BOXED IN AT ROYAL ALBERT HALL

by Kristine Hughes Patrone

 

“Opposite the Albert Memorial is the Royal Albert Hall, an immense oval brick building in Italian renaissance style, ornamented with a terra cotta frieze, executed by Minton & Co., and designed by eminent English artists. The exterior measurement of the Hall is 272 by 238 ft, and the interior 219 ft by 185 ft.  The total cost of the building was £200,000, of which £100,000 was raised by public subscription, £50,000 was given out of the profits of the Great Exhibition of 1851, and the remainder was raised by the sale of the private boxes.”  From Paterson’s Guide Book to the United Kingdom, 1885

Last year, Number One London Tours was invited to attend the Visit Britain travel expo in Brighton, where I was fortunate enough to meet travel and site managers from a wide variety of outlets in Britain. One of these was the guest services representative from London’s Royal Albert Hall, who told me that the private boxes were owned by individuals, many of whom had ancestors who had been the first to purchase the boxes, which at the time came with a 999 year lease. More often than not, the leases were left to the next generation via a will and the private boxes very rarely came up for sale. Intrigued, I decided to investigate this further.

Queen Victoria lays the foundation stone at the Royal Albert Hall. 7,000 people gathered under a purpose-built marquee to watch HM Queen Victoria lay the Hall’s red Aberdeen granite foundation stone, which today can be found underneath K stalls, row 11, seat 87 in the main auditorium.

In the 1860s, 1,200 of the Hall’s 5,500 seats were sold to private individuals for £100 each to finance the Hall’s construction, each seat having a 999 year lease and allowing access to most of its music, sporting and other events, subject to an annual service charge. Queen Victoria prudently snapped up 20, and the Queen’s Box, located on the Grand Tier, is still in the possession of the monarchy. The first Victorian box owners were also allowed to decorate their boxes as they saw fit, putting their personal touches to the space by the use of paint, fabrics, carpeting, plaster-work and mirrors.

Today there are around 1,300 seats – in boxes and the stalls – privately owned by individuals and companies. Members receive tickets for roughly 200 nights of the year, with a third of the annual 330 performances being ‘exclusive’, and sold separately by the Hall.

So, how much would a box fetch on the open market? Harrods Estates say that the last box of this size sold privately for £248,000, and 18 months ago another sold for £230,000 (it was bought as a wedding anniversary present). A larger, 10-seat box on the grand-tier was on the market for £300,000 in 1995, and another had an asking price of £375,000 in 2001. But keep in mind, for that price, you also get a lot of history.

Gore House, Kensington

The Royal Albert Hall was built on what was once the Gore estate, at the centre of which stood Gore House. The three acre estate was occupied by political reformer William Wilberforce between 1808-1828 and subsequently occupied between 1836-1849 by the Countess of Blessington and Count D’Orsay.

After the couple left for Paris in May 1851, the house was opened as the ‘Universal Symposium of All Nations’, a restaurant run by the first celebrity chef, Alexis Soyer, who planned to cater for the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park. After the Exhibition and following the advice of Prince Albert, Gore House and its grounds were bought by the Exhibition’s Royal Commission to create the cultural quarter known as Albertopolis, a complex of public Victorian buildings developed to house exhibits from the Great Exhibition and to further the study of art, science and industry.

 

But let us leave both the good Queen Victoria and good works behind us now and return to the filthy subject of money. The following is from an article in The Telegraph dated 9 January 2017:

“Members of the public with deep pockets are being offered a once in a decade chance to buy a box at the Royal Albert Hall next to the Queen for £2.5 million. Nicholas Shaw, sales manager of Harrods Estates Kensington, said he thought the box would be sold to “true lovers of the arts”. He said: “This Grand Tier box at the Royal Albert Hall is a real generational purchase, and is the first of its kind that is available to buy for almost a decade. The box is ideal for entertaining, with its twelve seats, and provides enviable views over the main stage and auditorium.”

