Born 18 Nov 1876, Hampstead, London;  died in 1970 in London, the youngest child of Alfred Bayes of Lumbutts and Emily Fielden of Todmorden


Jessie wrote the Bayes Saga when well into old age and was still writing it when she died aged 95 in 1970.The Saga was lovingly typed out and given to Jessie's great nieces and nephews by Alexander George Thomson Bayes. This copy has been generously submitted by one of these great nieces, Clare Ash, who feels the story should be shared by all.



William Bayes and his wife Hannah Uttley, of Lumbutts

Alfred Bayes of Lumbutts, their son (1832-1909)

Emily Fielden of Todmorden, his wife born 1837

Their children:

Emmeline Bayes born 1868

Walter Bayes (1869-1856)

Gilbert Bayes (1872-1952)

Jessie Bayes (1876-1970)

The Bayes Saga

© Jessie Bayes 1970

In Principito

The first record of the Bayes family in the West Riding is 1781 – The Article of Indenture of Thomas Bayes, apprenticing him to “the Art, Craft and Mystery of Wigmaking and Hairdressing”, in Northampton. He married Ann in 1800, but the surnames of the wives are not recorded in the small twig of our family tree, which is all that I possess; one may assume it, however, to have been Uttley, as there is a bar sinister at this point, showing some half brothers, known as Fielden-Uttley, born out of wedlock by a Fielden father who gave them his name to prefix the mother's and through whom they were well endowed. (The Uttley cousins, as we later knew them, being far richer than any Bayes ever had been.) I presume all this took place before Ann's lawful marriage, for the whole affair seems to have been too open and acknowledged to have been seriously immoral, even in those days. The Fieldens, who were also our mother's forbears, were registered as landowners in Walsden as early as 1851 and they were a prolific family, so the Uttley Fieldens may or may not have been close relatives to her. The legend goes that after her lawful marriage Ann became severely and uncompromisingly religious – poor Thomas did not have a very fair deal one feels.


Mornings at Seven


Consecutive memory seems to begin for me with the new house in Fellows Road which father had completed circa 1822-23. I would we knew more of that steep uphill road which led from the bleak village of Lumbutts, high in the Pennine hills, where, as a boy, he had learned his letters from a horn-book in the village school, to this starry eminence of a house of his own.

We can only see him in tiny flashes like coloured pictures on a screen – see him, a small boy clattering up the village street in his wood-soled clogs, to answer the S.O.S. of distressed women at their cottage doors. “Little lad, little lad, come and fasten me up at t' back.” Which dates it at the period of low cut dresses, oddly out of gear with the almost Puritan austerity of the place and age – but with the usual inconsequence of fashion fastened totally out of reach.


Photo by permission of Frank Woolrych


Or we can see him spending a rare gift of pennies on that amazing miracle, a box of matches! – Fires that could be engendered without the agency of flint and tinder. All Brock's Benefit was nothing to compare with such splendour – and all his own! For days he did a brisk business displaying them to his small companions for a farthing admittance!


Alfred Bayes

Or we can see him shopping for the village housewifes begging, for his fee, the cones of sugar paper that wrapped the purchases – to be stroked out tenderly and used as drawing paper for his first pictures. He must have been stamped early with the unequivocal signs of his vocation, to break away from the accepted alternatives of mill, trade, farm or schoolmastership for the hazardous adventure of art, but his father, a cordwainer by profession, seems to have been a man of parts, perhaps a bit of a visionary himself, holding classes among the working men in his circle – creating a little museum and library – and even writing verses occasionally. What more likely than it was he who sponsored the adventure. Anyhow, be it as it may, somehow the young Alfred got to London to seek his fortune.

There he worked for a while at Heatherley's Art School where he made life long friends among his age-group of artists, paying his way chiefly by way of book illustration under the aegis of the Dalziel Brothers (chiefly celebrated as the publishers of “Ally Sloper” – the comic of the Victorian Age) but as he advanced steadily in painting to become an exhibitor at the Royal Academy he gradually laid his foundations in London and, on a tenuous income, married Emily Fielden of Todmorden.

I often wonder what those first years must have been for her – living in two or three rooms in Kentish Town (assuredly with nothing better than a tap on the landing) after the generous stone-flagged kitchen, complete with baking oven and copper, of her Todmorden home – for the Fieldens had standing – and background. Grandfather Fielden was evidently austerely pious and charitable. Legend tells of him buying two bolts of linen for family and charity undergarments, and his daughters' indignation at the coarse linen being given to them, and the fine to the poor. He had equally severe views on disciplining a “proud stomach” … but happily for father these were not inherited by Emily Ann. I am sure she fed him well.

Emily(Fielden) Bayes


Modern hygiene shrinks aghast at the way we came into the world. Little wonder that, out of eight pregnancies, only four children survived. When the confinement was growing imminent the midwife, of whom Sarah Gamp was not entirely a travesty, arrived with her equipment, and regarded it as her inalienable right to share my mother's bed until the hour of deliverance (deliverance in more senses than one) arrived.


Emmeline Bayes

My sister “Emmie” always remembered her childish bewilderment when the presence of a strange fat woman (always mysteriously followed by the coming of a new baby) was the inevitable prelude to a storm of vituperation on mother's part, against all men in general and father in particular, for what could father have had to do with mother's tummy ache!!

But all this was before my time, yet even before Time something like Time must have existed – and memory sees it dimly as a warm cosy twilight in Adelaide Road where I was born, a twilight lit by gentle points of candle light touching dear remembered things – the rickety conservatory where we kept our toys; the mettlesome rocking horse with eloquent glass eyes and a hole where his tail used to hang; the eighteenth century Sedan Chair which served impartially as castle battlement, dungeon, royal throne or pirates' lugger. Then the tin bath before the kitchen fire when hot water was poured down my back and inevitably rubbed in my eyes; mouse-traps brought to father to kill the poor prisoner; kittens brought him to drown – cruel tasks to inflict on the gentlest of souls just because harder hearts didn't like the job.


The cat, like the mouse-traps, was purely functional – if she appeared above stairs she was chased down again with loud cries. All the houses in Adelaide Road had mice and cats, and the cats' meat-man patrolled daily with slabs of horsemeat on skewers, at a halfpenny a skewer. No cat now would put up with what the Victorian cat had to. But cats have come into their own these days – specialists breed them – films immortalise them and poets praise them.


There were many street cries at that time; “Sand bags, winder bags – who'll buy my winder bags?” heralded winter, with the Muffin man ringing his bell, and carrying muffins and crumpets in a tray on his head, kept warm under green baize. In summer it was “Lavender, sweet lavender” and “Water creases, fresh water creases.” Sometimes a dancing bear was led mournfully down the street by a blue-bloused foreigner. I used to think how lovely it must be to have the bear to sleep with! The Italian organ-grinders with their small barrel-organs were envied for the possession of a diminutive, infinitely sorrowful monkey one longed to own – and comfort. At salient street corners there was a crossing sweeper, almost incredibly got up to the part one might think now – but in those days real rags and real poverty were fact and not fiction. And every evening dusk brought the lamplighter – one heard the tap of his staff with its star of light at the top.


I suppose we were poor but assuredly we were happy in those far off days, and always we had good books – did not I first learn to read only so that I could read George MacDonald's “Princess and the Goblin” for myself instead of always clamouring for it to be read? Second only to that came “The Water Babies” – and “Alice” of course – and at Christmas the picture books by Walter Crane and Randolph Caldecott lay by our stockings to usher in the Day of all Days in our year.


For treats we had the museums and picture galleries – and Hampstead Heath. “Father's taking us out today” was always a signal for rapturous rejoicings. It was he who trained us to the early perception of beauty; he knew so much about flowers, birds and trees that, though London born, we were country minded. The last flickers of my little candle light shows him lifting me out of bed one early dawn to see Halley's Comet – trailing its cloud of glory across a pearl-pale sky … all this and Heaven too!!

A.W. Bayes RE.


And now back to Fellows Road. We look on our new house as lagging but little behind Buckingham Palace. It has a bathroom – with hot and cold water in the taps, though, as it was heated by the boiler behind the oven of the kitchener, it did depend a little upon whether it was to be a cold dinner day or a hot one! We were still afar off from gas cookers, and when they did come into being there was a horrid tendency to let the kitchen fire out in the summer, making hot baths scarcer still, so we thought the advance of civilisation had its drawbacks. I was prepared to brag about the bathroom to small friends better off than ourselves, but a sudden caution intervened – perhaps they had always had bathrooms with hot water! “They” were different from “us” – had I not once boasted of some specially delectable pudding mother had made, only to be confronted by a disdainful “Does your mother work in the kitchen ?” It was my first introduction to Victorian snobbery, and may that Happy and Glorious be forgiven for the height and depths to which it attained before being mercifully slain by two World Wars.


Second to the bath came father's studio. It was a cathedral, hardly less, and a little balcony overlooking it from the drawing room was pure romance. “They”, at least, could boast nothing like this.


So here we all were, father for the first time able to step back from his work and see it at a distance – and to have room for a model. Mother blissfully planning and digging the new garden which was to be her labour of love almost to the end of her days. Emmeline falling into the groove of dedicated house-wifery which tied her too closely for half a lifetime – and gave her little opening for the creativeness which she showed in later life. She had early realised the gaps in our domestic economy and set herself to filling them – for mother, loveable and delightful as she was, was incapable of doing anything to time, a weakness partly due to an incurable passion for paper-back romance, which she devoured avidly when not gardening. The effect of both on household management was disastrous.


