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Stories from 1940

1.  From Dorothy Louisa Beasley, mother of Dorothy Joan Beasley - received 1st September 2008

War was on 1940 Walthamstow E17.

I was pregnant with my first baby and sent to Hitchen hospital from Walthamstow with other Mums to be.  We all had to go by coach to this hospital and when we arrived the hospital was being decorated and there was no proper beds made up for us at that time, we all had to help the nurses make them up.

Getting back to our arrival, the Red Cross unloaded us from the coach and instructed us to walk in twos, which we did although we had to pass all these workmen who wolf whistled at us all the way.  It was most embarrassing for all of us as we had big bumps.  While in Hitchen hospital I made lots of friends.  I began to settle and then labour started.  I was taken by the Red Cross to Brocket Hall.  I cried all the way as I was frightened with no Mum or Dad at hand and my husband had been shifted with his Unit to another district and we were losing contact.  At night it was quite frightening for a young girl in those days having her first child on her own.  As I laid in my bed I could see all these white statues up the corridors and it was quite creepy.

I was just twenty when I gave birth to Dorothy on the 14th December 1940.  She was a difficult birth but I survived to go on to have 5 more children in normal hospitals.  It was December and I was kept there for 2 weeks in bed, not like today, in and out overnight.  So I was there for Christmas Day.  The Doctors and Nurses all dressed up in paper hats and brought presents round for the babies in a great big pram.  They gave my baby a Matinee coat and booties and a blanket.

When I was discharged my sister, Thelma, and my Mother came to meet me.  I don't know how they got from Hitchen to Brocket Hall, because there was no buses.  So, on the way back to Hitchen we had to wait for a truck driver who was kind enough to give the 3 of us a lift to the Hitchen bus stop.  But I didn't mind because I was a proud mother of a beautiful little baby girl.  I am now 88 years of age in November 2008.  I have been to visit Brocket Hall on one of the special occasions they hold there and although I am well I am unable to walk very far so my Daughter, Dorothy has visited every time there has been a Brocket Mother and Baby event at Brocket Hall and has taken her siblings also to share the history.  My daughter will be 68 in December 2008 and loves her past history of being a Brocket Baby.


2. From Gwenda Sacks, daughter of Annie Album - received 2nd June 2009

My mother always reminded me at each birthday, about the beautiful place where I was born.  When I saw a snippet in the newspaper around 1996, saying how it was discovered that Brocket Hall was used as a maternity home in the war and if there were any ‘babies’ who wanted to see where they were born, to make contact.  I got in touch and duly received an invitation for ‘babies’, parents and partners to come for tea at Brocket Hall.  I told my late mother to get dressed nicely as we (my husband and I) were taking her out for tea and it was going to be a surprise.

In the meantime, I was contacted by Morning TV to ask if my mother and I would be willing to be interviewed at the tea afternoon, for their programme.  I accepted.  When we were driving to Brocket Hall that day, my mother, not knowing where she was being taken, said that I was born near where we were travelling.  We asked her to direct us to Brocket Hall so we could see this lovely place which she had often spoken about.  When we drove down the drive, I told her that this is where we were going to have tea.  She broke down and cried as she said the last time she was there, she was cradling me in her arms. 

We duly presented ourselves for the TV interview, which was conducted at the top of the staircase.  The programme was due to go out in September 1997.  However, this was the time that Princess Diana got killed and all the programmes went haywire, so we never did get to see it!

However, we were invited back yet again a year or so later, with five other ‘babies’ and parents for an article in the Mail on Sunday magazine, of which I have a copy.

Over the years, I have taken various members of my family and friends to the Brocket Baby reunions and they have all been very impressed.


3.  From John Goldman, - received 28th October 2010

My mother Betty Goldman was 18 at the time of my birth. My father Harry Goldman was in the Police force in the area now known as Docklands in the East End of London - quite a 'lively' place at that time of the 'Blitz.' Mother was due to give birth at the City of London Maternity Hospital but it was evacuated to Brocket Hall in 1940. My mother went from Brocket Hall to Hatfield where she was joined by other evacuated family members and my father when on leave. Mother referred fondly to her confinement at Brocket Hall, although I know this was tempered by the concern of such a young mother for the safety of her husband on duty in the docks.

