The Brocket Babies
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At the 2015 Brocket Baby Day Pauline Fleming met Andy Chapman from the Lemsford Historical Society and worked together to find where the remains of stillborn babies were laid to rest. Midwife Norah Pardey was also able to describe the care and respect that was paid to these poor souls describing how they were carefully wrapped and protected for their for their respectful burial.
Stillbirth Article 1
Stillbirth Article 2
Memorial Dedication Service
Letter from Pauline Fleming
Stillborn and Infant Death Memorial
This appeal is to all the mothers who delivered a stillborn baby or a baby who died soon after the birth between 1939 -1949 at Brocket Hall. We would also like to hear from any family members.
You may be aware that the rules in the 1940s deemed it to be unimportant to acknowledge stillborn and infant deaths and in fact these infants were categorised as 'clinical wastage'. It is with determination that we intend to 'put things right' and bring closure to all those affected by having a memorial erected to acknowledge those babies.
With the help of the Lemsford Local History Group, research suggests that the possible resting place of these babies is St Johns Church yard.
The local undertaker is in full support of our plight and has kindly agreed to provide and erect the memorial stone free of charge subject to approval. It is our hope that those who are empowered to make decisions will support us fully by authorising the application for the memorial stone favourably.
For more details please contact Andy at email@example.com or Pauline at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andy Chapman also sent in the article below which provides further information:
Stillbirth Article 1
The Brocket babies have regular reunions at Brocket Hall and I am asked to talk about the history of the Hall. I get to meet many babies and they all have interesting stories.
In April this year I attended a reunion and met a lady who wanted information about the babies. I asked her if she was a Brocket Baby, she replied “no, but my sister is” I enquired if she was here, I was thrown by her reply “No she was stillborn”. Her question was where are the stillborn babies buried. I did not know but after talking to various people came to the conclusion that in the 1940s the baby was passed on to the local undertaker, who would place the baby in a stranger’s coffin. The baby was not registered and no records would be recorded of burial or location.
At my next reunion I met Pauline who asked the same question. She had a stillborn brother called Peter, and wanted to know where he was buried. I told her the truth that we did not know and the chances of finding a marked grave was low. I offered to show her St Johns Lemsford graveyard and Hatfield Hyde in Hollybush. This seemed to give her comfort and below is her story.
‘It was a pleasure to attend the recent ‘Brocket Baby’ Lunch with my daughter, Cheryl. We met some wonderful people, with interesting stories.
My mother, Annie Williams (nee Morgan), who sadly passed from this life on December 14 2014, delivered a ‘Brocket Baby’ in 1947 and named him Peter. The baby did not survive and the death was ‘stillborn’.
I have tried to gather information regarding the birth/death records, and the whereabouts of the burial ground where the baby was laid to rest but unfortunately all the records are said to have been destroyed by fire.
I know the anguish my mother suffered, and it is difficult to imagine that there were other young mothers who also ‘lost their child’ either at birth or shortly after. It must have been utterly devastating for them to leave Brocket Hall without their child. It is unimaginable the trauma the young mothers endured ‘not knowing the place of their child’s final resting place. The impact has meant there has not been closure.
The good news is that by coincidence, at the lunch, we met Mrs Nora Pardey (the midwife). She assured me that a great deal of care and dignity was paid to those babies who were sadly stillborn. Mrs Pardey also said she could probably count the number of stillbirths on one hand over the years she was there. She asked me to give her a ‘peck on her cheek’ and told me, ‘not to worry’.
It was our very good fortune to meet Andy Chapman, who gave a special talk to all the ‘brocket baby’ attendees about the history of Brocket Hall.
Andy lives locally and after hearing ‘our story’ he very kindly offered to take us on a visit to the local cemetery in WGC call Hatfield Hyde based on the theory that undertakers in the 1940s would have laid stillborn babies to rest in the coffin of the next burial they attended, the evidence suggests my brother, Peter, would have been buried at St Johns.
Further research indicates that ’The area records 62 babies born but sadly died later (the youngest 5 minutes) there is no written record of stillborn babies being laid to rest but it makes sense that the area we visited which was used to bury the stillborn babies is possibly baby Peter’s final resting place.
