Christmas at Rest Harrow and Little Cucknells

When we were young, Christmas was a very special time for my siblings and me. We lived in Edinburgh, but our Grandparents, and most of our relations, lived in the south of England, or even further afield. Although I have written about going to Pickwick for Christmas, my father’s parents must have moved when I was quite young, as I remember being at Rest Harrow during the Winter of 1962-63, when the elder of my sisters was a baby, and the younger not born. (Although, when she was a small child and was told she did not participate in such great adventures she would protest ‘I was there, in Mummy’s tummy!’). Rest Harrow was snowbound, as was the whole village of Medstead, and my father had to walk to Four Marks for bread and milk. It is possible that we did not then go on to my mother’s parents at Little Cucknells,

Our normal pattern was that we would travel from Edinburgh to Rest Harrow – usually by car, with the journey becoming swifter as the years passed – in the early days I believe the trip incorporated a Bed and Breakfast somewhere around Nottingham. I do also remember flying (in a Comet) and being put to bed, and then woken to be taken by taxi to the station to go down on the train – though that may be have been to Pickwick.

Pre-Christmas at Rest Harrow

On arrival at Rest Harrow there were several common events before Christmas. Grandpa would have bought a Christmas tree, which would be in a pot in the sun room, awaiting our artistic, or enthusiastic labours to decorate it. We eschewed the minimalist approach, and it was impressive how many of the glass baubles would still be there every year, despite having been put up by small children.

Sunroom, Restharrow

As my brother and I grew usefully tall we also had the honour of helping to decorate the large Christmas tree at St Andrews Church in Medstead.

St Andrews Church

The while family would also be involved, to varying degrees according to skills, in the preparation of Christmas dinner. My Grandparents approached gardening on a serious scale, so harvesting and preparation of winter vegetables was a communal activity, preparing sprouts, peeling carrots, parsnips and potatoes, as well has mixing (and tasting) cake ingredients. Aunty Jennifer always made her famous cheese straws, in a variety of shapes.

Christmas Day at Rest Harrow

We would wake on Christmas morning to find that, no matter how resolved we might have been to catch him in the act, Father Christmas had been in the night and managed to fill out stockings (we used Heriots school socks) with presents. It is possible that Mother Christmas might have taken some tips from her relative, George Braund, and switched the stockings for ones which had been filled earlier.

The stockings managed to achieve an impressive balance, considering our range of ages, between fairness and personalised interest. Several of our toys only really made sense as communal toys, even though we knew which specific parts were ours – examples of this were the Floral Garden, the Zoo (with Britain’s Zoo animals) and the Farm (again Britains Farm animals, though with out of scale farm machinery. The stockings were filled in roughly the same order, and so opening them together we might have clues about what type of thing might be inside the individually wrapped parcels (in venerable wrapping paper). Recurring themes were

  • Some kind of small torch
  • A cub/scout/brownie/guide diary
  • A pencil
  • Notebooks
  • little sets of colour pencils
  • Chocolate coins (I suspect one bag was divided into four, and the balance became a delivery fee)
  • The aforementioned animals, parts of gardens and so on
  • A paperback book
  • Always a satsuma in the toe of the sock.

Opening the stockings often occurred on my parents bed, where they would be suitably impressed by the wisdom and good taste of Father Christmas.


Stockings on Christmas morning, Jane with Jennifer and Elizabeth

We would also show our new presents to Aunty Jennifer, who lived at Rest Harrow, and to Uncle Tim, who came from Geneva for the Christmas period. As a bachelor uncle – who had the opportunity to give us slightly less suitable toys (I remember a battery powered walking, noisy robot) Tim was relegated to the sofa bed on the lounge, where he may not have been having as restful a night. Despite this we felt it was our duty to bounce on him in the morning to wake him up. Some years later Tim married and had two daughters, and my brother and I relinquished the bedroom we had used, to sleep in the lounge. I remember being awoken on Christmas morning by the enthusiastic bouncing of two small girls, egged on from the doorway by their father, Uncle Tim.

