April 30, 2018|Reports

“Beverley Babes” by Jane Painter

On April 24th, the society’s Secretary, Jane Painter, gave us a very well researched talk on the subject of the ‘Beverley Babes’.

Beverley’ is a substantial Georgian house, lying along the Southwick Road a short way from the Church crossroads. Beverley’s spacious grounds are open to the public every summer for the annual Church Fete.

The house was built in the early 1700s for Captain Thomas Beverley. It passed to the Rookesbury Park estate and by the 1830s had become the residence of the unmarried sisters of William Garnier who built the current Rookesbury House: they were renowned for their cultivation of one of the most beautiful and well-designed Bower gardens in the county.

Upon the death of John Carpenter Garnier in 1928, Beverley – along with many other holdings of the Rookesbury Park estate – was put up for auction. However, it was withdrawn and remains part of the estate until this day.

In 1939, with WW2 imminent, the tenant, Commander Newton James Wallop William-Powlett, offered it to the Royal Navy who ran ‘Bowlands’, the Royal Naval and Royal Marines maternity home in Portsmouth. On 2nd September, two buses evacuated the staff and patients to Wickham.

Jane then told us about a selection of family situations where a new baby was born in Beverley- some of them tragic, such as when a naval wife became a new mother and very soon afterwards was notified of the loss of her husband from enemy action.  In one particular case the widow was warned by the Admiralty not to disclose the loss of her husband’s ship, while having to appear joyful with a new baby.

Wickham itself provided some local nursing staff and helpers. The local doctor, Dr. Kinnear, attended to the mothers and babies, and his sister, Evelyn Maulden, was a VAD (voluntary aid detachment) nurse.  And many village households offered their accommodation to mums-to-be when Beverley was occasionally overcrowded.   Margaret Gale’s family hosted about 100 mothers during the period of 1939 to mid-1946. Beverley itself was the birthplace to an estimated 2000: in many cases the baby was given ‘Beverley’ as a name – even some of the boys!

For the 2017 Church Fete, Jane, with the support of the Wickham History Society, put on a display of information about the Beverley Babes, and nearly 20 Babes or their families made contact – and continue to do so.

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