Evelyn Staunton: Recollections

Evelyn Staunton (nee Baker)

A conversation: notes

My great-grandparents: I can vaguely remember my great-grandfather [on my father's side], who smoked a clay pipe. He worked as a farm labourer on large estates, and had a premonition of his own death. My grandparents on my father's side lived in almshouses at a village called Irnham in south Lincolnshire, in old workers' cottages.

My grandparents on my mother's side, Arthur Munro (who had been born in Scotland) and his wife Alice (above) had met while both were working at Grimsthorpe Castle in south Lincolnshire (below), where he was employed as a gardener and she a housemaid. In later life he was a gardener at Sister Swan's, a nursing home off Monks Road in Lincoln (now being used as a medical centre). They had three daughters: my mother, Annie and her sisters Margaret ('Mag') and Alice. Alice died quite young, at 33 years of age, and is buried alongside her father in Eastgate Cemetery in Lincoln.

Above: Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire, where Arthur Munro met his wife-to-be Alice.

Above: Birth certificate of Evelyn's father, Alfred Baker, 23 July 1887.

Above: Birth certificate of Evelyn's mother, Annie Mary Munro, 14 April 1888.

Above left: Alfred and Annie Baker on their wedding day, October 21, 1916. Right: the couple in later years. They lie buried beside each other in the churchyard of All Saints Church in North Hykeham, near Lincoln in Lincolnshire.

My mother (Annie) was born in Lyme Regis, Dorset. Then her parents moved to Ireland, where Margaret (Mag) was born in 1885 (she died in 1971).

My father, Alfred, was born at Ropsley in south Lincolnshire; his family lived around the Bourne area. By 1912 he was working at Marshalls of Gainsborough, an engineering company. He joined the Army in 1914, and because he was familiar with caring for horses, was put in the Royal Artillery; all the guns were horse-drawn at that time. He saw action at the battles of Ypres, Mons, Passchendaele, Vimy, the Somme and others, and was in charge of gun carriage with two horses. He was gassed once or twice. I remember him coming home on leave and being de-loused. He married Annie, who was his first cousin; she was 28 years old when they were married on October 21, 1916.

Annie and Alfred would have six children: Evelyn (myself), born 1917; Nancy, born in 1920, who died of bronchitis at three years of age; Eric, born 8 October 1921; twins Harold and Annie, born Feb. 2 1923 (Annie died at 1 month of age); and Norah, born 27 May 1927. After WWI, my family lived in Whaley in Derbyshire, where my dad Alfred was the head horseman for a Mr. Bielby. Later we moved to Broomhill Grange, near Edwinstowe in Nottinghamshire.

Above: Alfred Baker on the farm tractor at Broomhill Grange, Nottinghamshire, c. 1930.

Joan Dalby, my lifelong friend, lived next door to us in Whaley; her father was a groom for a fox-hunting family. Joan would eventually marry Cyril Batty; they lived on a small farm high in the hills overlooking Stocksbridge, near Sheffield in Yorkshire.

After Broomhill Grange, my family moved to Winster, Bowness on Windermere Lake, Westmoreland, supposedly to help my Dad's brother George and his wife Aunt Florrie with gamekeeping. I went to live at Lindeth Fell as a kitchen maid. I finished school on a Friday, my trunk was packed on to carrier's cart the following Monday, 4 May, 1931. My employers were Mr. and Mrs. Charles Forwood; he was a solicitor. They were very keen on foxhunting, riding out two or three times a week. The huntswomen wore hats, habits, and a 'snood' to keep their long hair in place. The gentlemen wore 'stocks,' long scarves, puffed out like cravat. Not all the huntsmen wore red coats; to have the right to wear one they had to be attached to the hunt for so many years.

First Recollections


Right: Annie Baker holding her first child, Evelyn, who was born at 35 Greetwell Gate, Lincoln, on April 30, 1917.

My first recollections were living in an old farmhouse at Whaley in Derbyshire where my Dad, Alfred Baker, was employed as a horseman after serving in the 1914-18 war. I have no recollections at all of my sister Nancy, who died at the age of three from pneumonia. The vivid remembrances of her picture hanging in our living room for many years brings to mind the likeness of her face to my younger brother Eric's and the regret that we could have shared so many happy times together.

Remembrances include a dark, stone-flagged, cold kitchen, and a large garden with a big old tree in the far corner and stone walls built up from the street and path side, and the village street where just a short distance away stood the chapel and the house where my friend Nellie Goncher lived. We attended Sunday services at the chapel.

Sundays also brought the pleasure of summer evenings spent riding in the pony trap, but once the door flew open and I fell out on to the road, being left behind for several hundred yards before being missed.

My first year of school life (at five years of age?), involved walking from Whaley to Bolsover, a distance of five miles each way, while carrying my packed lunch. The route to school took me through Whaley Common, where memory brings to mind a couple of isolated houses and a corner shop on the long straight road to Bolsover.



I have no earlier memories of my mother's parents, who lived at 32 Greetwell Gate, Lincoln. My grandfather, Arthur Munro, was a gardener at a private house adjoining Lincoln Arboretum. My grandmother had been in poor health for many years due to rheumatism; photographs showing her sitting in a wheelchair, her poor hands disfigured, she had been been nursed by her daughter, my mother, for 10 years before her death in 1916.

On April 30, 1917 I was born in the same small cottage, 32 Greetwell Gate, which is in close proximity to majestic Lincoln Cathedral, its bell, Big Tom, booming out every 15 minutes. In later years, accompanied with relations, it was a thrill to climb the cathedral's 365 steps of the central tower to see and hear Big Tom strike, then on up the narrow stone stairs to view the surrounding countryside and across to Lincoln Castle, which stands close by.