“Richard Lyttelton, who was president of the Royal Albert Hall from 2010 to 2011, owns four seats but has never sold of them to third parties, choosing instead to return them to the box office for sale at face value. In 2011, a five-seat box on the second tier was put up for sale for £550,000. A ten-seat box on the Grand Tier was offered three years earlier for £1.2 million.”

A Royal Albert Hall spokesman said: “The seats are private property as set out in the royal charter which established the hall in 1861. As such the hall is not able to intervene as the seat holders’ rights are enshrined in law.”

THE NAME OF THE ROOM – WHERE PRECISELY IS THE NECESSARY?

by Louisa Cornell

Having covered the all-important drawing room and the equally vital kitchen areas of your average Regency era English country house, I thought it imperative we visit… The Necessary. Anyone who has read their British history knows this era was on the cusp of modernity in many areas. Plumbing was one of them. Sort of. For those who write and even those who read Regency era romance I offer a brief primer on where your hero or heroine might go… to Go.

The Water Closet or WC – Nicest of our options.

By way of introduction, there was actually a flushing toilet in Britain as early as 1591. John Harington, godson of Queen Elizabeth I, invented and installed the first water closet in his own home. He called his new invention Ajax and even wrote a book describing how it was built and how it functioned. A pan had an opening at its bottom closed by a leather faced valve. A system of handles, levers and weight poured the water from the cistern and opened the valve.

It didn’t really catch on, but by 1775 Alexander Cummings took a patent for his flushing closet which was very similar to Ajax. The main drawback in Ajax was the water seepage through the primitive valve. In 1777, Samuel Prosser used a ball valve to stop the seepage of water from the tank. This was the prototype for the water closets seen in some Regency era stately homes and London townhouses.

Some of the problems with this facility were –

  1. There tended to be only one in each house. Large house, one water closet, cold dark nights. Take a good candle, warm slippers, and do not wait until the last minute!
  2. Only in the wealthiest and most modern-thinking houses would the water closet be found on the floor with the family bedchambers. So, marry really well or… See Number 1 above.
  3. The most logical location for the water closet would be on the ground floor at the back of the house where water was already being pumped inside aka the kitchens. Which means one ran the risk of running into or even tripping over sleeping servants on your way to the water closet.
  4. Negotiating a wooden toilet seat, in the dark, in homes where rat catchers were employed to keep the vermin population in check. Do not skimp on paying either the rat catcher or the estate carpenter. Just saying.

The advantages were –

  1. One didn’t have to leave the house.
  2. The maid didn’t have to empty it every time it was used.
  3. Some of them worked well enough to completely eliminate the smell and possibility of disease from the house.

The Chamber Pot – Great for your Heroine, Not so great for her maid!

A chamber pot was a bowl or container and could be as fancy or as basic as the owner deemed necessary. Some resembled black iron cook pots with a lid. Others were beautifully decorated porcelain vessels, often matching the decor of the bedchamber or the pitcher and bowl on the bedchamber washstand. It is safe to say a chamber pot might be found in every bedchamber in every stately home and town house in England during the Regency era. I daresay even servants had chamber pots in their bedchambers. Why wouldn’t they? They certainly had enough experience emptying them.

As the name denotes, a chamber pot might be found in any sort of chamber. The French were horrified to discover that British men kept a chamber pot in the dining room so as not to interrupt their after dinner brandy and cigars with a trip to the privy or water closet. Yes, you heard me correctly. A chamber pot. In the dining room. It might be stored behind a screen or even in a cabinet of the sideboard. And apparently gentlemen had no compunction about pulling the chamber pot out and using it whilst their fellow gentlemen watched. Frat boys have been around considerably longer than we knew.

