[Una, born in 1904, was the eldest grandchild of Hardwicke and Edith. She had three brothers, Conrad, David and Derek.]
My grandmother was indeed an interesting person. Her artistic sense ran to all manner of art form appreciation though not to either clothes for herself or fine furniture of which neither grandfather or she collected any except clocks! There were lots of clocks ticking and chiming all over Crosthwaite house – which to a child gave a sense of life & much pleasure. Although an old fellow came up from the town once a week to wind them all year after year he never got them synchronised! The happiest memories of my childhood were with these grandparents where I was a frequent & I’m sure spoiled visitor who felt complete love & confidence under their wing.
Grandmother always made new dresses for me on each visit – I can see her now with a mouth full of pins carefully fitting each garment & embroidering motifs around the borders of neck sleeves or hem; She accompanied my grandfather on his hikes & drives in the country until some view captured her imagination, then the equipment grandfather carried for her would be set up & she would be left to paint while we continued the walk – grandfather who seemed indefatigable carrying me on his shoulders when I grew tired. When we met shepherds in the hills or country lanes he always conversed with them in the gaelic tongue still in vogue among them.
Grandmother’s watercolours are of professional quality & it seems sad to realize where it not for a Victorian upbringing (when ladies weren’t supposed to take up professions) what she could have accomplished in that field!
I was taken to visit the Keswick School of art on many occasions. As you probably know it was started by my grandparents to keep the townsmen of Keswick out of the pubs in the evenings. In those days the work I think was silver, copper and enamel effects all designed by my grandmother who collected the designs on their many trips abroad – I think mostly to Italy, Switzerland & the Holy land though they did make a trip to Russia on the occasion of the Coronation of the Czar when my grandfather travelled as chaplain to the King of England.
My grandparents encouraged all local talents and customs. I remember a Miss Cross who did beautiful embroidery & lived in a little house on the periphery of town; Beatrix Potter whom we visited, Walter . . . who lived nearby; the lady who made the Grasmere gingerbread year after year & the Rushbearing at Grasmere for which we went over to stay at Dunnabeck. Granny always made me a special dress for this occasion & a “bearing” in the shape of a Celtic Cross as large as myself made of rushes & decorated with pink Dorothy Perkins roses (which bloomed in profusion against the grey slate walls of Dunnabeck.) Granny’s sense of colours was very fine & related to the blues, purples & soft greens of the scenery she loved so well. Dunnabeck’s curtains, slip covers etc. . . very carefully harmonized to the views from this cottage which had been built for the foreman of a work gang I believe when the aqueduct was built to Manchester. Anyway, they bought it as a hideaway & vacation refuge from the busy & demanding life grandfather made for himself & in every aspect of which grandmother was involved inspite of her natural shyness & lack of desire for social occasions. She was an avid gardener & both the flower gardens at Crosthwaite & at Dunnabeck were entirely her work & her constant joy. She taught me all she knew about gardening & although I was very young at the time both the knowledge and the enthusiasm have remained with me for the rest of my life. She made a little garden for me at Dunnabeck in which were blue gentian she had brought from the Alps in Switzerland. . . .
Grandfather always walked ahead of Grandmother with his hands folded behind his back – this became a little sad when she became lame with arthritis & couldn’t keep up. He always called her Edie & called her constantly – “Edie! Edie!” – well I can remember the calling around the house. I’m sure he must have been very demanding & a little petulant at times. One of the things she loved to do & did very well was arranging flowers - & she did them (I think) always for the church.
A day at Crosthwaite began with morning tea in my grandfather’s bed dressing gown, when he taught me poetry, Tennyson, Wordsworth most, and told me interesting stories – it ended in my grandmother’s bedroom where I slept in the canopied twin bed beside her. Fascinated I watched her dress for dinner parties & then she would sing a goodnight to me. Hymns, I think, of which my favourite was “all things bright & beautiful – all creatures great & small” etc. She would point out the beauty of the sunset & fading night on Skiddaw mountain which we could see from her bedroom windows.
After early morning tea the next event was morning prayers held in the dining room – with a row of servants seated at one end of the room for this ritual. Breakfast always started with porridge grandfather standing before the fire or walking around the table while eating it. He became interested in healthy foods – yoghurt or buttermilk, whole wheat bread & I’m sure other things. He always put salt on his porridge – sugar on it was considered very out of order!
Breakfast over Grandfather lit a cigarette & disappeared into his wing of the house – out through its garden door & to the pretty little outhouse. There was only one WC. in the house, & that was for ladies only – with a lovely big mahogany throne – books on it and a bowl of poupouri. Granny made the poupouri herself – lavender & rose petals & had it in pretty vessels (collected abroad) – all over the house.
Grandfather spent the morning normally in his study where his faithful secretary Minnie Broach appeared each day the walls were lined from floor to ceiling with books and carefully preserved manuscripts of sermons etc. The floor was covered in their favourite simple rush matting – with a Turkish rug in front of the fire place (collected on their travels). I was privileged to walk in there any time when he wasn’t in conference – but I remember feeling I should not make a noise!