During the morning my Uncle Michael and Aunt Fanny would arrive from London, and my Uncle Jeremy, with Aunt Claire, and her mother, Oma (Flemish name for Grandmother), and cousins Peter, Ian and Robert from Southampton or later Gosport. If the weather was fine we would go out into the garden.

Christmas Morning 1966, on the new seat in the sun
Jennifer with JF and CD on the swing.

My Grandmother would make a quiche for Michael and Fanny, who were vegetarians, but the rest of us would be keen to try it, as well as the traditional turkey. Fitting about twenty people round the table was a challenge, but we managed (sometimes by having a children’s table). The Christmas pudding had silver threepences cooked into it which were then exchanged for real money. Afterwards everybody helped clear up and wash up. We listened to the Queen’s Speech on the radio, and there would be the traditional family photo, in the sunroom if the weather was bad, of outside if we could. In the early years this was my grandfathers prerogative, using a self timer on his camera, with varied results. There are a number of pictures of a Grandpa shaped space in the family group, and I am sure there should be some of the sky or the grass due to tripping over the tripod trying to reach that space. We then chatted, or played games until the prolonged departures of the day visitors, normally after even more food.

Entertainment at Rest Harrow

There was no television at Rest Harrow for several years, when they were common elsewhere, but there were plenty of books, including a full set of the Swallows and Amazons series, and The Far Distant Oxus. We also played games, my grandparents had a Deluxe Edtion Scrabble board, on a turntable. Aunty Jennifer was a whiz at Pounce, and we also played Pickwick Rummy. She also always had some kind of craft activity available, from candle making to painting. She was also headteacher of Herriard school, and would bring musical instruments back from school. She also had a guitar, which we would attempt to play – she would teach us some chords, but we would generally forget them by next Christmas and have to start again. My cousin Peter, an accomplished musician, sometimes played his violin.

The Christmas present from Aunty Jennifer to my brother and me was a trip to London, on the train, visiting famous sites, such as Madame Tussauds and the Post Office Tower – back in the days when you could eat at the top. We traveled on the Underground, very exciting for boys from Edinburgh, and ended the trip with a visit to Hamleys, where Great Aunt Peggy was managing director (though we were more impressed by the railway running round the big central staircase, the teddy bears the size of a grown up and other amazing toys)

Christmas at Little Cucknells

When we were young we did not really celebrate New Year, but had a second, quieter, Christmas with my mother’s parents at Little Cucknels, in Shamley Green. Our interactions with Grandfather Box were limited – I only really remember him lying in bed in a downstairs room with the curtains closed, and greeting him awkwardly on arrival, and saying farewell when we left. Grannie Bee (My mother said it was because she was busy as a bee – though I assume the name really came from her being Box) cooked a second Christmas Dinner for us. She too cooked a Christmas pudding, but every piece came with a sixpence, courtesy of sleight of hand in the serving process.

Meals were cooked on the Aga, which also kept the kitchen and adjoining small dining/sitting room warm. I remember both at Little Cucknells and Rest Harrow (and at home in Edinburgh) that hot water bottles were part of the bedtime routine.

If the weather was good we could play in the huge, overgrown garden, or Little Cucknells wood, and if the weather was bad we had our new toys or books to read. Although the house was full of interesting antiques, such as the Bell of the Kishon, the longcase clock made by my Great, Great Grandfather – William Braund Box, and a chess table made by some ancestor – a model of this table made by the same person is in the Queen’s Dolls house in Windsor Castle – they were not very interesting to children, though the copies of National Geographic, with their maps and pictures of exotic places gave plenty to read and look at.

We would also go and visit my mother’s sister Aunt Sue, with her four boys, and her husband (until they were divorced) who I mainly remember for the smell of brandy and cigars, at their home in South Stoke, with Wolfie, the Wolfhound.

