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Transcript TitleBagenal, John (O 2002.8)
IntervieweeJohn Bagenal (JB) (also present, Patience Bagenal (PB))
InterviewerEve Sangster (ES)
Transcriber byJuliet Bending


Hertford Oral History Group

Recording no: O 2002.8

Interviewee: John Bagenal (JB) (also present, Patience Bagenal (PB)

Date: 8th March 2002

Venue: Leaside, Hertingfordbury

Interviewers: Eve Sangster (ES)

Transcriber: Juliet Bending

************** unclear recording

[discussion] untranscribed material

[italics] editors’ notes

CASSETTE 1, SIDE A, T.2002.217.1

ES: ...the 8th. I'm interviewing John Bagenal at his home, Leaside, in Hertingfordbury. Well, John, I know you were born in 1915...

JB: Right.

ES: Leaside?

JB: Not in Leaside, I was actually born at Roxford, the next house...

ES: Right -- your grandfather's house.

JB: ...which is...became my grandfather's house until 1931 or so.

ES: Right, well, would you like to...? You know what you want to say. Would you like to...?

JB: Yes, I would. I am lucky in having lived most of my life close to where I was born, and although I've been away abroad, mostly in Africa, a long period, we have always been able to come back here, because my parents lived at Leaside until 1979...'81 or so. So we've always been able to come back here and renew our memories. Now, reverting to Leaside as a place -- it was originally a series of labourers' cottages converted in about 1969...

PB: 1869.

JB: I'm sorry, 1869, mildly done up, as you might say, mildly gentrified. We came to it -- that's to say, my grandfather came to it -- as a country cottage rented from the Clinton Bakers at Bayfordbury for weekends, primarily to give his daughters, my mother and her sister Margaret Brett, later Brett, a place in the country to run wild in. My mother's parents lived at that time at Earls Terrace in London, and as I say they came out here for weekends. It was quite easy then -- the train came to Hertingfordbury Station, and you could walk, and...which reminds me that through my father's period -- he lived here from the end of World War I -- he was an acoustic architect, working as librarian at the Architectural Association in Bedford Square. He went up to London every day from Hertingfordbury, to which he bicycled usually. And he went on doing that through the '20s and the '30s. As I say, he was a librarian and a lecturer, and during the War the A.A., as it was called -- the Architectural Association -- moved away to Barnet and he continued to go there, but every now and then he worked, to begin with, here. And then he moved to the Building Research Station at Watford, and he went on there for a bit.

ES: Could I just...? Reverting to what you said, that Leaside originally was a little terrace of labourers' cottages, do you think it was associated with Roxford, or do you think they were built by the Clinton Bakers?

JB: I don't know directly, but I would guess that it might have been built by the farmer -- Roxford then belonged to a farmer -- so it could easily have been so, but I don't actually know whether it was so, is the answer to that.

PB: It's not on the early maps. But it is from the 18th century.

ES: You were one of four children. Were the others all born here? And where were you? Were you the youngest child? Yes, you were, 'because you were born...

JB: No, I was the eldest child.

ES: Oh, the eldest.

JB: I was the eldest. The second child was ?Beechy [probably Beachy, short for Beauchamp], who was born about 1918, then came Philip and Kate who were twins, born in...what?...'21 or '22. I'd like to talk about that period a bit, because I suffered as a child a lot from asthma, and this is a damp place to live, and it was thought -- I think rightly -- that I would be better off if I lived higher up in a drier place, and that posed a problem. But my parents had a helper called Doris Sears, whose parents lived at Bengeo, and they very kindly said they'd have me, as it were to stay, and I went there and lived with them and in the course of time I went to school locally at Bengeo.

ES: At Duncombe.

JB: Duncombe.

PB: No. We've established that it wasn't actually Duncombe's, it wasn't the original of that school [perhaps the PNEU School]. It was originated by the headmaster of the Grammar School. He had a governess and they...that's the origin of Duncombe's. But this was run by the two...what was the name of the two ladies?

JB: The two ladies were Joan and...I can't remember the other one at the moment.

PB: What was the name of their father, who was a building merchant?

JB: Mr Ewen [of Ewen and Tomlinson, timber etc, Priory Wharf].

PB: The Ewens.

JB: Mr Ewen was a timber merchant.

ES: Yes. Which road was it in, in Bengeo?

JB: It was in the main street, on the right as you go up, just before Trinity Grove, an entrance between a line of cottages of one sort or another, and this place where we lived was a cottage set back a bit.

ES: And where was the school?

JB: The school was near one or the end of...I can't remember, I think it was called Waterloo Terrace, those cottages, on one side of where we lived. Then came the school. But when I went there first the school was in Trinity Grove, and it moved then, I don't quite know why...

PB: In Duncombe Road, I think that's where the confusion...

ES: I see, because in actual fact, Duncombe School is in Warren Park Road, isn't it.

PB: We rather went into it when Clara went to Duncombe's. It would have been rather nice if her grandfather had been at the school before her. It was established that that was not...

ES: Anyway, it was a little private school.

JB: It was a little private school, and for a bit I lived there too, and...I'm just trying to remember the names of the two schoolmistresses, but I don't think I'm going to be able to. Anyhow, they were awfully good to me, with my difficulties. By this time I'd moved from Mrs Sears' house to the school as a lodger. And then, by the end of the '20s I'd left that school and went to school in Welwyn Garden City, going by train, walking down the hill -- I went on staying with the Sears, I think, or somewhere nearby -- but I went then down the hill every day and by train to Welwyn Garden City.

ES: Right. Was that a preparatory school?

JB: Yes, it was. And I...

ES: So probably it would have been something like...nearer 1924...when you were -- how old, do you think?

JB: Well, I was born in '15, I was...