Walter Bayes

Walter was still at a Quaker boarding school at Saffron Walden which he hated, and later, for a short spell, was put into a solicitor's office which he hated even more – and soon left to take up painting. I remember him always as critical, argumentative and singularly mature for his years – so inevitably (for youth) a rebel against the established order of things; not suffering fools gladly, and regarding too many of our friends in that light. Yet he was so kind in maturity.
Gilbert (Bertie then) was still at school, but soon and much too early to be taken from it and put into a City firm of tie merchants. I can still see the patterns on little bits of coloured silk he brought home for me to dress my dolls. I remember feeling awed to think of him going to a restaurant (A.B.C.) to get his lunch like a grown up person and asked him what he had had, and his reply, “a puff and a bun”, and that seemed exciting too – jam puffs for dinner (but it may well have accounted for his small stature). He worked there some years, but always he had a craftsman's fingers and in his spare time fashioned exquisite trifles of romance; for me too villages, castles and theatres (but of course he loved playing with them too).

Gilbert Bayes

His theatres were wonderful, and we invited the family and friends to puppet shows in them, with lighting effects from coloured matches. Generally, I did the script. It was a few sticks of cobbler's wax that started him as a sculptor. He began to model, and exhibited a small high-relief of galloping horses at the Academy when he was seventeen. After that he settled to study and got into the Royal Academy Schools, where he won the Gold Medal and Travelling Scholarship.

Jessie Bayes

Lastly came small, solemn me – at first in a little dame-school where I remained until I had learned all they had to teach – and then, as there was little spent on a girl's education in those days, and all good schools were beyond our reach – Walter and Emmeline did what they could to “finish” me; Walter for French, Literature and Arithmetic (a hard and not very rewarding effort); Emmeline with the old inadequate lesson books for History, Geography and odds and ends generally – I only excelled in maps, for which I had a life-long passion.

Through the interest of a cousin of mother's living in Bedford I finished with a few terms at the Bedford High School, living with her family. A very close friendship with half a dozen schoolgirls of this present age makes me realise the tremendous advances in women's education, and the lamentable superficiality of my own. Only father's passion for books and my own participation in it has made me appear at least a moderately educated woman.


I was of course drawing all my spare time – from babyhood – and though father did not encourage it as he thought it too precarious a profession, he kept an eye on me – always with the same criticism, “Your heads are too small”. I always saw people in heroic or angelic stature! Anyhow, sometime when I was awaiting an appointment in the Prudential Assurance Company, (mother having put my name down for it as it was very genteel … the daughters of gentlefolk!) I got odds and ends of book illustrations to do – and a little teaching. I don't think I ever expected to make a whole-time career of it – until Gilbert paid my fees for evening classes at the old Central School of Arts and Crafts. For the rest we were just living normal family lives (Emmeline and I later going to parties) – not looking ahead but fairly content with the present.


Whatever success I may have had I feel I owe to that great little School of Arts and Crafts which opened in an old house in Upper Regent Street and I must pay it some tribute. It was a school of idealists largely influenced by William Morris and staffed by dedicated enthusiasts – each in the top rank of his craft. Edward Johnston, the prophet and redeemer of pure script was the first to teach it and I was one of his first pupils … with Eric Gill, who attained greater distinction. Johnston was a devout Catholic and was rather a daunting perfectionist, but I owe him more than I can say. John Batter, pure tempera painting (and himself a beautiful exponent of it) was another name that I bless – and these were but two of the distinguished teachers.


Sydney Cockerell (afterwards Sir Sydney of the Ashmolean Museum) was one of the Directors, with Professor Lethaby (we called him the Wombat – he was so like a little shy animal) and I remember him with special affection for his wise but almost apologetic criticisms. Yet it is to Sydney Cockerell that I owe still more as he rescued me from the Prudential and took me into his own exciting printing works which had run hand in hand with William Morris and was in fact next to his Kelmscott House on Hammersmith Mall.


Jessie Bayes

It was a golden age of romantic revivals in music and literature; the Pre-Raphaelite sunset was still a radiant sunset, and in France the sunrise of Impressionism was dawning in heady splendour. Poster design had suddenly become a fine art – in France with Mucha and Steinlis, fetching big prices for collectors. In England too, some our best landscape artists gave distinction to old railway stations. We who were young were ardent romantic socialists dreaming of the simple life, and all things hand made, all things beautiful and all society a brotherhood that knew no place for servants and masters – I believe I have never quite got over it.

Yet in antithesis to that wave of idealism, that extended to fashionable circles, in a vogue for “At Home” to meet poets and artists, and to new ideas for décor and dress – the common herd, if we may so call them, were brash, rowdy and exceedingly down to earth … qualities which in my memory epitomised the popular reactions to the Boer War. Never before or since have we treated an honourable adversary to the crude, shallow witticisms served out by the press and popular songs of the period. I don't remember that we were very interested in it anyway, and all that seems left now is that newly coined adjective “Mafficking” … when the rowdyism of that same common herd reached its climax. At the Relief of Mafeking I always felt that Kipling, gifted as he was, was the apostle of jingoism of that period.

I think those first years in Fellows Road may have been the halcyon period of father's life – they were years of fulfilment – of brief respite from too strenuous economies. We were together and happy, before the clashes of temperament between the two generations brought the wounds and disappointments of later years. It was an open house – fellow artists and their families in and out all the time. They were an interesting group; Lionel Smythe (later to become an R.A.) – lean and long-nosed as his two greyhounds, Spider and Palm, a ribald, mocking creature, but witty. He lived in a medieval Chateau near Boulogne and strongly influenced Walter, who admired him enormously. It must have been this friendship which gave him his early proficiency in French – which he passed on to me … or was that hereditary? And does the name Bayes stem from Bayeuex, as well as from our Huguenot Protestantism? Then there was James Aumonier. I always saw him as the King of Spades in a pack of cards. He was our next door neighbour for he had joined with father to buy the land for our twin houses, his and ours, and his family twinned with ours – Nancy the eldest and, downwards, Frank, Jack and Louise (these two training for music).


James Aumonier's large oil landscapes were stark and rather forbidding like himself, but nobly planned/conspicuous among all, but that he always came alone, was James Ballard, scene painter for the Lyceum – but so much more than that. Tall and gaunt with brilliant hazel eyes under bushy brows and an upstanding thatch of iron-grey hair, he looked like a great prophet and I think had the wisdom of one. A great scholar, he lived, I believe, in one room almost entirely furnished by books. His knowledge of the classics and of early French and English Literature was profound. He gave me a volume of early French poetry and I must have been unique in being well acquainted with Ronsard and “La Pleiade” at 13! I don't think he understood children, he lived in too remote a world, but he did not insult us by pretending to, and we looked up to him with awe and affection.

There were parties in the studio, parties in the garden with a great many children – father loved children – and games and plays which the children got up. We had a superb collection of costumes, real period pieces which father kept for painting, and music for grown-ups, strictly Victorian Ballads and “morceaux de piano” by Emmeline (my gift was lamentable) and sometimes the carpet turned up for dancing, with the innocent refreshments of the period, sandwiches, sausage rolls and lemonade – claret cup for birthdays.

A.W. Bayes RE


Later as we grew up the brothers' friends dropped in – painters and journalists chiefly, for Sunday supper of cold meat and pickled onions. I remember those days as being singularly happy – were they? I wonder – and the young men as mysterious and romantic, each a possible, “only he” never realised. But surely, summers were always summers, and nights always starry.


I don't know how many years there were of this enchanting prelude, perhaps in any case it could not have lasted long but it ended in a really dramatic “bang” with the collapse of “The Liberator”, a building society in which father had invested all his savings. It certainly liberated us from the root of all evil, for there was no money left. I remember him coming into the breakfast room early one morning while we were all assembled after the meal, looking grey and drawn, but with a certain air of spurious jauntiness. “Well we're done for now”, he announced. But for a couple of hundred in the bank there was nothing left. 


Emily (Fielden) Bayes

I remember his tragic “Why did I ever build this house?” – and mother, with cheerful common sense responding, “Well if you hadn't done, you'd have lost that, too.” She was the perfect wife for him. He had always a deep undertone of melancholy – sometimes pessimism, she irresponsible but with a kind of child's realism, could always put things into perspective for him – and he remained always protective of her innocent inability to reach an adult outlook on life … in a sense he remained a lover all his life. So now I remember the sudden relief from tension as she reached up to kiss him, and our sense of mounting, not unpleasurable excitement over a new adventure.

And of course, mother was right. For some while in fact the house was our main source of income. The big studio had to be let (father once again squeezing himself into a small upper room), and the tenant, a young Irish student painter, Kathleen Figgis, became our lifelong friend – almost a sister – and our good angel for she was not dependent on her work but did much to add the little graces to our lives, that soften the rigours. We had many holidays together, “We three girls”, just as we two had, and she shared our lives almost to her eighties – when the journey to the studio became too much effort. She always said she did not want to live if she could not paint, and indeed she died very soon after. It is with a pang that I realise now that for nearly all the protagonists of my story and for all who cross my stage I must write “Requiescat”.


To return to our drama. The little maid-of-all-work received her notice. That does not seem a serious matter in these servantless days, but in the 1890's it was unheard of to answer your own door and wait at your own table. I felt rather smug about it, for it was in line with my romantic socialism – and I remember the first morning I got up unnecessarily early for the glory of lighting the fires (and even the kitcheners had to be lit for breakfast). Of course, my virtue flagged as to fires, and I am sure they soon fell to father.


We had a family conclave on the ways and means, and as Emmeline already made our dresses for us, she took a course in French couture and started dress-making professionally, gathering in a very old dress-maker who used to come by the week to make and alter the family clothes when we were children. She knew all the ropes – found her an apprentice, in a young girl, Emma York, and they set up business. It is a very strange coincidence (though my own life has followed such a pattern that I do not believe in coincidences) that the two women who came into our lives through misfortune, remained closely knit with our family until the hour of their deaths. Emma York cannot be passed over without a tribute to her lifelong devotion – a little laurel sprig at least for her grave. Long after the dressmaking business had become sporadic she was a selfless sharer of our adversities, and our gaieties, our joys and our sorrows, fitting her varied talents into every hole open to receive them. She was gardener, stocking mender, cat doctor, sick nurse, shopper, carpenter and companion. The younger generation, when they arrived, adored her. She seemed to have no life outside our home, and had no truck with eight hour days – we could hardly drive her home. The new-born wireless – uncertain cat's whisker set that it was, enchanted her. “Toy Town” and “Gilly Potter” gilded a day for her. I think we gave her the only happiness she knew – but she was happy, for she loved flowers, animals, children – all live things, though I think all she knew of the country was when she came with us to some borrowed or rented country cottage for holidays. Nothing can ever repay all she was for my mother during those last long difficult years when her mind failed. Emma York died of cancer somewhere in her late fifties – but was with us until she had to go to hospital.

