Who am I? by Wendy Bennett

1943 January - 1982 May

Created by Ruth one year ago
Who am I? - where do I start?  In Richmond, North Riding of Yorkshire, where I was born. My mother, a very pretty, slim, petite auburn haired young woman was working behind the counter in her father’s jeweller’s, M. Scott, at 9 King Street, Richmond, when my father Captain Geoffrey Cuthbert Cuthbert-Brown RA, went in to get his watch repaired! “May I have permission, Sir, to take out your daughter?”
The Scott family lived at 30 Westfields, Richmond, the last house at the top of the hill, next door to the Peacock Racing Stables, and the views were wonderful.  It could also be very windy and I have memories of lying awake in bed watching the moving shadows on the ceiling above my head of the branches of the trees being blown by the wind past the street light outside. They had a lovely rose garden in the front and I loved picking the little tiny rosebuds. In the back garden were vegetables and fruit bushes and a pond at the top of the rockery and greenhouse attached to the rear end of the garage.
When Gran went to water the tomatoes (Oh, the smell) she would give me one of the tiny red tomatoes to eat.  I remember their dog, Peter, rescue dog which was part corgi but with longer legs. He would nip Gran’s ankles as she took out the washing to hang up in the garden.  He would follow me around and much to my delight accompanied me one day down into the town when I went to see my grandpa, “Pampa”, at the shop. 9 King Street was on a hill which went up to the market square; inside there were wonderful glass fronted showcases full of beautiful sparkly silver. In the front window was a tipping clock ( name ???) a little gold ball would run backwards and forwards as the plate tipped, or did the ball tip the plate? It was well known and many years later I met someone who remembered it from his own Service time at nearby Catterick Army Camp. Pampa employed George to do the watch repairs; George was Polish, he wore a brown overall and was just like a big teddy bear. I would sit on his knee and he would show me what he was doing. There were rows and rows of fascinating little drawers containing all the little parts necessary for watch repairs. There was a big glass case in the comer where the watch parts were placed for cleaning.
Mummy and Daddy were married on 4th January, 1941, at St Mary’s Church, Richmond, in deep snow. The snow froze in my mother’s veil and Auntie Winnie took it home and put it in hot water to wash and it promptly disintegrated!  The photographer was coming from Darlington and got stuck in the snow, so there were no formal photos.  My parents had to go separately to his studio to be photographed - Mummy with a borrowed veil - and Daddy could not get leave, so the two photos were then “glued together” to make a couple! Their honeymoon was two nights at a hotel in Harrogate. It was wartime.
After the war we moved down to 48 Stradbroke Grove, Buckhurst Hill, Essex and Daddy would commute up to the City to work at The Royal Exchange. His parents lived at 14 Palmerston Road which was just at the top of our road. Our house and garden backed on to the railway line. My brother John Michael was born there on 4 April 1948; I was awoken by the commotion and very disappointed that I had a baby brother and not the little puppy that I so longed to have from the litter over the road! The puppy I wanted was brown and white but they insisted that I had the black one because it was stronger; poor Pip, I never liked him and have never liked black dogs since then. He would go behind the cooker and have fits, so did not last long.
Later in 1948 we moved to live at 5 Aldenham Avenue, Radlett, Hertfordshire. What I remember as a lovely big Victorian house with an enormous attic.  I went to St Margaret’s School, Batler’s Green, and then to Mrs Stag’s Montessori School just up the road. It is about this time that Daddy started to get weakness in his right arm.  After a lot of tests, it was diagnosed as Progressive Muscular Atrophy (today’s equivalent of Motor Neurone Disease). He was given six months to live in 1950 and went to a Nursing Home in Forest Road, Walthamstow. I remember going to visit him by Green Line coach, changing at Golders Green and by a pond and a little row of shops with a cafe, at Woodford Green? He would be sitting in the window of his room above the front door watching out for us. Dear Daddy. I would play in the grounds and old Victorian greenhouses. He died in 1952.
