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Stories from 1942

1.  From Gerry Walsh, received 29 August 2008

I know the visit was called a reunion but we didn't remember anything when we were there, but for me it was emotional in that I was in the place that my Mother was when I was born. As Mum has now passed on it made me have thoughts that I had never had before trying to put myself in her place as to what she was thinking and going through at the time. I was her second caesarean and her third child. Mum went on to have three more children all by caesarean, five caesareans in all, this would never be allowed these days.

I enjoyed the visit to the house, the paintings, furniture and all the artefacts were stunning.

Spoke with most if not all the visitors in the morning and met two Brocket Mums and a Brocket Dad. They had great memories and I asked their children and grandchildren to get their stories onto the web site.

One thing in my possession that no other Brocket Baby had is my Mothers Patients Discharge Card. I will try to email it over to you. How on earth my Mother managed to keep this I haven't a clue. She kept them for all he babies, my eldest brother was born in 1939, my second brother was born in 1940 and she kept them for my three siblings after me. When she was returned to the east end of London with me in her arms the tenement building was bombed and the family moved to another one close by which I remember as a little boy. I also have my weight card with a few entries on from the City of London Maternity Hospital.

The patient discharge card was signed by H. Haynes and my sister tells me that my Mum told her that she was the Sister that looked after her and  in her later years would always talk about this lady who must have had a marked effect on her. She never remembered staff from any of her other babies. Can Sister Haynes be traced?


2.  From John Overall, son of Ellen Overall - received 2nd November 2008

My Mother died in 1984 and my Father in 1986. We lived in Finsbury Park and I know that my Dad travelled up on the train to visit and walked from Welwyn Garden City. I don't know how long my Mum was there but I was registered on 28th April. I am an only child and it was hinted that "She couldn't have more children as she had a hard time" so Mum may have been there for a while.  I lived for the first 15 years of my life at Finsbury Park N4 then Islington N1. When I married we moved to Wood Green N22 then out to Enfield Middlesex.  While still a teenager I went on a Youth Club ramble from Islington to Welwyn and we walked the paths around the Hall. When I was married in 1962 we spent the first 2 nights of our honeymoon before going off to Jersey at my uncles House in Welwyn Garden City when we walked from there and around the footpaths circumnavigating Brocket Hall. While we lived in Enfield over the years we would often drive out and walk around.  We moved to Sussex some thirteen years ago and did see some reports in The Times about reunions which took place a few years ago. Who knows I may finally get to see the inside if you do have any more events!


3.  From Pauline Thomas, daughter of Nora Montague - received 23rd May 2009 - revised 20 September 2011

Both my mother and my auntie were sent from where they lived in Islington to Brocket Hall, The date was sometime in December 1941. London was not considered safe for mothers to be. Both were expecting their babies to be born around Christmas, as it was I was late and didn't arrive until 3rd Jan 1942. 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 drive to the church. My mother said it caused quiet a few stares from the locals to see so many pregnant mothers. She told me lots about the beautiful house and grounds and how hard the staff worked. I never thought as a little girl when I day dreamed about the lovely big house where I was born, I might one day be able to see Brocket Hall, let alone be able to visit it. I wish my mother could have seen it again.


4.  From Rita Butterfield, Basildon - received 11th September 2010

My parents were both deaf and dumb they lived in Harringay, Tottenham North London when I was born Rita Blake on the 15th November 1942 , as a child all she told me was that I was born in the countryside of Hertfordshire.

I was registered on the 25 November 1942 this was only 10 days after I was born so all must have gone well at my birth. I was born with full hearing which my parents were very pleased about.

My father passed away in 1961 just after I got married. My mother then moved away from Tottenham to Highbury Islington North London where I was living but only 4 years later in 1965 she sadly passed away.  I lived in Highbury for the next 45 years and in 2006 I retired and moved to Basildon Essex to be near my daughters.  It was not until this year August 2010 that my husband was looking at my birth certificate and saw I was born in Brocket Hall, we then went on the web-site to find any information we could and to my surprise I found out I was a Brocket Baby.

I have only just found out about Brocket Baby reunions at Brocket Hall so I am looking forward to to next reunion.


5.  From Ray Holmwood - received 7th December 2010

I was born 03 03 42 some where around mid-night. I was quite a heavy baby and I remember my mother saying that the nurse looking after her always commented on the 80 odd steps that she had to climb up and down.