But returning to the family. Walter, I remember, took no part in the family conclaves. He had the modern youth's idea that the family was no fit concern for an adult mind, and he always shied out of family discussions. Happily his heart did not run quite in line with his theories, for he was deeply affectionate to those he loved and though he did not come forward with any commitment for a regular contribution to family finances, he had an engaging habit of suddenly spending quite a sizeable sum on some un-birthday gift (he despised birthdays on principle) – some gift that showed an unexpected quirk of imagination. I remember his gift of a bicycle to Emmeline while yet bicycling for women was a little daring – demanding a divided skirt which must not look divided when out of action! And I remember his odd inspiration to give mother a tortoise-shell lorgnette because he thought she would feel so distinguished using it at private Views (it had no ophthalmic value!). I don't think she ever used it but, as a possession, it delighted her.


Gilbert (he had now rebelled against Bertie) was still in the City, though soon to start on his studies as a sculptor. And I, since Emmeline was now fully occupied, became cook-housekeeper – later – after I had begun night classes, picking up odds and ends of book illustrating and the like – till I was called up to the Prudential Assurance Company, where I worked for five years. So ends the first cycle, as childhood melted into adolescence, and adolescence into young man and womanhood.

Ardours and Endurances


A.W. Bayes RE

We are now in the 1900's and grown up. Gilbert still in Paris; Walter painting, at first in father's studio, and, it must be owned, taking up more room than father, for he was desperately untidy and liked large canvasses: - Emmeline keeping her business above waterline, but with wages to pay it was not always easy. For the time, I was the soundest proposition, for I was working at the Prudential (admittedly at only forty pounds a year) and getting small commissions in illuminating as well as giving odd lessons here and there.

In 1900 was the great Paris Exhibition, and as Gilbert was in Paris, Emmeline and I took a delirious weekend to see it and him. I could only get Saturday and Sunday off, so we crossed on Friday night – (and went straight there after breakfast, returning Sunday night to go straight to work, but the ecstasy outweighed the agony of tired feet and headaches). It was magical; never before or since was there such an exhibition. All the centre of Paris with its river and its bridges formed the setting, but new facades had converted the ordinary streets into medieval France or cities beyond the seas. I can still savour the green tea I drank in an enchanted Chinese garden under a vast elephant temple, served by exquisite Chinese girls, whilst camels and elephants drifted about amicably, and lovely rickshaw boys plied for hire. We came back more dead than alive, but I would almost do it again even yet.


Of the friends Gilbert made in Paris the one who came most formatively into our lives was Margaret Huston, a Canadian singer with a superb contralto voice. She gave one concert in London (in a dress designed by Emmeline) but did not follow it up. She was quite irresistible – a big, warm, generous creature, like a ship in full sail. To be embraced by her was like being enveloped by a tidal wave. Gilbert at that time like a pocket Galahad, was lost in them, for her embraces were freely given long before it became the fashion to begin friendships or love affairs in the middle! Emmeline always said she precipitated Gilbert's engagement – to the girl he did ultimately marry – Gertrude Smith, a former fellow student in London, and it is undeniable that she did scurry off to Paris when his letters began to be overweighted with Margaret, who perhaps may have been mildly in love with him, but was quite frank in her avowed determination to marry money, which she successfully did, with Bill Carrington of New York. Because she did so much for Gilbert and me, and was the magnet which later was to draw us both to America, I feel she needs a little more space and was interesting enough to fill it.


When I first went to New York she was Mrs. Carrington and a successful New York hostess “with a difference” – she was deeply interested in music and was helping young talent all the time. I heard many recitals in her apartment. She was witty and unconventional – utterly different from the run of New York society. When Bill died, she married a poet/playwright, Robert Edmund Jones. I met him on my second visit. He was a sensitive, charming man, fifteen years younger than herself but they were ideally happy. She made no artificial efforts to appear youthful – it was her wit, her generous warmth, that I believe made it a real match. Largely pressed by her, he and I became real friends and I kept up a correspondence with him till he died, as he did, far too young, soon after her death. His letters are of the few I keep, and his book, “The Dramatic Imagination”, which he sent to me. One of his plays, “The Moonlight Blossom” and an early colour film of his, were produced in London.


For a while now, the scene seems to shift to me. Still studying at the Arts and Crafts (after office hours) I was getting established on my own feet. I was elected a Member of the Royal Society of Painters in Miniature and into the old Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, now dead. Incidentally, I got engaged to the wood-carving master, German born and fifteen years older than myself. It was an offshoot of my romantic socialism, for as I look back I know that “I didn't much like that little man” – much less “love him quite a lot”. I was in love with the idea of a cottage (I hardly even saw it as “love in a cottage) with all things hand made, peasant pottery and check tablecloths. He was a very unthought-out Atheist – Socialist of course. He took me to the Fabian Society and the South Place Ethical Society, for he was very good, but I found South Place and ethics unalloyed the acme of depression. I suppose I thought my influence would change all that … it wouldn't have – my own faith was too indeterminate and his unfaith too positive. I treated him atrociously in the end, taking fright very much too near what should have been our marriage, and breaking it off by letter because I hadn't courage to face it out. All the same, he was well out of it and subsequently married an old flame. He attributed my defection to my friendship with Molly Noble, but in that he wronged me, for though for a few years she did draw me into her life, I had no desire to live it. The love was real – on both sides I think, and I owe her much. But country house weekends with the elite were a painful pleasure. I did not know the ropes of the habitués, and they knew it. For a while I mixed with Duchesses and their like – indeed at a dinner party at her flat in Paris we had an English Princess at one end of the table, a French one at the other, and my own partner an extremely attractive Vicomte. I remember too Lady Ottoline Morell at one of the luncheon parties, and her fixing me with a shattering stare and saying, “I always know at once when I am going to dislike a person.”


Looking back I think she was quite justified – I am only a little surprised that I had personality enough to evoke it, for as a family we were very slow in reaching maturity. At the same party I remember Peter Scott, a small, fat baby of two or three, stark naked and very beautiful, getting under everybody's feet. I suppose he expressed Lady Scott's vision of the simple life at the time.


All this seems another life – I do not even know if Molly is still living, for our friendship ended after her divorce, with a marriage to a young architect whose view of me I think was similar to Lady Otterline's.

It was still a heady period of change in art and letters. Impressionism was firmly rooted and developing changes; the long era of subject pictures emotional or historical and faithful transcripts of nature was dead and buried. Father was learning more with each successive Academy … his time was over. He felt it bitterly as later, on the fringe of a further swing to the left, Gilbert was to feel it. But as yet the drama had not greatly changed and we were ardent theatre lovers. In those days entrance to the gallery was a shilling, to the pit half a crown – but we were mostly gallery. Brother and sister would wait for me outside the office and after a hasty cup of coffee at the A.B.C. we would wait patient and happy with sandwiches for two hours and then tear up the long flight to the gallery to get front seats perhaps for a new play, for the great stars from Paris – Bernhardt, Rejane, Coqulin … for Ellen Terry … for Duse: And what superb actors they were – stylised of course, but what magnificent style and what voices. They could shiver down to ones heartstrings and tear them to pieces – and one could hear them: an advantage that the naturalism of modern drama has lost for us.


Then there was the sudden meteor blaze of Maeterlinck – Pelleas and Melisande, with Holst's music and scenery by Cayley Robinson, one of the new painters in tempera. We bought Maeterlinck's books feeling we had discovered a new prophet. How completely, with something of the dream magic of the play, the meteor seems to have plunged out of sight. On the other hand the discovery that one can now pick up his books critically makes one feel the icy hand of old age – it is so much happier to worship!


Then came the first onslaught of the Russian Ballet which for half a decade turned contemporary fashion in dress, pottery, jewellery and furnishings into a riot of savage colour. Nijinsky, Pavlova, Karsavina – magic names. But those early ballets were magical, still half in the world of faery, reaching emotions and understanding still partly childlike. For is not that gift of imperishable childhood something we have lost in these late days?


I have squandered a lot of paper on nostalgic memories – and still there is the dawn of Henry Wood's Promenade Concerts to record, for it was in fact the dawn of some faint acquaintance with the great masters of music that workaday England has known, and here again we would wait hours outside the doors for the delight of standing in the Promenade, packed shoulder to shoulder, but, for that very reason, the more saturated with each other's enthusiasm. The radio has extended immeasurably what Henry Wood inaugurated, but we laymen owe the roots of any knowledge we have to him.


The death of Queen Victoria in 1901 is one of the dates that gives me a faint anchorage to our part in history. My father having been elected a member of the Royal Society of Painter Etchers shortly after, I remember his feverish anxiety as to whether or not her signature would be on the Diploma. It was, and for that it got framed and honoured. Like most of his generation he looked on her with awed admiration as sacrosanct, and I remember his almost febrile hatred of Disraeli, who he regarded as her evil genius.


He took me to her funeral and I remember starting out before grey dawn to get a place by Hyde Park, where I was hoisted onto the parapet below the railings to get a better view as the procession approached. It was immensely impressive – the packed black mass of people (many weeping), the distant throb of muffled guns and tramp of horses, punctuated at intervals by the great funeral marches of Handel and Chopin – then the marching phalanx of Guards before the gun-carriage, and following it on horseback or in open carriages, kings, princes and diplomats from (as it seemed), half the world. Specially clear in my memory is the Kaiser, riding on his black stallion, his military cloak spread out behind him as formal as a piece of architecture. He liked to see himself that way being, off the horse, crooked and far from impressive. How could we believe the day so near that would forever stamp him as the dark angel of the First World War. More tramping horse soldiers now and the lamenting of the Scottish pipes. Though my own generation was not naturally loyal, or at least not worshippers of Queen Victoria, it was the pipes that completed my disarray – drums always stir me to the depths and pipes shatter me, yet both in a sense exalt and it is always with the skirl of pipes and the throb of drums that I think of Queen Victoria's funeral.


