Dovenby Village

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A rural village with a medieval heritage - but an industrial estate imposed beside it

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From Hillary McDonald August 2015 to Peter Nicholson Dovenby.

 Dear Peter

I expect you thought I had forgotten my promise to send memories of Dovenby -apologies for taking so long -it's been a busy time as Somerset seems to attract all my family as a place to spend summer holidays! However -they've all left so here goes.

Firstly, may I say what a pleasure it was to chat with you and to respond to your interest in my memories of Dovenby all those years ago. I'll start by giving you the background as to why we were there at all. One of my mother's elder brothers was named Arthur Chandler and he worked as a mental nurse. In the 30's he went over to work in Kuala Lumpur where he met Florence Webb who was a SRN and Occupational Therapist. They married and returned to England for the birth of their child who was sadly stillborn. This was when they applied for positions at Dovenby Hall as Chief Male Nurse and she was Assistant Matron and Occupational Therapist. My mother was staying with them on holiday with my sister, Heather, (aged two-and-a-halt) in September 1939 when war was declared. I was born three months later in December 1939 and in March 1940 my parents took the decision for Mother to go and live in Cumberland with Arthur and Florrie, as any German invasion would inevitably take place in Kent, which was where we lived.

So she moved in with her brother and his wife who lived in No. 3 Dovenby Cottages and we remained there for the duration of the war. Mother always said (rather shame facedly) that it was the happiest time of her life! There was no hint of the war in Dovenby, every household had help in the form of patients from the colony, as we called it -the women worked in the houses and the men on the farms. A lot of our food was delivered from the hospital kitchens; a lovely lady called Nurse Pearson took the girls out for a walk every afternoon and always called and collected Heather and myself to go with them; there were staff dances and most afternoons my mother played tennis on the staff courts -with no shortage of patients to be ball-boys.

Obviously there was rationing, but the only part of the war I remember was being hauled out ofbed in the middle of the night to join with all the residents of Dovenby to watch at convoy of German planes flyover on their way to bomb Clydeside.

In 1943 another Aunt, wife of Mother's youngest brother, who lived in South London, came to join us with her two children (John aged 3 and Gay -just a baby)-to escape the blitz. So No 3 Dovenby Cottages was occupied by four adults and four children and a couple of dogs. Heather, John and I went to Dovenby School. The headmaster was a man called Mr Hasten whose son was killed during the war. At that time there were no playing fields at the school and at playtime we simply ran around in the road outside -making way for the occasional tractor. Nearby Tallentire Hall became a refuge for lots of children from London who were evacuated there and went to the school-they refused to drink the milk when they found out it came from cows and not out of bottles! I do remember clearly that John and I used to play with the boy living where you now live and I'm fairly sure that his name was Gerald Faulder. We were allowed total freedom and I don't remember any problems with the patients although we roamed the hospital grounds daily. Indeed lots of the patients were looked upon by we children as our friends as they probably had the same mental age as us and were always ready to join in our games.

Auntie Florrie spent most of her time in the building near the road referred to in Dovenby Days as the Recreation Hall, although it didn't look so smart then. There was a large room where under Auntie's supervision the patients painted glasses, made paper flowers, stuffed toys, learned to dance as she played the organ and of course we joined in all these activities. There was a basement to the building which was full of fancy dress clothes used in the plays and pantos my aunt organised and we loved dressing up in these. At the end of the room was a screen which was rolled back on Sundays to reveal an altar and again my aunt played the organ for the Sunday Service. It was here that I was christened -I was always led to believe that I was the only baby ever to be christened here.

Clearly my memories of Dovenby were not acquired just during those five years of the war, but after our return to Kent in 1945 we spent every school summer holiday of 6 weeks staying in Dovenby up until I was 19 -early years with my mother and sister, then young teenage years with a school friend, and the last couple of years with Denis, who was to become my husband.

We renovated our near derelict house

In July 2015 I was working hard at converting the weed covered bank into a new garden over looking Dovenby Beck when a couple of visitors stopped for a chat.  The lady, Hilary McDonald reminisced that Beck Cottage had been a shop when she was a child here and as her memories unfolded I asked her if she would write them and send them to me.  What a privilege it is to receive this gift of reminiscence.  If anyone reading this would like to send their own memories in audio, handwritten or typed then please do so.