(The nursery was on the floor below the Entrance Hall and the mothers were up the grand staircase on the floor above, it is a bit of a climb with or without a baby - David)


6.  From Jennifer Gorton - received 17th May 2011

I was born at Brocket Hall on the 8th March 1942 and subsequently adopted two and a half years later by my birth mother's sister - an amazing lady - Barbara Mary Harris and Frank Harris, her husband at the time.  My father left us when I was six but my adopted mother brought me up and sent me to College from where I then went to work in a Bank, Local Government and then ran a haulage business with my husband for 30 years.  I found my father thirteen years ago and he is still alive - he is 92. I have two children.


7.  From Yvonne Simm - received 18th June 2011

I have been aware of my 'brocket baby' status all my life, but simply didn't realise that others like myself had got together in such an amazing way.  I was born at Brocket Hall on 18th April, 1942. My mother, Marie Gertrude Moore, was evacuated there from Wood Green, North London.  She always felt grateful for the three months that she spent there during a time of painful separations, dreadful air raids and stressful daily living.  I still have a small stone cherub's head that she picked up from the grounds after an air raid.  It is one of my most treasured possessions.  You know that being born in such a historic and fascinating house is something that I have always been proud of. Of course I have my original birth certificate with Brocket Hall written on it, and also my birth record card.  Although I have seen the outside of Brocket Hall, (just looking down the drive), I would love to have the opportunity of going inside.  I would also adore to meet other people who were born there.  After many years of nursing in London Hospitals, I decided to go to university to undertake social history.  I became a historian of the the Second World War, and I often wonder whether my love of the period was stimulated by my rather auspicious place of birth and the circumstances surrounding it.


8.  From Belinda Volpeliere - received 30 September 2011

I was born on September 26th 1942 at Brocket Hall (although my birth certificate had Welwyn Hertfordshire on it).  The Doctors asked my mother to hold on as there was some football match they were longing to listen to, she recalled with a giggle.  Another recall I have is that my mother told me that I had been bitten by a red mouse on my leg and I had to have a small operation, which is where the scar on my leg came from.  I have often enjoyed telling friends that I was born in a stately home!


9.  From Margaret Burrell - received 26th November 2011

I was born at Brocket Hall on the 1st December 1942,my birth certificate says Brocket Hall, Lemsford.  My parents were Kathleen and Sidney North.  My father was in the second world war serving in Holland and i was told my Mother should have given birth to me in The City of London Hospital, apparently it was bombed so many mothers were sent to Brocket Hall.  Sadly she never talked very much about it other than my Grandmother was somehow going from Islington to Brocket Hall and then walking to a hospital in Colney Hatch visiting my Grandfather who was ill which had taken from the first world war to 1942 to affect him, I believe it was gas attacks and sadly he passed away on of all days 6th June 1944.  Having wanted to visit Brocket Hall for many years i decided to write to Lord Brocket and he gladly allowed myself, Dad and husband to visit, to have the place to ourselves was amazing and emotional.  We were given a guided tour of the house, such a privilege.  After a cup of tea and biscuits with Lord Brockets staff member we took ourselves off for a walk around the ground, the labradors following us every where, such a beautiful place and how lucky I was to be born at such a stately home.  I look forward to hearing of many more of those 8000 odd babies at Brocket Hall getting in touch and maybe joining you at one of your reunions.


10.  From Rebekah Bristow, - received 26th January 2012

What an interesting web site. I came across it while researching my family history.  I remember Sunday afternoon walks with my family to Brocket Hall in the 1950s and somewhere have some little black and white photographs of us there and in Lemsford.  I was born in Welwyn Garden City at Pear Tree Nursing Home in 1951, not quite as grand as Brocket Hall.  However I do know two people who were born there.  My brother Julian Sproll on 11th March 1947 (Mother - Margaret Vera Sproll local resident of WGC) - He was born with a 'caul' over his head which sent the young midwife into a panic, fortunately she wasn't on her own and her colleague knew what it was.  It was presented to my mother, as it was believed that as long as you had one of these you would never drown, my brother still has it and I'm pleased to say hasn't come close to drowning yet.

