The Brocket Babies

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Stories from 1946

1.  From Valerie Doherty, daughter of Eileen Doherty - received 10th January 2009

My mother died in May of 2008 at the age of 87, but she would have loved to visit Brocket Hall. She used to speak of it with a lot of affection. My father was demobbed from the British forces after D-Day, on his return to Britain. I was born a year later, in 1946, and six months later I was taken by my parents to Ireland where I was raised.

Apparently, Brocket Hall hosted parties at which such notables as high ranking German officers would attend, and it seems - so she said - that the delivery room was once where one of these guys slept. she would often joke that I had been born in that room. She also told me that the Brockets were German sympathisers and were interred in the Isle of Man during the war. However, a little research on my part has found some people disputing this, that the Brockets were merely in favour of peace and not necessarily in favour of the Third Reich.

It's all fascinating, and the pictures of the Hall are fantastic. I would love to see the place sometime. I did receive an invitation to attend a function for Brocket Babies, but it had gone to the wrong address and only got to me by chance.

 

2.  From Tonia Cassandro - received 16th April 2011

My mother was born at Brocket Hall on 8 December 1946, her name was Janet Davey and born to Eleanor and George Davey, my grandparents. Unfortunately, my mum died in 1998 and my grandmother a few years later.  I do remember my grandmother telling me about her experience there, which I think was a happy one but tinged with sadness. She said that the room she was staying in had a large window that overlooked the main drive leading up to the house. I think that when mothers left with their new babies, they gathered at this window and waved happily to them as they went.  I think she had become particularly friendly with a girl there who was due around the same time, but unfortunately her baby didnít survive. She told me that she felt terribly sad waving to her and seeing her leave without her baby.  I think it affected her quite badly as I believe this is the only story she told me and Iíve remembered it very clearly.  She was living in Hackney which is why she was sent there to give birth.  Iím sad that my mother and grandmother will never get to see it and I know my grandmother would have loved to have seen some of those photographs. Still, I will check back from time to time to see if there are any more stories!

 

3.  From Stephen Manning - received 18th May 2011

I've just been web surfing for my family tree research and have just come across your Brocket Babies website!  I was born there in 1946 and didn't realise it has generated so much interest!  My name is Stephen Manning born 20th August 1946 Mum was Ann Elizabeth Manning - she was nearly 38 years old when she had me. Dad was called up before Xmas 1939 and she didn't get him back until late 1945 (which is where I come in!)  My only sibling - my brother - was born in 1936 - the war caused a 10 year gap between us.  Mum told me that due to the baby boom caused by returning servicemen the local hospital couldn't cope hence she was sent to Brocket Hall.  She lived in Enfield, Middlesex (now Greater London) where I still live, and would normally have used Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield to have her baby.  Before the war most babies were born at home, as was my brother, but I don't think this was an option for mum due to her age.  She said she was at Brocket Hall for 3 weeks when I was born - a bit different to today where mums can come home in a matter of hours.  She used to say that the room where she was in was once slept in by Queen Anne but this may be just a rumour!  I don't think she had any visitors whilst she was in there as Welwyn was a very difficult place to get to in those days by public transport from Enfield.  I was 9lb 14oz when I was born and quite the biggest born during mums stay.  She used to say that she got quite upset because the nurses would leave me until last to be brought in to the mothers for feeding etc. - they would tease her by saying that "I was just lacing up my boots!"  I must have been quite a whopper!  My daughter is getting married next year and we looked at Brocket Hall as a possible venue.

 

4.  From Jack Durrant - received 19th June 2011

It's beginning to look as though I am a 'Brocket Baby' due to two pieces of evidence.  The first is the entry on my birth certificate, which says 5th of November, 1946, Brocket Hall Maternity Hospital, Lemsford Road.  The second is a short entry in my mother's book Wartime Memories by Kathleen Healy, ISBN 0 7223 3313-7; It makes more sense when you know my father was named Jack, too! I quote...

We were to be 'booked in', examined, then told to use our local clinic up until three weeks before the birth.  Then we would have to return to 'The City of London Hospital,' and there join the bus (nicknamed, the "bump special") which was to take us to "Brocket Hall", the home of Lord Brocket - taken over by the City of London Hospital for the duration of hostilities.  This was near Welwyn, Hertfordshire.

Our first son, named Jack Dennis, was born 5th November, 1946, on a cold drizzly day, at 12 a.m., and that thick foggy night, we were told not to expect visitors; it was impossible to see anything!