Almost my earliest memory is being awakened “at the dead of night” by a pipe and drum band (is that a period piece I wonder, for I never remember another?). It burst on my terrified ears like an army of nameless monsters battering the very walls of my nursery, and I remember rushing screaming down the long dark stairs to the kitchen, only to find the door wide open to the night and nothing to protect me if the monsters burst in! Of course, Molly the servant had run out to see the fun.


In my stereoscopic memory it seems to me that the whole tenor of life and standard of conduct in society changed at that death with almost incredible rapidity; even in our home, deep rooted in a past of rigid Sabbatarians, Sundays relaxed, though slowly. Yet it could not have been entirely Victoria. We were growing – had grown – up, and the divergencies between the generations were beginning to yawn. We were often working on things to be finished to time and might work through Sunday unchecked. Sydney Cockerell became interested in my work and gave me a place in his firm of Waller and Cockerell somewhere about this time – on the Mall at Hammersmith. It was a printing firm which had formerly worked in close co-operation with William Morris, whose ancient Kelmscott House was but a few steps away. One of my colleagues told me William Morris always brought him his beautiful designs for the Kelmscott books, to “put the lines straight”, for he never could draw a straight line. These were three happy years for me – in my own world again. Only there have I ever seen the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Races, for which our Sussex House provided front seats.


When Gilbert returned to London he took a studio at Linden Gardens, Notting Hill Gate, and whether it was Margaret's doing or not, became engaged to Gertrude. He still lived at home but the fabric of our family life was beginning to show cracks.

Walter was living most of his time at Lionel Smythe's studio in Camden Town, as Smythe himself only came up a few times a year. At other times George Thomson let him his studio for long spells during absences abroad.


I think he was at George Thomson's when he came in one day and announced rather nonchalantly that he was married. It was a bitter blow to father and mother, rooted in North Country solidarities, where family life is so closely shared that weddings, christenings and funerals are natural occasions for communal celebrations. I think this last rejection of family rights really cut them to the quick. His choice too was “out of line” with the staid domesticity of their lives, for he had married his model. In those days of strictly realistic painting, historical, emotional or naturalistic landscape, there was a large hierarchy of models, men and women (with no relation to what the name now implies – beautiful women showing expensive clothes). They started as a rule as children of models, and there was no stigma, moral or otherwise, attached to the profession – it was simply that it did not tend to produce nice domesticated girls for sisters-in-law and mothers-in-law to find mutual ground for women's interests – they just weren't there. And she was very, very young – and very, very pretty, but as the very young and very pretty cannot expect to be very adaptable it was not an easy situation. I think we all tried honestly to bridge the rift, but some rift remained for a long time. The waves soon settled into ripples – the branches of the tree seemed to be stretching far beyond the brink and we began to be grown up and to have individual lives.


Always “footloose” Walter had travelled far more and far longer than the rest of us. He specially loved the hot, dry sub-tropic colours and vivid life in the more obscure corners of the South of France and Morocco. Always impecunious he was more than ever so in those first years of his married life, but even after Jim, his first son, was born, the long summer sojourns continued, and Kitty came into her own then, for a more conventional wife with a young baby would never have faced the small inns of the French countryside or seaports. A placid landscape painter would have been a more manageable proposition, but Walter did not greatly love nature for itself. If he saw it, he saw it as dramatic – painted its temperaments in sombre, shadowed pools of indigo, or hot, dry, passionate desert country of cacti and strange twisted palms. He loved people, and in the raw; pavement cafes; nightlife with street brawls, vividly alive. And everywhere he went he made quick sketches that crackled into life. When I say he loved people, I mean it literally, not just as subjects for his pencil and without discrimination, so that dock-labourer, charwoman or university don would get exactly the same approach of friendly interest.


Somehow, however, they kept afloat, and Gilbert married not much later, and settled in St. John's Wood. It was a period of peaceful, comparative prosperity, both for England and for our growing families. Gilbert was getting recognised for his work, but also I think for his outgoing warm sweetness of character – he was always ready to help anyone. Walter's interest in others was largely centred in ideas, Gilbert's in some ways nearer the heart. Since I have come to live in what was his home I am always meeting strangers in the street who tell me how much he was loved.


It was in the middle of the first decade of the 1900's that our pattern began to fall apart with father's death. It was midsummer and mother was (rather unusually) away by herself staying with friends in Hertfordshire. I was in a cottage at Monks Risboro with an office friend. I think it must have been a weekend, when I heard the door open below (I was upstairs) and Walter's Kitty came up the stairs calling out “your father's dead”. Emmeline was behind her, she having of course meant to break the news but I suppose (for Kitty as I said was very young) she rushed into the breach either because she thought it kinder to Emmie, or from youth's incurable enjoyment of drama. Well – after all, the shock is much the same however it comes. Father had been enjoying one of his happy days roaming among book shops and auctioneers, when he was knocked down by a lorry and died within a few hours from head injuries at Kings College Hospital. He was only seventy six – so much younger than us, who all past our eighty-odd. I wonder if any of us would have been missed quite as long or quite as sorely as he was. He was one of those quiet “fitting in” men who are always at hand, and handy when we wanted anything done – carpentering – minding things – lighting fires; little things, yet one is turning round all the time looking for the one who did them. But far deeper than that, he had a keen mind, a delight in joining in the fun of youngsters and an inimitable gift of mimicry. He would give sketches of old Yorkshire characters in broad dialect that kept us rolling in laughter. But also he was deeply loving and we loved him deeply. I think perhaps because I was the youngest, I was closest to him. I remember the first time I got a picture into the Academy and he didn't, sitting on his knee and crying – each of us feeling for the other, “I'd rather it had been you” – “I'm glad it was you.”  

Materially, it made no difference to the course of our lives as for long now he had given up painting, but we were always happy that he died as he did, and as he always wished to, suddenly and on a day when he was enjoying himself in his own way … those last years he was back to a school boy enjoyment of “kicking a free leg”. An old cousin (by a bar sinister) had left him a small legacy, about £150 or so, and he was just going round his old haunts – street markets, book shops and Christie's Sales Rooms. I remember asking him, as I had asked Bertie as a child, what he had for dinner on these occasions, and his reply, “a pork pie and a bottle of ginger beer”, was perfect school-boy.

A.W. Bayes RE


Cremations had barely come into being, and he is buried in the West Hampstead Cemetery. We were glad too he had lived to see two of his grandchildren, Jim and Jean, for babies were his delight. His best paintings I think were little homely interiors, but with many moves we had to get rid of all his larger “costume pieces”, and anyhow, they were not his best. Only one, “The Yellow Dress”, we do keep, for even modern painters thought it outstanding. As I look round my little studio I realise that all the best things I possess in pottery and a few bits of furniture were his buying. One or two bits of furniture were made by him. He was also a fine etcher and was a member of the R.P.E. His etchings of, now, vanished old London were excellent and Emmie and I gave them to the London Museum, and also we gave some of his costumes to the Victoria and Albert – the rest were bought by a woman antique dealer in Brighton, who sold them to Preston Museum, so they went back to our ancestral country.


Emily with her grandchildren, Alexander, Jim, Geoffrey and Jean Bayes

We were now a household of women, and for a while, an uneventful one, but still rather open house, with an increasing number of children about – Kitty taking on a succession of jobs, was inclined to send the boys to Emmeline to take charge of – for the second boy had now arrived, Alexander George Thomson. Evidently George Thomson had been a very good friend.

Jim's second name was Montreuil, and when it was asked if it was a family name the answer was “ Oh no – that was where we thought of him”. Gilbert had two, Jean and Geoffrey, and the Aumoniers had lashings of small cousins. Our house was always the focal point for family meetings and even for my long lifetime it has remained so, for the far flung company of cousins, both Bayes and Fieldens.


Emmeline and I and often Kathleen Figgis continued to spend our holidays mostly in France and, (as a bit of English sociological history) we could achieve a fortnight in France for £5 a head, inclusive of fares (second class on the boat, 3rd. on the train). For our period I think we were enterprising. Having decided the district we wanted to explore, we got a Departmental map from Machette's, and when we had fixed on a tour likely to be interesting, studied the surrounding country, and if it had forest, river and hills, picked a village near enough to get into on market days. Of course, we had a passion for market days and I specially remember getting up at 5am at St. Jouen for the Dinan market, and eating little sausages rolled in pancakes off a stall at a pig market on the ramparts.


When we had chosen our area we adventured to it, leaving our luggage in the Consigne and looking for a friendly inn. We never paid more than 5 francs – that being then 4s 2d. English money (and two square meals, as well as breakfast café) It was the usual rate for country inns, which usually kept their own chickens and grew their own vegetables. We rarely drew a blank and the inns were always clean (though it might be inadvisable to get too fond of the youngsters if they had long hair – as I found to my cost!) We were great walkers, and in impossible clothes; umbrella skirts that reached to the ankles; stiff belt and blouse, with a collar that wilted in the heat – and our shoes were hopelessly wrong. I suppose that women were so little athletic that there were no sensible clothes made except at the top-notch shops in Mayfair for Scottish Shoots, and even these (looking back at Punch illustrations) were absurd and the long cloth riding habit cut open to sit on a side saddle was fantastic. I wore one once, when Molly Noble lent me hers and her beautiful mare Lavender for my first essay in riding – and Lavender bolted! For a while I wondered whether to jump off and risk it, or wait to be flung off if Lavender came to a fence. I jumped – not unsuccessfully, but why those yards of skirt didn't catch in the stirrup only my guardian angel knows. I got on her again and I might have been a good rider, but horses did not come my way again.