ES: So you were 10 in 1925. Anyway what school was it at...?

JB: It was...what school was it?

PB: I don't know its name, but it was near...behind the Shredded Wheat factory. wasn't it?

JB: Yes. Oh I remember particularly because the...I seemed in a sense to grow up with Welwyn Garden City in that we knew the architects who were friends of my father's, and the Shredded Wheat factory, which was in itself a building of note to people in Hertfordshire, was going up at that time. Now, I left Welwyn Garden City in about '28...'29, I think, and I then went to school at King's School, Worcester, where the headmaster was a friend of my father's, and in the course of time, because of that, my father did a lot of work on the garden of King's School, Worcester, which he -- my father -- designed for Cuthbert Croughton, whose wife had died and he...the garden was in memory of her. Now that's veering away a little from us, but I'm mentioning it because the connection with the Croughtons remained as an important aspect of our family life, in that Cuthbert Croughton's younger son, Hugh Croughton, became a pupil of my father's in the subject of acoustics, so that was important to us and we kept in close contact with them [early school near Shredded Wheat factory not known; earliest schools on other side, west of the railway line. Peartree the earliest on the east side].

ES: In your talk, you said your father was an attender at the Friends' Meeting House, so he wasn't exactly...he never became a confirmed Quaker?

JB: No.

ES: But how were you brought up? Were you...? What was your religion when you were a child?

JB: Well, we were given serious talks by my father every Sunday, and one of the subjects was, for instance, John *****'s diary. Now he was a famous Quaker in America, and this was one of the books my father loved reading aloud. Every Sunday he read aloud to us something or other which had a tinge of religion. He began to go to the Quaker Meeting House after becoming a friend of Alfred Graveson. They remained friends and my father, although he attended every now and then the Hertingfordbury church, his...almost every Sunday, he bunked off to Hertford and went to the Meeting House as an attender, and that was it. He didn't in any way press us to become one thing or another.

ES: No. I had thought he...when I first heard you say that he had been a medical orderly, I thought perhaps he had been a Conscientious Objector because of being a Quaker, but I suppose the fact was, he always had these leanings towards their philosophy. So did you go to Hertingfordbury Church then on a Sunday? Or did your mother take you?

JB: Yes, she went regularly. She was not inclined to be a Quaker at all. She was an active Christian, she went every Sunday, and we often went as well, and when I went to Worcester, then, of course, we were closely connected with the Cathedral and its...the whole of what you might call of a Cathedral close.

ES: You weren't a chorister?

JB: I was not a chorister at all, neither were my brothers. Now, in the course of time my second brother ?Beachy came to Worcester as well.

PB: They did go to the Grammar School first, didn't they, both of them, at Hertford.

JB: Quite right. Both he and my younger brother Philip went to the Hertford Grammar School, and Kate my sister went to Ware Grammar School. And where have we got to? should have in front of you the headlines that we were...

ES: Yes, well, we were really talking about your religious upbringing. I was just interested to know if you ever went to the Meeting House. But anyway, you went to the...

JB: Yes.

ES: Who was the vicar there when you Hertingfordbury Church, when you...? [possibly Canon Burnside].

JB: Ah, now then...this is where one hits one's crumbling memory and age. [laughter]

ES: You may never have known it.

JB: I knew well the vicar and -- because I knew his daughter later on -- and...[if Burnside, then the daughter was a district nurse].

PB: The Bonds were earlier...

JB: Bond was later.

PB: ...later...

JB: Bond was later. Now I remember particularly because at that time the rector lived down the hill where the Maunder-Taylors lived, and that rectory...the present -- is it the present rectory?

PB: Yes. Well, it isn'

JB: No, but it was then, because it was built in my time on the top, so the vicar moved out from down the bottom, which is a big big house, to this new rectory on the same level as Hertingfordbury village, as I recall it.

ES: Just going back to your talk -- there are one or two things that I wanted to slightly sort out. Did you say that Lewis Carroll stayed at Roxford? Have I got that right?

JB: I may have said that it was...what was it written in, Patience? We read this, that he'd...

PB: Well, no, he stayed with Alison's grandparents in Russia -- that's where the connection is.

ES: Oh I see, yes.

JB: That's right, yes.

PB: And then Alison's mother was...

ES: So Lewis Carroll went to Russia?

PB: Yes.

ES: I'm surprised he was so bold, aren't you?

PB: Well, he went with somebody else, but there is a whole piece about this expedition going, and how kind the Muir and Mirrielees families were to him.

ES: It seems so out of character. Ah well, that's interesting.

JB: That's a whole subject on its own.

ES: I know, but I thought while I was asking you...and also you say about... somebody brought home children of a pre-Raphaelite painter. This is when


PB: Well, when John's...when Alison's grandparents came back from Russia...retired, they lived in Holland Park, and their daughters all went to school with Margaret Burne-Jones and they were very great friends, really best friends. And we've got quantities of letters to and from...with the Burne-Jones -- Muir connection. But that again is another...

ES: Oh I realise it's another topic, but on the other hand...

PB: Certainly Margaret Burne-Jones, when she became...what was she...?

ES: Did she marry a...?

PB: She married...I can't remember what his name was. No, he was more a writer. But their daughter was Angela Thirkell.

JB: If I can interject, my grandfather Stuart Hogg was a cheerful philistine man who enjoyed developing property and enjoyed people, and he did a great deal of work in building the garden at Leaside and later at Roxford. And that wasn't enough for him -- he went up to London every day and worked in the City as a business man. He then started the Roxford Fishing Club, which took in the River Lea from Horns Mill to Hatfield, and he ran this together with a well-known Hertfordshire woman called Chris Beck...[Christabel] Beck, who lived at Amwell and who was the secretary of the club. And the club used two little cottages in the yard...back yard of Roxford House. The club used that for giving teas to fishermen. The fishermen were in the main, for some reason that I don't quite know, doctors. There were a few local people but not many -- most of them were London doctors who could easily come down here on a Sunday and fish, and we have a considerable number of records and photographs of the Fishing Club and particularly the activity of netting the river for coarse fish, and we've got some very good records of that.