For the ladies, during most social events a withdrawing room was designated. This was not a permanent fixture in a home, although some particularly busy homes might make it so. Perhaps a small parlor or a room not in constant use by the family would be set up with a screen and a chamber pot, chairs or comfortable divans for ladies to rest away from the party, a wash stand equipped with a pitcher of water and a bowl in which to wash one’s hands and face, along with towels and face cloths. A full length mirror and the talents of a maid who could repair a torn hem or flounce might also be offered. A vanity with cosmetics and a maid who excelled at dressing hair might be included. Of course there would be a maid whose job it was to empty the chamber pot and clean it so the next lady might use it. As far as all extant sources state, using the chamber pot was not a spectator sport for the ladies. Of course, ladies had the advantage of not having to remove any clothing in order to use the chamber pot. During the Regency era ladies did not wear the sort of confining panties or drawers we do today. Only loose women wore drawers, which means French women did it first. Wicked girls!

When in the actual bedchamber, chamber pots might be kept under the bed, behind a screen or even hidden in a sort of cabinet. They might be installed in a sort of toilet chair in a dressing room as well. No matter where they were stored, it was the duty of a maid to empty said chamber pot and return it clean to be used again.

          

 

 

 

                  

 

Ladies were even afforded a more portable option for when they traveled to venues at which a withdrawing room might not be made available – the bourdaloue.

For an informative and fun article on the bourdaloue please check out this link.

There were advantages and disadvantages to the use of a chamber pot.

Advantages –

  1. One did not have to leave the room, let alone the house at night to use it.
  2. One might use it without alerting the entire house, let alone a ballroom full of guests one was using it.
  3. A maid emptied it outside of the house, thus ridding the house of any smell or possibility of disease.

Disadvantages –

1. It might be in one’s chamber a while before it was emptied.

2. Maneuvering to use it might be problematic.

3. If one was a maid or footman working in one of these homes… do I really need to explain that disadvantage?

The Privy – You Might Be a Regency Redneck If… Oh! Wrong Post!

By the early 19th century, before the advent of sewer systems, each London house and most country houses would have what was called a ‘cesspool,’ a pit about four feet wide and six feet deep, above which the home’s privy was located. Liquid waste would be absorbed back into the soil at the bottom of the hole, but solid waste had to removed by the night soil man, who would come around at night (opening a cesspool during the day was illegal, as the smell was considered to be too horrifying) and climb down into the cesspool to shovel out the accumulated muck. Rest assured these cesspools probably accumulated their fair share of other household rubbish as well. More than one murder was discovered when someone bent to the task of removing solid waste from the cesspool. Shudder.

The privy was a fixed out house with no water supply or drain and usually located some distance away from the house. A fixed wooden seat with a rounded hole was placed directly over the cesspit. Occasionally privies were attached to the side of a building, projecting out from a top floor, or reached through on outdoor entry on the ground floor of a service wing. These were sometimes called garderobes, a leftover term from the medieval period. More often than not they were placed at some distance from the main house at the far end of a garden or yard.

The advantages to this arrangement were… let me think. Surely there was…

  1. The privy was away from the house.
  2. More often than not the owners paid for the services of the night soil man, thus the servants did not have to empty it. At least in the city. In the country, it is a safe bet there was some poor servant assigned to this task.

The disadvantages were –

  1. It was away from the house. Long walk, no matter the weather or the time of night. Much more likely to encounter the sort of animals who prefer to occupy a privy.
  2. Do we really need to list all of the disadvantages of using a privy?

There you have it. The name of the room we call a bathroom or restroom, or at least the various places and things one might use to accomplish the same purpose. Everyone who is perfectly happy to read or write about the Regency era, but has some reservations about actually living during the era, please raise your hand. You’re excused.

YOU MIGHT BE A REGENCY REDNECK IF…

 

CHRISTMAS EDITION

(c) Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

I write Regency historical romance because I fell in love with the era at the age of nine, and my love has only grown stronger since. I love the manners, the rules of proper conduct, the elegant clothes (especially men in breeches and boots,) travel in carriages and on horseback, the stately homes, and every aspect of life in this unique period.

