Fanny Teal and James Daborn.

James Daborn married Fanny Teal in 1899. He was Churchwarden from 1914 – 1932, helped to run the Institute, and played an active role in local affairs. Fanny was the daughter of John Teal, the gardener at Highams Farm. Margaret Christie was their granddaughter.

“My Grandmother Fanny Teal met my Grandfather James Daborn when she was 12 and a half, but she didn’t marry him until she was in her late twenties. They married in 1899.

“Her first pregnancy was a twin pregnancy, which didn’t survive, and she was told by her doctor that she probably would have no more children, but in any case they weren’t to try for at least 5 years. So there’s quite a gap between her having the twins and when Aunt Dorrie was born.

“In the end Fanny had three children. There was Dorothy the eldest, then there’s my mother, Emily, and James came suddenly out of the blue quite a bit later.


Brick Hill (Photograph by Roy Smithers. With thanks to Mark Stroud.)

“James’s family were from Brick Hill, but not Fanny’s family. They were strictly Highams, and Fanny and James moved in there with her father. But when he died they were given the tenancy of Oak Tree Cottage. That was owned by Highams as well.


Brick Hill (Photograph by Roy Smithers. With thanks to Mark Stroud.)

“It must have been a great change, because if you look at the farmhouse at Highams it’s big, and Oak Tree Cottage is a lot smaller. It must have been very hard work as well. The water was from the well, half way down the garden path, and there were no mod cons.

“Fanny was poultry mad. She loved them. At Oak Tree Cottage in the kitchen there was what we call in the West Country a Bodley Stove, a black iron range, that was up on legs, with a gap underneath. When she was hatching chicks it seemed that all the chicks came into the kitchen if it was cold. She’d bring them in during the evening if they were near hatching, because the stove would still be a bit warm. She had chickens everywhere. We had to go and feed them.


Poultry were an important part of agriculture during World War II. Farmer’s daughter Barbara Hoare feeds the chickens at Mount Barton farm. (Image courtesy of IWM. )

“James, my Grandfather, had a stroke quite early. He was not anywhere near retirement age. He didn’t earn any money after that. There wasn’t any social security.

“Fanny used to sell her eggs. The amount of chickens that she had was more than they would need themselves. It was a business. She’d got all the skills. Because she’d grown up on the farm, she knew a lot about it and what to do, and how to rear them.

“During the wartime too, her chickens were quite valuable. She never went in for ducks or geese or anything like that at Oak Tree Cottage.


Brick Hill. (Photograph by Roy Smithers. With thanks to Mark Stroud.)

“I remember her on a sunny day, when there isn’t any wind, in the summer time. At Oak Tree Cottage there were 2 big bedrooms, and then there was another little very narrow staircase up to the loft room, where there were some old bits of furniture she’d keep up there, all covered in old sheets.

“But on a sunny day with no wind, the windows would be thrown open. She would take all the feather beds, they’d be lugged up the stairs, she’d unpick the ticking, and all the feathers used to be shaken out on onto the floor, which was covered in a big sheet. She would be in her overall with a mop cap, so the feathers didn’t stick in her hair, and she’d sort of turn the feathers, throw them about to get all the dust out. Then the bed was all stuffed up again, and I used to help her sew it.

“This was why there had to be no draught in from the window, but she said the sun was good for the feathers. You didn’t do it on a damp day, because the feathers would get all matted.

“Once a year your feather bed had to be refluffed. To do this for one feather bed I should think took about 3 days from start to finish.

“Fanny made the feather beds herself. She used to keep not the prime feathers, but the under feathers of her chickens for this.


Oaktree Cottage in the 1930s. (Image courtesy of Joan Weymouth.)

“She was a very neat little lady, and after the midday meal it was her turn to read the paper in the afternoon. James read it in the morning. She’d go upstairs and she would change into her afternoon dress, and come down, and the newspaper would be spread out on the kitchen table. There was a velvety cloth that went over the top of the scrubbed kitchen table, and the newspaper would be laid out, and she’d be there in her tidy dress. She had little wire glasses, very small glasses, and she’d read the paper until it was time to make the tea.

“Granddad, James Daborn, wasn’t particularly tall. I think in the end I was taller than he was. I think a lot of that was to do with his stroke. He was very bent, and he had one paralysed arm.

“He used to grow some tomatoes against the wall. And I loved tomatoes, and one day I pinched one. That was disaster! He counted them!

“James played the harmonium. He was very musical. He also played the clarinet. He was in the Chobham Band at one time in his life. In the sitting room there was a photograph of Chobham Band with him in it.

“He was a lovely man, a beautiful man, he was humorous too, full of fun. He was the kindest, most gentle man there was.”







With many thanks to Margaret Christie.




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