ES: I wanted to ask you -- in Patience's book about Hertingfordbury there's a photograph of the men taking out the flue [flow] net. Where is that? I wonder which spot of the river that is?

JB: Yes, it's just below the bridge.

ES: What, at Horns Mill?

JB: Between the bridge and the next house.

PB: Further up than ***** the end of the drive.

ES: Oh I see, I mean, there's no architecture or any feature to locate it.

PB: I mean it is in the Rutland Barby's [?] garden.

ES: Yes. So were you part of this Fishing Club?

JB: I was part of it only as a boy who joined in anything connected with amusing activity [laughs].

ES: So what did you catch?

JB: We...the object of the thing was to catch coarse fish...

ES: Pike and that sort of thing?

JB: ...because the Fishing Club wanted to restock the river with trout. And one of my earliest recollections was...they used to buy trout in...tiny little fish and let them loose in the river, and this was quite a performance in its small way [laughs].

ES: Were there large fish in the river then? Because we've got a record in The Mercury saying that somebody catches a 9lb pike and so on.

JB: There were quite a lot of large pike, and at Roxford House, where there's a moat at the bottom of the garden, that used to be full of pike. And I remember it particularly because I used to shoot them...[laughter]

ES: Shooting fish in a moat! It doesn't sound very sporting! When was that moat filled in then?

JB: The moat is still there.

ES: Is it? But dry.

JB: No, it's's at the bottom of the garden.

ES: I thought I'd seen it last Sunday.

JB: It's around what was the manor house of Roxford, you see.

PB: It's fed by 12 springs, and when they wanted to...when they cleaned it out last they got permission to possibly fill it again from the river, but in fact they had to keep the pumps pumping all night to keep the moat dry. So it's not fed by the river, it's fed by springs.

ES: And just the last query I've got from the talk...was this connection with the Bloomsbury Group. Was that an aunt?

JB: Yes. father had a sister called Faith who married a chap called Hubert Henderson at the end of World War I. He was the editor to begin with of a well-known weekly paper, and he became -- he wrote several books -- and became well known as an economist. Now Faith had been at the Slade School of Art, where she met several people connected with the Bloomsbury Group, and she and the brother called Nicholas knew a great -- this is interesting -- a great many members of the Bloomsbury Group. Now you might have thought at a superficial level that my father would subscribe to this interest in those people, but he did not do so because he did not approve of their lifestyle, and he was a serious, religious man. And although he was often interested and amused by the individuals of the Bloomsbury Group, in no way would he ever become part of it for the reasons I've given. But it's quite interesting -- the connection, and we did meet, through the Hendersons, us the children, all sorts of writers and artists and others connected with the Bloomsbury Group, because the Hendersons lived at that time in Hampstead and at their parties we used to meet the children of the people we're talking about. And later on Hubert Henderson -- he became an important chap in the realm of economics, the details of which I can't remember -- and he became later a Fellow of All Souls and moved to Oxford, where he died tragically early in about the '50s, I think, about '51 or so. But his children were fairly successful, and one of them, called Nico Henderson -- became a famous politician who has written books and is often heard talking and...

ES: Yes, yes. He was a diarist.

JB: That's right, yes. So that covers...

PB: He was an ambassador -- Paris, Moscow and...

JB: It's interesting in a way because it is the opposite to the inherited side of my father's life, which is Anglo-Irish, of some considerable way back, in that there is a place called Bagenalstown, which is and has been connected with the family until quite recently. And the family itself -- if I can diverge just for a moment -- came from Staffordshire, and it certainly settled in Ireland, this particular branch -- there are lots of Bagenals in Staffordshire -- this particular branch bought land...well, inherited land...were granted land near Newry. And then -- this was the 15th century we're talking about -- they moved from there to Carlow which is south of Dublin, which is where Bagenalstown is. But when I was driving about in Staffordshire trying to dig up bits of 'Bagenolia', as it were, I knew that there was a place called...a village called Bagnall and I set myself out to find this place, which was deep in...deep country full of bramble...lanes. Eventually I saw a board sticking out from a hedge and I got out of my car and I pulled the board out of the brambles, and it said, 'Please help to keep Bagnall tidy' [laughter]. So I knew I'd arrived in the right place. However, that's rather off the subject [laughs], but not totally so, in that we retained relations in Ireland until quite recently. And I myself went to work there in the '30s to learn nursery gardening from a well-known chap called Edward MacLycett [?Mack Lycett], who became in the course of time the Chief Herald. He came from a well-known family, who...


JB: I just wanted to make the point that I had...I went back to Ireland and started to learn nursery gardening.

ES: Was that what you did? What about when you went to Kenya?

JB: I haven't come to that, you see. Well then...the family...the Bagenal family, the head of the family, then sold in 1935 the house, the major Bagenal house, and at that time it looked extraordinarily difficult to make a living.

ES: Was this in Ireland?

JB: Yes, it was in Ireland, in County Carlow. It was a house called ?Bennykerry, and it was...the head of the family decided that there was no point in staying in Ireland, they'd never be able to make any money out of farming, and at the time Charlie Bagenal who looked after the place had spent his life in South Africa and married a South African, and he decided to go back to, as it was, Durban...and live in Durban. He said that County Carlow was a boring place, nobody played bridge well enough, and so on, and so they decided to uproot and go back. In the meanwhile the elder brother who was the head of the family, called Walter Bagenal, had made a lifetime's career in the wine trade in Australia, at Adelaide. He didn't want to come back either, so they decided literally to uproot. So I, feeling there was not much future there, came back to England and went into fruit farming, which I left a record of, as a labourer-improver, until the War came, and then in the course of time I went into the Army and went to Kenya in The King's African Rifles, as they were...

