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Stories from 1945

1.  From Ken Lee, son of Gertrude Lee - received 2nd September 2008

My mother died 4 years ago but my father is 88 and still going strong.

When my mum and I left Brocket Hall we went to live with my grand parents in Dalston until my dad returned from the war when we moved to Shoreditch.

My father carried a picture of me during his time in the forces, this picture is now framed and displayed in our dining room.

I now live with my wife in Cheshunt.

My mother enjoyed her stay at Brocket Hall and often recalled the beautiful snow scenes.

I work in Hertford and often pass Brocket Hall in my travels, sometimes when I have time, I call in and have my lunch seated in my car overlooking the lake. I often wander what life was like at this spot 63 years ago!

 

2.  From Sue Francis, daughter of Betty Miller - received 3rd June 2009

I don't have very much information but I do know that my mother was sent (together with other women) to stay in a house in Codicote prior to being moved to Brocket Hall to give birth.

 

3.  From Eileen Roberts - received 15th October 2009

I was born at Brocket Hall in June 1945.  My mother told me that she stayed at a house in nearby Codicote for two weeks prior to my birth.  Afterwards, she spent a further two weeks at Brocket Hall 'lying in' which was the custom in those days. 

Sadly, my mother died in 1990 which was before the estate was taken over by CCA International,  However, in 1983 my mother and I were guests at a charity musical evening at the house, held in the Ballroom.  Although we were then unable to see the upstairs rooms which were used for birthing and recovering, as they were not open  to the public, my mother at least saw the ground floor rooms including the plaque in the entrance hall.

I would be interested to hear from any other Brocket mother who was there around June 1945 and who might remember the tall lady named Vi Terry.  eileenroberts21@btinternet.com

 

4.  From Ken Lee - received 5th February 2010

Following my birth at Brocket Hall in Feb 1945, my mother and I went back to Pownall Road, Dalston and stayed with my grand parents.

This old house was 3 storey building with the lower floor in the basement, mums sister lived on the top floor. steps led up to the front door with side steps going down into the basement entrance there was no front garden.

The Chapel was a few doors away and the Vinegar factory was opposite.

We had an Anderson shelter in the back garden buried in the ground just beyond the outside toilet.

We had a shared tin bath and I must have been lucky because I was always first to be bathed in front of the coal fire.

I was told that on one day when I was out of my cot, that a bomb dropped on the house at the back, the force of the explosion shattered our back windows and shards of glass crashed into my cot, it must have been my lucky day.

This house was too small and would not be big enough when dad came home from the war. Granddad found us a top floor flat in Mortimer Road which had a communal cooker and sink on the landing that two families used.

Because of dads service we qualified for a new flat in Hackney where I stayed until I got married in 1966.

 

5.  From Douglas House - received 10th February 2010

My father was in the Royal Air force sent to Ceylon, he worked on plane engines. Do not know dates.

My father was a middle weight boxing champ in Ceylon and was a cycling champ in England and BSA had him go to their factory and pick the parts he wanted and let him make his own bicycle.  My father grew up in the East End and sold newspapers for a cousin of my mother’s whose father stood between the Strand and I think Piccadilly Circus.  This cousin up till a few years ago still ran the newspaper stand and his two sons with him.  Mr. Cyril Steinberg.

My father’s parents were from Poland and the name was changed by the British Immigration.

My mother helped in the war effort in London, doing what I also don’t know.  Maybe working with Parachutes.  I was informed my name is Scottish even though my parents were both born in London.  My mother was educated in the West End of London. Played Field Hockey and was Captain of the team. My mother’s grandmother was from Russia.  She was married twice. One name Steinberg and the other Seaton.

After the World War II my parents moved to South Africa.  We arrived December 25, 1946, in Cape Town.  My father was offered a job in Port Elizabeth, which where we moved to and settled there till May 31,1961 when we moved to the United States and Settled in Santa Monica, California, United States of America.

 

6.  From John Chapman, Dorchester - received 10th August 2010

I'm a 'new boy' at the age of sixty-five!  My name is John Chapman, and I was born at Brocket Hall on the 21st May, 1945.  My family lived in Wood Green, North London, and in 1956 we moved to a new house in Hatfield New Town.  My Mum still lives in the same house at the grand old age of ninety-one!  It's so nice to find out about the Brocket Babies group after all these years.  I live in Dorchester, and my email address is john738chapman@talktalk.net, any contacts will be very welcome.  My Mum remembers the mothers' hostel in Lemsford, and the very strict lady in charge. She also remembers the antique hand- painted Chinese wallpaper at the Hall. Funnily enough, one of my long-time friends who lives in Welwyn Garden City is also a Brocket Baby. He reckons we've all got 'Born in Brocket' stamped on us somewhere!