Be that as it may, I have come to realize there are some aspects of Regency life, even in the most elite portions of society, that would not be amiss in the red plastic cup, mud-bogging, tobacco spitting locale in which I live today. Directions to my house do include the words “Turn off the paved road.”

Lest you think I use the term “redneck” as a pejorative, I spent a large portion of my childhood living in mobile homes in the South. My mother’s family were Native American sharecroppers. My father’s family were Pennsylvania coal miners. I know who and what I am. Jeff Foxworthy, the leading expert on the redneck lifestyle, defines it as “a glorious lack of sophistication.” For the purposes of this essay, and in my semi-expert opinion, that is the definition we will use.

There are examples of redneck behavior to be found in every race, religion, socio-economic group, and country in the world. I now realize the same is true of every historical era. Rednecks have been with us forever. Even during that most gracious and elegant of times—The Regency.

Prove it, you say? I give you a series of Regency Christmas traditions any self-respecting redneck would be happy to call his or her own.

Snapdragon

Under the heading of a Regency version of “Hey y’all, watch this!” comes the Christmas game of Snapdragon. Raisins and nuts were soaked in brandy in a large shallow bowl. The lights were put out, and the brandy lit. People had to try and grasp a raisin or nut and eat it without burning themselves. The winner was the person who managed to capture and eat the most. I think you’d have to soak me in brandy to get me to try it!

Bullet Pudding

Another Regency era Christmas game with a redneck flair is bullet pudding. One must have a large pewter dish piled high with flour pushed to a peak at the top. A single bullet is placed at the crest of the “pudding.” Players take turns cutting a slice of the “pudding” with a knife. The person who is slicing the “pudding” when the bullet falls must then put their hands behind their back and poke about in the pile of flour with their nose and chin to find the bullet. Once they find it, they must retrieve it with their mouth. All the while trying desperately not to join their companions in laughter as this will result in flour being inhaled into the mouth and nose. Regardless, the bullet retriever ends up with flour all over his face. Any game played with live ammunition and the promise of someone ending up covered in a mess would be as welcome at a Redneck Christmas as it was at Regency Christmases.

Wassailing!

There were no Christmas carolers in Regency England. However, wassail groups would go from house to house singing begging songs in the hope of receiving food, drink, and money. Wassail was a mixture of beer, wine, and brandy and was usually served to the singers at each house. Every house. A great many houses before the night was done. I think I’ve seen groups like this around my neighborhood at Christmas-time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Very few houses had our idea of Christmas trees during the Regency. Such decorated Christmas trees were made popular in England by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the middle of the 19th century. However, trees were not left out of the Regency holidays. On Epiphany Eve, men would gather round a fruit tree, usually in an orchard, with cider and guns. In an ancient ceremony, they would drink to the tree and fire the guns to drive away evil spirits and promote the vigor of the trees. Horn-blowing was an alternative to firing guns. (Sounds like a Regency tail-gating party to me!)

The Yule Log

Speaking of trees, what could be more fun than a large group of men sent out into the woods to find the largest log possible to burn in the Christmas fireplace? The yule log had to be large enough to burn through the entire twelve days of Christmas. In fact, it had to be large enough to burn through to Twelfth Night and leave enough to be used to light next year’s log. Between the mine is bigger than your’s aspects of the hunt for the yule log and the opportunity to show off one’s strength in helping to drag the log home, this Regency Christmas tradition is rife with redneck possibilities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mistletoe and Kisses

Round out your Regency Christmas outdoor adventures with shooting mistletoe out of the trees (a method used by many Regency bucks) and hanging it about the house in every doorway and dark corner, a Regency version of spin-the-bottle if ever I’ve heard one.