However, I did have visitors - Jack's brother Len, drove to the hospital with Jack. When they were taken to the nursery. the nurse looked at Jack, she said "Name please?" He replied "Durrant." She took him to see the baby, Len followed. She repeated, "Name please?" Len said "Durrant!" She glared at the two of them, then said "What are you - joint fathers!?"

Talking years later with both uncle Len and my father, they said that they didn't drive that long trip from Leyton to Brocket Hall in the fog... they rode it on an old motorcycle!  My mother Kath (nee Healy) Durrant also 'confessed' to leaving a bath running until overflowing, whilst she was chatting, and that caused some damage to a plaster ceiling below the bathroom... that sounds just like mum.

 

5.  From Nigel Banks - received 5 August 2011

Thanks for the invite to Baby Day unfortunately, I shall be flying from Canada to the UK tonight and will actually pass the Hall tomorrow.  I shall probably have lunch in the restaurant and hope to get some pictures of the hall and grounds.  I will use an Infrared converted camera and will share the results with you.

My mother passed away in 1997 just a month shy of being 91. She never talked about BH except to say that I was born there, and it is only this past week that while looking for places to visit during my stay in England that I remembered about Brocket Hall and then searched the web.  I also double checked my birth certificate and yes it said Brocket Hall.  When told of this, my friends now think they understand me better, but alas, where I was born has nothing to do with my sense of humour, which is lavished on those friends. I will look for the Buntings, after I visit the site to see their ages and possibly full names. So I am now off to the airport.

(This is Nigel's wonderful digital infra red image of Brocket Hall taken in August 2011)

 

6.  From Graham Ward - received 17 September 2011

My mother stayed in a nearby village( she does not remember the name) 4 weeks before my birth and the mid wife came in every night to check to see if mum was going into labour. The ward in Brocket hall was the Peacock Room with many beds in it, after my birth I was in a nursery my mother was very ill after my birth she did not see me for four days. The weather was for the time of year very warm and mother can remember that all the beds were rolled out onto the terrace so the mothers could enjoy the sun.

 

7.  From Tony Harmsworth - received 28 September 2011

My full name: Anthony Geoffrey Harmsworth

Mother: Williamina White Harmsworth

Born in: The Ribbentrop Room

Date: 19th March 1948 9.30am

My profile: http://www.Loch-Ness.org/webmaster.html if of interest.

 

8.  From Carol Bowman - received 4th November 2011

My mother used to tell me about being at Brocket Hall, and how everyone thought she was so huge and was going to have twins, and little old me popped out, at just 6lbs. She talked about the other ladies there and about the nurses and sister. I've been looking at the different things on the web site, and at the Brocket Hall web site and I realise now it must have been the Peacocks she was talking about on the walls. I don't expect she had seen anything like it before. She loved the grounds and my dad used to visit at weekends only, as times were hard. I wish I could remember more about her time there, she used to mention names of the other ladies she was there with, and the names of the nurses etc, but I'm afraid I can't remember. Once again Thank you, it's been a real pleasure looking at the website, and I will certainly come to a reunion, it will be a special treat.

 

9.  From Margaret Hunt - received 26th March 2012

I don't have anything really to contribute to the stories as my mother never talked about her experience there other than to say that apart from the baby nursery the place was freezing cold.  I regret now not asking her more about it, but she died in 2005 and my father died many years ago so it is now too late to find out anything from them.  Having looked at the voucher which one of my daughters bought for us we are staying tomorrow night at Melbourne Lodge and having dinner at Auberge du Lac.  It will be quite strange I think going there for the first time, although many years ago (probably in the 60s or 70s) and we looked through the gates and took a photo of the Hall!

 

10.  From Iain Lansdale - received 3rd December 2012

I was born on 14th July 1946 at Brocket Hall and afterwards was taken to my parents home at Wood Green in London.  For the first 45 years of my life as far as I was concerned, Welwyn Garden City was simply a dot on a map showing the town in which I had been born.

Although I lived in a number of different places during those 45 years and had travelled extensively throughout Southern England and the Midlands I never had reason to go back to Welwyn Garden City, not even for an hour or so.  I didnít know what it was like and I didnít know what it even looked like.  In addition I didnít know the name of the hospital in which I had been born.

