Search

From Frances Adelaide Smyth’s memoir of life at White Lodge

My first clear memory of my parents is of cosy, fire lit afternoons, when we children "came down" at half past four. The Grandfather's Clock on the landing, upstairs, was made to strike at the half-hour, so there was no question of the time. As soon as our hands and faces were washed, our hair brushed, and our afternoon frocks and aprons mere put on we collected on the landing to watch the clock and impatiently wait for the strike.

What a tribe of us there was. Latterly we had to have two nurses, the middle-aged Betsy whom we disliked, and a silly little under-nurse, whom we despised, and whom Frank used to mimic. There was also the much-loved house-keeper, Miss Allen, who went by various names of our composition - Shan, Sallen, Lolla.

Well, at last the deliberate old clock begins to strike and before it had finished we older ones were down at the dining-room door, on tip-toe for Betsy with the large, blond, square baby, to give her knock, Susan just behind with the next-sized baby. "Come in" says our mother's sweet voice and we burst in and flood the room; Betsy in a triple gladness, deposits her burden on the mother's knee, the under-nurse does the same to the father and another child climbs onto his other knee, for we love his jolt and song "The Dusty Miller" and never tire of it. We sit dreaming of that mill and think it is the old one we pass on Mill Hill, and we hear its creaking timbers and the clatter of its wheels and cogs; we see the big miller with the white all over his clothes and hat. "And the hopper goes clither clather" sings Papa, imitating his country-men's pronunciation, and we love the sound of it.
Meanwhile the other children have said "Mamma, may we have dominoes, or lotto, or one of the dissected maps out of the drawing-room cupboard?" I do not think we ever obtained permission without a strict caution about not losing any pieces, and putting everything carefully back. While they were being fetched some of us might ride the large American rocking chair, a fine side-saddle horse if you balanced on an arm, a safe and cosy retreat if you were an "inside passenger", or on some-one's knee, that is if the energetic rockers did not work too violently and turn you out on to the floor; and the boys and tom-boys could stand on the projecting rockers behind the solid stuffed horse-hair beck, a pleasure accompanied by the excitement of danger as if you slipped off at the wrong moment you might get your feet badly pinched.

All this time you had the feeling that Mamma with the baby in her arms, tossing it gently, and saying sweet little endearing words, was perfectly happy. Mamma had such a wonderful way with babies. I never knew one to be naughty with her; as soon as she took it troubles ceased however exasperating they had been. She had a pretty little sound that she made with her lips and teeth for babies' edification; one cannot spell it, but it was the letter T softened and said quickly many times, and the babies seemed to love it. She would look entirely satisfied when she had a baby in her arms, and papa's face broadened and beamed as he sang his little song and jolted us on his knees.

When the nurses returned to take us back to the nursery there were groans of despair, and such questions as "Oh, Mamma, can't we just finish this game?" I have since learnt that of all the children, Allan was the one who showed the greatest desire to stay and who invented little ways of delaying his exit. I think she liked to sit best in the dining room because the nursery was over it and she could hear what went on to a certain extent. Sometimes the extent was considerable and a great bump accompanied by a loud cry would bring her pounding up the stairs in a very anxious state. Or we played horses too noisily and a message would come for us to stop.

Betsy was not supposed to hit us but she did it at times, when greatly incensed. We had heard Mamma say it was dangerous to hit a child on the head, so one day when Betsy was combing Allan's hair and she gave him a severe box, I promptly jumped up, ran out of the room before she could stop me and went and told Mamma. I do not remember the sequel.

Besides the coming down to see our parents at half past nine in the morning and half past four in the afternoons we also saw them out driving on the Irish jaunting car, and we were sometimes allowed in the surgery where we were lifted up on to the counter and sat on the Day Book, big enough for two, and were given honey out of a brown jar on a spatula. I miss the taste of steel in the honey of today. The surgery window was a lattice casement overlooking the yard. Papa would open the middle part and shout in a loud, commanding voice “Henry, put the horse into the gig”. “May we go; may we go?” we would clamour. “You must ask your Mamma” he would reply and off we trooped to find her. “Whose turn is it?” she would ask, and if it was the holidays two might go. I think I was only about five when Papa allowed me to drive. It was a momentous occasion and I had to give up the reins when we came to a toll-bar or a village. The first time I drove through a toll-bar gate Papa nearly frightened me to death by suddenly calling out "Look there. Only an inch to spare',' and he took the reins from me and I felt disgraced for life.