 

A FLAMING DESSERT

Oh, and don’t forget a Christmas dessert for which many families put the ingredients on layaway. K-Mart did not invent the concept. The original Christmas clubs were for families who could not afford to pay for the ingredients for their Christmas pudding all at once. Wives in less affluent households deposited their pennies with their local shopkeepers in order to have the money to purchase those luxury food items necessary for a proper Christmas pudding. And after all of that, said dessert was brought to the table amidst great pomp and ceremony and… set on fire. Anyone who doesn’t believe your average redneck would shout “Hell, yeah!” at the idea of a flaming Christmas dessert has never been to a Christmas barbecue in the South.

At the end of Christmas Day, men and women of every age, no matter how strict the rules of society, tend to celebrate this joyous holiday with a bit more exuberance than decorum prescribes. Even Regency ladies and gentlemen, at least during Christmastide, might show “a glorious lack of sophistication.” So should we all!

CHRISTMAS REVELS IV – A REGENCY CHRISTMAS ANTHOLOGY

From  A Perfectly Unforgettable Christmas

“Miss Howard has the right of it. I haven’t any brothers or sisters to insult anymore. I have to make do with Redford,” Lucien said with a half-smile in the butler’s direction.

“I don’t have any either. Brothers or sisters, I mean. And my Papa is dead so I won’t ever have any.”

“My condolences.” Lucien bit into the biscuit. For some reason his belly had no difficulty with the gingery concoction. Perhaps Bonaparte was onto something.

“I think I should like to be your doxie,” the angelic little girl declared.

Lucien choked down an entire biscuit and reached for his tea.

“Oh, dear,” Redford muttered.

Oh dear?

His butler nodded repeatedly in the direction of the French windows, rather like a seizing chicken. The mysteriously opened French windows. The windows in which a horrified Lady McAlasdair now stood giving Lucien a glare of reproach so powerful as to turn him to a pillar of salt should he remain under it for long. Lucien lurched to his feet. A lightning bolt of pain shot up his leg. He grasped the mantel to keep his feet.

“Lady McAlasdair.” He executed a shallow bow. “Would you care for some tea?”

“I should like to know, Lord Debenwood, precisely what you have been telling my daughter.” Never had he seen a lady lovelier. Or more deadly.

“I asked Lord Debenwood what a doxie is and he told me, Mama.” Miss Lily dragged her cloak-clad mother to the footstool and indicated she should sit. To his astonishment, she did. Then again, the child had managed to persuade him to take tea with her, a doll, and a dog.

“And what made you ask his lordship such a question?” She stroked her daughter’s hair and all the while accused Lucien with her eyes.

“You and Miss Howard wouldn’t tell me. I came over here to thank Lord Debenwood for my gift and to bring him some of Mrs. McGillicutty’s biscuits. He said I could ask him anything.” She sent Lucien a dazzling smile. He hated to think of the men of London once she reached her mother’s age. They didn’t stand a chance.

“Oh, he did, did he?”

For a man who had given up on feeling anything years ago, Lucien found himself aroused and indignant at the same time. She raised an eyebrow. A dare if ever he saw one.

“I made the offer after she plied me with biscuits and had already asked me every question imaginable. I didn’t see the harm in one more.” He offered a Gaelic shrug, only because he suspected it might annoy her. It did.

“One more? Biscuit or question?” She spied the child’s coat and hat on the blanket chest at the foot of the bed and fairly shot up from the footstool to fetch them.

“Both.”

“Why on earth would you answer such a question?” She wrestled her daughter into the coat and settled the wool hat on her head.

His leg tortured him mercilessly. Only yesterday he’d have sat down throughout her visit and damned all gentleman’s manners and intruding neighbors to perdition. He wasn’t exactly certain what made him remain standing now. “I was endeavoring to be honest and truthful with the child.” He grinned in spite of the scolding scowl on Redford’s face.

She stopped fastening her daughter’s coat and slowly crossed the room to stand close enough to shake the snow off her cloak onto his bare feet. “You are endeavoring to be a horse’s arse. And succeeding. Admirably,” she muttered huskily between clenched teeth.

