Margaret (Burrage) Thorne - Caldecott 1939-1949 - Hyde House Dorset
RL: What are you memories of Hyde House?
MT: Well my memories of Hyde House, I think, really were the misery of the wartime you know, the fact that there was never enough water, never enough electricity. As far as I remember I had a room, I think I had a shared room, at the top of the house, and I remember Miss...not Miss Brown, I've forgotten what she was called, who looked after the girls and she was rather a sort of school matron type, and she used to come round seeing if everything was tidy. I can't remember much more about her but I do remember one member of staff who was a gifted woman she sang beautifully, she played the piano, she taught some of the younger children, but she was an unhappy lady and she wasn't with us for very long, but she was truly truly gifted.
Actually something I did at Hyde was to cycle. Because Marjorie and I, I had a borrowed bike, I wasn't keen on cycling but, of course, the roads were very empty and we used to go to Swanage occasionally, and we'd go to Wareham, and when John came on leave we'd go to Dorchester, well of course Marjorie would, but I would go to Dorchester and we'd go to tea in Judge Jeffreys Tea Rooms in Dorchester and I remember John ordering tea and saying “Oh, can we have scones and bread and butter” and things, and the waitress's eyes opened wide and she said “scones AND bread and butter?” because of course it was wartime and such things weren't available.
Having gone there in January, it was August at Staff tea one day when Miss Leila said to me “Oh, Margaret would you go to Dorchester and work with Frances, I've been asked to look after, and keep my eye on, a Hostel for unbilletable boy evacuees” and I don't know why because, you know, it suited me very much in many ways in Hyde. I said 'Yes'.
One of the other things I did at Hyde – being very muddled about it now – was, each Wednesday Carol Lovegrove, who was one person who had petrol, and I used to go to Wareham market and bid, amongst all these hardened farmers and people, for sacks of things like potatoes, and carrots and all those sort of things, sort of root vegetables and things like that and then Carol would come and collect me and the sacks of food to take them back. There was very little food. We had a local lady, a Farmers wife, who had a farm nearby, they used to bring us milk, they brought us eggs and sometimes I went to lunch with them because they were a very nice family; and the other thing we used to have was baskets and baskets of watercress because there were watercress beds nearby, which, though we used to get very bored and tired of it I have to admit, obviously, it was good for us.
The only thing there was to eat, if you were out in the evening and you came in, and the gates used to be locked at 10 (Ed: pm?) so if you came in after that you climbed over the gates with some peril but the only thing there was ever enough to eat, and some over, when you came in late at night and you were ever so hungry was cereal,and for years afterwards I never ever ate cereal. It just was one of those things, made me feel and think about the war so much.
I remember there was a large garden at Hyde and Miss Syer was in charge of it, of course. One of the things I remember about that which I'd never known before, and they were quite beautiful, was a large, large bed of 'pink' Lily of the Valley which was sort of new to us. Miss Hill used make large Stews with things like Butter Beans, and the other smaller beans and occasionally we'd get rabbits, I don't know who dealt with them but Miss Hill used to say that 'two rabbits had run through the stew' because that was what it was.
But on the whole no one went hungry but food was dull and not much variety but I must say, this 'Bonnybridge' thing, the cooker, was very slow and very difficult and poor Betty Hillyar had a very hard job keeping it going. She used to, sort of, get up and get it going and then she'd go and have a shower or bath, or something to start her day because it was such a mucky job. I remember once, it took so long to cook the porage, the porage was sour. And Miss Dave saying, it was all served out 'cause no one realised until they'd tasted it that it was sour, and Miss Dave being the sort of stoic woman that she was, said it showed peoples character if they could manage to eat it. But I'm sure no one did because it really was disgusting. But that was what this great enormous cooker was like.
RL: Were you still involved in catering when you went to Dorchester?
MT: Yes, yes I was, and as I say we did other things. If Nurse, I can't remember her name, but the nurse in those days she was a pretty girl and she was in pink which was the colour of her training place and Nurse Eileen Nobbs she wasn't in pink. I think she had a grey dress and she was [incomp] nurse, but I don't remember the name of the first one at all. But, after all the things that happened at Hyde I've never been back to that area ever... no I don't think so. Oh yes I, we did go to Portland, Bill it's called isn't it? We went to Portland Bill for a long week-end one time, suppose I was as near there as I ever would be but we went to Bere Regis which was only sort of a tiny place, I don't know why we went there, perhaps just for a change or perhaps it had a pub. I don't remember but we did go to Bere Regis and as I say we used to go to Wareham and I remember Marjorie and I cycling to Swanage.
My Father used to send me parcels. He used to queue in Woolworth's which in those days sold food. He used to queue for a wonderful fruit cake and he used to buy a slab of this and send it to me; and at the time of year he would send things like Cherries and things like this and I had this parcel of cherries from my parents and Marjorie and I went off to Swanage on these bikes with this parcel of cherries and we sat on a hill and ate the cherries, I don't know whether we had anything to drink but we both fell asleep. It was sunny and wonderful, and we woke up surrounded by the Army because, of course, we were by accident, of course, where we shouldn't have been so we made a hasty exit to get where we could be.
Those were the sort of nicer things that happened because life at Hyde was tough, it really was but my room when I was at Hyde, well I didn't have a room I was in (one of) two little cottages at the bottom of the lane and Carol Lovegrove and myself and, I think, Miss Syer. There were three rooms and that (was)when I cycled 'cause I used to cycle up in the mornings, early in the morning, and Rabbits and the Hares and sometimes the young deer used to scatter in front of me going up the lane, those sort of dewy mornings, rather nice actually, I liked that bit of it.
We also at Hyde, and I suppose went on to Mersham afterwards, were young people who the Home Office recommended came to the Community and they they all behaved very badly and were always in trouble; and some of them I saw their names in the National Press afterwards always because, I'm afraid, they'd done something quite wrong.