Somewheres and Anywheres

Receiving scans of Christmas past from my father’s slides sent by my sister coincided with me reading ‘The Road to Somewhere’ by David Goodhart. (I am still in the early stages). The book relates the differences in attitudes to society, and life opportunities between the majority (about three in five), of Britons who still live within 25 miles of where they were born – the Somewheres, and the possibly less grounded, but more influential Anywheres, who lack the deep connection to a single community, although they may well be members of several less tangible communities. My father, for example, spent most of his life far from his London roots, but was a member of a small international community of Research Foresters.

A description of the book can be found at ‘Anywheres and Somewheres‘ and another viewpoint at ‘The Road to Somewhere by David Goodhart – a liberal’s rightwing turn on immigration‘ Despite the reference to immigration in the title of Guardian review most of the Anywheres referred to in the book leave a home in Britain to go to university, and then move to wherever their life takes them. My Grandparents, on both sides, uncles, aunts, brother, sisters, cousins, nephews and nieces fit the profile of Anywheres, as do many of the people mentioned in this blog, from the tragically orphaned Williams sisters to the Famous Freemans and Renowned Rebbecks.


Pictures of Pickwick

When my Grandparents left Grove Farm at Box, where they had been farming, they moved in to 141, Lordship Road, Stoke Newington with my Great Grandfather, Joseph Lines. This was around 1925, and may have been prompted by the death of my Great Grandmother, Jane Lines (nee Fitzhenry) on 7th June 1925. They lived with Joseph and helped run G&J Lines, until he died in 1931. They rented The Cottage, 55, Anne Boleyn’s Walk, Cheam, Surrey for about 3 years, while they had a house built on Warren Drive, Kingswood, so moved in probably about 1934.

The house was named Pickwick, after the village near Box.

The family were still living there when I was young, though I do not have clear memories of the house. My parents lived in Edinburgh and we used to spend Christmas with my Grandparents, traveling by various means. One of my early memories is of a taxi ride through central London, and the lights of Piccadilly Circus – there was nothing similar in Edinburgh.

I have some 2″ Slides from my Aunt Fanny’s collection, which show Pickwick, which I have photographed to reproduce here.

My setup, lightbox and Lumix DMC TZ-80 camera
At Pickwick September 1955

Roger, Michael,Jenifer,Jeremy

Mouse, Chief, Tim
At Pickwick September 1955

My Grandpa (George E Lines), known in the family as Chief, and my Granny (Doris Joan Lines – nee Stevens), known in the family as Mouse.

Croquet at Pickwick June 1956

When my grandparents moved to Rest Harrow the croquet set moved with them, and we all played croquet as children.

Pickwick Spring 1959
Pickwick Spring 1959
My Granny in the garden
My Granny in the garden
Grandpa in the garden

I do not wear a tweed jacket and a tie for gardening, I feel I am letting the family down !

Sam – the family dog
Michael and Jennifer

Sailing with Jeremy and Jennifer, a letter from Tim to Roger.

On 27th September 1953, my uncle Tim wrote to my father to describe the time Tim and my aunt Jennifer spent with their brother, my uncle Jeremy in Poole (OSM).
My father would have been working as a Forester in Edinburgh at the time.

27/9/53

Dear Roger

M insists that I write a page to make the envelope seem fatter. I don’t think you’ve heard about the adventure Jennifer and I had last W/E. I went down to Poole on Friday night, met Jeremy all right and spent most of the evening in the Poole Yacht Club, drinking and soaking in the nautical atmosphere. Saturday morning we took the DYC launch1 along to the club to fetch some ballast which they had used in an attempt to sink the Hornet in its safety tests. Great iron bars, ½ cwt I believe, tho’ they may have been 1 cwt. Anyway we took these back to the yard and even in the launch (a huge battleship of a thing) we got pretty wet – an accurate omen for the future! From there we went to the station to meet Jennifer, did some shopping and then had lunch. After some preliminaries we got the Hornet launched and we were away! After about 2 ½ minutes Jennifer lost her balance as the Hornet heeled over, which made her heel over even worse – then I lost my balance and the next thing we knew was that we were swimming around Poole Harbour while Jeremy, who knew what was happening, had simply done a sort of log-rolling act as Panic went over and was most unfairly still dry. While the boat was approximately in this position

