Maurice Llewelyn Davies
It was in 1920 that the house came into our family. Maurice Llewelyn Davies was the grandfather of Jane Wynne Willson, the current owner of Broad How. A portrait, by a friend of the family Wilhelm (Willi) Kaufmann, hangs in the main living room.
Maurice was a businessman from Birkenhead and worked for the Blue Funnel Shipping Line. The family knew Patterdale well, having spent four weeks here every summer staying in lodgings at Grisedale Bridge.
Maurice’s wife had died in childbirth in 1902, along with their fourth child, and left him to bring up a son, Roland, and two daughters, Mary and Theodora. Roland died in France in October 1918, in the last few weeks of the First World War. Maurice’s granddaughter, Jane Wynne Willson, has written a family history, ‘The Chain of Love,’ about Maurice’s parents and their seven children: Charley, Margaret, Arthur, Maurice, Harry, Crompton and Theodore Llewelyn Davies*. There is a copy in the bookcase in the hall at Broad How. She describes how Maurice came to buy the house, and why he changed its name:
‘When he had begun to recover from the blow of Roland’s death, which seriously affected his health, he turned his attention to encouraging and supporting his daughters in their chosen careers.
Mary was studying medicine and Theodora had decided to be a barrister. Mary, who like so many of that generation never married, stayed with Maurice all his life, as did my mother [i.e. Theodora], apart from the four short years of her marriage. In 1933, after my father Roy’s death, Maurice bought Burntwood, a house near Dorking in Surrey, to provide a family home for himself, Mary, Theodora and her two daughters. Before this, in 1920, Maurice had bought a holiday house at Patterdale in the Lake District, near where the family had taken lodgings in August for over 20 years.
Known at the time as ‘Place Fell House’, Maurice renamed it ‘Broad How’, which was the older and, in his view, less pretentious name of the smallholding on which the house had been built in the 1830s. He saw the forthcoming sale of the house in the personal column of The Times, and bought it without having been inside.
This was a highly uncharacteristic action for a careful and frugal man, but he never regretted the purchase. Neither do we, for the house is still in our family… My mother used to say that the purchase of Broad How marked a turning point for him, after a very low period in his life.’ (pp68-9)
In ‘The Chain of Love’ Jane also quotes her mother’s cousin, Janet Potts’, memories of Maurice on holiday at Patterdale in the 1920s.
Broad How in 1920
Maurice, Theodora ["TC"] and friend Josephine Terry
‘I remember Cousin Maurice in his pale blue-green home-spun cloak, which he’d either fling back from his shoulders or, if it was wet and windy, envelop himself in. Of course he knew the names of every peak and tarn that could be seen from every hill top, and he would recite the appropriate lines from Wordsworth, Scott or Coleridge.
In the evenings there would be reading aloud, while the women sewed or knitted or darned. Often it was from ‘The Master’ – P.G. Wodehouse. There were marvellous refreshing dips into pools in the becks with Mary and Theo (in the nude, which was considered pretty daring then.) Cousin Maurice loved his puns and comic verses as well as Wordsworth and I remember his wit and sense of fun.’
During the 1920s and 30s, Maurice and his daughters continued to use Broad How as a holiday home and often invited friends to stay there with them. One couple that used to go on holiday with them was Grace and Richard Fry. Grace had been a contemporary of Mary (Min) Llewelyn Davies at Girton and Richard had been at medical school with her. They were close friends and used to come and stay often. Later, when their three daughters Lucy, Bridget (Biddy) and Susan were born, the Fry family usually spent two weeks at Broad How each summer.
In 2011 Lucy and Biddy described a few of their memories of Broad How before the Second World War, starting with the kitchen:
Lucy: The kitchen was lovely. It had the range, and in front of the range a rather dilapidated old sofa, mainly occupied by the cats and the dog. As well as the range there was a paraffin stove for cooking on
Biddy: I can remember the smell of it. And you may remember also there used to be china with a blue and white checked pattern… And there were lovely bowls that had little lids, shallow bowls and we used to have bread and milk. With a handle each side and a little lid. And that was our supper. I adored those bowls.