The cathedral can be seen from 20 miles' distance; often, on summer evenings, returning from the seaside towns of Skegness, Mablethorpe or Cleethorpes on the east coast, or from inland excursions, we had marvellous views of the landmark. The castle also leaves an impression not to be forgotten, especially the cells where prisoners were kept, sometimes to be hanged at the prison's outer gate.

During the entire First World War, my father was on active service in France with the Royal Artillery. Miraculously, he returned uninjured, but could not find employment after the war. I remember him talking about his experiences of fighting in the front lines at the battles of the Somme, Ypres etc., which filled me with horror.

My sister Nancy was born in 1919, the same year my grandfather died, but she lived for only three years, dying of pneumonia.

The ranks of the unemployed gradually thinned, and my father took employment at Whaley, a small village in Derbyshire, his knowledge of horses giving him a way of providing for his growing family's needs.

My brother Eric was born in 1921, followed two years later by twins Harold and Annie. Sadly, Annie lived for only one month. This was the time of my earliest recollections, of a big tree under which I and my friend Nellie Goncher spent many happy hours. Her father was the local churchwarden.

Visits from my mother's sister, Margaret ('Mag') and my father's sister, also called Margaret, brought much help to my mother in the big, cold house at Whaley. I remember the joy of having a heated brick wrapped in a towel to warm my feet on during the winter of 1923.

In later 1923 we moved to a farm-workers' semi-detached house at Broomhill Grange, near Clipstone, Edwinstowe, on the edge of Sherwood Forest. On summer Sunday evenings we would walk into the forest to step inside the Major Oak, which is over 1,000 years old and is now carefully preserved. The quiet grassy ridings were filled with birdsong. We would pass by the log cabin which was built without a nail and the archway with Robin Hood and his Merry Men carved on it, which brought us much pleasure and happiness.

During our walks in Sherwood Forest, my brothers and I vied with each other to find the largest and thickest stalk of bracken for my father to cut across with his penknife, exposing the tracings of an oak tree, always a source of wonderment. On Whitsunday evening, May 27th, 1928 my father, my brothers and I returned from an evening walk, my mother having been left at home because she wasn't feeling well. I remeber the sun shining on the variegated tulips growing in a bed close to our front room window; I was sitting on a grass pathway admiring them when my father came to tell me I had a baby sister. There was eleven years' difference between Norah and I, which was always a barrier to a close sisterly relationship. My friends and hers were always of a different age group.

Schoolday memories include my insistence on my brothers having their boots polished before going to school, as mine were, and me shouting at them to go home and get them clean, a chore they both hated. When it became necessary to have our boots repaired, my father did the job in an amateurish fashion, covering the soles and heels with steel studs. I remember being ashamed because I had to wear boys' boots to school, my efforts at skipping and other outdoor pursuits making it necessary to have more studs added -- how I hated that!

Our next-door neighbours proved to become lifelong friends. Joan, their only child and I spent moonlit evenings dancing in the back yard, and sharing our secrets. Our two families joined in gathering bags of wood sticks for fire-lighting, having picnics in the surrounding fields and picking blackberries for jams, jellies and vinegar, which was poured over Yorkshire puddings. Joan's father, a groom, was responsible for the hunting horses used by the 'gentleman' farmer and his family, who were dedicated to fox-hunting. He also attended local agricultural shows with his horses, proudly bringing home rosettes, which were hung in the harness room.

One of the highlights of those years was a visit by King George V and Queen Mary, when they drove in an open carriage through Sherwood Forest, children lining the roadsides to welcome them.

The Munro clan


My mother had two sisters, Alice and Margaret, and a brother named Arthur, who emigrated to Winnipeg to work on the Canadian Pacific Railway shops. On rare occasions my mother received a letter from him, he joined the Canadian armed forces and spent the First World War years in France. He then returned to Winnipeg and continued to work there. He remained a bachelor and died in the 1950s.

My mother, Annie Mary, was the eldest of three daughters. She was born in Wiltshire, England and was jokingly dubbed a 'moonraker' (the term by which Wiltshire-born people are known) thereafter, the origins of the saying being that at the time of the full moon the inhabitants of that county brought out their rakes to pull the reflections of the moon from ponds, lakes or rivers. She was a very loving, generous and very patient person, and her upbringing during the early years of the century was spent mainly in Ireland. Her employment after leaving school was as a children's nurse in Dublin, and taking walks in Phoenix Park was a daily routine for her and her charges.

Next in the family was Alice, who married Charles Banks. They lived in Frederick Street, a steep street along the escarpment of Lincoln which led off Monks Road, near the Arboretum. Charles and Alice had three daughters, Marjorie, Vera and Edith, the latter died when very young. Alice also died young, at age 33, and was put to rest six weeks later alongside her parents in Eastgate Cemetery. Eastgate Church is the parish church of the Lincoln Cathedral diocese, situated in close proximity to the Cathedral.

Margaret, always affectionately known as Maggie or Mag, became our childhood second mother. She had been born in Ireland and was employed as a kitchen maid and later as a cook in well-established houses in the Lincoln area. The war years were spent in a factory working on munitions, as pictures of her in overalls can verify. Her marriage to Harry Franklin Hurt and their occupation of house No. 5, Artillery Terrace, Albert Road, Retford in Nottinghamshire was to become the centre of many treasured memories of holidays and day trips there.