The rough timbre of her voice scraped across his skin with a pleasurable sort of pain. The pain brought about when coming from someplace very cold into someplace warmer than he’d ever imagined.

“Quite,” Redford affirmed quietly.

“Stow ‘em, Redford.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“I don’t understand, Mama. Don’t you want me to be a doxie?” Seated on the blanket chest, Miss Lily stroked Bonaparte’s head. “I think it would be very nice.”

Redford began to clear the tea table. Lucien couldn’t be certain, but he thought he heard the man mumble, “Stop talking.” Good advice. Too bad he’d never been very adept at taking the advice of others.

“What exactly did you tell my daughter?” Lady McAlasdair demanded.

“He said doxies are women who are paid to be nice to men who are lonely,” Lily offered before he could answer. “Some men aren’t good at making friends so they have to pay them. I think Lord Debenwood is lonely. That’s why he is so angry all the time. I should like to be his doxie, but he wouldn’t have to pay me. He’s already given me Miss Debenwood, and he lets me have Bonaparte during the day. I could be his doxie as a trade.”

Every time the child said doxie, Lady McAlasdair’s color deepened from pink, to pinker, to pinker still. Lucien wondered if the color was the same all over her body. He raised an eyebrow exactly as she had done. He’d put on a pair of buckskins under his dressing gown for the sake of his little female visitor. Lucien crossed his arms over his chest to draw the mother’s gaze to the vee of naked flesh where the garment gapped open.

“I am going to kill you later,” she promised.

“I look forward to it.”

 

The Sergeant’s Christmas Bride – Sergeant Jacob Burrows just wants a place to bed down for the night. He never expects to be confronted by a lady with a gun. Elizabeth FitzWalter intends to drive the stranger off her land, until she realizes he meets her most pressing need.

Home for Christmas – When Charity Fletcher receives a mysterious bequest—a house by the sea—she hopes to rebuild her life. Lord Gilbert Narron leases a seaside house to hide from his memories of war. Charity’s refuge is Gil’s bolt-hole… but what both are seeking is a home for their hearts.

A Memorable Christmas Season –The last thing Lady Roekirk expects at her Christmas party is a dead traitor in her parlor… or the Crown’s Spymaster helping her hide the body. Thirty years earlier, she’d been forced to wed another and Lord Keyminster became a spy. After this long, does their love stand a chance?

A Perfectly Unforgettable Christmas – Every day, Lucien Rollinsby endures a memory of Christmas Eve. Not even his lovely new neighbor can make him forget that horrible night five years ago. Caroline McAlasdair remembers that Christmas Eve, too. But if Lucien recalls her presence there, it will destroy their only chance at happiness forever.

Buy Links:   Amazon – http://a.co/4ogrKbC

Apple iBooks – https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/christmas-revels-ii-four-regency/id1047951334?mt=11

Barns and Nobles – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/christmas-revels-ii-hannah-meredith/1122771468?ean=9781942470007

Kobo – https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/christmas-revels-ii-four-regency-novellas

Print – https://www.createspace.com/5739761

 

Authors’ Biographies:

Hannah Meredith is, above all, a storyteller. She’s long been fascinated by the dreams that haunt the human heart and has an abiding interest in English history. This combination led her to write historical romance. Hannah is a member of RWA, the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, and SFWA.

 

Anna D. Allen lives deep in the woods with too many books and not enough dogs. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Arts in Language and Literature. Her future plans include growing tomatoes and cleaning out the freezer. When not writing or reading, she can be found in the kitchen.

 

Kate Parker grew up reading her mother’s collection of mystery books by Christie, Sayers, and others. Now she can’t write a story without someone being murdered, and everyday items are studied for their lethal potential. It’s taken her years to convince her husband that she hasn’t poisoned dinner; that funny taste is because she just can’t cook.

