It was in a straggling village in Surrey on the borders of Sussex that my mothers family resided and with them my earliest holidays were spent. An uncle and two aunts remained unmarried in the old home, which was a low, long cottage covered with grape vines and with pretty latticed windows, the diamond panes of which were (as I remember) screened by netted curtains, the work of the two aunts and more especially of the one whose place was usually on the sofa on account of an injury to her leg, which originated, as I have heard, in a fall into the brook, a branch of the river Mole, which ran at the bottom of the garden, dividing it from the orchard. It was at first thought to be a mere scratch, but never healed and eventually blood poisoning must have set in which ended in her death a few years later and when I was about seven years old.
She was the gentle Aunt Harriet who used to read to me out of Line Upon Line, a book of Bible stories simply told which I soon knew by heart, especially the chapter on Joseph and his brethren which I felt to be my very own, as my brothers name was Joseph; my father also had that name. Another chapter I remember in the same book was The Ark of the Covenant and was illustrated by a picture representing a stormy sunset with great beams of light rayed out from an oblong box ornamented with winged angels. Even now a sunset with shafts of watery light brings that picture to my mind.
The sitting-room where we usually sat was a low room with high chimney-piece enclosing the chimney corner seats where on a cold day one could sit close by the wood fire on the hearth, the logs being kept in place by andirons or fire dogs; a large pair of bellows was hung up in a convenient place and when fresh logs were put on, or the fire burnt low, were used to blow it again into cheery flames. There were small deep cupboards on each side of the hearth, where was kept a tinder box and a bundle of wood sharpened at the ends and dipped into sulphur which would quickly light by the spark on the tinder made by the flint and steel. These old fashioned articles had then been not long superseded by lucifer matches.
In the evenings the room was lighted by tallow candles in tall brass candlesticks and a little oblong tray of the same held the snuffers used to snuff the wick of the candles when they burned low. Every bedroom candlestick in those days was made with a hole for a pair of snuffers as well as an extinguisher, and rush lights were also used if a light was required during the night.
There were valuable old china cups and saucers on the high shelf of the chimney, without handles, and as a great treat I was sometimes allowed to have one down to drink tea from, a most inconvenient process if the tea had been hot; fortunately they did not get broken as they were a wedding present to my grandmother, together with a little round wooden tea tray with a rim which was made, by the addition of spindle legs, into a little table. On the wall was hung a mirror with bevelled sides so that you could see yourself in several places at once and it was a great temptation if the meal lasted too long to tip up your chair and fidget up and down making all the reflections of yourself move at once at various angles. There were also samplers with wonderful trees, flowers and animals worked in silk by my aunts at the tender age of eight and nine years, with all the letters of the alphabet, a verse of a hymn and the name and age of the little worker. The old bureau with its dear little drawers and cupboards and shelves was a source of great delight on a week day, as it contained different coloured beads, wools and silks used in fancy work and all kinds of treasures such as straws, sealing wax and wafers of all colours.
Now I must take you into the kitchen where there was also a hearthstone for the fire and a large brick oven in which to bake the family bread, cakes and pies. How interesting it was to watch the oven being heated with faggots, blown by the bellows into crackling flames which roared and sparkled till there was nothing left but a mass of red hot charcoal. Then the ashes were raked out and a little piece of dough (already prepared in the early hours of the morning) was rolled out thin and put into the oven to try if it were the right heat. In a few minutes it was taken out, buttered and brought in for lunch, called an oven cake, and very delicious it was as I remember. The loaves of bread were then moulded and placed on a flat wooden shovel called a peel and shovelled off into the oven with the cakes and pies, and the door of the oven was carefully shut till the smaller cakes were cooked; the bread was left in longer till the oven was quite cool when it was withdrawn and placed with the other eatables in the cool airy pantry.
In the side hall was kept a basket filled with toys for my especial benefit whilst I was staying with my aunties. These consisted of wooden tea and dinner services for the benefit of the little dollies that generally accompanied me on my visits, a wonderful broom made of pink and white shavings to take up the crumbs made in the dollies feasts, some china dogs and lambs, and various odds and ends sometimes replenished from the Fair which was held on the village green at I forget what time during the summer months, but the stalls erected for the sale of toys, cakes and sweets were things to be wondered at and enjoyed for a limited time before evening came on and the crowds appeared with all the fun of the fair in which I was not allowed to join. I fancy Mary or Jane had to see me safely home and then returned to the scene of revelry.
Those beautiful old Surrey commons! How many I can recall driving through with my uncle when he went on his business calls in the surrounding villages and districts. There was Ockley Green with its signposts and its pond with the inevitable geese and donkeys, Reigate Heath with its windmills, hills and heather, Newdigate where lived old John Capon and his family before the time of the flood. I do not mean, of course, the Biblical flood but one night when there came a great storm of rain which filled our brook so rapidly that before the flood-gates could be raised (which had been lowered for some wool-washing business which my uncle had on hand) the water overflowed its banks, crept silently up the garden path into the kitchen, up the passage and up the step into the sitting-room. What an excitement when the insidious visitor was discovered! What a search for clogs and pattens and a calling for John and Mary to open the flood-gates and fetch brooms to sweep out the dirty water and debris from the house.
This flood was a matter of history so far as I am concerned, but I have been several times in more intimate relations with that brook than I should care to be again. The stream ran between the garden and the orchard which were connected by a narrow plank bridge with a handrail too high to be of much use to a little person like myself. One day my brother (seven years older than myself) and I were watching the antics of a large frog hopping along the plank, when splash! over he jumped into the water. I, stooping to see what had become of him, overbalanced myself and was engulfed in three or four feet of water. I must have lost consciousness for I remember nothing till I found myself being undressed and put into a hot bath, rubbed with nice warm towels and put to bed, and I believe I was all right the next day. They told me afterwards that my brother could not reach me at first when I reappeared, but ran and fetched a long pole and with brave efforts dragged me up the bank by himself, the man being out of call, and that I went under water three times and they feared I was drowned.
