An Edwardian Childhood
the making of a naturalist
New extended illustrated edition
UK RRP: £8.95
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Front cover: Family photograph of children
with steam engine, plus nature sketches by the author
Back cover: Photograph of the author
Paperback - 174 pages, illustrated
John Owen Smith; ISBN: 1-873855-47-8; December 2003
Associated titles: The Hilltop Writers by WR Trotter; Shottermill by Greta A Turner; Heatherley by Flora Thompson
Back Cover . Publisher's Note . Acknowledgements . Contents . List of Illustrations . Excerpt . About the Author . Reviews
Margaret Hutchinson was born in 1904, and grew up as part of a large Quaker family living in an old farmhouse on top of Marley Heights, situated between Fernhurst in Sussex and Haslemere in Surrey.
The family lived a life of self-sufficiency, the only machine on the farm being the children's toy steam engine. Shopping expeditions by pony and trap were an adventure, as were visits to grandfather, Sir Jonathan Hutchinson, F.R.S., the eminent surgeon and founder of Haslemere Museum.
Margaret Hutchinson was a member of Haslemere Natural History Society for seventy-four years and was widely respected as an amateur naturalist. From 1931 to 1955 she ran her Froebel Kindergarten school 'Yafflesmead' at Kingsley Green.
The charming chapter heading sketches throughout the book are her own. Many of the evocative photographs of the family were taken by 'Aunt Kitty'.
In preparing this edition of Margaret Hutchinson's Edwardian Childhood to celebrate the centenary of her birth (1904), we have taken the opportunity to add further illustrations and an extra chapter which was found recently among her papers. It was written some time after the original book, in answer to the recurring question, 'But what happened next?'
There is also an additional Postscript written by Penny Hollow who knew the author well.
The encouragement and assistance of Penny Hollow and others at Haslemere Museum in the preparation of this edition is gratefully acknowledged. Robert Hutchinson, Margaret Hutchinson's nephew, and Elizabeth Dick, her niece, kindly gave permission for us to republish the original text and ED supplied the manuscript of 'Recollections of Kingsley Green'.
Most illustrations included in this book come either from the Hutchinson family or from the archives of Haslemere Museum. Photographs from both sources include many taken by Kathleen Woods ('Aunt Kitty') and Elizabeth Newman ('Aunt Elsie') between about 1889 and 1914.
Simon Futcher kindly agreed to the publication of photographs by his father,
The family tree 'Our Lot' was drawn by Margaret Hutchinson in 1981.
Table of contents
List of Illustrations
The Guttering Candle
Playing in the Garden
On the Farm
Our Hill Top
In the Woods
Friends and Neighbours
Down to Haslemere
Over to Inval
Of Cabbages and Kings
Recollections of Kingsley Green
Postscript - a Naturalist Remembered
List of Illustrations
The Family Tree - "Our Lot" - frontispiece
The family at Moses Hill, 1913
Moses Hill Farm
Little boy standing with stick (Christopher)
Aunt Kitty photographed Christopher and Margaret by 'fire-light'
George and Margaret posed for a photograph
I generally had boys to play with
My four big brothers posed as sailor boys
Behind the stumps stands three-year old Mary looking as amused and innocent as Hugh
It is wonderful what can be found in old barns
Mr and Mrs Wheeler with Phoebe and Leo standing behind
Behind Hugh is the big barn where we often played
The only engine we had was a little model steam engine (also on cover)
Hugh and Mary on Zephyr
We gathered greenstuff for our rabbits
George and Bertel in the punt
The woods near Lynchmere in 1879
A woodcutter making barrel hoops
Cotchet Farm in 1877
View from Blackdown in 1936
The holiday at Whitecliff bay
A 'Mist Pond' on Blackdown circa 1905
I must say we looked rather sweet (and brave) in two inches of water
'Culture' on the sands at Sandown
Our near neighbour Mrs Matthay with Myra Hess and Bertel on Zephyr
The Main road through Kingsley Green
Jonathan Hutchinson in his museum at Haslemere
We drove carefully down Shepherds Hill into Haslemere
Haslemere High Street was quite a busy place
The sweet shop
'One might stroke the kangaroo …'
Inval valley in 1889
Grandfather at the moat, Inval
"The Library" at Inval
"Hazelhurst" garden, probably in the 1890s
The Moat in winter, 1889
'The Croft House' in 1997
Grandmother Woods with the Rosher triplets
Shottermill Pond circa 1880
All in order
Bertel with Kit
Bertel's Day at the Farm (facsimile)
'October House', previously 'Yafflesmead', shortly before it was demolished in 2003
"Our Shop" in Kingsley Green, 1960
MMH with children at Yafflesmead School, July 1939
'Silver thaw' on trees, 1st March 1947
'Tootles' the owl
Margaret Hutchinson 'dressed up' for a party in 1988
The Guttering Candle
1970 … There was a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder. The lights flickered and went out. We were in total darkness. I groped for my torch, went to the kitchen and lit the two candles we kept ready for just such an emergency, and took one to my elderly invalid aunt who had already gone to bed. She also had a torch but I gave her the candle instead.