When I was 45 my poor mother developed cancer.  She was living in Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. At the time I was living in a village to the east of Bedford.  For 2 or 3 years prior to this I had, along with my wife, been running a social group which we were steadily expanding geographically and the next logical step was to develop into Welwyn Garden City.  The first thing that we needed to do was find a suitable venue and we therefore needed to visit a few places to experience them first hand.  We drove to and around the town looking at a number of these venues.  It was only as we drove around that the significance of what we were doing hit me.  It was the first time in my life that I had been back to Welwyn Garden City.  I was well aware of my connection with my mother when I was born and I was well aware of the fact that I had now returned to the place of my birth.  It was in that instant that I realised that my mother was going to die.  There was just enough time for me to get up to Great Yarmouth to see her whilst she was still alive. She died the next day!

 

11.  From Roger Mason - received 9th January 2013

My mother, Ethel Maud Mason, told me that I was born in a room with 'Peacock wallpaper' !  I have lived in Canada for more than 40 years but have often walked the park and crossed the bridge at Brocket, on visits home.  For my 40th birthday, my wife bought me an antique print of Brocket Hall, originally printed in The London Illustrated News, over 200 years ago.

My mother passed away in 2006, age 93yrs. Whilst she lived independently at Woodside House in WGC, she attended a 'Seniors' trip to Brocket Hall and was shown around by the young Lord Brocket.  This would have been approximately 1990?  I have snap shots of the occasion, taken by one of the trip organizers.

 

12.  From Roger Mason (Toronto) - received 4th February 2013

Thank you by the way for the 'Brocket Babies' calendar and book, both of which arrived safely and in good condition.  They have been instrumental in making me realize just how privileged we 'Brocket Babies' are.  All my life it was just a story that I told on occasion, without any real thought of what a special claim being born in a stately home really meant.  Now through the eyes and words of a few other people born there and the pages of your website and book/calendar, I now look at the start of my life quite differently.

My favourite tale is as follows; In 1968, working as a young electronics engineer at DeHavilland's (then Hawker Siddeley) in Hatfield, my department often entertained visiting engineers from airlines around the world who were purchasing T.R.A.C.E., the automatic test equipment we'd designed to check airliner flight systems. One group in particular were from American Airlines in Fort Worth,Texas and we'd decided to take the visitors to lunch in a local pub called 'The Crooked Chimney' - not far from the aerodrome and directly across the road from the large, wrought iron gates leading to Brocket Hall. The house stood majestically in the distance, across sweeping green lands, bordered by woods and fronted by the lake and Palladian bridge. In the car park after lunch and as we left this 400 year old, low beam ceilinged pub, one silver suited Texan in cowboy boots, straightened up to full height, placed the Stetson hat back on his head and casually asked 'Roger, where were you born?' I was stunned as I realized that I could just point over the road the the gates and house nestled in the distance and say 'There'. Of course, he must have thought that I was pulling the old 'Impress the visitor' trick and I must confess I had a funny feeling in my stomach when I answered his question because I too, would have thought that I was plying him with what the Americans called 'BS'. "Sure, every Englishman has his castle! " was his reply. I was so embarrassed, I didn't attempt to qualify my claim as I thought it would have been complicated. It's funny, I still can't think of that moment without feeling slightly guilty, despite the fact that I know that what I was saying was perfectly true. As Monty Python later coined " Being embarrassed easily, is all part of growing up and being British'. :-)

 

13.  From Paula Satwick - received 14th February 2013

I was born there in Brocket Hall on the 22nd October 1946.  My mother used to tell me about the statues in the gardens and she was very frightened of them.  There was also a large mirror at the top of the stairs.  There was also a small cafe along a lane where she would go for afternoon tea with my father when he came to visit her.  In year 2000 I was luck enough to find out about a reunion at Brocket Hall and attended with my sister.  Unfortunately my mother had passed away in 1994, I know she would have loved to have seen Brocket Hall again.

 

14.  From Paul Quick (Weston super Mare, Somerset) - received 15th March 2013 and updated 28 April 2013 with additional photo showing Lord Brocket

My mother always had an urge to visit Brocket Hall after the war but never had the opportunity as it was not open to the public.  We lived nearby in Stevenage and the closest we got was the large white gates leading to the road.  In 1984 she was diagnosed with cancer and given only a few months to live.

