In May 2018 the Leigh Historical Society was contacted by Antony Hicks who wished to tell us his memories of Leigh. These follow.
Antony Hicks’ Memories of Leigh
Antony Hicks and his family were part of Leigh for many years. His mother was May Isabella Morley and Tony and his cousins have many fond memories and still feel part of Leigh.
His grandparents, John Morley, a metropolitan police officer and his wife Isabella had lived in Dulwich: they married at St Giles, Camberwell on 4 August 1910: for Isabella, it was her second marriage, her first husband, Charles William Galbraith, a seaman, whom she married in 1905, had died in 1908. John Morley is shown as living at Landells Road in the electoral registers for Southwark, Camberwell. In 1918, he is joined by Isabella in the electoral registers for 134 Landells Road – when she, being over 30, was entitled to vote for the first time. They lived at 134 Landells Road from 1918 to 1938, when the last entry for them at that address appears. Isabella’s maiden name was Bateup – and she was born at Horsmonden in Kent: she was one of 17 children and all survived. Her father, Frederick William James Bateup (“William”) had been an oast house keeper and moved around because it was a skilled job; he had to ensure that the hops were kept in best condition during the drying process; her mother was, Mary (née Beech). Mary was known as “Granny Bateup” to her Fautly relations at Leigh – for Emily Bateup, Isabella’s sister, had married Fred Fautly and the couple had come to live in Leigh.[i]
Therefore, Isabella’s connection to Kent, and more specifically to Leigh, through the marriage of her oldest sister, Emily Bateup (b.1879), to Frederick William Fautly “Fred”, could have persuaded the family to move here in 1938/39 on John Morley’s retirement. Emily and Fred lived at Garden Cottages. Another Bateup sister, Lily Bateup, had married the vet, Patrick Austin in 1930 and lived at Pembury. So there was a many-sided connection to the area. Apparently, another sister had died at Great Barnetts kitchen a fortnight before Emily’s wedding in 1901.[ii]
According to Tony Hicks the village was spelt Lyghe in those days and when the Morley family came to Leigh, they moved into 14 Lealands Avenue. The house had been on sale for £450 but John decided to rent it from the landlord, whose name was ‘Taylor’. Five of their six children came with them: Ada, Bertha, May, John and Edward (Ted). Their other child, Bertie, had died at age 2 in 1929. The family’s presence in Leigh is shown in the 1939 Register, the family appear at 14 Lealands Avenue: John is still described as a police constable (b., 1885), there is his wife Isabella, b. 1883 and Ada born 1911, now a housemaid and May I Morley b. 1914, a parlourmaid. (The Morley is crossed through and Hicks written in, which is strange, as she did not marry William Hicks until 1943) Bertha, Edward and John are not listed as living there at that time. Bertha, having married George Jones at Dartford in 1939 had moved away. They latter had two children, Peter and Michael.
Tony, although not born until 1948, remembers some of the family stories. He was told that during the war, the Morley family kept rabbits and chickens and with a garden taking up some 1.5 acres, they were able to grow vegetables and be self-sufficient. His mother, May Morley, went into the land army during the War and was billeted at Tonbridge; her sister, Ada, worked as an assistant midwife in the village during the war, after working previously as a nanny and was the under-nurse for a Russian Prince in London. After the War she continued to be a midwife and nurse to the community: she possibly helped deliver both Tony and his brother.
Tony says that his mother recalls an incident at Leigh Halt in the war. A dog fight had been raging above when she was waiting for a train to Tonbridge and out of the blue a parachute, complete with German airman, landed on the far end of the platform: not knowing what to do, she just froze. There was then a hue and cry and four Home Guards arrived armed with pitch forks, spades and poles [so Dad’s Army!]. They carried the ‘now German prisoner’ off and handed him to the local policeman. “It was never known who was the most traumatized – my mother or the German.”
There was a prisoner of war camp outside Tonbridge and the prisoners were allowed out after working on the land. They would take a bus into town. Many of the prisoners, both German and Italian, had no wish to go back to their regiment or the War as they loved their new life in England. Many were instructed in English by the squaddies who were guarding them and my mother, on a bus in Tonbridge, overheard a prisoner, who got up to offer a lady a seat, say ‘park your harse there missus’. “Well at least he did get up for a lady!”
