The Brocket Babies

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Stories from 1949

1.  From Valerie Ockleford, daughter of Ivy Lynch - received 27th August 2008

I have no idea why my Mum was even registered with City Road Hospital as we lived in Dagenham and our local hospital was only a couple of miles away. I have tried to trace the Brocket Hall records but have been told that when the hall closed as a hospital the records went to the Royal Northern in London. However, when this closed down they seem to have been destroyed. I am absolutely fascinated by all this and would dearly love to know more. If there are any other babies who were born around the same time as me, I would love to know.  I understand that the final baby was born there in October 1949. I met her yesterday and her Mother was with her.  Unfortunately, my Mother died in 1978 so I cannot ask her any questions and my Dad only remembers sitting by the banks of the river waiting for me to be born.

 

2.  From Jane Marsh, friend of Sandra Woolard - received 23rd November 2008

The youngest Brocket Baby.  I am writing to you on behalf of my friend Sandra who I have just met for lunch, in celebration of her 59th birthday which is on 27 November.  She was born at Brocket Hall on 27 November 1949 and was the last baby to be born there (her name was Sandra Jean White).  She visited Brocket Hall in August of this year and spent a very nostalgic time there with her father (who is probably one of the only surviving fathers of a Brocket Babe!).  She would like me to add her story to the website which is so very interesting, including her father cycling from Muswell Hill to Brocket Hall to visit her mother for over a month during her confinement!   On their visit he was able to tell Sandra which room he was allowed in to visit his wife and daughter.  She is keen for me to find out the name of the nurse that looked after her mother as Sandra was very poorly and had to be christened quickly, and as a result, was given the middle name of the nurse looking after her.

 

3.  From Sandra Woolard, daughter of Gwendoline White - received 6th April 2009

I believe I was the last baby to be born at Brocket Hall on 27th November 1949.  I attended my first reunion last year with my dad Lionel White who is 86 this year and I also believe he may be one of few remaining Brocket Babe fathers alive.  It was a lovely experience and photos were taken of myself and my Dad standing in the room where my dad spent time with my mum and me.  Unfortunately, my mother Gwendoline Diamond White died in 2003 at the age of 79.

My father has told me many stories of his visits to see my mum and how he used to cycle from Muswell Hill on his day off.  He told me of one occasion he left home well wrapped us against the cold, but by the time he arrived at Brocket Hall he was just in shirt sleeves.  Needless to say he got a few strange looks.  He has also told me on one of his visits, before I was born, both him and mum were taken out for a trip out to Welwyn Garden.

 

4.  From Andrew Selby - received 21st May 2009

My parents sadly are both dead, but I did take my mother around the hall on one of the open days sometime around the period 2000-01, not too long before she died at the age of 91. She was delighted to see it again and remembered the delivery room. When I was growing up, she often spoke about a "nurse" who had come over to see her during the night, not long before she gave birth to me. On mentioning it the next morning to the nurses, she was told that no-one had looked in that night - it must have been the ghost! Who knows?

 

5.  From Coral Dawson, daughter of Eleanor Horley - received 24th May 2009

I took my mum to the Restaurant on the estate when I was 50 and she loved being there again; but did say you were expected to work i.e. cleaning etc.  I do not think she really enjoyed the experience.  It must have been hard for the mothers as they were so far away from the family I know my dad did not drive and no-one had telephones at the time I still do not know how he knew I had been born as she was there for a while before hand.

She did say at one point she had to run away from a nanny goat and they may have started her labour.

She did comment on the wallpaper and it would have been great to have taken her back into the house but that cannot be.