 

7. From Mary Gregory - received 18th July 2012

Following a WI talk given to our group last night by William French I learned of the existence of 'The Brocket Hall Babies'.  This was of great interest to me since I was born at Brocket Hall on the 9th February 1945.  Couple of things, just for your information, from Brocket Hall I was taken back to Edmonton where I spent all my childhood. I then moved to Oxfordshire in 1965 and have lived in that county ever since.  I have very little information about my mother's time at Brocket, except that she always said she had been there for about a month (me being a late arrival) and the fact that she really felt in the 'land of luxury' residing in a stately mansion.

 

8.  From Barbara Kyte (Southgate, London) - received 7th February 2013

Mum’s recollections: Mum attended a pre natal clinic at the City Road Hospital, 102 City Road London, and was then referred four weeks prior to my birth to Brocket Hall.  She recalls that prior to my delivery when out walking, three or so workmen “wolf whistled” but were soon silent once they noticed her front view!  When Mum went into labour she was carried by stretcher to an upper delivery room via stairs and felt she was about to slide off at any time.  Immediately after my delivery Mum was handed a baby possibly a boy, and when about to feed the baby a nurse ran into the room and took the baby away and presented Mum with me!  When discharged from Brocket Hall we were driven home by a friend who nearly collided with another vehicle, a very near miss.  Mum was obviously not quite used to having me as a week later whilst out shopping in the Archway Road, left me outside the store and was making her own way home before she realised what she had done!  Mum is now 92, she suffers mainly with old age and lives with Dad in a warden assisted flat in Southgate London N14.

 

9.  From Margaret Startup (Bettystown, County Meath, Ireland) - received 28th March 2013

I remember my father telling me that (I was born mid-Summer) there was a plague of mosquitoes around the lake and house and he brought lemon oil to the Hall and it was put into saucers and distributed around the maternity wards and solved the problem!

 

10.  From Trevor Fennell (USA) - received 8th August 2013

My mother had experienced serious problems with earlier failed pregnancies so she was packed off to Brocket Hall well in advance of my due date.  I do not know exactly when she got there but I do know it was some time before Christmas 1944.  I kept her waiting until early in the morning of January 6th 1945.  I was a big, healthy baby but mum was apparently very poorly after the birth so we remained at Brocket Hall for several weeks before she was well enough to travel.  I will always remember my father telling the story about how he visited us on Sundays, taking 2 trains to get from Edmonton to the nearest station, and then trudging 3 miles through snow up to his knees.  My young mind conjured up a vivid picture of him spending every weekend bravely battling his way through raging blizzards just like Good King Wenceslas !  Years later Mum told me he actually only ever made the trip once and although he did walk from the station to Brocket Hall, he was able to get a lift on the way back.  Still it was a great story for a little boy !  When I was growing up we used to joke about my "aristocratic beginnings" but over time I had all but forgotten about it.  Recently, after watching an episode of "Downton Abbey" on TV, my American wife suddenly asked "Do you have any photos of that stately home you were born in?".  I told her I did not but if she was interested, I could probably find one with a web search.  Imagine my surprise not only to find many pictures of the house but more importantly to discover the existence of the Brocket Babies web site.  I signed up immediately and am very proud to be a member of this exclusive group.  Looking through the listings I see that several Brocket Babies now live in the USA and I now plan to try to make contact with all over time.  This is a wonderful effort to preserve a little piece of history and I thank the organizers for all your efforts . Trevor Fennell

 

11.  From Jean James (Melbourne, Australia) - received 9th September 2013

Thankyou for including me in the Brocket babies list – I would like to add that I live in Melbourne Australia. My mother Catherine (deceased) recounted some amusing incidents when she was at Brocket Hall – one pertains to the leisurely strolls the young pregnant women took around Lemsford – the village was under the impression that all the young women were single and my Mother spent all of these walks with a very red face.  My grandmother (deceased) said that all new-borns were kept in the dungeon when she visited – this could be a flight of fancy – the house would have been overwhelming to her coming as she did from bombed-out North London.  My family continued to live in London until the mid-fifties when they moved to Stevenage, Hertfordshire.  Mum passed away 6 years ago and Dad 4 – Many years ago when I was visiting England I went to Brocket hall, walked through the grounds and the woods surrounding – I collected a bag of flora and pheasant feathers etc.  I still have it.