Tony’s uncles, John and Edward (Ted), enlisted and joined the West Kents but they were POWS for most of its duration. Ted was at Dunkirk in 1940, holding back the Germans with his rifle as they advanced in their tanks towards the town. He was captured and taken as a prisoner, although at first he was declared ‘missing’. His mother received the telegram stating ‘missing presumed dead’, until he was eventually located. His future wife knew nothing of his experiences. After being captured in 1940, he was taken through France to Poland. However, towards the end of the war, when the Russians were advancing, the Germans moved the prisoners from the camps in Poland back to Germany – the death march of 1,000 miles. Back in Germany Ted worked in the Ruhr valley making armaments. As a non-commissioned officer, he was made to work under horrific conditions and ended up weighing just 4 stone – he was over 6ft tall. He was eventually repatriated to the British front in 1944. His brother, John, was originally deployed on the Kent coast prior to being sent to the Middle East. He also suffered horrendous wounds during his time at war. Tony says that John was captured by Italian forces after being wounded in Palestine and he was shipped back through Italy, where the nuns saved his life. He was then turned over to the Germans and interned in a German prisoner of war camp. “These two brothers must have had suffered traumatically – both physically and mentally.”[iii]
At the end of War, Ted married Betty East in the autumn of 1945 at Camberwell and John attended, so they both must have been repatriated by then. Ted and Betty went on to have two girls, Hilary and Katherine.
It was during the war that May Morley married William Hicks, in 1943, at St Mary’s Leigh and their two sons were born at Leigh. Martin was born in 1945 at their grandparents’ house at 14 Lealands Avenue, followed by Tony in 1948. Tony says that his aunt Ada (who was an assistant midwife) helped at both these births. He and his brother were baptized in Leigh church. His brother would have attended the village school up to 7 years old. According to Tony, at least one other cousin, Peter, was also born in that house, administered by Ada Morley. The Hicks family would live there until 1952 when William Hicks and his wife and sons moved to Redhill in Surrey. William Hicks had been working at a printer’s in Tonbridge, but then went to work in London. The better commute from Redhill to London prompted the move, but they all retained their links with Leigh. Tony writes that he spent most of his summer holidays in Leigh – when he stayed with his aunt Ada and Uncle John. They would always return for family occasions and most of the cousins spent summer holidays at Leigh.
Tony says that they would meet at Lealands Avenue every Christmas Eve and Uncle John would dress up as Father Christmas and come in later and entertain all of the children. It took many years before they worked out who this visitor was giving out the presents. “On one occasion he brought out a present for Uncle John and all of us children said he was not here, he was up the garden feeding the chickens. This went on for many years and we still were unaware who this visitor in the red robe and whiskers was. These were innocent times long before television and internet. Christmas at no. 14 was a magical time for us all and we made our own entertainment and had the feast of a lifetime. One Boxing Day, my dad, Bill, was tasked to go down and collect ice cream from either the post office or Coates. This was a cold and icy day but Bill launched off on John’s Bicycle hell for leather and at the junction of Green View, he was thrown off due to the road being covered in ice, and landed up in the ditch. After regaining his faculties, he returned home with blood all over his face. Ada and mum cleaned him up and mended his head, but it appeared we were not going to get any ice cream that day. However, all was not lost; John recovered the bike from the ditch and walked to get the ice cream for our celebratory boxing day meal”.
Tony says his father used to swim in the Medway on summer days, that the whole community would gather around the Green and every Sunday, there would be the cricket, that there were summer fetes with games involving the whole village, there were long walks along the river and the sun always shone. He remembers that they used to go on walks to the Broken Bridge – Ensfield Bridge – and his cousin, Peter, confirms that the bridge was so named. This bridge became a rope bridge at some time but he cannot find out why it was broken. And indeed, according to Dick Wood,[iv] Ensfield Bridge did collapse in 1943 and a temporary wooden footbridge was built before the bridge itself was rebuilt in 1947. Although Tony was not born until the following year, perhaps the bridge was referred to as the Broken Bridge for a long time afterwards. Another walk was known as the Frying Pan, which Ada and his Mum used to take the children on – however, he does not know the route of the particular walk.* However, at times, when the weather was rough, the poplar trees at the top of Lealands Avenue would make an ‘unholy’ noise – these were the times when they would scrape ice from inside the windows and had roaring fires, but all was safe and warm, even when the sun was not shining. It was magic.
* Having made subsequent enquiries, I was told “the frying pan walk goes up Penshurst Road (left at Lightfoots) as far as Cinder Hill, then turn down the steep right hand bend into Cinder Hill Lane (apparently that is what google maps calls it – but it is also known as Blackhoath Lane in the village). Come out on to the main Causeway Road at Blackhoath Cottages, then turn right to walk back into the village.” (Editor)
Tony goes on to talk about some of the people at Leigh. Next door to them, at 14 Lealands, was the Knock family – he thinks they were Kitty and her husband, whose name he cannot recall and they had two sons, one named John. He also remembers the butcher, Mr Gordon Whitehead and Coates, the general store. And that Mr Whitehead’s son, Robert Whitehead, had a traction engine and that he was a leading light in the steam traction engine world and went to Judd School in Tonbridge Both Bob and his wife, Jean, founded the Weald of Kent traction engine society. He sadly passed away in 2013 aged 89. His ‘Fowler a4 Compound Traction Engine number 9924’ was often seen under the chestnut trees on the Green. There was also the garage, Healy’s and two public houses, the Bat and Ball and the Fleur de Lis: There was also the post office, a great place for local gossip.