A little later when I went in to see if she was alright I found she had blown
out the candle and left the torch on.
"You'll wear out the battery," I said, "and I can't get another tonight. We've lots of candles."
"I didn't want to waste it," she replied. "Look at all that grease dripping down. Horrible!"
"But don't you remember," I accused her laughing, "all those years and years when we lived with guttering candles? I used to chew that dripping part. Dirty little girl!"
I sat on her bed and we reminisced over the days before the magic of electricity
put an end to the dirt and messiness of candles and oil lamps with which Aunt
Hilda had lived far longer than I had.
The electric light came on again, suddenly, silently, with no effort on our part, but my mind had gone right back over sixty years when Mother would admonish us children as we started upstairs to bed: "Mind the candle. Hold it straight and don't spill grease on the stairs."
I enjoyed my candle. I read by it, I played with it. The grease liquefied
in a little crucible of its own making at the base of the black, curved wick,
till it overflowed and trickled, hardening as it went down the side of the candle.
Often I would make a dent in the side of the crucible with a match, and precipitate
a cascade of grease. Or I would make a pattern around the edge, creating a series
of tiny cascades.
One could roll candle grease in one's fingers and make worms, or put a roll around one's teeth and pretend one had a denture like a grown-up. The wick would grow a blob on the end and dip down into the molten grease. Then one had to lift it out with a match and knock off the end.
The flickering candle cast lights and shadows about the room, particularly fascinating ones if the room had a sloping ceiling. When you carried it upstairs and along the draughty passage you had to shield the flame with one hand to prevent it going out. In my own house at least, I was never afraid of the dark, perhaps because of the flickering lights I grew up with.
Downstairs in the living-room were table lamps. Each morning the wicks had
to be trimmed to get the soot off, the funnels cleaned, and the oil-wells refilled.
Every now and then a new wick had to be put in. This seemed to be a tricky business
for it did not always catch on the ratchet that wound it up and down.
Not infrequently the flame grew too high. Then there would be a blackened glass chimney and black soot floated about the room, getting up one's nostrils. Some people hung a hairpin on the top of the funnel believing that this prevented smoking, but I doubt if there was any truth in this.
Our grown-ups were always on the look-out for trouble with the table lamps. When we children got rampaging around the room of a winter's evening, Mother would call out "Mind the lamp!" and we would have to simmer down. There was a heavy serge table-cloth and always the fear that some sturdy toddler (there were always toddlers in our family!) would pull on this and drag the whole lot over on top of itself. But this is how we lived, and I can say now without any fear of "tempting Providence" that we never had an accident with lamps or bedside candles. Or in fact with open wood and coal fires generally well screened behind fireguards; or with the large, black kitchen range that dropped red-hot coals into the brass fender below.
MY FIRST HOME - MOSES HILL FARM
All this took place at the home I first remember that went by the quaint name of Moses Hill Farm. As a child I had a vague idea that Moses had struck a rock up on that lovely hill-top in Sussex. Later I learned its true origin, which I had better explain at once to set the scene for the first nine years of my life as a country child before the First World War changed everything.
The oldest part of the farm dated back probably to Plantagenet times, at any rate before chimneys were thought of. There was a central room going right up to the roof. A fire was made in the centre and smoke rose up and out through a hole in the top. In the process the sturdy oak beams became blackened, and though it must have been much more uncomfortable to live with than our candles and oil lamps, it helped to preserve the timbers.
The farm was originally called "Highfields," an obvious name for it stands on the crest of the hill 700 feet above sea-level. By 1539, however, a farmer of the name of John Mose was there. It is from him that the name has persisted. It is said, but on what authority I do not know, that a certain Mr Mose took his wife all the way to London to be cured of the King's Evil, Scrofula, by being touched by Charles I. The forty-five mile journey in those days must have been quite a venture, for roads were miry and highwaymen were not unknown.
From time to time the farmhouse was altered and extended. At one stage it belonged to the Cowdrays of Cowdray Park, Midhurst, and was used as a hunting (or was it merely shooting?) lodge. By the time our family moved into it there was a dear old Sussex couple, Mr and Mrs Tom Wheeler, living in the oldest corner, which was a self-contained cottage. The rest, part very old, part newer, was a house of two living rooms and kitchen and five or six bedrooms. It even had a bathroom with hot and cold!
We moved up to Moses Hill from Haslemere, our nearest town over two miles
away, when I was a few months old, so I do not remember that. Apparently Christopher,
three years my senior, had had scarlet fever and he and a governess, Miss Smith,
went first to remove him from the family. I like the faded photo of the curly-headed
little boy standing with a stick (all country boys brandished sticks - it is
part of their boy nature) by the faggots stacked against a corner of the house.