 

12.  From Adrian Hall (Queensland, Australia) - received 13th May 2014

Thank you as I see that I am now on the list of Brocket Babies. My Sister Margaret Winifred Thorpe (nee Hall) was also born at Brocket Hall on 7 th March 1947. She is still alive and lives just south of London.  I will tell her about this site and she may wish to join too.  The following is a story which may be of interest.  On the 2/8/45 when I was born at Brocket Hall there was another boy born on the same day and we believe at about the same time, Peter Brian Gordon.  Our parents did not know each other before our births and never made contact with each other afterwards. On 8th January 1962 we both joined the Metropolitan Police Cadet Corps and were sent to Hendon Police Training School.  We were both posted to the same dormitory where we became friends.   We soon found out that we had the same birthday and the same place of birth.  We were friends all through our training and studied together through until our final exams at training school where we got identical marks.  We were sent to the same police station although to different reliefs.  In 1966 I met my wife, who worked at Scotland Yard and during the following year introduced Peter to my wife’s younger sister who also worked at Scotland Yard.  We were both married on 1968 {at different times and places to the sisters. Peter was sent on to the Water Police Division and I went on to Australia in 1970.  We corresponded for years and then in 1982 I was diagnosed with a brain tumour.  At about the same time (within 3 months) Peter was diagnosed with stomach cancer.  Strangely for some time when one of us had a relapse or repetition of our respective illnesses, so did the other.  Peter subsequently died in 1985 but I am glad to say that I am still here and all the coincidences have ended too.  I have returned to the U.K. a number of times on holidays where I still have relatives, friends and many memories but Queensland is very much my home.

 

13.  From Les Cook (Spain) - received 6 June 2014

My mother Evelyn Cook, after a difficult pregnancy, was sent (I know not why) to the safety of Brocket Hall from Enfield in North London in March 1945.  I eventually arrived three weeks late on 21st April.  Like many other fathers mine was abroad, in fact in the RAF in Ceylon.  I have his service record and it appears that I must have been the product of a final fling before him being posted there.  However upon his return he was convinced that because I was late I was not his (since disproved) and he forced through a divorce.  I lived in Enfield with my mother, her sister and my grandparents. They rarely spoke about him and I was reluctant to to ask questions for fear of upsetting my mother. This was a big mistake. I really wish that I had asked some questions.  My grandparents eventually passed away as did my aunt and eventually my mother died in 1998.  The only clue that she left me was that he had emigrated to 'Australia'.  However, with the invention of the internet, I decided to try and find out more detail of my father.  It turns out that he re-married a few weeks after the divorce and lived in the house my mother had shared with him for a further three years before moving to Cheshunt, 3 miles away.  He and his new wife had a son in 1955 and in fact moved to New Zealand in 1961. So for all those 16 years I could have had the chance to meet him but this was kept from me.  After further lengthy research I made contact with somebody else also researching my paternal grandmother's side of the family who told me that she had had contact with somebody from New Zealand asking the questions about the same people.  I made contact with that person n New Zealand and hey presto she turned out to be my half sister who was born in 1963.  She told me that my half brother, born 1955, also lived there and within a day photos were shared and I saw my estranged family, including two nephews and a niece for the first time.  The next day we were all talking on Skype. So, so emotional, tears were flowing.  My sister and her family have since been to UK (in 2011) where we met face to face for the first time (more emotions) and at Christmas 2012 my wife and I travelled to New Zealand where I also met my brother.  We all now speak regularly and have plans to meet up again.  My father died in 1990 but I was able to visit hit his grave and finally say hello and goodbye.  I have a wonderful wife and family but so wish that I had asked questions earlier and been able to share a much broader based family.

 

14.  From Barbara Howard (Ware, Hertfordshire) - received 8 July 2014

I was very pleased to find the Brocket Babies site.  How interesting to see the photographs and read about how it was in use for the mums and new births.  I like a lot of people have been tracing the facts of my birth and early years for a very long while only being able to finally get the certificates with changes in law in the 70s.  I was born at the hall 24th February 1943.  I was with my mother for the first few weeks of my life, then an adoption order had been arranged.  I was sent to Devon to a place called Hannanford House I presume this was somewhere for evacuees to stay.  I came back to Enfield as the war ended in 1945 and grew up there.  I have visited one hospital in Devon where I stayed once and intend to see other places this year.  It means a great deal to me to have all these facts from birth to two years.  I will never know all the kind people who looked after me, but I I will always be grateful to them.  I do hope one day I will be able to met with some other Brocket Babies.  A big thank you to all who have brought us together, Barbara Howard

 

15.  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

 

16.  From Miggie Cotton (Wendover, Buckinghamshire) - received 19 August 2015

I found the website fascinating and am full of admiration at the effort you have devoted to researching the history of that period in the Hall's history; I had no idea it remained a maternity hospital for so long after the war. Unfortunately my parents died about ten years ago but they both had vivid memories of Brocket Hall and Lemsford in the snow at the end of 1945: they were living in Harrow at the time and my mother was apparently in hospital with complications for some time before I was born so visits for him were arduous and for her only too infrequent. I don't think she relished her time there all that much in the circumstances and two years later she elected to have my brother in a nursing home about 50 yards from our home! Why she was sent from Harrow all the way to rural Hertfordshire is a mystery to me as there must have been somewhere nearer which could have accommodated her: I was at school in Harrow and had many classmates who had been born in the town.

