When Nigel Wollen was researching the history of his family in Bishopsteignton he came upon these diaries relating to his ancestors’ childhood holidays in the village.
Charlotte Avarilla Bush was the great aunt of Nigel Wollen, whose mother was of the Bush family. When researching the article on Mary Esther Huddleston, his great, great aunt, Nigel came across these diary pages written by Charlotte Avarilla (know to them as Aunt Rilla), relating to holidays the family spent at The Lodge, later known as Murley Grange, in Bishopsteignton. The stories told within them cast light on a different era: a child’s adventures in Victorian times.
Diary 1 and Transcription
Every year, we used to go from Duloe to stay at Bishopsteignton, near Teignmouth, with my Mother’s Aunt, Mrs Huddleston, who lived by herself at The Lodge, Bishopsteignton, and who had adopted my Mother when she was a baby. Of course, more or less, she adopted us all as well.
We generally went on Mother’s birthday, the 19th July, until the middle of September. We thought there was no place like it. There was a beautiful garden, farm, horses, and everything we could want. Three swings and a see-saw. We had what is called a ‘rare’ time!
The servants there were wonderfully good + kind to us. The house was very quiet when we all ‘went off’ again!
There were 3 ‘great’ men there, Gater the gardener who lived at the Lodge, we were very much afraid of him! Pother the Coachman who…
…managed the horses, and Butler Jones. I think Pother was more subservient to Auntie but Gater…..!!! we used to fly from him, especially when we made a mistake between sloes and damsons! I think one of the girls was seen under the wall, catching the damsons that the boys were throwing down! But unfortunately that time we were caught.
Gater used to turn our misdeeds on to great friends of ours, the Hexts, a large family and not very well off. When they came to see us at Bishopsteignton, the great thing was to get any fruit we possibly could for them. And sometimes Auntie would say: ‘You can go and get as many gooseberries as you like, but______! Take care about the glasshouses, remember no peaches!” Of course, the damsons were ‘outside’, so we took them!! ”
Land Escapades (continued)
Another great ‘boating’ event was ‘all night’ on the river Teign!
It began like this. Tom + Libbie had to dress for dinner – a great trial! – One night, we were playing in the garden, + we saw these two consulting together mysteriously, + then they went off down the field towards the river.
Charlie + I started off after them, + when we got down to the river, they were getting into a boat + moving towards Hackney.
We waited half-an-hour, then saw them come back again with 5 others, Edward and the two Miss Hexts, and 2 other girls!! They let us get in also, + away we went to Teignmouth + landed at the Den just as the clock was striking 10pm.
The boys consulted as to what we should do. Tom asked Edward Hext, + he said:- “Let’s go…
…call on Miss Richards + Roberts!” Of course he was only joking! They were 2 ancient ladies!!
We walked about the Town for a bit, then the pier. Of course the tide had gone out by then, so we couldn’t go back by boat!
So off we went to the Station + got a cab+ drove back to Bishopsteignton. The Hext family went back by train to Newton Abbot + all slept at the Bank. (I suppose Mr Hext would not have approved of this going on! So that is why they wd not return to the Vicarage till the next day. It was now almost midnight! We went in a cab + Charlie stuck his leg out of the window as far as the lodge gate, to make to noise. Father luckily was away! + Mother came out greeting us with:- “Where have you been?”
Another time when there was a terrific storm of thunder + lightning, we all got into one bed, 6 of us, Hexts + all tumbled in together !!!!
Diary 2 and Transcription
One Winter at Bishopsteignton
It was very mysterious one night, we had gone to bed, + Nurse came in whispering in a consultation with Rebecca, the Nursemaid, opening and shutting drawers, with a lighted pillar candle on the floor. A large old-fashioned travelling basket, several carpet bags which were squashedful of boots, and a beautiful cedar box, was lifted down from the top of the bed.
In it were several beautiful sashes – my Roman one given me by my Godmother from Rome, a very great treasure, lent now and then to the others if I had a bad cold, which I often had in the winter – though I never much cared except if father gave me a new book! Inside the box also was Herbert’s best velveteen suit, all these things, of course were packed carefully. The next morning we heard that we were to go to Bishopsteignton. Libbie, the eldest aged 11,…
…Herbert, Bee and me. A good deal of sitting on the basket had to be done, in order to shut it. I think father strapped it.