 

6.  From Doreen Glover - handed over at the Brocket Baby Day - 24 August 2009

Transcribed from an account of life in Brocket Hall in 1949.  Please click here

 

7.  From Colin Beale - received 6th October 2009

My Parents were living in Harrow in 1949 when my Mother was expecting me and she came under the Maternity section of the City of London Hospital and was sent to Brocket Hall for me to be born.  My Mother, who passed away in 2004, always said it seems like an eternity the time that she spent at Brocket Hall.  My Father was starting his own business at that time and from what I recollect her saying he did not visit that regularly, what with his new business commitments and the distance to get to rural Hertfordshire.  She said it was a very warm September and can remember being in the “labour ward” which was in fact was the Ballroom, together with the floor to ceiling mirrors. She also remembers the unmarried mothers that were made to work on menial jobs in the Hall until they went into labour.  How times have changed.   I believe my Mother always felt sorry for these girls as she was allowed to have bed rest whilst they were treated as second class mothers.  I was born at 2.10 am in Lord Melbourne’s bedroom on Tuesday 27th September 1949, just two months before Brocket Hall ceased to be a Maternity home.

Around 1989 I took my Mother back to Brocket Hall and looked at The Hall from across the Lake, it seemed so strange to think I had been born in such a fine place.  I have been back for the first Brocket Babies reunion and once again around 2004 and have enjoyed the occasions greatly.

 

8.  From Terence Kemble - received 27 October 2009

My name is Terence Paul Kemble. I was born at Brocket Hall on the 19th February 1949, perhaps one of the later births.

My mother (who died just last year) was 19 at the time, having been sent there from Shoreditch, in East London. I can tell you she was very proud of being a Brocket mother, and voiced this often when the subject came up.

But, when young, I didn't seem to have the presence of mind to ask her more detail about her experiences there.

So it was a fascinating day for me when I took my wife and two grown up sons to the hall (the first time I had ever returned) to attend a Brocket Babies Day.

Sadly, I could not convince my mother to accompany us. We were soon to discover she was in early stage Altzheimer's at that time, and so was never to make it back to the hall herself.  But the story of our day there and the photographs we took brought back many memories for her.

My family and I did go back to celebrate my 55th with a lunch at the Auberge Du Lac restaurant.

Not much of a story for your archive, I'm afraid, but I continue, for her and on my own behalf to be proud to be one of the few.

 

9.  From Linda Pankhurst, Seaview, Isle of Wight - received 12th May 2010

Did you know that on the Brocket Baby Day that I attended in 1997 they asked us to bring our birth certificates with us and they were making lists of everyone who attended then? I am sure they would still have those records. In the 1970's I worked for Barclays Bank Trust Company and was given the Will of a lady who had been Matron (I think...or higher) at Brocket Hall when I was there. I thought that was a strange thing.....she presided over my birth and I presided over the tidying up of her affairs.....! I have forgotten what her name was unfortunately. I don't recognise any of the names on the staff list. In my adult life I have only come across one other person who was at Brocket Hall.....a friend's mother had one of her babies there. Unfortunately that child died in her twenties, before I knew her mother. (I met dozens at the Brocket Baby Day in 1997 but that is different!)

You might also be interested in Mum's story. She and Dad lived with his parents at Colney Heath, so Brocket Hall was the nearest Maternity Hospital. She went there for her pre-birth check-ups....she walked from Colney Heath each time. They decided that I was breach so would attempt to turn me. They were just about to do it when they realised she was under-age (18) and therefore couldn't sign the consent form. So she had to get dressed, walk back to Colney Heath, and get her Mothier-in-law to sign the form (as Daddy was also under-age (18). By the time she got back with the form I had turned! When we came to Brocket Hall for the re-union in 1997 a reporter asked Mum what she thought about having given birth in the room where Lord Palmerston and Lord Melbourne had slept (I believe she said they had died in that room...the big one over the front door). She said she didn't remember as she was only in there about 20 minutes! She also said that one room had large parrots painted on the walls....that was where the Mum's with milk fever went. Apparently the parrots had been painted pre-war in honour of some visiting German dignitary.... Most of my brothers and sisters were born in Pear Tree Hospital which took over from Brocket Hall as the local maternity hospital. They always say I am a bit of a lady because I was the one that was born in the Stately Home.