ES: Where did you do this fruit farming?

JB: In West Sussex, near Petworth, is where I went to, what was a well-known group called ***** Growers, which was an amalgam of about -- I don't know -- 8 or 10 farms, who had a co-operative pack house, and they were regarded as being very advanced. And I got there because my uncle Nicholas, Hope's younger brother Nicholas, worked at East Malling Research Station...Fruit Station, and he knew all the fruit farmers in the south of England, and he got me this job, and so I continued to do that until the War. And then, as I say, I went off -- the family already had connections with East Africa -- and I joined The King's African Rifles. At the end of the War I came back and became a member of the Department of Agriculture in Kenya, and I was joined, as it were, by my brother Beecham [Beauchamp?], who was a veterinary officer, and so we as it were became civilians in East Africa together, which was a great help, helping each other. And he worked at a place called Nanyuki until the early '50s, and then he moved to the Masai country, and he eventually bought a farm and had a tragic ending, in that he got cerebral malaria, which was misdiagnosed, and there he died, tragically. And his wife Elizabeth went on managing the farm for a few years. In the meanwhile he had five children, who needed looking after...educating and so on, and my father Hope took a big part in. Several of the children came back here and were...and friends clubbed together and helped.

PB: Jane and Julia really lived with Hope and Alison. They went to the Ware Grammar School.

JB: Yes. So, then...

ES: And you met Africa?

JB: Ah yes.

ES: What were you doing there, Patience?

PB: I was...had been helping my aunt and uncle, in what was then Rhodesia, run a nursery school, and I had done a certain amount of climbing in my...when I was in Europe and in England and in Switzerland, and one of my ambitions was to climb Mount Kenya, so I was put in touch by mutual friends with John, because he did a lot of climbing in Kenya.

JB: Yes, I became keen on climbing through a friend who was District Commissioner at Machakos, which was where I worked at that time. And I climbed with him and also with a well-known Nairobi photographer, and I -- this is in the '50s and Mau Mau was starting to be something to be taken notice of and they were beginning to infest the forests -- and when I went up Mount Kenya, which was two or three years running in the late '40s...early '50s, the Mau Mau hadn't really got going, so I could walk up through the forest with only animals to fear. By the time Patience got in touch with me -- we had mutual friends in Nairobi -- that was not possible, so we decided that we'd have a go at Kilimanjaro together, which is higher, but in a way easier.

PB: Much easier.

JB: It's a long and difficult walk, 19 000-odd, whereas Kenya is only 17 000-odd, and we together with a mutual friend got together and we set off and we climbed Kilimanjaro together. And the mutual friend, in a way, fortunately for me, got ill and ceased to be a contender for Patience's hand, if that's the right expression [laughter]. So he fell out [laughs] and...

ES: You won the day!

JB: I won the day, if that's the right way of putting it. In the course of time we drove home...drove back to Nairobi, where Patience was staying with our mutual friend, who was in the veterinary department. And we got engaged somewhere on the way back. So that...she then went home, and...

PB: To England.

JB: ...I can't quite remember why you went home, but anyhow you did.

PB: Well, I thought I'd like to see my family.

JB: She hadn't been back for a long time, and then she came out and we were married at a place called Kabati near Nairobi, and then we went to live at Machakos together before in the course of time we were moved from Machakos, which is 40 miles from Nairobi, to the famous rather wild district called Baringo which is in the middle of the Rift Valley, north of a place called Nakuru. And there we lived a fairly primitive life, miles from anywhere, more or less a hundred miles to the major shopping centre. And...but it was a lovely place, a really lovely place, looking out over the Rift Valley, and we stayed there till 1964, and then we moved into Nakuru which was a sub-centre, where I became...where I was given a special job of looking after and being a secretary and executive officer of a provincial agricultural board. And we stayed there till 1967, when we job was...well, was called at the time sometimes 'Africanised', and then we came back and moved into Leaside with my parents...

PB: And three children.

JB: Yes. So we were back home, and lucky to have somewhere to go, because -- and this is a great thing -- I didn't have to buy a house like most people. We moved into one end of this, and together with a few outhouses we were able to live here with my parents, because Patience was very kind and good with them -- this was a major wouldn't have been easy if she hadn't been like that. So we were back where we started.

ES: And what was happening at Roxford meantime? When you got back, had...?

JB: I'll tell you. grandparents Stuart and Alison Hogg moved from Roxford in about 1931 or '32 to Hertingfordbury to a house that was...I think, I can't remember what it was called...

PB: The Hill? Where the Rideouts live.

JB: ...The Hill, now lived in by the Rideouts. My grandparents moved there and Roxford then as it were ceased to be part of the family, but a series of interesting people succeeded each other in living there, and -- we're now in the early '30s, as I say -- the first of the most interesting was a man called Christopher Hussey, who's well known as the editor of some aspects of...

PB: Country Life.

JB: ...Country Life, and he came there really for his honeymoon, and he was a most interesting chap and he knew a great deal about every country house in the place. But he was only there for...I don't know, six months or so, and several people succeeded him fairly quickly. Eventually came some people called Pasteur, who were there during the War, World War II, and left towards the end of it. Then came somebody called Ashley Havenden...

PB: It was sold, wasn't it, at that point...that was the point of it, the Bayfordbury estate was sold.

JB: Yes, you're quite right. It was sold. The whole of Bayfordbury's was sold.

ES: I hadn't realised that Roxford was part of the Bayfordbury estate.

JB: Oh that's most important, because Bayfordbury was sold in '45.