They were used to light the fires.
It must have been a strange, lonely life with only the Wheelers next door, until the main contingent joined them.
My own earliest recollections are of the various rooms, the farm buildings and, of course, the people around me. Curiously, the part of the house I remember best is upstairs. Two of my brothers slept in a bedroom in the oldest part of the house, with a steep sloping roof, a dormer window and black, black beams and rafters. There was just room to get in along one side of each bed without bumping your head on the beams. It was on brother Jan's bed that I used to sit for what seemed like hours as he brushed and combed my hair and tied it up in ribbons. He was just enjoying himself trying out different effects. I could lay it at his door that he brushed all the wave out of my hair, for early photos show me with a pretty wave, but by the age of twelve it was straight and lank like seaweed.
It was said that, when I, the eldest girl, was born, and my four brothers were shown their first sister, one of them remarked: "But we wanted a proper sort of girl, one with hair!" I wonder if this was Jan also?
It was into this boys' bedroom one Christmas morning early that I had trotted, clutching my Christmas stocking. As we opened our stockings and cracked nuts and chewed sticky sweets in the half dark one of the boys spilt the beans about Father Christmas. "I know who it is," he said, "it's Mother and Father really."
I did not want to believe him, but gradually the penny dropped, and being a matter-of-fact sort of child I was not unduly disturbed. The main concern was to hide one's discovery from one's parents, for it was well known that as soon as one knew the facts, Father Christmas ceased to call. Already George had stopped hanging up his stocking, and I felt quite sorry for him.
There was another curious room in which another brother, generally Christopher,
slept. Its oddness lay in the fact that it had a window at floor level. Aunt
Kitty was an expert photographer. One day, erecting the fire-dogs and fire irons
in front of the window, she took photos of several of us by "fire-light."
This was, of course, before the days of flash-light photography, and the light
used was strong sunlight coming through the window.
One went up two or three steps from this room into my parents' bedroom over the drawing-room, which was the newest part of the house. In a corner of this quite large room I had my little bed, under a window that looked right over the garden. Though I did not remember this until I saw this room quite recently, the big window at the other end of the room commanded a magnificent view across the end of Blackdown and right over the weald of Sussex to the South Downs. It is interesting now to look back and realise that the things one remembers so vividly are the scenes nearer home, the places where I roamed and played. Young children are not nearly so much influenced by the grandeur of a distant view.
I am not being very chronological in my description of upstairs for I am sure
that before this I must have slept in the night nursery with a nurse or "Mother's
help", whichever reigned at the time, until a new arrival came to push
New arrivals came three times in the nine years we were at Moses Hill. First Hugh, then Mary and lastly Rachel. Even she was not destined to remain the youngest of the family, for four years later came along what ought to have been called Benjamin, but in reality was named Laurence. Mother got a fancy for the name from reading many times over to us Louisa Alcott's Little Women and Little Men.
To return to the parents' bedroom in which I remember sleeping. Hugh, having now been pushed out of the night nursery by Mary, was sleeping with Christopher, and each morning he would hold up a corner of his nightie so that he didn't trip on it, and tiptoe up the steps into our room for a good play with me before it was time to get dressed. It seems we always played "Christening the Baby." Being Quakers our babies were not baptised and this made the ceremony as we had seen it performed in Children's services at Fernhurst parish church all the more dramatic. So this is where Hugh's nightie became so important. It made a perfect surplice. Hugh stood solemnly beside the washstand and I stood opposite holding my baby doll.
There were two things that happened to most babies, though only one of them
to ours. So it is understandable that Hugh, with as reverent a voice as his
four years could manage, announced one day: "Now it is time to vaccinate
the baby!" "Silly," I replied scornfully, "you mean christen."
Much later when Laurence was being vaccinated we children as usual gathered
round to watch. Bits of lint and sticking plaster were placed on the table.
Mother held the chubby baby's arm while the doctor made the jabs - four of them.
He placed the lint over them and then hunted for the plaster. Christopher, who
had a bubbling sense of humour, was holding his sides in his efforts not to
explode, for the plaster was stuck on the doctor's elbow.
It is with some amusement that one reflects that Hugh did in fact grow up to baptise many infants, but being a Congregationalist he did not have to wear a nightie. Despite a strong bias towards medicine in earlier generations, none of my brothers or sisters ever vaccinated anyone.
Every two or three years our dear Nurse Castle would come to stay, with a large Gladstone bag. I would be removed to another room to sleep, Mother would retire to bed, and there would be a certain hush about the house, though very pleasant because Nurse was our visitor. Then one morning we would be ushered into Mother's room to see the tiny baby lying in bed with her. I remember no feeling of jealousy, only excitement and love for this new arrival.