Dovenby History.  Hilary McDonald lived here as a child 1940s - 50s


Starting on the main road, the Ship Inn was run by a chap called Dick Blaylock; on the opposite side of the road was Orchard House which in the early days was a nurses home, but in around 1953 Arthur and Florrie moved there. Next to the Ship Inn was the farm owned by the Hall family -there were two sons, Maurice (married to Dorothy and lived in an apartment in Bridekirk Vicarage) and Raymond -in the 50's my friend Margaret and I spent many happy hours helping them with the haymaking. Just beyond the Hall's farm was the old forge run by a lovely old man named Jonty Carr who let us spend loads of time there watching him shoe the horses and using the bellows to keep his fife going.

On the road into the village, the first house was lived in by Or Ferguson and his wife and daughter Nina. Next was Lynwood -father was Haydon Graham who ran a shop in Cockermouth High Street -he and his wife had two sons, Brian and Donald. The House now called the Reading Room was lived in by Jonty Carr's son and wife and in the late 50's this was briefly the village shop,. The new road did not exist in our early days, but after the houses were built, Florrie and Arthur moved into the farthest house, called "Fairview". Continuing towards the village, a large farmhouse close to the road was lived in by the Mossop family, who kept geese roaming about on the road and in the beck. Further on again was the Faulder's farm. Mrs Faulder was a lovely lady, always ready with a drink and bun for we kids. There was a younger woman there called Audrey who I imagine was married to a Faulder son -she ran the place at one time as a B & B.

The big house opposite Dovenby Cottages was farmed by the Robinsons who had two daughter, one of whom I remember was Kathleen. As I told you, they kept a bull in the field in front and we loved running along the wall at the back ofthe beck and leaping about to see it charge! Apart from Gerald Faulder, I have no memory of who else lived where you are now. The farm at the end on the right belonged to the Hines and we were sent each morning to the farm carrying small metal cans to collect the milk (straight from the cow).

Coming back on the other side, the cottage right by the road was the village shop, run by Miss Benn ­there was a phone box outside which shows up in the photos. The cottage on the end of that row and at right angles to it was lived in by Molly Walker and when my grandmother came to stay we all used to be invited to tea there.

Dovenby cottages -we lived in No. 3 ; next door in 2 was a family by the name of Dent who had 3 children -Betty, Jimmy and Moira. Betty Dent contracted TB and went into the sanatorium at Blencathra where she sadly died. No 1 was a family name of Jackson who were in some way related to the Grahams at Lynwood. Their grandchildren lived in Wales and were usually staying with them at the same time as us so the place was full of kids.

In about 1952, an administrator was appointed to Dovenby Hall -name of Reg Dixon and he came to live with Florrie and Arthur at No 3, together with his wife and two children -Jean and Billie. It was shortly after that that F and A moved into Orchard House which was empty. We loved staying there as it seemed huge to us and there were 3 or 4 bathrooms so we could choose where to wash.

Throughout this time, the matron at the colony was Delia McHugh who I remember quite well and also Sister Young who was very severe. They are in the photo on page 42 of Dovenby Days, as is Agnes Conway who we came to know well. Auntie Florrie is in the picture on page 43.

When we were in Orchard House, F and A had a patient from the colony working for them each day ­name of Annie Singleton. I suppose she was fairly typical of a number of people there in those days. As a young woman, she had an illegitimate son, whose father was her own father. No-one knew what to do with such people and so she was put into the colony. Although probably not very bright she was certainly not "mentally retarded" although she quickly became what is known as "institutionalised". All I know is that she looked after us fantastically and was a wonderful cook.

Auntie Florrie died in 1960 and that was around the end of our holidays in Dovenby. Arthur had very bad health -probably due to smoking about 80 extra-strong capstan every day. He became very friendly with Agnes Conway who was matron by then and he moved into staff accommodation next to her quarters above the main door of the Hall. Denis and I were married in 1961 and when he finished university in 1963 we moved to Eskdale Green and both worked at Windscale (Sellafield as it's now known). For a couple of years we were able to renew our relationship and Arthur loved to meet us in the pub at Ennerdale -sort of half-way for each of us. He also arranged for Denis to play cricket for the Dovenby Hall team so we had some outing with him and Agnes usually came along too. He died in 1965 which is when our connection to Dovenby and the colony came to an end. Our first two children were born in Curnberland and we were subsequently moved back to Kent for the commissioning of Dungeness Power Station. Since then we have managed a holiday in some part of the Lake District most years and whenever possible have revisited Dovenby, although anybody we knew has long since left.

DOVENBY DAYS a Dovenby child of 1940s & 50s

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