Interview with Mary Bagshawe
Interview with Mrs Mary Bagshawe in Sole Street on Thursday 14 February 2013. The interviewer was Roy Cook.
She was born in Bushey, Hertfordshire on 24 May 1929.
Mary moved to Meopham when she married in 1955. They lived at 'Wrenbury', Hook Green, in rented accommodation owned by Bob Chawes, and purchased the property three months later. Mary enjoyed the village life as it was very peaceful, the population being only 2000 people.
Her father was a City Solicitor dealing with numerous prestigious clients. He had become a Partner at a very young age with his father at the sudden death of a previous Partner in 1931.
Mary attended school in Watford until the war began, and was then sent with her siblings to Coventry to live with her grandmother at the age of 10. She recounted an experience as a pupil at Lemington High School. She explained that her Childhood in Watford in 1934 had been very normal although she had a Nanny so was not really involved with household tasks.
Hobbies and Pastimes
She stated that although she did not have any specific hobbies she enjoyed craftwork and had learnt much through her membership of the Women's Institute
Through her schooling, she explained, she had played Tennis, Cricket, Hockey, Lacrosse but she did not enjoy the Gym.
On leaving school, she had helped her Mother for a year with her much younger siblings and the household chores.
After a year at home, she attended Queens Secretarial College, in Kensington. She recalls her experiences during the Winter of 1947.Index
After a year in Coventry, she returned to Watford and attended a school called Gartlet until she became a Boarder at St. Margaret's in Bushey. She was a Boarder until 1944 and then explained why she reverted to become a Day Pupil.
She had wanted to go to University but due to many ex-service females attending there were no available places.
She became an Articled Clerk with her father and went to Law School. After four years she took her Finals but did not qualify due to her father's death. She married soon after and did not continue working.
After detailing her house sharing until finally moving to Hammersmith, Mary recounted that she had met her husband, Nicholas, at a firework party and married him within ten months. It was during this time her father died leaving her mother as a young widow.
Mary explained that as Nicholas's family firm had been sold he was looking for a job and then detailed all the reasons they had decided to move to Meopham. Although she had found the first months trying not being in their own home without a car, she had made many lasting friends.Index
Seeing the Queen
In April 1957, [interviewee later corrected to July 1956, actual date 24 October 1956] Queen Elizabeth II came to Meopham by train. She was attending a ceremony in Rochester and disembarked at Meopham to an awaiting car. Mary, who was expecting her first child, was photographed by the local press waving to the Queen.
First child and cost
William was born in July 1957 at the Livingston Hospital Maternity Unit. Although partially subsidised, the total cost per week was only two guineas. Mary continued to speak highly of the Hospital Sister
She recounted how, with William in a pram and with a dog, she would walk miles around the area and how supportive was the local Police Sargeant. She also said that, during this time, she had made many lasting friends.
Without the use of a car, Mary, who then had James at 18 months, found the transport situation very difficult and tells of the problems of visiting Rochester. After James was born, one trip they would make was to Gravesend. This trip took all day and included the Tilbury Ferry. She recalls an amusing story of William, aged 8 or 9, and the Tilbury ferry. She stated that her life became easier when the boys attended Prep School and went on to list the cars they had owned since they were married.
When asked where the family were living at this time, Mary said that they lived at 'Wrenbury' until John was 2, James was 5 and William was 7 [interviewee later corrected ages to James 4 and William to 6] and then they moved to Dene Manor where she lived for 37 years. She went on to explain the reason for moving. She mentions a Pre-school and the Children's Clinic. She stated that they had viewed other properties but decided on Dene Manor and moved in September 1963.
Women's Institute 1
In the meantime, she became a Founder Member of a second WI in the village with Alice Strand as the first President.
Mary recounts the condition of the roads and pavements when main drainage was being installed in 1959 [interviewee later corrected date to 1961] in the Village.
She listed the shops, explaining that the village was well provided with all the essentials apart from a chemist, the nearest being in Gravesend.
She recounts the difficulties of visiting a friend in Sevenoaks.
Mary speaks of a regular attendance at Church, the baptisms of her children and lists many of the past Clerics with an anecdote regarding Nicholas's involvement.
Mary was asked how difficult was transport when they moved to Dene Manor. She replied it was difficult but by then, she had her own car. She then detailed the problems of transporting up to nine [interviewee later corrected to eight] young boys to school.
She spoke of the sheep and steers they reared at Dene Manor and of a particular incident involving a damaged fence and the police.
Police and Tradesmen
She remarked on the friendliness of the Police and proceeded to tell of her various tradesmen and a particular meeting whilst shopping.
Women's Institute 2, Magistrate
Mary mentioned the WI again and the fact that she was a Magistrate in Medway for 21years.
She talks of the dangers in Gravesend at the time of their move to Meopham.
Mary said that she enjoys living in Kent and does not want to live anywhere else.
Son et Lumière
She remembers one specific event as a Son et Lumière performance, arranged by Mary Jean Hasler, at Meopham Court.
Women's Institute 3
She was not involved with any other organisation other than the WI and stated that then it had a strong membership of 120 with a Waiting List.
She listed many local landowners and notable people including the Smith-Masters', the French family, the Andrews' at Lomer Farm etc. and Hughie Green's uncle.
When asked if there had been many changes over the years, Mary remarked that apart from increasing in size, the Village was no longer a close knit community and people are no longer involved with each other. She continued by speaking of Mrs Smith-Masters who had originally owned Camer House and of her very good friends the Fitzsimons and the enjoyable times they shared.