In going his rounds I used to notice that women liked to talk to Papa and that they could bring a smile to his face. I can’t help thinking that sometimes on bitter cold days when we were waiting shivering for an hour or so that it was not all professional that kept him, and that he was being regaled by a spicy story and some wine and cake. Sometimes people brought out good things for us to eat, and how welcome they were! Never have I tasted such delicious mince pies as those Mrs. Marsh brought out to us. In one of my drives alone with Papa, in the high gig, the mare Bessie, who had gone somewhat blind and consequently tended toward the side of the road, ran up a bank; fell over on her side, and the gig turned over on its side. Said Papa "My dear, are you hurt? Can you find my glasses?" He could not see anything without his glasses and I soon found them, while Bessie lay panting, fortunately not trying to get up. A groom, exercising a fine blooded horse came up at that moment. He put the bridle of his horse into my hand and went to assist Papa. I was not up to the nose of my spirited charge and I felt such a mite compared with him that I trembled violently, but I kept my hand on his bridle and he behaved well. Papa had been driving when we had the accident and whether he had been vexed at something and failed to be patient with the poor blind animal, or for what other reason, when we got started again he humbly put the reins into my hands for me to drive home. I do not think I said a word to anyone about the affair when I got home, so extremely reserved we all were.
Note: Mrs. Marsh was the Miss Allen who had been house-keeper and left to get married.

From Beatrice Alice Smyth’s memoir
Forbears - An Introduction

Coming so late in the family, twenty years between my eldest sister (Frances Adelaide) and me, I think both my grandfathers were probably dead, certainly my Irish one.
Mother’s father had a house at Sunbury, with long gardens down to the Thames. His father was Solomon Marriott, and I believe was a page to George IV, but it must have been long before he came to the throne or my mother was born - about 1825 - and he was her grandfather.
She had a younger sister and two brothers, Montague and Alfred. Their mother must have died when they were all young and her father had a housekeeper, a Mrs. Feest, an Australian widow. Mother's aunt, married to the rector of East Bridgford, Dr. Hutchins, about 3 miles or so from Bingham in Nottinghamshire, they invited my mother when about 11 to visit them and she was so happy with all the young cousins there that she stayed on for years. Papa was their medical man, the Bingham doctor, and was much attracted by "Emma" and they married when she was about 20.
Her eldest brother, Montague and Aunt Annie lived in Montpellier Square, Brompton, London, and he managed the estate, which comprised most of the houses in the square at that time.

Family Life at Bingham, Notts.

All my generation was born at Bingham, Nottinghamshire, then a small country-town, and my father was the principal doctor, if not the only one, as he had to go quite long distances into the country to visit patients at all the villages round in his high gig. Sometimes he would take my mother and me with him, I wedged in between them and feeling very high up. He was an Irish-man and very popular with his patients. My mother at that time was blind, having lost her sight when only 27, then having four children, after which she had 8 more, I being the last. Those were the days of plenty of servants, hard to realise now. We had a cook and housemaid, nurse and under-nurse, a man-servant who attended to the horse, and no doubt had other duties, and also waited at table. I think he slept at his home, as I remember no room available in the house (see commentary on 1871 census). Mother also had a housekeeper after she became blind, who remained a firm friend of the family till her dying day, and only left to be married. When that occurred, my eldest sister Emma, who was twenty years older than I and was being educated at Queens' College, Harley Street, London, had to come home to keep house under Mother, who, though blind, was a most capable person and was well in command of her household; every sound meant something to her and when one of our parlour maids was laying the table, Mother corrected her for something she did incorrectly and she told Cook that she did not believe Mistress was blind! She saw her also going about the house like anyone else.

The House at Bingham

My memories of Bingham are few (not surprising as she was only four years old!), but I remember the house perfectly and the two gardens. The house was right on the street, but ran back a long way and there was a yard at one side which led to the surgery entrance, the back door and the stabling, behind which was an old garden. A new garden had evidently been taken in on the other side of the house, where there was a small lawn outside the dining-room window, and the rest in shrubs and vegetables. My father was a keen gardener and spent most of his spare time on it. There was also a large walnut tree with a swing attached, close to the Rectory garden next door. (This must be the piece actually purchased in 1914; clearly it was rented from the Earl of Carnarvon from a much earlier time.)

I was taken to church at any rate once on Sundays. There was a legend that my grandmother, who was a staunch Ulster Protestant, when visiting us, not approving of Mr. Miles' rather high Church practices when the congregation turned to the East at the Creed, turned to the West, but I think it more likely that she only did not turn to the East when facing South or North, which is not so conspicuous.

Leaving for London 1871

Before he was 60 my father had to sell his practice, as his sight was failing. This he did in 1871 and we emigrated to London. Two of my elder brothers were already in offices there, one of my sisters had died in 1869, and one boy had died as a baby. So we were not such a large party, but enough to fill a railway carriage, which were not so comfortable as in these days, and no corridor. Arthur, the eldest son, met us at Liverpool Street Station and took me off to friends at Plaistow. I remember going along on his shoulder to save time along the crowded streets to Fenchurch Street Station, and holding on round his neck. We had a warm welcome –indeed. Arthur was at that time engaged to Mary Maxwell, one of two sisters. I was then five years old (ie 1872).


Home Page | About Us | Links | Contact Us | Newsletter

Site developed by Ambrow Limited | Published by the Bingham Heritage Trails Association | All content is © BHTA
for site credits click here

Back to
top of page