As Nurse came several times, however, we did begin to be suspicious and I
remember Christopher drawing me aside and suggesting in a whisper, "Do
you think Nurse has brought another baby?" Sometimes we asked her outright,
only to be answered with her delightful chuckle and a fond caress. After all
there were times when she visited us and no babies materialised, but then she
only came for the day.
But that Gladstone bag was a bit awesome. We would glance anxiously at it. I never liked the idea of a baby in one of those, but we never had the nerve to look in, unlike some other "customers" Nurse told me of later on, whom she caught having a good hunt in it.
Nurse stayed a whole month. Mother lay in bed three weeks, reading and feeding the baby, (fascinating that we were allowed to watch), and presently (after the umbilical cord had come away) we stood around enchanted at the ceremony of bathing the baby. How gentle Nurse was, how smiling, how devoted to her work.
I only once remember feeling embarrassed and that was when I asked of the
well wrapped up infant how they knew it was a girl? The grown-ups exchanged
glances and I was "put off". Of course, the penny dropped as soon
as I saw it being bathed, for we younger children bathed and dressed together
and we knew the difference between boys and girls just like that.
I think, brought up as we were, most pennies dropped in time though we were really told nothing for a very long time.
GLIMPSE AT RELATIVES
Out in Africa at a little place called Heaney Junction on the railway line near Bulawayo five months after my arrival on earth, by whatever means we were not told, three babies, triplets were born to Mother's sister, our Aunt Effie. They caused a great stir, not only out there, but back home also.
Comments such as "may one be spared," "only the poor do such things," and, "were they born with their eyes open?" were made. This last one was made by a middle-aged spinster. Unmarried ladies were not supposed to know much about babies, unless perchance they became involved.
The triplet's aunt, Miss Ethel Rosher, had gone out to help with the new baby. Being an eminently practical soul she had read up about birth before setting out. This was indeed a good thing for in the event she found herself with the help of a neighbour delivering not one, not two, but three. She managed magnificently and, despite the gloomy forebodings back home, they not only lived but are all alive and well in this year of grace 1980. They are Betty, Fred and Frank and will come into this story several times.
They had an older sister Evelyn, who had had the stage to herself for five
years. Now the whole household revolved around these squealing infants, and
one's heart bleeds for poor Evelyn.
Unlike us, she had been told where babies came from. Aunt Ethel told her quite definitely that they came down from Heaven. Having got this clearly in her mind, on one particularly trying day Evelyn declared she wished God would take them back again!
Much later, when we were all children together sharing a holiday, Evelyn boasted to me in bed one night that the triplets had been born within five miles of a lion's den. The picture conjured up in my mind the possibility of a lioness carrying off baby after baby in its mouth to feed its own - oh dear, it was hard to get to sleep that night.
Well, after that dramatic interlude concerning "the trips" we will return to our own sheltered life in Sussex. Having referred to several members of our long family, perhaps it would clarify matters to put them down in chronological order and give some reason for their names. In the case of the younger members of the family I remember the great discussions that took place before a name was finally decided upon. It was a matter of great importance; there was a strong clannish feeling about the family and many people to be remembered. An infant might remain nameless several weeks before a decision was made.
George Woods, the eldest, was named after Mother's father who had died when she was a little girl. Herbert Procter was named after Father (Herbert) and a brother of his, or more likely after a branch of the family in bygone days, the Procters. We always called Herbert Procter "Bertel" after Bertel Thorvaldsen the Danish sculptor.
Jonathan, the third boy, could have no second name. It was clear he was named simply after our revered paternal grandfather Jonathan Hutchinson, F.R.S. In my mind at least, Grandfather came second only to God. Father was entirely devoted to him and his broad, enlightened philosophy of life. We called our Jonathan, Jan. Rightly or wrongly I connected this with the heroic Dutch story of "Jan and the Windmill."
Christopher West - by now we could begin to introduce new first names, which, like new blood, are good things. One of the aunts (there were many) told Mother that of course he would be Luke as he was born on St Luke's day, but in Mother's mind there was no "of course" about it. There was some confusion, however, as to whether he was named after the new church then being built in Haslemere - St Christopher's - or the church after him. Neither, I feel sure. Our parents would delve far deeper than that to the kindly Saint Christopher who carried the Infant Jesus across the river. We were early shown pictures of this on Sunday evenings. West was our paternal grandmother's maiden name. Amongst ourselves we usually shortened Christopher to Kit, again not without some confusion - for the pony was Kit also.
Then I came along, Margaret Massey, both family names. I have always liked my first name. There is no false modesty in me.
Hugh Bernard - again Hugh brought in new blood. Bernard was the name of Father's youngest brother who died at the age of ten. He had been playing in the gardens at Cavendish Square where they lived, when he fell and grazed his knee. Tetanus set in and it must have been a heartbreak for his learned medical father to watch helplessly his little boy sicken and die in ten days. There was no cure.