Cousins Harry, Arthur and Ralph, followed by Patrick, all bore the second name of Franklin, which was insisted upon by my Uncle Harry's mother, who lived two doors away at No. 1 Artillery Terrace. Granny Hurt was a formidable lady of medium build, who always wore glasses and a black apron. Her prim and proper manner was passed on to her daughter Louie, a spinster who lived with her. Whenever we visited Aunt Mag, we always had to visit Granny and Aunt Louie for just a few minutes. The spotless, highly-polished furniture and shining brass of the fireplace ornaments and fender gleamed in their reflections of each other. Standing on a small table near the window was Polly the parrot in her cage, whose raucous screeches greeted us whenever we went near the cage. Granny Hurt's connections to the American president Benjamin Franklin were her great pride and joy, and she wished to continue the name through her grandsons.

In contrast to the formal atmosphere and tidiness of Granny Hurt's house, Auntie Mag's was overwhelmingly warm and comfortable. Piles of comics, books and reading matter were strewn throughout the living room, front sitting room and bedrooms, providing us with many hours of enjoyment. Her cupboards, drawers, tops of furniture, mantelpieces and pantry were filled to capacity; crocks of waterglass (isinglass) of pickled onions, beetroot and red cabbage in large glass jars (which had previously held sweets, and were bought cheaply) filled the shelves. Used biscuit tins contained seed, date, coconut and fruit cakes. Large plates of tarts filled with jam or lemon curd were always a tasty delight; the jam tarts were always decorated with twisted strips of pastry.

Spring days spent there often found us filling shopping-baskets with dandelion-heads for wine-making; she also made wines from beetroot, parsnip and other fruits and vegetables. While the delicious smell of fresh-baked bread and hot cross buns filled her house, the outside air was heavy with the smell of frying oil, from a nearby fish and chip shop.

We often took sandwiches and cake for a picnic in the park, and I remember being stung repeatedly in the mouth one day by a wasp, when I unsuspectingly bit down on a jam sandwich on which it had landed.

The LNER (London and North Eastern Railway) line ran through Retford, and it was a delight to go down to the iron bridge which crossed the line to go train-spotting, noting down the names and numbers of the 'streamliners,' 'shielders' and other express trains passing in both directions at high speed. I remember seeing famous engines like the Coronation Scot, the Flying Scotsman and Mallard (which in 1938 established the railway speed record which stood for many years, at 126 miles or 203 kilometres per hour).

As part of her culinary accoutrements, Aunt Mag invested in an Easiwork pressure cooker, in which she created many wonderful soups and stews. After I got married I also acquired one, which gave me faithful service for many years until, sadly, the unavailability of spare parts made it obsolete.


(Handwritten, edited)

My father Alfred was born on July 23, 1889, the middle of 11 children born to my grandparents, John and Louise Baker. Short in stature, he was bullied by his elder siblings, but eventually learned to stand up for himself, earning the nickname of 'Bant,' which was short for bantam (diminutive 'banty' cocks were famous for their aggressive and domineering posturing in the farmyard). I was terrified of him as a child, because on many occasions he would threaten me with a thrashing from his leather belt, which he would leave hanging over the back of his chair, but it was very rarely that he actually used it, and only on occasions when I really deserved the discipline.

My father's attitude to family, friends and neighbours was consistent with his nickname; he laid down his code of behaviour and expected everyone around him to comply. It was only in later years that I learned how to deal with him to my satisfaction, and turn his forcefulness to a more acceptable standard toward my husband and our family.

His boyhood was spent in the fenland (southern) area of Lincolnshire, mostly in the vicinity of a small town called Bourne. His schooling was very soon over and he was sent to work on local farms, scaring crows, stone-picking and caring for shire horses, which at that time were used for all farm work. He soon became a stable-boy and was then promoted to groom, which involved brushing, feeding and watering the horses and keeping their fetlocks and shoes in good condition. When the animals were entered into local agricultural shows he would plait their manes and tails and decorate them with ribbons and brasses.

Many were the long, cold and miserable winter days he spent walking behind the horse-drawn plough, harrow or other farm implement, while spring and summer days were spent sowing and harvesting. In his own garden he always had the uncanny knack of producing the very best vegetables, soft fruits and flowers, providing food for his family the year round. He always kept a pen of chickens to provide us with eggs, and it was delight to see the young chicks being hatched in the early spring, with the older hens and cockerels eventually making their way into the cooking pot.

Above: Alfred Baker, fourth from the left, with his WWI gun crew, c. 1914.

Above: Alfred Baker (left) somewhere in France with some of his mates, c. 1917.

Above left: Alfred Baker's brother Frank, with brother Walter on the right. Evidently, both also responded to the call to arms in WWI, serving in the British Army.

Above: more of Alfred Baker's brothers: George (?) left, and Jack, right (?).

On Saturday afternoons I would chop and saw enough wood to last us for the whole week; I would also help my father in sweeping up the yard and weeding, for which I would get a pennyworth of sweets all to myself whenever we rode our bicycles to Warsop to get special provisions. Twice annually, we also enjoyed a visit to the local fairground as a reward for helping Mum and Dad with their work.

This happy schoolday period came to an end when my father decided the family would move to Winster, near Windermere in the Lake District. His brother George, a gamekeeper, had painted a rosy picture of a good job helping him there on a large area of land which was reserved for game-shooting by a syndicate. The type of work being second nature to my father, he accepted the position, which involved patrolling woodlands and setting traps for vermin. That there should be a plentiful supply of pheasants, partridges, hares and rabbits in the autumn ready for the gentlemen shooters was the main concern.

Unfortunately, the gradually worsening treatment my father received from his brother came to a climax when, after several weeks of being bedridden with illness, his wages were withheld. He decided to move to Elkesley in Nottinghamshire, where he had found a job as a horse-man; I would rejoin them there later.