They also remembered the cellar, where the pool table is now, which was used as a cold room in the days before electricity. The slates from the slate table they refer to now form the basis of the slate table by the summer house in the lower garden.
Lucy: And then there were doors going pretty steeply down to the cellar steps, right by the sink.
Biddy: Yes and then when the milk had come it was put into the broad shallow pans and we were sometimes allowed to skim the cream off. Not for us but for the grown-ups.
Lucy: Did we not just watch Biddy?
Biddy: No, no I think we were allowed to try once or twice, it was quite difficult.
Lucy: It wrinkled like this, the cream, they were in great earthenware flat dishes. Down in the cool… on that slate table… There wasn’t a fridge but it was jolly cool, it was lovely… And it had a smell that I can smell to this day – it had a kind of milky smell to it.
Biddy: Yes and I think there were meat safes and things like that. Aluminium discs… You know the pierced sort of aluminium sheeting with little holes in it. To keep the air in but to keep the flies out. I don’t really think one needed a fridge with a cellar like that. It’s so cool.
Lucy Fry with Maurice Lewellyn Davies
Lucy and Biddy remembered the back stairs – there used to be stairs from what is now the downstairs shower room to the room half way down the corridor. They remember that when Maurice was ill towards the end of his life he used to sleep in the room at the end of the corridor and there was a live-in nurse, Jean Kent, who used to sleep in the music room. So ‘she could be summoned by a bell’ and come up the back stairs if he needed her. Jane Wynne Willson confirmed this:
Of course there was, and I don’t remember this, but there was a second staircase that went up from what is now the shower room, up into the room that opens onto the corridor. That was a back staircase. Which meant that the room which you came up into can’t have been a proper bedroom, you see. I think quite a lot of the inside walls upstairs are quite thin, and that shows that it’s been sort of messed about with and the actual boundaries changed.
Another clear memory that Lucy has is of how they used to swim in the Goldrill – the river at the bottom of the lane.
Lucy: And we used to go down and bathe in the Goldrill. Do you remember that they built a little jetty? Well that was there. Our parents and Mary and Theo all used to go down to bathe before breakfast. And I was allowed to carry the shortbread tin. There were two lovely tins… a red one and a blue one, with a pattern, I can see it now. They were awfully pretty tins weren’t they? And one with ginger biscuits and one with shortbread, I think. And I think we took one each but we weren’t allowed to bathe then, we were too small, we couldn’t swim could we?
TC on the Goldrill Jetty
The real Mappin Terraces at London Zoo
Lucy and Biddy have a few memories of Maurice. One was that he always referred the rocky top part of the garden as ‘The Mappin Terraces.’ Apparently this was a reference to an imitation of a mountain built in 1913-4 at London Zoo for the bears. For some reason Lucy and Biddy always called Maurice ‘Him’.
Lucy: ‘Him’ I do remember.
Biddy: We would write a letter, ‘Dear Him, Thank you for your kind present’ or whatever.
Lucy and Biddy also talked about Esther Pattinson (‘Mrs Patty’) and her daughter Molly, who lived at that time in Place Fell Cottage (the cottage on the left as you go through the gate that leads to Place Fell). Molly and Mrs Patty both worked at Broad How. They remembered how Mrs Patty made wonderful cakes.
Biddy: ‘Him’ didn’t like to have anything but butter in the house but she on the other hand thought margarine made lighter cakes so she didn’t say anything about it but used that.
Lucy: Didn’t she do the laundry, Biddy, with that huge old wooden mangle?
Biddy: Yes that was up there. But the laundry was collected by the Eden Vale laundry.
Lucy: Didn’t she do what she called ‘the body clothes?
Biddy: Yes she probably did the body clothes, yes.