It was very delightful going off with Rebecca, and lovely to see Mrs Adams in the waiting-room at Milhay Station where we changed trains.
Auntie was at Teignmouth Station with the close carriage and delicious sponge cakes, + of course Potter on the box! And maybe Jones too! And we all drove up to Bishopsteignton.
The house felt so warm. When we went into the Hall – all smelling so nice, through the Conservatory, of citrons and oranges.
The one person staying there was Cousin Wynyard Warner.
Our schoolroom in the summer was now the nursery – the old Doll’s House was in the corner with some new furniture, and little…
One day we went to Ideford to a Christmas Tree, the first we had ever seen. Each chose their own presents at once but Lucy Hext wanted the same as I did, a little goat in a china carriage.
I stood quite close + held the branch down to hide it. Herbert wanted a little lantern with a candle inside – he was allowed by Miss Charlotte Leech, the holiday governess, to light it on the way home in the dark carriage.
Mr Hawker was very kind and gave me the little goat. He had one very tall girl, Kathleen, and several others. She was quite the boss of the whole evening -!! And continued the same to her life’s end –(see conclusion!)
In almost 6 weeks we went home – I remember arriving at the Rectory, and..
…the first question to Mother was:– ‘Where’s Baby?”
We meant shy little Gertrude who was looking out of the dining room window, very nervous at all this stir. Mother answered:- “Upstairs with Mrs Oak”. So we all trooped up to the Nursery and there was dear little white Mabel. Mother said:- “She is called Mabel, + she was baptized when she was a week old, because Tom was to be her Godfather and he and to go back to School.”
One thing we always had on Mabel’s birthday, 30th December, was called ‘Mabel’s Row” General Post, Musical Chairs and Sir Roger de Coverley – and Father always came into the dining room. I remember during the ‘Post’ game, we always put a low stool for Father to sit on! Of course that made the Row!!
We also used to have a ‘Tea Party’ on…
…our birthdays but with no outsiders. We had a little grey tea pot etc. in the dining room, and honey – and the ‘birthday child’ poured out! The boys, when at school, always what they called “ordered” their birthdays, meaning they ordered their pudding and who was to ‘take’ their birthday, at home + represent them!
Entries in the 1881 census for Bishopsteignton record there being:
Mary E. Huddleston, Head, Widow,…Emma B. Warren, Sister, Widow, ….Charlotte M.A. Bush, Neice,….Herbert C. Bush, Nephew, ….Thomas Jones, Servant, …Mary Brown, Servant…Caroline Shute, Servant, ….Rosa Keen, Servant, …Charlotte Jones, Servant, all residing at The Lodge
At the Gate Lodge it records:
William Gater, Gardener,…Mary A. Gater, Wife, …Agnes M. Gater, Daughter.
At a house in Western Rd. at the end of The Lodge Drive, it records:
John Pauter, Carriageman, his wife and family.
Two of the birthday party games mentioned in the diary pages are included in a book of ‘Games from an Edwardian Childhood’ written by Bishopsteignton resident Dr Rosaleen Cooper, sister of the war poet Robert Graves, and illustrated by Bishopsteignton artist Brenda Gilpin in 1982.
(A piano or some musical instrument or record player is needed)
A row of chairs is placed so that the seat of one faces left, the seat of the second faces right and so on. Music is played and the children march around the chairs finding either a chair seat or a chair back on their right as they rotate. The music stops suddenly and every child dashes to find a chair and sit down. When all are seated the music starts again, but one chair has been removed, so that when the music stops the slowest child is left without a chair and has to go out. This continues until two children are circling around one chair, and finally one wins.1
Sir Roger de Coverly
This really is a dance not a game.
The children line up in two rows facing each other. Holding out his right hand the top child on the right dances down towards the bottom child on the opposite side who dances to meet him, also holding out his right hand. They dance around each other holding hands and return to their places.
The top child on the left repeats the movement with the bottom child on his opposite side.
They do the same holding out left hands-and then both hands-always returning to their places. Finally they dance round back to back without holding hands.
The top children then turn outwards with the whole side following suit and walk down till they meet each other. They form an arch through which all the others pass, and remain at the bottom. The dance starts again from the top with fresh children.2
References and credits
1 Games from an Edwardian Childhood: Rosaleen Cooper, 1982. p60
2 Games from an Edwardian Childhood: Rosaleen Cooper, 1982. p78