It is with deep gratitude and appreciation to Andy in his determination to
help us to bring closure to this sad story. ‘
I contacted our former chairman Jeremy Summers who is the father in law of Justin Burgess (funeral directors) to find out about cemeteries in use in the area in the 1940s. I also contacted Mary de Soyres who emailed:
‘There are 62 entries in the Burial Register for babies born at the Brocket Hall Maternity Hospital who died shortly after birth, the youngest being 5 minutes old. There is no entry for a stillbirth or for a Peter Williams. The babies were buried in the North churchyard at the far end by the steps leading to St. John's School. The footings for the Annexe may well be over some of the plots. There are no gravestones.
The first line of graves in the North Churchyard was used for the burial of babies in the 19th century. The names are not recorded. I have not seen any record or mention of a place where stillborn babies were buried.’
The conclusion was that the stillborn babies could be buried anywhere but St Johns Lemsford was the most likely place.
When Justin contacted me I told him of our findings and suggested a memorial would be appropriate. Without a moments thought he donated a memorial and offered do all the paper work to get permission form the church dioceses. The only cost was a £120 for the application. I immediately emailed Jeanette Edwards, events manager at Brocket Hall, who within hours had emailed back with an offer of the £120.
I was amazed at the speed and generosity of Justin and Jeanette and passed on the good news to Pauline, who replied:
‘I am speechless. This is such wonderful news. The generosity is staggering. I know my mother would be completely overwhelmed. You have absolutely no idea how much this closure means to me.’
At the time of writing this Justin has started the process of applying for permission for a memorial at St Johns Lemsford and in early New Year if all goes well we will have an unveiling ceremony to the memory of the Brocket Babies who died and are buried in St Johns and surrounding cemeteries.
With the arrangements in place Pauline emailed me this generous and moving insight into what it means to her and her family
A final thought from Pauline:
‘We (my mother and family) often wondered if my brother had been thrown into the incinerator. The memories that my mother was able to draw on were shrouded in mystery. All she knew is that she was excited to be having her first born child, but very quickly her joy was turned to deep shock, sadness and disbelief. The baby was stillborn and in her words she left Brocket Hall 'with nothing' not knowing what happened to the baby! For years her sadness, which became embedded in her very being, became a huge part of our lives.
There are no records of stillborn babies. I hope all the Brocket mothers, children, and families are able to take comfort in knowing that all the 'Brocket babies' who did not survive have finally been acknowledged and have been given an opportunity of a 'special' resting place.’
I thank Pauline on behalf of all the mothers, Sisters and brothers of all the
babies who died for her determination to find the resting place for Peter her
lost brother. For more information email email@example.com
Stillbirth Article 2
On Saturday 9th April 2016 a memorial service was held at St John’s Church, Lemsford in memory of the Brocket Babies.
At the outbreak of war in 1939, the London Maternity Hospital in City Road was badly damaged by bombing. The decision was made to equip and staff Brocket Hall, a country house near Welwyn Garden City, as a 50 bed maternity unit for expectant mothers.
Between 1939 and 1949 expectant mothers who were willing to leave London were evacuated and a total of 8,338 Brocket Babies were born within the safety of Brocket Hall.
Sadly, during this period some of the babies died, including a number which were stillborn. The Burial Register of the local parish church, St John’s Lemsford, shows 62 entries for babies born at Brocket Hall Maternity Hospital who died shortly after birth, the youngest being just 5 minutes old. There are no gravestones.
The Brocket Babies have regular reunions at Brocket Hall and Lemsford Local History Group (LLHG) is often asked to talk about the history of the Hall during these meetings.
In April 2015 year LLHG attended a reunion and met a lady who wanted information about the babies. We asked her if she was a Brocket Baby, she replied ‘No, but my sister was.’ When we enquired if her sister was at the reunion, she replied ‘No, she was stillborn’. Her question was ‘Where were the stillborn babies buried?’ We did not know but after making enquiries came to the conclusion that common practice at that time was for stillborn babies to be passed to the local undertaker, who would place them in a stranger’s coffin. The babies were not registered and no records were kept of burial or location.
At the next reunion LLHG met another lady who asked the same question. She had a stillborn brother and wanted to know where he was buried. We told her that we did not know and the chances of finding a marked grave were low.