TC and her friend Dorothy Russell [later Professor Dorothy Russell] cleaning the gate
Maurice was in favour of women’s rights and encouraged his daughters, Min and TC in their careers as a doctor and barrister respectively. TC’s profession came in useful at one point when she was able to help a local family, the Hadwins. Steve Hadwin was the carrier. He kept his equipment in the barn opposite Wordsworth’s Cottage which was once part of the Broad How estate. He had two sons, Tom, who went missing in the war, and Frank, who was the source of the trouble. Jane tells the story of what happened:
Jane: Frank was a little bit slow. I don’t know the exact details of what happened but he was in a car accident. Did he knock someone down and the person died? Or something like that. Anyway it was really terrible. So he was had up at Carlisle assizes and TC was aware of it. Anyway an evening shortly before the trial, Steve, the father, came round knowing that TC was a barrister, and said would you help. Would you help over this because he’s terribly shy, unbelievably shy. And explain what’s going to happen, and that sort of thing. And would you come with us to the assizes. So Mother was a very young, newly trained barrister, so she did what she could explaining what would happen. Then Steve said a rather pathetic thing, ‘Will they go for to hang l’al Frank?’ Wasn’t it awful? Terrible. Will they go for to hang l’al Frank? And TC was as reassuring as she could be and she said she’d like to go with them, for moral support. And the system was when you got to the assizes you hadn’t seen the barrister who was going to defend you before. This was common practice. You hadn’t seen them so they hadn’t studied the case, they had a very short time to do so. And so the barrister took Frank on one side and asked him loads of questions so as to get a grasp of the case and then he came out in a right sort of temper - and he knew why TC was there – and said can you get any sense from this man I can’t get a word out of him. So TC did what she could to help, well she couldn’t give evidence in the court but she explained to the barrister. And so things went a bit better and he was let off. I don’t know the ins and outs of the case and why he was completely let off. And they’d driven in, with Steve driving and Frank I think in the front and TC behind. And then when they came to the drive back Steve said to his son ‘I’ll drive, you swank it in t’back!’ Because he was feeling so happy so he went into the back. So they drove back through the different villages from Carlisle, they’d stop and people would go up to the car and say ‘Did you get oot?’ ‘Aye’. So I think it got TC a bit of kudos in the village. She had helped. And he was very impatient this barrister.
In December 1926 a pilot landed an aeroplane on the summit of Helvellyn. At the time Maurice and his daughter TC were walking across Striding Edge and saw it land. A plaque on the top of Helvellyn commemorates this feat. There was an article in The Guardian on the sixtieth anniversary of this event, claiming that the pilot was not actually Bert Hinkler, as previously thought, but actually John Leeming, flying with Bert Hinkler as a passenger. TC wrote a letter to the paper commenting on the article.
I read your account of the landing on Helvellyn in December 1926 with great interest.
My father and I were at that time crossing Striding Edge and saw the plane landing on the summit ridge. There was a solitary walker ahead of us on the Edge who reached the summit just before us and apparently gave the pilot written evidence of his exploit. It was too cold to stay long on top but we saw the plane take off successfully.
I have a very clear recollection of the whole incident, differing in several respects from Harry Griffins’ account. We saw only one man emerge from the plane, and no sign of any photography. I cannot confirm who the pilot was, but in the locality it was always understood to have been Bert Hinkler.
Broad How in 1935
After the sudden death of her husband Roy in 1933, TC moved in with Maurice and her unmarried sister Min, bringing her two daughters Mary, aged 2 and Jane who was only a few months old. They lived near Dorking in Surrey and continued to use Broad How as a holiday home throughout the 1930s. Maurice was very fond of young children, as can be seen in many of these photos taken at Broad How at the time.
Maurice died on 9th April 1939, a few months before the outbreak of the Second World War.
* The Llewelyn Davies family was remarkable in a number of ways. Maurice's siblings as mentioned above also included Arthur, father of the five boys adopted by J M Barrie and the inspiration for Peter Pan. Another brother, Crompton, drafted the constitution of Ireland, while married to an Irish revolutionary, and close friend of Michael Collins, Moya.