Harry BLACKFORD – Chauffeur to Dr. Beaufort Fraser

Paula Allchin, who lives in the village, mentioned that her father, Maurice Blackford, had lived at Mountains in Hildenborough where his father was chauffeur to the flamboyant Dr Beaufort (“Beau”) Fraser.

My father, Harry Blackford, started work at Mountains around 1933. There were five of us, my father, my mother, my two brothers and I.  We lived in the lodge by the main gate where there were garages and stables.

The Frasers had three cars. The first was a silver Rolls Royce, registration ALC 45.  This was a wedding present to Beaufort from his bride, one of the D.C. Thomson family, the big publishers and shipping people from Dundee.  Then there was a large Minerva saloon seating at least 5 people in the back. It had a screen separating the driver and a speaking tube.  It was generally used for towing a horse box.  Finally, Mrs Fraser had a small Talbot saloon, later replaced by a small Daimler cabriolet with fluid flywheel drive.  On moving to Mountains my father went on a course at Rolls Royce in Derby to be taught how to maintain the Rolls.

In about 1936 the Thomsons took a grouse shoot at Altnahara in the Highlands between Lairg and Thurso.  This included taking the Altnahara hotel.  The Fraser family travelled there on a Thomson’s ship.  These plied up and down the East Coast.  My father drove up there with their luggage in the Minerva.

The following year the Frasers went on an African safari.  An Austrian (or German) governess went with them to look after the children but, of course, it was Beaufort who was looked after.  She returned to Germany before the outbreak of the Second World War. On their return all the staff were required to see the film that had been taken on the safari and view the prize heads of the animals Beaufort had shot.

The Frasers had three children: Moira, the oldest, followed by Jean and then Alan. Alan was a very difficult child and did not take to going to school, so they employed a male tutor, but this came to an end when he married Moira.  Then a female tutor or governess was employed and it was this lady who eventually went off to Devon with Beaufort.

I was about two years older than Alan and so I was expected to play with him when necessary.  The highlights were picnics in Knole Park and One Tree Hill. The food was marvellous with homemade butter, eggs etc from the Mountains farm.  We were all given very nice Christmas presents and my father had to drive Mrs Fraser to Hamleys, Regent Street so that she could choose the presents.  The only downside was that Beaufort wrote on the presents:  I was called Blackford Minimus and my eldest brother, Blackford Maximus.

The Mountains estate covered a wide area.  It spread from Stocks Green Road (The Old Barn) to what is now the A21 bypass and included a field called Marden on the other side of Station Road.  Built into the estate was the railway station and the line passed through the estate.  Part of the agreement made with the railway company gave Beaufort the right to hold up the train.  So invariably when my father took Beaufort to the station, he was late and the train had to wait for him.

The Frasers employed about sixteen staff.  In the house, there was a butler, a footman, a parlour maid, a housemaid, a junior housemaid, a cook and a kitchen maid. The servants hall had a large table where the staff dined with the butler at the head of the table.

The outdoor staff, most of whom like us had cottages on the estate, consisted of a chauffeur (my father), an assistant chauffeur/assistant groom, a groom, a head gardener, an assistant gardener, a garden boy/boot boy, a cowman, a dairy maid (the cowman’s wife), and a farm labourer.

In about 1936 the second Hildenborough scout troop was evicted from the neighbouring estate (Foxbush).  Beaufort took an interest and built a new scout hut in Flatswood, Noble Tree Road (now converted into a bungalow).  He took quite an interest in the movement and went on to become District Commissioner.

Beaufort was a GP up to 1940.  He did not appear to be very busy and had his surgery in Mountains.  The waiting room was on one side of the entrance hall and consulting room on the other.  I remember going there for treatment for a poisoned finger.

In 1940 Beaufort’s brother Eric, a major in the army, was injured in Northern France and was then killed when his hospital ship was bombed leaving Calais.   Beaufort was very upset and purchased a Spitfire called Eric in his memory for £6,000.   After this, Beaufort started work as a surgeon at Farnborough Hospital.  Generally he travelled daily to Farnborough on a 250cc BSA motorcycle (one of few supplied to civilians during the war).  It was when he finished at Farnborough that he ran off to Devon with Alan’s governess.

Mrs Fraser was very upset by this and became increasingly dependent on my mother and father.  When father retired from work, she bought a bungalow for my parents to live in for the rest of their days.

Parish Magazine Articles: Nov/Dec 2007: by Paula Allchin