We then moved around the comer to White Walls, Christchurch Crescent, at the top of an un-made road. I would walk down every day to go to school on the 355 bus which stopped in Watling Street and took me to St. Albans High School for Girls. My school days were unremarkable! In the Sixth Form I was made Games Captain of my House, Julian, and I excelled at the high jump, as had my father in his schooldays. He won lots of little silver cups for this. Our ancestor John Brown also excelled at High Jump and I have an engraved claret jug he won in 1876.
My brother John was fortunate to have a presentation to Christ’s Hospital School, Horsham, Sussex.  In those days there was no half term; we were allowed to go down and take him out for the day. This involved an early start, walking down to the station, steam train up to St Pancras, two changes on the Underground to Victoria station and depending on times if we were lucky we got a train that stopped at Christ’s Hospital Station, or had to change at Horsham. We would walk from the station up to the school to collect John, then back down again and take a train back to Horsham. By this time, we were hungry and ready for lunch, shopping for John and then back to school again.  Years later with a car, the whole performance was a lot easier!  We would stop in Richmond Park with a thermos en route. Mummy had a white Triumph Herald convertible PR0191D with red upholstery. Great fun!
For a long time, I wanted to be an Occupational Therapist and I passed all the exams to do my training, but had to wait to start this in September. They recommended a secretarial course to fill the gap between school and them. For this I went to Watford Technical College. We had a marvellous teacher and a great group of people; rather like me, privately educated and filling in there. One day we were told that the Medical Records Officer at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore, was looking for secretaries. The sister of my friend worked there and it rather appealed, so I went for an interview.  I got a job training in the Out Patient Appointments Office and progressed from there. After3 years, I went to Great Ormond Street as ENT secretary, then on to Harley Street. All very interesting jobs. In this time, I also went to live in London: a flat in 3 Albert Terrace Mews, Primrose Hill, and then 1 Montague Mews South near Marble Arch. Sally Howe (now Amot) and I are still great friends from those days.
Time to move on again, so looked for jobs abroad. Found one in the Daily Telegraph for English correspondence in Switzerland.  At interview I learnt it was in Liechtenstein, even better!  Three weeks later I was there!  Sunshine and mountains and meadow flowers in the springtime. Beautiful.  Twelve months turned into six years. I met Christine who loved skiing, so each weekend in the winter was spent skiing in Klosters and summertime touring around that part of Europe.  As a catholic country there were 14 public holidays in the year and if those fell on a Thursday or a Tuesday we would take a day’s leave and have a long weekend away: Florence, Venice, Strasbourg, Alsace, etc.  Christine moved on after 2 years and I then got to know more local people, I learnt to ride and had half livery of a dear horse rescued from a farmer, whom we named Tommy. Three days a week, after work, we would ride through the local countryside, stopping at local hostelries for refreshment en route, summer and winter alike, come rain or snow. All good things must come to an end and in1974 I returned to live in England.
I looked for jobs in the country, with accommodation, I interviewed the headmaster of Oundle School, a racing trainer at Lambourn, country house owner at Great Barrington and the Fox Pitts in Kent. I was offered the job of Estate Secretary to Hon Peter and Elizabeth Samuel at Farley Hall near Reading which I won in competition with 2 qualified farm secretaries. Not bad.  I had a lovely cottage converted from stables at Bridge Farm, No. 1 Milking Bam Lane. I was allowed to ride one of the ponies from the stable. Despaired at ever getting the hang of VAT and when the farm manager was away I had to collect the wages from the bank, swinging my basket nonchalantly!  I had never been to Scotland and the next summer I was asked if I would drive the estate car up to their Shooting Estate, Phones, at Newtonmore in Caithness, stay for a week and return on the sleeper. I drove up 2 girls who were going to cook and we are still in touch. At the end of the shooting, I did the reverse.  Met all their friends and had a lovely experience though quite exhausting. The following year I was invited to stay with them for the whole holiday, it was the year of the heatwave and beautiful. My nearest neighbour over the fields was singing in the Gilbert & Sullivan production at the Arborfield Garrison and invited me to the last night and the after-show party.  This is where I met Roger, who was later to become my husband. He was a keen genealogist, amongst many other things, and together we discovered my amazing family history, which is the reason that I sat down today to start writing this.