Alice Mary was after a cousin of our parents who had died shortly before Mary made her entry into the world. I have always thought Mary the most perfect girl's name, and do not think we ever shortened it. It is so simple, so complete.
Rachel remained some while without a name while there was much to-ing and fro-ing. Finally she became Elizabeth after Mother and her mother, and Rachel for tears at the death of this maternal grandmother, a few days after Elizabeth Rachel was born. For some years however, she was known in the family as Libby.
Laurence has already been explained. He had no other name. We were dried up.
Downstairs, though vividly remembered, seems unimportant. When one was not getting up or going to bed one spent all the time possible out of doors and that will play an important part in subsequent chapters.
The stairs were narrow and steep and had a curious bend half way up. Ascending candles cast eerie shadows. It was a recurrent nightmare that I was falling down them, not going bump, bump from stair to stair, but floating through air. I woke with a start just before crashing on to the floor at the bottom. Another reminiscence is of Mary when a toddler picking up a bumble bee on the stairs with disastrous results. As Mother cuddled her on her knee and held the bluebag to the swelling finger Mary wailed - "But I thought it was a buffalode." The bottom few steps were by a window where we sat struggling into boots and leggings or gaiters. We never wore shoes out of doors, though sometimes sandals in the summer. As we were allowed to run anywhere and get our feet very wet we usually wore heavy leather boots. Girls' boots were longer in the leg than boys' and needed more doing up; I often wore boys' boots. They were tiresome to lace, especially if the little metal tip to the lace had come off, then you bent over and licked the frayed end to make it into a point to go through the eyelet. Some boots had hooks around which the laces wound. These were easier, but the hooks had a way of bending and breaking.
Leggings or gaiters, worn in winter, covered our woollen stockings with felt or soft leather. These were generally buttoned with what seemed like an endless stream of horrid round buttons that had to be pulled through the button holes with a button hook. As you reached the fattest part of the calf of your leg you were apt to pinch the skin. I took a great dislike to these last few stairs on which one had to learn the art of lacing and tying and buttoning.
At the bottom of the stairs was a door into a small cobbled yard with a parapet wall and a few steps down on to the big yard, which was really our drive. But in the little yard, just opposite the door were the earth closets - three of them in a row, dark and earthy. We were used to them, but I am glad now that they are a thing of the dim past.
The hall was quite large but unpretentious with dirty shoes and garden coats
At the modern end of the house were the dining and drawing-rooms with a passage between leading to the front door.
The dining-room was dominated by one large table with chairs for the family, for we always had meals with our parents after the age of about five. There was a large armchair beside the fire. This has stuck firmly in my mind since the day when I was called in from the garden to see - or be seen by - my uncle the doctor, or doctor my uncle. I quite liked him. He was rather jolly in fact, but I am sure I should have liked him better if he had not been my doctor, and I do not think relatives ought to be doctors, if you get my meaning.
Anyway, on that morning, he sat me up at the dining table and asked Mother to fetch a pudding basin. He then pushed a paint brush down my throat till I retched horribly, poked something else down, pulled out nasty bloody stuff into the basin, and Hey Presto, my tonsils had been removed. He laughed at me for spitting in his face, told Mother I would not like anything salty for a day or two, and departed. I curled up in the armchair and sulked, wondering why I should be made to feel ill when I had been enjoying myself playing in the garden - and that was that.
Father's study, where he did much of his planning of houses, was half very light, with a pretty, low window surrounded by roses and hollyhocks, and half very dark. It must have been part old, dark with blackened beams, and part new where the window was. We used to climb in and out of the window, using it much as one would use a french window. Though this was definitely a "quiet room" (we had a great respect and some awe for Father which perhaps grew as we grew older), he was not at all exclusive about it and enjoyed our company in small numbers.
When I was only a few months old he was planning a beautiful house for Commander Henderson. This house was called Keffolds and has since become well known as a Dr Barnardo Home and later an Ockenden Venture Home. Commander Henderson would come to Father's study and discuss plans and was amused one day to see a baby lying in a rocking cradle in the study. That baby was me.
It shows how, although so intent on his work and his very highbrow interests,
Father was a very homely man.
Actually the cradle, though it looked old, was only made up of old oak panels that Father had got hold of somewhere and had put together in his builders' workshop. We did not use it much for babies, but later spent much time playing in it.
THE KITCHEN AND ITS UTENSILS
The kitchen was in the old part of the house, a large rectangular room with a black range at one end and the washing-up sink along one side. This was unusual in those days when washing up was generally done in a pantry or a scullery. One had to pass through the kitchen to get to the back door and the dairy, and this must have made it an awkward room to manage. I am sorry to say my recollection of both kitchen and kitchen staff is that they were rather drear.