ES: Oh right, that's when... They owned our allotments, in West Street, and that's when they were sold, yes.

JB: We had the catalogue, and we father was enabled therefore to buy Leaside on exceedingly good terms, and Roxford was then purchased in about '49 -- there were one or two people in between who don't matter, I don't think -- by a man called Ashley Havenden...

ES: The painter.

JB: ...who is a commercial artist, a painter, an exceedingly -- what's the word? -- a chap who loved the feelings, for being a bit of a *****, as it were, and he had a great many influential painter friends, because he'd made his name as a commercial artist, and by that time he was well known and well off. And...

PB: In fact he was a patron, wasn't he, of a lot of...including...I mean, he had drawing lessons with Moore.

JB: A patron of what?

PB: Of artists. I mean, he helped them by buying their things or having drawing lessons...

JB: That is so, yes, he was, he was a very influential man and he loved being an influential man, and he knew a great many artists, and he was also a club man, so he was a useful chap to know. But at this point it's interesting to note that, if you had looked on purpose for anybody who was more different from my father [laughs], you wouldn't have found one, because he and Ashley were absolutely the opposite of each other in every way. But Ashley in spite of his love of being seen to be rich was also a very hard-working chap, but one met the most extraordinary people there who were his friends. And we enjoyed this. I particularly remember coming back and going to parties of Ashley's, and people came up to me and said, 'Oh, Mr Bagenal,' -- I was wearing old Kenya clothes, bush jacket -- 'Mr Bagenal, who designs your clothes?' [laughter] And I said, 'Well, it's funny you should ask, but actually this was made by an Asian sitting on a verandah with a tin roof in a very out-of-the-way part of Kenya.' But it so happened that in England at that time bush jackets were becoming popular [laughter] but...

ES: Not many of them had actually been in the bush!

JB: No, quite. Now, Ashley's son, Michael Havenden -- he had two children -- then in the course of time became attached to my sister. They ran at Roxford for a period the farm on Roxford land -- that's Michael Havenden, Ashley's son. But Michael Havenden was not really adapted just to be a small farmer. He then came under the influence of my father here, who pressed him to widen his scope and go for something rather different. And he took up really a new career and he became a great pupil of a well-known chap called Hoskins who was a great writer on vernacular architecture, and from there he went on and became an economic historian and went abroad all over the place. Now...what happened next?

ES: Did he marry...? Did you say he went with your sister?

PB: He married her -- 'dear reader, he married her'.

ES: He married her, yes.

JB: He married my sister Kate. It was another case of a famous American thing -- 'propinquity' is a basis for much marriage selection [laughs].

ES: How are we doing on your list, Patience?

PB: Did you want to talk, John, about the various people who used to help your parents here -- Whitaker, and Albert, and...?

JB: In the course of time my grandfather Stuart Hogg, who was called 'Bar' [spelling?], had a way of attaching people to him, and he had a garden worker called Whitaker helped by a well-known chap called Albert who became a chauffeur. And here I have to say that we...we ourselves never had a car here until after World War II, but Bar, my grandfather, bought a car in the mid '20s which was kept in the barn at Roxford and driven rather incompetently by Albert [laughs]. And -- I'm just running quickly through people who were attached -- then there was the keeper, the river keeper who looked after the river -- the Roxford Fishing Club, and...

ES: Did you say that he lived at Horns Mill?

JB: I did, yes. His name was Jordan -- the river keeper was called Jordan.

ES: And he lived in what is now being converted, yes? [the former Brickendon Liberty Workhouse opposite junction of Horns Mill Road with Brickendon Lane].

JB: Yes, the one nearest Hertford, which now looks quite different. He lived there, and his son called Tom Jordan lived there for a bit.

PB: He lived there -- I mean, we went to see him, not so many years ago, about 10 years ago, I think.

JB: Yes. Now these people became devoted to my grandparents, and to us here, and my grandfather ran Leaside garden together with Roxford for a long period, until gradually my mother took it on in the '30s. But they became great figures in our lives, great figures, and were unbelievably good and kind to us. I'm glad you mentioned them -- there was something else there quite unexpected, isn't there, in that list...?

PB: Well, to go back to the Sears -- Doris is an interesting woman.

JB: That's true. Doris Sears worked for us until the late '20s or early '30s. Then she went to work in Australia and -- I can't remember quite why or how -- but anyhow we enabled this to happen, and she married and she came back to Africa, didn't she...

PB: She was a matron in a school in Rhodesia.

JB: ...and she married in Rhodesia, and she settled as a settler's wife in Rhodesia, and came up to stay with us in Kenya and by this time she had been...experienced many people and she had become, as it were, splendidly self-educated and was a great character in her way and was an enormous help to us and my parents.

PB: She came when she was about 14 or 15.

JB: Yes, she came here as a maid, as she would have been called at the time, and became devoted to us and really educated by my parents, if you can see, insofar as they treated her as a friend and not as a servant, and she learnt this and that from them in the most amazing...

PB: She ran the Girl Guides.

ES: Did she live in?

PB: I think she did live in, they did live in, didn't they, Doris and her sister?

JB: Oh yes, they did, she and her sister Jessie who married well, too, and used to come back here and... But the whole thing about Leaside and my father was that he wanted to live the simple life, and write and have plenty of quiet time for writing, and he was unbelievably non-material, and I remember recording that I came across the fact that people used to, when he sent in a bill, it was nearly always pitifully small and inadequate, and somebody said, 'Well, for heaven's sake, here's Hope Bagenal's bill -- stick a nought or two on it, otherwise the Council won't believe they're getting the right advice!' [laughter], which was typical in a way.

PB: Your mother was very good at drawing people out, wasn't she, because somebody else -- I can't remember who -- she...Kate, John's sister, had a very good voice, and they all...they both went to singing lessons and she brought the best out in anybody who...

