know, came to see him to see how he was and different things like that and then she used to talk to mum. Sometimes, after that, when the weather was alright, she’d feel like walking across I think and she’d go and sit and talk to mum or if... mum often would have a lie down in the afternoon and she’d... so she never used to see her and she said when she came out, Lady Part would be weeding the garden but she said the annoying part was they was all in little piles so she said, “I had to pick them up.” (Laughter)
So Lady Part liked her gardening?
Oh, she loved her garden. I think... in fact, I think, as far as... it was her that run the estate not him. I don’t know. I mean, he was most probably away at times, I don’t know. But you never... very rarely saw him about anywhere but you did use to see her. But, as I say, I think that the book from Evelyn will be most helpfull.
Definitely, definitely. How did you use the park as a child?
You couldn’t. You wasn’t really allowed to go in there. I mean, people of my age... I mean, the park was never open to the public, I don’t think, not until they had the gymkhana there and that was not until after the war.
After the war?
But I’ve got an idea they might have had like an Open Day for some charity, like they do at these big houses but, it was like, pay as you went into it, you know.
Do you remember how far after the war the gymkhana’s might have started?
The war finished in ’45. I suppose, most probably, ’46-’47.
Do you know what the reason was for the gymkhanas? Was there anything special?
I think it was for The Memorial Hall. For the funds for The Memorial Hall because the village... I mean, they had the fete after the war as well. I mean, they never had anything like that Fancy Dress thing till after the war.
This Fancy Dress thing that we’ve got these pictures of?
Those are all after the war because there’s my children and they wasn’t born until after the war. There was one with the... which I thought was the... I know it was taken in front of there.
It was taken in front of the cottages, wasn't it?
Yes. I think that was when the gymkhana was on.
Who was in that picture?
On your own?
No, that’s that one, isn’t it?
That’s that one, yes. That’s it.
Let’s go through these individually?
But I think that this wall... that wall... I think the garden... because it looks like the flower garden in the front of it... but I know that that’s where it was taken.
That’s the one I’m looking for.
Now, who’s this gentleman?
That’s Ted Gaddesden and he was Master of Ceremonies.
He was a local boy, was he?
He was local, yes.
He was there last night.
Oh, is that the chap that was in the front?
So this is Ted Gaddesden?
In those days, you see, everybody knew everybody else. I’d go up the village and I used to know everybody I met.
Sounds a little bit like me these days.
I mean, we used to get snowed down here and couldn’t get up the village sometimes for a couple of... because this was all open and it used to drift... the snow did... so we never could get... that’s my daughter and that’s my young, middle daughter.
Do you want to tell me a little bit about this...?
And that’s... and that one’s Janice McKernan, her friend.
What’s this one all about?
That was the Carnival... and that started at the Top School. This was Huckstead’s Farm and the Top School was opposite that, you see. And they used to all meet there and then walk through the village because Mrs Fensom was a teacher at this school and she was the one that used to organise all the fancy dress.
Ok. And where did they end up?
They finished up on The Green.
Did they have prizes?
Did your girls ever win?
They nearly always won, I’m afraid.
Did they? I’m not surprised with a hat like that!
Her jacket was a red blazer and I cut the front of it off and put that on and then I just made the white trousers.
And what about this next one?
And that one she was a fairy.
In that one she’s a fairy?
She wasn’t even at school then. This was the one that won it. She was a ‘Lavender Lady’ and I don’t know... I think she was supposed to be Bo Peep in that one. Freda was second and she was third.
Did they have themes for the carnivals back then?
Nothing, no. Not... you just did what you wanted to. In fact, there is a thing... I don’t know if it’s the Internet or Facebook, because I don’t know which is which... and there is part about the Houghton Regis Carnival on that... yes.
Yes, we’ve got that.
Because they took a lot of my daughter on it because she was a ‘Powder Puff’ in those days.
She was the Powder Puff?
Yes, she was the Powder Puff.
Do you remember who organised the carnivals and why they had the carnivals?
