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{$text['mgr_brown1']} Eldridge 6

Family life after the war

by Winifred Mary Eldridge
Introduced by Richard Eldridge


The first part of these memoires (Personal memories of Kent: Chapter 1: Canterbury) dealt with my mother's family, her early years in Canterbury, Kent, and her recollections of World War 1.

Chapter 2: Challock, Charing Hill and Little Chart

In 1918 when the war ended my father was demobbed but he had a great asset. During the war he had learnt how to drive and drove a munitions lorry. Mr. Headley, who my father had worked for before had an interest in a retail grocery business called "Green Stars" at Stanstead near Bishops Stortford. My father was offered a job with him. My father used to take a lorry to London to collect groceries once or twice a week - often he did not get home until 10.00pm with no paid overtime. We used to wait for him to come home because there were very few cars about and we always knew the sound of his lorry – it was a Leyland lorry.

When we went to live in Essex and lived at The Chestnut, in Stanstead, my young sister and I went with them but my eldest sister Mabel and my brother William stayed with an aunt in Canterbury. By now my sister had a scholarship to the ‘Simon Langton Girls School’. She eventually trained as a teacher and eventually became a head teacher. She loved her work and I believe she was a very good teacher. My Auntie Annie acted as warden in a large house run as a TB clinic with 2 resident nurses. My younger sister and I stayed there for a holiday and loved it. They had a greenhouse with a lovely grapevine, lawns and a shrubbery and a summer house – a lovely place for children to play.

My brother, as soon as he left school, went to work for a large firm who built roads and by-passes. He became a manager and at the age of 80 was still debt collecting for the firm often going to Italy or the Shetlands for this reason.

After going to Stanstead we came back in 1921 to live at Challock in Kent. We lived at Yew Tree Cottage, part of which must have been 400 years old, with additions over 200 years old. It was a lovely old house with big oak beams, an inglenook fireplaceand lots of hidden places; it had been two cottages. The old side of the house we did not use unless we has visitors. At Christmas a tree was decorated and placed in this room and on Christmas morning we were allowed to go in. There was always a fire burning brightly and the room beautifully was decorated. The only water we had was from a deep well. The water was lovely and very cold. In those days we had no fridges.

Most of the house was very old with diamond paned windows and we used to go round tapping the walls looking for secret places. While we lived in this house, we had a very large garden and because my mother loved gardening she did most of the digging. We had a large orchard near the house. We were allowed to have the dropped apples but were not allowed to pick any. We had an uncle who was a good friend. He used to walk through the orchard with a clothes prop and knock the apples off so we could pick them up. This was my first experience of real country and I can still remember the joy I felt in going into a wood and found the ground covered in bluebells, primroses and wood anemones. Although we were always taken out for walks, this wood was just outside our gate.

President Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson (1)

She was never very keen on housework and of course as children we loved it. We did not have to do anything much. I always loved when we went to the village to get a loaf of bread. Often it was a coburg loaf and we just cut all the crusts off and had it with lots of butter and cheese. The nearest thing now is a plowmans loaf but the bread is not the same.

In those days my father worked long hours, starting work at 8.00am until 6.30pm and after that he often had to meet his boss at the train at Faversham, usually about 11.00pm before he got home.

While we were at Challock we went to Challock School, a small school consisting of on room with a stove in the middle. One side of the room was the infants and first and second classes. At the other side were the boys and girls aged from eight to fourteen years. Some of the big boys were very difficult and there were scuffles when they were told off for being naughty. My brother was in the top class. We were all very happy there and I think of that time with affection.

While we were living in Yew Tree Cottage, Mr Headley lived in a house already altered from 4 cottages into one house called ‘The Bays’. This was in 1922. After the war several men were trying to get various countries to join the League of Nations. Mr. Woodrow Wilson, then President of America, came to visit Mr Headley to discuss this. They were both Quakers and with that had a strong link with America. While he was here, my father met him off the train and took him to stay at The Bays. At that time Mr Headley had a Model ‘T’ Ford and my father drove him to meet some English people to consult about the League of Nations. Very different to Mr Kennedy when he came to meet Mr McMillan, but in 1922 USA was not so important as a country then.

Continued in column 2...

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Charing Hill

Charing village, Kent

Charing Village (2)

The lane through the woods to Charing Hill

Charing Woods (2)

Later (probably in 1923) we moved to Thatched House on Charing Hill. When we were moving we went in the lorry with the furniture. We took our black and white cat with us. He became very frightened and jumped out of the lorry. There was a sharp hill up and down in Longbeech Wood and that where the cat jumped out. He was missing for 6 weeks. We used to walk up to Challock Chapel each Sunday evening and always when we got to the spot where the cat jumped out we called him. After 6 weeks he came out of the wood and I picked him up and carried him home to Charing Hill. The cat was in excellent condition and his coat was lovely. My parents said he must have been eating well wherever he had been.

We then went to Charing School, very much better than Challock although we were very happy at Challock School. At Charing they had a room for each class, but in the Top Class there were two classes. I suppose there were about 45 children in that room. If for instance, when the headmaster was teaching us a new kind of sum he would give us instances on the board and ask us if we understood and ask us to do the sum ourselves. Afterwards he would walk round seeing if we were doing the work properly. If not he would help us. This seemed to work very well. We had games at Charing School as they had a large playing field with plenty of room.

While we were living on Charing Hill, my mother started to having migraine headaches. When she had these attacks she was quite ill, vomiting a lot and dreadful headaches, often staying in bed for 2 days. She had these attacks about once a week. While this was happening my father asked if I could stay at home to cook a meal for my young sister and brother and father. I was allowed to do this. I had a new teacher while I was at Charing School. She had been to university and was a great teacher. I learnt a lot with her and it was such fun. I had lovely classes in sewing and we made clothes for ourselves. I made myself a linen dress.

Later we moved to Little Chart. We had a small dairy which my father kept for a few weeks but later they were too busy. I left school at 13 to help my father with the cows. There were three of them and I called them in for milking. I knew them all by name and they knew their names. They were red and white, I did all the milking which was done by hand. I also went to a big house to look after a young boy, aged about 6. He had been ill and could not go to school.

My father used to tell us of friends he met and was with for some time. One man came to see us when we lived at Little Chart. He and his father had a large business at Bristol, but by then my father was ill and we did not see them again. While we were at Little Chart my mother had flu and had to have a nurse to care for her as she developed pneumonia.


1. Woodrow Wilson (1856 - 1924); 28th President of the United States of America: The history of the White House
2. Charing Village and the path to Charing Hill: The Canterbury Tour at the British Walks website

Page added - March 20th 2006
Last updated - April 19th 2012

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