 

10.  From Janice Hazell, Chelmsford - received 3rd August 2010

I am one of the many Brocket Babies born 25th June 1945. Researching my past, mum (now deceased) said that she stayed in a house in Lemsford, I believe it was called Lemsford House and was for unmarried mothers.  My mother was not married then, although she and my father married in 1946.  I have been told that all of the children whose mothers stayed at Lemsford House were adopted from there.  This is obviously not correct as I was one of the lucky ones and my mother kept me.  I do not have any interest in anyone in particular but would just like to know what the situation at that time was like in Lemsford House.  [Please post any information you have on Lemsford House to david@brocketbabies.org.uk and we will add it to the website]

 

11.  From Chris Raymond - received 15th April 2011

I was born on the 9th August 1949.  At the time my parents were living in Stoke Newington, East London.  My mother now suffers with dementia but still has the ability to recall a lot of things from the past.  I would love to be able bring back some memories of Brocket Hall.  I have always known that I was born at Brocket Hall but have only just realised that there was a 'group' formed for 'Brocket Babies'. As far as any celebrity status goes, my only claim to fame that you may be aware of, was whilst serving 24 years in the Metropolitan Police (1973 to 1997), I was one of the officers involved with the arrest of the Twickenham streaker at Twickenham Rugby Ground in 1974.  To jog your memory, it was the male streaker where a police helmet was placed strategically to 'censor his manhood'! I have found the information and stories on the website very interesting and would love to be kept up to date and to be a part of any future Brocket Baby reunions. What a shame I missed the 2010 get together. I'm hoping to be able to pay a visit to Brocket Hall, just to have a look around. I wasn't paying much attention to my surroundings on that day on the 9th August 1949!!!!!

 

12.  From Katy Nott and Stephen Osborne (Heaviest Brocket Baby) - received 3rd March 2012

Katy - I have recently started researching and building my family tree, due to some bizarre incidences that have happened recently, which I won't bore you with!  In the course of this, I have just discovered the Brocket Hall babies web page.  We have always known that one of my brothers was born at Brocket Hall, as my mother was very proud of that fact.  His name is Stephen Richard Osborne, born to Hetty Osborne (nee Tigg) and Edward Walter Osborne, on 13th October 1949.  One fact that you may be interested to know is that, according to our Mum, my brother was the heaviest baby ever born at Brocket Hall - 11lb something! He does have his discharge card somewhere, but for the moment, is unable to lay his hands on it.  We think it may have got mixed up with lots of other paperwork that we have all assembled to assist in my research.

Stephen - Thanks for the lovely reply to my sister's email I think Katy has replied to you about a few things.  I am hoping that Katy has the discharge document from Brocket Hall.  I know my weight was shown as 11lb and I suspect it was 5oz. (Our mother was a fairly small lady of 5 ft - our father about 6ft and of average build.  Quite how I came out as such a lump is anyone's guess).  I remember a couple of things my Mum had told me.  She said that Brocket Hall stopped delivering babies soon after I was born and that she had received a letter from the Hall saying that I was the heaviest baby ever born there.  (I never saw the letter and presumably it is no longer in existence).  I also remember her telling me that the nurses had said to her something like "Many people say that a new born baby looks like Winston Churchill, but in your son's case it really is true - just give him a cigar!!".  It will be good to receive updates etc. and I certainly would hope to go to the next Brocket Babes day.

Stephen - I'm not sure if emails are crossing in the "post" or if Katy hasn't got round to it yet.  She has found the discharge card from Brocket Hall and apparently I only weighed a mere 10lb 9oz! (I don't know where I got 11lb from, just "rounding up" I guess). 

Katy - I promise we won't keep bombarding you with emails, this is probably it for now!  As you said that Brocket Hall's records had been destroyed, Stephen and I wondered if you would like to have a copy of his Discharge Card?  I have attached it herewith, just in case.  Stephen also told me about something Mum said re his name. They initially thought of calling him Phillip, because that was the name that was on the cot that he was kept in.  For some reason, however, they changed their minds to Stephen. This is a name that occurs quite a bit in our family ancestry, so that may have had something to do with it.

