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 Chapter 2 Hall Boy at Sudeley Castle (part 1)

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Tim of Aclea

Posts : 366
Join date : 2011-12-31

PostChapter 2 Hall Boy at Sudeley Castle (part 1)

Chapter 2 Hall Boy at Sudeley Castle

In summer 1930, my father heard of a job as a domestic servant at Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe, Gloucestershire. He had seen Mr and Mrs Dent-Brocklehurst going into Priory House, Donnington, near Newbury; the home of Mr and Mrs Gathome-Hardy for lunch. Father was head gardener there and he took the opportunity to have a long chat with the chauffeur. As a result of this a letter for an interview was sent soon after to our household. Father loaned me his cycle and I was interviewed by Major John Dent-Brocklehurst at the home of Mr H Dent-Brocklehurst, Woolton Hill, Newbury on a Sunday afternoon. He asked me if I was employed, to which I replied that I was a garden boy at 10 shillings (50 pence) a week. He offered me the job of hall boy with full board plus two suits at £3 5s, two weeks holiday a year and pay of £12 per annum. I thought the pay was poor, it ought to have been £24 per annum, but I did not argue with him. In those days it was not a matter of selecting a good job with a future but having any job rather than no job. The Tories had got the working class by their ‘knackers’. ‘The Major’ as we got to name him was very smart and alert and I just said ‘yes sir’. He said that he would not need me until Christmas 1930 and that he would write to my father to finalise the arrangements for my employment at Sudeley Castle. After the interview, I saw in the servants’ quarters Mr J Buckingham who had been the butler at Sudeley Castle in the 1920’s and returned there in 1931. My parents told me more than once that it would be better for me to put my feet under somebody else’s table. This often happened when I told them of my ideas on politics. They tended to lick the boots of the rich and to agree with the Conservative point of view.

Towards the end of November 1930, Major J Dent-Brocklehurst sent a card to father saying “I can now do with the lad to start on 1st December 1930” – this was a Monday. I gave the Lady of Speen my notice and left on Friday, 28th November 1929. That evening my father told me that it was up to me to do my best and that if I failed I was to go to the workhouse and not to come back home. He said that there was a workhouse in Winchcombe and I could go there! My father seemed to be glad to get rid of me. He had listened to me talking about the ‘Wall St Crash’ and other matters and he said that all this book learning will not do you any good. When he disagreed with someone he would declare 'you bist as silly as a sheep!'

Before I started work at Sudeley castle I saw an article in a magazine in the Newbury library about the efforts of the state to protect the ruins of Sudeley castle from further decay. There was also a picture of the ruins. Since I was to start work there later that year I read the article carefully. Sudeley Castle had declared for King Charles I at the start of the Civil War in 1642, and Parliamentarian forces had taken it and it was left in ruins until a family called Dent bought it in 1832 and spent a lot of money and time restoring the castle and the estate. They got their wealth from the glove trade. Mrs Emma Dent had built the school at Winchcombe and the church at Gretton where my parents married in 1910. She also restored a 1784 Long Neolithic barrow called ‘Bela’s Knap’ about a mile from the castle. Since she had no children she passed the estate to her nephew, Mr Brocklehurst, provided that he changed his name to Dent-Brocklehurst.

On the Saturday I went with my father by train from Newbury Station to Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. I remember that we started on the Southern Railway service and had to change to the Great Western Service. When we got to Cheltenham we caught a bus to Tewkesbury and we stopped at Teddington, a small village of about 100 people where my Auntie Ann and Uncle Will Rogers lived. They had a small holding of about 50 acres called Elms Farm with about fourteen cows, some sheep and chickens. Although Auntie Ann never went to school, she was able to read and write but she was not very sure on her punctuation. They lived a parochial life where five to ten miles away was a very long distance. Father and I spent Saturday and Sunday with them. This was the first time in my life that I had spent a night away from home. Uncle Will told me with great pleasure that he had never been to London and had never been into a cinema. Auntie Annie made a practice of going to Cheltenham every Thursday by bus to look around the promenade. She had also visited the Island of Guernsey where Uncle Will had a niece and nephew who were quite well off.

At 10 a.m. on 1st December Mr Pearce, the chauffeur, came to collect me. He seemed to be a nice and friendly man and as we were driving through Gretton Fields, he asked me if I remembered the second battle of Arras. I said that I did not as I was only two years old at the time. He did not seem to mind that I was too young to remember about the slaughter of the Great War but carried on about the battles in which he had taken part. He served in France, mainly driving a Ford lorry carrying supplies to the front line. He went on about the past the whole time as we drove through Winchcombe on to the North Lodge to the west part of Sudeley Castle. Many times afterward, in the pantry or the boot hall, I listened to his stories. He was once prosecuted by the Oxford police for riding a bicycle at furious speed and was fined 3s 6d. He framed the summons as proof and kept it in his living room.

Mr Pearce told us in the pantry of an event that happened soon after the Major’s marriage. Mr Pearce was driving Major and Mrs Dent-Brockehurst and they went near a horse and cart delivering coal when suddenly the horse bolted with fright. A car was in front of the Major’s car and so they were boxed in. The horse came over the front of the car and the shafts of the cart started going into the car. Mr Pearce realised that not only would the car be damaged, but that Mrs Dent-Brocklehurst would be injured or even killed. Mr Pearce told her to put her head down at her feet and when she did not do so, started shouting and swearing at her to do so. She did put her head down just as the shafts of the cart went into the back of the car. Mrs Dent-Brocklehurst was taken out in a state of shock and the Major started abusing Mr Pearce for his language and threatening to ‘sack and ruin him’ when a policeman, who saw the whole incident, came up and told the Major not to abuse this man. The policemen told the Major ‘can’t you understand that your man saved your Lady’s life and when you have calmed down, I hope that you will apologise to your man’. Later that evening the Major did come down to the garage and apologised handsomely to Mr Pearce. Mr Pearce did then offer to apologise for swearing at his wife but the Major laughed and said that his swearing had saved her life. Mr Pearce then asked about his job and the Major told him to carry on as normal.

In 1931 the Major and Mrs Dent-Brocklehurst had gone out to dinner and she noted that their car was old fashioned compared to some of the cars there. A day or two later the Major and Mr. Pearce went to Lord Lee’s home near Lemmington and bought a more modern maroon coloured car for £500. The Major drove the old car and Mr. Pearce drove the new car back to Sudeley. Mr. Pearce later sold the old car for £400.
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Chapter 2 Hall Boy at Sudeley Castle (part 1) :: Comments

Re: Chapter 2 Hall Boy at Sudeley Castle (part 1)
Post on Wed 02 Oct 2013, 22:36 by derickwigan
George Francis John Pearce (my GTgt grandfather) was Head Gardener at Sudeley in 1901, and the Mr Pearce mentioned may have been one of his sons - does anyone know his first name?

Derick Pearce - born Birmingham, now living in Lancashire
Re: Chapter 2 Hall Boy at Sudeley Castle (part 1)
Post on Thu 03 Oct 2013, 08:45 by nordmann
Hi Derick, and welcome to Res Historica.

Tim, the author of the piece mentioning your relative, is an infrequent visitor to the site. I will try to get in touch with him and ask him maybe to contact you. You could also try using the private message function here to get in touch with him yourself.

I'll keep you posted!

Chapter 2 Hall Boy at Sudeley Castle (part 1)

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