She gave birth to my younger sister at nearby Welwyn Garden City in 1944.


4.  From John Goldman - received 25th December 2010

You may be interested in a current item on this particular Brocket 'baby' - it just shows how senility can come in all forms! Click here


5.  From John Goldman - received 30th January 2011

Herewith a link to a Sky Sports News item on this Brocket Baby today (after the first 20 seconds of the link).,28704,13987_6710439,00.html

(the film follows a couple of short sponsor/Sky announcements)


6.  From Jeff Laurents (formerly Geoffrey Laurence Goldstein) - received 2 September 2011


I have often thought that my brother and I should have found out more from our parents about the family history.  But, regretfully, we didn’t .

Mum told me that I was born at 11.55pm, on the 24th December 1940, five minutes before Christmas day!  She said that my dad had to tramp across the snow to see me.  I wonder if this was a fantasy on her part, but I never saw “my soldier daddy” until I was six, as he was away, serving in the army, during the war.  In many ways it has been great to be born around Christmas as so many others are celebrating at the same time as me.

One other thing that I do know is that mum, Ettie Bernstein, as she was before she married dad, and became a Goldstein, grew up in Durward Street in Whitechapel, a part of London’s East End.  I think her parents lived there from 1905 when they came to London from Russia and Poland.  Mum was born in 1914, and she and her four sisters and two brothers grew up in the street.

Imagine my shock when I discovered in a book on the History of the Jews in London, that Jack the Ripper slaughtered his first victim, Mary, “Polly” Nichols, a 41 year old prostitute in Durward Street, (then called Bucks Row).  Her body was discovered at 3.40 in the morning of August 31st 1888, near the Old Board School at the East End of the street.  Her throat had been slashed.

Did my mum know of this?  Did any of the family know?  I doubt it.  It was never mentioned.  Apparently, within some months of the murder, local residents had become so ashamed by the sudden notoriety, that they petitioned the council, and the name of the street was changed from Bucks Row to Durward Street.

But the story fascinates me in a gruesome way, as Mum would tell me that in the days, when she grew up, no one locked their doors, and everyone knew their neighbours.  I imagine that if my little mum, (she was very petite in those days), had known that Jack The Ripper had committed his dastardly deed not far from her doorstep, and even though over thirty years had passed, ALL the doors and windows would have been secured.  He had never been brought to justice. He might still be alive!

Recently, I visited my auntie Ray, mum’s eldest sister, and asked her if she remembered the number of the house in Durward Street where they grew up.  Aunty Ray is in her late 90’s and deaf, so her daughter Linda, had to carefully mouth the question. “Number 16 Durward Street”, Auntie Ray immediately replied, without hesitation. I haven’t yet visited the street to see if number 16 is still standing, but I intend to do so.

(Jeff also sent a link if you wish to read more


7. From Chris Blanch - received 23rd November 2011

I at long last plucked up the courage to write to Brocket Hall to ask if there was any chance of being able to visit the house and was given your e-mail address.  I had absolutely no idea that so many babies were born there!