We were getting a good many American visitors through Margaret Huston and through one of them my fortune took a sudden sharp turn. A New York banker, Gilbert White, who had commissioned one or two illuminated manuscripts from me enquired one day what was really preventing me giving all my time to it. I was then at Waller and Cockerell (my salary I think raised to £2 a week). He seemed to think this inadequate – and gave me £100 to start my career. I suppose it would not seem much today but to me it seemed a fortune, and despite Waller and Cockerell's grave warnings that I should not find it easy I left in the Spring and spent perhaps £30 in taking Emmeline with me to Italy, which seemed to be the best beginning. I think it was. We kept mostly to Tuscany – Sienna; Orvieto … but it was Tuscany that left its stamp on my work. I stayed on after she had gone home, to try to work, and when I returned gave a small exhibition, and though I think it was rather bad, and much too derivative, I made about £100 – and it did start me, despite Emery Waller's warnings.


In the summer of 1912, Emmeline, almost inadvertently so it seemed, married John Stacy (better known as Jack) Aumonier. This sudden incandescence of emotion in a lifetime's bread and butter friendship was to everyone almost as disconcerting as it was surprising. Emmeline was 45 – Jack 40, and though no longer next door neighbours, he and his sister lived in an old house they had partially converted into flats a bare five minutes walk from ours, so the family remained almost an annex to our own. Even in perspective I find Jack difficult to draw; perhaps I knew him too long as a boy to know him as a man. He had started life with the groundwork of a musical career, studying as a violinist in Belgium, but some muscular defect in his right arm had forced him to abandon music as a career. Perhaps it was the physical weakness that had made him rather a health crank, a dedicated vegetarian and almost religious live-to-rule in morning coldish baths and exercises. Added to that the sense of frustration had drawn him into himself with a brooding sense of failure.


Living as he did, in a circle of artists and musicians I think he, perhaps unconsciously, rejected as almost derogatory the position of an office worker (Family connections having found him a post in a wall paper firm) and it was though he lived perpetually on tip-toe to hold a place in that artist life more in keeping with his natural instincts. He took up painting, continued his violin practice and was an omnivorous reader.


Emmeline always said that he would read almost anything as long as it was “improving”, and he regulated his days, almost with the exactitude of a Benedictine Monk, dividing his time exactly between his necessary job, painting, violin practice and reading. It was this touch of almost obstinate superiority and fanatical orderliness that was his human weakness. But the coin's reverse showed his real appreciation of beauty, of music and of the living world of nature, and the (shall I say moral?) uprightness that was part of his live-to-rule. When he could forget himself, in congenial company, he was delightful, and I had always been fond of him. If all this sounds a bit colourless, it is just, for the sense of colour was conspicuously lacking in all the Aumonier family. I remember three of their homes, and in none of them any trace of colour beyond brown … variously! And Emmeline always remembered Old James' fury levelled against herself, when she went to a Private View of his pictures in a bright red hat! “How could anyone,” he stormed, “brought up among artists, wear a thing like that – it took all the colour out of the pictures.” But fine as they were, James' pictures, like his homes, had little colour to lose. But we were rather a colourful family, and I think both friends and kin looked on the marriage a little dimly. Emmeline, outgoing, outgiving, inventive by nature, if not opportunity, they felt deserved a more exciting “consummation” after a life already too long submerged in the cares and duties to which an elder daughter of the period was inextricably tied. Besides this, he was in no position to support a wife, but as Emmeline had already stipulated that she would only marry him on condition that he joined forces with us at Fellows Road, I did not see that mattered if he added to her happiness, for she refused to leave me with the whole burden of the house – and mother – who was growing difficult.  

There was about a fortnight's engagement of a somewhat stormy nature, on, and off, till one day he was “on”, and Jack went out and got a special licence and a wedding ring, so they got married and went off to Cornwall for their honeymoon. I think there were no guests at the wedding beyond brothers and sisters respectively, and Jack's cousin Cliff Aumonier. But it was quite gay, and after a modest wedding breakfast of cold ham and chicken (Jack's principles could fall before chicken but never ham) with champagne cider to drink their health.

Emmeline and Jack


I remember (the guests having departed), Kathleen and I sitting among the debris, a little dazed, trying to visualise the changed future. And while Emmie York (of course she took part) washes up the dishes I must try to fill in the outline of Kathleen's portrait, too long left unpainted. I think because she was so much one of us, I can feel her presence rather than describe what it was in substance. One's first impact with her was, as it were, the sense of radiating warmth, deeply understanding sympathy, and a sort of simplicity that was almost of a past era. When she first came to us she was a big, red-haired Irish girl, covered with freckles – rather shy, and ready to believe everyone wiser and cleverer than herself. Her bubbling sense of fun, however, counterbalanced her humility, and she had a keen eye for the ridiculous. As an artist she was perceptive and sensitive; as a portraitist generally in delicate pencil; as a flower painter her watercolours were so delicate Marguerite always said they were the ghosts of flowers – and I think her portraits were the ghosts of her subjects, in as much as she caught the spirit behind the form.

She adored Emmeline and got on marvellously well with Jack, and as we agreed we were far too much a household of women, we hoped for the best. I don't know which of us then conceived the idea on lightening any embarrassment on their return by creating a mid-Victorian travesty of a “Nid d'Amour” in one of the rooms. The top room, sometimes Emmeline's work room, was already very well stocked with cast-off heavy furniture of the period, and we raided our neighbours for period pieces – chenille table cloths – crochet antimacassars – Nottingham lace curtains – mantle boxes and the like. A set piece of wax flowers under a bell glass centering the round table with its chenille cloth was our chef d'oevre, and the mantle piece, modestly dressed in a mantle border in crewel stitches (complete with bobbles) was decked with china dogs and pink and gold vases inscribed, “a Present from Brighton”. A woolwork picture of the Infant Samuel, central on the wall was flanked by pictures from the Graphic “Christmas Numbers” of the “Taller than Mother” vintage, with framed texts for variety, not noticeably scriptural, but spurious gothic lettering reading “What Next”, “Well I Never” and, of course, “Welcome Home” – and I seem to remember a stuffed parrot too … nothing lacking”. Then we shut up the windows and doors to create the period stuffiness and turned away with a sense of work well done. It certainly was a work of art and a labour of love, and it certainly made for a hilarious homecoming.


But I have often thought that could it, or another, have remained their own (with different décor) – it would have made for a happier marriage. Not that it was unhappy – far from it – but it's not an ideal condition for marriage for the husband to live in his wife's home; not for either. It was alright in the summer, the garden gave one elbow room, but in the winter inevitably the family tends to congregate in one room that has a good stove, and mother certainly resented Jack's presence – his occupation of a particular armchair and absorbed pre-occupation with books. “Is this a Quakers' Meeting,” she would storm, forgetting that we never did talk much before, for we were poor at small talk. But Jack's added silence seemed to make silence more profound. And there was no getting away from it that if Emmeline had felt the need of a shoulder to lean on, it was not very forthcoming for the job.


These three marriages were singularly different. Walter's, though stormy, was not unsuited to his temperament. He could find a mild ironic amusement out of all the convolutions of his young wife's mind – the weather chart continually varying from storms to fair (rarely set fair) at least made for variety. Life could not have been monotonous; they were constantly moving house, continually in debt for frames, paint and canvas – for painting had ever held first place, and he had gained a real and growing distinction in the artistic world – an acknowledged place among the avant garde, to stabilise his life. Only at the end of his life did Kitty's wifely conviction that she must manage him for his own good wear him down, and he would sneak back to us, his sisters, to rest and grumble. He reminded me of Gilbert's old Irish Terrier who, when the children came, felt he was too old for a nursery and day after day would pad the long roads from St. John's Wood to Fellows Road and be on our doorstep until we let him in to be by the stove until he padded home at night.


The real centre of Walter's emotional life lasted from his early twenties until the eve of his marriage. Only because its focus was in Geneva was it unknown to all but his sisters and Kathleen. The girl, as she was when he met her, was the daughter of a Genevaise professor, a cultivated and charming creature, with much of his own detached and ironic outlook. She needed it perhaps, for her life was strenuous. She was her father's secretary/hostess to his academic friends, hostess and cook to boarders, and tutor by profession to young aristocrats who generally fell in love with her. We girls loved her. She stayed with us when she came to London, and the sparring matches between her and Walter were monumental, striking sparks that crackled.

Her tormenting mockery was her armour. She must have been a maddening person to love – or be in love with. He went periodically to Geneva to try and win her, and always fore and aft – as before and after her visits to us – we had to tread softly, for his temper was lurid. Could they have remained friends it was a brilliant friendship, but we saw the impossibilities. She used to say his letters were wonderful; rich with thumbnail sketches and crackling with life. I feel literature has lost a treasure in them. Yet I do not think any highly cultivated woman could have lived easily with him, his habits were too carnal … but deeper than that he had an insensitivity to one side of life – the religious sense – if I may so call it, that seemed to delight in mocking, as if it were something infinitely comic, and although I do not think Marguerite was particularly a churchwoman, the insensitivity jarred as being derogatory to himself.


After her father's death she went to Africa and started a small chicken farm at Elgin. She was tired of entertaining people and found animals a refreshment. We knew all of them, the cat who she trained to sit among the chicks without lifting a paw against them – only to find that she travelled three miles to the nearest neighbour's chicken run and ate their chickens. There was the rat, who sat on her kitchen threshold cleaning his whiskers … “il est tellement mignon.” The snake who lived in her rafters and used to come down at intervals for bread and milk. She came to see us once before her death and Kathleen stayed with her once, loving the life – its beauty and its simplicity.


Of the third marriage, Gilbert's. It was one of romantic love; he saw his Gertrude under the veil of Yseult or who you will, and pictured their marriage as a long continuation of their student idealism … to find unaccountably that his ideal lady had an eye for knowing the best people and keeping up with the Jones's. Perhaps it may have been of more solid value to his career – who knows – we were very close and both rather immature, so there was a moment when I shared his confidence. But one must not take the romantic too seriously. By and large he was a very happy man, and the coming of his children certainly closed any wound there may have been. In Jean especially he may have found the companion of his early dreams, for she was very close to him in character, in affection and in that outgoing, out giving delight in things. Both were happy extroverts.