Tony remembers a character by the name of Grevatt – he was the station master/porter at Leigh Halt who was always on the station to receive passengers off trains. “He was always there to greet us as we arrived or departed from the station. He was a real jolly nice chap, always with a friendly quip.” Tony recalls he had to retire after being sent down the line and finding the body of a lady who had decided to take her life.[v]
Tony also remembers the Warders who had a farm at the top of Lealands Avenue and another family, Jeff and Dorothy Walker, who had, he thinks, three girls. Another couple in Green View were Cyril and Nora but he cannot remember the surname. His uncle John Morley would go on fishing trips with Cyril.
Tony remembers his uncle, John Morley, fondly. “He was an inspiration and I used to go to his place of work at this time, at Paul’s Hill, although I also remembers going to Old Chimneys that both Ada and John worked there for Mrs Gawne. Mrs Gawne also had a son who worked in the city at one point. It was later that Ada went to work at Meopham Bank and John to Paul’s Hill as a gardener.”
When Tony used to stay at Leigh, he would walk with his uncle John to work. They would walk across the Green and past the post office and Coates general store, up the road and past Whiteheads the butchers, onwards to the Bat and Ball and then turned the corner at the Fleur de Lis, on to Station Road (now Lower Green), and they would pass Healy’s garage and Leigh Halt under the bridge and up Paul’s Hill. At the entrance they would be met by Jamie, the golden Labrador. Tony remembers this wonderful dog because it loved John and would also spend time at Lealands Avenue when the boss was on holiday. The dog would follow John around all day, as did Tony’s last dog, Mabel. John would allow Tony to drive the little Mayfield tractor there (Tony would later progress on to racing larger cars and motorcycles) and set him to work fetching compost and other stuff which had to be distributed around the garden. They would have to pick vegetables and fruit for the table and John had a routine for providing produce for the table all year round. On the return journey from Paul’s Hill, under the huge horse chestnut trees, they would collect conkers, big shiny ones and always there was the steam traction engine which belonged to Whitehead Junior, although Tony never observed this in steam.
Tony says that Uncle John passed away prematurely at the age of 53 in 1969, at Pembury Hospital. “His premature death was attributed to his injuries sustained in the war. He had been a talented man who could turn his hand to anything – a cultured and intelligent man. He was buried in the church but we think there is no gravestone although he may have shared a grave with either his mother or father.” The family say that John Snr and Isabella’s graves are at the back of the grave yard against a wall. According to St Mary’s registers, John was buried in 1940 and Isabella in 1945.
Tony remembers that after John Jnr passed on, Ada went to the alms houses on the Green and experienced a devastating fire where, he thinks, many artefacts were lost. She passed away on 5 May 1989 in Rochester, after singing with her local choral group at the Cathedral, representing Leigh as a member either through the Church or the WI – she was a member of both. She was cremated and a dedication service was held at Leigh Church.
To finish, Tony explains that his renewed interest in the family history and in Leigh is because his Aunt Betty, Uncle Ted’s widow, reached 100 years old this year. He and his cousins wanted to share their fond memories of the village and of their wonderful family. As Tony says “The sun always shone – what memories”.