Well, it was like... I think they must have had, like, a committee that started it up. I mean, I didn’t really... I mean, the children wanted to go in the Fancy Dress but, I mean, I didn’t really... I only just made the clothes. I didn’t have a lot to do with it. I mean, I’d got three children then and so you was too involved looking after the family to do anything like that.
Was it still held in July, like it is now?
Usually, I think, it was about July time... yeah.
Were there any other events that...?
The only other thing that there was was the gymkhana and I’m nearly sure that that was always held on a Whit Monday. And we always used to have rook pie for dinner that day because...
Where did you get the rooks from?
Colonel Part’s There was rooks there and Uncle Charlie used to go shooting up there and they... I mean, it was all legally done because it was private estate. They say if you don’t shoot rooks they go away and there isn’t any up there now, is there? And yet there was quite a lot up there in those days. Colonel Part had rook pie for his lunch so mum said if it was good enough for the colonel it was good enough for them. But you only used... you don’t pick them. You skin a rook and you just use the breasts. It was lovely.
I don’t suppose there’d be much meat on their legs, would there?
Well, I don’t suppose there would but the breast was... I mean, quite like a chicken breast.
What changes have you seen since you’ve moved back to Houghton Regis, as far as the park is concerned? The park and The Green?
Well, the thing was you didn’t really have anything to do in the park. You wasn’t allowed in there in those days. I don’t think you was allowed in there even... I mean, Lady Part died first and then, after she died, Colonel Part went to live in Scotland and I mean I don’t know... in fact, I’ve got an idea he got married again. Then the only time... and I never kept it... I wish I had of done sometimes... the only time that he... I heard anything was when Uncle Charlie died... he’d heard that Uncle Charlie had died and he wrote a letter saying, you know, how nice he was when he worked for him and things like that but that was about it and I don’t think... I mean, I did hear somebody say something about he’d died but, I mean, I don’t really know.
He was a very tall, quite a big-built man. There must be some photos of him somewhere because I remember once when they had the Fancy Dress he... I think he was... I don’t know if it was him or his wife was the judges there and I know that he’d stood... because they had like a little band that would play and I think he took a salute there, on the village green but that was the only time I can remember seeing him there. I mean, you didn’t even see a lot of him when it was the gymkhana.
Back in the 1980s I remember seeing cows in the... what we used to call ‘The Meadow’ then, which would be in the grounds of the park now. Do you recall...?
Well, they did... I don’t know who... because I think Commer Cars bought it or something, didn’t they... originally... or had it. Was the park left to the village?
Or did they buy it?
I don’t know. You’re supposed to be telling us all...
No. Well, I don’t know about that. I mean, I know that the colonel left there and the next thing... because... in fact, it was funny because I was thinking, at the time... I thought, ‘Oh, I wonder who will live there.’ And wouldn’t it have made a nice, like, nursing home or something like that but then, of course, Commer Cars took over. I think it was Commer Cars, wasn’t it? Took over and it was used as offices and that was all I knew about it.
We know a man who might know. Our friend, James.
But, I mean, apart from that... I mean, the hall wasn’t open to the public, not when we were children or... well, until after the colonel... I mean, even when Commer Cars were there I don’t think you could go in there.
Can I take you back just a little bit here as well now? Talking about The Green now specifically. Do you remember any sports being played on The Green?
Yes. They used to play cricket and football on there.
They used to play football as well, did they?
I think they did. I know they used... there was a cricket club. A Houghton Regis Cricket Club.
Did they have a pavilion then?
Do you remember where it was?
Down... similar to where it is now. I think it was about down the bottom there. I mean, the only thing that overlooked The Green was... there was a small cottage. I don’t know if it’s still there... as you go into the hallway... there was a cottage on this side, which... I think it was something to do with the... I think it was the... something to do with the... when they had the Hunt and he used to live there.
Yeah, I think it’s The Lodge now.
The Lodge? Yes, I think it was called The Lodge then. And then there was... at the back of there there was some stables underneath and then there was some of the staff lived in the stables over the top, I think. I’ve got an idea Lewis lived there at one time... in The Lodge.
Who was Lewis?
Who was the gardener.
Lewis the gardener lived in The Lodge?
I think so. I’m not absolutely certain.
You briefly spoke about The Hunt then.
