top of page

Broad How During the War: memories

Mary and Jane in the Goldrill

Jane and Mary in the Goldrill

Juci (Judith)
Jane c1940.jpg

Jane in about 1940

TC winter 40 to 41

Winter 1940/41

Goldrill 40 to 41 - Copy.jpg

Winter 1940/41 The Goldrill Frozen

Jean Kent, MC, JC, JL and friend

Min Mary, Jane Judith and a friend 1940-41

JC TC and Helen Duncan


As well as Broad How being quite crowded at times during the war the village itself contained a lot of extra people. Jane estimates that at that time there were 100 village children. In addition there was a whole class of evacuees – about 40 or 50 - from Tyneside, including Andrew. As well as the official evacuees there were about 30 more children staying in the village with their families – people who usually lived elsewhere but had decided, as TC and Min had, that they would be safer living in a rural area and were staying with friends or family. With this sudden increase in numbers Mr Rogers, the headteacher at Patterdale School, could not enrol any more children, and Jane, Mary and Judith were among the children for whom there was no room. So the parents of the children who didn’t have a school place made other arrangements:


‘So they advertised for a primary school teacher to come and then they borrowed, I think, I don’t even think they paid a rent, the Friends Meeting House at Grisedale Bridge. There weren’t 30 to begin with, there were only about 12 to 15 of us, and we had lessons there. With a teacher called Miss Robinson, and then Miss Robinson got a friend to come along as the school grew, called Miss Westwood. And then they grew out of Grisedale Bridge which was the Friends Meeting House, which was just one room, with a funny old heater and quite primitive, into the Youth Hostel in Patterdale, the old Youth Hostel, which of course wasn’t being used as a Youth Hostel during the war, it was empty. And so we moved into there. And various people in the village rallied round. There was somebody who gave French lessons, because she knew a bit of French, and other people who did sewing and cooking. People rallied round, and it was fine really.’

ITo start with Jane, Judith and Mary were all in the same class and then when the school grew it was split into two classes and Mary was with the older group. Mary remembers ‘going into the little loo in the Friends’ Meeting House and seeing ‘Calvert’ on the lavatory cloth. Do you remember? I mean it was full of Mother’s towels and things there. It was sort of odd. Then it got too big and we moved to the Youth Hostel. Which wasn’t operating as a Youth Hostel.’

Photo of some of the children from the temporary school taken by the Goldrill

Back row (L to R): Ann Beak, Pat Sedgwick, Penelope Saunders and Mary Calvert

Front row (L to R): Juci Laszlo, Jane Calvert, John Sanders

Then, later, the Lycée Français de Londres was evacuated from South Kensington to Ullswater. The school took over three big houses on the lake, the junior part was at Hallstead, the building which is now the Outward Bound Centre at Watermillock. TC and Min felt that this would be a great opportunity for Jane and Mary to become fluent in French, so in 1942 they enrolled them as day pupils – all the other pupils were boarders. It was decided not to send Judith who was at an early stage of learning English, so she stayed on at the temporary school in the village.


‘Mary and I were sent off to this rather amazing education at the Lycée, which was quite a frightening thing as we didn’t speak any French at all. And we were there for two whole years… But it was an experience.


Masses of rote learning, yes not just the poetry, but facts, historical facts. Well, the history of course was done from the French angle that’s right. I had a really splendid teacher she seemed very tall I don’t know that she was particularly tall but she seemed very tall to us. And she would stride up and down the classroom pretending she was Napoleon. Napoleon was the great character and Nelson was beneath contempt.


And it was very moral, the teaching. You know, ‘Write a letter to your younger brother suggesting that he’s being lazy and ought to be working much harder.’ …It was lots of things like that… I tell you one thing I remember, in Theory of Music was we had to learn the stave – La portée se compose de cinq lignes, horizontales, parallèles et equidistantes qui se comptent de bas en haut. Yes, that’s la portée. Et le point placé après le note ou la silence, prolonges ceux-ci par la moitié de leur valeur.


I haven’t remembered it very well but I do remember the fables. You see the fables of La Fontaine they all had a moral thing, it was quite strong. Of course they were all Catholic and we had to be extricated when the priest came in. At the very beginning they hadn’t absorbed the fact that we weren’t Catholics, someone came and took us out. I remember being sort of extricated from this. But because we were the only day children, it was rather a shame, we didn’t really get to know the other children as well as we would have done because they were all boarders. So that was the Lycée.  And they got a special petrol allowance to take us, and they used to take us in the morning and fetch us back in the afternoon. And then there was a lot of homework. It was supposed to take me two hours I think when I was eight and it usually took me about three hours because it was so hard in the French.’


Mary, like Jane, remembers that ‘Napoleon was a hero. Oh he was, yes. She also remembers coming top above all of the French children in an exam. She had to write something and then recite it. Jane says she also came top in recitation. ‘But we didn’t do very well on English. We didn’t know the grammar.’ Jane recalls that it was very competitive and ‘I think it was once a fortnight they put up the tableau d’honneur… It was always the same people that were at the top.