LLHG contacted Justin Burgess, local funeral director, to find out about local cemeteries in the area in the 1940s. We told him what we had discovered and suggested a memorial might be appropriate. Without a moment’s thought he offered to donate a memorial and to complete all the necessary paper work to get permission from the church diocese. The only cost would be £120 for the application for permission to erect the memorial. LLHG contacted Jeanette Edwards, Events Manager at Brocket Hall, who immediately offered to donate the £120.
LLHG was amazed at the speed and generosity of Justin and Jeanette and permission for a memorial at St John’s Lemsford was granted in early 2016 with the support and help of Barbara Taylor, a member of St John’s Church.
At the Memorial Service on 9th April 2016, LLHG member Andrew Chapman told the very moving stories of two of the mothers as told to him by their daughters.
The first daughter, Pauline, told us:
‘We often wondered if my brother had been thrown into the incinerator. My Mother’s memories were shrouded in mystery. All she knew was that she was excited to be having her first child, but very quickly her joy was turned to deep shock, sadness and disbelief. The baby was stillborn and in her words she left Brocket Hall 'with nothing' not knowing what happened to the baby. For years her sadness, which came to define her very being, became a huge part of our lives. There are no records of stillborn babies. I hope all the Brocket mothers, children, and families are able to take comfort in knowing that all the Brocket Babies who did not survive have finally been acknowledged and have been given an opportunity of a special resting place.’
The second daughter, June, told us her father’s story:
‘My Father then started to speak of his experience,
he said that they (my parents) were living at Tottenham N.17, he had to travel
by buses & trains to arrive at Welwyn Garden City station, then walked to
Brocket Hall, he said he was so pleased when he saw the gate, thought at last
I'm here, but looked beyond the gate and realised he still had a long walk! He
visited his wife, then had to walk, train & bus, walk, to arrive home to be told
by my grand parents that a a telegram had arrived telling him to return to
Brockets Hall, as my mother had given birth. So he just turned round & started
the journey all over again. When he arrived at Brockets he was told the outcome
& was asked if he would like to see Kathleen, he said yes. He said he was taken
up the staircase that went left & right, he was taken right & shown into a room.
(he described everything about the house & staircase, after all these years).
Kathleen was laying in a cot, wrapped in a blanket, My Dad said she just looked
asleep, looked beautiful, not a mark on her, perfect! How sad! Now my Dad needed
to comfort My Mother, he didn't speak of this to me.
To my shock he wasn't offered a bed for the night, but had to then start his long journey back home. He walked to the station, no trains, but a porter allowed him to sleep on a train, so he slept & then continued his journey home.
Because I found the discharge card, I believe that My Mother wanted me to find Kathleen's resting place, so my search started!’
Lemsford Local History Group and St John’s Lemsford
hope the memorial will help to give closure to all the parents and relatives of
the babies who died.
The inscription on the memorial
In memory of the precious
Taken from us so soon
September 1939 - November 1949
You touched our lives for the
briefest of moments
Yet you will stay with us forever
Jesus said, ‘Let the little
children come to me,
and do not hinder them, for the kingdom
of heaven belongs to such as these’.
Reverend Ron Ingamells, former Vicar of Lemsford,
welcomed the congregation which included relatives of 2 of the stillborn babies
believed to be buried in the churchyard of St John’s.
The choir of St John’s accompanied by organist Tim Armstrong Taylor led the congregation with the hymn ‘The Lord is My Shepherd’.
Andrew Chapman, LLHG member, talked about the background to the service and Julie Appleby, Brocket Hall staff, read from the Bible - Mark 10:13-16.
Readings and prayers were said and Stephen Foster performed JS Bach Cello Suite 1 – Sarabande and Menuet as a viola solo whilst relatives placed the names of 62 babies known to be buried in St John’s on the church altar.
The service moved outside to the memorial and concluded with a short service of dedication.
The memorial service was conducted by the Reverend Ron Ingamells, former Vicar of Lemsford.
The organist was Tim Armstrong Taylor. The JS Bach
Cello Suite 1 – Sarabande and Menuet was played by the soloist Stephen Foster.