Jeremy begins the salvage operations with: ‘I think the first thing to do is to get the sails down’ – this when they were several feet under water ! And he proceeded to do it. Then with a bit of clever balancing the whole boat turned right way up again and he commenced bailing with an action reminiscent of Sam2 digging. All this time Jennifer and I were holding the bow into the wind. When she was about half empty (Panic, I mean) Jeremy stuffed the spinnaker into the centre-plate housing to keep the water out – this is apparently normal practice and is the chief purpose of carrying a spinnaker. When he had completed bailing we got back in (actually Jen. and I bailed the last bit – the last bit of all is done with the rubber one to save the varnish) and we could assess the damage. This was fortunately negligible. Jennifer had rescued a plimsole as it was floating away on the billows and the only thing broken was the wooden pennant from the mast head.

We then went for a sail which was most enjoyable despite our wet clothes (fortunately the water had been surprisingly warm) and I had a go on the sliding seat

(another diagram) Actually there was a rope to hang on to, but I can’t draw ropes. Jeremy said that on the Round the Island Race a friend of his spent a good deal of the time two feet below the surface (when the boat yawed over) and they hardly saw him throughout the race because he was in a thick cloud of spray!
3

After hauling up Panic and getting some dry clothes on, we had a meal and went to see Genevieve in Poole. Quite funny, but really only one joke. Have you seen it ? (The film I mean). We also saw a thriller which was quite funny because we missed the beginning and were continuously greeted by such hilarious lines as :’So that’s how he knew the tea-pot !’ etc. etc.

Sunday morning there was a race in Poole Harbour. It was too rough for the Hornet (there was a very strong wind and it didn’t lessen all day), but Jeremy said people needed crews and so we all found ourselves in different boats. Jeremy was with a friend in a Snipe, Jennifer with a man in another Snipe and I was with 3 others (including another hopeless type) in an 18ft National. We had a very enjoyable sail, tho’ rather a wet one! Twice round a not very long course. Jeremy came in 2nd. I’m not really sure where Jennifer and I got in – nobody really seems to care where they come in, a rather nice aspect of sailing. All the yachting types then held a post mortem and then went off for lunch. We had sandwiches at the club and stayed some time on the starting balcony, where they have a marvellous pair of binoculars on a stand. There was a terrific wind flowing and nearly carrying us off.

Later we went to Sandbanks by bus and had a very nice time there, coming back in a large motor-boat at least 35ft long, I should think, but by the time we got to Poole we were very nearly wet through again. We returned home the same evening.

Here endeth the chronicle of Poole.

I have bought a developing tank – it’s a Paterson 35. Rather ingenious and nicely made. The spiral is made in 2 halves which can turn in relation to each other. They each have one or two teeth which engage with the perforations in the film – thus it works on a ratchet system and makes the film very easy to load, simply by oscillating the two halves of the spiral. I tried with a film in the shop and it works quite well. If also has one or two refinements which I needn’t mention. Haven’t got room for any more and anyway this must go in M’s so I’ll just wish you all the best for your car? and Cheerish from Tim.

Tim was clearly not put off sailing by his dip, as I remember he had a Sunfish, which he sailed on Lake Geneva. The Swiss regulations were strict and when the boat was inspected it had a have an anchor and similar items.

Jeremy has sent me a picture of Panic.

Panic being prepared for Launch

This picture was taken by Tim of Jeremy and Jennifer preparing Panic for launch.
Jennifer had probably come down on the train for the weekend, from her first teaching job at Ealing.
Tim was 21, and might have been staying at Pickwick with my Grandparents, having finished his degree at Cambridge.
My father’s older brother, Michael was probably in London, married to Fanny, and working at Philips