I did not enjoy the two years of schooling I had at Winster under Miss Limb, and missed the companionship of my lifelong friend Joan Dalby. Memories of knitting lessons, during which I knitted a pair of black woollen stockings, haunt me still! However, there were some pleasures, such as singing in the tiny church choir, and the kindness of the dear white-haired vicar, Mr. Cooper, who brought a bottle of port wine to my father to help with his recuperation, which was much appreciated by both my parents. I treasured the book East Lynne which was awarded to me from Sunday School, and often wept over its contents.

I vividly remember being sent to the back door of the local public house to get beer for my father, and nearby was a huge mound of tea-leaves which smelled horribly; the clientele used to relieve themselves on it rather than walk a few yards further to the out-house.

William Wordsworth's description of spring in the Lake District, with daffodils growing in wild profusion, had to be seen to be fully appreciated.

Although happy memories of childhood spent with near relations remain with me, my relationship with my father was special and different from that of my siblings; his treasured nickname for me was 'Jim.' He insisted that all of us children put away all our clothes and footwear every evening, while his own waistcoat, jacket and boots were left near the fireplace fender in readiness for early morning use. When I objected to this inconsistency, I was told there were good reasons for it.

Above: Lindeth Fell, Bowness-on-Windermere, Westmorland (now Cumbria) where in 1931, Evelyn Baker began her career in service. Once the private residence of the Forwood family, it is now a 'country house hotel,' described as 'a country mansion built with the style and grace of a bygone age.'

In 1931, my birthday of April 30 fell on a Thursday, when I turned 14; the next day I left school. On May 4, I was taken, along with my small trunk of clothes, to Lindeth Fell, near Windermere, where Mr. and Mrs. Charles Forwood became my first employers. A solicitor by profession, Mr. Forwood travelled by train every day to Liverpool; his wife, a lovely lady, was very understanding person to work for.

After serving eight months there as a kitchen maid, I had the opportunity to become an under-housemaid and widen my work experience. I became great friends with Edna Lamb, the new kitchen maid, who lived with her parents and three brothers in Windermere, where Mr. and Mrs. Lamb kept a boarding house. Edna had a beautiful soprano voice, and as her brothers played various musical instruments, we spent many happy hours together on our days off enjoying a musical evening. Edna's older brother Norman was a policeman, and I had a crush on him. After six months, Edna decided to find work elsewhere, and as I was feeling homesick and lonely, I decided to rejoin my family and seek for a situation near Retford.

Above, left to right: Harold, Eric, Norah and Evelyn Baker pose on the farm tractor at Broomhill Grange, Nottinghamshire, c. 1930.

Luckily I was able to obtain a position as a kitchen-maid at West Retford Hall. Mrs. Huntsman, the owner of West Retford Hall, was a widow, and related to Lord Harewood of Harewood House in Yorkshire, who was the husband of the Princess Royal. Her two daughters were spinsters, not by choice, but because of the after-effects of the First World War. Their enjoyment of horse-riding and fox-hunting kept the stable-hands fully employed.

Mr. Nixon, the gardener, brought in fresh vegetables daily for me to prepare for the dining-room and staff, which consisted of parlour maid, head and under housemaid, Gertrude the cook and myself. I had to be up before six o'clock every morning, dressed in my blue short-sleeved cotton dress, white cap and apron, or a black apron for the dirtiest jobs, the first of which was to light the fire in the kitchen range. The range had to be black-leaded regularly, and once a week I had to rise even earlier in the day to clean the flues, to ensure there would be a good draught to heat the ovens.

The kitchen and scullery were both very large areas, with stone-flagged floors. Once a week -- and sometimes more frequently -- the outer area of the floor had to be cleaned with a brick of whitening, while the inner area had to be scrubbed clean with soft soap, following the grain of the stone. Two twelve-foot long table-tops where the cook prepared the meals and where the staff had their meals also had to be scrubbed. There were no rubber gloves or washing-up liquid provided for the mountains of crockery and saucepans, only a jar filled with soda, resulting in sore, chapped hands. It was also my duty to lay the table before each meal and clear it afterwards.

The modern kitchen I had enjoyed at Lindeth Fell, with its red-tiled floor, was in stark contrast to these cold, ancient kitchen areas. I keenly anticipated my two hours of freedom in the late afternoon of each day, before Gertrude needed my help to prepare the evening meal, when I could escape to Aunt Mag's house, about a mile away, to warm myself beside her cosy living-room fireplace on winter days; in summer I would help her carry fresh vegetables and soft fruit home from her husband's garden allotment. Any surplus produce she would salt, pickle or make into preserves.

Above: West Retford Hall, Nottinghamshire, once the private residence of Mrs. Huntsman.

I worked at Mrs. Huntsman's for two and a half years, and each Christmas I would receive the gift of a pair of fleece-lined knickers, which were too scratchy to wear, so I passed them on to my mother to be used as floorcloths!

Highlights during my stay were the arrival of the errand-boys bringing meat, fish and game to the scullery door. I had a crush on the fish-boy, but after a few dates I decided that I couldn't stand the smell of stale fish which hung about him. Poor Wilfred, he couldn't appreciate my giving him the brush-off.

After registering with an agency and requesting employment as a nursery maid, I was accepted as such by Dr. and Mrs. Schlesinger at 3 Templewood Avenue, Hampstead, who had five children. The youngest of these was Susan, aged five months, whose nurse, Nanny Freeborough, was a middle-aged woman who was also Lincolnshire-born. In later years I often thought of her as we passed through the village of Hainton on our way to the seaside resorts; her parents lived in a beautiful stone-built lodge at the entrance to Hainton Hall.

Faced with a list of daily chores which were timed to the minute was a new experience for me; helping Nanny in the nursery and going to meet the children coming home from school became a pleasant routine. The nursery governess, Miss Cole, was a busy, capable person who relied on me to keep her schedule on track and to keep her charges on their best behaviour when they were taken on outings and to children's parties.