In those last years before the First World War, England was comatose with complacency, her prosperity seemingly invulnerable from the point of view of the upper and middle strata. That there was a deep underflow of poverty, suffering and unrest, like the network of sewers under London, was not as yet troubling the social conscience, and we were still intensely class conscious and desperately snob. I remember when some V.I.P. was coming to visit my studio (I think it was Lady Beauchamp) Emmerline's consternation because there was no-one to open the door and announce her – but ever resourceful she ran up a muslin cap and apron and became housemaid for the occasion.  



Another instance still fills me with hot shame. An old friend of father's, rather a dashing widower with a housekeeper, came to tea with us one “at home” day. (yes, we had sunk to that) bringing her with him … but as she was only a housekeeper, Emmeline laid tea for her separately in another room. Even then I felt it to be all wrong – yet possibly she was only considering the feelings of our other guests? I still admire the generosity and courage of that otherwise very conventional gentleman for bringing her, and I blush for the rebuff.

In that summer of 1914 Emmeline and I were in France. She had given up taking holidays with Jack for he always chose some remote English village – and rooms in a cottage, (just as we did ourselves) but settled down to painting all the time, so she was left high and dry to wander alone, for it was before the days of country buses which could take her further afield. We therefore returned to our old accustomed holidays together in France and were staying at St. Wandrille, a tiny village on the Seine between Caudebec and Rouen. It is lovely country. On both sides of the wide loops of river lie deep forests, La Brotonne and Naulevre, and beyond them, that July, the corn fields were deep gold, patined with the deep blue and scarlet of the cornflowers and poppies, like the paintings in the Sainte Chapelle, I used to think. The village is but a single street of cottages, sealed at one end by the inn, at the other by the little stone church, pathetic in its simplicity, with its painted wooden saints, and artificial flowers in their china vases bought at the village fair. At an angle from the inn were the great gates of the Abbaye where, that summer, Maurice Maeterlinck and Georgette LeBlanc were living.


We were great friends of the Hinfrays who kept the inn and were nearing the end of a specially happy holiday in superb weather – then one morning we read of a murder in Sarajevo. “Il y aura de Guerre”, all the habitués of the inn prophesied, and I think we, with our British phlegm thought this prophesy was typical of the French peasant … and probably scoffed a little.


But within a few days we were to hear the dreaded tocsin clanging as it seemed the very words “ Guerre – Guerre – Guerre” as it summoned the men of France to arms once again for war. The outbreak of war in a conscripted country is as tragic as it is dramatic. The women at once put on black, the old moth-eaten army uniform is dug out from chests and presses, and all transport is commandeered for troops, and at every door one sees weeping farewells as men and boys tramp out of the village to report. I saw the Cure, still young, in his cassock girded up above his army breeches, walking out alone and unnoticed with tragedy in his eyes, raising a hand in farewell to the two lads at the inn; one was exempt for health reasons, the other as yet below age – though he was drawn in later. The inn was crowded with veterans talking vociferously when the Abbaye gates swung open for Maurice Maeterlinck and Georgette who swept out in a great car for Paris? … For England? Who knows … and who, at that hour, cared? We were fortunate in getting a car to take us to Le Havre, and at every stop (for excited interchange of rumour) the people we passed in the road would call to us, “L'Angleterre – est ce qu'elle battre?”, and we, caught up by the contagion, would answer, “Oui, surement elle battre”, and we swept on with, “Vive La France – Vive L'Angleterre.”


But on that night crossing, the throb of the engines was like the endless tread of marching feet, tramping to their death – and still the tocsin seemed to beat on my ear with its grim summons as I thought of the black robed women of France parting from their husbands, sons and lovers and asking of their anguished hearts ...

.... “For whom the bell tolls.”

The new peril of the war from the air was now the first possibility to be faced, but it was not till the news broke of the Germans' first gas attack that a further possibility was added, and gas masks were issued to the whole population, small children having to add the unwieldy burden to that of school books and lunch packets.


It was some little time before the first Zeppelin attack. I remember I was in a room facing north, and standing by the window I heard the heavy beat of what sounded like an army of aircraft – for it was a new sound on our untried ears. I ran into Emmeline and Jack, who, in a front room, had not yet heard it, and we sat and waited for we knew not what, hearing the darks wings of the angel of death come nearer and nearer. I believe at that time it was almost impossible to hit any target except within a mile or so, and most of the damage was broadcast over city and suburbs. We soon came to accept the first crump of the maroon announcing the approach of the Zeppelins, followed later by the whistle of the cycle patrols and the cry, “Take cover”. There were practically no air-raid shelters, though I believe a few were dug in Hyde Park. People sheltered in the underground tube stations and the crypts of churches.

Walter – seizing the moment of drama, painted one of his most celebrated pictures of people sheltering from an air-raid in Hampstead tube station. It was bought by the War Museum and at the moment of writing hangs outside the little cinema where educational films are shown.

Underworld by Walter Bayes


St. Martin in the Fields was an all night dormitory and canteen all through the war (and afterwards during the Depression). For ourselves, we just sat up all night if must be, till the welcome “all clear”, cheering ourselves with a harmless brew made from the husks of cocoa beans – we rarely went into the basement in the First World War.


The dense darkness of London was amazing and eerie; buses crawling about with drawn curtains, like large glow-worms, lit only by a shaded greenish light. They were the only illuminations in a mysterious shadowy world. It was beautiful in its mystery. Moonlight got its full value at last, though we did not fully appreciate its beauty as it was an inducement for the heaviest raids.


Looking back from these days of constant radio communication, how little we seemed to know – how pitifully little got past the censor. I remember one feverish rush for the morning paper with its dread back page of casualties – now lengthening … its ever mounting rate of German advance and the falling back of the Allies. We lived through the inevitable spy phobia, when everyone who had a German Governess or servant had to get rid of them, even if unwillingly, for their own sake – and friendly German shopkeepers were manhandled and their shops looted. Then there was the Hate Virus which was worse – and alas, only too often prevalent in women. I remember a mild woman artist coming to me with a paper and asking me to join the “I Promise League” … “But what do I promise?” I asked. “Never to be friends with a German. Never to buy anything German, to read or listen to any books, plays or music written by Germans.” … “I presume Bach and Beethoven come under this ban,” I snapped … Keep the pot boiling for another war! I did not see much of her for a time – but she had a long list on her paper all the same.


We, however, could not hate Germany. We were brought up on German Fairy Tales; picture books of adorable Gothic cities with steep roofs were storks nested on chimney tops. Hansel and Gretel were our sister and brother and Humperdink only brought them closer. Some of the old picture books we had loved have rejoiced even the third generation – one Max and Moritz especially. It would not have amused Queen Victoria, as it was entirely the saga of their inspired naughtiness, which, if I remember aright, remained entirely unpunished. Anyhow, we were by nature pacific – on the whole I think the German Hymn of Hate restored our balance as people. The soldiers, I was told, delighted in it and learned it to chant derisively to the enemy whenever they were near enough.

The English soldier … but who was he in this war? – for he was everyman. One after another we saw our young friends, students – writers – artists pass from us into the maelstrom. When had any war such a galaxy of poets as this? Siegfried Sassoon, Rupert Brooke, Robert Nichols, Robert Graves, Wilfred Owen – killed in action.


As the years passed Gilbert was almost within sight of calling up. He trained for a while in some Artists' Corps, but, medically examined, was not quite A1. Jack, who had now got a secretarial post in the Air Ministry, did night watch on the roof once a week. It was the Air arm of the Navy at that time, and I remember the overcoat and steel helmet served out for night watching had Navy buttons and badge. Many of the bombs were incendiaries, and most streets had a volunteer fire-watcher prepared to patrol at intervals if there was an alert. Meanwhile, we were steadily tightening our belts – allowed 2oz. of butter, 3 of margarine weekly. Most other things were a matter of catch as catch can, and that finished class insulation nicely. After the first war, a cat could look at a king – a dustman at a countess, without blinking, when both were after the same skinned rabbit. On the whole, Jack's vegetarianism was not much help; there was so little substitute. In fact, I think he gave it up more or less.


We women did the usual jobs of knitting for soldiers and sailors, making up parcels and writing letters, taking first aid courses and tying up each other's wounds. In misguided zeal I dug up the lawn for vegetables and still blush for my insensitivity in rooting up a lovely and loved lilac tree to plant potatoes. We entertained refugees and bus-loads of wounded soldiers, till finally, aiming higher, we commandeered an empty house in West Hampstead and making drastic inroads on our own and our friends' belongings, got it furnished. For the first time I realised what a shocking lot of possessions we need just to live decently. Only the fact that single beds had become fashionable made it possible to sleep them at all, for we started with two double beds stored in attics. We got some promises for food and coal, including one of a monthly sack of 7lbs. of coffee beans, which I coveted bitterly. Then we installed the family Pied-voeif from Liege – DIX in all – father, mother, sons and daughters-in-law. We kept them there about 3 years I think and though we tried to love them, never quite succeeded.


When the Australian troops joined up, our own Australian invasion began. The wheel, starting to revolve in my Bedford days, had made its circle, and first came Sgt. Erskine Robinson, the husband of little Alice. When the wire announcing his imminent leave reached us, we hastened to prepare. Hot baths – and being well-primed on conditions in the trenches I wondered how one contended best with lice. He arrived looking like a broader edition of the White Knight, in crumpled battledress all hung around with a battery of equipment, After the first embrace I proffered a hot bath – a fact of which he never ceased to tease me … but still, when all's said and done I did embrace him first (incidentally, I never found a single one!) He came glowing with joy to be alive and to be in London – warmth, humour, adaptability and an immense gift of understanding characterised him and we loved him at sight, and he us. Of course there followed hectic days of sight-seeing. We had a special Soho café – the Café Roche, to which we took our friends for festivals – and we finished up with a dinner there and an evening out at “The Runaway Girl”. Even yet the lyric that most delighted him wells back:


Twinky twanky tootleham, the Tory and the Red

Twinky twanky tootleham, oh what a time we've had,

For neither of us had a brain, and neither had a bob,

So off we went to Parliament and got a cushy job.


