By Rosalyn Dunnico - 2016
Our grandmother, or Nanny as we knew her, was born on the 10th February 1887 in Windsor Cottage, Parkstone, Dorset in the lodging house of Mrs Ann Williams. Nanny remembered Windsor Cottage as having a veranda along the front of it. Mrs Williams was the widow of Peter Williams and she was born in Much Dewchurch, Herefordshire. They had three children Daniel, John and Ellen Williams.
Windsor Cottage is the house on the right with a verandah
Nanny’s mother was Annie Jones an unmarried woman believed to have been born in Hereford City, Herefordshire. Nanny’s birth was registered as Ethel Jones and later she was christened at St Peters the local church as Ethel Tremlin Jones, her middle name maybe gives us a clue as to her father’s name. Annie Jones left Nanny with Mrs Williams and went into domestic service in nearby Bournemouth, giving Mrs Williams some money to pay for Nanny’s care. The Williams family’s story is that after about three years Annie Jones met and married an Italian Organ Grinder and went with him to Italy and was not heard of again.
Mrs Williams brought Nanny up as one of her own and in 1895 Mrs Williams died. Nanny aged 9 was taken into the hands of the Church of England Children’s Society (now the Children’s Society), with Mrs Williams wish that she should not be sent to the workhouse. Nanny was looked after for a short while by Mrs Williams’ son Daniel and his wife Rose who had two sons Ernest and Edward and they would all go to Sandbanks beach to play. Sandbanks was also called Parkstone-on-Sea.
The Society then decided that Nanny should be sent up to Yorkshire to the Harewood Estate which was owned by the Lascelles family, to live with an elderly couple who lived in Goldsborough. She was taken on a train on the long journey by a lady who handed her over to Thomas and Ellen Hudson who lived in a cottage near the local church. Thomas Hudson was a woodsman and lived in a three roomed tied cottage as he worked for the Lascelles. He and his wife had no children and his wife Ellen unfortunately was blind and needed some help about the cottage. Nanny attended the local primary school and church. Sadly the arrangement did not work out, probably because Ellen Hudson needed more help than Nanny could give her and being only 9 years old she needed some care herself.
The cottage in Goldsborough where Nanny lived with the Hudsons
Nanny was sent down to Kent where she lived with James and Eleanor Peerless of No.6, Manor Cottages, School Hill, Lamberhurst. They were also a childless couple and James was a plumber and house painter. Nanny continued going to the local school once a week after the usual leaving age of 14 to learn how to embroider, crochet and cook and at 16 she spent a short time working as a servant in a large house in Potters Bar. She did not like it there because there was a high wall all around the house.
She returned to Kent and had the job as kitchen maid at Bidborough Hall which was owned by Herbert Nicholson and his American wife Stella. She did a lot of American cooking which was different to ours and on New Year’s Day there was a shoot and the cook had to pack big buckets of food, roast chicken, turkey, ham, etc. The day before New Year’s Day the cook was drunk so Nanny had to do all the cooking for the shoot. After the New Year’s festivities were over Mr Nicholson gave Nanny a £5 note for doing it. When she had time off, Nanny and some of the other girls would go into the village and one day they went to the village hall where a concert was being held. Our grandfather, who was employed as a gardener at nearby Bidborough Court, sang and the girls all laughed because his white shirt sleeves were hanging below his jacket sleeves. Later he and Nanny met and became friends and soon got engaged. Grandpa’s Aunt Flo, his mother’s sister named Florence Collins, who lived on her own in Pennington Lane invited a lot of girls into her house to play cards. Aunt Flo enticed Grandpa to join these girls playing cards, Nanny was not pleased about this and broke their engagement. They split up for about six months and in that time she met a man whose surname was Cornell and who had jewellery shops in Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells. She went out with him a couple of times and then found out that he was married, so that was the end of the friendship.
Nanny was a keen cyclist and was very friendly with Grandpa’s mother Mary Elizabeth Emmerson nee Collins, so one day while she was out on her bicycle she popped into The Lodge at Bidborough Court where the Emmerson’s lived. She had a puncture in her back tyre and left the bike outside the house, went in and had a cup of tea and stayed the afternoon. When she came out she found the bike had been mended and going along the road she realised there was another bike behind her and it was Grandpa. They made up and Grandpa did not go back to Aunt Flo’s.
Cycling got Nanny into some scrapes and she remembered one in particular. Nanny and a friend went for a bike ride, but the friend did not have her own bike, so she hired one. She did not like the bike so Nanny let her friend use hers. They were going down Riverhill near Sevenoaks when the hired bike’s brakes gave out and Nanny could not stop. There was a horse and cart full of hay and Nanny ended up in the cart covered in hay.
Nanny with her bike about 1911
About 1911 Mrs Nicholson wanted Nanny to go and work for them in London, but Nanny preferred to stay near Grandpa and his family, so she took on the job of cook housekeeper for an elderly lady called Susannah Forman, a widow of Osborne House in Tonbridge. Her job was to order of the food, cooking and paying the bills. During this time she was able to save £100 (about £8000 in today’s money) with which she furnished their home as she wanted when she married Grandpa on the 23rd December 1911 at the St Mary the Virgin parish church in Lamberhurst. They moved into one of the cottages near the entrance to the park opposite the Manor House in West Malling and a year later on the 26th November 1912 their first child Ernest Arthur was born in Park Cottage.
Henry Joseph Wood who owned Bidborough Court had bought the Manor House at West Malling and Grandpa and his father moved over there to get the gardens into good order.
Nanny and Grandpa lived in Park Cottage until 1914 when the First World War began, Grandpa was called up and in a medical they found he had a hammer toe, so he was put into munitions at Cliffe at Hoo near Rochester and he had to wear a khaki band to show he was not a conscientious objector. Nanny did not want to stay in West Malling on her own and wanted to go back to Lamberhurst near the Peerlesses and they managed to get one of the Manor Cottages. Until they could move into the cottage they lived in Holly Villa which was on the Sussex side of the river and our mother Phyllis Ethel Emmerson was born there on the 28th January 1915. Her birth was quite an event as she was not due to be born until a month later, but Nanny went out on a cold and icy day and slipped on the ice causing her to go into labour. The local doctor and a nurse delivered the baby but they thought she had not survived, so they put her to one side and looked after Nanny. At some point later the nurse picked up the baby and realised that she was alive. My mother, despite being very small survived with the help of milk mixed with a little brandy and lived to a good age of 94.
Grandpa was still at Cliffe at Hoo and working as a foreman in a large munitions dump. He was given another medical and they found that he had a cordite heart caused by the use of cordite in the manufacture of shells. Despite this he would cycle home every fortnight from Rochester to Lamberhurst, stopping off to see his parents in West Malling. He came home at last in 1919 and they moved into The Lodge at the entrance to the Manor House at West Malling.
The information for this story
comes from the records of The Children’s Society, Birth and Marriage
certificates, baptism registers and conversations with my mother who had an
exceptional memory for family events and stories.
The information for this story comes from the records of The Children’s Society, Birth and Marriage certificates, baptism registers and conversations with my mother who had an exceptional memory for family events and stories.