Life at the Schlesingers' became a happy period for me. The eldest son, John, would become famous as a film director; one of his productions was Far From the Madding Crowd; another was Midnight Cowboy. As a child he was a lovely boy, with a definite will of his own. Wendy, aged eight, I remember as a cuddlesome, fair-haired girl, later, sadly, to die of cancer. Roger and Hilary were twins, four years old and full of fun. Baby Susan and her needs were my main concern, cleaning her pram daily, covering it with a dust-sheet after Nanny or I had taken her out for her daily afternoon walk around Hampstead. I began to feel that I had found my vocation at last.

Dr. Schlesinger was a German Jew, whose occupation as a children's specialist at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children kept him extremely busy. Mrs. Schlesinger ran her home and staff in the large comfortable house happily and capably. During my one half-day off duty on Wednesday afternoons and evenings, I was most often joined by Mary Stewart, a nurse who hailed from Shotts, near Glasgow, Lanarkshire. She had charge of two small children who were related by marriage to the Schlesingers, the Webbers of Golders Green. We enjoyed our afternoon visits to the shops and our teas in a cafe, followed by social gatherings and occasional dances in a local church hall. Mary and I became firm friends, and would remain so for life.

After a year in London, we both began to feel the pull of home, and both decided to find situations nearer our parents. During the war years Mary would join the Women's Royal Air Force, and later marry Bob, a civil servant. They would have a family of two boys and a girl, living in Aberdeen in her beloved Scotland. She was always knitting beautiful 'Fairisle' garments for family and friends, of whom she had many.

Applications brought me the offer of a situation with Mr. and Mrs. Fitzherbert Wright at Bramcote Hills, near Nottingham. Mrs. Wright was the daughter of Lord Powerscourt of Powerscourt House, near Dublin; her husband was a colliery owner in the Nottingham/Derby area. Their children Davida, Brigid and John were full of energy and enjoyed full use of the spacious grounds of the big old house. Unfortunately, the 'fly in the ointment' soon showed itself in the person of the cook, who was a real Tartar in her dealings with the staff. After two months of her insufferable ways I gave my notice and applied for another situation.

Above: Hempshill Hall, Nottinghamshire.

This time I was offered a temporary position with Mr. Wright's cousin, Mr. FitzWalter Wright at Hempshill Hall, Nuthall, near Nottingham, where there were four children in the family. Unsuspecting of the unlikely scenario, I found myself being approvingly regarded as a future wife by the butler there, who soon found an opportunity to tell me he had fallen in love with my legs when he saw me going up the stairs from the kitchen to the nursery; within two weeks I was wearing a five-diamond engagement ring on my finger.

However, this new situation became difficult for me to assess, and I applied for another position, as I now felt confident enough to be able to take care of a child on my own. I found a position with Mr. and Mrs. Goldie, who lived at Clyde House, Southwell in Nottinghamshire, and was very happy looking after their eighteen-month-old daughter Sue, a white-haired, gorgeous little soul. Another maid also lived at the house, an Austrian girl also named Evelyn, and we got along very well together. Clyde House became a very happy home for me. Situated on the main street, it was within a hundred yards of beautiful Southwell Minster, and my daily walks around the village with Sue were both relaxing and enjoyable.

Above: Evelyn Baker with her charge Sue Goldie at Clyde House, Southwell, Nottinghamshire, c. 1935.

My weekly journeys each Wednesday from Southwell to Rolleston Junction to catch the train to Nottingham to meet David constituted my first serious courting period. He would always be there at the station, patiently waiting for me, and then we would take a trolley-bus to the city centre to go and watch a film, the highlight of the week for both of us. However, I had to be back at the station by 9:30 pm to get back to Southwell. On our alternate Sundays off it was impossible for us to get the travel connections to meet one another, so the week ahead, from Wednesday to Wednesday, always seemed like an eternity.

Our plans to get married after a year of engagement went ahead, and at 9:00 am on June 29, 1937 we were happily married by Canon Burles at Bardney parish church in Lincolnshire. My bridesmaids were my sister Norah and my cousin Margaret; the wedding breakfast was provided by my parents. David's brother Ted, chauffeur to Colonel Richard Proby at Elton Hall near Peterborough, drove us to Lincoln in his employer's loaned limousine to catch the train taking us on our honeymoon, which was spent with my father's brother and his wife, who lived three miles from scenic Windermere in Westmoreland.

Above: Bardney Parish Church was originally built as part of a local Benedictine abbey complex. After the Danes had destroyed the whole site in 870 A.D., it was re-constructed in the 11th century, and again rebuilt on its present site in approximately 1434.

Evelyn Baker and David Staunton's wedding day, June 29 1937. Back row, left to right: Edward 'Ted' Staunton, David Staunton, Evelyn Baker, Annie Baker, Alfred Baker. Front row, left to right: Margaret, Norah Baker.

Above: Small card sent out with a slice of wedding cake, indicating that Evelyn Baker has now become Mrs. David P. Staunton.

Above: Ted Staunton with one of the cars he drove for the Proby family of Elton Hall.

Above: Elton Hall, near Peterborough in Huntingdonshire, where Ted Staunton served as the Proby family's chauffeur for many years. Click here for link to Elton Hall.

Ted had been chauffeur to the Proby family in Ireland before coming to Elton Hall; he had married a local girl named Lillian Cook, who had worked at the Hall as a housemaid. Through all the years of close association by marriage, Lill and I have enjoyed our many meetings at The Garage House at Elton, where they lived, and at our own home at 91 Station Road, North Hykeham, near Lincoln. As the coordinator of Elton village jumble sales, she had the first pick of all the donations and was able to supply our family with many useful articles of clothing for our children, for which we were most grateful. Her spare bedroom was a treasure trove of books, 'white elephant' gifts and other donated items. The funds accumulated from the jumble sales went to support the local church, the Women's Institute and, in later years, the Evergreen Club.

