The Brocket Babies

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From Jili Hamilton - received 22 January 2011

Lord Brocket was said to have been the only Englishman at Hitlerís 50th birthday celebration and because of that was interned for the duration of the war. Herr von Ribbentrop had stayed at Brocket Hall before the war and the room where he had slept was named after him. It was at the Hall that I was born on 3 September 1941 and my birth name was Diane Jill Hamilton, although for the major part of my life Iíve been Jili Hamilton. My motherís name was Netta Hamilton and she lived with my father in Crouch End. My grandparents lived in Welwyn Garden City just a few minutes from Peartree Maternity Home where I probably should have been born. However, my mother had other ideas and elbowed her way into Brocket Hall. She often spoke lovingly of Sister Squires who seemed to be involved a lot in the care of the mothers and babies. There were some local women and some from London in the same ward as my mother and I know that David Jobson was born the same day as me and Brenda Watson the day after. My father, who had been invalided out of the forces and who had a car, was able to come to visit every day and as the babies were kept in the nursery my mother asked him the first time if he wanted to see me. He already had a 10-year old son from a previous marriage and wasnít very excited about having another child so he told her he would see enough of me when I got home. Just then in bustled sister saying: ĎAh Mr Hamilton, I expect youíre longing to see the baby, follow meí and he followed meekly. The magic of birth worked its charm as he was immediately smitten and came back to my mother raving about his new daughter! When it was time for us to leave my mother was shown how to bath me, but on arriving back at the grandparentsí home was very relieved when my grandmother, understanding the situation, tactfully enquired whether she would be able to watch me having my bath. I was two years old when my grandfather died suddenly and when the war hotted up and neighbours started leaving to live with relatives outside London we moved down to Welwyn Garden City where I grew up. Right up the end of my parentsí lives, when I was around we often walked over the stile by the mill and through the estate and the Sun was my local until I left home in my mid-twenties. On one occasion when my mother was visiting me in Geneva we went to look at some paintings in one of the museums and were staggered to see one entitled The Meet leaving Brocket Hall by J L Agasse, a minor 19th century Swiss painter. We bought postcards of it but I was never able to find out anything more about what he was doing there.