Interview with Helen Walliker
This is a summary of an interview with Helen Walliker recorded by Ann Kneif on 2nd October 2012 at her house in Harvel.
Parents Robert and Doris French had seven children: 3 girls and 4 boys. Father and 3 boys farmed as farming was family tradition going back to 14th century. The Family is still farming.
Hook Green House in family for many years but now sold.
LIFE AT HOME
All the children learned to ride. One brother rode point-to-point. Helen used to be groom at the same stables. Involved in farming activities during the War. Helen was born 1919.
Describes the type of farming – in early days lots of animals - cattle and sheep and then corn after brothers joined and the farm expanded. Breeds sheep but not cattle or horses. Recounts a story when the sheep got into a garden. Cattle arrived on the train and were driven up to the farm. There were only narrow lanes so there was not much traffic, even on the Main Road. Remembers when there were snow drifts up to 6 feet deep with a narrow passage dug through and they went tobogganing.
Helen went to a kindergarten in Meopham before having a private governess. She then went to Gad’s Hill and then to Wadhurst College, where she was a boarder. Went with one sister. No tuck was allowed but kept store in woods. Went to church but not regularly. Many of the French family are buried there.
RECREATION AND FARMING
Recreation: tennis court at home but spent most of time with ponies and horses. In 1929, one of first members of Pony Club and is now President. Story of riding and sister galloped off and was thrown off pony, which went home. Father loved hunting and riding and used horse to get around the farm. Mother was doctor’s daughter from Scotland. She did not ride but liked cooking and looked after chickens. Had help in house. Contact with other farmers. Own daughter married a farmer in Higham.
TRANSPORT AND SHOPS
Main transport was horse and carriage. Had first car, an old Ford, before War. Only one shop and PO. Mother bought provisions weekly at Meopham Green. Mother made clothes. Only remembers 3 houses on Hook Green when young.
The Coronation was a big celebration on Meopham Green – watched on TV.
Went to America and then Australia for 2 years because of husband’s job but kept Bailiff’s House whilst travelling. When returned noticed more buildings in village.
Camer Park was private before War and part of family farmland. After War it became a public park.
War – joined FANY. Learned first aid in Meopham and then sent to a hospital in Devon (Moretonhampstead). Met husband, John (RAF), in Devon and married in 1942. Wedding dress made from parachute silk and lent to 5 other brides. Reception at farmhouse, Hook Green. Stopped working after married. During the War a plane crashed in the farmyard killing NZ pilot. Old barn destroyed.
Meopham Cricket Club – brother and husband played.
LIFE IN MEOPHAM
Bailiff’s House belonged to Camer Estate and bought it in 1967. Has lived there since. Mentions own children. Changes in the village. Mentions Vicar Tait and the church.