This is an entirely personal post and one that I have wanted to write for a while, but a busy work schedule, sponsored blog posts and life generally kept getting in the way! I'd love you to read it, but I also appreciate it is probably only of real interest to family, friends and others born at Shardeloes in Amersham! But if you are intrigued, here goes ... I love family history and it is so important to record these memories or they soon get forgotten.
Earlier this year my dear dad was enjoying a walk on Old Amersham High Street and happened to go past Amersham Museum, in their window was a big display all about the 'Shardeloes Babies' and so my dad went in to find out more! My mum was born at Shardeloes on 14th June 1944 and so she is a Shardeloes baby and this is her story.
From London to Lane End
Treena Kathleen Boon was born just 8 days after D-Day, the day when Allied troops landed on the coast of Normandy, France and began the campaign to liberate Europe and defeat Germany. It was the turning point of World War II.
My grandparents, Kathleen (Kit) Mary Hoare (neé Bush) and Alfred Hoare were Londoners, they lived in and around the Putney and Hammersmith area, and both came from very close-knit, large, working class families. They married on 23rd May 1936 at St Clements on the Fulham Palace Road. Kit was late to motherhood and Treena was to be their only child, although she was absolutely brought up in a typical London family with the cousins in and out of each other's houses and backyards and freedom to play in the streets!
Kit came from a family of 9 siblings, but there were three sisters who stayed very close, there was my Auntie Pat and Auntie Agnes, all three were very petite (not sure that word was used much in those days, they were small shall we say)! But fierce! They would argue like 'cat and dog' exactly as sisters do, but always, always stuck together no matter what. The brothers of the family were Harry-Boy, George (Ginger) and James (Jim). Cousins included Norman, Babe (Muriel), Shelagh (like a sister), Jonny, Paul and Uncle Ronnie who was an RAF Navigator flying on Lancaster Bombers. He was only 21 when he was shot down over Germany on 21st January 1944 and his memorial is in Berlin, Germany.
The story goes that during the bombing of London, one of the sisters, Nell evacuated herself to Lane End, soon after Auntie Pat travelled with her son, Norman to join her. All school-age children were evacuated along with pregnant women, mothers with younger children as well as the disabled, their carers and many teachers. It was the biggest mass migration in British history. But ours is a typical story of London families all sticking together, with one making the decision to leave London and the rest following!
Pat and young Norman were in lodgings at Lane End and Norman was at the village school at nearby Wheeler End Common and at some point Kit joined them along with her mother (Nanny Bush) and another cousin, Shelagh. We have two addresses for them, then referred to as 'the Council Houses' - 12 Park Lane and 16 Park Lane - it was No. 16 where my mother stayed as a newborn with her mum! The address is now Wrights Close.
I'd love to know why they ended up at Lane End although I do have some clues ...
Left: my mother as a baby, this photograph was taken in High Wycombe in 1944 before they returned to London and Right: me as a baby with my mother (taken by my dad)!
Operating searchlights at Booker Airfield
Having been discharged from the regular army in March 1934, my grandfather later joined the Territorial Army and was based at The Duke of York's Barracks in Chelsea before transferring to the Army Reserve. His age kept him away from the front line but for part of the war he was stationed at Booker Airfield, near Lane End, operating the searchlights and ack ack guns, he would also carry out Guard Duty looking after Prisoners of War.
I asked for some more information on a local Facebook group. Lane End and the surrounding villages were used a billeting villages for people who worked at Booker Airfield. One lady told me 'I remember my Nan telling the story of one night, there was a knock on the door and a lady asked if she could stay in the two up two down cottage as she had been evacuated. Nan said yes of course, and in trouped 10 people including children, Desperate times!" And another lady explained "I was born in Lane End and my mum was evacuated to Marlow after the blitz and worked as a secretary at Booker Airfield, she said she hadn't a clue what they were doing there! She met my dad and never went back to London."
My Uncle Norman remembered "Regarding Booker Airfield, we watched daily the pilots being trained and on one occasion, we heard of a crashed Canadian bomber, which we ransacked and pillaged as young boys! On one school day we felt the ground shake and the windows rattle, as a doodlebug exploded just north of Lane End."
That doodlebug destroyed Lane End Telephone Exchange! Betty Massey recalls how she dived under a hedge when she heard the doodlebug, which destroyed Lane End's telephone exchange in 1944. The full story can be found in the Bucks Free Press.
Originally known as Marlow Airport, it was requisitioned by the Air Ministry in 1939 and in 1941 opened as RAF Booker and was the base for the 21 Elementary Flying Training School flying mainly Tiger Moth training aircraft.
I live very close to the airfield (now Wycombe Air Park) and we often walk through the woodland nearby and at the end of the airfield you can still see one of the old pillboxes which formed part of the ground defences. It makes me think of what life would have been like for my grandfather at that time.