Above: Ted and Lillian Staunton with their daughter Patricia in the archway leading to The Garage House at Elton Hall, Huntingdonshire, c. 1935.

At that time, Ted and Lill lived in a small thatched cottage on the village green opposite Elton Hall, but later took possession of The Garage House, which had been converted into living quarters from its original purpose as stabling for carriage horses. The huge, high-ceilinged living room and two other large downstairs rooms, with two immense bedrooms above, were soon graced with superb pieces of solid furniture and ornaments; there was more than enough room in the home for Ted and Lill and their only daughter, Patricia. The huge, sturdily-built door at the entrance and the mullioned stone windows of The Garage House always gave me a feeling of peace and security. The stable clock over the archway to the quadrangle, above Lill's treasure-trove spare bedroom, tick-tocked away steadily, recording the hours.

One of Ted's responsibilities required him to have access to a firearm, and he kept a pistol under his pillow, for there were very many valuable pieces of furniture at the Hall, as well as silverware, oil paintings et cetera. It also contained the second largest private library in England. One of Lill's daily chores was to dust the library every day before the arrival of privileged visitors. In later years, when the library was opened to the public, it was Lill's duty to ensure there was no pilfering or interference with its contents.

The whole village thrilled with excitement when Queen Mary came to visit the Hall, and, in later years, when other members of the Royal Family also visited the Proby's family home. Their arrival was always greeted by cheers from the whole village population lining the streets. Ted and his daughter Pat both worked in the estate office; eventually, Pat and her husband Martin would occupy the gate lodge at one entrance to the Hall, along with their only daughter Sarah.

Above: Evelyn Staunton outside the Gate Lodge of Hempshill Hall, Nottinghamshire, c. 1938.

David and I were living at the Gate Lodge at Hempshill Hall when our first child, Eileen Mary, was born on September 13, 1938. Mr. FitzWalter Wright generously paid my nursing fees for my stay at St. Anne's Nursing Home, and on returning home with our precious bundle of joy, I was astounded at the fabulous flower display which greeted me -- chrysanthemums of every size and colour filled the Gate Lodge. I can still remember the wonderful perfume of those beautiful flowers!

Eileen's babyhood was a most pleasurable experience, probably marred a little by bringing her through the early months too 'close by the book.' She was a very good baby, and I was so delighted to take her for walks around the village of Nuthall. On the other side of the road leading towards Kimberley was a row of beautiful, mature lime trees, and oftentimes our walks took us that way to visit our friends, Eric and Dorothy Buxton. Eric was a struggling self-employed plumber, and the FitzWalter Wright family had often found jobs for him to do in their lovely old house. Eric and Dorothy were a courting couple when I arrived as a new bride; they would often walk past our lodge in the evening, Eric giving an excellent imitation of an owl hooting. I finally cottoned on to his calls, which was a signal for a welcome chat and a snack together.

(With regard to the Buxton family, we were to become the best of friends over many years' acquaintance. After the war, Eric's business blossomed and he and Dorothy would eventually buy three hardware shops, as well as other properties. Their home was constantly being invaded by business people and salesmen. Phone calls required immediate attention, and I learned on visits to their home how to deal with them, as well as how to collect the daily takings from their shops, while accompanying Dorothy on her debt-collecting visits in the area. Occasionally I would be happy to take the train to Nottingham to stay in their home while they took a weekend off for a well-earned break with their two boys, Reg and Bobby. In later years, they in turn would often drive David and I to the seaside for a day's visit to the bird sanctuary at Gibraltar Point or some other interesting spot such as Tealby, the lovely village in the Lincolnshire Wolds where Alfred, Lord Tennyson lived (though his brother Ted spent his life as a professional chauffeur, driving thousands of miles accident free, David never learned to drive). Unfortunately, Eric would fall victim to rheumatic fever, and reluctantly had to pass on his business interests to his family.)

Occasionally Mrs. Wright would bring me sewing jobs to do, either some of her personal day or evening dresses, or some of her children's clothes, which helped fill the long hours when David was at work, from 6:00 am sometimes to past midnight, Should Mr. and Mrs. Wright have guests for dinner, all the senior staff were expected to remain on duty. Sometimes guests would stay overnight or for weekends, when the extra work would usually be rewarded by a tip, greatly appreciated when David's weekly earnings was twenty-five shillings, which went up to thirty after Eileen was born. These small tips helped provide necessities for the baby's upbringing.

With war looming on the horizon, David became a special constable at nearby Hyson Green. His hours of service were similar to those of a regular policeman, but after a few months he decided this line of work wasn't for him. Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Wright had decided to move to Morley Manor in Derbyshire, so his job as a butler came to an end. We decided to live temporarily with my parents at North Hykeham, near Lincoln.

We hired transport to take our belongings to store in the front room of my mother's house until David could find a job, which he managed to do very quickly at nearby Ley's Malleable Iron Works. He worked there as a plate moulder for eight years, pouring molten iron into moulds for tank tracks, an important component of the war effort. He was also required to join the ranks of the local Home Guard, and rose to the rank of corporal.

When we realized that we were to become parents for a second time, we had to search for our own home. Fortunately, we were able to find a rental property in the same row of houses as that of my parents, which belonged to the same landlord. West View had been home to a family with nine children, but how they had managed sleeping arrangements in a three-bedroom house was a mystery!