There was a summer-house of lattice and ivy, erected by my mother and her brother before her marriage, backing on the brook and in front of it a dear little flower garden tended by Aunt Harriet when she was well, and planted with violets, hepaticas, polyanthus and quaint old country grape hyacinths and black scabiens called there mournful widow. These little beds were bordered with box and separated by little paths of sand and the wider borders were planted with good apples and pears, cherries and cobnuts, a source of great interest at many seasons; for did we not get a big hamper sent us to town by carrier every autumn filled with the choicest fruit, some to keep till Christmas and later, some to eat at once, and was there not sure to be a bough of the very prettiest and rosiest put in at the top for Pinkie, as my uncle used to call me?
Next door to my uncles house was a cottage where an old weaver, Mr. Boxall, lived; he had a large family of thirteen children, several of whom were married, and had also many olive-branches. The largest room in the house contained a hand-loom and I was taken to see him weaving a coarse kind of carpet of bright colours. I thought it very wonderful to see the shuttle flying in and out of the threads of foundation, which I was told was the woof. When the old man was in his prime he used to weave the linen sheets and tablecloths from the flax grown and spun by the farmers and others who owned land.
My grandfather grew a crop of flax on his land before planting his orchard and we had the sheets which were woven from it when I was a child, I remember their being marked in blue ingrain cotton in cross stitch I. I. D. 1815 I expect by the same little fingers that worked the samplers, as the eldest would then be twelve years old, having been born in 1803. The initials signified James and Judith Dolby. James Dolby the younger took up his fathers business of tanner and wool stapler and maker of leggings and gloves, and there was much to interest a child in watching all the processes, under the kindly care of J. Holden, the head man, who lived in a cottage close by called Sweet Briar Cottage. His wife used to allow me to go into her kitchen and watch her make a Pig meat pudden which was put into a large pot swung over the wood fire from a crane, and in the same pot was put a net full of cabbage and another of potatoes or other vegetables, as the case might be, ready for John when he came home to dinner. It was Holden who told me that if I grasped a stinging nettle tight with courage it would not sting me, but if I just touched it I should get a nasty sting and must get a cool dock leaf, which I should be almost sure to find close by, and rub it in, which would soon take away the pain. The motto he gave me was Do boldly what you do at all and I carried it into practice when I got home, much to the amusement of my elders, by dashing my hands into cold water when it made them tingle, saying as I vigorously washed them Do boldly what you do at all. I found it a most useful lesson in after life.
The preparation of the wool for market was very interesting: it had to be washed in the brook and dried in a shed made of open lathes, then it was taken to the barn and packed into enormous bags slung up from one end of the barn to the other. When the bag was pressed full it was sewn up with stout string and a large packing needle several inches long and sent away in a wagon. The barn was a delightful place to play in with its great scales to weigh the bales of wool (and we children by the way!), the barrel of alum, the wooden steps and funny half doors and the crowds of wall-flowers which grew in all the nooks and crannies outside and underneath. Another building of interest was the bark mill, which was worked by a patient horse going round and round, and ground the bark into little pieces which, when steeped in water, made tan, which with lime and alum etc transformed the sheepskin into supple leather.
Everyone in Charlwood at that time wore leggings with innumerable buttons; the better classes had shining brass buttons like gold and the labourers round leather buttons; the latter always wore smock frocks when at work and some even on Sundays and very picturesque they looked. They were generally of brown or drab linen, sometimes white or black, and always beautifully worked with smocking at the shoulders and sleeves.
Mrs. Wright kept the shop
nearest to our end of the village. She was a very old woman, tall and
extraordinarily thin, with nut-cracker jaws; she wore a close white cap of net
with a full goffered border and her white hair was smoothly tucked away inside.
A little check woollen shawl was worn around her shoulders and a large apron of
black stuff covered the skirt of her gown in the afternoon and a print one, I
think, in the morning. She was like Miss Mattie in Cranford in one thing: no
child came into her shop but she said Would you like a bullseye, my dear? and
forthwith made a little screw of paper with three or four of these desirable
delicacies for them. What wonder if her business throve and children were always
ready to run there for errands! It was a tiny shop but contained something of
everything in the way of drapery and grocery; it was in fact a general store.
She had two sons, both married and with several children, one of which was a
very strict disciplinarian and would not allow his children to leave the dinner
table without making a curtsey and saying Thank you Father and Mother for my
There was a butchers shop kept by Master Humphrey, where you might possibly get the joint of meat you desired, but generally had to be content with just the opposite: if beef was wanted, they would have a very nice leg of mutton, or if a leg of mutton was asked for, Mr. B. at the Rectory had bespoke the only leg he had - wouldnt you like a bit of pork? The Misses Hs two daughters kept a little school. The only other shop was a larger one kept by Mrs. B. whose daughters were great playfellows of ours on our visits to the village. It was in the village street, a very pretty quaint street with trees at the entrance cut in the shape of Temple Bar and forming an arch over the road. Their garden was very charming with old yew trees cut into a summer house with a peacock cut out on the top and a yew hedge round the lawn. At the top end of the street was an inn The Rising Sun and at the other end of it was The Half Moon, both of which did I fear more business in the evenings than was good for the villagers. Then there was the village shoemaker, commonly called Uncle Peter as he had a good many relatives in the place of the name of Ellis; one, a brother or cousin, was called Wicar Ellis because he always, like the immortal Sam Weller, spelt the Vicars name with a We.
The little front windows up the street were all filled with lovely flowering plants, wonderful herbaceous calceolarias, canary-coloured with red and brown blotches, and pelargoniums of every hue and lovely fuchsias and heliotrope. One rarely sees such fine flowers as in village street windows. I suppose it is because they get a lot of care expended on them and it may be partly the absence of gas.