JB: She was very good with people and warm-hearted and had friends all round of every sort, and she could draw people out, and she was in a way the most amazing woman, but totally...not at all intellectual, as it were, so...she and the Bloomsbury aspect of things didn't particularly hit it off.

ES: What about your grandparents, on the other side, not the Hoggs?

JB: The Bagenals? Ah, well, Hope's father Philip Bagenal who was born in Dublin -- for the first part of his life he worked for the Unionist Party as a sort of executive, and he married a cousin called Harriet Hoare -- who was part of a great skein of intermingled families going back, rather out of our subject -- but anyhow...and he one point they both decided that Ireland was being too difficult for them, so he came to London and he...just for the moment I can't remember what he did...

PB: He worked for somebody called Chaplin, didn't he.

JB: Yes, that's right, he was private secretary to Chaplin who was a Minister of

Agriculture, I think, and he worked for him for some time and by this time they were living in London -- my father was born in Dublin -- and by this time he was at Uppingham School, where he met incidentally Cuthbert Croughton who was a master at...that was how they met originally. And he became -- I can't remember what the job was -- anyhow he was posted first to York and then to Harrogate. In this job, which was connected with...

PB: Education. He was a School Inspection...

JB: An Inspector, yes, of Schools, that's right, he became a School Inspector. He was very good with people, widely educated, and was a good civil servant. They left Harrogate and came to Wimbledon in World War I to a house which my father described -- and this is a typical bit of Bagenal description -- which was 'comfy enough inside and ugly enough outside to suit them admirably' [laughs]. And there they stayed, and my grandfather Philip Bagenal died, in 1925 I think, and she, Harriet, my grandmother, then moved to Hampstead to live near Faith, her daughter, in Hampstead, where she stayed, and I think she died in Oxford or near Oxford. By this time Faith and Hubert had gone to Oxford.

ES: So when you were a boy living here, did you go into Hertford in a trap?

JB: How did we go? Ah, this is a good point. My parents didn't have a car until after the...World War II. Bar had a trap and horse, for which what we called the coach house -- a shed -- was built...the horse at one end and the trap at another, and Albert used to drive my...

CASSETTE 2, SIDE A T.2002.217.2

JB: My grandfather was a great bicyclist. He had...he kept a bike here, of enormously big proportions...very high, I remember, taking it over from him, and he bicycled to Rome in the past and all over the place. But here by this time he still bicycled a bit but he was getting very blind, he got very blind in the end and he used to bicycle, but more and more he was taken by Albert here and there. He was a great gardener and started a rock garden here but was very blind, so one would see him as it were kneeling on the ground with his face almost touching the flowers seeing what was what -- that was one of his great things, and in the course of time, of course, he had to give up bicycling. And at that point I remember a story about him going into Hertingfordbury Station -- this was at about 9 o'clock -- when I went to the station I went around about 8.15...he went, I think, about 9 or 10 -- Albert drove him in, and he was an impetuous man and going down by the corner there near where the station was he used to start shouting at...either the porter or at somebody, and at this point somebody heard him say, 'Hark at Mr Hogg hollering down the hill!' [laughter] -- typical bit of...

PB: What about Chris Beck and the fritillaries?

JB: That's a good point, that's the whole point about...Chris Beck who was a great friend of the Hoggs, both of them, and used to go on holidays with them, lived at Amwell, was a well-known gardener in her own right. And...

PB: She also ran, during the War, the Land Army, the Harpenden Land...she was the organiser.

ES: I thought John said Chris. I knew it was a woman, but I thought he said Christopher?

JB: Chris was her name. Christabel, I suppose, probably was her name. She thought that our road was so awful that quite often she would leave her car at the end of the, and walk up here. But she came here a great deal in her capacity as secretary of the Fishing Club and as a great friend, and also as a gardener. They had at least...I mean, she was a really great gardener...and her garden, I think, was well known until relatively recently.

PB: Peggy Melville was her niece and she used to come too.

ES: Of course, Peggy's name is Christabel. It's strange, isn't it. And of course Peggy was involved in the Land Army, in the organisation of it.

JB: That's right. My sister was in the Land Army, North Hertfordshire. Now just go through the list, will you, again.

ES: But when you were a child going into Hertford, presumably this was much more like a dusty lane, along to Horns Mill and so on? Or was it?

JB: It was beginning to get...I think it was...I can't tell you when it was tarmacked, but it was tarmacked, I think, before the War, I think, as I remember it.

ES: But has it always been so open, with so few hedges, the road to Horns Mill -- it's always been open like that, has it?

JB: Oh yes, my grandfather got on with the Clinton Bakers, who lived up there, and there were a whole series of them, including Admiral Baker who lived at Bayford Manor, the house on the right. And when Harry Baker died, which was about 1935, Admiral Baker, I think, took on the...the bigger house. Oh, in the War it became something else, didn't it.

PB: Yes, it became a Barnardo's or something.

JB: It became a Barnardo's, something like that. Anyhow, Admiral Baker's daughter Jane is going still...lives in London and comes down and sees friends round here.

PB: She's much involved in the Pinetum at Bayfordbury -- I mean, they keep in close touch with Edward Eastwood.

ES: Does he run it, the Pinetum?

PB: Edward Eastwood, yes.

JB: One of the features of those days was...Air...what are they called?...Air Circuses used to come and work from a field where the pit is now behind us. I remember going up and flying for 5/--, sort of thing, round and about, and they were quite usual, those Air...

ES: What did you fly in?

JB: I can't remember what sort of plane it was.

PB: Did it have two wings on top of each other...a biplane or...?

JB: Something like that. Both in Ireland and here I went up quite often.

