Living in Southlaund, Kemnal Road

Hutton familyAn account written in 1977 by Leonard Parrington, a grandson of Thomas Hutton, and the younger of two brothers. He was, born in 1890, and fought in both World Wars but spent most of the second as a POW in Germany. He retired as Brigadier in 1946 to run a small farm which he and his brother had bought in1927, and where his daughters now live. His parents, Matthew Beaumont Parrington and Edith Clara Hutton had married in Chislehurst on 26th April 1882. To see a larger image of the family (taken in 1897), click on the image on the right.

I have written in more detail of the Hutton side of my family as I saw much more of them as a child. In about 1894 my grandparents moved from Merlewood to a large three story house in the style of Norman Shaw which was the rage at that period; tiled roof hanging tiles on upper stories, gables, dormers, bay windows and tall chimneys. The house was called Southlaund and stood in grounds of about 10 acres with stabling and a coachman's cottage which formed a lodge at the entrance. It was in the Kemnal Road leading from Chiselhurst Common to New Eltham Station. There were about six other similar properties in the same road, evidence of the affluence of the Victorian middle classes of those days.

When I was seven we stayed at Southlaund for a year, the reason for which will appear later, and some account of this establishment may be of interest as it was typical of thousands of others in the vicinity of large cities at that period.

The house consisted of a large square hall with surrounding staircase, drawing room, dining room, library and lavatory. Through a green baize door was a long corridor leading to a back door; opening off this corridor was a pantry, ‘still room’, large kitchen, scullery, service door to dining room, ‘store room’, back staircase and staircase leading to cellar, also a larder, boot room and coal cellar. On the first floor overlooking the hall were four principal bedrooms and dressing rooms, my grandmother's morning room and a linen room, bathroom and lavatory. On the second floor were a nursery, four secondary bedrooms, and a room used by my uncles as a ‘smoking room’ (no smoking allowed anywhere else). In the attics were three more bedrooms and a box room containing water cisterns.

There was also another small staircase leading to a ‘butler’s room’ on the first floor level but not used as such. This was over the ‘servants' hall’, a large room nearly as big as the kitchen, where all the servants had their meals. It contained a large oak refectory table and a slightly battered Sheraton sideboard, both of which had been banished in favour of the heavy mahogany furniture of the period. Both were later rescued and restored. The indoor staff consisted of head parlour-maid, under parlour-maid, head housemaid, two under housemaids, cook and scullery maid and a boy to clean boots and knives, carry coal and be general ‘dogsbody to the rest of the staff.

The outside staff consisted of coachman, head gardener and two under gardeners, one of whom looked after the cows, pigs and poultry. The grounds consisted of trees, shrubberies, small lawns and flower beds leading up to the house. On the other side of the house was a terrace overlooking a croquet lawn and tennis lawn, more shrubberies, a strip of woodland with a stream running through it and beyond this a large kitchen garden with greenhouses, potting shed etc, partly walled. Adjoining this were two meadows with cowshed and piggeries etc. The blood of his Yorkshire farming forbears still ran strong in my grandfather, and he was very keen on his little farmery, superintending calving etc, and never failing to pay it a visit even on the days when he went ‘to Town’.

Gas was laid on to the house and stables and there was main water and drainage. Gas was only used in passages etc. Gas mantles were only just coming in, and the sitting rooms were all lit with lamps, standard and table. Candles were, of course, much used especially in the bedrooms.

At the time I was staying there Uncle Bertie and Uncle Ernest were still unmarried and lived at home. The daily routine was much the same. On the days when my grandfather went ‘to Town’, the carriage would take them all to Chiselhurst station. On the days when he didn't go they walked to New Eltham Station about 2 miles. Bicycles were only just coming in and were chiefly ridden on ‘bicycle tracks’ as a form of sport. There were three carriages in the coach house. A ‘brougham’ for bad weather and night work, a ‘Victoria’ (an open carriage with a hood which was much used), and a ‘Wagonette’ for expeditions to the country, race meetings etc. Once a week my grandmother used to drive into Bromley on market day. Shop keepers and stall holders used to come out to the carriage, take her orders and bring the goods to be approved and paid for.

My grandparents did a fair amount of entertaining: dinner parties, musical evenings, people singing songs at the piano, parlour games, whist, piquet, bezique, drafts and back gammon, but of course I was usually in bed. Christmas was a great family occasion with the house quite full. My grandfather always had a large consignment of Wensleydale cheeses for distribution to all the family. On Saturday and Sunday mornings and on certain other days in the church calendar, Good Friday, Ascension etc there were family prayers in the dining room, my grandfather sitting at the head of the table, the members of the family sitting on chairs against the wall on either side and all the servants, marshalled by the head parlour-maid on rows of chairs at the far end of the room. We sat to hear my grandfather read portions of the scriptures from an enormous Bible and turned round and knelt against our chairs for prayers. This was not a very popular event with the younger members of the family who, from scraps of conversation overheard, I gather, considered it out of date.

