Harold Ernest Montague Newman
1900 - 1991
REMINISCENCES Part 1 October 1900-March 1908
I was born at 55 Warwick Gardens, west Kensington, London, two years after my father, Walter Ernest Newman, had married his first cousin, LiIian Jekyll Paynter, in Alnwick, Northumberland. She was the daughter, the fifth of twelve children, of Henry Augustus Paynter of Cornish extraction, and a partner in Newman Paynter & Co., Solicitors. The firm was founded by my great-grandfather, Edwin, the recipient of the black marble mantelpiece clock in Yeovil to which a London branch at 1 Clements Inn was added where my father later worked. It is said that my father had fallen for a Miss Yule (?) who rejected him, and that, articled to Henry Paynter to learn his trade, he had rebounded on Lily, Henry's favourite and somewhat spoiled daughter. Anyway they were engaged for nearly ten years till his salary sufficed for marriage, and after a postponement due to my "Gunner" grandfather's death in 1896 leaving debts which my father had to settle. These included debts incurred at whist in the Rag (Army and Navy Club), his nightly occupation, one consequence being that thereafter the handling of playing cards was heavily discouraged other than for patience.
The household consisted of my parents, my grandmother, Emma (nee Montague Browne, 1844 to 1930, from Co. Down, Ireland), my father's sister Evelyn (six years his junior, 1870 to1950), my nanny (Mary or Mamie Friend), and a cook and house-parlourmaid who changed from time to time. The servants worked in the basement and slept on the top floor next to my nursery, in which Mamie had a bed, adjacent to my father's dressing-room.
I recall that the ground floor contained the drawing-room, the dining-room and the smoking-room (no smoking elsewhere) whence, through a French window one could go via a flight of iron stairs over the back yard to the small back garden. The first floor provided the three main bedrooms, and the bathroom and water closet were to be found separately on the two landings to the rear of the house between the three floors above the basement.
The coal supplies for all our fires rumbled into the cellar below the pavement through a circular manhole normally sealed by a removable cast iron cover, a practice then universal throughout London. The house-palourmaid had to carry up coal for the fireplaces is use, no other means of heating the house being then available. Gaslight was the sole source of illumination, In the nursery we had just one fishtail-type burner. Each room was furnished with a bell-rope connected by wires and levers to its special bell to summon staff from the basement whenever service was required.
The nursery windows faced south-west across the road to the terraced houses beyond, over the Warwick Road and railway line (both out of sight) to the Earl's court Exhibition grounds, where, unless obliterated by a pea-soup fog, one saw the Big wheel (later to be transported to Blackpool) slowly rotating with its boxes of passengers hanging from the circumference which provided a view of London from on high. The wheel was electrically illuminated by night.
Horse transport clattered by constantly. There were privately owned broughams, from one of which our Dr. Dent stepped whenever summoned dressed in frock-coat and top hat. Two-wheeled hansom cabs and four-wheeled "growlers" passed hired of plying for hire, trade vans delivering goods, coal carts, etc., of perhaps Carter Patterson alert for a "GP" sign in a ground floor window informing the driver that the occupier had a package for dispatch. Every now and then in residential roads one might come across a straw a covered expanse, say, 50 yards long. It served to quieten the noise of iron-shod hooves and wheels to benefit a seriously sick person in one of the houses. Solitary traders came by, men soliciting custom with their traditional cries - sweet lavender, knives and scissors to grind, muffins (borne of the head of large baize-covered trays and announced by hand bell). And three of four times a day, and once on Sunday, came the characteristic postman's double rap on the front door knocker calling attention to the delivered mail (penny stamp for a letter and a half-penny for a postcard).
Postmen were smartly dressed in contrast with their shoddy appearance in the 1980's. On their heads were flat-topped untufted shakos fitted with black patent-leather peaks and neck extensions, and with G. P. O. badges in front. Their blue jackets, buttoned to the neck, and their trousers to match, were trimmed with narrow scarlet piping. Each carried the mail in a leather satchel slung over one shoulder. Parcel post, one delivery per day, came on a two-wheeled barrow pushed by one man. The parcels came packed in a big rectangular basket-work bin covered with a black hinged waterproof lid. After WW1 shakos gave way to army type blue forage caps; then in wet weather the men complained of water dripping down their backs.
Other callers pulled the front door bell which sounded in the basement. There came too the itinerant barrel-organ grinders some times accompanied by a monkey, of, more rarely, a so-called German Band, five of six wind players and a drum, all to entice pennies from nearby windows. Perhaps the real thrill was the sound of a motor car and the rush to see it; but when that began I cannot remember.
What of the daily routine? Apart from Sunday lunch 'en-famille' my meals were all brought up to the nursery. As regards their contents I can only recall regular breakfasts of shredded wheat, and that the marmalade, as with the jam for tea, came in Hartley's stone jars, the same stone as was used for ginger beer and the jars of blacking, the viscid black fluid used for polishing boots. (Boots were universally worn by both men and women out of doors. My father's only shoes were brown ones worn on holidays.) Later my father in his dressing room before breakfast taught me the multiplication tables, and my mother after breakfast taught me to read from a paper-back series entitled "STEP by Step" also writing in copy-books beginning with pothooks and hangers, all of which were assets when I started prep school.
Fine mornings almost always found me traipsing the length of Kensington high street to Kensington Gardens. Of the shops on the way the highlight was "Lorgberg" with a window-full of sailing boats, etc. The last time I saw Kensington Gardens the landscape seemed unchanged, but gone were all the nursemaids and the perambulators. It was here that we made and met friends all similarly chaperoned. One was George Byam Shaw (we were born a day apart) the son of an artist in Addison Road. We were present at each other's parties for a long while till I grew to detest him for no recallable reason. In the afternoons it was often to the railings of nearby Addison Road station opposite Olympia. Trains in various liveries would pass through on what I suspect was a circular route around London. There were fewer platforms than at Clapham junction, but quite a number. (Looking at a London street Guide it seems likely that Addison Road station exists now as Kensington Olympia).
Sometimes we were sent on shopping errands to the Earls court Road to a corner bakery for farthing buns (a baker's dozen always meant thirteen), or to a dairy for butter where wooden butter-pats stacked in water clawed, say, half a pound from a truckle-like mass to be weighed on grease-proof paper, after which it was patted into a brick and finally a wooden mould was pressed on top to provide a pretty pattern in relief. Or again it could have been to a grocer for loaf sugar, cut off and weighed from a solid cone-shaped loaf, hence the name. No groceries were packaged; everything, biscuits, tea, flour, etc. were dispensed by counter assistants from bulk containers. One is aware nowadays of the many retail prices described as £x.95.or £x.99. The equivalent used to be xs 11¾ d (so-many shillings, and eleven-pence three farthings). To complete the day I was tidied to spend an hour or so in the drawing room with my mother, aunt and grandma, frequently to hear the restraining, but never resented adage that little boys should be seen and not heard. This little one played happily on the floor, restricted though it was by the Victorian tradition of over-furnishing. My memory for toys almost non-exists: there was an "army" of lead soldiers all in review order, a fort with drawbridge, a tiny clockwork train on a circular track, a small yacht for the round pond, and a wheel of life. This piece of ingenuity consisted of a black open-topped tin cylinder, pierced with vertical slots in the top half, leaving a space below them for a strip of paper on which was printed a series of images. When the cylinder was rotated, one saw through the slots, as in the cinema, a moving picture e.g. a horse and rider hurdling, or a ball being thrown and caught. The day ended with a bathtub in the nursery, the hot water carried up from the bathroom, and the slops emptied in the W.C. below.
There was a routine of etiquette in those days which never concerned me personally, but is worth recording for its curiosity value. That was "calling". All ladies practiced it. Established inhabitants hearing of newcomers whom they were recommended to meet, called upon them one afternoon. If the called-upon was at home and available, the caller chatted for fifteen minutes, finally leaving three visiting cards on a salver in the hall, a big card from her and two smaller ones from her husband, one of which was intended for the callee's husband. (Cards had to be engraved in italic script, never printed). The big card included calling days, e g 1st & 2nd Thursdays each month of perhaps just one day. Calling days meant that she guaranteed to be at home with tea, sandwiches, and cakes, for anyone paying a social visit. I cannot say when this custom lapsed but as adapted in India where it survived usefully until WW2 - usefully because the European population was in constant flux. Married folk kept small calling boxes fixed to one of their gateposts and any newcomer to the station rode or drove around soon after arrival, dropping cards into the boxes pertaining to his own corps or regiment, all C.O.s, senior commanders and civil servants, and the resident and the maharajah if in a native state. Thus the newcomer's presence was broadcast and the local society could entertain him or her if they so wished. Before quitting a station cards marked 'p.p.c.' (pour prendre congé') were similarly distributed.
