I tried to see my granny, who was in her 50's in my earliest memories, as a little girl in those long-ago days and the road was probably little more than a horse path passing in front. I feel sure there were roses, though. Granny once wrote me a letter about her childhood, growing up on a small piece of land where they had chickens and milk goats. Unfortunately, I did not keep the letter; youth does not often recognize the importance of such simple things.
This photo was taken, I believe at this same intersection. The little girl in the photo is my mother.
And then we were in Caldecote. This, Julie said, is a newer Caldecote and the older village is further on. My mother lived in what might be called the newer part although it has been there for many, many years to judge by the age of the houses in the area. And right here, or right about here, she said, was where my mother's childhood home once stood.
This is the home where Julie grew up, designed and built by her father.
My mother's home was called Ashlyn. As a child I imagined a quaint country cottage with thatched roof, whitewashed sides and dark timbers but that was not the reality. My grandfather (Ernest Thomas Hagger) was a farm labourer who managed to save enough to buy a piece of land. Every one of his five children were born in a different house, all in the Caldecote area. Thomas began building a small house for his young family, but before it was finished he was promoted to farm manager at Highfields farm, quite a step up. As manager, he was entitled to a house at Highfields, so that is where they moved. He continued work on Ashlyn, finished it and rented it out. My mother was born at Highfields.
This story was told to me by Julie: One day Thomas was asked to do a favor by the manager of another farm. Would Thomas mind keeping an eye on the other farm while the manager was on holidays? Thomas agreed to do it; from what I have learned about him, Thomas was an agreeable, well-liked man in the community. That afternoon my mother, who was three at the time, began to cry inconsolably. Nothing would comfort the little girl; she sobbed her heart out. Her older sister May noticed the time, 3:00pm. The family was mystified at the cause of my mother's tears.
At that same time, Thomas was on his way back from the other farm. He had stopped, to light his pipe, someone said, when a car came along the road and struck him where he stood, and Thomas died immediately.
So, at long last I knew the story of this grandfather's death, over 20 years before I was born. Thomas died on June 23, 1930, just weeks after my mother's third birthday. He was only 41.What did my granny do, with five young children and her dependable husband suddenly gone? How did she support them and herself without the primary wage earner?
This part of the story came from my cousin John a few years back: The driver responsible for Grandad's death worked for the Ford Motor Company and delivered new cars to dealers throughout the country. He didn't drive a lorry but drove the cars themselves. I can remember seeing these drivers hitch-hiking back along the roads when I was young. Anyway this particular driver was way off route when the accident occurred. Granny could have taken the case to court but Fords offered her a £3,000 settlement which she was advised to accept. This money was put into a fund which paid her a monthly income. She also had a government "Widow's Pension" which paid out a princely sum of 10 shillings a week. So somehow she coped but as Dad says "There wasn't much spare money to throw around."
The photos of Ashlyn show a small, corrugated tin-covered house covered in vines and probably flowers.
It was very small, 4 rooms with a narrow hall and a kitchen on the back, but it survived for many years as home for some of my aunts and cousins. Julie and her siblings lived just next door in a house designed by her father, my uncle Roy Swindells. What a place that must have been, all the cousins running in and out, and the sisters and their brother getting together for tea! I don't wonder that my mother would sometimes be homesick for it; when I was young I didn't understand that longing but now I see that she must have felt the separation keenly, especially as the youngest of the brood. She often told me I was like her older sister and in truth often treated me as such.
Today the original Ashlyn is gone, but a new home stands in its place, with a nameplate that reads
and a very large and vociferous dog inside. I did not venture nearer than the road, relying on my camera's zoom for this picture.
And what of Highfields, the farm where they lived for a brief time? The house is still standing although showing signs of neglect. It has been divided into three rental units.
The horsekeeper's cottage, a fair-sized house really, is also still standing. Julie said this house was important because it had the radio; she and I both wonder about the significance of that.
I looked down the lane of Caldecote, a lane that probably has changed little since my mother's girlhood. An overgrown hedge bordered one side, ripe red rosehips dangling, and the other was lined with small trees. It was quiet and peaceful the day we visited and I carry a little of that peace with me still.
Then we were off to the older village. More on what we found there in my next post.
Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.