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Transcript TitleBoughey, Mrs Emmelie (O1995.6)
IntervieweeMrs Emmelie Boughey (EB)
InterviewerRachel Savory (RS)
Date08/02/1995
Transcriber byIrene Garrad-Storey

Transcript

Hertford Oral History Group

Recording no O 1995.6

Interviewee: Mrs Emmelie Boughey (EB)

Date: 8th February 1995

Venue: Bengeo Hall

Interviewer: Rachel Savory (RS)

Transcriber: Irene Garrad-Storey

************** unclear recording

[discussion] untranscribed material

italics editor’s notes

RS: This is Rachel Savory and I have Em Boughey sitting in my kitchen in Bengeo Hall. We have just had lunch and I find that Em is related to everybody and it is quite difficult to know where to start but I think we are going to start. Where are we going to start, Em?

EB: I think we'll start with Poles, which is now Hanbury Manor because that was where my mother was brought up as a child. My mother was Rhona Hanbury and she married somebody who became Brigadier General de Falte (that's Danish) and I was their second child. As a child I remember being taken to Poles, which was then a convent schoo l.I had better go back to the beginning I think and tell you that Poles was originally bought by Samson Hanbury in about 1800. He had no children and he came from the Hanbury family in Essex. He left Poles to his nephew who was Robert Hanbury, and Robert Hanbury had an enormous number of children, the eldest being Robert and that Robert had a family, quite a large family and his wife died. He then married for the second time the owner of Bedwell Park at Essendon, and she was called Frances Selina Erdwell and they had a son and daughter and sadly, they both died in infancy. And she was left a sorrowing widow with no husband and no baby and there is a very, very, lovely, little marble memorial of them in Essendon Church which can be seen today. As a result of that, Bedwell Park passed in due course to the Fremantle family because Frances' younger sister married Dean Fremantle who was Dean of Ripon. They had a large- family and my father-in-law was Francis Fremantle, their second son, and he became Sir Francis Fremantle in due course and was Member of Parliament for St Albans from 1919 until his sudden death in 1943.

So, you get back to me where I started in all this and I think you might have gathered that I was a de Falte and I was taken by my mother to see Poles at intervals in my childhood and particularly to stay at Youngsbury which was then owned by the Pullers and from there we used to go all round in Hertfordshire to various houses. Our own home is in Staffordshire. Now let me just think what I can remember of Poles, and remember. It was all second hand this, as it all came from my mother. I never stayed at Poles and I never lived there. Poles in my childhood was a Roman Catholic Convent school. Some people now will probably go into the walled garden, which has been renovated to a great extent since Poles has become Hanbury Manor and the entrance into that garden is a round hole and the high walls of the garden are scalloped. Those two things were done by my grandmother because her home in Aberdeenshire had garden walls that were scalloped at the top and she wanted the same at Poles and so she had it.

RS: It's very lovely isn't it.

EB: Yes, it's lovely and she put the round hole in. I don't mean that she did it but she had the round hole put in. Now what else can I remember…People who go along the A10 to Wadesmill coming from Ware just as you join up with the double-track road, as you are going north you pass on the left a whole lot of oak trees. I always remember that my mother told me that her mother had those oak trees planted. I think at the end of the last century, because, she said, "You know my dears, one of these days that will be a very important road so we had better plant it out."

RS: How lovely.

EB: I also remember that my mother had a wonderful pony called Robin Hood, which was a white pony. She rode very well. She hunted a certain amount with the Puckeridge people but not particularly. The old church at Thundridge which is now close to Youngsbury, by the river.

My great, grandfather (I think it was my great grandfather but it could have been my great, great, grandfather, we will have to check up on the dates) had the new church at Thundridge built because he said the church ought to be close to the village. So he had that built, exactly when I don't know.

What else? I think it was in 1884 but I'm not quite sure of the date, my grandfather Edmund Hanbury had the old house that he had inherited at Poles pulled down and the new house which is a pseudo Jacobean house built. It was in the 1880s but exactly when I don't know. There was a relationship between Bedwell Park, which became Fremantle property and Poles through my great, grandfather marrying the heiress of Bedwell Park and as I have already said, she lost her Hanbury husband and two children.

While Poles was being rebuilt my grandfather Edmund Hanbury and all his family lived at Bedwell Park and my uncle Francis, who eventually inherited Poles, was born in, I think, 1882, at Bedwell Park. I have probably been rather muddly about what I have said about the Hanbury family but I can tell you this for sure, my mother was the youngest of Edmund Hanbury's children and she adored Poles and she adored the people in it. She told me as a child about it and she always said how much she loved the people who worked for them. I can't remember the names of all of them but one I can remember most particularly hearing about was Vatcher, who I think was the coachman. And he obviously had a great influence on my mother's early life and probably looked after her pony or saw that it was properly looked after but she was very fond of him and also she had a tremendous liking for people in the village. Now I can't remember all their names because I was only a child but when I was brought to see Poles or to stay at Youngsbury, I was always taken round to about four or five cottages most particularly and my mother had to see the people in these cottages. She loved seeing them.