If you want more information about the memorial or think you are related to a baby who died please contact LLHG: firstname.lastname@example.org
Memorial Dedication Service
St. John the Evangelist Church, Lemsford
Brocket Babies Memorial Dedication Service
Saturday 9th April 2016 at 2.00pm
conducted by the Revd. Ron Ingamells former Vicar of Lemsford
Organist Tim Armstrong Taylor
Introduction and Welcome by Revd. Ron Ingamells
We come together today to remember the 62 babies who died 5 minutes after birth or within 22 days or were stillborn during the years 1939 - 49 in Brocket Hall, then a temporary maternity home; we come to share our love and care for those we may not have known but who were known to you; we come trusting God’s love and healing power. We want to think about what we do today as we dedicate a memorial but hold in our memories those who suffered the pain and loss many years ago. We recall the time in history when all this took place – in the shadow of war and disruption and in a different era when at times there was not the deeper compassion that we have come to expect today.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, which art in heaven
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power and the glory,
For ever and ever.
The Lord's my shepherd, I'll not want;
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green; he leadeth me
The quiet waters by.
My soul he doth restore again,
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
E'en for his own name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through death's dark vale,
Yet will I fear no ill;
For thou art with me; and thy rod
And staff me comfort still.
My table thou hast furnishèd
In presence of my foes;
My head thou dost with oil anoint,
And my cup overflows.
Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me;
And in God's house forever more
My dwelling place shall be.
Background to today’s service Andy Chapman
Bible reading Mark 10 : 13-16 Julie Appleby, Brocket Hall staff
A candle will be lit as a sign of Remembrance and Hope.
Known names of the babies will be placed on the Altar
Viola solo JS Bach Cello Suite 1 - Sarabande and Minuet.
The unfinished symphony, the sculpture knocked from the pedestal just before the final touch… though never come to birth, never living never dies but continues its creation in the heart of the Creator. And so the symphony, the masterpiece the stillborn child lives eternally in the mothers’ loving hearts, in the heart of its creator ‘I have not lost any which you gave me’ (Marjorie Gray)
O God. Giver of Life, Bearer of pain, Maker of Love, You are able to accept in us what we cannot even acknowledge; you are able to name in us what we cannot bear to speak of; you are able to hold in your memory what we have tried to forget; you are able to hold out to us the glory that we cannot conceive of. Reconcile us through your cross to all that we have rejected in ourselves, that we may find no part of your creation to be alien or strange to us, that we ourselves may be made whole. Through Jesus Christ our lover and our friend. Amen (Janet Morley)
There's a wideness in God's mercy
like the wideness of the sea
there's a kindness in his justice,
which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth's sorrows
are more felt than up in heaven;
there is no place where earth's failings
have such kindly judgment given.
For the love of God is broader
than the measure of man's mind;
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
But we make his love too narrow
by false limits of our own
and we magnify His strictness
with a zeal He will not own
There is plentiful redemption
in the blood that has been shed;
there is joy for all the members
in the sorrows of the Head.
If our love were but more simple,
we should take him at his word;
and our lives would be all gladness
for the joy of Christ our Lord.
Please process to the memorial where there will be a short service of dedication.
Please join us for refreshments in the Annexe.
Any donation you would like to make to cover expenses will be gratefully received - plates available at back of church and in annexe.
Letter from Pauline Fleming (29 January 2016) - sister of Peter Williams born 10 September 1947
I am delighted, as I am sure you are, that on Monday 25 January 2016, the Parish Council, St John’s Church, Lemsford approved the application for the memorial stone.
I wonder if you would be kind enough to include the following information on the Brocket Babies website:
Firstly it is of the utmost importance to thank the people who have been involved.
A very special ‘Thank you’ to:
• Andy Chapman who has spent many months liaising with a host of people to ensure the 'Brocket stillborn babies' and those babies who passed shortly after birth will have a final resting place.
• Justin Burgess, local funeral director, who has shown outstanding generosity and true compassion by gifting the memorial stone.
• Barbara Tayor, St John’s Parish Council for supporting the application to the diocese and acting on our behalf.
• Mary de Soyres, Lemsford History Group for gathering relevant information.
• Brocket Hall - for donating the £120 registration fee.
To All Brocket Babies:
If you wish to attend the dedication service for the Brocket Babies who were stillborn or died at or shortly after birth please email Andy Chapman (LLHG Chairman email@example.com) for more details. Everyone is welcome.
Stillborn and Infant Death Memorial
All Brocket Babies who wish to attend the unveiling service for the Stillborn and Infant Death Memorial in April please contact Andy Chapman direct at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andy will send details and book a place for you at a reception afterwards.