It must have been difficult to keep kitchen quarters clean in those days,
so many things were dirty anyway. Coal and wood to carry, lamps and candles
to see to, knife sharpening, continual drying of heavy wet clothes and boots,
for we had no easily dried mackintoshes and no wellington boots. Galoshes were
not a practical proposition in the country. They had a habit of staying in the
mud as you drew your booted foot out.
Dinner knives were sharpened and stains removed on a flat stone on which a paste of red fuller's earth was spread. They were, of course, washed both before and after. How different from the labour saving stainless steel we have had in use so long now.
The outside of the kettle was always black, though frequently brushed to get
the soot off. We often boiled a kettle in the dining-room and on the bars of
the fireplace in both this and the drawing-room were fixed circular trivets
on which to stand the singing kettle.
A kettle-holder was always kept handy. Cross-stitch kettle-holders, as well as iron-holders, were common presents made by small daughters (in my case under much protest and pressure) as Christmas and birthday presents for one's Mother.
Irons were literally made of iron. They were black and were heated on the kitchen range. To test whether the iron was hot enough one spat on its base. If it fizzed it was just right. Two irons were in use at a time, one heating up as the other was used. They soon cooled and had to be re-heated. A cloth was kept handy to wipe them, for they might well be dirty standing there on the range. Later one was able to buy a stainless metal "shoe" in which to place the iron and this made it much cleaner. It is quite astonishing to realise now how clean and white and well-starched aprons, maids' caps, table-cloths, serviettes, etc all came out. A great deal of hard work went in to the washing (with hard soap) and ironing of all these, as well as our clothing, including long baby gowns. No "drip dry" then.
Though we lived quite comfortably at Moses Hill, ours was not in any way a smart set-up. We generally had a cook and a maid in the kitchen, a nurse or mother's help around, and sometimes a boot-boy who did all kinds of odd jobs. I do not think we always had this number of staff however, for I remember my brothers early being taught to clean shoes, and my being coerced into helping too.
One boot-boy we loved dearly. He was Edgar Head from Fernhurst, a lad of about
fourteen. He came up on a bicycle. He must have pushed it most of the way up
for Moses Hill was 500 feet sheer above the village but he would have had a
grand spin homewards at the end of the day. Edgar was the essence of good nature
to us children, and we treated him as a real friend. Later he became chairman
of the Fernhurst Parish Council.
For most of the time our nurse was Phoebe, the daughter of Mr and Mrs Wheeler. She ruled the younger members of the family a bit hard, but I, being rather betwixt and between, came off fairly well, and was really quite fond of her.
About the Author
by Penny Hollow
Margaret Massey Hutchinson (MMH) 1904-1997
A NATURALIST REMEMBERED
I first met Margaret Hutchinson in the early 1970s, when I was a young trainee at Haslemere Educational Museum. Following in the footsteps of her aunt, Agnes Hutchinson, she was much involved with the Museum (which had been founded by her grandfather), as an active committee member, Honorary Librarian and trustee. A tall and imposing figure, she was greatly respected and everyone at the Museum was slightly in awe of her, always ensuring that her requests (polite notes signed with the characteristic "MMH") were quickly acted upon.
One day in 1978, I had a totally unexpected phone call from her. She had heard that I was in a rather cramped bed-sit - would I like to go and live "upstairs" in her house at Inval? Some years earlier arthritis had forced her to adapt to ground floor living and "upstairs" had become a small flat that she rented out to carefully chosen tenants. Without hesitation I accepted and there followed eight idyllic years at the Croft House, high on that secluded hillside above Haslemere.
MMH was never anything like a typical landlady and to me, as to many other young people, she became a friend and much-respected mentor. It was a household where a passion for natural history was the expected norm and where the comings and goings of the natural world were at least as important as the doings of friends and neighbours. I would return home each evening with keen anticipation, knowing that there might be news to hear of a local wren's nest or a freshly dissected plant gall to view under the microscope.
As arthritis curtailed her walks I was privileged to act as her scout, tramping the local woods and fields in search of specimens for her gall research and sightings for her monthly Nature Notes column. On fine summer evenings I would be despatched to count glow-worms at the bottom of the garden or to watch bats over the Moat. However, she did not allow disability to restrict her travels entirely and she would set off down muddy and rutted woodland tracks in her elderly Hillman, a vehicle certainly never designed for off-road use, whose gears had a will of their own. A kindly guardian angel must have been around, as she always returned safely.
MMH valued her independence and although she was happy to delegate small errands to her friends, she preferred assistance with finding, or making, simple gadgets to solve problems. My favourite project was the design of a combined dustbin-lid-lifter-and-badger-baffle. MMH found the heavy metal dustbin lid difficult to manage whilst using walking sticks, but the local badger had no difficulty in tipping it off with an almighty crash at midnight. A careful arrangement of cords and a counterweight solved this problem, allowing the lid to be lifted with one finger, but giving any marauding badger a salutary (but non-injurious) biff on the snout.
A SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR
During those years she was generally writing something, either her column for the local newspaper or a piece for a natural history journal. Soon, however, she was quietly working on the story of her childhood, neatly hand-written with a biro, as she never took to a typewriter. In mid 1981, after weeks of patient proof reading, the first edition of "A Childhood in Edwardian Sussex" arrived from the publishers. That evening, not even the insistent clamour of the cuckoo clock could recall me to my forgotten supper as I read the book from cover to cover.
The first edition was quickly out of print, its success surprising and delighting the author. With advice (not always welcomed), from the publisher, she made minor modifications for the second (1983) edition including a full colour cover to replace her own line drawings. That also sold steadily and when it in turn was out of print, copies were eagerly sought in second-hand bookshops.
MMH was able to stay in her own home until the last few weeks before her death in July 1997. She continued researching and writing until her sight deteriorated and she ensured that her plant gall collection was carefully indexed before she donated it to Haslemere Museum.
After her death I was asked to write an article on her natural history connections for the local paper and, with the help of her friends and after much enjoyable browsing amongst her notes and scrapbooks, I was able to compile a portrait of a dedicated naturalist.
NATURALIST AND TEACHER
Margaret Hutchinson was a member of Haslemere Natural History Society for 74 years, surely a record. In 1978 she was elected an Honorary Member in recognition of her support as a committee member, keen field worker, leader and writer and, in more recent years, by maintaining the local bird records.
Her deep interest in natural history, and particularly birds, had begun in childhood and at the age of twelve she had submitted a detailed and beautifully illustrated essay on local birds to her school Junior Nature Society. (The original is now at Haslemere Museum, together with her notebooks and fascinating journals, written over nearly 80 years.)
Writing in 1989 for the Journal of the British Plant Gall Society, she said "At the Quaker School, Sidcot, in Somerset, I made no mark beyond being on the committee of the Natural History Society and writing the bird reports of our annual outing to Brean Down." Despite this modesty she had undoubtedly absorbed a wide range of knowledge, for she was a successful teacher. From 1931 to 1955 she provided a sound and imaginative education for dozens of children. "Professionally I was a Froebel trained teacher with my own school hidden in the woods near Haslemere. Here were endless opportunities for Nature Study with young children: tracking in the snow, watching nesting birds from hides, collecting wild flowers, rearing butterflies. Nature-wise we were always on tip-toe."
MMH had endless patience with the children, but less with some of the teachers she met. "My school 'Yafflesmead' closed in 1955 as I had to care for my ageing parents, but I wrote several books for children and did some lecturing and holiday courses for teachers. I could have wept at the ignorance I met. Instance the teacher who gazed sentimentally down on a grass-grown ant-hill and remarked 'To think one ant can make all that'."
FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES
MMH often said that nature study was best enjoyed alone or with a single companion. For many years that companion was another local naturalist, Phyllis Bond. In pre-war days, they would stay in a railway Camping Coach at Pagham, where they would spend all the daylight hours bird-watching and plant hunting along the shores of the Harbour.
Although MMH took her studies very seriously, she had a keen sense of fun,
never more obvious than in 1988 when she appeared at the Natural History Society's
Centenary garden party at Shulbrede Priory, unrecognisably attired as a dour
Victorian farm labourer. Arthur Jewell, former Museum curator, remembered an
"It must have been in 1949 when I first met MMH, at her unique little school, Yafflesmead. One fine summer's day I attended an open-air performance of 'Hiawatha' which took place on the lawn. The main house was the family home and there was an additional wooden classroom situated in the extensive grounds. As the play proceeded there was a loud noise of "WHOOOO" and from the shrubbery adjoining the lawn emerged the extraordinary figure of Margaret Hutchinson, draped in old hessian sacking, in her role of The North Wind. The children seemed startled and I was astonished!"
John Puttick, himself a retired teacher and keen naturalist, continued: "Between
friends Margaret was most often affectionately referred to by her initials,
"M.M." She and I co-operated in arranging an exhibition of children's
work on their interests in natural history, at the Museum. She was most critical
of any indication that undue adult help had been involved: it was the young
effort that was sought to be encouraged and rewarded.
"In 1988, the Natural History Society's centenary, I asked her if she would write the foreword to the booklet - "The First Century" - which celebrated the event. She kindly agreed and we went through the text together. She was highly critical of any error, not merely in grammatical nicety but in the exact choice of word to suit the statement. She kept handy Roget's Thesaurus to resolve any difficulty."