Granny meanwhile went to the kitchen for consultation on the days menu & marketing, after that she went to her sitting room which was small & cozy & there she sat down to answer her correspondence. I believe she wrote long & very lovely letters to her friends. Any packages were carefully opened by untying the knots on the string & then saving it together with the wrapping paper – a habit not only transferred to me – but my children and grandchildren! On her desk she had a photo of a little scottie dog called Oscar who she had adored so much that no other dog was ever again in the household. By the fireside was a little chain which had been my father’s & which she treasured.
She had several photographs of my father around & told me how sad she always felt to see “the little white face at the window” when she & Grandfather departed for their travels.
The rest of the day would be embroidery, gardening, flower arranging, village errands, maybe a luncheon party & visitors for tea in the drawing room which was dominated by a beautiful “Annunciation” relief by Della Robbia – brought from Italy before the law on the export of Art treasures came into being. Sometimes there were such entertainments to go to as Morris dancing on somebody’s lawn or an amateur theatrical event (ghastly!!).
The grandparents were very fond of someone who lived on an island in Lake Derwentwater & we often took a boat out there. The acquisition of Kings How for the National Trust was the occasion for a boat ride & picnic in which I was included. Whenever we went to Grasmere, Ambleside or Windermere it was by coach & horses & I being “the canon’s granddaughter” & adoring horses was allowed to ride on the box beside the coachman. There were extra horses always waiting at the foot of Dunmail Raise to be hitched on in front of the other horses to help up the steep climb & Grandfather on these occasions dismounted and walked. He was deeply interested in the history of all such mounds as Dunmail Raise & stone circles of which we visited some. He taught me the etymology of place names.
I remember vividly the day World War I was declared – On that occasion my mother & father were also visiting Crosthwaite & relatives of Grandmothers drove over for luncheon. Everybody very excited - & guessing how long the war would last. The consensus of opinion was a month to six weeks!!
Sundays were special – Grandfather made a point of the lovely bell ringing at his tiny church & we always started walking the footpath which led us there when the bells began to ring – grandfather as usual striding on ahead of Granny. Although greatly bored there was no question of my skipping church or when I hurt my knee & tried to get out of it – he insisted on piggy backing me there. After church there was always a luncheon to which the intimidated looking curate was invited as well as other guests. There was always wine and port served which I think Grandfather prided himself on. After lunch coffee by the fire with me sitting on his knee & being fed the brown crystalized sugar from the bottom of his cup.
My mother’s religious opinions were greatly disapproved by Grandfather. She refused to have us children christened. Grandfather & his twin sister Francis Rawnsley simply took me quietly on their own to the church & he baptised me. This was kept a secret between them until I was an adult & told by my great aunt.
Perhaps I should mention to you what I know of my father’s relationship with his parents. I have the impression he was a lonely little boy especially due to his parents long trips abroad. He detested Rugby so much that he refused to go to college & follow in the family footsteps at Oxford University. This he deeply regretted in later years – but explained he had believed college would be the same horrible experience that Rugby was in those days. He wanted to join the Royal Navy but his parents wouldn’t hear of it. He was very shy & tried in various ways to escape being dragged into social events. One way was to buy a tent & spend the summer camping on an island in Derwent Water – but this turned out a failure since his parents brought boat loads of visitors “to see Noel in his camp.”
My mother told me that she was horrified (when she visited Crosthwaite on the occasion of her betrothal to my father) at the rows between father and son starting in the morning when father lay in the bath tub (there was only one in the house) & Grandfather thundered on the door impatiently calling my father a “young tyke” & to hurry up out of there.
I don’t remember the Simpson’s being much in evidence until later years. When grandmother became too lame to walk with Grandfather Eleanor Simpson & he went off on long hikes together. According to my Mother Granny felt lonely & sad on these occasions. My mother & father both heartily disliked Eleanor & never had anything more to do with Grandfather after his marriage to her. It seems she sailed in & took over all that my mother thought should have been her province immediately after Granny’s death. Granny died alone with servants attending her – Grandfather was in bed with a bad attack of flu at the time & they were in Carlisle. They never liked his terms of duty at the cathedral there. The residence was dark and gloomy & I think Granny particularly felt it depressing.
It was many years before I got to know & admire Eleanor & to realize what a fine companion she must have been to Grandfather.
The love and thought my grandparents gave me has been sunshine in my heart for the rest of my life. Nothing was spared that they thought I should have. My modelling was encouraged in every way – materials & a place to work at Crosthwaite, Dunnabeck & Carlisle. Clothes Granny always made me. Beautiful reproductions to hang in my home were sent me. Grandfather busy as he was took me personally for professional swimming lessons to the indoor pool in Carlisle. I was taken everywhere they went.
(Source - RR/9/1)
- Hits: 246