ES: You imagine that those planes were probably relics of the First World War, the ones you flew in, the Circus probably bought them *****, so they're probably like those that Biggles flew in, in the early days, with those struts...

PB: And then of course during the last War there was the German aeroplane that came down just behind Roxford.

JB: Oh yes, that needs talking about it. During the...this was...when?...about '41 or so, the...a plane was shot down, came down near the wood up there, and the pilot was rounded up by a series of farm workers with pitchforks [laughs] and...I can't remember what happened later, but my mother recounted how this had happened, to me abroad. And one of the interesting things that now occurs to me is that in that we were all abroad so much we're specially well furnished with letters about our lives here, both from...from both parents, and the opposite way -- our letters back. And that is of course not so with people who don't...

ES: No, not so in most families. It's a wonderful record, isn't it.

JB: It so happens that my father wrote a lot and wrote easily, and therefore we wrote a great deal, and because of that we have a great many letters, both his and ours, recounting life at the time. And this is now proving exceedingly interesting, and I've made a collection of my father's letters right back to the beginning of the century. And we have -- my mother never threw anything away -- so we've also got my letters back here and we didn't realise at the time how...what a store this was of interesting material until we began to work our way back into the history of each parent and of here. What have you got there in the way of...?

PB: Well, I was wondering if...the Belgian refugees was quite an interesting interlude during the First World War.

JB: I think they came here because Stuart Hogg was an office-bearer in some City outfit which dealt with Belgian refugees. And Belgian refugees inhabited both Roxford and here at some time, because in a sense we must think of these two as joined. And they were here, there are pictures of them, and quite what they did apart from looking after other people, I don't know, but they did...were a feature.

ES: I wasn't aware that there were refugees from Belgium in the First World War. Why particularly?

PB: Because it was invaded, wasn't it, by Germany.

ES: Yes, yes, I realise that, but I'm surprised, I suppose, that they were able to get out. It's not quite the same as the fleeing Jews in the Second World War, who knew for 10 years beforehand that they were threatened. I'm surprised that...I'm only saying that I'm just surprised that there were refugees from Belgium, but...

JB: You talk for a moment about your collection of

PB: That was a picture ***** [?in Graveson’s]...taken by ?Elsdon of Leaside in a book. That was really just about when they came here. That is John's mother, sister and aunts and uncles coming down on a visit to Leaside when they first rented it. [William Graveson was a local historian and naturalist as well as shopkeeper].

ES: It was just obviously an accident that Hope and Faith -- I mean, the sort of merging of the Virtues, with Patience.

PB: That was an accident, yes, but Hope and Faith...

ES: Oh yes, I always half thought you must belong to the Hope and Faith part of of the family. I always knew you couldn't!

PB: Hope was called Hope because his...they had had a child before, who had died, and Hope was rather a sickly child -- I think, anyhow -- and so they called him Hope.

ES: Sort of, like saying, 'We've got our fingers crossed.'

PB: Yes [laughter]. That shows the house before we had the porch, and that extra window put in. But there's the Belgians, and I think those are the servants there, quite early on -- I don't know who they are...they were ***** John's grandmother's day.

ES: **** the cook and Alice.

PB: And that's Alison. ***** Margaret *****.

ES: Lovely...these are like paintings, aren't they.

PB: They are nice, aren't they. They're sort of tiny photographs, just blown up. That's Hope and Alison.

ES: So Simon Hogg is...

PB: Simon Hogg? I don't know who Simon Hogg is.

ES: No...I'm thinking of Simon Lamb.

PB: Simon Lamb the other child of Ashley, he's Venice's son. So Venice was Michael's...

ES: So it was Venice Havenden...Venice and Michael Havenden...

PB: ...and she married Alistair Lamb.

ES: ...and Simon is the son.

PB: We've just had the latest photograph this very morning of the son's younger brother's baby *****. Now they are great friends. 'Leaside 1915'. That's this wonderful rock garden they created -- that's also a photocopy of an Elsdon photograph. These are Elsdon photographs.

ES: Amazing that it's so well documented, the garden, don't you think? I mean, so fortunate for you since it's such a...

PB: Now he was a...he was somebody...John Laird, who became an eminent psychologist, but before that he'd had a sort of period of nervous breakdown, and Alison had been a great help to him, and he rented Water Hall for about a year or two as a farmer *****.

ES: Did you see that public notice in The Mercury last week advertising the decision to refuse planning permission? But what interested me -- instead of saying...I thought the applicants were S Q Environmental, but they referred to the applicants as 'Water Hall'.

PB: Yes, well, I think they call it Water Hall farm, yes, they do, yes.

ES: We're not going to say anything else of historical interest, are we?


JB: ...and that is, that now we've come to 50 years since the Festival of Britain was held, and I particularly remember it because I came on leave from Kenya on a ship which went right round the coast and I met a lot of distant cousins in South Africa. And I got here and the Festival Hall was about to be built, and as I've said earlier my father liked the simple life and consequently there was no telephone at Leaside, not even during the War -- surprising now...I mean people did hold that against him, because it didn't seem fair on my mother. But anyhow, he became the chief acoustic consultant for RFH, the Royal Festival Hall, together with one or two other chaps who are well known working at the Building Research Station. Anyhow, I was reminded of this by re-reading the account of the time, in which the chairman of the committee which was dealing with the Festival Hall -- my father was the consultant, acoustic consultant, he wasn't the architect -- but this chap or one of his lieutenants rang up in desperation two or three years before the Festival Hall was opened, and said...

PB: He can't have rung up, he must have...written.