If we go to the end of the street, we come to the old church. Entering the churchyard by a lych gate we see many wooden tombstones, some of great age, and there rest the remains of the James and Judith Dolby who grew and spun the flax for their linen sheets which lasted so many years. The inside of the church was whitewashed, but once when being repaired the remains of old paintings were discovered illustrating some scenes of martyrdom and the seven deadly sins. The Vicar at that time took more interest in fox hunting than working in his parish and the church goers were sadly few, so many of the farmers were heavy drinkers and there was absolutely nothing to interest the menfolk in the evenings except the public house.
As you came from the railway station of Horley you passed Povey Cross where
the signpost pointed to Crawley and Charlwood; taking the latter road you passed
through a pretty road with overarching trees and the schoolhouse kept by Aaron
Hyde for many years and a farm house opposite where lived Mr. and Mrs. Round and
their sons and the next farm was that of Mr. Brown. The mill stood at the
entrance and very fascinating it was to watch the sails going round, dipping
close to the ground one after the other and then rising up into the sky like a
great ship, then the little doors up the side of the mill where the full sacks
were let down into the wagon below and the dusty miller looked out and gave
orders to his men. Inside were wonderful cog wheels and heaps of grain and sacks
empty and full and white dust covering everything. Passing by the mill along a
cart road with a grassy common on each side we came to a pond with ducks and
geese busily engaged in dipping their heads under water and sitting on the banks
sunning themselves looking a most peaceful family until you walked through them
up to the little white gate, when the geese set up such a terrifying cackling
and stretched out their necks with a dreadful hissing that it needed all the
bravery one could muster to make a dash for the gate and shut it quickly behind
you with the hissing, shrieking crowd of birds safely on the other side of the
fence. I have a shrewd suspicion now that the geese were more frightened than
angry and that some boys used to tease them and make them hiss for fun.
We used to go to Mrs. Browns farm for butter and it was always taken from the dairy and wrapped in freshly gathered vine leaves and put into the basket. There seemed generally to be baking going on there and we were offered fresh lardy cakes, flaky and light as possible.
The farm house was large and roomy with stone floors and a parlour reached by mounting two or three steps and smelling of wool mats and antimacassars and unopened windows; it was seldom used unless for distinguished visitors who came to tea and talk. The hall or living room was much pleasanter and had large bright windows at each end. The farmer and his wife used to sit there and have most of their meals and there was always bread and cheese and ale even at tea time, as the master did not think much of tea or coffee unfortunately. Upstairs the floors, walls and ceilings were very uneven and your feet often went down most unexpectedly when walking across the room. Out of doors, in the farm yard it was most delightful to see the cows milked and the calves fed and to go round with the basket of corn to feed the chickens and ducks and hunt for the eggs.
Now I must take you to the Chapel. It
was a wooden building and was formerly a barracks but was purchased by the
Surrey Mission who carried on a great work there for many years; then it was
given up and came into the hands of the Particular Baptists. They used Gadsbys
hymn book and sat down during the singing of hymns but at prayer time all stood
up and turned their backs to the minister. I was stood up on the seat and found
great solace during the long prayer in looking at the knots in the wood at the
back of the pew and in peeping over to see what another little girl was doing
who was about my own age; sometimes she ate sweets which I thought rather
wicked. There was no organ or harmonium to lead the singing, but a band of men
sat in a large square singing pew and played flutes, violins and, I think,
cornets. One man I distinctly remember who sat with his back towards me clothed
in a large greenish check, about two squares of which covered his back. His hair
and side whiskers were bright red and his cheeks puffed out in his efforts to
blow his instrument made a great impression on me. The services were morning and
afternoon and a Sunday School was held before the afternoon service when the
children were taught to read out of spelling books commencing with ba, be, bi,
bu and so on with all the consonants, going on to little sentences such as I
cannot see God, but He can see me. The hymns sung at the services were always
given out two lines at a time so that those who could not read or had no hymn
books could join in the singing and the tunes were the good old fashioned sort
where the parts chase each other merrily and one line or part of one is repeated
several times, often with utter disregard to the sense. Some of the voices were
beautiful, as clear as those of the lark and mounted up and up most fearsomely
but they always got down safely without a catastrophe. I always liked to join in
the singing but being yet unable to read and not appreciating the hymns read out
in the vernacular, I piped out the words of a little piece of poetry I had been
taught, beginning Down on a green and shady bank, A modest violet grew. One of
the hymns I heard sung there commenced with the verse
When Ruth a-gleaning went, Jehovah was her guide,
To Boaz field he led her straight and she became his bride.
I still prefer my own choice of verses.
In the olden days Charlwood was in a large common, but in the
time of my grandfather that and other common land was taken in and sold out in
parcels by the Lord of the Manor and most of the people of the village who were
able to do so bought a plot of common land and built a house with a large piece
of land for a garden, and fields and buildings of whatever kind they needed for
their work. One family, a carpenter etc, built a pretty cottage at one end of
the village. The only drawback to it was a want of windows at the back, for in
those days windows were taxed and there were two dark rooms used as bedrooms.
When the father and mother were past work the only remaining daughter kept a
little school and taught reading, writing and arithmetic and sewing. The
children had a very happy time generally, especially in the summer as there were
many fruit trees in the garden and orchard, and cherries were most abundant;
these were given as rewards with a generous hand not to mention apples, pears
and plums. A new scholar of very tender years was sent to learn her ABC and we
heard Miss Redford say to her That is A, say A dear. No answer, only a little
finger put in the corner of a shy, pursed up little mouth. Say A dear and you
shall have a cherry. still silence; Say A dear and you shall have two
cherries. After a while, patience and cherries won.
Two little visitors from town were sent for an hour or so to learn sewing; they talked so much and worked so little that the governess called them up to her and said Do you know, my dears, that every time a sheep bleats he loses a bite? You cannot talk and work at the same time. Fancy work was considered to be a waste of time and my sister, who had just learnt to crochet and was rather proud of her accomplishment, showed it to a very old great aunt; much to her mortification Aunt Sal said Tis only loiter pegs to wind the sun down with.