I wonder if he still remembers it? – no doubt Lloyd George was just to the fore then! It was a horrid business, seeing him off again to that awful hell.


Next came army nurse, Edith, the elder of our young triumvirate – still pink-cheeked and yellow-haired, but worn and almost raddled with strain and exhaustion. She had an uninhibited sense of fun that could almost reach buffoonery, and I can well believe it must have been a delight to her soldiers. I remember it even as a girl, when one day she came into the room with a pile of awful black woollen stockings we used to wear, that always needed darning. At the time the special drawing room lyric was “The Rosary” – but it took Edith to turn that last heart stirring refrain to “My Hosiery, my hosiery” … with eyes turned up to heaven.


We rested her and petted her and when on her last evening she put on a party frock of mine and looked at herself in the mirror, before the Café Roche and theatre, she saw herself young again, as we shall always see her.


Next came Erskine's sister, Cath – and following her, Ella Gjedsted, who had been his girl friend before his marriage. By a miracle her leave coincided with Erskine's second leave – and we just left them to paint the town red in their own way.


Last, or somewhere in the middle, a tall young officer, Vivian Daniel (6'4”), with a face like a boy chorister – husband of another Australian cousin, Mildred Groser, who we had not yet known. We did, however, know her brother, a very celebrated priest, Father DeJohn Beverly Groser. When the first film of Thomas a Becket was produced, the producer, in despair for a good Thomas, heard Father John preach, “There's my Thomas,” he said – and so it came about. Long after, the old film, gaping at the seams, was shown as a Benefit and for a memorial to Father John. I saw it. He was very impressive. I remember one day he picked up a rather worldly book I was reading and said anxiously, “But I hope you do read detective stories – they are so good for one.”


We nursed Vivian through a touch of pneumonia. He was an endearing creature. We had to give him a camp bed lengthened by a footstool and pillow. And once again, the parting was inwardly troubled – and with cause, for he was killed soon after his return to the front; he had given my name for notification, so I got the telegram.


Of all these, only Erskine still lives – a lovely Chinese porcelain bowl he gave me, full of priceless chocolates, on that first leave – it must have cost a fortune! It is my most precious possession, but it will go back to Australia in the possession of his granddaughter, Sue, who with her husband, came to live in England last year … The wheel need turn no further, my little Australian love story is complete.


The loss of Lord Kitchener in a torpedoed vessel made a tremendous impact at a moment when everything seemed against us. It had a very direct impact on us too, for Marguerite had come over from Africa to be with her sister Henriette Jenou in her last illness, and after her death she had come to us till there should be a ship available for her return. The ship was due to sail the very day after we heard of the Kitchener tragedy; of all our partings this seemed almost the most hazardous. I know we all felt we were committing her to the deep, and it was long before we got news of her safety.


So the war dragged on, and though the end was in sight we could not believe it – yet one day in November the maroons (which had been less in evidence of late) startled us again, with a sense of outrage – what! Yet another! … and then all the bells in London pealed out in sudden ecstasy. We looked at each other – could it be? – yes, it must be – PEACE. I know we all fell into each other's arms and sobbed and laughed and kissed; and I tied mother's bonnet strings and took her on a bus ride round London to see the joy of the shouting, singing crowds – windows already hung with any old flag available. The black years were over, we believed – God help us – forever.


London, after the war, had grown strangely cosmopolitan, as the refugees from so many nations settled in; opened their shops; sold their county's products and carried on their country's customs. Russia, especially, left her stamp on things, and besides her peasant art, which was very enriching. There were richer and lovelier things that told their story of an impoverished Russian aristocracy – and perhaps looted churches. We were no longer an island; we were joined now to a larger world. We even learned to talk to people to whom we had not been introduced. But as the motor became more universal, London lost much of its typical charm; the quick-trotting tradesmen's carts; superb dray horses with feathered fetlock, graceful open carriages with high stepping horses … and lovely ladies dressed to be admired. Then there was the horse-drawn bus and the cockney wit of bus conductors – above all the hansom cab, that rakish elegant gondola of London with its reckless dash, its jingle of bells and its romantic intimacy, which made it deliciously daring – a fitting climax to an evening out with an admirer.

Artists and craftsmen during those first years were all drawn into the creation of war memorials. 


The Garden of Remembrance, Todmorden.

statue by Gilbert Bayes

I like to recall that it was Gilbert who designed the lovely Garden of Remembrance on a scarped hillside for our own Todmorden – and I who did the modest oak panel with a little painting of St. George for father's Lumbutts chapel – and another small memorial for the big Methodist chapel in Todmorden, to whose varnished pews my small bare legs had stuck so long ago. I shall leave out the other work for a while to follow post-war history.

In the summer of 1920, Lutyens' Cenotaph was unveiled. The Unknown Warrior, brought home from Boulogne, lay on a gun carriage at the base of the cenotaph, to be taken for burial to the Abbey. It was a beautiful and dramatic gesture; one would have liked to have followed that journey. At Boulogne the coffin had been saluted by Marshall Foch, and when it put to sea it was escorted across the channel by six destroyers to Dover, where a Field Marshall's salute of 19 guns greeted the nameless dead. Did his spirit, amazed, perhaps chuckling (who knows) brood wondering over that gun carriage on which the King and Queen and the Prince of Wales had laid their poppy wreathes. The flags veiling the cenotaph fell and the Last Post rang out. It was a farewell fit for a hero – if only the battered living heroes had been remembered as fittingly, with the homes promised for them … but that's another story.


Sometime in these first years, I was asked by an American to paint a more or less imaginary picture of Ceoury le Chateau, a little town on the Aisne, which had been completely destroyed by the Germans. Because it had been a monument of Medieval architecture specially listed by the State for its beauty, it was being left untouched as a lasting memorial (yet of what? – perhaps hate). I had persuaded Gilbert to come with me and we were put up by the American Red Cross who had their headquarters nearby. We found it indescribably beautiful in its desolation, wild flowers rioting on broken stairways, a slender tree springing from a ruined arch, and through some gaping wall, the homely glimpse of a peasant kitchen, a child's cradle, copper pans, a spindle yet wound with wool – a brooding Virgin still almost intact besides a gothic arch. Gilbert found it lovelier far than Pompeii. Always easily moved (it was his cross that tears came too easily) he responded especially to little things that gave grace to every day life – animals, his dog and cats and his garden.

All this side of things was conspicuously lacking in Walter – his one driving passion was painting, and ever with deeper search for new vision; his art was cerebral rather than spontaneous and intuitive. Because of this tendency to evolve, it changed sometimes drastically. After being elected into the Royal Watercolour Society on the basis of his first technique of pure water colour, rather finished in detail, his first exhibit was a large, boldly planned gouache in strong masses of colour, which must, to say the least of it, have been disconcerting to his Electors. Equally disconcerting to them was his uninhibited criticism of the exhibition, for he was Art Critic for the New Statesman at the time, and had no compunction about flagellating where he thought flagellation was due.


As a teacher at Westminster School of Art, and for a short time at the Slade, he was inspiring and exciting. Sometimes he contrived to get two models at a time – so as to provide interesting composition and dramatic relationship. He demanded extreme definition; no soft edges to get away with uncertainties, you had to say what you meant, and though he imposed his own personality on his students, this was inevitable, but it was a personality not to be followed easily – and indeed, as he talked all the time, doing rapid sketches to explain his meaning, he elucidated every phase of his teaching.


For those he loved his love was very tender, but it was not a broadcast affair – he had not room outside his work. His marriage pursued its vagarious way. When the boys were 17 and 15, Kitty's affections became deeply involved in a woman friend of delicate health, whose life she felt required her firm hand to restore its equilibrium – so she left home and lived for long indefinite periods with her protége, leaving her all-male household to fend for itself. It must have been an odd ménage, but perhaps in some ways restful not to be managed – even if they were not very good at it themselves.

The War, so far as I can tell, had not made a very drastic difference to Walter's way of life, but for both Gilbert and myself it gave a great deal of professional work. My heaviest commission was the Roll Book for the King's Royal Rifle Corps – now in Winchester Cathedral. The number of dead was so appalling that I had to get a team of 3 or 4 scribes from the Central School to help with the plain script whilst I did the gold work and the decoration. It seemed always a bitter fortune to win one's years of prosperity at the cost of a world of heartbreak and it left me with the intense sense of compulsion that the gain must be shared. Those first years after the War were febrile and strangely heartless. A large section of society had grown fabulously rich by it all and spent lavishly on entertaining and personal luxuries. The Middle Class, set free from austerity, were wild for pleasure. Theatres and Music Halls catered for the demand – American dances and American slang came over and the first American films. Skirts shot up to the knees and girls began to bob their hair. Emmeline and I visited our first cinema and it seemed the acme of luxury to sit in comfortable seats and follow the fortunes of the wronged heroine (Lilian Gish), with an attendant bringing one cups of tea. We laughed at ourselves as lowbrow, but it was our way of celebrating release.

An unprecedented epidemic of Russian flu claimed, they say, nearly as many as the War had done, and the churches pronounced it to be the punishment for the heartlessness and license of the age. Perhaps we did not read the papers much, but I think the real state of affairs in England was glossed over. We were shocked by the ever-increasing number on the dole, and of course the complacent well-fed inveighed against pampering the idle poor. We did not know that there were two million out of work, but one summer evening it was brought home to me scaringly. Wealthy friends had invited us to dinner and the Opera, in their box, and had sent a landau to fetch us – of course in full evening dress, Jack and I looking as though we belonged. Near Trafalgar Square there was a hold up in the traffic and we were in the midst of the first hunger march. I shall never forget the misery of that moment. I could understand people tearing off their jewels – we could only look on with anguished pity at the gaunt, tragic faces, and hate ourselves. In my half-baked Socialism I had rejoiced at the advent of Ramsay Macdonald – afterwards I learned that he had made no move to meet their demands – they were told “Conditions should be improved in time”, and sent back with wages further reduced, working hours lengthened and coal pits still death pits. There passed yet four years before the General Strike registered some popular feeling. I remember that vaguely as difficult enough but on the whole amusing – in its sidelights.


