The Brocket Babies
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1. From Susan Sartoretti, daughter of Irene Grace - received 21st December 2008
I had a lovely day in August at Brocket Hall. Unfortunately, my mum passed away two years ago, and now I realise that there are so many things I wish I had asked her about her experience. My mum would have loved to have gone back to Brocket Hall, and my only regret is that we did not get in contact before - in fact it was only just after she passed away that we decided to go and have a look at the house, and spoke to someone at the gate who took my details. I do, however, remember her saying that one day Lord Brocket made a little "tour" of the ward looking at all the babies and talking to all the new mums, and my mum always said what a lovely man he was. I also remember my dad saying what a long journey he had to get to see my mum who I believe was there for a couple of weeks in all.
2.From Queenie Hammon, the mother of Janet Robinson - received 8th March 2009
I lived in Wood Green, North London and had to attend the City of London Hospital three times for antenatal care; twice during the earlier days of my pregnancy and once at eight months. As all was well, I expected to be taken to Brocket Hall for the delivery of my baby three days before the due date of Wednesday 28th January 1948. However, on Sunday the 18th, I felt pains in my back and an ambulance came and took me from North London to Liverpool Road Hospital, Islington. As nothing further developed at this stage, I was taken by ambulance, on Wednesday 21st January, to a Brocket Hall hostel in Codicote Road, Welwyn.
The weather was very cold and so was the hostel due to the fuel shortage of those times. At mealtimes the expectant mothers sat round a long table to eat but by the time the food arrived at the table, it was cold. Because it was not that long after the end of the war, there wasn’t a lot of food either. The fair apportioning of the food was difficult as nobody seemed to know how many people would be present for each meal and often some mums received more on their plate than others.
On Friday 23rd I went to Welwyn Garden City to look at the shops. Pregnant mothers were allowed to go to the front of the queue then for items such as oranges and bananas etc. As sugar was on ration we had to take our own to hospital.
On Saturday morning my waters broke, so an ambulance/car took me to Brocket Hall where labour began during the evening. Gas and air was available and my daughter was born about 6.30 the following morning during extraordinary weather conditions: snow and a thunder storm. During the labour I was given cocoa to drink to cheer me up! However, the cocoa was rather lumpy!
I spent about two weeks at Brocket Hall, much of the time in bed. There were four beds in my room which had a bay window and a beautiful view of the bridge. My visitors were able to come only on Sundays because there were petrol shortages and the journey by public transport was difficult from North London. The nurses bathed the babies and kept them in the nursery, not near the mothers. Despite the really cold weather one nurse frequently walked into the room and opened the window, saying that the room smelled of sick! Generally the nurses were kind. It was nice though, walking down the grand staircase, with a nurse carrying my baby, to go home.
I have been able to visit Brocket Hall twice now with my daughter, once in 1997 and again in 2008. It was lovely to be able to go back and see the beautiful surroundings in warmer and more prosperous times. Exciting too, to be able to find again the room in which I stayed for two weeks.
Janet also added:
My mother said that when she was at Brocket Hall no mothers were in the basement. That was in 1948, so whether during the war things were different, I do not know. Also, she said that masks were not worn and when we visited in 1997 she seemed to think that maybe the room over the main entrance was the birthing room but I couldn't swear to that.
Mothers spent between ten days to two weeks at Brocket Hall and most of that time they were in bed! How different from today's practice of throwing mothers out of hospital within hours of the birth, if possible!
3. From Gwen Womble - received 26 August 2009
Like a lot of people I did not realise where I was born, because when I asked I was told Welwyn Garden City as my mother had to be evacuated out of London, she lived in Crondall Street, Hoxton. Only recently did I find out that it was Brocket Hall but too late to get any information. The only thing she ever said was that I spoilt her Christmas dinner! Not sure why?
My brother-in-law is a chauffeur and has visited Brocket on several occasions and he told me about the plaque on the wall, only then did I get in touch to see if there were any photos of the time I was born, it was then I found out about the baby day.
4. From Mary Pinder, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia - received 12th May 2010
We lived in Welwyn Garden City in Knella Green at the time of my birth. I was born 2 months earlier than I should have to save my mum and my life as mum had (can't think of the name) but her blood pressure was dangerously high. I don't have too much information as both my parents have now passed away, but Dad always told me I was in a pink room and it was the room that a German General used to use for holidays as he was a friend of Lord Brocket, this was before the war from what I can gather, I wished I had asked more questions when my Dad was alive and written down what he told us as he had as brilliant memory.
