Chapter VIII

The Thirties

As the 1920s drew to an end, life at Limefield took on a different pattern. My generation was all grown up and we were beginning to go our separate ways, and make our own arrangements about holidays. In the summer of 1929, I went with my mother and youngest brother, Eric, to Holland and Germany. We went, among other places, to a spa called Bad Sooden, in Thuringia, where we all three took the cure, though for what ailments I’m not sure. I remember soaking in health baths, which made my fingers look long and slim or short and stubby, according to their position in the water. We also took daily walks along a dripping “Saline”, breathing in the supposedly health-giving salty air and occasionally trying to drink the horrible spa water. From my bedroom window in the “Pension” I had a lovely view of a castle perched on top of a nearby hill. My Tante Ida, who had joined us for this part of our holiday, told us that the von Knopp family who lived there had lived previously in a big house next door to Limefield. This house had been pulled down before our time and replaced by dozens of smaller houses.

After this we went to Osnabruck where my mother’s mother was dying. We were there for her funeral, and Hilda and Fred, who both happened to be in Holland, were also able to come and I can only hope we were some comfort for our mother.

Mother and Eric and I then spent one lovely hot summer week at my uncle Rudolf’s country house in Riesenbeck. We had an enjoyable time with lots of young people and one day climbed a hill to see the Graf Zeppelin flying past at what seemed like eve-level. Eric then went back to his post at the firm of Vaudrey, Osborne and Mellor to which he was articled, becoming a solicitor in August 1931. I stayed on alone and went to Holland visiting the two Driessen families. First I stayed with the Eduard Driessens, who had moved to Wassenaar near the Hague. Then I went to the Willem Driessens, who had also left Hengelo and now lived in Beek, near Nijmegen. Finally I spent several weeks in Munchen-Gladbach in the Rhineland.

I stayed with the Muller-Hoberg uncle and aunt who had been so kind to Fred and Mac several years earlier. There I met Elisabeth and Marie- Luise von Hobe for the first time. My cousin, Margaret Muller-Hoberg, and I were invited to the house of their aunt Taria Monforts, where they were staying at the time. We four saw each other three or four times, going to the opera together and out to the Monforts’ country house in the pine woods at Hellbach, being driven in a coach and pair, which was certainly a rarity by 1929.

I returned home in time for the birth and christening of my first nephew Michael and became his proud godmother. His parents, Mac and Hilda, lived in Gatley, at 17 Park Road (in which house they still live after 57 years) and it was a new experience for me to visit them and get to know young babies.

The following year it was arranged that Elisabeth von Hobe should come to us for the winter and that I should go to her home in Schleswig-Holstein in the following spring. Her mother and aunt, Taria, brought her over about a week earlier than expected and I was not too well pleased to be recalled urgently from Filey where I was recuperating after appendicitis with Mother and Enky Driessen, the younger sister of Zus. However, we soon became the best of friends and she got on famously with all my brothers. (Hilda was staying in Rotterdam with Ann Rosingh-Stork during that time.) Elisabeth had just left school and was comparatively unsophisticated and very appreciative of any entertainments provided, in the way of concerts, dances and anything else a large city and willing escorts could provide. She even appeared to enjoy the day-long Sunday walks in Derbyshire with Fred and me in wind and rain. Later I was amazed to discover that she hated walking.

When it came to my turn to visit her home, Schloss Gelting, I fell completely under the spell of the charming family, lovely old house and beautiful countryside. It was miles from the nearest town and Elisabeth soon got bored there and eventually spent time in Paris and Brussels and finally Rome, where she lived for many years.

It was May when I arrived and there were wild violets and primroses on the banks of the moat and later these were replaced by masses of daffodils. One day when driving in the countryside with Elisabeth’s parents, who soon became Onkel Siegfried and Tante Erna to me, I remarked on how English some of the landscape was. I was told that this was quite natural as we were in Angeln, the part of Germany from which the Angles had invaded and settled in Britain. That part of Germany had belonged to Denmark for centuries and many of the villagers’ names were distinctly Danish such as Rasmussen, Thorsen and Nielsen. Some of the villages also had very Danish names such as Wackerballig, Stenderup and Kronsgaard, and had very pretty, low, thatched cottages. The Gelting estate encompassed several of these villages, some woodland and a stretch of Baltic coastline. I loved cycling about the district, quite often on my own. There were ten children in the family, but at that time very few were at home, and the parents were away on a trip. Elisabeth, the eldest, was soon dispatched to help look after a younger sister, Alice, who had become ill, whilst staying with an aunt. Bertram, the eldest son and heir, was learning agriculture on a neighbouring estate, Marie-Luise, called Lu, was at home for the year as “Haustochter” and the two youngest girls, Josefa and Clarli, aged nine and six respectively, were at home with a governess. A new and very shy young priest had just joined the household and it seemed very strange dining alone with Lu and him at a huge table.

By the end of my four-month stay, the house had filled up with Diete, Caspar and August, Alice and Gisela, home from boarding school. Various visitors had also arrived including my brother, Fred, and an eccentric distant relative of the von Hobes called Noel Purgold from Liverpool. We cycled and rowed and walked and swam and played bridge, and it became an enchanted summer for more than one of us. Even Noel, whom we had frequently teased, appeared to have found it a very happy time and returned year after year.

I left at the end of August and went on to Holland to stay with the Driessens in Wassenaar, near the Hague. This was Zus Driessen’s family and I was friendly with the youngest girl, Enky, and her brother, Frans, and had an enjoyable time. As the place name suggests, it was near the sea so I was able to continue swimming until October when I took the plunge for the sixtieth and last time that summer.