When Miss Redford was left alone she gave up the school and took in summer boarders; we used to go there sometimes in June or July, school holidays coming quarterly in those days, and the times we had with the strawberries and cherries were something to be remembered. The bigarreaus from a large spreading tree in the front garden, the morellos trained on the back of the house and having to be gathered for pies with the aid of a ladder, not to mention the whitehearts and blackhearts in the orchard! It makes my mouth water now to think of the cherry pies made with sweet biscuit crust and powdered over with sifted sugar. We were not allowed in the kitchen on baking days, as the secret of this wonderful pastry and of some delicious fritters we used to beg her to make for us, was most jealously guarded. Alas! in this year of grace 1920 such cookery is not to be attempted, with margarine and baking powder instead of butter and eggs; with butter at 2/8 a pound and eggs at 5½d each and sugar 8d a pound and lard at 2/- the pound.
Miss Redford was happily married soon after she gave up school and she and her husband kept a pony chaise and a dear little fat pony to drive about, as they were neither of them very young.
When I was nine years old we removed to a house in Grosvenor Street,
Camberwell and I went to a small school called a Ladies college and stayed
there for several terms, but as I was not strong it was thought better to send
me to a boarding school in the country. Ashe Park in Hampshire was chosen and
the large old mansion set in a lovely park and surrounded by woods and pretty
walks was certainly very good for ones health. We had little garden plots where
we could sow mustard and cress, and plant primroses and cowslips, and were taken
for walks where we could pick wild sweet violets and woodruff, and if I had been
older and had a little guidance by one who loved botany, I feel sure I could
have found many rare flowers. I remember seeing unfamiliar cranesbills and
spindle berries and pignuts which we often dug up with our finger-nails as Caliban offered to do for Miranda in The Tempest.
The church at Ashe was a pretty rural one and I remember the clergymans name only from a line the girls made up: Portly Parson Pettit, preaching penitence. The Sundays were not noteworthy except for collects, commandments, texts and hymns to be learnt. I was there for about two terms and very glad to be home again. My sister met me at the station on my return and seemed so grown-up as she had left school, and for the next year she taught me in preparation for Pelican House, Peckham, the school where she had been for two years.
Miss Fletcher, the Principal, was a dear old lady who had taught several generations of girls. There were some twenty boarders and some like myself day-boarders who came from a long distance and stayed to dinner; there were also some day-scholars. On Sunday Miss Fletcher took the boarders to Camberwell Green Congregational Church and was closely connected with the work there. The Rev.. John Pillans was the minister for some years and left to go on a Missionary Deputation to Madagascar with Dr. Mullins of the IMS. On his return he took a charge at Huntley, Aberdeenshire where he remained for the rest of his life. Mrs. Pillans was an ideal ministers wife and as they had no children she was free to take the oversight of many societies and visited the families of the members of the church. Once when she called, I was hemming one of the large silk handkerchiefs then used by gentlemen, for my father and she said that as soon as I left school she hoped that I would join her working-party for young ladies, which I accordingly did. It was held at her house in Camberwell Grove and Mr. Pillans used to come and talk to us on literary subjects or read extracts from recent books. Tennyson was then bringing out his Idylls of the King. Camberwell was the home of Ruskin and Browning, though they had not become generally read.
The chapel was built on the site of Sir Christopher Wrens house, the short road leading to it from Camberwell Green being called Wren Road. It was built in 1853 and the church and congregation worshipping at the old Mansion House Chapel then removed there, the minister at that time being the Rev. John Burnet, whose white hairs ! just remember seeing in the pulpit.
Miss Fletcher held a Bible Class on Wednesday and Saturday mornings for all the day-girls from 9 to 10 oclock and it was so popular that many former pupils made a practice of coming as visitors, when able or in the neighbourhood. She taught in a most methodical and interesting way, giving courses of lessons on the Old Testament, giving us charts of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and then would take up the synoptic gospels and compile a book of sections of the life of Christ.
While I was at Pelican House School, my only brother was taken ill suddenly and brought home in a cab from the bank where he was engaged. He died two days afterwards without regaining consciousness, which was a great grief to us all. He had only reached the age of 21 and his life was full of promise; he had used his spare time in teaching, at an evening school, lads whose education had been neglected. There was no public education then and Sunday Schools and evening classes were often the only teaching young people got, as they had to begin work so very young.
The next year, 1867, Uncle Dolby, my mothers only brother, died of an attack of apoplexy. He had married and removed from Charlwood some years before to Hastings, where my sister and I had spent several very pleasant holidays. We spent that Christmas with Mr. and Mrs. A. Brooker at Crondall, Hants. It was a bitterly cold season and everything eatable froze, snow covered the ground and no water could be kept in the bedrooms or the jugs would crack. One night I went to bed earlier than the grown-ups who brought me up some hot elder wine and toast of which they were partaking and they found the turnover of the sheet stiff with my frozen breath.
On New Years Day it stopped snowing and we went for a walk across the fields and up the hill, but the snowdrifts were very deep and we had hard work to get along but much enjoyed the beautiful sight of the snowy hills.
A year later Aunt Amy came to live with us and we all went for a holiday to the Isle of Wight in 1869 with Mr. and Mrs. Brooker and Fruie their adopted daughter. We stayed a fortnight at Ryde and did a lot of excursions, went round the island in a steamer and came back in a sad state of weakness as the sea was rough, and passing the Needles made us all sick. It was very beautiful to watch the different parts of the coast as we passed, as long as our health permitted, but all the passengers got paler and paler and one by one succumbed to the inevitable. The next fortnight we spent at Shanklin and enjoyed the walks and drives in the neighbourhood; Bonchurch, Ventnor with its hills, St. Boniface often covered with a cap of cloud, Appuldurcombe and other villages and walks along the cliffs after a shower of rain, when we gathered mushrooms to take back for supper.