Back to London, and some exceptions to the routine there: -
When and why precisely I do not know, but Mamie took me on a visit to her aunt in Frant Forest, near Tunbridge Wells, the aunt who eventually bequeathed her the cottage in which to end her days. A hen coop roofed with corrugated iron stood in the yard, and one day the hens, either through my fault or from some extraneous surprise, scattered panic-stricken, and I too panicked, tripped and cut my nose on the iron roof to leave a scar there for some years. That was my one and only exeat alone with Mamie. Much later at rugger the nose stopped a back's punt at short range. The College quack (school doctor) diagnosed no special damage, but I reckon these two incidents wrecked my nasal passages permanently.
With greater pleasure I recollect several picnic expeditions to Kew Gardens. My Mamma knew a fellow-dabbler in watercolours living near us, and we three sometimes escaped on suitably sunny summer days into to the semi-countryside. To get there entailed a bus ride from the end of our road down Kensington High Street and the Hammersmith Road to Hammersmith Broadway, where we transferred to an electric tram to take us down Chiswick High Road to the junction for Kew Bridge. My earliest recollection of buses sees them to have been horse-drawn. They were probably under private enterprise, each company painting its vehicles in a distinct livery - red, green, yellow, etc., with each plying its own route. One thus selected one 's bus by its colour and not by a route number as nowadays. A raised arm anywhere along a scheduled route brought it to a halt and served as a 'bus-stop'. On the lower deck the passengers faced each other across the passage; the top deck was open to the skies and the passengers seats faced forwards. The prestige seats were just behind the driver who was perched in front at the same height. Electric trams were similarly open-decked, but the top deck seat backs were swing-able to and fro because trams used to reverse at their destinations. The overhead power-line and the tram's sprung connecting arm underneath it, produced a constant hiss and intermittent exciting white flashes. A penny fare carried one a considerable distance.
Public transport also included the underground I retain an impression of it at High Street Kensington Station, but I cannot be sure if it comes from hearsay or personal experience. It is a smelly one of sulphurous grime, the pollution from steam locomotives. I cannot specify when electricity took over from steam, but I believe the tuppenny tube, so-called from the fare charged, opened in the first decade of the century. It was deep enough to need lifts and not merely a staircase to reach it, although an emergency stairwell was provided at each station. It became the Piccadilly line in due course. I am equally vague about crossing Kew Bridge, but I cannot utterly ignore an impression of a horse-drawn white tram leading to the open square at the entrance to the garden. Parts of Kew Gardens remain vivid in the mind; an open glade to the Thames with Zion house beyond and bluebells to right and left; the pagoda, and the glass house which we explored when the sketching was finished.
Olympia meant the naval and military tournament (no R.A.F. in those days) whither I went several times. Much of the old performance remains intact, e.g. the obstacle course for naval guns and the R.H.A. musical ride, but instead of the Royal Signals on motor bikes there was a similar performance by a team of Lancers in full dress, mounted on horses. Once there was a reproduction of 'Tilting at the Lists' as in Tudor times, with knights in plate armour, their lances half severed to break on impact. Ever since I have retained a romantic interest in armour without having bothered to acquire any knowledge so as to distinguish period styles.
Boxing Day implied dress-circle seats at the London Hippodrome for a "Variety Performance". One vague recollection evokes a 'Victor Hugo' style contest between a diver and a huge octopus in the pit converted into a simulated water tank. Another year the pit contained actual water into which down a ramp went a few elephants, and human divers plunged in to remain immersed for unconscionably long periods. I would suspect a submerged diving bell. Alternatively there were where the Rainbow Ends and Peter Pan, the latter an exciting stimulant for the young imagination. Indeed, for several decades I enjoyed dreams of levitation. Not only were they enjoyable but in rare nightmares levitation provided a happy issue from pending affliction. I used to believe that J. M. Barrie must have written uniquely in this regard but much later, reading Richard Church's autobiographical trilogy, he introduces levitation almost as a fact of life, so perhaps the sensation is more universal than I had supposed.
We must have travelled to and from these theatres in hired cabs, and this thought stirs the memory to the fact that London roads were surfaced with wood blocks, their laying and repair involved black mobile tanks of hot tar, the smell from which is unforgettable. Undoubtedly wood was kinder to horses' hooves and legs than were the stone sets, still to be found in Lancashire towns into the I930's or indeed the water bound macadam roads in the country, the dust from which rendered verges hedgerows white with dust.
Further to digress, it was on these roads that my parents, like many of their contemporaries, enjoyed spins on their bicycles into the western suburbs on fine Saturday afternoons. Weekends then and until WW2 consisted only of Saturday afternoons and Sundays, and the suburbs offered inviting remains of countryside up to the post-WW1 building boom. In the winter recreational afternoons were spent playing Badminton.
I accompanied my mother very occasionally on her weekly visits to a nearby workhouse on or near the Earls Court Road, where she taught woodcarving to some of the inmates, to which she brought a large roll of tools and considerable personal experience. I took no great joy from this but it served as an introduction to the seamier side of life. The plain red brick barrack blocks, men and women strictly segregated, despite possible relationships, spelt gloom.
We were not without visitors: most were Montague Brownes (relations of my father's mother). I well remember my Grandma's brother, General Andrew (one time of the Scots Greys) and his wife Alice (nee Ferguson) the possessor of a clear soprano voice. Their son Andrew, my father's first cousin and an officer of the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, came quite often after his return from South Africa (he frequented Tattersals on the look-out for hunters), and continued his visits into our Northwood days until, in the middle of WW1 he married a divorcee, whereupon my mother's severe moral protests drove him from setting foot in our house again. This did not stop my meeting them henceforward to the end of their respective lives, at most of their several residences in the U.K. Also as visitors came two rather colourless and devout spinsters, Tan and Vi; Eily a gay lady, who later married Octavius (Occy) Lothian Nicholson, eventually a general, and Evie the youngest, who was my favourite, and who later married Occy s brother, Bertram, a navel officer who retired as captain. Amongst her skills was a lucrative one - the modelling of all manner of birds, and animals in coloured sealing wax; brooches, hat pins, and so on. They were unique and much sought after. She sent me several lovely letters from their home, St John's Point, County Down, illustrated with small watercolour vignettes scattered about the pages to illustrate the text. I do not remember how when she and Bertram died, but it was well before their due time.
Then there was my godfather, Dr. Stirling Hamilton, a bachelor practicing in Leytonstone, whose father and my grandfather had been buddies. The family seat, which my family used to visit, was at Woodgaters in Sussex. My other godparents were Nat Dunn, a rich bachelor seemingly without a profession, living in Alnmouth, Northumberland, who had provided my Mama in the I890s with her hunter, 'Beauty', and who always sent us a goose by rail in time for Xmas. And thirdly, a spinster, Miss Dalton, daughter of a Sapper general, who lived in Longridge Road, not far from us. Uniquely she sent my Christmas present to me on St. Andrew's Day so that its impact might not be lost amongst the Christmas parcels!
The Sunday routine was one of austere solemnity. The gentry walked to matins at 11.00 a.m. dressed in dark suits, clutching books of Common Prayer bound with hymns Ancient & Modern. Domestic staffs attended Evensong. For the confirmed communion was customarily restricted to once monthly at 8.30. Confirmation, as with Masonic initiation, provided access to what had hitherto been a mystery. Another feature was the suspicious semi-hostile attitude existing between Anglicans, Roman Catholics and the multiple shades of nonconformance. A partly uniformed parade of the Church Lads Brigade headed by a bugle-fife band would sometimes pass by. Occasionally, too, one passed a stationary and fully uniformed brass band of the Salvation Army. Matins would finish perhaps at 12.30 or 12.45. Sermons were long; every psalm prescribed for the day of the month was chanted, and the Litany was not infrequently recited in full. Immediately on arriving home one sat down to the hot roast with all the etceteras; afterwards there was probably a stroll. The came tea, followed by books - holy books only. My mother read to me from a three volume series bound in limp red cloth called "Line upon Line"; they provided renderings into simple English of most of the stories of the Old Testament. However dull at the time, I later reaped the benefit. Without them how bewildering would be the numerous references in literature and journalism. Later in Northwood my mother, freed from her in-laws, would expect my presence on a Sunday evening at the upright piano to join her hymn singing. A favourite was 'There's a Friend for Little Children above the Bright Blue Sky', misinformation that could take a lifetime to eradicate.