We took possession of the house in early January of 1940, and it was a nightmare trying to clean it before moving in. It was bitterly cold, and I remember scrubbing the paintwork on the doors at the top of the staircase, and the water was freezing as I was scrubbing. All the rooms were in a filthy condition, but eventually I scrubbed all the dirt out and we moved in shortly before Brigid was born, on March 14 1940, during a snowstorm. That particular day was marked by weather of all kinds: rain, hail, snow, wind and sun.

Above: Evelyn's daughters Eileen Mary, Brigid Sarah.

Brigid's birth weight was 6 lbs 6 oz., and she needed feeding every three hours until she gained sufficient weight to be fed normally. She was a beautiful baby, like a little doll, and is still an attractive and helpful daughter. Her business sense through the years has helped my husband and me tremendously. She worked as an office secretary for many years.

Throughout 1940 our lives were constantly disrupted by air raid sirens, which went off frequently during the daytime, and by the night-raids of German fighters and bombers. East Anglia, the region we lived in, was a constant target because of its many airfields and engineering factories, and our dashes to the air-raid shelter became a nightly ritual. Gradually, the anxiety wore off and our attitude became more 'couldn't-care-less,' and we began to take shelter in our own home, either under the stair-case or under the living-room table.

At this time, children living in the major cities were being evacuated, to be dispersed far and wide into the countryside. By government order, if householders had the room to house children, they became foster-parents. If they were unable to accept evacuees into their homes, workers who had been transferred into war work from less essential occupations had to be housed, and that was how Herbert Fletcher became our lodger. Herbert had a physical disability, as one of his feet had been damaged in an accident on a swing as a child. He became an extra Daddy to our young family, staying with us for three years.

(With regard to Herbert Fletcher, his home was in Derby, and occasionally he was able to go home by train to visit his parents and family members. An electrician and welder by trade, his happy disposition was to bring him into contact with Margaret, a shy young office-worker at Ley's. The pair got married and moved to a house in Lincoln; I still correspond with them. They would go on to have one boy and one girl.)

After Herbert's departure, we were still required to take in an extra lodger, and that was how we came to know Matt Walsh, one of many country-born Irishmen who had been drafted to work at the Malleable Iron Works. He stayed with us for two years, and over that time we became very good friends.

(With regard to Matt, he also left us to get married, taking his wife to live at Bracebridge Heath, near Lincoln, and later took a job as a crossing-keeper on the local railway line. We were saddened to learn that he had been killed by a train while performing his duties, being dragged along the track after misjudging the engine's speed. We tried to console his wife May, who had a delightful little boy and who was expecting another when the accident occurred.)

Both Eileen and Brigid were victims of all the ailments common to childhood, contracting infectious colds and diseases from their friends. Eventually we decided to take them to hospital to have their tonsils removed, an unpleasant experience all round.

On March 20, 1942, our first son Ian Edward was born. It was a memorable day for my husband, who had longed for a son; he was in seventh heaven to be able to send his brother a telegram reading 'Shake hands with a millionaire.' Ted, as we called him (after his uncle Ted, whose name was also Edward), grew into being a typical little roughneck. He and his friend Richard Watts got into all kinds of mischief; both would ride their tricycles around and when Ted grew older he joined the Witham Valley Road Racing Club. I well remember him riding a 120-mile 'reliability trial' through deep snow one Sunday (March 6, 1960), and had the winning time of 7 hours and 40 minutes. Many times Ted and Richard sat under our kitchen table listening to the Goon Show on the radio, featuring Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan, both of them laughing and storing up anecdotes.

Ted has quite a quick-witted sense of humour, and though a delight to be with, lives in a world of his own. He would spend hours shut up in his bedroom reading books, a pile of apple-cores under his bed. Mark Twain and the Eagle comics were his favourites, and with money earned from his paper delivery route he continually added to his enviable collection of books. After serving an apprenticeship as a hand compositor in the printing industry, he went to Leicester College of Art for three years and became a typographic designer.

Above: Some of the gang of neighbourhood kids who lived and played at the end of Station Road, North Hykeham, c. 1946. Left to right, rear: Jeannette Campbell, Mavis Holliday, Iris Holliday. Front: Eileen Staunton, Jean Hodson, Brigid Staunton, Richard Watts, Ian Staunton.

The village school was more than a mile's walk away, with the main Lincoln-Newark-Nottingham road to be crossed on the way. There was no crossing guard or Belisha Beacon for the little children who had to cross the dangerously busy highway with its endless stream of heavy traffic, so we made the decision to send our girls, Eileen at four and a half years of age and Brigid at four, on the public bus to Bracebridge School, which was closer to Lincoln. They benefited also from having their school dinners provided, which they wouldn't have had at Hykeham, where in any case there was no nursery class. Their early school days were spent mixing and playing with the gang of schoolchildren living along Station Road, which would lead to lasting friendships and pleasant memories.

Our highly intelligent Eileen was successful in passing the 11-plus grammar school examination, which meant that she could attend the High School at Sleaford, a small market town 15 miles distant. The school dress code required that she wear a uniform, a bottle-green, belted and pleated tunic with grey or green socks for winter and white for summer, a green blazer and a green raincoat and beret. Other requirements included a hockey stick, suitable sportswear, a tennis racquet, suitable top and shorts for summer wear, low-heeled shoes and sandals, a large leather satchel and a bag for sportswear. We applied to the government for a grant to help with these costs, which for us was heavy. Eileen would go on after her school years to teacher training college and eventually become a French teacher.

Neither Brigid nor Ian passed the entrance examination for grammar school. However, both were among the first children to attend the newly-built Sir Robert Pattinson School at Hykeham, which had been built to accommodate the children of the growing local population, and to cut down on the need for buses to travel long distances. Here, in a novel educational experiment, the secondary and grammar schools were combined into one stream. Both Brigid and Ian would take advantage of the curriculum to perform well academically and in sports. Brigid gained great respect as captain of Newton House, and captain of the girls' netball team, while Ian became a member of the school rugby team, and gained six 'O' level GCE (General Certificate of Education) diplomas.