The Hunt used to be on The Green. I can’t remember it ever being there after... well, it must have been there during the war but I can’t remember. I can remember it as a child because it used to go through the whole of the village.
From one end to the other?
Well, from The Green...
Where would it have started?
It started on The Green and they used to go up Dunstable way somewhere. I don’t know where they went to. I mean, really and truly, I don’t think I was that particularly interested. I can remember seeing it on the village green a few times and I can remember the hounds because we had a dog and, if he could get a hound by itself, he’d fight with it. I think I told you this before. And then, one day, I was in... perhaps in the village... in the butcher’s... and he said did you have Rollo with you? Because everybody knew Rollo, our dog. I said, “Yes.” He said, “Well, I’ve just seen the pack of hounds go chasing up the village.” And mum said that the dog came flying in the back door and she said she heard the hounds so she just shut the door. And shut him inside because they would have torn him to pieces if they’ve had got him. But, I mean, it was just one of those things.
The dog always used to come with me. He would never go on a lead. I don’t know what we’d do if we had him in these days. He would never go on a lead. He used to go mad if you tried to put a lead on him but he would always follow you... at the side of you... until he saw another dog. And that was it. I used to have to get hold of his collar and hold him but he was a good dog for the children. I mean, he used to lay under their prams and he wouldn’t let anybody go near the pram.
What sort of dog was he?
57 varieties. I think he was... he looked a bit of a hound so I think he’d got a bit of hound in him somewhere but why he always picked on them particularly... I think if sometimes one would get out and that was it and I think hounds are a bit of cowards if they’re, like, by themselves. They’re alright in the pack but...
There’s been a lot of talk about ice houses.
Yes. I don’t know. I can’t remember any of that. I mean, I can remember the walled garden because Uncle Charlie would be in there working sometimes and I would go down there and I can remember the asparagus beds there. But I think it was three or four and they were, like, in a row and they’re raised beds... asparagus. I know you have to cut the asparagus under the soil. I mean, asparagus was nothing because when it was in season they used to sell it quite cheaply there.
Does asparagus grow well in chalky soil around here?
Well, it was built up in a sand bed. It was like...
It needs to be quite loamy, doesn’t it?
These beds must have been made especially for it because they were, like, a raised bed and you could walk in between the beds. The beds were about this wide but, you see, because it is only in season about end of May/June and then the beginning of July. It’s not in season for that long and you only had it when it was in season in those days.
It must have been quite a treat, mustn’t it?
Oh, we just took it as an everyday vegetable. I mean, it wasn’t like it is now. I mean, my cousin often says to me... she says when they talk about asparagus... She said, “I thought to meself, ‘Well, we had it as an everyday vegetable.’ ” Because, as I... my mum brought her up from when she was eight because her mum died and my uncle came back to live at his mum’s, you see, and brought his daughter with him.
So you used to get the asparagus from over there then, did you?
Well, Uncle used to bring them home, bunches at a time. I don’t know what they was but I know sometimes I’d go into the post office in the village and there used... the lady that worked there, she knew I liked it and she’d say, “Mr Lewis brought some asparagus in so I’ve kept you a couple of bundles.” And I think they were something like one and six a bundle. They could have been one and six... they could have been one and six for the two bundles.
Is that cheap? What’s that in new money?
Five p... seven and a half p...
Really! Oh, wow. It’s so expensive now though, isn’t it? You pay about £3 for a bunch.
I know. And I do. I love asparagus. It’s my favourite vegetable.
Can you remember any of the other things that used to grow in the garden? Other than the asparagus?
I think they grew most things, like vegetables of all kinds. Peas, beans and things like that.
Any other exotic stuff like asparagus?
I can’t remember anything exotic because, in those days, I didn’t like vegetables. The only vegetables I eat was... the only vegetables I ate was peas and asparagus and anything else I wasn’t very keen on, especially cabbage. And I still don’t like it.
So you think peas, asparagus and seasonal vegetables, you would imagine then?
Well, yes. Well, seasonal... I mean, I think they more or less grew all the vegetables that there was. I think that they grew everything for the house, you know.
Would they have had potatoes as well?