I must digress again. The onset of wireless in the I920's and of TV in the late thirties replaced most forms of home entertainment. All communication had been slower, nevertheless post office efficiency was exemplary by modern standards. Telephones were comparatively rare. The household apparatus clung to the wall on a wooden bracket. After lifting the speaker/receiver from its rack one turned a handle at the side of the bracket to alert the girl at the exchange. Aircraft were nonexistent. News was distributed by telegram, but a transmitter might be far from a scene of action. In the case of the 1911 railway strike while we were on summer holiday in Huntstanton (Norfolk), there were no newspaper deliveries, and my father trekked daily to the railway station to find out if there were a chance for him to return to work. One day, trains just happened again without warning.
We did escape from Cobbett's "Great Wen". My impressions of a long weekend with the Rev. Budge, vicar of Brampton near Huntington, are con-fined to its riverine situation and croquet on the lawn. Better remembered were several visits to Aston Court in Herefordshire where my mother's eldest sister, Katie, lived as Mrs. Manley Power. The village was Aston Ingham. We detrained at Mitcheldean Road whence pony traps took us and our baggage to the court. It was a capacious house with farm buildings, large beautifully kept gardens with space for tennis and croquet, flowerbeds, fruit, and vegetables. It was bounded on one side by a stream dammed to provide an ornamental pool with a wooden footbridge over it. Behind the stream were apple orchards, where my uncle was said to be engaged in experiments, beyond which, not over two miles away in the background, one could see the unmistakably symmetrical May Hill crowned with its grove of trees, like the sprig of holly on a plum pudding.
Uncle Manley's main concern was, however, dairy farming with a reputation such that several young embryo gentlemen-farmers lived as members of the household (no farm institutes in those days). One of them happened to be present when I was sailing my boat in the pool. It floated out of reach and was drifting under the bridge towards the weir and imminent destruction. This gallant young man ran on to the bridge, leaned over and caught the boat, but the wooden handrail snapped and he fell in. I learned years later that, having brought the boat ashore, my sole reaction was a reproachful "You've wetted the sails".
Etched on my mind is another episode. In front of the house on the far side of the Lea/Newent Road was a five barred gate leading to a large field which sloped up to the farm labourer's cottage between one hundred and two hundred yards back. We used to visit there frequently because Mamie, who had been in charge of the Manley Power children before coming to us, had been very friendly with the cottagers, Mr. and Mrs. Seeborne. On this particular day I was mounted on a stocky bay pony. The visit accomplished, I was hoisted back into the saddle. The pony, his head pointing home, took off, but there was no one leading it and I heaved at the reins in vain. The pony stopped short at the gate and I shot over its head. Only cuts and bruises resulted, but my riding days only resumed for the eighteen-month equitation course at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich.
Years later in adolescence on holiday from Wellington during WW1, my mother and I spent ten days at Aston, by when there was an open motor car to meet us. Also present was a distant cousin, Jessie Norman, quite a comely young woman aged around twenty. She and I seemed to enjoy each other's company, played tennis and went cycling together about the countryside. It was a bad case of calf-love. My ma took umbrage that I should be so led astray, and it was rumoured that Uncle Manley had taken a hand in promoting my education. I took her photograph back to Wellington, and we corresponded for several months, but it was not long before she married and migrated to South Africa.
A year or two ago, being in the neighbourhood, I revisited Aston Court. There it stood shabbily exposed to the road, the shrubs and trees which had concealed the drive and all the farm buildings had been destroyed and the garden derelict. The house had been converted into flats. A man in a nearby cottage was my informant. He shared my sorrow.
For the last three or four summers of our London existence, and come June, my mother, Mamie and I took train for Littlehampton. I do not remember having seen Victoria Station in those early years, and thus am pretty sure that we entrained at Addison Road. I can certainly vouch for the presence there of the buff-liveried London Brighton & South Coast locomotives. We spent three weeks in Littlehampton to escape from the smoky enervating air of London. Littlehampton was an unassuming little town on the east bank of the estuary of the river Arun, and a wide expanse of grass separated the town from the sea-shore. In the middle was a white bandstand where a troupe of Pierrots played daily. They were financed, at least partially, by passing a hat round the audience as it lay in deck chairs. Frequent groynes retained the sand along the shore where shrimps and dabs abounded in the shallows. Paddle steamers plied along the coast calling at the short pier beside the estuary. We always rented the apartments kept by Mrs. Maynard at 11 New Road, a terraced house facing west, the river Arun immediately in front, and open country behind it. The house was too small to admit more than one family at a time. We had to shop for food, but meals could be flexibly arranged to suit our needs.
On fine days the routine consisted of sand-castles, paddling and bathing ad-lib with lunch the only interruption. All bathers used bathing machines: small wooden cabins on wheels, the floors gritty with wet sand, dragged up and down the beach by a pony to suit the state of the tide. Machines were book-able from an old woman who also kept bathing dresses for hire. The sexes were segregated. Male bathing dresses fitted tightly from the thigh to the shoulder where buttons held them in place. Females wore beret-style waterproof caps, voluminous blouses fitted with wrist-length sleeves, and tied into the waist with strings or belts, and below these were baggy knickers terminating in frills below the knees. They were made of flannel which, even after strong wringing required twenty-four hours of airing to dry. We trooped back for tea often bearing after a favourable tide a harvest which we had collected in the shrimping net.
My father arrived every Saturday in time for lunch and departed very early on Mondays. I recall one doleful Saturday. I was busy paddling and refused to come our when summoned. My eyes, turned shore-wards, failed to see a bigger than average wave. Down I went - plop. The result disgrace and an afternoon in bed for punishment, and partly to stifle the cold which I was assured must ensue from saturated clothes. On the subject of bed I remember being enchanted in the early mornings by a hitherto inexperienced chirruping song, which I soon discovered came from a swallow's nest beneath the eaves just above the window.
Once or twice on Saturday afternoons my parents took paddle steamer trips. Mamie avoided these; even to walk on the pier provoked nausea. My first eagerly awaited voyage terminated abruptly when a warning shriek from the ship's siren scared me to a spontaneous howl, and I had to be rushed ashore for everybody's sake. A year or two later, I did accompany them to Worthing.
Fine Sundays produced another routine. We took the ferry across the Arun, since the nearest bridge was then at Arundel, and walked a mile or so along the sand dunes towards Bognor. (Regis was bestowed on the town years later by King George V who convalesced there after an illness). We always stopped at the same spot where a hedge or a depression in the dunes shielded us from the then prevalent south-west wind, and partook of our picnic lunch which unfailingly included a home-made veal and ham pie with a boiled egg in the middle. We stayed there until it was time to return home to tea, and it was on one occasion there that I was introduced to kite flying, an unsuitable hobby for Kensington Gardens with its numerous tall trees.
I may not recollect Victoria Station but Kings Cross became very familiar. Every year the four of us, which included Mamie, went north to Alnwick to spend my father's four week holiday with my mother's parents, who were also his aunt and uncle, and with such of my aunts as might be present.
Going away in those days meant trunks and not suitcases. Packing involved much forethought and lists began well in advance. The trunks were carried to the station on the roof of a four wheeler cab. On the return journey home small boys, spotting the luggage, used to run behind us and perch if possible on the rear of the cab to earn a penny or two for helping to unload it into the house.
Many porters waited outside Kings Cross for passengers and one took charge of our luggage, trundled it to the label room, and when satisfied that we held tickets, labeled each piece with our destination. He then loaded them into the luggage van and received his tip.
The Great Northern Railway brought us to York, where we exchanged engines with the North Eastern Railway. At Newcastle we changed to a stopping train for Alnmouth, whence the four-mile branch line took us to Alnwick. The terminus there was surprisingly grand. It boasted a glazed wrought-iron barrel roof above ashlar masonry walls. This was doubtless in honour of, if not financed by, his grace the Duke of Northumberland, the reigning Percy at Alnwick Castle.
Freelands, the Paynter home, lay nearly a mile from the town on the Alnmouth (pronounced Alemouth) Road about a hundred yards beyond its junction with the Newcastle road, now the A1. It was a stone building complete with carriage porch, approached through wrought iron gates and up fifty yards of straight drive. To the left of the drive was a tennis-cum-bowls lawn; to the right behind a row of trees was an iron fence to prevent horses and ponies straying from their paddock. The original building plan must have been a simple rectangle, to which the large annex behind it was an after-thought to cope with twelve progeny and the necessary staff. The gardens included a sizeable redbrick wall-garden with fan-trained fruit trees and box-hedged beds of flowers and herbs. After depositing anyone at the front door, the pony and trap had to circle a bed in front of the porch, in the middle of which was a life-size stone statue of a standing monk, before disappearing down the narrow drive between the house and the left-hand boundary wall which led to the stables. Alongside the stable, above which was the coachman's quarter, was a row of outbuildings containing vehicles, saddlery, and fodder. The coachman, Tommy Train, was a Geordie whose speech baffled a wee southerner. "Are ye gang doon the toon?" was one of his few understandable questions. Off behind the outbuildings and still flanking the paddock, came the kitchen garden which provided a prodigious quantity of vegetables, and soft and hard fruit. In the middle was an earth closet which the men occupied after breakfast so as not to interfere with the female competition for the water closet indoors.