RS: Would they have been people who had worked at Hanbury?

EB: Some of them would have been people who had worked there but some might have been those who she had some connection with in the village because there was a very close relationship in those days between, if you like to call him The Squire, and the people. They belonged to each other.

RS: Do you think we could now move to your memories of Bedwell?

EB: Yes, I think it would be a good idea if we move towards Bedwell and my first memories of Bedwell were in 1935 at which time I was working in London and living on £2.10s. per week and was very glad to have this wonderful invitation to stay at Bedwell Park for the weekend. I had the most wonderful job to think what I would take with me in the way of clothes and I remember buying a tennis dress for 21s. 0d, which was a lot of money but it was quite reasonable and it did me alright for the weekend. My home was in Staffordshire, quite a long way away and the reason I had been asked to Bedwell was because of a family connection between Poles, which was the Hanbury place where my mother had been brought up and Staffordshire where I had been brought up in a village called Whittington.The reason we were in Whittington was because my father was a regular soldier and after the First World War he retired and he bought a house in the village of Whittington near Whittington Barracks, which is where the North Staffordshire Regiment's Depot was and still is, I think. We had a large house and practically no money to run it with. We were very skint all my childhood.

RS: How many brothers and sisters did you have?

EB: I was the second of a family of four. We were three sisters. I was the middle one and my brother was the youngest of the family. And anyway, I went off to London and got a job in a decorating shop, knowing nothing about decorating, but I survived and even got a rise from £2 to £2.10s. which made me very pleased with myself. To get back to my invitation to Bedwell Park in 1935, I caught a bus from Knightsbridge and was met by the chauffeur at Potters Bar and driven to Bedwell Park. I think I arrived at about 2 o'clock in the afternoon and had a very jolly weekend which I enjoyed very much and that led indirectly to a good many more weekends and a good many more meetings and in 1936, in April, David Fremantle who was the son of Sir Francis and Lady Fremantle, and I got married, and that was the beginning of my connection with Bedwell.

I am going to skip the time between 1935 and when the war started in 1939 and I used to go to Bedwell a certain amount. I remember during the very early days of the war being there and having a bicycle and bicycling down to Hertford to the WVS. Their HQ was in the Corn Exchange and there was someone who was called Mrs Purkiss-Ginn who was very nice and I said, “Would there be anything I could do for a few weeks to help.” And she said "Yes, you really would be a help." One of the jobs I was given was to take small evacuee children with labels round their necks and, as it were, dump them like parcels where I was directed and it was really rather heart rending to have to do that with these little people coming out and being taken to places that they knew nothing about at all, and of course it was just chance whether they hit it off really well with their hosts, which most of them did, I think.

There was one really good story I remember which was when I was in the Corn Exchange and I was doing a bit of secretarial work for them at that moment and the NSPCC man came in and he said, “I've got something that will amuse all you ladies.” And it was a little boy who had been billeted with a lady off Queens Road (I don't remember the name of the lady) but he seemed to be a very nice little boy and they were getting on extremely well. So she gave him some money and a list and a basket and sent him out to do some shopping for her and he came back with a laden basket which he could hardly carry as it was so full. And she said, "But Johnny (I am saying Johnny but it might not have been Johnny) I only asked for a certain number of things and gave you a list." And he said to her, "Don't you worry mum, you look after me and I'll look after you". I remember that well. A very nice, little boy. What do you do with a generous-hearted little boy like that?

I think now I should talk to you more about Bedwell Park. I was on and off at Bedwell Park from the beginning of the war in 1939 until 1943 when I had to go and live there permanently. At the beginning of the war, in fact before the war was actually declared, a troupe of 80 children between the ages of two and five which had been a nursery school near Kings Cross, all came down to Bedwell Park. I think they had 20 people in all including cook and the cook's two daughters to look after them. This had all been arranged because of the Munich crisis. In the Munich crisis London had a mini evacuation and something like 20 children came down from that nursery school and my father-in-law arranged that should war break out he would have many more. He had no idea that they would send 80! Bedwell Park had, in fact, 33 bedrooms if you counted the single rooms, one or two were used as storerooms and box rooms. It had 33 bedrooms but only 3 bathrooms and the drains were private. The water supply was private. The reservoir I gather was above the cesspit and .my father-in-law said that it was all perfectly healthy and alright but after a few months the London County Council decided to put Bedwell Park on the main water so that was a good thing. That was a relief

because apart from anything else the old-fashioned baths got their drains blocked up very early on with socks. One has got to remember that the people who were looking after the children at Bedwell Park were helpers who had been day helpers at the nursery school in London and they hadn't really got much idea about how to look after children 24 hours a day. And I do know that we put 3 children into the bath at the same time and that helped. But, of course, if the odd child had a sock in his hand or a sock on his foot, it might easily get down the drain because the plugs were the funny sort of plugs where you pulled a china thing up from the top and it left a hole.