On Sundays there was a procession across Chiselhurst Common to the Parish Church led by my grandfather in top hat and frock coat and my grandmother in bonnet and cape. Chiselhurst Church is a large medieval church and was presided over by Canon Murray, who must have been a high churchman, a follower of the ‘Oxford Movement’ led by Newman Keble and Pusey as there was incense and ‘Gregorian Chants’ (Plain Chant) which I always enjoyed. My father and mother were married there and I was christened there. My uncles led a revolt against this procedure and went to a more Evangelical church in West Chiselhurst, or did they? I suspect that they didn't go to church at all but wished to avoid the formal procession! This was necessary because "the horses must not be taken out on Sundays". After lunch on Sundays there was always a visit to the stables when the horses were given carrots and pieces of bread. There were three horses in the stables one of which was sometimes ridden, but my grandparents didn't aspire to a ‘carriage and pair’ which I think would have been considered rather presumptuous. The Tiarks of Foxbury and the Nickalls sported ‘pairs’ and Leonard Powell drove a ‘four in hand’. They were all friends of my grandparents and uncles but were recognised as being in a higher ‘pecking order’ among ‘carriage folk’.

As a small boy in an entirely adult household I spent a lot of my time with the servants. They appeared to me to be a happy lot and were very kind to me and I was allowed to ‘help’ in cleaning the plate in the pantry and grinding the coffee in a mill in the kitchen. Mrs Morris the enormously portly cook was tolerant but easily upset and I remember being chased out of the kitchen with a dishcloth for meddling with the clockwork spit in the kitchen, this was a device for roasting large joints, birds etc; these were hung on the spit and when a ‘clear roasting fire’ had been obtained in the kitchen range, it was wheeled in front. There was a door at the back which could be opened to inspect the joints and do any necessary basting; an obvious target for small boys to meddle with. My real friends, however, were the outside staff. Pointer the coachman who taught me how to groom and clean harness, burnish steel work bits etc and clean brass of which there was quite a lot on the harness and carriages. I expect the poor man had to do it all over again after I had gone, but he always told me I had done a wonderful job! Maxwell the cowman and George the under gardener were also good friends. I expect I wasted a lot of their time which was probably one of the reasons why I was sent to a local Dame School for two terms.

The highlight of the year we spent at Southlaund (1897) was Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. My grandfather was a patron of the ‘Yorkshire Schools’ who possessed a large building on the processional route south of the river. There was a stand in front of the building and our party had a large room on the second floor for rest and refreshment. We went by train from Chiselhurst to the Elephant and Castle and walked from there. The route was lavishly decorated and there were enormous crowds. I was chiefly impressed by Captain Ames, the 1st Lifeguards' ‘the tallest man in the army’ who led the procession which was very long and comprised representatives and contingents from every ship in the Navy, and every unit in the army. There were many bands and, as all units in those days had full dress, it was very spectacular.

The Queen was an unexpectedly small figure in an open landau drawn by the ‘creams’ and must have been very tired by the time she reached us but continued to bow and wave to the continuous cheering. I think the noise of the cheering impressed me more than anything. After the Queen had passed there was a delay of nearly an hour. A characteristic of long processions is that, no matter how slowly the head marches, the tail is always running! In this case that gap had become so large that it was decided to halt the rear echelons and form a separate procession, so after about an hour's wait we saw ‘the Colonials’ as they were called, headed by Field Marshall Lord Roberts of Kandahar (Bobs) on his white arab. They consisted of troops from every part of the Empire including the white ‘Colonies’ of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, India, Malaya, Burma, South Africa etc all in khaki which had not at that time been adopted by the British Army who in peace or war kept to their red, blue or green uniforms. I can't remember anything about the journey home. Some of the party stayed up in London to see the ‘illuminations’ and there were local fireworks but I expect I had been packed off to bed. The general impression left by this event and by the attitude and conversation of adults on a small boy of seven was that the British Empire, over which the Queen presided was the greatest influence for good that the world had ever seen, and that it would go on expanding until all the dark places of the world had come under the civilising influence of British order and ‘justice’! We had recently concluded successful campaigns in West Africa (Ashanti), and South Africa against the Matabeles and Zulus. We had occupied Egypt for 16 years, and Kitchener was on the point of avenging the death of Gordon and annexing the Sudan after the battle of Ondurman. We had now annexed sufficient territories to enable us to realize Cecil Rhodes' dream of an all British Cape to Cairo railway and Rhodes and Melvin were popular heroes. German East Africa (Tanganyika) was the only non British territory along the route but it was felt that this difficulty could be overcome by negotiation. The words of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ were taken quite literally and roared out on every possible occasion. Anyone who ventured to cast any doubts on the wisdom of all this, notably some Liberals, was dubbed a ‘Little Englander’, but within 70 years the British Empire had ceased to exist. ‘Sic transit Gloria mundi’.

Thanks to Rosemary Morris for providing this extract from her father's memoirs.