The front door of Freelands opened on to a large hall. Immediately to left and right were the Drawing and Dining Rooms respectively. Next on the left came a straight broad staircase with, to its right, a big table on which of an evening stood an array of candlesticks and matches to light the way to the bedrooms; there being no gas or electricity, just candles and oil lamps. Behind the stairs was the Smoking Room containing a glass fronted gun rack in one corner, and opposite, to the right, was the Sewing Room. Finally at the far end of the hall a green baize door led to the domestic quarters: pantry, scullery, laundry, kitchen and so forth. In the laundry stood a copper for boiling clothes and a hand operated mangle, and on the pantry table was an old-fashioned circular wood-framed knife cleaner, stainless steel having yet to be invented. The main feature in the kitchen was the coal-fired kitchen range, black-leaded overall. The fire was flanked both sides by ovens, and behind the fire was the water-boiler. The heat was regulated by means of a moveable baffle in the flue pipe at the back. Fuelling was effected by hod through a circular hole normally capped, and there was a hinged flap to the front to allow for stoking. What I have so far described was common throughout the land, but in this case the opened front provided heat for roasting joints of meat on the slowly rotating spit, by then a comparative rarity. Connecting the kitchen quarters with the staff bedrooms was a narrow plain deal staircase, and adjoining the kitchen the younger children of the house were once taught by a resident governess in a capacious school-room.
Upstairs in the main block were four bedrooms and the water closet. In two of the bedrooms were built-in cupboards which, when opened, revealed baths of nearly modern standards. All the bedrooms contained wash-hand stands with basin, jug and soap dish on the top and a slop-pail below; and in those bedrooms without cupboards, round enamel baths were kept under the beds, similar to the amenities at Wellington during WW1. There must have been another water closet if only for the staff, but I cannot recall or imagine where it was.
Now for a note on breakfasts. The gong rang at 8 o'clock and we had to be punctual. The long sideboard in the dining room groaned under its I load of porridge, tea, and an array of entree dishes containing a choice of fish, (say, smoked haddock, kedgeree, or fishcakes); sausages or kidney or bacon; eggs in various guises with and without fried bread; and often cold ham; not to mention all the relevant crockery. Racks of toast may have been on the table-I cannot remember - but assuredly there were plates of girdle cakes. These were ubiquitous in the neighbourhood, and were served for tea as well as breakfast. Some were triangular, some round; some were plain, some contained currents, and they would be eaten with marmalade, jam, or just butter. Modern dieticians would deplore the fat content. Indeed I wonder if Northumbrians still follow this custom. (Post-script: No they do not. They were scarcely to be found in the shops when I visited in 1983). Perhaps the girdles, circular sheets of iron surmounted with semicircular strips of iron for handles, are only to be found in cult museums. When the meal was over grandfather remained at the head of the table while the rest of us pushed our chairs back as far as they would go. The bell-rope was pulled and in trooped the servants, all five or six of them in their blue cotton working clothes, white aprons and caps. They distributed themselves along the vacant chairs which lined the wall at the foot of the table. When all were settled, grandfather began to read a passage from the Bible. Then we all turned about, knelt with our elbows on the chairs, while he intoned appropriate prayers. If lucky enough to be by a window, I gazed happily into the garden, and I expect the servant by the window on her side equally enjoyed the view down the drive.
My grandfather, who stood six feet three inches in his socks, sported a huge spade beard which repelled me at the good-night kiss, smelling as it did of whisky and tobacco. He was a strange character. Years later when I was grown-up, my father told me that he was a master of sarcasm such as to drive his largely uneducated sons from home at the first opportunity, whereas, on the other hand, his popularity with, and hospitality to, his elders and contemporaries prompted so many legacies that he should have died rich had he not been profligate and seldom out of debt. That is as may be, the Duke was among his clients and he thus enjoyed some privileges including access to fishing and shooting rights, sports at which he was notably proficient. He also had the keys to Alnwick Park, and we often drove through it to enjoy picnic teas at Hulne Abbey and the Brisley Tower. On the way several gates had to be opened where fences corralled cattle and deer, and it was always my duty to jump down to open them. But these outings were never on Sundays. On the Sabbath Day thou shalt do no manner of work, thy manservant nor thy maid-servant, thy cattle, etc. I can vouch that maidservants toiled, but cattle here included horses and ponies, and they were strictly protected from Sabbath labour. There was a Sunday post delivery; no postman was allowed to approach Freelands; instead the letters were delivered at Belvedere, a terraced house between Freelands and the town where on the regular walk back from Matins at St. Paul's Church, we called to collect them. In parenthesis, I also learned that Henry Paynter crowned his Sunday austerity after supper with three or more male cronies in the Smoking Room at a whisky-and-whist session. (He kept a chamber pot behind a folding screen, not to mention two spittoons on the floor. That I do remember.)
The owner of Belvedere was my grandfather's elder brother, John. He was shorter and sported only a clipped black beard he seemed to subsist without a job, spending his time growing exquisite carnations in the greenhouse. He was at times cursed with gout in one foot, which he rested bandaged on a footstool. There would be terror in his eyes as I approached lest I should knock it. Uncle John was a widower with four grown-up sons. One Camborne, a sporting type, was often home. The Paynters came from Cornwall but Camborne's speech affected the Geordie. Bill was a horse gunner, having retained his commission after volunteering for the South African war. He served largely in India with Q battery R.H.A., and became renowned one year for winning the Khadir Cup, the major pig-sticking trophy at Meerut. I saw the monstrous silver bauble in Belvedere. Later, after we had moved to Northwood, he stayed with us while recuperating from a liver abscess operation at 'Sister Agnes'. Later still, after retirement, when I must have been either at Woolwich or Chatham, he gave me lunch at the 'In and Out' followed by a trip to Twickenham for the Army and Navy match. The third and fourth sons I never met, neither Pendarvis, who was killed in WW1, nor Peter Paul.
Back to Freelands, some four hundred yards away, in full view of the road in front of the house, were railway sidings where coal trucks were constantly shunting, much to my fascination. They were engaged in dispersing a coal tip fed by an endless chain of buckets pulled along an elevated rope-way from Shilbottle colliery about four miles away. My grand father was a part owner of this colliery and I accompanied him in the dogcart on several occasions when he had business there. One memorable day, my father, mother, and I were invited to descend the mineshaft, and thence on rails in a train of trucks we were carried to the coal-face. This was a narrow face and the miners knelt or lay on their sides to wield their picks (I recall no drills). The conditions appeared squalid. One privilege for Freelands was of course, free coal.
My grandmother Henrietta (née Newman) was as dumpy as her husband was tall, her voice a shrill croak; otherwise I retain no special memories of her. She contracted diabetes before the insulin treatment had been discovered, when strict diet was all that medicine could offer, and she died of it in 1913 or 1914. It was rumoured that Henry Paynter then suffered pangs of guilt for the excessive childbirths that he had imposed upon her. Could it have been cause and effect?
The children in order of birth were:
Alnwick displayed some unique features. On the way to the town from Freelands one soon passed on the right the so-called Farmers Folly, a tall isolated stone pillar surmounted with the Percy Lion. Local farmers had erected it in the mid-19th century in gratitude for a reduction in their rents. Further along the railway station lay uphill to the left and soon afterwards a road to the right led northeast towards the Bamburgh coast. Still further along after passing a few shops, one came to Bondgate, a narrow tunnel in the wall through which one came upon the wide market-place with shops on both sides, with a slight slope down from left to right. Grand-father's office was at the far end in an unpretentious block, after which one could turn right on the Great North Road (now the A1), passing the precincts of the castle, or leftwards up hill on a minor road leading over the moors towards Rothbury. Black bullets and Berwick cockles were my principal enticements to the shops.
There were footpaths within reach of Freelands. Turning right towards the town, then left at he junction with the Newcastle Road, one could soon climb a stile on the left to a field-path leading quickly to the Calashes, a clear stream between steep banks deeply shaded by low trees and brushwood. Sticklebacks and small birds abounded. Or turning left from the house, after about a quarter of a mile, a field-gate on the left took one along a farm road to the river Aln which was cross-able by ford or by stepping-stones to Ethington's Mill. It was in the fields in this direction that we some times went hunting for mushrooms. In I907 shortly after Aline (my sister) was born, to the surprise of innocent me, I can clearly remember walking here with my father when we discussed possible names for her, and decided on the appropriateness of the initials A.L.N., 'Lilian' to be the second name. 'Aline' was an afterthought.