Mary and Jane both started in the bottom class at the lycée – the 8ième class – and then Mary was moved up.All lessons were in French and they were the only English children, except one girl in Jane’s class, Claire Delavenay, who was half English. But, as Jane explained, ‘the thing is because we were the only day children we didn’t get to know the other children. Claire Delavenay got to know them all you see because she was living there, they were all boarding.’


New children were arriving all the time. Mary remembers a ‘little boy who came from Madagascar. He’d escaped on a boat or something.’ His name was Yves Dréanno and he was in Jane’s class. Mary and Jane just accepted this as normal but they remember TC and Min expressing surprise to hear of his arrival.



In this photo of Jane’s class at the Lycée in 1943 she is the tall girl on the back row 3rd from the right. Clare Delavenay is 2nd from left on the back row and Yves Dréanno is 2nd from right on the front row.


One of Jane’s main memories is of keeping hens at the back of the garden in ‘a funny little house up there that had been an outside loo I think, that was converted into a hen house.’ They had 12 hens, each one called after a member of the household, so there must have been 12 people living there at that point. Jane remembers that her sister Mary ‘chose the nicest hen. Min had the last choice and had a miserable old ghastly old moulting grey thing! Anyway it was good to have the eggs.’


Mary confirms this: ‘We each had a hen and mine was a very pretty one because of course I immediately grabbed the prettiest.’ Mary also has a very vivid recollection of taking the hens up to live with Mrs Patty at Place Fell Cottage when they went back to Dorking. Judith wouldn’t pick hers up properly holding the wings so it flapped all the way up the lane.She also remembers preserving the eggs in ‘buckets with this waterglass, and a pair of sort of tongs to hold an egg. And you put it in there and that would preserve it.’ The preserved eggs were kept in the cellar as there still wasn’t a fridge.


Jane, Mary and Molly Pattinson


Other than eggs, most food and household goods were delivered by carts. On Saturdays and Wednesdays, Robinson (‘Fishy Billy’) came from Penrith with fish and vegetables, the butcher came once a week and the milk every day in a pony and trap from Beckstones.


‘We got most of the groceries from the Post Office, because we had points you see. Every person on their ration book had points. The personal points were for clothes and things but the actual points were for things like groceries, tinned stuff, soap, tea, sugar. And I think they managed it very well. TC and Min had had very bad experience of very poor rationing in the First War, it hadn’t been properly organised. So they were absolutely clear that with a big group, big family, they must be sure that everybody got exactly the right, their share of everything, so that nobody, you know… So we all had our little butter dish, our little sugar thing with our name on it, painted on. And Mary I think said she’d prefer to have margarine than butter so she had 4 ounces of margarine whereas the rest of us just had two ounces of butter – I mean she chose to have that because she preferred it. And it worked pretty well really.


Mary also remembers the butter dishes clearly, and TC ordering them:

‘There were 12 of us in the house – 3 over 80, 3 under 10 – she rang up Heals in London and asked if they had individual butter dishes and they said yes we have and she said well I’d like a dozen please. And along came these very nice little flat bits and they each had a little top and a circle on top of a different colour. And Min would divide up the butter.’



TC and Min grew a lot of the food for the household in the garden:


Jane: ‘And of course they [TC and Min] dug up the garden to have vegetables just like everybody else. The lower garden at the front. They hadn’t that much experience of doing it, but they learnt. They did all the gardening. Jimmy Thompson came in sometimes but in general they did it all.’


Jimmy Thompson lived in the village. Jane: ‘By the time we were aware of him I should think he was 70. He was called ‘Moor Hen’ or ‘Water Hen’ He wrote the fishing column in the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald. And he was a real sort of knowledgeable person, I mean he was very very knowledgeable. And he helped in the garden here, for a long time.’

Jimmy Thompson in the lower garden

The lower garden in front of the house was where the vegetable patch was, and fruit round the side bit of the garden (where playground is now). Mary remembers that TC and Min ‘dug up the whole of the lower garden by hand… And they planted potatoes, kale, raspberry canes…’ She also remembers Min ‘taking the dust off the potatoes and storing them in the cellar’

Neither TC nor Min did any work outside the home when they were at Broad How during the war, although both resumed their careers when they moved back to London.  As TC put it when she was interviewed by Chrys Salt  in 1986:


‘Mary, my doctor sister and I were perfectly able to look after everyone – do the necessary digging, not for victory but for peace.’


Mary remembers Aunt Margaret saying ‘Theo organises and Mary does it’!’ Jane thinks it was: ‘Mary has the ideas and Theo carries them out’.They both agree, however,that TC and Min were ‘both equally and completely insulted’ by this description.



The war


Jane, Mary and Judith were very much shielded from what was happening in the rest of the world. They went to bed before TC and Min listened to the 9 o’clock news on the radio, and no-one talked to them about the war. As Mary said ‘We were so protected, oh dear!’. As Jane explains:


‘We were really protected from the war completely. They were pacifists really, TC and Min, and simply couldn’t bear the whole thing of the war – well most people couldn’t really. Having suffered so in the First War I think they just really couldn’t bear it. So we were kept in the dark about it really. When the bomb fell in Grisedale and killed two sheep that was a great excitement and all the village children we all rushed up into Grisedale and got bits of shrapnel. I didn’t go but I remember children arriving and they’d cut their hands on this shrapnel I think it was sharp. That must have been at Goldrill House School. There’d been a bombing raid on Barrow-in-Furness and they were lightening their load as they went back. They weren’t aiming at the sheep.’