 

13.  From Stella Webb - received 26th March 2012

I, myself, am a Brocket Baby, having been born in Brocket Hall on 2nd May 1949.  My mum was always very proud of the fact that she had been in Brocket Hall, but, unfortunately, when I was younger I never held much significance to the fact.  I was surprised to learn that I had been born in Brocket Hall as my parents lived in Wealdstone at the time and my brother, who was born in 1948 was born in Hampstead.  My mum never told me any stories about staying in the house itself.  All she did say was that when she was ready to come home, she awaited by father to collect her, thinking he would turn up in a taxi.  But she was amazed when he arrived on foot and she had to walk all the way back down the long drive to the main road to get a bus!!  I have been to one Brocket Babies reunion, but cannot remember the year.  However, I do know that it was after 1999 as that is the year my mum passed away and I know how she would have loved to have had the opportunity to return to Brocket Hall.  I would be most interested to hear of when the next reunion will be.  I feel quite proud now of having been born in Brocket Hall, even more so since coming across your website and reading of the “World Famous Brocket Babes”!

 

14.  From Veronica Haynes - received 6th December 2012

My cousin was taken for a ride “in the countryside” by my aunt and uncle, and shown, from the road, the place where she was born. “Oh, mum,” she said, “did you used to live in a big house like that?” I guess she was about 5 or 6 at the time!

 

15.  From Ann Dillnutt - received 13th January 2013

Many years ago, I came across an article in the Daily Mail magazine about some girls born at Brocket Hall who, through their their mothers, had kept in touch.  I had meant to follow the link in that article but sadly didn't.  From time to time I have thought about my place of birth but it is so easy to put things to one side without acting immediately.  A few days ago, I mentioned to a friend where I was born and she used her phone to show me the website which has now prompted this email.

 

16.  From Bill Bullock - received 31st January 2013

My parents lived in Hillfield Park, Muswell Hill in 1949. I can remember my mother saying she had to travel out to Brocket Hall because lots of hospitals in the London area had still not been rebuilt after suffering bomb damage from the war.  In 1954 we moved to Stevenage which of course is just 10 minutes’ drive up the A1 from Brocket Hall.  I remained in Stevenage for nearly 40 years and because of a work transfer I now live in Plymouth.  My Mother did not really say too much about Brocket but when the Daily Mail printed an article in their magazine about Brocket Hall she had much pleasure in showing it to me.  When I show people at work the pictures of Brocket Hall (and the story of Lord Brocket and his infamous Ferrari’s) they all want to know about the place.

 

17.  From Mike Carter (Adelaide) - received 8th February 2013

I have a photo below which will be self evident.  I have also challenged my parents to recall stories of those days of after the war and the events of me being born at Brocket Hall.  One sweetener is that my mother is German and the days of 1949 were even more difficult for her, and she recalls that during Lord Brocket's visit to the confiscated home she was introduced to him as a German war bride and as his association with the Germans was the reason for his home to be confiscated he had offered my mother as a token of friendship another bedroom for which she declined yet recalls that the room was large and the walls had wallpaper that appeared to be peacock feathers.  She also recalls a 2 week time held in a house in Lemsford prior to entering the Hall and giving birth to me.  Well that's a start and I will continue to request more stories as I show them more photos to jog their memory.

 

18.  From Pauline Mills (Wiltshire, England) - received 24th March 2013

The house that the expectant mothers lived in, prior to their transfer to Brocket Hall was very basic and all the mothers were expected to do chores i.e. making beds, washing up, laying tables etc. In 1949 we were not asked to do any cooking and during my time there, there was only one unmarried mother that I was aware of and everyone was treated the same.

The expectant mothers used to go in to Welwyn Garden City just to relieve the boredom and I imagine that we presented quite a sight as we descended en masse on the local tea room.  We were only transferred to Brocket Hall once the birth was very imminent; which in my case was rather late at night.  The poor taxi driver was absolutely terrified that I wasn’t going to make it in time and most of the corners were definitely taken on two wheels.  On arrival at the Hall I was overawed by the wonderful staircase and duly taken to the labour ward where my daughter was born. 

Following the birth I was transferred downstairs to a room at the back, which had very large windows with wooden shutters and over the fireplace was a large painting of Caroline Lamb; I often wondered why it had been left there.  The babies nursery was in the old wine cellar and the only room which was out of bounds to us was the ballroom which was kept locked.  However, we used to look through the keyhole and could see the magnificent ceiling.