Hawkhill lay halfway to Alnmouth. There lived here a farming family called Chrisp, an old couple with several children, one of whom, Etta, had been a contemporary of my mother's at Newcastle High School. So we often called there. The sitting room window disclosed a memorably wide view beyond the first haha to be brought to my attention. One day there at harvest time, I was helping to 'stook' the corn sheaves. The horse-drawn reaper or binder (no tractors yet) had reduced the standing corn to about a tennis court area, when out streamed the terrified rabbits. I chased one to its temporary shelter under a stook, put my hand in and pulled it out alive - quite an event for a small 'townee'.
Beyond Hawkhill one passed Lesbury, and soon after at a road junction swung left towards Alnmouth which is situated at the estuary of the river Aln, an estuary which then harboured small fishing craft as well as yachts. 'Nat' Dunn, already mentioned, always asked us to lunch at least once. On other visits, we climbed the hill to the north of the town which overlooked the golf course on the low ground between it and the sea, and on which stood a one-time fort converted into a cafe where we ate our tea.
Long expeditions by dog-cart took us as far afield as Seahouses whence we walked along the shore as far as Bamburgh passing Monks House on the way. Monks house was once the home of the heroine Grace Darling who rowed out alone into a stormy sea one night to rescue the crew of a fishing boat in distress. It used to serve the Paynter family as their seaside resort for bathing, fishing, and for trips to the Farne and Holy Islands. By all accounts the annual exodus involved a convoy of carts to carry all the family and its paraphernalia.
Another such drive took us to Glanton to see Aunt Winnie. A longer drive almost due north to Ford and Etal brought us, with a diversion on the way home, to the historical battlefield of Flodden. Such a drive was probably tough on the horse, but it must be remembered that whenever a hill was encountered the passengers dismounted and walked.
In Alnwick itself, we often called in passing at the cottage where the Alnmouth and Newcastle roads met, because this was the home of Emma Kennedy who, before marrying a miner, had been a cook at Freelands. The cottage was noteworthy for me, firstly for the savoury smell of bread rising in front of the open fire, and secondly for watching her son John using a treadle fret-saw to cut jigsaw puzzles for pocket money. In the late sixties, I spent a night in Alnwick on the way home from Scotland. I happened on an old tobacconist in the town who remembered my grandfather. He recommended visiting St Paul's church to see Henry Paynter's name on a board listing the old churchwardens, and remarked incidentally that John Kennedy and his family were now occupying Belvedere. Seen through the gates Freelands looked much as it was but the paddock had been developed.
Another inevitable visit was to Hannah Smith for tea. She had been one of the children's nurses who had married and lived in a small terraced house beyond the railway line. Walking there one day, my father announced that we were about to see a bun dance, and I can recall my disappoint that nothing of the kind had actually taken place.
These annual journeys to Alnwick ceased after 1908, the year that had brought us to Northwood. I vividly recall that the Great Central express train, on my father's arrangement with the stationmaster, stopped there to pick us up to take us as far as York. Oh British Rail - Eheu fugaces. And my very last visit, while it was still the family house, although my grandmother had died, was in the Christmas holidays from Wellington in 1914. My mother and I went alone. I met my Uncle Ernest for the first time, otherwise my sole recollection is meeting or seeing somebody off at Alnwick station and of hearing there the notorious rumour that Russian soldiers had assuredly come to our aid because snow had been seen in the passenger carriages somewhere or other.
Before closing some notes on dress may not come amiss. Men and women, high and low, wore boots almost without exception before WW1: lace-ups for men, buttons for women. In Lancashire wooden clogs still prevailed. The professional and business men in the towns wore top hats, frock coats, mostly single or butterfly starched white collars and cuffs, sober ties or cravats with tie pins. Gold watch chains straddled between two vest pockets, because wristwatches were yet to come, and a cane or brolley swung from a gloved hand. Even in the country, men without walking sticks were rarities.
Women's hats were less outrageous versions of many still to be seen at Ascot - picture hats with multi-trimmings. Their long and seldom cut hair was worn rolled and twisted into various shapes above or behind the head, and stapled into position with combs and hairpins. Long straight pins with decorated heads were pushed through the tresses to secure the hats from storm damage. 'Putting her hair up' was the tribal ritual signifying that a girl was adolescent no longer.
The shapes and embellishments of women's dresses, blouses, and skirts followed fashion's dictates, but no fashion dared infringe the propriety that insisted upon screening the stockinged ankle and permitting hands to be the only flesh displayed below the neck line. One year, narrow hobbled skirts revealed the curves that lay beneath but the wearers could enter carriages only with the greatest difficulty. Waists throughout were as waspish as tight-laced whale-boned corsets could make them.
The rules for mourning were strict. A widow must wear her black weeds for twelve months from the decease of her husband. Some never relinquished them; others did so gradually through a series of discrete grays and lavenders. Men bore witness to their bereavements with black ties and broad black bands around their left sleeves, but the period for them was more flexible.
Black edged envelopes and notepaper were de-rigueur for mourning and when Edward VII died, men wore black armbands. Moreover for a while newspapers were printed on black edged sheets with the vertical inter-column lines emphasized.
WW1 made for partial relaxation business and professional men took to morning coats or dark lounge suits; bowlers, and later the Anthony Eden homburgs, succeeded the top hats. No heads however were to be seen unhatted or uncapped out of doors. Knickerbockers gave way to plus-fours, even for non-golfers, for country-wear. Shoes supplanted boots, other than for cricket and football, and cricket and lawn tennis still required white flannel shirts and trousers.
Women began to disclose that they at least possessed ankles, but knees remained taboo. Clothes varied in shape year by year and corsets were gradually discarded. In general it is fair to say that hats and frocks became simplified and less larded with elaborate decoration. For a short while cloche hats became the rage, fitting as they did close to the partially-shorn heads. Motoring in the open motor cars of that epoch dictated this if nothing else.
And then came WW2 leading to a slow decline in formal standards, until it became fashionable in certain quarters even to fray and patch new denims before deeming them wearable, while uncut, unwashed hair drooped in unkempt shreds about their shoulders. The price of clothes and general inflation are partly to blame, but it is as if the previous ideal of self-respect had somersaulted into self-contempt. Perhaps at last the tide is turning.
Aline's arrival in 1907 ensured the parting of the ways for the inhabitants of 55 Warwick Gardens. In any case, as I was told later, the relationship between Lily and her in-laws had always been strained. We migrated to Northwood which provided my mother once again with a country environment because Northwood was country in those days, with field-paths in all directions until the building development between the wars desecrated it entirely. My father commuted daily to his office until 1937. The quick train service to Marylebone in a carriage-full of friends lightened the burden. He died there in I947 and my mother followed eleven years later.
My grandmother and aunt moved to a maisonette at 27 Philbeach Gardens. The old lady died there in I930 aged 86 having remained throughout physically fit but latterly losing her memory almost completely. She confused me with my father when I went to see her, and used to wander the streets in my aunt's absence with no lucid answer as to where she had been, just "up the spout". My aunt then moved to smaller premises near Barons Court Underground Station, occupied herself as a secretary without typing ability, at last being awarded a quarter in Queen Alexandra's Court in Wimbledon. This was a charitable institution for the impecunious widows and daughters of army officers. She spent the war there refusing to descend to an air-raid shelter however fierce the bombing, until early in I950, having fallen into her fireplace one night, I was summoned to remove her. Her cousin Rowland Newman offered her shelter in his house in Bridgwater, where she died a fortnight later, to be buried in East Huntspill churchyard in Somerset.
Moving to Northwood in 1908 provided a completely new life-style. The new house Edale was rented from a Dr. Perle of Pinner at £60 p.a. It was semi-detached part-brick part-roughcast, its windows casements not like the sashes of London, and it was sited on the NW side of Dene Road, about a hundred yards from its junction with the Pinner-Rickmansworth main road. Dene Road was private; that meant maintained jointly by the householders and not the council's responsibility. Consequently its surface was rough gravel; its verges of unkempt grass flanked gravel paths for pedestrians. The traffic however was minimal, mostly horse and cart, so that one walked in the road with safety. Fronting Edale were green fields, presently rising to the left the road was residential whereas to the right there was a row of four or five humbler workmen's dwellings, a build yard, then finally at the junction with the main road yet another residence.
We had a small front garden. From the straight path to the front door another branched left passing the scullery door and led to the main garden behind. The principle feature of this garden was the lawn, too small for tennis, but a somewhat cramped array of hoops and posts provided croquet every summer. To the left of the lawn the path continued serpentinely ahead, and there were flower beds on the extreme left and right below the boundary wall and hedge respectively. Beyond the lawn was a rose bed in front of a rustic pergola up which climbing roses screened the plot where grew the vegetables and fruit comprising blackcurrants and raspberries. The entire area cannot have exceeded half an acre. Behind the vegetable patch was a hedge, and behind that an open space in which a little to the left grew a large elegant and symmetrical oak tree which in summer hid much of the Kewferry Road, then in course of development, and the parish church which was on the main road.