It was lovely seeing Brocket Hall and I hope to be able to come again another year.
5. From Mike Marlow - received 4th April 2011
Sadly, my mother died in August 1979 at the West Middlesex Hospital after a long illness culminating in three heart attacks in the period from Easter to August. As with many people of her generation - she was born in 1905 - she did not share much information about herself with others and, unfortunately, that included me. Hence my finding your site by accident.
My father was present at the time of the birth but left my mother shortly afterwards. I never knew him but discovered that he died in 1998. I don't think that my mother's time at Brocket Hall was terribly happy, mainly for personal reasons but also because she did mention that, the day following my birth by caesarian section, she was operated on again to have a kidney removed. She had spent the period of the war in India and that had taken a toll.
6. From Susan Lampitt - received 18th May 2011
My mother's name was Irene Edith Riches (nee Gillard) and my father was Ronald James Riches. It was extremely foggy and my father was unable to make the journey from Upper Holloway to see me for a couple of days. Meanwhile my Maternal Grandmother Edith Rosina Gillard managed to pay a taxi driver £5.00, from East Ham and beat her son-in-law to Brocket Hall to see me before he did ........this remained a source of irritation between them for many years to come! My mother told me about a huge mirror that she walked past, while in labour, to get to the bathroom. The toilet itself had steps up to it and she said it was truly like sitting on "A Throne" !
From reading letters sent by my mother in 1948 it appears that I was the biggest baby at 7pounds 14ounces in Ward 8...........I never grew any taller than 5ft so it's nice to know that Brocket Hall probably saw me at my best!
7. From Caroline Greenhalgh - received 28th January 2012
I just found the website and want to let you know that I am a Brocket Baby born at 5am on 19 August 1948. My full name is Caroline Mary Greenhalgh, (nee Tuchmann) and my mother, who sadly died in April 2010, age 85 was Gwyneth Mary Tuchmann (nee Walder). She was an art teacher and potter. My father was a research chemist and metallurgist, he worked for Phillips in Brixton and died in 2006. He was a German refugee who came to London with his family from Nuremburg, fleeing the growing Nazi threats in 1938 as his father was Jewish. My parents married in 1947 and lived in a top floor flat in Brockley, South East London. My maternal grandparents lived in walking distance across Lewisham Way in St. Johns.
I always seem to have know I was born in Brocket Hall. My parents had already decided to call me Caroline and it seemed even more appropriate when there was a portrait of Lady Caroline Lamb in her room. My birth certificate says registered in Lemsford. My mother told me she was there for 2 weeks and I have her letters to my father from that time. My dad had to catch various trains and buses then a Greenline bus to visit her. My family moved north to Blackburn in 1958 when I was 10 and as well as London and Lancashire I have lived in Yorkshire; Leeds, Pontefract and Keighley and overseas as an expat in Asia; S. Korea, Thailand and the East Coast of China.
In 1990 I wrote to Lord Brocket asking if I could visit the Hall along with my parents and husband. I got a lovely reply inviting me to contact them to arrange it. We had a marvellous visit and tour of the house and were given tea in the drawing room. It felt so special. Please let me know if you would like any further details, my mothers house has only just sold and I found the Brocket Hall brochure from 1990 which prompted me to search around internet.
8. From Bernard Rickwood - received 7th January 2013
I do not have a really different Story than that of others; however I do remember one thing my unfortunately deceased Mother saying, “I remember very vividly looking at the wallpaper In the delivery room and they really reminded me of Stukas sweeping down on the attack” I spoke to a previous manager of the Mercantile, and he seemed to think that the wallpaper still exists.
9. From Peter Nolan (Islington, London) - received 27th March 2013
My mother can recall sister Dolan, also two nurses who were sisters (by birth). Her stay was long, from the end of January to the end of March, she also remembers a room called the Peacock Room, a huge staircase down to the front door, another mother name of Mrs Brown, and a driver name of Mr Muncey who took the mums to and from a hostel.
Mum also remembers she was allowed to go for walks with visitors which was a good time to give the ducks her iron tablets! She lost a lot of weight and the two nurses who were related made all the alterations to her cloths to go home.