Shardeloes in Amersham, Buckinghamshire is a large country house and was the family home of the Tyrwhitt-Drakes until it was requisitioned in 1939 to be used as a maternity hospital to provide mothers, mainly from the south and east of London, with a safe place to have their babies away from the danger of the London bombings. Some 3,000 babies were born there, including Sir Tim Rice, it had the lowest mortality rate in the country (1.676 per 1,000). Every mother in labour had a general anaesthetic which was not common practice elsewhere.
In June 1944, my grandfather was on standby to go to the Kent coast with his TA unit. He was waiting to be sent over to France when news reached him that his wife had gone into labour and that things were looking very bleak and mother and baby were not expected to survive. He left his unit and travelled to Shardeloes - possibly without permission!
My grandfather had to make the decision to save his wife if the worst happened, it must have been a terrifying time. Of course, the fact that I am writing this story nearly 80 years later, means that both mother and baby did survive the birth and baby Treena Kathleen was taken back to Lane End as a newborn and stayed until later in 1944 when it was safe to return to London.
Then back to Buckinghamshire
My mother grew up in Hammersmith, she had a wonderful loving and happy childhood, with lots of freedom to explore London, she enjoyed visiting the museums and would often go off exploring for the day with her younger cousin Paul, she was an expert at navigating the London Underground. We took mum back to Hammersmith a few years ago for a trip down memory lane!
My grandfather was working for Harrods as part of the delivery team (he never did learn to drive and would get around on his trusty old bicycle). Mum remembers meeting him near to Hammersmith Bridge after he finished work at the Harrods Depository. She also remembers as a child being allowed to visit the secret underground tunnel system underneath Harrods on the Brompton Road! Weekends were spent swimming or joining in other activities at the Harrodian Club in Barnes and I remember as a child going to the Children's Christmas Parties there, and then later on I was allowed to join the adults at the annual Dinner and Dance!
When mum was about 8 or 9, she was very sick, her appendix burst and she had to have emergency surgery, again she was in a life or death situation, fighting peritonitis but after spending many weeks recovering in hospital, her parents were told to 'take her to the countryside' to convalesce. My grandmother bought her back to their friends at Lane End.
After leaving school at 15, mum worked as a Window Dresser for Richard Shops before becoming a Sales Assistant at Wallace Heaton in New Bond Street. At age 19, she met my dad who was also working at Wallace Heaton (known as the Queen's Photographers), he proposed to her on the staircase in the shop after only 3 months of courting! They married at the RC Church of St Augustine under the Hammersmith Flyover in September 1963 and moved to a small rented cottage in Haywards Heath, quite a contrast from London life, they both commuted for a while! They bought their first house in 1966 in Orpington in Kent and and I was born later that year. When I was 5 we moved to Bearsted in Kent, my two sisters were born soon after and we stayed there until I was 15. When my dad was offered a new job working for Canon Cameras, we had to relocate to the other side of London and my mum asked if we could go back to Buckinghamshire so we settled in Beaconsfield, not far from where she was born at Shardeloes.
Then when I was in my 20s and house hunting with my now husband, we ended up buying our 'cottage in the woods' which is just a stone's throw from Booker Airfield and the house where mum lived as a newborn baby in Lane End. Sadly by this point my grandparents had both passed away but mum was always delighted that we'd come full circle and were back where she was born.
And back to Lane End
When mum's health declined in 2020 and we had to make the decision to find her a suitable care home, we settled on the one at Lane End, it seemed to be fate and therefore the right decision for her that she is back living in the village where she was as a newborn baby. The home overlooks the common she walked on and played on as a child convalescing, the house she lived in is just across the road and as a family we find this incredibly comforting.
Were you a Shardeloes baby?
Amersham Museum have started a project to create a database of as many names as possible of the babies born at Shardeloes when it was a maternity hospital both during WWII and for a while after the end of the war. If you were a Shardeloes baby, please do get in touch with them, you can add your birth details on their website, give them a call or pop in!
My grandparents were fondly known by their three granddaughters as Little Nanny and Little Grandad, they did eventually leave London, when Little Grandad retired from Harrods they accepted a new council house in Wellingborough and yes they joined Auntie Pat and Aunt Aggy who were already there! We had Big Nanny and Big Grandad too, my paternal grandparents, and no they weren't big, just bigger! With political correctness gone mad, we wouldn't be allowed to use these names now!
There are so many stories to tell and it worries me that these special memories fade over time and become diluted in the sharing of them. I hope that my post keeps some of these fond memories alive a little longer, even if it is only family that read my post! Big credit to my dad who has worked really hard on the family tree and we are very lucky to have a lot of photographs - because both him and mum worked in the photographic trade!
Welcome to Fifty & Fab, a lifestyle blog to inspire you. I am a blogger with a passion for writing about health, menopause, fitness, beauty and style with a focus on the over 50's.
Subscribe below to receive regular updates by email:
Hi, I’m Michelle and my blog Fifty & Fab is all about my journey into and through my 50s. I started this blog in 2016 with the purpose of helping other women at this stage of life. I’m delighted that my blog has grown to over 13k visitors per month. Visit my Work with Me page and request my Media Kit for details of product reviews, blogging services and social media content creation.
Join my mailing list (above) for regular updates and don’t forget to look at my social media pages too..