One particular night we were all awoken by a scream and one of the other mothers said she had seen a ghost of a lady in a long dress, standing at the foot of her bed.  One of the Irish nurses came running in and when she was told about the ghost she ran out and refused to enter the room again and was sent to work upstairs.  She wasn’t a very popular nurse, so it worked out quite well!  It was a wonderful house to have a baby in and I will never forget it.”

 

19.  From Fred Simpson (Christchurch, New Zealand) - received 23rd September 2013

Mum and Dad were living in Eastcote Lane, Harrow, when I was born.  Dad was ex Navy and worked at the AEC factory in Southall, Mum had served as a WAF and was already a mother of two.  She has told me there were infection concerns and crowding in local hospitals at the time and she was shipped off to Brocket Hall for my birth.  She spoke of the kindness of the staff and the grandeur of Brocket Hall.  Dad, like other fathers, had a fair haul but told me that on the day I was born he heard me before he saw me.  Stating to one and all when arriving “that will be my lad”.  Green Buses and a train was the transport and a hitched a lift back to Watford on his way home to Harrow.

Mum had very vivid memories of her visit from Lady Caroline. She spoke to the night nurse who brought the sister along so she could explain.  She saw and heard her counting the beds.  They confirmed there had been other sightings. It was not mum’s only spirit visit, she had received urgent messages at other times in her life concerning family members etc. Once sending my Dad to visit her Mum in the middle of the night following a visit from her Dad, who had passed on 3 years before. He found her mother had collapsed and was lying at the bottom of her stairs, completely helpless. Two of Mum’s sisters and another son in law were asleep in the house unaware of the problem.

I married and moved to New Zealand in 1972 and have always made a point of telling of and when possible showing people the house of my birth.  I have a lovely framed pencilled sketch of the Hall, given to me by my children and still at times claim to be ‘Lord Frederick-George, of Brocket Hall’ but more commonly I am known as Fred or even more importantly Granddad these days.

I live in Governors Bay just outside Christchurch in New Zealand and in recent times have met one lovely lass ‘Dee’ who worked at the Hall and another fellow who lived on the estate as a youngster.  As my wife and I move towards retirement we intend having a prolonged visit home.  We have family in Hertfordshire and Middlesex and ‘Lord Frederick’ will definitely be trying to arrange a visit to the Hall of his birth.  Wonderful work David, many thanks and my best wishes to all the other Brocket Babes.  I am happy to hear from any visiting my part of the world or with connections.

 

20.  From Karin Farrington on behalf of Frederick Cook (Dartford, Kent) - received 9th October 2013

Our mother Margot Grette Toni Cook (nee Hars) and Father were living in New Cross London England when taken to Brocket Hall.  She was a German War Bride who met our father Joseph Frederick Cook who was in the Armed forces as a tank driver, he took part in DDay landings, went across on an American boat and landed on Gold Beach he then went through France, Belgium and then after the war he was stationed as peacekeeper force in an Army barracks in Hamburg.  This is Where our Mum lived with her Mother and Brother.  She came to England by Ship in 1948 at the age of 19 along with many other War Brides.  Our parents married and lived in New Cross London when she was sent to Brocket Hall to have my brother Fred.  Our father worked as a stevedore in St Katharine's Docks.  They later moved at first to Deptford Pepys Estate and then onto New Eltham , West Kingsdown and finally Sidcup. Our parents were married for just over 60 years up until my father had a stroke and passed away 17/08/10.  Our mum was then diagnosed with cancer in December 2010 and passed away 28/02/11.

 

21.  From Ann Dowman (Maldon, Essex, UK) - received 19th November 2013

I'm sorry it's taken so long to reply.  I don't mind giving you my location and telling you a little about myself and all I previously knew about Brocket Hall.  I lived in Murray Grove, off New North Road, Shoreditch, London N1 and went to St John the Baptist infant/junior school.  I was also baptised there.  After leaving there I went to Central Foundation School in Spitalfields for a year before moving out to Basildon when I was 11 years old.

