A Vanished Past – Portrait of a Country Couple (1 of 5)

Lucy – The live-in cook at The Manor

by Honor (Morgan) Berry

Lucy’s life began to take on a new shape when she came to Horley and she knew an independence that had never been hers before. As cook at The Manor her role was clear, and when her work was done, her time was her own.

The Stockton’s who owned Horley Manor were a family of local solicitors. They had two children – Miss Marjory and Master John as Lucy always called them. They entertained a good deal in a modest way and Lucy’s job was to cook the three meals a day that they and the household staff required. She also prepared afternoon tea, and made a quantity of soft, easily digestible food for the aged and infirm of the village that she and the maid distributed twice a week. Since in The Manor household master and servants ate the same menu and drank the same wine life was straightforward for Lucy. The fare was rich and tasty with meat three times a day and a good deal of pastry, gravy, butter, eggs and cream. The cakes tended to be substantial and the vegetables well cooked and traditional. Fish was not much in evidence and neither were raw vegetables, skimmed milk, and the muesli that we value so highly today. Pastas, pizzas, burgers and Chinese food were unknown, and the only foreign cuisine that occasionally appeared was what was called a curry. It was in fact no more than a beef stew with a teaspoon of prepared curry powder added. But curry with its strange flavours and hot spices were not entirely unknown. One or two men in Horley had been to India and tasted the food for real when they had done their soldiering as young men. Charlie Varney was one of them, but I do not recall his praising the food.

Lucy’s days as cook may have been some of the happiest in her life. Lucy loved to feed people and there was constant activity, companionship and good humour. She took pride in the Stockton’s successes and took a nosey interest in their goings-on, so her work was always satisfying, and if it was possible, her spare time was even better.

Lucy walked out with a number of young men at this time. One boyfriend, much in favour, fell from grace because some days after he had taken her out to tea, he tapped at The Manor kitchen window and asked her for the money for it. She counted it out from her purse and then hurled it at him. They never exchanged a word again though they both spent the rest of their lives in Horley.

Lucy’s favourite pastimes were whist drives in the winter, and in the summer gentle walks across the fields to a pub, a little tennis, and best of all, dancing in the gloaming on long warm evenings. It was while she was at The Manor that she met Jim Eadon. He and his friend Bob Gilkes played tennis with Lucy and her friend Violet, the maid at The Manor.

Jim came from Hornton. His ‘Dad’, a fine looking man with a waxed moustache and gentle ways had once been a soldier and had fought in the Boer War. He still had his red jacket to prove it. Because of his dad’s soldiering, Jim had been born in Wellington Barracks, Chelsea, but the family had returned to Hornton where his parents kept The Red Lion pub [or The Dunn Cow?] for some time. Jim worked on the North Oxfordshire opencast ironstone mining works. He worked with his father, and they were known as ‘Big Jim’ and ‘Little Jim’ – the latter taking after his tiny sharp-witted mother. That he never completely broke away from her dominance is not surprising, for she was a tiny dragon of a woman that could have dominated an army.

Jim was every bit as quick-witted as his mother, but he had shyer and softer ways and was happier with Lucy. He found comfort in her stock phrases of ‘make yourself comfy’, ‘that little bit don’t matter’, ‘ʹave another’, ‘noice, hain’t it?’, and, as evening drew on ‘we’ll be ʹaving a drop [a drink] hin a minute’.

Photograph from the Marchant-Hoy-Berry family collections

Photograph from the Marchant-Hoy-Berry family collections Mrs EadonAfter a respectable period of courtship and engagement Lucy and Jim got married in December 1933. Jim was 30 and Lucy 26 – rather older than most people on marriage in those days. After the ceremony at South Newington where Lucy’s family lived they returned to Horley to begin their life together. With her new status in life came changes: Jim would not let her cook at The Manor. He liked her to be at home in the evenings. Lucy left The Manor and moved down the lane. She and Jim lived in The Square and she went to work on a daily basis with the Astells who lived at Bramshill Park Farm. Jim and Lucy got on remarkably well. Lucy’s only slight disappointment was Jim did not eat much, but that did not stop her cooking too much for him.

When she had been cook at The Manor, she and Violet the maid had taken food to the poor and ill of the parish, and Lucy had seen the foul conditions that once active people had to live in if they were not able to look after themselves, and had no running water or sanitation. If they were weak they had to use any container as a lavatory, and they had no strength to empty it – harsh unpleasant details that are rarely recorded or spoken about. She and other women in the village were sensitive about the problems which the lack of drains created, and went to great lengths to keep their lavatories clean, using large quantities of strong- smelling disinfectants such as Dettol and Jeyes Fluid to disguise any unwanted smells.

 

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