The house itself, compact and unpretentious, provided just enough space for us and the two maids. The small hall contained a staircase to the left with the kitchen premises behind it, while immediately on the right was the small sitting room and then the dining room with its French window opening onto the garden. On the landing between the ground and first floors were the loo and bathroom in separate compartments. The first floor comprised three bedrooms (one for the maids) and a tiny dressing room for my father. Above, spacious as to floor but restricted by the slope of roof and fitted with dormer windows, was my bedroom at the back with Mamie's and Aline's to the front. As in London we lived with gas lighting and there was a fireplace in every room.
Most of the Warwick gardens furniture accompanied my grandma and aunt to their maisonette at 27 Philbeach Gardens, which backed on to the railway with the Earls Court exhibition grounds beyond. My parents bought their replacements from John Storey & Co. in Kensington High Street near Barkers. The actual move took place in March. By some means or other my parents had made friends with a family living in a large detached house in Dene Road on the higher ground beyond the slight hill already mentioned, so that I of a sudden found myself packed off for two or three weeks on to Mr. and Mrs. Woodhouse at St Helena for the settling-in period. He was a dentist; her maiden name was Pugsley, from a Kilve, Somerset, family, a locality where the Woodhouse family were wont to spend their summer vacations. Strange the associations however slight with our eventual home some forty years later. There were three sons: one at Rugby too senior to have any truck with me; another at the prep school that I was to join; and the third who would follow me there later. This detachment from the family induced more worry than joy, but the friendship remained intact until Mr. Woodhouse retired and they all left the district.
When I was reunited with my family, it was soon necessary to collect my school uniform which was for Edwardian times quite avant-garde, viz:- no cap or hat, just a floppy grey felt one to be worn only in hot summer sunshine; a white flannel shirt, preferably without a tie but not so enforced; a dark green flannel blazer obtainable from one outfitter only, and grey flannel shorts of which many varieties in length and shape were to be seen with black stockings and boots.
The school building where I joined after Easter had until recently been a private house called Broad Oak, from which the school took its name, in Dene Road about three hundred yards up the hill from Edale. A Mr. A. J. Chadwick had bought the place and adapted it. He was a scholar, a man of high principles, and a games enthusiast to boot. For lack of sufficient accommodation he could accept only day-boys, mostly from the local community, and just a few commuting from Rickmansworth, the next station down the line. A small pine coppice sheltered the house from north winds, and between it and the house a red painted building clad in corrugated iron contained a miniature (.22) rifle range which I personally was too young to use before the school moved (as will be later divulged). A lawn sloped south from the house down to the field boundary hedge and continued to the rear, where behind it was a cinder patch about the area of a tennis court bounded by a six-foot wire netting fence. This was the scenario for the morning break where we rushed shrieking to play such games as tag, and "French-and-English". The pine copse was of service for an original pastime that entailed certain preparations. We had first to manufacture ammunition, tearing old foolscap paper in to strips, folding these lengthwise four to six times, cutting these into (say) two inch lengths each to be folded into a U-shape. Next we had to strip the skins from several old golf balls, and unwind the gutty (the rubber string which separated the skin from the spherical cork core), cut the gutty in to yard lengths for use doubled. Two captains then picked teams from us, the rabble, and we proceeded to build two forts about fifteen yards apart using the broken branches which lay around in the copse. Then came the battle: we 'fired' the paper bullets at the enemy, gripping each bullet between the teeth with the gutty in the U-bend, strained then released catapult-wise. How we scored, won or lost, I cannot recall.
For organised games, a field behind the copse was rented for cricket and the annual sports, and another rented field for football was sited about a quarter of a mile away where Dene Road took a right-handed turn towards the shops and railway station.
My first term was spent in the bottom form under Miss Wurnham's tutelage (the name perhaps misspelled). She gently primed us in reading, writing an arithmetic, which to me happened to be old-hat and easy. She was shortly to be succeeded by either a sister or a cousin of the same name but by then I had been promoted to the tougher world presided over by masters. Details are blurred in the mind though I remember clearly Messrs. Chadwick and Turner his assistant, perhaps from their appearance in a school group photograph. I suspect the initiation of the very young to the elements of any subject is tough because the fundamentals can only be taught by rote; only later when reason begins to operate does interest spark off enthusiasm. At all events I found the promotion tough. To Arthur Chadwick we went for Latin and English subjects. Towards the and of each lesson he called the class into line in front of his desk and plied us with questions beginning at the top end. If number one answered correctly, well and good, otherwise the question was passed down the line, anyone answering correctly being promoted to take his place above the original bungler. Eventually marks were awarded the final positioning. Was it fair? I doubt it. I think the process discontinued as the chaps learned to handle a pen more instinctively. Mr. Turner led us in to the intricacies of arithmetic beyond simple addition and subtraction, and into elementary French grammar with a more orthodox procedure. There was a system of awarding stars and stripes: stars for especially good work or conduct, and stripes for the reverse. They cancelled each other but an accumulation of ten stars meant the award of a prize, a green leather-bound volume, at prize-giving once a year. Ten stripes ensured a caning. Luckily I never sank that far. A year later an ex-civil engineer joined the staff, but more of him later.
The last hour of a Monday morning was devoted by the entire school to a science demonstration by a Dr. Purl (spelling?) of German extraction. He arrived with a black wooden box out of which came his apparatus to display some comparatively simple phenomena in chemistry and physics. We watched entranced, and my father was encouraged by my enthusiasm to present me with a chemistry set for Christmas. I enjoyed it well enough albeit the chemicals supplied were all innocuous in order to prevent accidents, and I cracked the test tubes over the spirit lamp all too quickly.
Less pleasant was the last hour on Saturdays before the half-holiday. Mrs. McTavish, after private piano lessons, collected the entire school for singing instruction. We stood on benches at one end of the classroom while she at the other accompanied us on the piano the while yelling rude remarks at us. Probably her bullying has put beyond recall any of the songs we were supposed to be singing, and I refused to learn the piano. It is true that my father bought a second-hand set of Charles Halle's Pianoforte Tutor, in all six volumes of classical piano works progressing from the elementary to those demanding an advanced technique, each work preceded by a page of exercises in preparation for the piece to come. My mother taught me the rudiments of musical notation i.e. the symbols that make a sheet of music meaningful. Having fudged the exercises, the noises I produced must have been excruciating to anyone within earshot. I believe my father progressed into volume 3.but I never so much as finished volume I by the time I left prep-school, after which, although I occasionally acquired sheets of highlights of musicals, opera, etc as reminders of live performances, service abroad killed the urge through lack of opportunity, and I always regret the discouragement that Mrs. MacTavish's temperament provided for a potential pupil.
As to family life meanwhile; my father commuted daily to his Clement's Inn office returning home about 6.30 pm, and in time for lunch on Saturdays. No doubt walking to and from the station provided beneficial exercise; anyhow no means of transport existed. In due course a clique of half a doze congenial chaps daily filled a first class compartment in a Great Central train to Marylebone Station, and for him thence by Bakerloo to Trafalgar Square. The Metropolitan line, by steam to Neasden and electric thereafter, stopped at too many intermediate stations to be tolerated. Sunday mornings after sausages and fried bread was spent at Matins, everyone on foot, and what a dull old vicar he was, and how sausages have deteriorated over the years. The afternoons of both Saturdays and Sundays were spent on country footpaths which seemed to emanate to all the points of the compass, an amenity that gradually declined once the post-WW1 housing development was underway.
Bank holidays took us further afield exploring footpaths approachable from stations down the line such as Chorley Wood, Chesham, and Wendover, Chiltern beech woods in particular were a great attraction. On Boxing Days the old habit of attending a theatre persisted, and every November 9th on my mother's birthday, which coincided with the Lord Mayor's show in London, not as nowadays restricted to Saturdays, as in our London days found us congregated to watch the procession through the office window at Clements Inn.
After our final visit to Alnwick in 1908, we spent the summer holidays in apartments at various seaside resorts. For a year or two Mamie accompanied us to take charge of Aline, but on her aunt's death she left to spend the rest of her life in the bequeathed cottage at Frant Forrest (Kent).