Notes

DYC Launch

DYC is the Dorset Yacht Company, where Jeremy was serving his boat building apprenticeship. The company was founded in 1938, and still exists, through its history (and more history here) it has built sailing and motor yachts,  including, in the 1960’s the offshore race boat Spirit of Ecstasy, one of a number of boats designed by Arthur Hagg (who was also an aircraft designer). DYC also build HMS Wrentham, a Ham Class Inshore Minesweeper in 1955.  The company was also notable for a court case “Dorset Yacht Co Ltd v Home Office” in which on 21 September 1962, ten borstal trainees were working on Brownsea Island in the harbour under the control of three officers employed by the Home Office. Seven trainees escaped one night, at the time the officers had retired to bed leaving the trainees to their own devices. The seven trainees who escaped boarded a yacht and collided with another yacht, the property of the respondents, and damaged it. The owners of the yacht sued the Home Office in negligence for damages.

Jeremy had moved on by this time to work for Thornycroft. While at Thornycroft he was also doing evening classes to broaden his range of skills.

Sam

The family dog.

Round the Island Dinghy Race

This unique event took place on 6th June 1953. There is an account, from the point of view of someone (I think Ian Proctor) sailing an Osprey at  http://www.ospreysailing.org.uk/cms2/index.php/publications/background-information/19-round-the-island-race-for-dinghies-june-6-1953-cowes.
According to a post on the Classic and Vintage Racing Dinghy Association forum, it was Ian Proctor’s account, and according to a Yachts and Yachting forum post 

The results a quite a who’s who’s of small boat sailing at the time..
Ian Proctor
Uffa Fox
Bruce Banks
Jack Knights
Beecher Moore
Just to name a few.

Here is Jeremy’s account

Earlier that summer I had sailed PANIC with two friends from Poole to Cowes for the Round the Island Dinghy Race organised by Tiny Mitchell. We had about 200 starters, some took 2 days and camped on the southern shore of the Isle of Wight. We had a fantastic sail up to Cowes with a good Northerly breeze so a relatively flat sea, we did Poole to Hurst Castle in 2 hours and about another two to Cowes, we also had on board the launching trolley and a suitcase! The race itself was in fairly light conditions, 60 miles so it took us about 12 hours. They have never had another similar as Health and Safety would go bananas! I remember nearly going to sleep on the sliding seat until the helmsman dipped my head in the sea!

F.G. (Tiny) Mitchell was Vice Commodore of Royal Corinthian Yacht Club from about the 1930’s

Jeremy’s early boating experiences

My interest in boats really started with holidays in Cornwall where I was fascinated by the boatbuilder Percy Mitchell at Portmellon near Mevagissey. We did go rowing on the Thames a few times and before I left school built an 18 foot canvas covered canoe which my friend Brian Culliford and I paddled down the Mole camping each night on the bank. When I started my boatbuilding apprenticeship in Poole I bought a 12 ft sailing dinghy in Christchurch and sailed it round to Poole. It seemed the natural thing to do as no one had cars or trailers in those days! It was called seamanship! After that of course my life was full of boats. I built PANIC in Poole, she was a Hornet with a Sliding Seat, the latest in those days.
Looking back on our trip up to Cowes, it seems madness today as with a good Northerly it would be France next stop if anything had gone wrong!

Jeremy and Brian’s trip down the Mole was probably in 1946, as Jeremy went to Poole in 1974. He remembers that they ran out of water, so had to drink water out of their handkerchiefs, and notnot surprisingly had upset tums for a while!
By an interesting co-incidence Brian (Bryan John) Culliford, like my father, went to school at Whitgift, and then went on to study Forestry at Bangor. Unlike my father, he then went on to work for the Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Laboratory. As described in his Obituary, he went on to discover a number of important techniques and worked with Universities and other police forces. He was awarded the Adelaide Medal for his contributions to Forensic Science.
As Jeremy says

He was a super chap as you have read.

Jeremy Lines – Yacht Designer

Jeremy went on to design many yachts.

Betty Allen

This gaff rigged ketch was designed by Jeremy in 1999, and has her own web site at http://www.bettyalan.com/. The “It’s about the boat” page has some of the hand drawn designs, and the site has a picture which brings back memories for me, of him up the mast.
 

Up the mast

The yacht is also featured in the July 2014 issue of  Classic Boat