Oh, yes. Potatoes.
Potatoes would have taken up quite a lot of room, wouldn’t they?
Yeah, I mean... it was huge... the walled garden was, from what I can remember of it.
Any fruit in there?
I can’t... I think there were things like raspberries and things like that but I can’t remember a lot of fruit. We never...
Were there any fruit plants in the garden?
I can’t really remember about the fruit trees because we’d got two orchards so we never really bothered with anybody else with fruit.
Is that why Orchard Close is called Orchard Close?
Yes, although they didn’t seem to know... the council. They wrote... they said they didn’t know why it was Orchard Close. Well, they said they was going to call it Orchard Close because originally, before they put the houses up, they said they were going to leave some of the trees in the gardens but, in the end, I think it was cheaper to cut the whole lot down.
What sort of fruit trees did you have in your orchard then?
There was apples, every kind you could think of. Blenheims, Cox’s, Russetts... every... Beauty of Bath. There was pear trees, and there was plum trees and there was a damson tree and there was a greengage tree... and gooseberry bushes.
And blackberry was in Uncle Charlie’s bit of the garden. And it’s still there I think. I walked round there one day and I could see up this fence and I thought, ‘That’s Uncle Charlie’s blackberries.’
So it was quite a large orchard then?
Oh, it was... quite big. Well, I mean, Orchard Close... they’ve put fourteen houses on it.
So do you think there’s a possibility that the people from the house could have used the fruit from the orchard?
I doubt it. I don’t know. I can’t remember Uncle taking any. We used to sell it.
Was it a well-established orchard?
It was there when we moved there.
Alright then. It seems it was a little bit unusual, isn’t it... if they’ve got a garden growing vegetables...
I think they most probably did have fruit trees in the garden but I can’t really remember them.
Would you know much about the formal garden? Can you remember what that looked like?
I can’t really remember how it was laid out or anything like that. I know that photo that I showed you... that was like coming along the wall of the... I’m standing in the formal garden there. Lost it again...
There we go.
You see, this is... look, you can see this is a formal garden at the back. It was like a border and... vegetable garden... and that was over the other side of that wall.
So which way round was it? If you’re walking into the garden in... into the park now...
It was on the left-hand side... over that side, past where the stables were and things like that.
It’s a long time ago, don’t forget. I can’t... I mean, I remember some things but I can’t remember...
The trees all round there...
Those are the trees that would be up like... where Poynters Road is, I think, because the ground went right over that way, didn’t it?
We’ll pop over there... so over there is like where the bowls green is, over the back...
Well, Woodlands Avenue was at the front but the Colonel’s ground went along the back of Wood... like, over the back of there. And I mean it finished up in... there was a cornfield at the back there.
You were saying about... yeah, the land behind Woodlands Avenue then... you’ve got the... the stream is there now, isn’t it?
Do you remember any other water in the village?
No. Well, I can remember water in the village. There was the village pond, right down up Sundon Road and then there was a pond opposite The Crown... at the house there... and it used to have a gate at each end. Well, not a gate... an opening at each end and that’s where the carts used to go to put their wheels through.
This is the one on the corner?
Yeah, I remember that.
But that one has all been blocked in. I don’t know if the other one’s still there... up Sundon Road.
No. Sundon Lodge is now there. A house got built on it and part of the playing field for St Vincent’s.
Because there used to ducks on that pond.
So you don’t remember any water actually around the grounds of Houghton Hall or The Green?
I can’t remember any water in there. No... or The Green.
Can you tell us anything about... anything that might have happened on The Green during the war years? Were you here then? During the war can you recall anything that The Green might have been used for then?
I can’t remember particularly anything. I don’t think I went down there a lot in those days. I mean, the war broke out when I was twelve and we had evacuees, of course. We had to have evacuees. In fact, I was on holiday when the war broke out, at Stony Stratford. I’d got an aunt there and I was there and, for some reason or other... Ray was a lorry driver and he came and picked me up and brought me home. So I was home because the war was going to break out. It broke out on the Sunday but on the Friday... I was in the Girl Guides and we used to... we had to go to... they come to the Top School and we had to go and take them to people’s houses.