In1909 we went to Minehead. The beach was uninvitingly muddy, however we took advantage of brake trips or wagonette to such places as Dunster, Selworthy, Porlock and the Doone valley, passengers dismounting to walk whenever we encountered a steep hill. Furthermore paddle-steamers plied from the pier-head and took us to Lynmouth and Clovelly, and on one memorable occasion when my parson great uncle [Rowland Newman] from - was it Dulverton? [Hawkridge and Withypool, I'm sure /CJEN] - joined us with his choir or bell-ringers, we crossed the Bristol Channel to Barry and Cardiff. The return stamped it on the mind: a high wind had risen, the sea was rough and sea-sickness assailed me for this one and only time.
Next year it was East Runton just north of Cromer. Friable cliffs fringe the beach up which were drawn several small fishing craft equipped with lug-sails and oars. Crab-pots were stacked nearby and fishing nets were slung over a wooden paling to dry and to be repaired. We made friends with one of the older fishermen, a Mr. Brownsel, illiterate but a repository of local folklore. I accompanied him several times crab-potting, or to fish for plaice and dabs using a lead-weighted line. A few tramp steamers passed to and fro out to sea, also fully rigged schooners, barques, and brigantines. I recall no yachts as such. We explored the countryside in a hired governess cart.
I have referred in my "Reminiscences" to Hunstanton as our venue for 1910. It was then a small village known locally as Hunston whereas the main town a mile or so to the south where the railway station was was described as New Hunstanton. Few memories remain. (Thank God for that, readers will be saying). One tourist attraction for children were the polls on sale that were to be used for leaping from rock to rock over the pools below the cliffs. We did visit the Sandringham House grounds.
1912 was climactic. The holiday was in Newquay, Cornwall, and it was a disagreeably wet and stormy season. Below the cliffs perpetual surf and during the frequent storm notices were posted warning bathers against the dangerous undertow. I remember a 'German Band' in uniform playing for pennies in our terraced street, and the spectacular launching of the local life-boat for funds down a very steep ramp, reminding one of the water-chute at the old Earls Court exhibition grounds. Then probably during our third week came a telegram from Northwood - telephones being scarce in those days - Edale had been struck by lightning. So my father took the train at once to investigate. He discovered that the fireplace and mantelpiece in the dining room had been blown into the room. In consultation with the owner it was decided that investigating the complete extent of the damage and its repair would render our return home on the intended date impossible. The result was a further a three week extension of our holiday which we spent further down the coast in St. Ives, and what a benign change that was. Not only did the weather mend but we exchanged townee surroundings for rooms in an old fashioned fishing community with a view over the picturesque bay. This bay was sheltered by the promontory to the west, and the bathing was unrestricted. Additionally the countryside and cliff scenery were ever so much more exciting. We trailed spinners for mackerel from hired sailing boats, made wagonette trips to Lands End, Penzance and Falmouth, and enjoyed genuine Cornish pasties, baps, saffron buns, cream, and locally caught shell fish.
Whether the Edale catastrophe speeded our exit from it I can only surmise, but that autumn it so happened that a Mr Harris decided to sell the Red Cottage in Dene Road. My parents had long admired and coveted this house, situated a stone's throw from the shops, so it was duly bought and we moved there before Christmas.
Now I must digress back to Broad Oak and 1910. Arthur Chadwick unexpectedly died, and the ex-engineer whom I have already mentioned, whose name was Blouet was put in charge of a very onerous task which he fulfilled most admirably. Mr Chadwick must long have been determined to provide boarding accommodation and, unknown to us boys, had put his plans into action, because that autumn or perhaps early in 1911, a new establishment, named Forres was opened and at once fully operational. It stood beyond Ducks Hill on the road to Ruislip, a short way down a lane to the right which led to the field path to Harefield. My best route to it lay through the gravel pits, a couple of hundred yards down the main road towards Pinner, path through them leading to the Ruislip Road below the hill.
The pits had been exhausted of gravel and the council had acquired the ownership of the property covering several acres. Wild life was regenerating among the old excavations, and the rough grass, wild shrubs and young trees made a splendid playground which I with Tom Darlow, a Billy Bunter-like school-fellow and near-neighbour, exploited during the holidays. I recall Red Indian games, and boat-racing with short sticks which we floated down a narrow cut fed by a spring which wound its ways around the undulations. One calm summer day Tom remarked: "I can prove that God exists. See these leaves all stock still? Just pray hard now and they'll move". Lo and behold, an almost imperceptible zephyr ensured that they did.
The walk from Edale to Forres look about fifteen minutes. Forres was a rectangular roughcast block purpose-built to contain all requirements including the dining hall, changing rooms for games and so on. There was even a convenient cottage just down the lane for Glassock the groundsman. The grounds sufficed for separate football and cricket pitches, an outdoor swimming pool, a gravelled plot with horizontal beams and a shed for other equipment for Miss Bunyards weekly class in Swedish Drill (later P.T. or P.E.), a 'giant's stride', and a carpenter's shop for our tuition.
After a few terms R.M. Chadwick (Mac to his friends), Arthur's younger brother, arrived with his wife to take charge. He could have been a recent graduate from Oxford. Certainly he was activity itself at football practice, wearing a rugger vest in Harlequin colours. His temperament was warmer than Arthur's and he was well liked from the start.
Boarders were in residence, but I remained a day boy, though a 'school luncher'. Day boys became a depressed caste subject to persecution, which could take the form of an ambush sprung from either the woods or the field hedges beside the Ducks Hill Road, or as I recall on several occasions, a budding scientist wired the door handle to a battery-charged induction coil, completing the potential circuit by saturating the doorstep, and in this way inflicting on us quite severe electric shocks.
I eventually became one of the elite when in the autumn of 1912 I was promoted to be a weekly boarder. After one week of emotional shock I grew to enjoy school as never before, this despite matutinal cold baths which one learned to simulate when Matron's back was turned. In the summer term when weather permitted, we plunged instead into the swimming pool. This pool was also the arena for toy ships, sailing and clockwork, and it was there that learned to swim.
With a few changes the Broad Oak routine was repeated, unfortunately Mrs MacTavish reappeared, and we lost Dr. Purl. In his stead, a tiny grey-haired French lady (a Mme Durain or some such name) inveterately clothed in black, came once weekly for French conversation. Being inept at languages I contributed mighty little but it was a revelation to hear authentic French pronunciation and I envy the youngsters who now train in language laboratories. Additionally we read aloud bits of Tartarin de Tarascon and Le Roi des Montagnes, and we learned by heart several Fables de la Fontaine such as 'Le Lion et le Rat', and 'Le Grenouil qui veut se faire aussi gros que le Boeuf'. First Mr Biouet, and then after his retirement, probably 1913, Mr. Frank Green, one of the builder brothers in Dene Road, taught us woodwork in the carpenters shop, a skill that I had already begun to acquire under the latter's guidance in a private capacity.
We dealt with preparation fairly early of an evening, after which one of the masters relaxed us reading aloud stories like Ryder Haggard's King Solomon's Mines and Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes yarns. Occasionally we assembled in the emptied dining hall for boxing instruction resulting in a few bloody noses; and there were at least two memorable evenings when a boy's mother a Mrs Stewart Wilson, entertained us with songs at the piano. Radio was beyond imagination in those days and her songs were those currently popular for home entertainment. I cannot resist the temptation (Oh bad luck) to introduce two of her catchy choruses;
Sometimes there were school sing-songs from an anthology called Gaudiamus, said to have been the Harrow School compilation, and, if so, it must have been introduce by Mrs Arthur Chadwick, the daughter of a master there. And we rehearsed for some weeks annually to put on stage some entertainment for the parents, in which I can only remember once being dressed as a Red Indian squaw.
I was never a cricket addict. Sitting, waiting for an innings, or for a spell of fielding, which in itself inferred waiting for a ball to come ones way and the monotony of changing over every six balls, used to set my mind drifting towards better methods of spending time such as amongst the wild-life in the surrounding countryside. In this connection I did one summer term win a green-bound copy of Gilbert White's Selborne for a competition for a collection of pressed wild flowers Eventually seniority dragged me into the team. I fielded as wicket-keeper, in which position wool-gathering was impossible. Contrarily I enjoyed the hurly-burly of the football field and the comparatively short duration of a game and I managed to win my school colours at right back. We played matches against several other schools travelling for 'away' games by wagonette when distance permitted, otherwise by train if as far away as, say, Wendover.
On wet days in winter we could be paper-chasing. Firstly we had to tear old newspapers into small bits and pack them into a couple of linen bags fitted with slings, one for each of the two hares. With ten minutes grace before the pack was let loose, accompanied by a master the hares set off to use their initiative to lay a trail with intermittent handfuls of torn paper also contriving every so often to delude the pack with a false sideways diversion. They used any lanes, field paths or even roads when necessary (traffic mainly draught horse was minimal), and their aim was to return uncaught to school after a predetermined time. Litter-bugs? Surely these were born of plastic wrappings and the car explosion which distributed them half a century later.
