A description of life at Passford House by Dorothy
My father, Bill, was the Groom and broke in all the horses for the coach and pairs to take them to Sway church and other places. We were a very little community of our own, about a dozen houses, and the tenants were nearly all Scots, and worked on the Estate, and all the servants were Scottish. They had a big bird Avery in the yard of lovely birds from all over the world. There was an Eagle in a big cage and we had to be careful when we cleaned the cage. Lady Arthur Cecil loved all animals and had a lot of Scottish dogs. She kept goats and she always washed and cleaned them herself, and milked them. Also there were beautiful ostrich birds, with lovely curled feathers which we would pick up when they shed them.
I shall always remember my Dad’s harness room, the lovely smell of the polished leather and the gleaming brass. There were glass cupboards on the walls and they were full of lovely rosettes and cups which the horses won… He used to let me help him groom them.
Easter time and Christmas time was something we shall never forget, the lovely Easter egg hunts in the hayricks in the farmyard, all of us children had a basket given to us to go and find them, and then we went back into the big kitchen and had Scotch oat cakes and tea, and they shared the eggs between us.
The Christmas tree was from the floor to the ceiling in the big ironing room, lit with candles and hung with presents. Our mothers had red flannelette to make nightgowns, also a tin of tea, our dads had a cardigan and a tin of tobacco, and all of us children had material to make a skirt and dresses, the boys to make trousers, and when we went home we all had a bag with nuts, sweets and oranges. It was wonderful as we were so poor and could not afford luxuries.
We also helped with the harvest and had a lovely tea when we had finished. The vicar of sway, Mr Barker, came down to the big house once a week and we had a service up in the loft above the cattle when it was summer, and in the big ironing room in the winter. We were treated like one big family. Lord and Lady Arthur Cecil were so kind, our lives wouldn’t have been much without them. we used to pick up acorns for them and get a copper or two for a big bag for the pigs. I always remember the deep snowfall we had in May, seventy four years ago, the month my younger brother Sid was born, also the neighbour across the fields, her son was born and as no doctor or nurse could get out from Lymington to deliver the babies, we children had to cut a road through the snow that was up to the hedges, to let the mothers get through to help each other deliver the babies.
The gypsies had their tents in Shirley Holmes and they made pegs and baskets with twigs and wood, and when it was hop-picking time in Kent, they would pack up their tents and away they would go hop-picking, and after they had gone we children would go up and rake through the wood ashes and find the farthings, and when we went to Sway school, we used to call in at a little shop opposite Meaden’s garage and buy gob-stopper sweets with the farthings. That was a real treat for us.
When we were ill Lady Arthur Cecil used to send down cans of soup and new milk and other good things to get us better. We all loved her.
In the winter months my dad used to… round up their horses in the forest and take them down to Keyhaven Marshes, and when the terrible gales and rain came, it use to wash over the sea wall… nearly drown the horses. When that happened, Lord Arthur Cecil had a megaphone, he used to call my dad in the middle of the night through it to get dad to go and rescue the horses. The water was up to their necks. He would call ‘Bill!’ on it, and it would echo all over the Estate.
Next time, something completely different. READ ON