 

17.  From Mary Turner (Windsor, Ontario, Canada) - received 6 September 2015

Greetings from Canada on a steamy hot summer Sunday!  It's Mary Turner here with a story for the Babies of '45 section if suitable.  I seem to have babbled on, but it was such fun 'interviewing' Mum (Joyce George, now 94) about her stay at Brocket Hall.

Here begins the tale: In the summer of 1945, my parents were living in Kenton (north London) with my paternal grandparents. My father, David (now deceased), had been discharged from the RAF because of ill health suffered while stationed in India for two years. In late August, my mother, Joyce (now 94), came by coach to the group home in Codicote to await my birth. She remember the expectant mothers waddling through the village on group walks in the afternoons. The Sunday before I arrived, Dad came to visit her and they walked to the village green where they sat on the grass and talked. She was already feeling 'twinges' and knew that time was near to produce her first offspring. Monday evening a vehicle transported her to Brocket Hall where she was welcomed and put into a warm bath to ease the pains. By Tuesday morning I was ready to make my appearance but obviously a little too slowly as Mum was urged by the nurses to produce Baby before the end of their shift. I arrived at 7:40, and the nurses happily went off for their breakfast at 8. A telegram was sent off to Dad at work in London, and he was given the rest of the day off to catch the next train to see his daughter.

Mum clearly remembers the hand-painted Chinese wallpaper in the ward which housed several mothers. The nurses brought the babies in for feeding and then whisked them away afterwards to the nursery. She also recalled one sad fact. A mother who lost her baby at birth was billeted in the same room as the other new mothers, and Mum and those women felt badly that they were cooing over their infants when the unfortunate mother had none. About Day 10, Mum was allowed to walk in the gardens and recalls the bridge over the lake. A few days later Dad came to collect us for the train ride home. My parents had to walk carrying a newborn from Northwick Park Station to home on Elmwood Avenue, Kenton - quite a hike.

Three years later we emigrated to Canada where I grew up with a younger sister. We still had family in Surrey and Essex, so we crossed the Atlantic as often as we could to visit. In the 70's as a Canadian teacher I participated in a teachers' exchange programme in England, agreeing to a placement anywhere in the country. Imagine my surprise to be sent to Potter's Bar and to live in Welham Green just a few miles down the road from Brocket Hall! I often drove past the hall and actually met two Brocket Babies in the local pub, but I never dreamed there were over 8 000 of us scattered worldwide.

Glad to have found the Babies' website, to learn more about Brocket's history and to have my mother's name and mine included in the list for September, 1945. So there you have it, David!

 

18.  A story from Susan Francis - received 5th October 2016

I have been watching 'Victoria' - what a provenance we Brocket Babies have. Lord Melbourne lived at Brocket and Queen Victoria visited and lots of us were born there!

I have another little story which you may wish to add.

My mother died over 20 years ago and my father died about 18 months ago. When sorting out Dad's things we found a diary that my mother had written in 1944, the year they got married. Dad was building planes just before and at the beginning of the war and was called up in the March of 1944 but was never sent overseas. My mother and her mother and sister were evacuated from Stoke Newington in north London to Egham.

Dad was able to visit my mother quite often and the theme running through the diary was of their frequent visits to the cinema.

At the very back of the diary my mother had written details of how to travel to Brocket Hall. Although I was born in November 1945 it would appear that she did not continue with another diary but kept notes at the back of her 1944 diary. So there are details of buses and trains to get her to Welwyn Garden City and then to Valley Road in Codicote before eventually going to Brocket Hall where (as your records show) I was born on 15 November 1945.

This little diary was very fragile so together with a friend we made a transcription. Everything from the original diary was scanned. We added a family tree and photos taken at the time of the various places mum wrote about and we included pictures of the posters advertising the films mum and dad went to.

It is a little bit of social history of the homefront and I contacted the Imperial War Museum in London who not only expressed great interest but now have the original diary and the transcription in their permanent archives.

I hope you find this of interest.

With all good wishes.

Susan Francis