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Stories from 1943

1.  From Janette Labbee, daughter of Doris Seaton - received 27th August 2008

As student of British History, my mum was always very interested in stately homes and provided me with a pretty good description of the elegant wall coverings and opulent toilets, which she quoted "looked more like a throne". The summer of 1943 was extremely hot and in my dad's memoires is a pretty good description of his first impressions of Brocket Hall, if more detail is needed at a later date.


2.  From Frank Cottage, son of Florence Cottage - received 6th June 2009

We were able to take mum to a "Brocket Baby Day" which she loved and also once for lunch at Auberge du Lac where she was treated like a queen by the wonderful staff.

3.  From Martyn Brisland - received 29th December 2009

Marjorie Brisland, was in Brocket Hall in June 1943 for the birth of her daughter Janet and again in December 1946 for the birth of her son Martyn.

She remembers staying in a house, she believes in Welwyn garden City, belonging to the hospital. She says that the expectant mothers shared the housekeeping but thinks there was a cook on the premises. A nurse was in charge and summoned an ambulance to take the women to Brocket hall when she decided their labour was advanced enough. She thinks there were about a dozen women there at any time.

The only staff at Brocket Hall, that she can recall by name, were Sister Rock or Roc and Nursie Mac.  She remembers everything was very regimented but that was probably the same in every hospital at that time. The women were kept in bed for at least six days after the birth so she was there for Christmas 1946 when I was born. She says the nurses put on a show for the women and the only doctor there dressed as Father Christmas. The nurses made small presents and she remembers receiving a toy duck with a felt beak.

This was a period of austerity and the nurses used sanitary towels as decorations strung across the mantle pieces.

Finally she thinks that there was a taxi service to get the women to the Railway station for their return home run by a Mr Bundy or Bunty.


4.  From Carol Paton, - received 16th December 2010

Mum said she was sent to a nursing home not far from Brocket Hall, and was there for about two weeks before I was due, she said when she started with her labour pains she was taken to Brocket Hall for the birth. When she was in the nursing home she met a Jewish girl who's baby was due around the same time as me. Her husband worked at de Havilland Aircraft Company and he had a car and used to bring my dad to see my mum when he came to see his wife. My dad was not in the Forces as he had had TB. The couple were called Barney and Pauline and they had a boy on 18th August 1943, two days after my birth. The boy was called Lawrence and my parents were friends with his parents for quite a few years when I was growing up. I remember going to their house in Clapton for Sunday tea and them coming to our flat in Bethnal Green. Mum said they moved out quite a long way and we eventually lost touch with them. I think their surname was Solomon. Mum said the nurses and all the staff at Brocket Hall were very kind and she was very well treated and was there was about two weeks.


5.  From Jan Tidiman, - received 22nd February 2012

Thank you so much, my sister will be delighted to be included in the list. Her full name is Carol Ann Pusey, born at Brocket Hall on 12th December 1943.  I was also born in the City of London Maternity Hospital, in 1950, but by then it was located in North London (Royal Northern Hospital).  I have an elderly relative who states that two great aunts worked and lived at the gate houses either side of Brocket Hall, they were from Furneux Pelham.  I hope to visit him next month and if I get any further information I will let you know. He has already told me that they opened the gates for Count Von Ribbentrop but how true that is I do not know.


6.  From Bryan Stanway - received 3rd March 2012

Thank you so much for your continued interest and participation in this activity - I'm sure it has brought much enjoyment to the "babes" and nostalgic recollections to many of their mothers.  I was very interested to hear your radio interview with Steve Gordon in Perth also.  I am going to play it back for my mother soon.  Mum is now 90 and lives in her own apartment in Narrabeen a suburb on the northern beaches area of Sydney.  She has lived there for over 30 years now and my wife and I live in the suburb of Curl Curl about 10 minutes by car from her home.  My parents were married (aged 20 and 18) for just over 63 years until dad passed away in 2003.  During WW2 dad was called up in the 1st Army (RAMC) and served from January 1940 until demobbed in Aug 1946 having served in North Africa Sicily mainland Italy and Austria at Klagenfurt Hospital.  Mum did her bit for "our boys" in the factories making barrage balloons and later on electrical components.  My "creation" was due to a period of leave spent in Northern Ireland - I confirmed via his army records.  During another period of leave they spent some time visiting the grounds of Hatfield House.  Mum was living in Upper Street Islington and dad in Hackney before their marriage.  I have a book of Kipling verse given to mum by a "companion mum" (a lady named Wyn) the day after my birth.  I am going to ask mum about her time at Brocket Hall and as an initial "prompt" have asked her if she can remember seeing Chinese patterned wallpaper somewhere in England before we emigrated from their home in Prittlewell (Southend) to Australia in 1950.  Disembarked in Melbourne lived in Geelong until 1964.  Who knows we may even get to travel over for a Brocket Babes reunion.  Will have a look at the website with mum when we have her round at our place for our regular Sunday roast lunch.