Unexpectedly to me, the next person is my husband Raymond Anthony Bristow born 12th June 1942. His mother Alice Maud Bristow was expecting to have him in the Old Street Maternity Hospital but was sent from Muswell Hill to Brocket Hall.  She became part of a group of young women called the Three Ms, Maud (as she was known) Maisie, and Millie.  She said it was the best time of her life.  That's a bit sad. Anyway thought you'd like the info to add to your research, each bit is like a part of a puzzle that contributes to the bigger picture.


11.  From Joan Gudjohnsen - received 14th August 2012

I was born on January 5, 1942 at Brocket Hall in an upstairs room. I always knew that I was “To the Manor Born”.  My mother, Ivy Martin, who passed away in June 2010, was sent from London to Brocket Hall before Christmas 1941.  The hospital where she was to deliver had been bombed.  My Dad, a firefighter stationed at Cannon Street, London, trudged through the snow all the way from the Welwyn Garden train station.  He had brought my mother a hard to come by apple, which, as she guiltily admitted, she immediately ate without offering him a bite!  I read the story from Pauline Montague Thomas and am certain that my Mum was one of the ladies who went for a walk with the other expectant mothers that day.  I remember her telling me that they tried to get over a fence and a passing soldier remarked that they looked like three unexploded bombs!  I believe that a boy named Bobby Brown was born around the same time that I was.  I moved to the United States in 1967.  On one of my visits home my Mum and I did get a chance to tour beautiful Brocket Hall before it became a hotel.  Later, I was so thrilled to see the house and grounds in a Miss Marples movie starring Betty Davis.  I actually found out about The Brocket Babies from my American friends who had attended a wedding at Brocket Hall and who happened to mention that there was a plaque dedicated to those born there.  It would be wonderful to meet up again with other “Brocket Babies” who I may have shared a cot with back in 1942.


12.  From Brenda Gorely - received 28th December 2012

I, and my twin sister, Barbara, were born at Brocket Hall on the 23rd January 1942 at 7.10 pm and 7 30 pm. respectively.  My mother, Jeannette Whipp, is still alive at 96.  She told us how no doctor had told her she was expecting twins, but one of the student nurses, on listening for a heartbeat, told her she could hear two beating, and for mum not to tell anyone, as she would get into trouble.

Mum lived in Stoke Newington at the time, I think.  Our father, Frederick Whipp, was presumed to have died in 1948 on the Burma Railway, so Barbara and I never knew him.

I was advised of your web site by my former brother-in-law in the UK. He is a very good artist, painting scenes and houses and some ten years ago he sent me a great painting of my birth place, which I have framed and on my bedroom wall. It is always fun to show it to visitors and, if they don't already know, tell them this is the Stately Home I was born in.  Each time we return to the UK we drive past Brocket Hall, as we ended up living in St. Albans, Hertfordshire from aged 14 and drive passed our old abodes.


13.  From June Godby - received 15th March 2013

My parents lived in Hornsey when my mother, who was registered at the City of London Maternity Hospital became a patient at Brocket.  I was born at 9 o'clock on15 February 1942.  I remember my mum telling me that the fall of Singapore was being announced on the “wireless”.  My sister Stella was also born at Brocket in January 1947.  She remembers our mum telling her she saw the stars through the window on her way to the delivery room and decided on the name Stella if the baby was a girl.  (She was convinced she was having a boy and only chosen a boy's name).  The other memory our mum shared with her was that unmarried mothers had to wait on the married mothers and clean and scrub the floors.  She thought this was very wrong.  I remember going to Brocket with my dad to collect my sister.  I don't know how we got there but I remember sitting on a bench seat at the bottom of the staircase which was very decorative and I think the carpet was royal blue.  I lived in High Barnet most of my childhood, moving to south London and north Kent in 1960.  Circumstances took me back to Hertfordshire between 1988 and 2004 and I remember doing a walk in the early nineties that included the footpath going past Brocket Hall.  I never expected there would be a time when babies born there would be able to re-visit.

Discharge Cards added to the Information section.


14.  From David Clayden (Nottinghamshire, UK) - received 12th November 2013

My Mother Nellie Ada Clayden (née Burton) died at the age of 89 in 2005 in a Suffolk Nursing home.  The only details she told me was that I was born on a trolley as the staff didn't think she was ready to deliver!! And that I was born at Brocket Hall.  I now live in Nottingham after living in various parts of the country during my 30 year Ministry with the Church of England.  Looking forward to receiving the monthly newsletter and possibly meeting up at the yearly occasion at Brocket Hall. Grateful thanks and God bless.