In Oct/Nov 1984( A Saturday) I picked up the phone and dialed Brocket Hall, the phone was answered by a chap who turned out to be Charlie Brocket.  Apparently he had been passing through the office section which was closed for the weekend and answered the phone.  I told him I was born at Brocket Hall and gave him the story about Mums wish to visit and her illness etc.  He invited us to visit the next day.  I did not tell Mum where we were going but stopped at the white gates as we had done on many previous occasions.  She said 'wouldn't it be nice to see the house' so I drove though the gate, much to her astonishment.  I parked right outside the front door.  It was Sunday so I was alone, and took Mum inside.  There was nobody around and no bell to ring.  All I could discern was a smell of roast beef coming from upstairs.  I left mum in the lobby, followed the smell and finished up in a kitchen where a very nice young lady was cooking Sunday lunch.  She turned out to be Lady Brocket (Ailsa) I think was her name.  I obviously frightened the life out of her as she dropped a spoon on the floor.  I quickly explained the situation and asked where Charlie was.  She did not have a clue but turned off the gas and spent the next two hours giving us a guided tour of Brocket Hall.  We found the room my mother was in which was now allocated to a maid. Lady Brocket took many photos of us in that room.  Charlie Brocket did turn up in the end and apologised to us for not being there to meet us.  I apologised for ruining his lunch.

A lot has been written about Charlie Brocket over the years but I shall always be grateful to him and his wife for making my mothers last few days some of the happiest of her life.

    

 

15.  From Jennifer Stone (Kingussie, Scotland) - received 4th April 2013

I was born at Brockett Hall on 20th October 1946 to Pauline Muskett who named me Alison Muskett.  Within 3 weeks I was taken away for adoption by wonderful parents who re-named me Jennifer and we then moved to Scotland and I was brought as an only child.  After many years I discovered I was adopted and found my records for Brockett Hall only last year.  Sadly my birth mother passed away back in 1991 without ever knowing I was trying to find her, but thanks to the internet I have managed to trace my family.  I have found and met my brother Peter and his family who live in Hatfield not far from Brockett Hall.  It is fantastic after all these years to finally have answers to so many questions and more importantly to have forged links with my family that will never be broken again. Please feel free to contact me if anyone would like to know how I managed to trace my birth family.

 

16.  From John Green (North Bersted, West Sussex, England) - received 31st May 2013

Unfortunately my mother died in 1955, when I was seven years old, so I was not able to obtain any stories re her time at Brocket.  About two years ago I started researching my family tree but my father had died three years before so again I missed out on questioning him.  I recently found my baby book which gave me the information I sent you.  The only thing I do remember, my mother telling someone that she remembers during my birth, guns being fired outside in the park. It was the start of the killing of partridges season (1.9.1946).  I live in North Bersted which is on the outskirts of Bognor Regis, West Sussex. Your organisation means I can find out a lot of information about the location I was born.

 

17.  From John Byrnes (Hook, Hampshire, England) - received 6th June 2013

John has sent in some tips for anyone trying to find the original birth records.  We think the birth records were destroyed by fire after they were returned to London but this has not been confirmed.  This is a frequently asked question and we would welcome any research on this topic.  When one Brocket Baby started research regarding Brocket Hall, she tried the National Archives who put her on to The Welcome Foundation.  They drew a blank and all they were able to say was that after Brocket Hall was closed the records were returned to the Royal Northern Hospital in London. When this closed down the records appear to have been lost. Nobody seems to know what happened after that.

John says: To All Brocket Babies Looking For Historic Information

The National Archives http://www.nationalarchies.gov.uk can help point you in right direction.  They also suggested The London Metropoltian Archives, 14 Northampton Road, London EC1R 0HB, telephone 020 7332 3820.  Their web site seems to start via City of London site www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/lma .  Good Hunting.

When I was doing my research, I seem to re-call going to National Archive Centre - somewhere near Kew.  Loads of old buildings, reminded me of school huts.  I had to make an appointment, but once there the staff where really helpful.

 

18.  From June Duhresen (Malden, Essex, England) - received 4th July 2013

I was born on the 20/02/1946 at 8.00am.  My mother named me June much to the amusement of the nurses, as there was thick snow on the ground.  When my Mum and Dad met in 1938/39 my Mum told Dad her name was June Garland as she didn't like her own name.  Hence I was named June.  My mother, Florence Risley was at Brocket Hall for about two months before my birth.  She had toxaemia and also thought I was due in January.  She became very friendly with the matron at the time and used to have afternoon tea in the matron's room.  Unfortunately I don't have any names to give you.  Mum said that when my Dad came home on leave to collect us from Brocket Hall (he was in the army and stationed at Southampton at the time) the matron was reluctant to let us go because of the heavy snow.  My Dad said he had a taxi waiting for us and so we were allowed to leave but there was no taxi and we went home by train.  Mum passed away in 1993. I would have loved to take her back to Brocket Hall. Dad passed away two years ago.