Another year we went to Bognor, but it was not much to our taste, as the sea went out so far and the hills were at such a distance that we wrote on the deserted pier:-
The little hills are ten miles off,
The woodlands, where are they?
Theres nought but sand in Bognor land,
We wont prolong our stay.
For all that, we enjoyed a day at Arundel and another at Goodwood and came home all the better for our change.
In 1871 my sister and I were invited to Cornwall to visit Aunt Hannah at Trewarthenick and while there made friends with Mr. Wm. Hotten and his sister who lived at Trelasker. She had a large St. Bernard dog called Tell, a lovely creature, but the children of the village used to think it was a great lion coming and ran away. She did not keep it long as it went around the different farmhouses and had so many free meals of milk etc. that it was rather a nuisance. We stayed a few days at another farm, Fentongollen, with the Cleeves and then went to Trevilnas to stay with the Pascoe family, some of whom had already been to London to stay with us in Camberwell. Willie, the eldest son taught us to ride on a dear old white pony for which they had a side saddle and altogether they gave us a most delightful time with picnics and a drive to Gwennap Pit on Whit Monday, where Wesley used to preach and where each year several thousands of Wesleyans make a pilgrimage and hold an open air service in the old arena which had been formerly used to fight cocks.
Mr. Wm. Hotten came over to Trevilnas several times on his white horse Fancy and took my sister for a ride, she on the white pony, on which she had to undergo some teasing from Mr. Pascoe about the number of white horses visiting their farm, as Mr. Kendall of Tremorgan was at that time coming over very often to see Mary Anne, the eldest Miss Pascoe; they were engaged to be married. His horse was also grey. My father came down to Cornwall to fetch us home, and took us first to Truro for a fortnight, from whence we took excursions to the Lizard, Lands End, Marazion, Falmouth and Kynance and,of course, the River Fal. Mr. Hotten was invited to come to London at Christmas, which he did, and he and my sister were then engaged and the marriage arranged for the following June.
The wedding took place at Camberwell Green Congregational Chapel on June 12th 1872. Mr. Pillans conducted the service and quite a number of people filled the church. My sisters Sunday School scholars put a lovely bouquet of flowers into the carriage as they were driving away; she was very much beloved by all and everyone was sorry that she was going away to live at Trelasker in Cornwall, nearly 300 miles distant. I was now the only child at home and had plenty to occupy my time, what with church work and home duties, as my parents went to Cornwall for several weeks in the summer following and left me in charge; then I had my turn and had a delightful visit to Claras new home, learning to make butter and feeding the poultry and picking fruit and vegetables from the garden and taking long rambles through the woods and fields.
On Michaelmas Day 1873 my first niece was born and after much discussion was named Edith. At Christmas my sister and her husband with the baby came to Camberwell and she stayed about a month. It became rather a joke with one old gentleman at the church that we were so often travelling between Camberwell and Cornwall. Why he said You are like buckets in a well: one up and tother down.
Those visits to Trelasker were very happy ones with young friends from Camberwell to join me occasionally in a summer holiday, when we made excursions to old friends at Trevilvas, Probus etc. The foundation stone of Truro Cathedral was laid on one of these occasions by the then Prince of Wales, afterwards Edward VII. All the gentry, yeomen and farmers of the neighbourhood were asked to form a mounted escort from Tregothnan to Truro; a goodly contingent gathered at Probus where there is a lovely church, with tower and peal of bells which, of course, rang merrily as the cavalcade met from all the farms and by-roads to the turnpike. In those days it cost quite a good sum if you had far to ride or drive along turnpike roads; there were barred gates placed at different turnings and you had to pay the man or woman at the toll bar 6d more or less, according to what you were riding or driving. My brother-in-law had a nice grey mare named Fancy which could carry a lady most beautifully, and as my father gave us a side-saddle and riding-habit, I was often able to ride over the farm or down to the sea, about 4 miles off, and sometimes 1 took my little niece in front of me for a little ride, which was much nicer that drawing a pram over the roads or fields.
In December 1874 a little boy, Herbert, was added to the family and when Christmas was over I went to stay at Trelasker for a few months to keep house, as my sister was not able to do much. The two babies were a great delight to us all as they grew older and able to walk and talk. Rosa Dunstone came as nursemaid at this time and stayed for some years; her mother was one of the old-fashioned sort and I should like to give you a little sketch of the family. Robert, the father, was a fisherman and had his own boat at Portloe, just opposite the Gull Rock. His two boys, Bovey and Robert, went out with him to fish and there were five girls who had most resplendent names and were brought up to work well and honestly and kept their places for years; they were stayers when they had a good place.
The names of these girls were respectively: Alice, Rosa Jane, Anna Maria Cassandra, Nora Ophelia Geraldina and Rhoda whose other names I unfortunately forget. My dear woman, where did you get all those names from? said my sister. Well Missus, I got them out of a book; I do like a nice-sounding name and I havent much to give them, but I thought they should all have the prettiest names I could find. I did think of another for Nora but when I got to the church it went clean out of my head. Whenever she came to see her daughter she would bring a fish as an offering; a pollock or a lobster or crayfish, all fresh from the sea. There is another story about the crayfish which was forwarded to me at Cuby Cottage some years later when I had some of my nieces staying with me; on their return home, Florrie the baby said to her mother Oh Mother! We had beadle (beetle) for breakfast this morning and it was lovely.
My mothers health failed in 1879 and the doctor said she must not stay in London but go into a quiet country place, so after thinking of several places we found a nice house in Tregony with a lovely garden and orchard, and moved there in the autumn. It was only a mile and a half from my sister and was on the top of a hill and in a very healthy position. The move to Cornwall was not an easy one. Aunt Amy was paralysed the year before and entirely lost the use of her legs, so she had to be carried from house to carriage and from carriage to train. At that time we took ten or twelve hours to do the journey and had six miles drive at the end, up and down very steep hills.