Did you have any evacuees?
We had three to begin with and then, during the war... we had a pavilion at the side of the house... and during the war, if the billeting officer couldn’t find anywhere to put them for a couple of days, she would come down and she’d say, “Mrs Welford, I’ve got five evacuees but I can’t find anywhere for them.”
Oh, bless your old mum.
And she used to... we counted up one day and I think we got to about ninety-two different evacuees we’d had through the house. Some would only be there for a day or a couple of days, you know. Perhaps a couple of nights. In fact, mum run out of beds in the end. They’d brought camp beds and they said... she said, “I’ll bring some camp beds down for them.” Because it was... sometimes just a couple of days because it was getting somewhere in the village to take them but you had to have evacuees if you’d got the room anyway, whether you wanted them or not. But, I mean, mum didn’t... you know, we had three and, funnily enough, one of the girls... Rosie Knibbs her name was... she came... she was one of the first three that came to us and she stayed with us for a year after the war finished. She didn’t want to go back to London she said. She was working at Waterlows and mum said to her, “You better go home to see your dad.” She went a few times and then, in the end, one day she come back... because they all called mum ‘Auntie’... and she said, “I think I’m gonna go back to London, Auntie.” So she said, ‘That’s alright.” She said, “You know, I told you you stop here as long as you want to.”
My mum was fantastic like that. She always had waifs and strays. That’s why she had me, I think.
She liked the company of children? She liked kids?
Well, I think so but I mean, as well as that, her brother... Uncle Charlie... who worked down the hall. That was mum’s brother. Well, he was my great uncle, like she was my grandmother. But, I mean, he lived with her after... her husband got killed in the First World War, you see. And she had three children and then she had one son who died when he was ten and then she had my mum, who died when she was twenty-three and she was left with one son, Ray. That’s the own whose... his daughter is my cousin, that I know.
I know you’ve got a wonderful story to tell about the evacuees, as well. You got poorly during the war, didn’t you?
I got diphtheria and...
If you don’t mind sharing this story.
No, not really. I got diphtheria. I was... it must have been fairly... right at the beginning and we had... at one time, we had, like, six evacuees there and three of them were brothers. The Tilsley’s, their surname was and I think it was Johnny. Of course, when I went into hospital... because in those days you used to go in hospital for diphtheria... and when I went into hospital... course they had to go down... and Johnny’s mum came and she said, “Well, Johnny won’t get it because he’s a carrier.” So, I must have got it from him and I was in hospital for six weeks.
Nice of them to share that information with you, wasn’t it?
It was. Well, it was. Yeah, but it was just one of those things, you know. Mum wouldn’t say anything anyway, you know. She... I mean, not that she was particularly easygoing, in as much as that... if you told... I mean, it got to a point... I mean, with my mum I asked to think, ‘I mustn’t do that because she wouldn’t like it.’ But, I mean, we did use to do things we shouldn’t have done. Like we used to have races over the greenhouses.
The greenhouses where I used to have to do the tomato plants but it was like during the war... towards the end of the war, I suppose, when I was about twelve or thirteen... something. We used to have races over the greenhouses and then, one day, I fell through and cut all me bottom. So I said to Joan, “I’ve got to tell mum because...” She said, “No.” So, when I went over and I went in and I said, “Oh, mum...” Before I could say anything, Joan said, “She fell over on a ginger beer bottle.” And I think it was about two weeks afterwards that I told mum and she said, “Oh, I knew.” Because the worst thing that you could do to my mum was to lie to her.
Yes, I understand that.
You could do anything else but you mustn’t lie to her. And, eventually... she said, “I guessed that’s what you’d done but I knew you’d tell me eventually.”
I’m through with all my questions now.
Oh, have you? Oh, good.
Unless you’ve got any more stories you’d like to tell us.
No, I think I’ve told you enough.
For the time being... Ok. I think we can wrap that up now. Thank you very much for your help this afternoon.
It’s been a pleasure speaking to you.
And you have got the book that you can look all about the hall, which... that will tell you more than I know.
And I’ve got your little sketch as well. We’re going to take those photographs along with us...
End of Interview