7.  From Brian Riley - received 5th July 2012

I was born Brian Alan Riley on 7th September 1943 at Brocket Hall. That's about as much as I know. My mother, Emma Annie Riley (always known as Ann) died about 12 years ago and my father about 20 years ago, so no help is available from those sources. In 1943, my Father had been in the Fire Service in East London for 4 years and had been involved in many dangerous situations.  My family lived in Manor Park in East Ham but our house had been very badly damaged for the second time by enemy bombing so my mother and my two older brothers went to live with her mother in Hackney.  I understood that my mother should have gone to a hospital in the City but went to Brocket Hall instead.  My parents never told me anything about the circumstances surrounding my birth but I learnt only a few years ago from a sister of my father, who has now also died, that my mother contacted her and asked her to come to Brocket Hall to collect her and me and take us back to London.  Very shortly after that my mother was evacuated with me and my two bothers to South Wales for over a year.  So I didn't return "home" until I was over one year old. I was delighted to discover the Brocket Babes Website and I have already ready discovered much more about the place of my birth.


8.  From Janice Hawker (London, England) - received 12th September 2013

I have been sorting through my mother's (Mrs Irene Grainger) correspondence and found some letters she wrote to my father from Brocket Hall after my birth on 29 January 1943.  They are mostly love letters but she does mention a few 'domestic' bits and pieces which may be useful to anyone researching or recording the history of the Hall during this time.  She says:

"It is 6 o'clock in the morning.  It was gone 11 o'clock last night before the lights were put out, and we were up again at 4.30.  We have washed and fed the babies and have had breakfast already."

"Tomorrow Mrs Ives (not on Brocket Babies list) and I go down to the nursery and dining room and I shall be able to have a look round this place.  By the way, the 'old boy' over the fire place (in the ward) is the architect of Brocket Hall, which was built about 200 years ago."

"The nurse has just put the flowers . . . under the 'old boy' over the fireplace."

"This ward is a lot more jolly than the other, I think.  It seems more free and easy down here and not so strict.  The girls are able to walk from ward to ward and have a 'jaw' with each other.  The girls from Codicote are having a reunion and telling each other about their different pains and so on."

"This morning we have had the windows right up and have been able to see across the park.  It's a really lovely view to look out on.  They say that the trees are alive with squirrels."

"The ward is full now, we had two more boys in, so that makes us 3 girls and 3 boys."


9.  From Susan Midgley (Ruislip, Middlesex) - received 24th April 2014

Does anyone remember a young girl called Dorothy Dean who gave birth to a daughter on January 2nd 1943 ?

She named the baby girl Susan.  Dorothy is presumed to be an unmarried mother so would have been in Lemsford Hall. Susan was adopted in June 1943.


10.  From Pauline Brennan (Queensland, Australia) - received 6 September 2014

A little update in my quest to make contact with the other three names on the Brisbane list.  Fred Robins, who lives very close to me, replied and we met for coffee at a local venue.  It was a happy meeting sharing stories of our beginnings and our coming to Australia in the same year would you believe.  Also I received an email from a Michael Womack from Melbourne who had read my name on the updated list.  So it is very exciting I feel like I have found two lost siblings after losing my sister.  Very uplifting. With kindest regards Pauline Brennan.


11.  From Sue Davis (Civray, France) - received 6 August 2015

You may remember that I spoke to you some time ago and told you that Mum & I had attended a reunion in August 1997 but I couldn’t find the photo despite turning our bungalow upside down twice – well as you see I found it a few weeks ago (naturally when I was looking for something else) and what a eureka moment that was for me.  I don’t know if you will be able to use this for the website – please let me know and if not, we will see what alternatives we have.  As you look at the photo, we are 12 and 13th from the left in the front row (I am in a blue dress).  As you will see, I have also attached the letter from Kate Thomas which accompanied the photo.  Such happy memories of a lovely day.

Click here to see the attachments:     Photo     Letter


12.  From Sue Davis (Civray, France) - received 2 October 2015

This is something a little different, the recollections of a Brocket Baby mother living in East London.  It is worth contemplating how this life contrasted with the surroundings at Brocket Hall.

Going through a few things I came across some memories which my mum wrote in 1995 about her childhood in the slums of the East End in London.  Seeing as most of the babies born at Brocket Hall were from the East End, I wondered if you would be interested in using some part of it for the website.  I always think it shows just how far we have all come in the last 70 years and my grandchildren read it with disbelief. Things have certainly changed, perhaps not always for the better!

To read the story please click here


13.  From Jean Parsons - received 25th April 2016

My mum had a caesarean section delivery and named me after the nurse Jean who was very kind to my mum.  Mum told me a German doddle bug hit the city of London hospital.  Mum was transferred by ambulance to a house before going to Brocket Hall and had good memories of her time there.


14.  A story from Carol Paton - received 14th October 2016

Hi David, thought you would be interested to know that my mother was 100 a couple of weeks ago. I'm am not too technical but I will try to send you the article in the local paper that they wrote on her.