Dick Shepherd of St. Martin in the Fields fought valiantly throughout the Great Depression and the East End padres, like our Father Groser, did likewise. It was later that Father Jellicoe built the first “human” housing scheme in Somerstown, and commissioned Gilbert to decorate the galleries outside the houses with pottery reliefs of fairy tales, and to crown the clothes props in the drying ground with little pottery figures of animals and birds. Boultons carried out the work.


Later I was asked to design a tympanum in the same medium for the Church of St. Michael and all Angels, Beckenham. The following telephone conversation with the architect was my first approach to it:


Arch: Can you do a dragon?


Me: Oh yes, I'm rather great on dragons


Arch: Really, do you keep one in the garden?


Me: Er – no, you see rationing is still so difficult.


I had been told he was rather formidable, but I was completely reassured.


I was to do a great deal of work for churches; Gilbert did very little – his work was mostly civic – but he did a Rood beam for St. Mary the Virgin, Primrose Hill, under Dr. Percy Dearmer, a curious type of man, though deeply erudite in English Church history. He was a poseur, and his Sunday afternoon tea parties were much patronised by ladies from Mayfair, journalists and fashionable writers of the moment. On occasions he wore an embroidered waistcoat, the work of one of his titled admirers, but he was enlightened and somehow made an ugly church severely beautiful. For a while, Conrad Noel was Curate at St. Mary's, and when Vicar at Thaseld, showed Dearmer's gift for perceptive feeling, so that Thaseld church is celebrated for its perfection.


I suppose the next event in this back and forth welter of forgotten dates was my first visit to America. Margaret (Huston) Carrington had been over to England and as she left had said, “Why don't you come over? – It's so easy, you've only got to step on a ship” … so I thought awhile – and stepped.


I am not going to dwell on this visit; it was mostly social, though I had taken some small work and Margaret gave me a little exhibition. I think I remember it mainly as having the same febrile feeling as England at this time – it was Prohibition and at every party the guests produced flasks of spirit from hip pockets and elsewhere, and I had my first experience of seeing people of my own kind, both men and women, “under the influence”. To put it mildly, it rather shocked me.


But I was met with much kindness and hospitality, and though America felt far more alien to me than France, I felt at home in Massachusetts, where a lone cousin, Helen Otis, welcomed me to a real New England farmhouse.


Gilbert must have gone over a few years later, and he must, I think, have visited Margaret in her Santa Barbara home, for he carried out a fountain and reliefs for a loggia to adorn the wonderful – truly tropical garden. The figure of the dancing girl centering the fountain looks beautiful in the photograph against the formal background of dark trees. Oddly enough, it was during his visit to New York that he bought his own house in St. John's Wood – from John Angel, an old friend, at that time so involved in sculpture for the new cathedral of St. John the Divine that he had decided to uproot from England and settle permanently in the States. It is a house that has been deeply loved and remains so. We often wished we knew its history for its foundation goes back several hundred years.


I was to return to America 2 or 3 years later, taking all my work, with the idea of exhibitions. It was one of my wildest of my wild-cat adventures (looking back) I have discovered attack me every seven years. I had scarcely any introductions – no agent – no publicity – only a sheaf of press notices, and the fact that I had met a woman who ran a little gallery when I was first in New York. A kind woman on the ship gave me an introduction to the Cosmopolitan Women's Club, so I should have somewhere to stop – for of course I had not notified Margaret this time, and counted on her being in Santa Barbara for the winter.


The little gallery took me on at a price. It was a dead failure. Most days no-one came at all – why should they? I sent my (English) press notices to Ackerman of Chicago – they have a gallery in Bond Street – and they took me on at their own risk. Also I lived rent free, for another of that far-flung Fielden clan, David Bachelder, welcomed me to their flat. They had an obstreperous David junior, 2 year old – he is now a middle-aged man, his profession keeping him continually in flight all over the globe. He rings me at intervals – maybe from Poland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, to ask if all is well.


By a happy miracle a few sales saved me in Chicago, and the very charming secretary took me out to dinner and a recital by Paderewski.


Next Detroit – but I had hopes of Detroit for I had met the secretary of the Arts and Crafts in London, and they did me handsomely with an opening reception and some publicity. I should have had the sense to stop there, but went on to Cleveland, and diluted my gains with dead loss. Nevertheless, somehow I got home about £100 to the good.  

I came home to find mother much feebler and more wandering, and she died the following summer. It had been a long strain on Emmeline, but Emma York had spared it and eased it. When it was over, Gilbert sent us both on a holiday to Venice, to give us a chance to recoup, and we came back renewed in spirit – for in some ways the loss of one who has been dear – but long lost as her real self by a changed mind, is sadder than the outright shock of sudden death; one meets it already depleted – self-reproachful for what it brings of relief, and (in my own case) self-reproachful for a frequent loss of patience and charity.



We soon settled to our life-long pattern of absorption in work. Emmeline set free to develop several crafts at once. She and Kathleen took up woodcarving. I have a photograph of a little alter they carried out for some mission church overseas. Emmeline followed with silver work and enamelling, and showed skill and good design in all she did. Gilbert's work from the War years onwards would lengthen this to a volume. In portraiture, a more than life size figure of the Maharajah of Bikinir coincided with the War years. His portrait work in busts or relief included Shackleton, Dame Ethel Smythe, Professor Lethaby and many others. Among war memorials, the largest was a monumental group for New South Wales – some austerely fine terminal figures for the Masonic Hospital – Reliefs for the War Memorial to solicitors in the Law Society's Hall, (augmented by my own panels of the names in script and heraldry on natural vellum) … and endless medals, beginning with the Great Seal for Edward VII in 1916. His Fireman's Memorial in the Central Fire Office, Lambeth – which was also completed by my own panels and flanked by a triptych of my work, commemorating fire insurances.


Gilbert Bayes

Verging now into the 1930's, Walter was writing prolifically his study of the life of Turner. I, too, was spreading further afield. I decorated a little chapel in Waddington House, Clitheroe. Including the design of its stained glass windows. A little Lady Chapel alter for Whitby Parish Church was commissioned by a lively bachelor with whom I stayed whilst completing the work – my years safeguarding my (and his own) reputation. He was a warm friend of the Holy Paraclete aforementioned, and I always thought his celibacy might be due to his admiration for the Rev. Mother, who was young and brilliant. I said as much to one of the Sisters with whom I remained friends for many years … I thought she accepted the idea with some complacency.




(This, apart from the tailpiece, which Jessie agreed to put at the end, rather than the beginning, is the last page of manuscript that could be found – she was still writing until the time of her death.)





Yet how can I tell the story of the Bayes clan without going back to its root soil, Todmorden, for it was the loved background of our childhood – every year I think some of us spent long weeks of the summer there with our Uncle and Aunt Holdens (mother's sister, Aunt Lizzie) and the beloved cousins … but I must not digress to the Fielden branch, or this would be a three-decker!


Todmorden lies in a circle of cliff-like hills, like a lump of sugar in the bottom of a teacup – outcrop of the rise of the Industrial Age. Tall chimneys belch their smoke over blackened rows of back-to-back cottages, faced with rows of earth closets, (emptied once a week, when we kept all windows shut). The little black Calder below the street hurries over rubbish covered rocks, sometimes coloured green from the dye works – green or red. It does not sound a paradise, but we adored it, of course chiefly with childish inconsequence, because it was different.


In parenthesis, I should say that, though I describe it in the “then” present, when I saw it again, opening a little exhibition of father's work at the Town Hall, it was unbelievably different – for once the present is infinitely more attractive than the past.


Of course it was near the presence of the high moors that really held our love, the tiny paper-thin harebells rustling in the wind, the little ice-cold springs that bubbled out between heather covered rocks. The bilberries purpling our mouths and fingers, with great breathtaking vistas of far hills and sky, a wheeling kestrel, a peewhit's cry, wonderful picnics on early closing days to the rocky waterfalls and gorges of Jumble Hole and Coalholes Clough.

But Uncle Will's high house in Union Street was romantic, too. Furniture shop, workshops and dwelling house, it was a wonder and a delight. How much memory is evoked by the sense of smell; how much of Todmorden begins in my nose. The smell of baking day. New bread rising before the fire, followed by Parkin; washing day and the smell of steamy suds; ironing day and the smell of faintly scorched linen. All I have said of Victorian cats might equally well be applied to the Victorian women of Yorkshire. No modern woman would cope with what my Aunt Lizzie and Eunice did, year in, year out. Hanging out a family's double bed sheets (washed in a tub) in a back yard was no fun.


Yet my memory of that basement “house”, as the living room was called, is only radiant and peaceful. We learned to know our outside world by the boots and trouser legs seen through the grating that gave us light – but we did learn them : Every kitchen had what looked like a clothes airer hanging from the ceiling, but it was to dry the oatcake, which came from the oatcake griddle like damp flannel, but crisped in the upper air – and the hungry passer-by would break off a bit in the passing. Like the widow's crust, it was unfailing.


The “house” was full of books. Uncle Will was scholarly and Eunice, (being twentyish) an avid poetry lover. Uncle, self taught in Italian, was translating Dante when he was not making furniture, (alas, not William Morris vintage) – I never knew how far he got. The focal point of that Todmorden life was its Methodist Chapel and its junketings (it was a sociable religion) and I remember learning how long two hours could last when small bare legs were sticking to newly varnished pitch pine pews.


I would like to feel that these memories could paint some picture of a life forever passed away, yet not without its beaty.


  © Jessie Bayes 1970