We were so thankful to get our poor invalid in bed with her weary shaken bones and there she remained for some days before she was sufficiently recovered to be dressed and carried into a dear little sitting-room adjoining, where she could look out over the hills and valleys. My mother was safely entertained at Trelasker where she had been for some weeks and my father stayed there also for a while, till we got the house in order. The neighbours had been so kind in lending us things till our furniture came which took nearly a week, and till then we lived in rather picnic fashion and were dependent on our friends for household utensils. I had a nice maid Ellen, who had been with me for several years and all the villagers adopted us at once, so that soon all difficulties vanished and we were able to enjoy our country home. I learnt to drive and we got a nice pony and low carriage so that I could take my father and mother round the country and to the sea which was only four miles away.
formerly an important place with a tidal river up to it, a branch of the Fal
called the Ruan River, which was navigable up to the bottom of the town, as
shown by old boat hooks and iron staples fastened to the rocks; but the channel
has long since been narrowed to a wide stream which carries down the refuse of
the China Clay Works at St. Austell and St. Stephens to the sea by St. Mawes and
Falmouth. Before the Reform Bill in 1832, the town was enfranchised and sent two
members to Parliament and there were wild doings at the elections and much
drinking and corruption. It was what was called a rotten borough and the people
had no voice in the elections, the Lords of the Manor having it all their own
Until the Penny Post was inaugurated in 1840, letters to London from Tregony cost 1/- unless the writer could get them franked by an MP or a member of the aristocracy. There is a clock tower about half way up the town, where a market was once held, but now it has fallen into disuse. The clock has only an hour hand, so you can only tell the exact time when it strikes the hour. The population of the place when we lived there was about 300 and the only street straggled up a steep hill from the river to the church at the top. There were three chapels - Union Chapel where the Congregationalists and Baptists united, the Wesleyan Chapel and the Bryanite Chapel, a very small affair. We were all very friendly and would close our chapel if one of the others had an anniversary, as there was plenty of room and we did not mind sitting up close together. The Wesleyans had their Sunday School Anniversary in the spring and the chapel was generously decorated with lilac and laburnum which, with the well-oiled heads of the scholars, made the atmosphere rather trying to those unused to it.
The Cornish people are very excitable and waves of religious fervour sweep periodically over the towns and villages when old and young flock to the chapels night after night and seem carried out of themselves with contrition and weeping for their sins. I have seen young men and women go up to what they call among the Wesleyan Methodists the penitence form and kneel there in great distress while the whole congregation unite in prayer and afterwards come away with joy and rapture in their faces; and some quite change their lives afterwards, leaving off drinking and swearing and are a comfort to their families. Of course, there are some who merely profess to be changed and afterwards return to their old bad habits.
There were three public houses in the town but they were mostly very well conducted. One was opposite to the only butchers shop in the place and the two men were constantly sparring. The butcher was thin, the inn-keeper stout and jolly-looking. He said to his neighbour who was a total abstainer You are a poor advertisement for temperance you are. If you were to take a pint or two of my beer every day it would do you a sight of good, look at me now! Ah said the butcher Ill tell ee how tis - the men drink your beer and fill your till with their money so that you can afford to buy my good joints of meat; thats what makes you so fat and well.
The parish church of St. Cuby and St. James was on the top of the hill of which the long street of Tregony consists. It is a fine old building with a square tower like most of the Cornish churches but had been spoiled by having the granite window frames replaced by wood, while the stones were thrown aside and used to patch up fences or build into summer-houses in gardens, as was the case in our garden at Cuby Cottage. The Archaeological Society sometimes visited Tregony and the neighbourhood and found many interesting relics of the past. Some of the farmers were rather sceptical as to these remains and one, on being asked by one of the learned men Now, what do you suppose this granite trough was originally designed for, Mr. Brewer? Pigs trough was the laconic reply.
There was an interesting farm called Golden Farm a mile or two from us which used to be a mansion belonging to an important Roman Catholic family. The beautiful little chapel is now turned into a barn and there are many remains of sculptured stones and fine gateways and a legend of an underground passage leading for miles, but now blocked up. Another tiny church on the road to Probus and half a mile from Tregony was Cornelly Church, used principally by the family at Trewarthenick, Mr. and Mrs. Gregor. The old lady Gregor was very determined that all her servants should go to church every Sunday, wet or dry, and had a bus called the Church Car, so that they might have no excuse. There was a son and two daughters; the son married a Roman Catholic lady and they lived a great deal in Germany, where they had a villa at Rheinstein in The Rhine, but they had no children and when they died Trewarthenick went to Sir Paul Molesworth, a member of a very old Roman Catholic family.
The clergyman who officiated at Cornelly Church was a Mr. Peters, a very good old gentleman who lived with his sister at Pendower, a pretty house near the sea. Both were unmarried and used to conscientiously visit their very few parishioners who were nearly all dissenting farmers. There was only one service at Cornelly Church, held on Sunday afternoon and I once had an amusing experience there. A young friend who was staying with me said she would like to attend the service whilst I was engaged in the Sunday School, if I would go and meet her on the way back. When I reached the church I found the service still in progress, So wandered around the churchyard meditating amongst the tombstones till such time as the congregation should come out. I soon heard a voice behind me calling out Hie and turning round the sexton said Parson sent me out to say that you must please come into the church; he doesnt like anyone walking in the churchyard during service. But I thought the service was just over I said and I did not wish to make a disturbance by coming in. No disturbance at all said he You must please come in at once; parson saw you out of the window and told me to fetch you in. What could I do but obey? So I was marched in and a high square pew was quickly unbolted and I was projected among a family who had their eyes covered with their fingers, through which they furtively gazed at the strange trespasser on their preserve. The sexton meanwhile mounted to his desk in time to say Amen to the prayer with which the Parson filled up the interval of his clerks absence on outpost duty. Then came a hymn which was accompanied on a very wheezy harmonium by a young woman who was, as it is euphemistically put not all there. I apologised to the nice old clergyman after the service for my unintentional interruption and received his complete absolution. In the evening as I was on my way to chapel, I met the old sexton who was on his way to act as clerk at Tregony Church and he made most profound apologies and hoped I would not be offended with him as he didnt know it was me, and Parson made him do it. I was delighted with the adventure which was rather unique.