RS: Like the French ones?

EB: Yes, like the French ones. Some of those are still like that now. So anything could go down and it did and some of the estate workers had quite a job. I remember some of them producing lots of funny things out of the drains. They managed to get so far down that they could be dug up and I do remember these funny things coming up.

RS: They were probably china drains.

EB: Yes, they probably were. They were certainly china plugs. Then, I do remember another thing in 1940 - a big fire in London. It was before that that we had incendiary bombs in the woods between Little Berkhamsted and Bedwell Park and that was the most tremendous night because these German aeroplanes were flying around and dropping their 'bread baskets'. A lot of the trees were set alight and then there was a panic and I remember helping to get the children down from the top floor where at that time some of them had been sleeping. We carried them down in little bunk beds which the London County Council had produced and I remember saying, "Come on, three of us can carry two beds down quite easily." And we managed that. We only tipped one child up and I remember we tipped it by mistake out of it’s little bunk bed and put it back on and it never woke up at all. From that moment onwards we never had children sleeping upstairs and that was a tremendous business because there was a big room, very big, which some people called the ballroom. The family called it the drawing room. And it was stripped of everything and made into a dormitory for all 80 children to sleep in, in their little bunk beds on the ground floor.

RS: Em, I want to ask you what is a 'bread basket'?

EB: Well, I think 'bread basket' was a slang word or a popular word for a collection of incendiary bombs which were flung out of aeroplanes by the Germans and set fire to London, set fire to anything they might hit.

RS: Not a doodlebug?

EB: No, they weren't doodlebugs. They were quite different to doodlebugs. Those came afterwards. But the incendiary bombs were flung out of what we call 'bread baskets' I suppose. The Boughs were our name for the woods between Bedwell Park and Little Berkhamsted and they were on a hillside sloping up towards Little Berkhamsted and when those trees or bracken all caught fire, it was more the bracken, they lit up and that was really quite exciting and you heard the aeroplanes zooming around. I think the reason the Germans threw their 'bread baskets' out was because our air defences had stopped them getting into London or those particular ones, and they were on their way back to the Continent and obviously they chucked everything out and got back quicker. That's what we thought at the time.

The estate people were worried, we were all worried, as to how to manage 80 small children at Bedwell Park. And I remember that in the front drive which was a big circle of gravel in front of the front door, the estate workers put up in chestnut fencing the most enormous playpen and so the children could be put into this playpen all together and kept safely away from whatever. I also remember that when they went out for walks, they all had' to hold onto each other, which was rather pathetic. I didn't like to see them always having to hold the one in front but they were never allowed to walk separately and I suspect that was because their helpers were so worried about them, about losing one or something happening to one.

The billiard room at Bedwell Park led off this big drawing room where all the children had to sleep and the billiard table from the beginning was spread with a big cloth and all the children's clothes were checked over every evening on the billiard table.There are many anecdotes about the stay of the nursery school at Bedwell Park during the war but I think I had better cut it short and simply tell you that they stayed there until the summer of 1945 and then they all went back. And by that time, my father-in-law Sir Francis Fremantle had died and my husband, David Fremantle and I realised that there was nowhere near enough money to keep the place going, with having to pay death duties and it was put on the market.

We sold Bedwell in the summer of 1945 just about the time the war ended and it was going to be taken over by the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation and The Royal Victoria Patriotic School which was for orphaned daughters of servicemen, was going to be there, which they were until, I think, 1972.

RS: Do you remember any of the Hertford people who were working for you?

EB: Certainly I do. One very particular person was Mr Archibald Cubbage who had been my father-in-law's secretary really always from the First World War when my father-in-law inherited Bedwell Park in 1919 and Mr Cubbage was still there as Parliamentary Secretary and State Secretary and the most valuable person. He stayed with us until about Christmas 1945 when he had to leave because we could not afford to pay him and I had to take over. No, sorry, I'm wrong about that. He had to leave in 1943 when my father-in-law died and he got another job. He lived at that time in Fordwich Rise. He had two sons who went to Hertford Grammar School, now Richard Hale. And one of those sons is now in Australia and the other worked in the Bank of England and then retired and sadly now he has died.

RS: This recording has been made on February 8th 1995.

We have done a lot of off-tape talking.

Thank you very much.

IG-S/31/5/95

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