JB: Well, somebody contacted -- they couldn't as you say ring up -- and said, 'I really think, now that we're going to have a planning committee for RFH every week, I really think you ought to think about having a telephone' [laughs], 'because I don't see how we're going to run the planning thing without it.' And my father said, 'Oh well, I suppose I'll have to!' So he went onto the telephone. This was 1949 or '50, so we didn't have a telephone at all until then, we simply used the Roxford one, we nearly always knew the people at Roxford, and if there was a special problem we were able to go up there [laughs]. And it's rather a mark of what 'the simple life' really meant [laughs].

PB: When did you get water and electricity?

JB: Oh yes. We didn't have...we didn't have water coming on the mains until 1939 and my father then with an element of clairvoyance said to himself, 'Well, the War's coming, it would be a great help', so we would go onto the electric, and from then on we were on the electric, and that certainly was a great help during the War to have.

PB: Because of course you had evacuees.

JB: Yes, we haven't talked about the evacuees.


JB: ...evacuees...1939, two German girls...Austrian girls came to live here, I can't remember by what means. They lived in Leaside and did music with my mother, and in the course of time somebody in desperation, looking round for places to house evacuees from East London, also produced a whole carload of evacuees, and my mother almost in desperation said, 'Right-oh...well, I mean, if you come here you can sleep in the coach house, or anywhere we can.' So the place was literally bung-full of people.

PB: So we needed the water and the electricity.

JB: Well, the early years of the War, it was quite difficult for me coming back, or any of the others, to find somewhere to sleep.

ES: Were the Ridge family evacuees then?

JB: Yes, the Ridges were the main thing, and the father worked on the railway in London and came here in the weekends, there were a lot of family.

ES: They look rather a jolly family.

PB: I think they were, weren't they.

JB: They were very jolly, yes.

PB: Tony and Rosie -- they stayed for about a year, but they've stayed close was a very important nine months.

JB: The thing is, they became well-known in New York in themselves as musicians and were a success and they stayed extraordinarily loyal to us, and used to come back and go on coming back.

PB: They still do, and they ring up, 'When is the hundredth anniversary? They have not told us what day it is.'

JB: Now all that was due to my mother's warmth of heart. I mean, an enormous number of well-meaning people would have perhaps wanted to help, but to be able to manage that number of people was absolutely flattening, and we sometimes resented it -- coming back from the Army or whatever, we sometimes resented it -- but we could see how wonderful it was that she could master these people, and how she had time to do that and write to us and everything else, I don't know, but she did anyhow -- it was a great feature of our lives.

PB: And keeping Hope sort of quiet and contemplative at one end of the house.

ES: That can be a full-time job, can't it.

JB: My father was away a lot...he stayed with the Bretts. When he worked at the Building Research Station at Watford, he lived with my mother's sister and husband Bertie and Margaret Brett in St Albans, and he stayed there and went on a bike or somehow to the Building Research Station, and only came here in the weekends, which in a way was easier for my mother, I think, that -- much easier than having him here, because he did not like lots of children screaming round the house and I think he wouldn't have worked, probably.

ES: No, it wouldn't have brought out the best in him.

JB: No, it certainly wouldn't.

ES: Right, have you exhausted this, then?

JB: I think we've covered a great deal of...just read through...

PB: Background to family; coming to Leaside and Roxford -- we've done that; Fishing Club; Leaside -- development of garden, I think we've talked about that; coach house; lighting, heating, water; relationship with the landlord; sale

of Bayfordbury -- would you like to see that?

ES: I would like to borrow it actually.

PB: The Bayfordbury Sale catalogue.

ES: The reason I'm particularly interested -- I think all the allotments locally are under threat from...well, you know they're talking about building on brownfield sites and so on, and it was a Clinton Baker...a bit of Clinton Baker land.

PB: He's just produced this wonderful map.

JB: Now tell me, how is this record kept? [gap] Well now, in spite of my father's wish for a quiet life, he did attract here several people who lived with us and who were remarkable in themselves, and one of them was a man called John Laird, who began life as a...on a trip to the Pacific with a man called ?Rivers, and later on he became a farmer very briefly at Water Hall, the next farm to Roxford. And he was an eccentric man and he set up with a woman who was a craniologist called Doris, and they produced a boy who was exceptionally clever called Richard Laird, who is well known now, and...

PB: An economist, a professor of economy, adviser to the Russian Government.

JB: ...and he got a scholarship to Eton, and on one occasion -- this is the story -- he came back from Eton and said, 'It'd really be much easier for my life if you two chaps got married.' So they got married and were immediately not as happy as they had been before, but anyhow Richard, as I say, became well known in the course of time, and John Laird became a great friend here and was a great admirer of my mother's -- and this is in the '20s -- and I used to get awfully bored with him because he was, I thought, too attentive. Anyhow, he became a great friend and went on coming back, but he led a fairly unusual life and he much enjoyed asking people about their lives and sex lives and so on.

PB: He was a psychologist, trained under Jung.

JB: He was a psychologist and he became an awful bore in that way. She had left him by this time and he came back here towards the end of his life to see us, and by this time he appeared to be rather battered. He was battered because he'd been too attentive to somebody's wife and the husband had set about him [laughs]. Anyhow, he came here -- the children were young...

PB: Our children.

JB: ...and he came and sat on our beds and asked us awkward questions about Africa and so on. And he really was the most remarkable chap and there must be a whole book about him. But anyhow it was rather curious that my father countenanced this chap, I always thought. And then in the Second...World War II, they had as a paying guest a man called John ?Pennoyer who had made his name as secretary of the British School at either Rome or Athens or both and he never married. But he became a great friend of my father's and in the second half of World War II he became a paying guest and was a great help and did a lot of gardening and was an extremely interesting man, and particularly to my father who had been both at the British School at Rome and at the British School at Athens. And my father of the things I haven't mentioned is that he wrote several plays, one of which was based on the British School at Rome, and...but that's just another aspect of those two people. Anyhow that is more or less it, I think. Thank you.