When Mr. Hotten was married to my sister, Parson Peters felt it his duty to enquire when, where and by whom the wedding service was performed and was much troubled to hear it was in a dissenting chapel and said Now look here William, I have known your family for years and they are all in my parish. If it would be any satisfaction to you, I would be most happy to perform the service over again properly at the church for nothing, because I hold you in great respect. No, thank you Sir said William I am quite satisfied and think once is enough to go through that ordeal.
There is a great deal of difference in town and
country Sunday Schools; in the latter there is a great lack of teachers who
have had any training for their work. I had been used to a well organised and
equipped school and found myself rather at a loss when I was asked to take a
class of boys of 10 to 15 in the Odd-fellows Hall as we had no room of our own
and hired that for a time as it had one or two classrooms for infants and older
scholars. The opening service in the larger room went off all serenely and then
I and my 7 or 8 boys marched off into a classroom. I enquired who taught them
generally. Sometimes a man and sometimes a woman was the answer. Shall I tell
you a story about a giant? said I, and began to tell them about David and
Goliath and got their attention pretty well as long as I enlarged on the
particulars of the challenge and the fight, the fall of the giant and the
cutting off of his head with his own sword. Then I began to tell them of the
giant sins we had to fight against: dishonesty, swearing, lying, getting drunk,
and they began to get very restless. Lots of people get drunk, said one
thats nothing much and then to show they had had enough, they tipped over the
forms and rocked the tables to and fro and scrambled about the floor making such
a noise that the superintendent came to the rescue and told us it was time to
come to the close of the school, which I for one did with alacrity.
Another time all the boys but one stayed outside to see what I would do. Why David, where are the others? Theym outside and says they baint coming in. What a pity, I have such a nice story to tell you. I went on with the story as if they were all there and had a most appreciative listener and next Sunday they all turned up and I seldom had any insubordination afterwards and was good friends with nearly all of them.
Once, when the Minister superintended, I had some trouble. A rather repulsive boy would not read a verse of the lesson when I asked him in his turn and he tore a page out of his Testament into little bits and then said he couldnt as he had not got it. This upset another naughty boy and the minister, coming in to see what the noise was about, the boy took out his penknife and said Ill kill ee, I will. I went to the boys home; he had no mother, and the woman who kept the house said There is no harm in him if he is let alone; it is only wickedness. I told her that if he was allowed to threaten people with knives he would get into serious trouble.
We were much cramped in this little hall and as the school increased we hired the Board school which had not been built many years and was a great improvement. I kept the class for two years and then the older girls needing a teacher as their old one was getting married, I took that and a young man filled my place. The change was much to my satisfaction though and we parted with mutual kindly feelings. Just before leaving the boys class the lesson subject was the parable of the house built on the sand and that founded upon a rock, and I called to their remembrance the digging into the rock for the foundation of the Board School and that therefore there was no chance of its blowing down in a gale of wind. I wish it would said Johnny I do hate this owld school. Why do you come then? said I; Oh! I didnt mean on Sunday he replied, and I said Well, that is a comfort to me at any rate; I am glad you like coming to Sunday School.
It was rather inconvenient not having a schoolroom of our own at the chapel and as we had a piece of ground available it was decided to make a supreme effort of faith and works and set about building and collecting the money. The farmers lent their horses and carts to carry stone, sand and timber; the superintendent and his brother were builders and their estimate of the cost of the work was accepted. We all sent to our friends to tell of our need and ask for their help and my old friends at Camberwell Green Church made an instant and hearty response with a cheque for £40. This cheered us on and we gave all we could spare, collected the rest from friends and opened the schoolroom with two shuttered classrooms and an infants room free of debt, at a cost of not much over £250. We did enjoy our own hall and got up services of song and even a cantata Under the Palms with only a few of the singers who could read music and some of those Tonic Sol-Fa which was Greek to me.
The Cornish voices are very good as a rule and there was one very musical family, that of a shoemaker, with fine tenor and alto voices. The difficulty I found with the members of my choir was that they all wanted the principal parts. Tom, a fine alto, sent his book back one practice night by a cousin with the news: Tom says ee beant going to come no more, if ee cant sing in the quartette; eeve as good a right to as Ben. Oh I said Take him back the book and tell him we cannot do without him anyhow; there are solos I want him to take; we shall all have to do our best if it is to be a success. He came back eventually and all went off well, especially the little ones choruses.
Cornwall is great on tea-meetings and when I first went to Tregony all those who gave a tray were expected to make and bake saffron cake and splitters to be split and covered with cream or butter and provide cream, butter, milk, tea service, teapot and silver and knives for cutting up, also tablecloth and vases of flowers, so it was no sinecure, especially for those who lived a mile or so from the village and had a family of young children. On these occasions all the neighbouring churches sent contingents; there would be a van-load from Mevagissey, wagonettes from St. Austell and Truro and dogcarts from other outlying parishes. When the tables had been filled with the ministers and friends and as many of our local friends as could sit down, Grace was sung, tea poured out and plates soon emptied amid pleasant conversation with friends not often visiting us. Then these were invited into neighbouring houses and gardens to rest and look around and the tables were cleared and refilled with villagers and boys from the boarding school, Hart House. After these had been sufficed, you may be sure there were not many basketsful to be taken away and all went into the chapel and had some interesting speeches. As tickets were 1/- each and 6d for children and all food given, the money taken made a valuable addition to the funds.