 

Louisa Cornell is a retired opera singer living in LA (Lower Alabama) who cannot remember a time she wasn’t writing or telling stories. Anglophile, student of Regency England, historical romance writer— she escaped Walmart to write historical romance and hasn’t looked back. She is a member of RWA, Southern Magic RWA, and the Beau Monde Chapter of RWA.

 

Social Media Links:

Hannah – http://www.hannahmeredith.com

https://www.facebook.com/HannahMeredithAuthor

 

Anna – http://beket1.wix.com/annadallen

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Anna-D-Allen/366546213501993

 

Kate – http://www.KateParkerbooks.com

https://www.facebook.com/Author.Kate.Parker/

 

Louisa – http://onelondonone.blogspot.com/

http://www.louisacornell.com/

https://twitter.com/LouisaCornell

https://www.facebook.com/RegencyWriterLouisaCornell

https://www.facebook.com/louisa.cornell

https://www.pinterest.com/louisacornell/

 

OPERATION PIED PIPER – Guest Post by Alix Rickloff

OPERATION PIED PIPER                

WWII was declared on September 1st 1939, and by the end of that month over 800,000 London school children had been evacuated to the countryside ahead of the expected German bombardment.

Planning for Operation Pied Piper, as it was known, began years earlier. The bombing casualties sustained during WWI had frightened the British government badly. Taking into account advances in technology, they were certain that should war break out with a remilitarized Germany, any bombing campaign would result in catastrophic loss of civilian life.

As war grew closer, the government divided the country into zones of “evacuation” “neutral” or “reception”, compiled lists of available housing, and began an all-out crusade to convince the public of the necessity of evacuation. Posters and pamphlets were used successfully to persuade parents that their children would be safest far from the inner cities, especially London. Teachers, local authorities, railway staff, and over 17,000 WVS (Womens’ Volunteer Service) volunteers were brought on board to assist with the planning and implementation.

 

To prepare for evacuation, parents were given a list of items each child needed to take with them which included a gas mask, sandwiches for the journey, and a small bag containing such essentials as a change of underclothes, pajamas, slippers, toothbrush, comb, washcloth, and a warm coat. Yardly Jones recalls preparing before his evacuation:

“We went down Wavertree Road and bought an enamel cup, a knife, fork, and spoon from a list we had. I guess we bought clothing as well, I don’t remember, but I do know I was a little upset since I knew we weren’t that well off and I knew my mother couldn’t afford to go out and buy these things.”

The day of departure, children assembled at their local school where labels were attached to their collars with name, home address, school, and destination. After tearful farewells, teachers and volunteers marched the children to the station where trains waited to take them to such far-flung destinations as Devon, Cornwall, and Wales. Teacher L.A.M. Brech recalls:

“All you could hear was the feet of the children and a kind of murmur because the children were too afraid to talk. Mothers weren’t allowed with us but they came along behind. When we got to the station we knew which platform to go to, the train was ready, we hadn’t the slightest idea where we were going and we put the children on the train and the gates closed behind us. The mothers pressed against the iron gates calling, ‘Goodbye darling.’ I never see those gates at Waterloo that I don’t get a lump in my throat.”

 

Upon arrival, billeting officers arranged for housing. In many instances, this meant nothing more than lining the children up against a wall and allowing families to choose as Beryl Hewitson recounts:

“I noticed boys of about 12 went very quickly—perhaps to help on the farm? Eventually only my friend Nancy and myself were left—two plain, straight-haired little girls wearing glasses, now rather tearful.”

And Irene Brownhill remembers her own arrival in the country:

“…next to us a little thin girl sobbing and very upset and wanting her mother. I put her in the middle of my sister and me and she stopped crying. The people coming around to choose kept saying they would take my sister and me but they did not want three girls only two…”

It was common for the young evacuees to have trouble adjusting to country life. Some had never seen a farm animal before or eaten a fresh vegetable. Others were bored by the lack of entertainments outside of the city. Jean Chartrand remembers two boys billeted with her relatives:

“…one boy had put the pail under the cow’s udders and was holding it there whilst the other boy was using the cow’s tail like a pump handle…”

Evacuee John Wills said his biggest shock was the fresh air: “Nearly knocked us off our feet.” Later he and a friend decided to return to London. “We walked home on the thumb with the odd lift. I much preferred to take my chances in the air raids.”