Joyce Field (from correspondence with Tony Hicks 2018)
Tony Hicks and his cousins – their memories of Leigh
1939 Register via Findmypast
Military Records, Electoral Registers, Censuses and Civil Registration records via Findmypast/Ancestry.com
Chris Rowley: “We Had Everything …”
The children of Isabella and John Morley, births all registered at Camberwell:
Ada E 1911
Bertha L. 1913
May I 1914
John D 1915
Edward G 1918
Albert W 1926 d. 1929
14 Lealands Ave
John Morley b.26.10.1885 police constable
Isabella b. 17.4.1883
Ada E Morley b. 8.7.1911 housemaid
May I Morley (Hicks) b. 30.1.1914 palourmaid
(n.b. Morley is written, but crossed through with Hicks: unusual as they did not marry until 1943: May I Morley married William G Hicks 1943 at Tonrbidge, Kent
1911 census gives:
John Morley b. Haslingfield Cambridgeshire police constable
Isabella Morley b. Horsmonden Kent
(married less than one year: no children)
Horsmonden: Rams Hill Corner
William Bateup head mar 37 ag lab b. Brenchley
Mary A wife 36 b. Sussex Mountfield
Emily 12 b. Kent Horsmonden
Mary A 11 b. Kent Horsmonden
Lily Rose 10 b. Brenchley
Florence 9 b. Brenchly
Isabella 8 b. Brechley
Fanny 7 b. Brenchley
Ada 6 b. Brenchley
Alice May 4 b. Horsmonden
William E 2 b. Horsmonden
Miriam M 11 mos b. Horsmonden
Mary A Henley visitor 12 b. Hadlow
Marriage: 1910 4 August
John Morley 24 bach police Officer 14 The Grove father: David Morley civil service
Isabella Galbraith 27 spinster 199 The Grove father: William Bateup labourer
By banns. Parish church of St Giles, Camberwell
Witnesses: David Morley: Ada Bateup
The Marriage Entry says she was a spinster: but in fact she was a widow: There is another marriage:
Isabella Bateup married Charles William Galbraith
Charles William Galbraith died 22 Nov 1908 St William’s Hospital, Rochester.
Occupation Seaman naval ordnance: age 26 of 32 Seymour Road, Chatham: cause of death: typhoid fever, toxaemia. Informant: I Galbraith widow
Children of William Hicks and May:
Martin J W Hicks born 1945 (mother’s name: Morley) registered Tonbridge
Antony G Hicks born 1945 (mother’s name: Morley) registered Tonbridge
[i] Bateup connection to Leigh and the Fautly family – notes from “We Had Everything …” by Chris Rowley, p7-8
Isabella was one of 17 children. Her oldest sister Emily Bateup had married Fred Fautly. Their parents were Frederick “William” James Bateup (c1860-1900) and Mary Beech, known to the family as Granny Bateup. According to Kath and Dorothy Fautly, their mother Emily came from Horsmonden. Emily’s father died just before she got married. Her mother – Mary Bateup and some of her family had a boarding house over a furniture shop off the High Street in Hasting and the Fautly family used to visit them. Both Kath and Dorothy remember Granny Bateup saying ‘What do you call this? Skin and Scutters? It’s meant to be custard.’ The Bateups had seventeen children, even though William Bateup died when he was about forty. In spite of all the children, Granny Bateup always looked very fit. ‘I remember her saying that she had worked in the fields when she was young’. Fred Fautly and Emily were engaged and married in 1901. Emily at that time was in service at Tonbridge. They married at Hildenborough Church as the Fautly family lived at Tipps Cross at that time. The newlyweds then came to live in Leigh. According to Kath and Dorothy Fautly, one of Emily’s sisters died 1901 [but I cannot find which sister from Mary, Lily, Florence, Fanny, Ada, Alice May, Miriam – the sisters born before 1891] – she had died in Great Barnetts kitchen a fortnight before the wedding was due, the couple still got married and had a house at 2 Forge Square. They would move to 5 Garden Cottages after it was built in 1913/14.
Kath and Dorothy say that their mother Emily was in service before she married. After marrying, she took in sewing and washing. She was a keen reader, taught herself everything. She raised her family, helped in the village. She used to run a soup kitchen in the iron room for the children. It was all free.
[ii] However, despite checking various sources I have not been able to ascertain which of the many Bateup sisters it was – ed. JF
[iii] FINDMYPAST: Military records:
Edward G Morley: 7th Bn The Royal West Kent Regiment: Expeditionary Forces; 6347227 Morley L/Cpl. E.G. 20.5.40 casualty reported missing. Reported as Prisoner of War 1943.
John D Morley (Cpl)Queens Own Royal West Kent Regiment 6348781. Reported missing: Western Desert 4.9.42
Reported as Prisoner of War in 1943.
[iv] In Dick Wood’s memories in “We Had Everything …” p.130 – Dick recalls that the Ensfield Bridge he knew was a pleasing brick arch, with brick parapets, octagonal end pillars and stone coping – but on the night of 4 February 1943 it unexpectedly collapsed. It was not rebuilt until 1947 – meanwhile there was no direct link between Leigh Village and Ensfield, although a high wooden footbridge had been built in the interim. However, Dick Wood also describes other bridges p.132: ‘Babylon Bridge; a concrete and iron footbridge to the Straight Mile. “Mallions” footbridge. Also Randerson’s bridge was built in 1939.
[v] George William Grevatt was remembered by other residents of Leigh and their memories of him can be found in Chris Rowley’s book “We Had Everything …” (p. 34; p. 327-328)