- Contributed by
- Bournemouth Libraries
- People in story:
- Peggy Gibson
- Location of story:
- Bagshot Park
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 21 May 2004
It was June 1940, I had just reached my 15th birthday, when my mother deposited me at Bagshot Park, the home of the Duke of Connaught, which was to be mine for the next 2 and half years.
I was living in London and the Battle of Britain had started in earnest, so to get me away was a great relief to my mother.
The Duke very kindly had the accomodation above the stables converted to a Nursery for the children from the London areas, most came from extremely poor homes, so it was wonderful for them - we took about 30 children in all.
I can remember waving goodbye to my mother from the long drive until she became a 'dot' on the horizon. I was so sad as one did not know when or if we would meet again.
Being only fifteen I was too young to start my nursery training - so I volunteered to help in the kitchen, working from 7.00am until 7.00pm was hard going and must admit I found it tiring. But the compensation of being there, the freedom of the grounds, produce in abundance from the Park farms was a real luxury!
Although we did not sleep in [staff house nearby] and a night nurse was on duty, plus Matron had her own rooms, we spent most of our time there.
When out with the children the Duke would aften give us a lift to the Stables in the Royal Car, very acceptable, especially on cold days, he obviously loved children and always gave them a cuddle.
On his ninetieth birthday he had a two tier cake, gave the bottom tier to us and the children.
The Duke was very fond of music and adored his social evenings - often would invite 'The Girls' as he called us to those wonderful events, we felt hightly honoured! The Butler was instructed to come on to the balcony with 'goodies' for us - of course we were separated from the guests - he would wave to us from below - if the Duke had his way I am sure we would have been in the drawing room! Queen Mary, I remember was one of the guests on occasions.
We were so lucky to be part of life in the Park.
Another exciting incident was after an air raid over Sunningdale a Junker 88 was shot down, and came down in the Park - the German pilot was frightened and one of the farm workers found him. The Duke gave orders for him to come into the House and gave him a full breakfast - one of our staff said, 'what do you think, the Duke was speaking for him in German.' She was horrified!
In 1942 at the age of 92 sadly the Duke died, and more sadly we had to move on - we moved to a large house in Chobham - it was just not the same, I missed Bagshot Park.
I understand that HRH Prince Edward will be taking it on - all I can say is that the House and Park have such lovely warm feelings, and sure it will be a wonderful house for the Prince and wish hime happiness.
I wonder perhaps if the powers that be are aware of those wartime years - and most of all, me having the pleasure of meeting a charming, ordinary gentleman - HRH The Duke of Connaught.
Recently I was lucky enough to visit Bagshaw Park - it was an amazing day for me going back in time, although the house was completely empty the drawing room became alive with the memories of guests and music. The nursery above the stables was more dilapidated than I remembered it to be, but those war years came flooding back just the same - 57 years ago to be precise! Great Memories.
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