I spent that winter in Emsdetten in Westphalia where my maternal grandmother, Elisabeth Heuveldop, came from. I stayed with an invalid cousin of my mother’s, who wanted a companion and also someone to help her sons with their English homework. The whole town was full of distant relatives and they were all very kind, but it was a long and rather tedious winter, and I was glad when Easter came and I was able to return to Gelting for the holidays. All the children were at home and Lu and I coloured four hundred Easter eggs, which sounds an astonishing number, but it was a very large household.

In the summer of 1933, I was in Gelting, again when Fred came on a visit and soon afterwards he and Lu became engaged.

At Christmastime the same year, Hilda married Edward Driessen. This was a great joy to both families, who had been such good friends for so many years. They were married on December 28th at St. Cuthbert’s Church by Canon Rowntree, who had been parish priest during the whole of my parents’ married life. He had christened us all, and also the older Driessen children including Eddy. Oom Willem and Tante Claar, their son Gus, and daughter Claartje came over, as also May Stork, and as well as a happy wedding we had a very pleasant Christmas all together. Claartje and I were bridesmaids.

This was followed by Fred and Lu’s wedding on Easter Sunday, April 1st 1934, in the Schloss Kapelle in Gelting. Mother and Father, Fred, Eric, and Fred Arning, who was best man, and I all travelled together via Harwich to Hoek of Holland, a journey which I made most years during the thirties. It was a beautiful wedding even though most of us arrived in a snow storm and it was still very cold on the wedding day. The daffodils were already in full bloom on the banks of the moat and the house and chapel were filled with them. There were about twenty-five house guests and in the evening a lovely dinner and dance in the Saal in the “Mittelhaus”. This part of the house was only used for state occasions and must have caused problems for dinner parties as it was two floors and several room-lengths away from the kitchens. There was a hand-operated lift which helped a bit.

After this the weddings and births followed in quick succession. In November 1934 Hilda and Eddy’s daughter, Rosemary Driessen, was born in Heerlen. August 5th saw the arrival of Mac and Hilda’s third child Jeremy. Fred and Lu’s first son was born on March 7th 1935 and christened Nigel Francis Windsor. The name Windsor came from his maternal great-great-grandmother, who was English and had lived in Manchester. The following November, 1935, Ann Margaret Driessen joined her sister Rosemary in Holland.

Charles was by now living in London and had become engaged to Margaret Rodger, whom he had met in Alloa. The wedding took place in the lady chapel of Westminster Cathedral on August 31st 1936, and I was bridesmaid for the third time. They then set up house in Enfield and the following July their son, Rodger, was born. Anthony Driessen had made his appearance in Heerlen in May, and I went from one house to the other to give a helping hand. In those days the chief chore was the washing of nappies. In Holland these were even ironed, I loved playing with the children and was grateful to Hilda and Eddy for letting me visit them year after year.

At this time Diete von Hobe was studying engineering at Aachen University, which was a tram ride away from Heerlen. We had been in love from the first moment we met, but had to keep it secret because he was so young and we both knew we would have to wait a long time till we could get engaged. In the event the years became even longer than we had envisaged. Hitler came to power, two years’ military service had become compulsory, and also six months’ “Arbeitsdienst”. To these were added four years of university and so the years went by, sometimes without our even seeing each other.

In the summer of 1938 I joined Mac and Hilda and their three children for a happy holiday at Allonby on the Solway Firth. The youngest boy, Jeremy, however, was not very well and it was, alas, the start of a long illness which dragged on until he tragically died on December 22nd 1938. That was a very sad Christmas indeed.

Mac and Hilda were naturally devastated but fortunately some months later Mac was caught up in a campaign against the Cotton Enabling Bill. He threw all his energy into organising the opposition to this bill, which he was convinced would ruin the cotton trade in Manchester. In the end it was defeated in Parliament, but by that time Mac had written and had printed hundreds of pamphlets, and Hilda and Fred and I and Cyril Entwisle were roped in to help with distribution etc. At this time Cyril managed my father’s Bradford office, but lived in Manchester. This was when Cyril and I first met but we did not see each other again for several years.

Eric was the next to get married on June 17th 1938, to Muriel Turner at St. Mary’s Parish Church, Cheadle. They had known each other a long time. Eric’s friend Philip Hoy had sadly become an orphan years before and had gone to live with the Turners in Heaton Mersey. Eric visited them regularly for years and the marriage was the culmination of another long courtship, which seemed quite usual in those days. They set up house in Outwood Drive, Heald Green, and in 1940 Eric set up his own solicitor’s practice in Cheadle, where he still works on a consultancy basis.

On September 26th 1938 Hilda and Eddy’s fourth child Hilde Driessen was born in the maternity hospital in which Eddy, who was a gynaecological specialist, practised. The building, which was even nearer to the German border than their house, was heavily sand-bagged in case of invasion,

At last in May 1939, on Whitsunday, my engagement to Diete von Hobe was celebrated in Gelting in the Saal and we were to be married the next Easter. Diete was to inherit his childless Onkel Josef Monforts’ steel works and had by that time started work there. We were to have a maisonette above Onkel Josef’s house in Munchen-Gladbach and I spent the next months optimistically ordering furnishings and hoping and praying that war would somehow be averted. Diete had already been called up.

I had a three month return ticket via Hamburg/Hull, which was due to expire at the end of August. When the time came I bowed to the inevitable and reluctantly sailed from Hamburg, fully expecting war to be declared whilst I was on board. In the event a few more days were to pass before Neville Chamberlain made his fateful announcement.

Leave a Reply