Through seniority I succeeded as head boy in 1913, one of whose duties was to ring the hand-bell to announce the end of each teaching session, akin to the cricket umpire's call for 'over' every six balls. During the autumn term I was put to answering questions set for past common entrance examinations, and was thus primed for the climax of my prep-school career for entry into Wellington.
I may as well interpolate here that the Forres premises were requisitioned during WW1 when the school was transported to Swanage in Dorset. A Mr. Terry had meanwhile opened a new school in Northwood for day-boys only, since when ours had dwindled through being further away, so this move was beneficial seeing that Forres remains a flourishing institution to this day.
Back again to family affairs it was probably in 1910 that I was given a second-hand boy's bicycle which my mother taught me to ride in the road in front of Edale, grabbing the saddle behind me and gradually releasing the grip as I became competent. I was then able to accompany my parents on Saturday afternoons when they opted for a spin. One day our destination was Hendon aerodrome to see a flying display. Disappointingly there came a wind deemed too strong for the safety of the aviators in their stick and canvas biplanes. One actually did brave the elements, taxied over the grass (no runways), accelerated and rose about ten feet above the ground for a furlong or so to gratify the waiting crowds. The rare sound of aircraft over Northwood brought everyone out to watch. We never spotted any monoplane like one that Bleriot used in his pioneering cross-channel flight. However one or two competitors passed over in a London to Manchester race. I think they all required a night or two stop-offs along the route. Hendon was also the reason for another visit by me and my mother to see her sister Winnie who was living there while she was married to Dr. McNair Wilson, who then was medical correspondent for the Times newspaper. We similarly rode to Hounslow to see her brother Fred. One day we made Windsor to see the castle, and in 1912 while the Olympic Games were under way in the White City, if I remember rightly, we watched the marathon runners passing through Eastcote, of whom the winner was the Italian athlete Purando.
Also in 1910 I received my first camera, a Kodak 'Box Brownie No 2' I believe. It cost ten shillings. Included were a developing tank, a printing frame, and dishes. It was daylight printing to begin with: gaslight paper, a darkroom lamp and magnesium ribbon to flare, were bought later. So began a hobby that was to provide a pictorial aide-memoire to most of a lifetime's pilgrimage.
Among the series of visitors to Edale was my godfather Stirling Hamilton who arrived in his small two-seater swift. He gave my mother and me a joy-ride. The car stalled on the steepest gradient of Ducks Hill. He backed gently, free-wheeling to the bottom, turned about, and climbed it successfully in reverse!
Two notable events were the death of King Edward VII in 1909 and King George V's coronation in the following year. For each occasion, my father booked tickets for seats in the law society's stand close to the Admiralty Arch in the Mall, to see the processions. Both involved leaving Edale at 6.30 am to catch a train to enable us to be seated before police closed the roads, so that we probably sat waiting several hours. Troops lining the route and those in the processions wore full dress uniforms, a colourful display in the tradition of several centuries, which except for the Guards Brigade and regimental bands, were abolished forever after WW1. All was arms reversed and slow marching for the funeral but allegro vivace for the coronation. Memorably both events gathered together all the crowned heads of Europe. For the funeral, they all followed on foot behind the sailor-drawn gun-carriage hearse, the late monarch's fox terrier, Caesar on a lead, and his charger empty-saddled with his parade boots reversed in the stirrups. For the coronation they were all mounted. Many lost their monarchies as the result of WW1.
WW1 also meant that our 1913 seaside holiday would be the last for me to be present throughout with the family. After the war, I was only (if at all) able to be present only fleetingly. In 1913 we went to Whitby, a worthy finale for it had much to recommend it, particularly the fishing community and their dwellings below the cliffs each side of the estuary of the River Esk. On the cliff to the south-east stood the ruins of the historical abbey, and on the opposite cliff was the Victorian township where we stayed in a terrace near the parish church. The North Sea is frigid for bathing in, but we made good use of the beach on coastal walks as far as Staithes and we explored much of the lovely moorland background, basing our walks on Esk Valley villages such as Goathland.
The Red Cottage, which we occupied in 1912, remained the family home until my mother's death in 1958. It was a long low building dating from 1904 and designed by an architect of some repute whose name I forget. It contained two floors only, the upper-storey windows facing fore and aft, required gables over them two each side. On the ground floor were bow windows for the drawing room (2), the smoking room, and the kitchen; the dining room window projected forwards in a rectangular frame. The ground floor walls were faced in Flemish bond brickwork; the upper floor walls were clad in matching tiles. The entire garden frontage running north and south, was bounded by a low white painted wooden fence, behind which grew Dorothy Perkins rambler roses supported on a continuous rustic pergola. Three gates broke the pergola's continuity: a wide one at the north end for a gravel drive to the garage, and two small ones for paths to the tradesmen's entrance, and the path to the front door respectively. This front door of solid oak studded with black square nail heads was protected by a porch supported on two substantial pillars of Purbeck marble. Standard roses flanked the front path at intervals and my father stepped out very morning before breakfast to record the maximum temperatures from a thermometer fixed to a narrow rustic arch in front of the dining-room window.
The main garden feature behind the house was the lawn tennis court surrounded during the summer by a six-foot string net to stop balls going astray or smashing windows. The entire garden sloped slightly down towards the south, consequently that end of the lawn had been elevated to compensate, and here behind the net was a waist-high privet hedge clipped into castellations. Below this was a rose garden. Had this not been bounded on the three other sides by a six foot privet hedge itself backed on the south side by close-planted Lombardy poplars, roses might have flourished. The gawky starvelings planted in eight rectangular grass-separated beds were potentially architectural. In fact the sole redeeming feature was a stone pedestal with a sundial on top. A gap in the eastern hedge admitted entrance via a four-way rustic arch: north from it led to the house; east to another equally pathetic but circular rose garden, and south to a small stone-encircled concrete pool. A broad herbaceous border transforming to a rockery rising by steps at its northern end, separated the lawn from our western boundary fence. A comparatively prosperous rose bed flanked the lawn to the north in front of climbing roses which concealed the fruit and vegetable plot. This was fenced to the south and west by espalier apple trees, and bush apples grew behind them, all to the detriment of any vegetable that were optimistically planted there.
Our apples were stored in a corner cupboard that stood in the wood-framed and weather-boarded garage. We kept no car; it merely contained a workbench and garden tools.
Between the bow window and the lawn on the south side of the house, there were wall-trained peach and nectarine trees, but ignorance as to their treatment resulted in paucity of fruit year after year.
The front door gave access to a sizeable white panelled hall, to the north and south of which were double doors leading to the drawing- and dining-rooms respectively, supposedly intended for more lavish entertaining than we were ever to offer. Straight ahead was the small smoking room out outwith which tobacco was taboo. My father read aloud every night in this room from books borrowed from The Times Lending Library until his last declining months in 1947. From the right hand corner of the hall, a passage led to the garden door. Just before it on the right, one turned under the stairs to the pantry, which was also approachable from the dining-room. Through the pantry, one came to the capacious kitchen and beyond that to the scullery and back door. There was access to the coal cellar from the scullery as well as from the yard outside, and there beyond the coal cellar was the outdoor loo for the maids.
The stairs after three ninety degree twists, led to a long landing which was the perfect setting for a straight length of rails with switches and branch lines into sundry rooms for my No. I gauge clockwork train. Leading off the landing, working clockwise, the doors opened to the loo, the maids' room, my parents' bedroom and a tiny dressing room, a bedroom just as small, the visitors room, my room, the bathroom, and the hot linen cupboard with the hot water cylinder. Every morning next to me in the bathroom, my father enjoying the resonance, sang snippets from Gilbert and Sullivan and Victorian popular songs, the while drying himself after his inveterate cold plunge. Three bedrooms, including mine, had basins with running water, but there was no central heating. This really spread to private houses only after WW2. As was customary, every room had a fireplace; notwithstanding only the reception room fires were ever lit. But we did encounter for the first time the boon of electric lighting, inheriting indeed one or two of the old-fashioned carbon filament bulbs emitting their rather dim golden illumination. All filaments, including the later tungsten ones, were coiled.
To begin with, the shops in Green Lane at the bottom of our road were concentrated on the south side where it climbed toward the station. On the opposite side was the Manor set in several acres of ground, and it was these grounds that faced us across the road; beautiful trees behind wooden palings screening the railway cutting behind them. After the war the Manor was sold. Shops began to line Green Lane on both sides; the Manor was demolished and a row of detached houses faced us over the way. General development spread during the next two decades like a canker over our once beautiful countryside, rendering Northwood an increasingly depressing place to visit.
My father's Reminiscences Part 2 covering his period at Wellington College from 1914 to 1918 can be found here.