Host families could be equally surprised by the children they were housing. Because the majority of children came from the poorer sections of cities, there was an idea that they would be undisciplined and dirty. And while this was sometimes the case, more often than not their fears were founded on bias and preconceived notions.

“How I wish the prevalent view of evacuees could be changed. We were not all raised on a diet of fish and chips eaten from newspaper and many of us are quite familiar with the origins of milk. It was just as traumatic for a clean and fairly well educated child to find itself in a grubby semi-slum as vice versa,” Jean McCulloch explained.

By the end of 1939 when the expected bombing didn’t materialize, parents were quick to bring their children back home. And by January of 1940, nearly half of those children sent away in the first weeks had returned to their families. But these were to be short-term homecomings. When France fell in June 1940 and again in the fall of 1940 at the start of the London Blitz, additional evacuations were set in motion. And this time, children would not see their families again until the end of the war almost five years later.

The lasting effects of the evacuation ran the gamut. Some had idyllic experiences with caring families who maintained close ties long after the war ended like Michael Clark:

“We could not understand these strange people who for some reason we were sent to live with, but as the years have gone by I realize just what diamonds they were”

Others, like Gloria McNeill, homesick and unhappy, recall the forced separation and sometimes squalid and violent conditions these children found themselves in.

“Every time I hear Vera Lynn sing “Goodnight children everywhere’ I see a forlorn 11-year old curled up in a corner of a strange bedroom, hiding tears behind the pages of The Blue Fairy Book.”

Operation Pied Piper officially ended in 1946 bringing to a close one of the largest organized movements of civilian population during wartime and one of the most heartbreaking and inspiring chapters of British history.

Sources:

Dwight Jon Zimmerman. “Operation Pied Piper: The Evacuation of English Children During World War II.” www.DefenseMediaNetwork.com

Laura Clouting. “The Evacuated Children of the Second World War.” www.iwm.org.uk

“Primary History World War 2: Evacuation” www.bbc.uk

Ben Wicks. No Time to Wave Goodbye (Stoddart Publishing, 1988)

 

From the author of Secrets of Nanreath Hall comes this gripping, beautifully written historical fiction novel set during World War II—the unforgettable story of a young woman who must leave Singapore and forge a new life in England.

On the eve of Pearl Harbor, impetuous and overindulged, Lucy Stanhope, the granddaughter of an earl, is living a life of pampered luxury in Singapore until one reckless act will change her life forever. 

Exiled to England to stay with an aunt she barely remembers, Lucy never dreamed that she would be one of the last people to escape Singapore before war engulfs the entire island, and that her parents would disappear in the devastating aftermath. Now grief stricken and all alone, she must cope with the realities of a grim, battle-weary England.

Then she meets Bill, a young evacuee sent to the country to escape the Blitz, and in a moment of weakness, Lucy agrees to help him find his mother in London. The unlikely runaways take off on a seemingly simple journey across the country, but her world becomes even more complicated when she is reunited with an invalided soldier she knew in Singapore.

Now Lucy will be forced to finally confront the choices she has made if she ever hopes to have the future she yearns for.

 

Author Bio:

Critically acclaimed author of historical and paranormal romance, Alix Rickloff’s family tree includes a knight who fought during the Wars of the Roses (his brass rubbing hangs in her dining room) and a soldier who sided with Charles I during the English Civil War (hence the family’s hasty emigration to America). With inspiration like that, what else could she do but start writing her own stories? She lives in Maryland in a house that’s seen its own share of history so when she’s not writing, she can usually be found trying to keep it from falling down.

 

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