I was born on Christmas Day 1948 - the only Christmas baby that year.  Mum told me that the staff were all over the moon to have a Christmas baby and, so, of course, were Mum and Dad.  They were living in Harrow at the time.  I'm not quite sure when Mum actually arrived at Brocket Hall or how she got there.  Dad stayed at home to look after my brother Dave who was 5 at the time.  Mum always told me how wonderful and exciting it was to be in such a lovely place.  She particularly remembered the Ballroom where I think they had a Christmas party.  Of course I don't remember much about that.  I still have the hand written Christmas entertainment programme with the songs, poems etc and names of the staff who were providing the entertainment.  I can email a copy to you if you would like to have it.  I was actually born at 8.25 on Christmas morning - a very small baby.  I can't remember what I weighed but I know that somewhere in Mum and Dad's house there is a card with my birth weight on it.  Sadly my Mum died in 2005 at the age of 93 and my Dad, only this April - on his 98th birthday!  Hopefully when we are turning out the house I will come across the card again.  I know that it is there! My Dad's neighbour - the only person with a telephone in our street - came hurrying over to tell him that he was the father of a new baby girl.  The weather that Christmas was extremely cold and snowy.  Dad cycled all the way over from Harrow to Brocket Hall to come to visit us both on Boxing Day.  He promptly caught the flu and was in bed for the next week or more.  My aunt came to look after both Dad and my brother whilst Mum and I got to know each other at Brocket Hall.  She used to speak about how nice and how much fun the staff and other mothers were.  She also remembered the bedrooms and how grand they were.  I know that there was another mother who Mum kept in touch with for long afterwards.  Her baby was born on Boxing Day.  I just wish I could remember her name.  I will have to go through old address books.  I am just so astonished that there is actually a website dedicated to the Brocket Babies and had no idea that there would be so many "babies" involved.  Hopefully I shall be able to come to the Brocket Babies Special day next year.


8.  From John Goldman - received 4th April 2012

I acquired some etchings at a charity auction for the Teenage Cancer Trust some years ago.  Imagine my delight when I recently found amongst them the attached etching of Brocket Hall.


9.  From Jackie Carlowe - received 1st June 2012

I was born on 29/06/42 (so 70 very soon!) at Brocket Hall, as a result of the City Maternity Hospital, Liverpool Road, Islington having been destroyed by enemy bombing and its maternity unit being evacuated to Brocket Hall.  My mother tells me that she spent the 2 weeks prior to my birth staying at Brocket Hall and then 2 weeks after I was born as was usual in those days.  My father who was a serving soldier throughout the war, was given leave to visit his wife and new baby at Brocket Hall.  He sadly died last year (aged 94) but often spoke of his visit.  On my 50th birthday in 1992 I was driving past Brocket Hall with my husband and decided to ring the intercom by the rear gate.  I was warmly greeted by Lord Brocket's butler, and my husband and I were given a private tour of the house, followed by tea.  I remember thinking it had been 50 years since I last had liquid refreshment in that delightful environment!  By the way we were also shown Lord Brocket's Ferrari collection!  In 1997 when Brocket Hall was sold to the hoteliers I was invited with other Brocket Babies' to the first reunion.  My mother was delighted to join us and still has a photo on her wall of all the mums and babies present that day.  I was told that I was born in Lord Melbourne's bedroom but don't know if this is accurate.


10.  From Evelyn Warr - received 7th May 2016

I was interested in Dorothy Beasley's account of the birth of her baby, as:

(a) my mother, Dorothy Hardy, lived in Leyton


(b) my birth was 4 days before the birth of Mrs. Beasley's baby, so the two mothers could well have known each other.

Mum remembered the beautiful silk wall paper in the room and a sunken bath she stepped into.  My mother was sent to Brocket Hall having lost her first baby in a prolonged labour of several days and then terrible circumstances during the delivery in the London Hospital.  The only thing she knew that the baby was not going to survive was when the sister told her she was going to be Godmother to her baby.  The surgeon promised a safe delivery of me, Evelyn, her second baby in the secure surrounds of Brocket Hall, and so on the 10th December 1940 I was born. Having asked her how she got to the Hall in the war, she could not remember much about the journey, only about the interior of the Hall, but my aunt, her sister, who visited her said there was very thick snow on the ground that December as she trudged up to the main door, and to get to the hall from Leyton, she got a mainline train for some of the journey. She said the train was full of soldiers and a soldier stood up to give her his seat. As she sat down, the officer in charge told her to get up and let the soldier sit down as he would need all the strength possible to fight where he was going. Mum died 20 years ago but she never forgot her first baby to the day she died.  I loved her dearly and was her only child. I have been to the hall twice and how I would have loved to have taken mum back to see it too.