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Hertfordshire Life - November 2019
Hertfordshire Life Magazine 5 Minutes with Rosemary Green
This is the original file Rosemary sent to the magazine who made a few edits to fit the magazine page.
You are a Brocket baby, can you explain?
It all started in September 1939 when the Nazi-Soviet Pact was made, the government of the day took action under the Emergency Powers Act to requisition property to secure public safety and one of those properties was Brocket Hall which was converted into a maternity hospital and Norah Pardy was one of the nurses who helped turn a grand country residence into a maternity hospital. Norah Pardy remained at Brocket Hall throughout the war and after 7 years in September 1946 she went to the Gold Coast in Africa to train midwifery to the local nurses. I was lucky enough to meet up with Norah when she came to the Brocket Baby Day on 28 October 2015 aged 101 and I know it meant a great deal to her to catch up with some of “her babies”. Sadly Norah passed away on 10 June 2017. Lily Lowe was one of the first pregnant ladies to be moved out of London to Brocket Hall to give birth, and on 3 September, the day war broke out, Lily gave birth to a baby boy Alan Lowe, the first Brocket Baby, he now lives on the south coast of Cornwall and I met him at one of the Brocket Baby Days a few years back. Mothers, mostly cockneys, were moved out of London to the relative safety of the Brocket Hall estate, and continued to do so until suitable arrangements could be made back in London after the war ended. It was decided not to rebuild the badly damaged maternity hospital on the busy City Road in London, instead the City of London bought the homes for the blind in Hanley Road, Islington and opened the new hospital there in November 1949. The last birth at Brocket Hall was Sandra White, now Sandra Woolard who was born on 27 November 1949. Over the 10-year period 8,338 babies were born at Brocket Hall and whilst many remain in the London area many have moved further afield and we are now in contact with Brocket Babies in 30 countries around the world. So, that is where the title “World Famous Brocket Babies” originates.
You have created a website, what was your aim?
I found I was born at Brocket Hall from my birth certificate and came to my first Brocket Baby Day in 2005, there were several others before and there has been one held almost every year since sometimes two in a year. When I came to our second Brocket Baby Day I thought what an amazing history, wouldn’t it be good to share it. So my husband David and I set up the website BrocketBabies.org.uk to share some stories. We weren’t sure if anyone would see it and thought we would be doing well if we made contact with a dozen or so over time. Well, at the last count we have heard from 1,221 Brocket Babies who we have listed to create the Brocket Baby Register which we have added to the website on a protected page accessible by the Brocket Babies. Numbers continue to grow through the power of the internet, the power of the press, word of mouth, and social media. There is no joining fee or advertising, it is just something we like to do.
You must have heard many interesting stories?
Yes, we encourage Brocket Babies to send in any information or stories they have and to date we have 199 stories on the website spanning the ten years. These range from just a few interesting lines to a four-page story of life experienced by one of the unmarried mothers who all lived at Brocket Hall for a while before and after giving birth. There are also plenty of photos including a set kindly provided by the Imperial War Museum taken in 1942. We are sometimes asked for help tracing family members and using the experience of tracing my own birth family we have carefully reunited some families over the years, these are very sensitive activities but very rewarding for all involved.
Do you meet up?
We certainly do. In 1997 the director of the Brocket Hall estate at the time Michael Longshaw arranged a reunion for a number of Brocket Babies and the Daily Mail ran a 4-page feature of the event in their YOU magazine which you can read on the Brocket Baby website. Brocket Baby Days have followed different formats over the years but recently the popular lunch format has been used where Brocket Babies are invited to arrive from mid-morning for coffee and cakes and are given access to explore the house from the basement right up to what were the staff quarters. Most importantly though, we can explore the Lord Melbourne birthing rooms and the famous Prince Regent recovery room with its very fashionable hand painted Chinese silk wallpaper depicting beautiful birds, some new mothers said they came round and thought they had died and gone to heaven. Queen Victoria was a regular visitor to Brocket Hall to meet Lord Melbourne and we are able to visit her rooms as well. Lunch is served in the impressive ballroom by the Head butler and his staff making us feel very privileged. We are free to wander around the house and talk to staff and other Brocket Babies. Carriages are to be ordered for 3pm! It is a lovely experience.
Were the mothers able to walk around the estate or were they confined to the house?
I know that mothers did venture outside and there are photos on the website of mothers lying in their beds outside the house among the daffodils. But more than that, in December 1941 on Christmas Eve quite a few of the expectant mothers decided they would go to Christmas Mass so they all took the long walk down the long drive and over the Palladian bridge to St John’s church just across from the entrance to the estate. A Brocket mother said it caused quite a few stares from the locals to see so many pregnant mothers. Three mothers tried to get over a fence and a passing soldier remarked that they looked like three unexploded bombs!