Mary actually remembers the sound of the bomb exploding in Grisedale. ‘It echoed round because Patterdale being a hub, all the noise went up all the valleys and it took a long time, and I can remember that jolt.’





Another clear memory is of the cold, and in particular the winter of 1940 which was exceptionally cold.


Jane: ‘But it was very, very cold. I think that is my over-riding memory, the coldness. There was an open fire in the living room, and then there was a solid coke boiler thing for heating the water in the kitchen and that was it really apart from a few little one bar fires, which looking back on it were very, very dangerous, they didn’t have guards at all. Electric fires but they were very inadequate. ‘


Nowadays Arnison is the only bedroom that still has a fireplace (although of course it was blocked up many years ago), but in those days there were also open grates in Mill Moss, Goldrill, Crook-a-beck and Silver Bay. However, these were not normally lit:


‘ That’s why we were so terribly cold during the war, because it was all rationed and there wasn’t that much coal and wood and stuff.  …I think when we were ill possibly sometimes upstairs a fire was lit in one of the two bigger bedrooms.’



In the winter of 1940 Patterdale was actually snowed in for quite a long period – Mary thinks two weeks but Jane thinks it may have been a bit less than that. Mary remembers:


‘The water we drank all came off Place Fell, down Rooking Ghyll. In 1940 everything froze. It went to 4 below zero Fahrenheit. That is 36 degrees Fahrenheit of frost. We were completely snowed in. And you walked down the lane you were four feet at least above the road. Up to the top of the hedge or the top of the gates. It was just incredible… And mother had to shovel snow into the two baths to melt them. It was pristine snow… I don’t know what we drank – boiled water I suppose.’


They melted the snow in the baths to wash with. Jane: ‘There were buckets and it looked beautiful snow, but it all had black flakes in.’ Jane and Mary also remember that when they were snowed in TC went and bought all the yeast in the Post Office and Mrs Patty from Place Fell Cottage made bread with it.

The blackout


The blackout caused a few problems due to the number and size of the windows at Broad How. Mary’s memory is that TC only had 24 hours’ notice to ensure all the windows were covered and no light was showing. She had to make the huge curtain for the window on the stairs, stretching the fabric out along the hall floor to cut it out.


Jane: ‘They had to put asbestos, or beaver boarding, up round the outside and then have the curtains across and of course it was a great treat to climb above the fireplace, terribly dangerous, to put the piece of wood up the middle.’


On one occasion a light had been left on in the woodshed down where the garden room is now and they got into trouble.


Jane: ‘Well it wasn’t Min’s fault but she took the blame… I think it was one of the Swiss maids, but she took the blame for it… Oh she was fined; she had to go to Ambleside.’


Mary remembers that George Harrison, from the village, painted the top bit of the windows ‘they were all painted black because the shutters didn’t go up to the top.’


Social life


Most of TC and Min’s social life revolved around the family. They would sit around the fire in the evenings, sewing, knitting or darning, and TC would read aloud. Min was fond of music and they had a few records but there wasn’t a piano at Broad How at that time. Jane describes the evenings:


 ‘TC always read aloud. And she did that for years. Years and years. Only for a couple of hours or something…She must have read for a long time because she got through a tremendous number of things really… She did ‘The Moonstone’ and then’ The Woman in White’. And quite a lot of Scott novels and all the Jane Austen ones, and Stevenson a lot of Stevenson. A lot of novels and then quite a lot of poetry you see, I mean she really did read, and she liked reading and we certainly liked it… I can’t remember when she read the poetry but she must have got us interested, especially me interested in poetry.


But that was a very big feature, I’m trying to think when it was, what sort of time it was that she would read. I imagine after supper. And we would just do things like – it makes it sound so funny really nowadays – but sort of darning, or playing with things but certainly listening. Sorting out collecting things – we were collecting stamps at the time, or something, we’d be busy sort of doing something. We wouldn’t just be sitting like this listening. I don’t know. I can’t remember really, but it was a tremendous feature… Min didn’t reckon she was that good at reading aloud; TC liked reading aloud.’


Occasionally TC and Min would socialise with other people in the evenings, particularly the other temporary residents of the valley. Mary remembers:


‘A lot of people were evacuated up to Patterdale from Liverpool, Manchester, that sort of thing. And the GP, Dr Byrd, and his wife were there anyway. But quite a few professional people came to the various houses around, with their children. And in an attempt to get some sort of life going in the evening they had meetings, didn’t they. Mother arranged a mock trial. They’d take it in turns in their houses… They used to have meetings of that sort, and someone did a whist drive, but I do remember when they used to come to Broad How. They went to different people’s houses.’


Jane and Mary both remember Miss Sutherland up at High Row in Dockray, who was a musician and an artist, and there used to be concerts at her home.

bottom of page