 

19.  From Laura Panter - received 8th August 2013

My dad was a brocket baby and we would love some more info about "Brocket Babies" as my Nan (my dad's mother) is no longer with us to ask about it.  All my dad knows (was told) is that the nurse who delivered him had long nails and scratched his head and he still has the marks on his head today!  My Nan's name was Doris Mary Hagger and my dad's name is David Charles Hagger and he was born at brocket hall on the 17th June 1946.  Any info you can share with us would be lovely many thanks Laura Panter.

 

20.  From Sandra Hutchings - received 10th September 2013

My parents names are James and June Flitton they were living in St. Albans at the time and my dad was on leave from the army.  My mum recalls one night while she was there while she was settling down to sleep a woman dressed in a long white dress walk pass the end of her bed.  She thought it was odd because she was carrying a candle and then seem to disappear through the wall.  She wondered if any one else had seen her.

 

21.  From Richard Norris (Hertfordshire, UK) - received 16th November 2013

I was born on 13 October 1946 and believe I was one of the last babies to be born at Brocket Hall and for the first time today I was made aware of your website. I'd love to have more information and would be most grateful if you could send me access details. My father was Lewis Jack Norris who had not long returned from a three year internment as a prisoner of war in Eastern Europe and my mother was Eugenie Charlotte Norris. Should you require any further information please do not hesitate to contact me although I don't have an awful lot.

Then later the same day:

Many thanks for the access details. I've been onto the site and found it very interesting.  Two things initially hit me.  Firstly, I always got the impression from my mother that she was the last mother to give birth there and as I can see there were many more babies born after me.  Secondly, one of our family friends who I've known for over 20 years is also a Brocket Baby and I didn't know until I saw her name on the list of babies.

 

22.  From Richard Norris (Hertfordshire, UK) - received 5th December 2013

Since I sent you my details I've spoken to my mother about her experiences at Brocket Hall and unfortunately she can't remember an awful lot.  However, she does recall one of the midwives, a Sister Rose who was apparently the nicest nurse you could wish to meet when attending the antenatal clinics and again after the babies were born but during delivery she changed dramatically and had some of the mothers in tears.  My mother was terrified of her.  Be interesting to know if other mums had similar experiences.

 

23.  From Michael Womack (Melbourne, Australia) - received 7th January 2014

I have just come across this website and would very much like to be added to your list of Brocket babies. My name is Michael Leslie Womack and I was born on 13 April 1946. As my mother Dorothy May Womack was the District Nurse and midwife in Welwyn Village before and during the war, she went to Brocket Hall to bring me into the world. I know that Mum assisted as the district nurse and midwife into the births of many if not most of the babies born in and around Welwyn village during the war. My father Bob (William Robert Thomas) Womack was serving in the RAF at the time. Dad ran the garage at Oaklands (Mardley Hill) after the war and I grew up there. I went to primary school at St Mary's School in Welwyn and then to St John's School Digswell. Then WGC High School. I now live as I have for most of the past 40 years in Melbourne Australia. I look forward to hearing from you with a password to find out more of what is a very sketchy knowledge of where my life started. 

 

24.  From Graham Grayston (New South Wales, Australia) - received 9th January 2014

I was born in Brocket Hall on 4 March 1946 at, so I was later reliably informed, approximately 5 oíclock in the morning; and there was snow on the ground outside. I was presented to my mother, she told me, wrapped in a red (!) blanket. My parents were married on 26 August 1939, one week before the British declaration of war. On that day, 3 September, my mother was preparing her first Sunday lunch when Neville Chamberlain broadcast to the nation. I used to say to my parents that if it had not been for Hitler I would have most probably been born quite a bit earlier, and would therefore be that much older! Both my father and my mother served their country in the war: he spent a number of years, after the Blitz, in the United States and Canada, having crossed the U-boat-infested North Atlantic, and she was in Northern Ireland for several years. I visited Brocket Hall in 2000 to enjoy the annual lunch and to see some of the magnificent house. Alas, now that I live many thousands of miles away I do not think I shall visit it again, but I do so much enjoy receiving the newsletters.

 

25.  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.