In her 60s she took up a new hobby, the study of plant galls (particularly
those caused by insects) and within ten years had become a well-known and respected
expert. As a teacher she had enjoyed sharing and passing on her interests, but
she felt that this had kept her at a fairly elementary level. Now she wished,
for her own satisfaction, to try to add a little to scientific knowledge. Laura
Ponsonby, herself an accomplished botanist, recalled:
"M.M. inspired everyone to start looking at these curious structures. She made a systematic study of galls - "sleeving" them and maintaining a reference collection (now housed at Haslemere Museum). She discovered a new gall, the Kola (or Cola-nut) Gall and corresponded with other enthusiasts throughout Britain and abroad.
"In latter years I used to go to tea with her, when she could no longer get about and could hardly see. The conversation was very lively and ranged over many topics, from galls, glow-worms and gardening to matters of social or scientific interest. Her standards never slipped and an excellent tea was provided."
She was a remarkable, able and ardent naturalist, always willing to draw on
the immense knowledge she acquired through her abiding interest in every aspect
of the countryside. It was this knowledge she used to delight readers of the
"Haslemere Herald" with the Museum Nature Notes, which she wrote for
over 20 years.
MMH's naturalist friends remember her with respect and much affection. She was always interested in what one had to say and listened with great attention. Her enthusiasm and constructive comments were encouraging and she inspired many younger friends with the confidence to take their hobbies seriously. Without any doubt, she had risen to the challenge that her father had set her. It was a great privilege to know her.
The Messenger, 21 January 2004
LOCAL BESTSELLER GETS A REPRINT
The fascinating life story of a Haslemere woman born 100 years ago is retold in a book which has already proved a major attraction.
An Edwardian Childhood sold out its first print run on publication day and the second run is now available from the Haslemere Museum Shop and from local bookshops. Margaret Hutchinson was born in 1904 in Haslemere, a member of a well-known local family and grand-daughter of Sir Jonathan Hutchinson (founder of Haslemere Educational Museum), she spent almost the whole of her life (and of the 20th century), within a few miles of her birthplace. She died in 1997.
In 1981 Margaret wrote the story of her unconventional childhood, growing up as one of nine Quaker children in the very different world of the early 1900s. It was a charming story which she illustrated with old family photographs and had published privately, largely to be enjoyed by her many nephews and nieces.
Candles, kettle holders, coal fires and muddy galoshes were all part of everyday life for the children. Motor cars and electricity were almost unknown and shopping expeditions into Haslemere were by pony and trap. The freedom the children had to roam the woods and fields with their donkey and build rafts on the farm ponds seems unbelievable today.
In 2003 the Hutchinson executors gave permission for Penny Hollow of Haslemere Museum, together with local published John Owen Smith, to produce a new and enlarged version.
This incorporates Margaret's own short sequel and extra illustrations, including many from a newly discovered family album, which had been missing for more than 70 years.
The Haslemere Herald, 23 January 2004
AN EDWARDIAN CHILDHOOD IS BROUGHT TO VIBRANT LIFE
BRINGING Edwardian Haslemere to life in a new book is Penny Hollow of Haslemere
An Edwardian Childhood tells the story of Margaret Hutchinson, the granddaughter of Haslemere Museum's founder, John Hutchinson, and her early life in the local area.
Family life, schooldays and the setting-up of her own school in Kingsley Green, which she ran from 1931 to 1955, are all documented.
The account is peppered with local references and archive photos which make it a fascinating read for anyone interested in local history.
The book was originally published in 1981, mainly for the benefit of Miss
Hutchinson's nieces and nephews. However Mrs Hollow, who knew Margaret well,
was keen to update it and make it appeal to a wider audience.
"I was given permission by the Hutchinson family to produce a new and enlarged version. Before, I think it only really appealed to those who knew her or the local area.
"It took me three months from deciding to do the project to completion and it has been selling steadily. The new look of the cover is much more appealing."
Working with Headley Down-based writer John Owen Smith, who has published a number of local history titles, the book contains additional archive photographs from the 1880s and 1890s and a previously unpublished sequel.
Mrs Hollow added: "This brings it all more up to date. Many of her nieces and nephews wanted to know what happened afterwards. I also added a postscript on how I knew her and what an incredible character she was."
The updated version includes archive pictures which were taken by Mrs Hutchinson's aunt, Elsie Newman. "Margaret's aunt was a keen photographer which was quite rare in the Victorian era and an album full of photos she took were left in her house when she died in the 1920s", said Mrs Hollow.
"But in 1997, they were returned to the museum by the person who had since lived in the property for which we are very grateful. When I was looking for photos for the book, I realised that lots of what was being written went exactly with the photos. This showed she had an amazing memory for someone in her 70s."
Margaret Hutchinson had lived in and around Haslemere all her life up and
she died in 1997 at the age of 93.
She was a member of Haslemere Natural History Society for 74 years and was also widely respected as an amateur naturalist.
"I remember Margaret sat on the veranda in the sunshine writing away when she was quite arthritic in 1981 but no one knew at that point that the end result would be so extensive."
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