15.  From Doris Philips (Northampton, Northamptonshire) - received 5 October 2014

"My mother told me that she had been booked into the City "Lying-in Hospital", but was evacuated to Brocket Hall because of the World War II bombing in London. She told me what a beautiful place Brocket Hall was, and on the day before I was born she had been sitting enjoying the Autumn sunshine in the lovely grounds of Brocket Hall, when she had the first twinges of birth pangs. She also told me that I had been born in a room where Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop, Foreign Minister of the German Reich, had slept when visiting Brocket Hall during the time he was German Ambassador to Britain in 1936 and serving in London. When I was a girl, my mother possessed a leather handbag which was rather the "worse for wear". Apparently, it was a lovely new handbag when she went to Brocket Hall, but during the time she was a patient there (around 10 days or so, I understand) the "ward" was overrun by mice, who nibbled her lovely handbag, and made it unfit for her to ever use again! It was only ever used at home for keeping important papers in - such as my birth certificate! I must admit though that I have never seen my mother's discharge card from when we left Brocket Hall. We lived in the Clapton, London E5 area at that time, and I lived in that area until my marriage in June 1970, when I moved to Balham, London SW12. In September 1972 we moved to Northampton, Northamptonshire, and I have lived there ever since, and brought up our family there."


16.  From Bernard Barbuk (Islington, London) - received 10 May 2015

I was born on 20 May 1942 – after a 42 hour labour I will add.  When asked by Germans where I was born, I would always say, ‘I’m a Londoner, sort of.’  Then, when asked to explain add: ‘Because the Luftwaffe bombed the Mile End Maternity Hospital two weeks before I was due.’  I’ve been back just once: some time in the 1990s, when I interviewed Lord Brocket for the magazine I edited.  I was able to visit the former Recovery Room – where, he said, new moms would come round and think they had died and gone to heaven - but not the Delivery Room, because the Hall was in use and the occupant had locked it.  PS. My mother’s chief memory of the place was the daffodils, in full bloom when she was there.  1942 must have had a late Spring. BB.


17.  From Miranda Brown (Wirral) - received 28 July 2015

My parents were living in Putney at 6 Belvedere Court.  My mother was Connie Ethel Brown and my father was Maurice Richard Brown. I think that when I was born the weather must have been quite mild as my father and aunt talked about having picnics in the grounds.  They also raved about the ornate rooms and decoration.


18.  From Carole Cronke (Devon) - received 1 November 2015

I am fascinated by the events surrounding my birth (12th February 1942) but have no details except from knowing that there was deep snow around and my parents had to walk through it with me as a newborn child.


19.  From Roy Williams - received 3 November 2015

Thanks for enrolling me into the Brocket Baby Club.  I have enjoyed browsing the website.  I told you that I was born at Brocket Hall on 15 February 1948.  My mother's name was Winifred Williams and she and my dad lived in WGC.  My mum died in 1998 but she did attend the first Brocket reunion in 1997 and is in the front row in the photo on your website.  She went with my Aunty Lillian and her daughter Evelyn Welch, who was also a Brocket Baby and organised the visit.  My mum thought the whole day was wonderful and regretted that I could not go with her too.

Born on the same day as me was a boy called Peter Sutton.  The two mothers were in adjacent beds and became friends.  One morning during their time at Brocket Hall they were each given the wrong baby.  Luckily they quickly realised and all was well.  Whenever I was out with my mum as a small child and we happened to meet Mrs Sutton she would always tell me that I nearly became her 'son'.  As we grew up I became good friends with Peter Sutton and we remained so until our teenage years.  I cannot remember his mother's full name.  Another boy along Knella Road from me was also a Brocket Baby - Robert/Bobby/Bob Smith born on 15 January 1948.  I have alerted him to the site.  He currently lives near Toronto. 

My three brothers, Evelyn's brother and sister and Bob Smith's two brothers were all born in WGC but none of them was born at Brocket Hall.  We felt that we were an exclusive band.


20.  From Carole Cronk - received 25th May 2016

Regarding travel arrangements to and from Brocket Hall.  All I know is that the weather was very bad with lots of snow on the ground.  I think my parents owned a car as my father came to collect my mother and myself from Brocket Hall.