Friday, 26 August 2016

Pioneer Women Garden Party at the Old Manor House, Well Hall

Original post: ww1greenwichwomenatwar.org/2016/08/26/the-well-hall-estate-a-garden-party-at-the-old-manor-house-well-hall/

The Pioneer Women held a garden party on Saturday July 8th 1916 in the grounds of the old Manor House, at that time the home of Mrs Hubert Bland – the author Edith Nesbit, whose best known children’s novel is ‘The Railway Children’.  The newspaper article refers to Mrs Hubert’s kindness in doing this for a second time – there had been a similar but smaller event in 1915.  People were encouraged to come with talk of a hearty welcome and entertainments and children’s sports.  Only 6d a ticket (2.5p)!  There is a list of over forty people, mainly women, from whom tickets can be obtained.  Several of the women lived on the Well Hall Estate:

Mrs Hider of 4, Boughton Rd (now Rochester Way) (Class 2)

Mrs Lewis of 13, Brome Road (Class 3)

Mrs Tompkins of 131, Congreve Rd (Class 2)

Mrs Mills of 290, (now 370) Well Hall Road (Class 2)

Mrs Morgan of 288, (now 368) Well Hall Road (Class 2)

Mrs Flack of 19 Congreve Road (Class 2)

Mrs Filder of 8, Ross Way (Class 1)

Mrs Baillie of 34, Prince Rupert (Class 2) – see separate blog entry

The Pioneer newspaper, which reported the event, referred to the larger than expected influx of people on the day and how the women coped with this with ‘valiant spirits’ in spite of the lack of men to help them setting up.  The grounds themselves – long rambling walkways through antiquated gardens and adjacent verdure and pastures – were described and then the activities: the launch of a refurbished boat which then gave trips to all and sundry; the children’s sports; tea and fortune-telling by the Queen of Sheba; competitions; a baby show; all followed by a concert and dancing in the twilight to the strains of the cinema orchestra.  What a day!

The prizes for the races were distributed by Mrs Hubert Bland (Edith Nesbit) herself and she expressed her pleasure at seeing them all there.  She called for cheers for the organisers.  

Two of the winners tell us a little more about the estate.  The children who came second and third in the baby competition – George William Aston aged 8 months and Irene Maud Wenbourn aged 17 months were both living with their respective parents at the same address – 40, Admiral Seymour Road.  Was this another example of houses were sublet or extended families living in them.  Other results that caught my eye were in the races where in the Girls (8 – 10) and Boys (6 – 8 and Under 6, three of the winners came from the same family.  W. Horsfield, C. Horsfield, F. Horsfield and C. Horsfield must have come from athletic stock!  But they were not an estate family.

The parents of these children were Walter and Mary Emily Spiers and Walter was active in organising events on the estate.  His wife Mary had been born into a humble family in Chiswick in 1870.  Her father, James, originally from Oxfordshire was a labourer who sometimes worked on roads and her mother, a laundress, had been born in Devon.  She married Walter Horsfield who was an army man, in 1891.  Life in the army resulted in several moves during their married life so that their children – seven living children at the time of the 1911 census (three had died) – were all born in different places. Berkshire, London, South Africa, and Gloucester.  At one point they were living in the army barracks at Hyde Park, but by 1911 however the family were in Elibank Road, Eltham and Walter was a government (army) store keeper.  Their youngest child, the one who had one the under sixes race in 1916 was Charles who was born in 1912.  The other three winners were Frank aged six Constance aged eight and Wilfred aged nine.

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