Tough as nails, Ian never seemed to suffer from ailments, even when Eileen and Brigid and I caught the mumps; three months later we three also contracted scarlet fever. I had to nurse the girls through the painful and very infectious disease for a month, during which time they were isolated in their bedroom. I had to wear a white coat every time I went into their room, and wash and disinfect my hands, and then I had to be removed to the Lincoln Isolation Hospital, which was actually a Nissen hut on the Common grounds overlooking the race-course. My mother valiantly looked after the family for a month, until I was discharged. David Patrick arrived on 26 January 1946. A chubby bundle of love, he was eight and a half pounds at birth, half a pound less than Ted but becoming much bigger than him in later life. A 'different' character, so independent yet enjoying lots of companionship and laughter, his school life was marred by the dictates of the educational system. He took little interest in lessons, when he should have given them his full attention. However, after serving an apprenticeship as a tool and die engineer at Ley's, he went into the Merchant Navy and became a chief engineer on large merchant vessels.

By this time my husband had decided that he had had enough of war work, being confined in the blacked-out foundry, choking and coughing in the filthy conditions in which the men were required to work. After looking around for another job, he found work as a bricklayer's mate on a small-scale building contract. Ron Foster, the bricklayer, had recently been 'demobbed' from the Army and soon both were to accept employment together at Ruston and Hornsby's engineering works in Lincoln; they would continue working as a team for another 18 years. Ron was to become a very good friend to David; when we decided to put a deposit on our house with a view to buying it after paying rent for 15 years, Ron kindly and expertly did all the necessary alterations to the brickwork, making it much easier for us to apply for a government grant.

(With regard to Ron Foster, he was married with three sons, and lived in Bracebridge Heath, near Lincoln.)

Above, left to right: Evelyn's sons Robert Douglas, David Patrick, Ian Edward in readiness for their big sister Brigid's wedding, July 29, 1961.

On October 29, 1949 our third son, Robert Douglas (Doug) was born, a huggable, curly-headed little chap who I always called 'my tuppence.' Doug was physically strong and determined; as a youngster he would follow Farmer Roe's Fordson tractor pulling the plough in the fields across the road for hours on end, tramping up and down the newly-turned furrows, or sit on the fence carefully watching Mr. Harris, the farm labourer, with his horse and cart, as he 'top-and-tailed' sugar-beets or mucked the fields with dung. Doug was very good with handiwork of all kinds; anything he made was done very well, and I still treasure the inlaid-wood coffee-table he made in the woodworking class at Sir Robert Pattinson School. He was good at sports, mostly enjoying football. Highly observant, he would later make good use of his natural gifts by becoming a member of the Lincolnshire police force.

Recovering from the war years, and having moved to 91 Station Road, the same house which my mother and father had once rented, my cherished dream of owning a hive of bees became a reality in 1955. David, Ted and I joined the local beekeeping society and in time we had up to 20 hives in our garden. What an interesting hobby it turned out to be; we sold lots of surplus honey and David made mead from it also.

Above: some of the beehives in the garden at 91 Station Road, North Hykeham, Lincoln.

As the girls grew older, I enjoyed taking them to the Theatre Royal in Lincoln to watch live plays, which we all enjoyed; in later years they would travel even further afield, taking the train to Nottingham for Saturday night dances at the Palais de Dance. After the children had all become teenagers I became involved in the local Women's Institute, which had most interesting guest speakers, and more than once I was sent as a delegate to the national convention at the Albert Hall in London. Having friends in central London, I was able to stay with them and also visit the Chelsea Flower Show, with its spectacular floral displays. Though keenly interested in the Wimbledon tennis tournament, I never made it there to watch in person; radio and television broadcasts were as close as I could get.

I enjoyed listening to Music While You Work on the radio for many years, as well as Victor Sylvester's Ballroom Orchestra and other dance bands who had regular weekly shows. When I was in my teens I never had the chance to learn how to dance, so in later years I took lessons. Though David could perform Irish jigs and tap-dance, he never once took me dancing. However, on one very special occasion, David and I travelled to Nottingham to hear the incomparable Paul Robeson perform on stage, and what a treasured memory that was.

Above: Evelyn (Baker) Staunton and her father Alfred Baker in the garden at 91 Station Road, North Hykeham, c. 1960.

Above: family gathering at the reception of Brigid Staunton and Stuart John Henry Pawson, in the garden of the newlyweds' home at South Park, Lincoln, 1961. Left to right: W. H. (Bill) Pawson, his wife Lucille (Lucy) Pawson; Alfred Baker and his wife Annie; Evelyn Staunton and her husband David.

Above: With some of her Canadian-born grandchildren in the back yard of the Pawson home in Port Kells, B.C., c. 1980. Left to right: Andrea (daughter of Doug), Ian, Amelia and Timothy (Ted's children) and Stephanie (daughter of Brigid).

Above: With three of her five children: Brigid (left), David, Eileen. Missing: Ted and Doug.

Above: Evelyn (Baker) Staunton among the flowers in an English country garden, c. 1995.

Other Baker relatives (in need of clarification):
Ernie and Phyll, of Gedney Drove End, Lincolnshire (?)
Clarence (Clag) and Sally, of Great Gonerby, Lincolnshire
Aunt Margaret (Mag) and Arthur, of Great Missenden, Hertfordshire (or High Wycombe, Bucks?)

Evelyn died 18 October 1999 at the age of __.

back to index