Interview with Anne Nicholson
Interview by Ann Kneif on 20/11/2012
This is a summary of an interview with Ann Nicholson, recorded on 20th November 2012 at her house in Norwood Lane. I have also added, at the end of the interview, a recorded conversation that I had with Anne about her work with refugees in the 1960s and early 1970s.
Born Margaret Anne East at Gravesend, 23rd April 1933. Moved to Meopham in 1956. Father was a manager in a lead refinery and mother was a housewife, except during the war, when she worked on a farm.
Went to Milton Road School at age of five whilst waiting for the completion of Westcourt School. When Anne moved to Istead Rise in 1939 she went first to a private school and then to Meopham School. However, she was not in the right area so then went to Dover Road School followed by Gravesend Grammar. After leaving school at 18 she went to the City and Guilds Secretarial College. Anne speaks especially about the short time she spent at Meopham Primary School.
Typical day as a child
Anne remembers playing in a corrugated lean-to shed in the garden, which was turned into either a house or school or hospital. Friends also had a shed so they played together with their younger sisters.
Hobbies as a child
Anne joined the Girl Guides but the Guide captain joined the ATS so they were left with a Brown Owl as a leader, which may account for the Company not being very flourishing. She was also very keen on Royalty and kept a scrapbook.
After finishing her education, Anne became a secretary at a paper converting company, where she met her husband. Once married she did not work as she soon had two babies to look after. They purchased land and lived in a caravan until the house was completed. They moved into the house three weeks before their first child was born. She has lived in the same house for 56 years.
Shops and trades
Anne shopped mostly in the village, especially those near the station. She describes the various shops. Occasionally she borrowed her husband's car to shop in Gravesend.
She tells a story about working on a local farm whilst she was at the Grammar School. During the war her mother worked for Major Edmeads and she would go there to play (cowboys and Indians), when her mother was there.
Wrotham Hill Camp
Anne did not know much about the camp, only that it was there. However, there was a barrage balloon site in the grounds of Nurstead Court and her father made friends with some of the team there.
Meopham Make Merrie was held on Judson's Recreation Ground. Anne chaired the committee for two years. Most of the organisations in the village had a stall. She remembers Mr Pastry aka Richard Hearn opening it once. Cakes were sold in the Scout hut and there were marquees and a loud speaker system.
Clubs and societies
Before she moved to the village, Anne joined the Meopham Young Farmers. They met in the Guide hut and had speakers once a month. They went to County shows where they entered competitions. There was also an annual County Ball at Maidstone. She was the founder chairman of the Ladies Circle, which raised money for charity as well as offering a social life. She has always belonged to the church where she was a churchwarden for three years and has been Stewardship Secretary for nearly 40 years.
Anne did not remember the Arnolds but she spoke of Mrs Smith-Masters, who lived at the Court and used to let the Young Farmers play hockey in the grounds. She also mentioned the Tobutt farming family who own Broomfield and Foxendown farms.
Changes in the village
When she moved to Norwood Lane the Nursery Road estate did not exist. Anne describes some of the older houses. The Tradescant estate was not there, neither were Cheyne Walk, the Orchard estate or Vigo village.
Homefield was the doctor's surgery. There were two doctors and a pharmacy and it was not necessary to make an appointment.
Pubs in the village
The Cricketers was a favourite venue as they served good food long before it was usual in pubs. The Fox and Hounds is now a restaurant.
The Garden Club
The garden club used to meet in the Guide hut when Mrs Alexander was the President. It is now thriving at a time when other clubs are struggling to survive. There used to be two sections, one for amateurs and the other for professionals. This is at a time when the large houses would have a full time gardener. Anne's hobby was and still is gardening.
The land her house was built on had been a small holding and the owner also had other land in the road. She describes some off the houses in the road, which were there when she moved in. Her own children went to a nursery at Blackberry Cottage where 10 children were taught.
More details on some of the houses and shops on the A227 in the vicinity of the station.
The end section is a discussion rather than an interview between Anne and myself, where she talks of her work with the refugees. She had given me access to the correspondence involving the 'adopted' refugees.
One family in Germany, the Zilinskas [see Mr Zilinskas (1955) and Mrs Nora Zilinskas (1961)] and two single men, Gustav Müller (1969) and Waldemar Kern in Austria were supported by St John's Church. Another refugee in Austria, Lazic Dusan died soon after being 'adopted'. Anne was responsible for collecting the money and writing to them. The Zilinskas had four children but the eldest daughter, Marika, died of cancer aged 15. [see Marika's grave]. Anne visited the Zilinskas family [see her report of page 1 and page 2], Waldemar Kern and Gustav Müller.
End of Support
The support for refugees abroad ended after 12 years, when it was felt that the situation had improved [see report].
Anne mentions the work she did with refugees brought to Britain in the early 1960s. The Church agreed to help two refugees. One of them quickly found work but the other proved to be a problem.