I lost my lovely mum over 20 years ago but I had my dad until a few years ago when he died in his mid 80's.  My dad and I visited Brocket Hall around my 40th birthday, so not long after my mum died.  We attended an outdoor musical festival with a fireworks and laser display.  We sat on the grass and watched the orchestra on the stage with Brocket Hall in the background, on a hill, on the other side of a stream.  My dad pointed out the room where I was born by counting along the windows.  When we first arrived there we walked across the bridge over the stream.  My dad told me that the last time he had crossed that bridge was on a motor bike (with my Uncle Frank riding pillion) to come and visit us just after I was born.  He also said that my Uncle Frank (the joker of the family) was messing around in the garden later and swinging on a branch of a tree when the gardener came along and started talking to them.  Evidently the gardener turned out to be Lord Brocket (the old boy, my dad called him), although my dad said you would never have known by his appearance and the friendly way he chatted with them.

I understand that you have been contacted by an old friend of mine - Steve Cooper. I first met Steve with school friends shortly after moving to Basildon.  I think we were talking about where we used to live (most people in Basildon had moved from London) and he had come from Hoxton.  Then we compared birth dates and we were born in the same month.  And unbelievably we then discovered we had both been born at Brocket Hall!  I haven't seen Steve for about 30 years but we have chatted on Facebook as we both belong to memory groups from Basildon, Shoreditch and Hoxton.  I told him about the Brocket Babies website and he got straight on to you.  I was about to suggest a Facebook group for Brocket Hall but I've just seen that there is one already!!  I will pass that on to Steve too.  He also went to the same school in Basildon as my husband so they have known each other even longer.  Small world, and getting smaller all the time.

My husband and I are still in Essex, we moved out to a small village in the far East of Essex over 30 years ago.  It is in the Maldon district so it's probably best to put Maldon as my home town because not many people would have heard of my village. I have always felt 'special' being born in Brocket Hall even though it meant I wasn't a true cockney. Please keep me updated, I find it so interesting.

 

22.  From Vivien Griffin (Clinton Corners, New York, USA) - received 19 July 2014

My name is Vivien Griffin, I live in Clinton Corners which is a small town in upstate New York, U.S.A.  I was born at Brocket Hall Maternity Hospital on August 4, 1949 to Derek Gordon King and Doris Wilson King (maiden name, Turner), of Tottenham.  I recently visited my cousin, Graham Ward, in Alicante, Spain (retiree from London), whom I had not seen for many years, who was also born at Brocket Hall, and he told me about your website.  Prior to my recent visit to Spain, my husband and I stopped in London to visit other cousins and we drove out to Brocket Hall but we could not drive in because of an event that was going on......I was very disappointed.  My mother, who is now 86 years old, told me that she went to Brocket Hall one week before her due date to await my arrival.  I was very ill after birth due to the use of forceps during delivery.  My mother and I were at Brocket Hall for 5 or 6 weeks before I was able to come home.  My mother remembers the recovery room having peacocks on the walls.  That's about all she can remember.  My cousin Graham's mother remembers that after I was born, she travelled on my father's motorcycle to visit us. After a few miles, my father pulled over to the side of the road and told my aunt that she needed to lean INTO the turn or else they would fall....my aunt is 91 years old now, funny what things stay in you mind.  That's about all I know. Would love to be a part of the Brocket Hall Babies and to receive any newsletters that are sent.

 

23.  From Patricia Frith - received 5 February 2015

I was born at Brocket Hall on 4 April 1949, which I guess was right at the end of the period as a Maternity Hospital.  I was very disappointed to see that the reunion days were sold out, as I would definitely like to see where the maternity wards were.  I don't know which ward I was born on.  Sadly my Mum passed away in 2003, but she and Dad would have loved to have revisited.  After they retired they did have a trip to Brocket Hall, but only managed to see the outside as I think it was a conference centre at the time.  I don't think Mum enjoyed her time there as she felt very homesick and isolated.  She missed my brother who was 4 at the time, and understandably very upset when he appeared not to recognise her on a visit.  My Dad's story is quite different who talked very happily about how beautiful the grounds looked with daffodils everywhere when he visited after the birth, as he was looking forward to seeing the new baby and my Mum.  My brother who was with him on that occasion, does not remember the visit, but strangely his favourite flowers are daffodils!