There was one excursion we used to make every summer,
preferably when we had London visitors staying with us: a day on the river Fal.
There was a branch of the river at Ruan where the tide ran up twice in the 24
hours and filled the sandy bed with water from the sea, so that it looked like a
chain of lakes, and the woods grew down to the waters edge. When the tide ran
down there was only a very narrow stream of fresh water marked by sticks pushed
in the muddy sand to show the channel and guide the boatmen at the half-tides. A
boatman called Solly Blarney would put himself and his boat at our disposal when
the tide served for a very small sum, and we used to pack up our luncheon basket
and take a kettle filled with fresh water in case we did not hit on a good
spring, and a few nice dry chips to start a fire which could be fed from the dry
sticks from the woods. We were careful to light the fire on the rocky beach
quite away from the woods. We were generally a party of 12 to 18 and had an
extra small boat in case some of our friends liked to row themselves or go into
a sheltered creek and bathe.
After the meal we would wash up ready for the next, and then explore the woods to stretch our legs. There was a heronry in one part of the shore and several mansions, Tregothnan the seat of Lord Falmouth being the most beautiful and striking in situation with its deer park, seven miles round, and its picturesque boathouse. Sometimes if the wind and tide were favourable Solly would put up a sail and take us as far as St. Mawes and Falmouth. It was often dark on our return journey and the river would shine like silver at each dip of the oar, caused by the phosphorescent light from the animalcula in the water. I once brought home some of the water in a bottle and examined it through a microscope. When magnified the little creatures were quite round and the size of a pins head with a tiny spike on one side and they all kept spinning around like tops as long as they lived.
At one time when we met the tide coming in, it brought thousands of flat circular jellyfish about the size of an Osborne biscuit, clear and iridescent and with valves continually opening and shutting, I suppose breathing and feeding. We were sometimes caught in the rain when on the river and once, just as we had prepared our lunch, it came on in a stream and the children of the party were soaked. We found a cottage and begged the old woman to let us in and light a fire to dry our wet things. She very kindly consented, but we heard her mopping up her brick floor and saying to herself What a mess, oh what a mess!
Those who did not know the channel often got stuck in the mud in going up the Ruan River and once I heard of a party of London servants from Tregothnan thinking to explore its beauties one Sunday afternoon without a boatman; they were stranded and had to wait till the tide turned in the early hours of the next morning.
annual excursion was to St. Columb Forth near Newquay. On one occasion, when
Edith was under a year old, her father, mother, auntie and the nursemaid Rosa
drove across the moors and heather the fourteen miles to the north coast at St.
Columb. The turf there is so soft and springy that it is like walking on a
mattress and is studded with thrift and tiny vernal or autumnal squills,
according to the time of year, and one can lie down as on a couch and watch the
magnificent waves dash against the rocks and caves several hundreds of feet
beneath and sometimes coming in a cloud of spray through a blow-hole and giving
the unwary watcher an impromptu showerbath. When it was low tide we decided to
go down the rocks and explore the caves which are only accessible at low tide,
and leave Baby and Nurse on the top to await our return. The caves were well
worth exploration, the floors being covered with fine white sand and the roofs
with ferns and sea spleenwort, while the pools left by the receding tide were
like gardens filled with delicate seaweeds, anemones, sea snails and sometimes
little fishes with tufts on their heads darting into their thickets of seaweed;
and shrimps and baby crabs also took part in the pageant.
We lingered for quite a long while in this fairy scene and then, hearing the waves roar a warning that the tide was coming up, we turned to retrace our steps, but alas! we were completely cut off from our easy downward path and the place where we stood would soon be covered with water; and if we managed to climb up to a ridge of rock above the high tide mark we should still have to stay there for twelve hours before we could get to the path by which we had descended. The cliff above us was at least 150 feet high and almost straight up, but at last Mr. Hotten spied an old iron ladder fixed in the rock about half-way up and said I will see if I can get to that ladder and if it is safe will come back for you. He did so and attracted the notice of a coastguard who told him that it was quite possible to get up that way and there was no other way, except by making a detour of about three miles along a difficult scrambling, rocky path.
We plucked up our courage for the attempt and started on our perilous way, my sister first, her husband close behind her and I following in the rear. How glad we were to get to the ladder and to hear the coastguards cheery voice telling us it was quite safe. He lay down flat on the edge of the cliff and gave us each in turn a strong brown arm to land us on the top, where we found Nurse and Baby almost distracted with anxiety and hunger. Our coastguard friend told us that a few months before, two ladies had actually had to stay all night in the caves and pretty wisht they found it too, with no sound but the waves and the shrieking of the sea birds. The pathway up the cliff has now been made quite easy with steps cut in the rock and a handrail fixed on the seaward side so that no accident is possible now.
About six miles from Tregony there are some china clay works, at St. Stephens, and I once went to visit an old servant who had a son working there and I was much interested in seeing over the mills. China clay is extracted from partly-decomposed granite, which is only found in one or two parts of England and is most valuable. The stone is ground up in a large mill and a stream of water is poured into it and it is kept in motion till thoroughly mixed up. The white sediment which settles at the bottom is the clay and the water with grit and dirt is carried off into the river, while the clay when dry and hard is cut into large square blocks, packed into trucks and sent by rail to the potteries and to the cotton mills in Lancashire, where it was formerly used largely for dressing calico. There are some lovely crystals found in the quarries where the stone is cut out: some clear white and others delicate mauve, almost like amethysts and of beautiful forms.
Most of the hedges in Cornwall are built up with a soft stone filled in with turf and earth, and in that damp warm climate they soon are covered with ferns and flowers. The ferns are especially prolific and of many varieties; honeysuckle and wild roses festoon them too. A little stream that ran by the side of the Ruan Road was a picture in June, with its yellow iris and forget-me-nots, ragged robins and wild roses, with here and there a sweet briar.