UK 71 81 91 01 11 Census
UK 81 91 01 11 Census
James Albert 1893-
Percival Alfred 1903-1973
George Henry SHRUBSOLE
B 1865 Sellindge, Kent
D 1943 Collier Street, Kent
Margaret Ellen APPS
B 1872 Appledore, Kent
D 1932 Collier Street, Kent
Marr 1892 Tenterden, Kent
GEORGE HENRY SHRUBSOLE + MARGARET ELLEN APPS
The Shrubsole family lived and worked at Gain Hill Farm during the 1930’s & 1940’s.
My thanks to John P Smith, grandson of George & Margaret Shrubsole, for letting me have copies of the lovely photos of the family on this page, & also for letting me publish here:
“A Weekend at Gain Hill”.
The above photograph shows how the house looked in May 2007. It was quite a shock to see what happened to the two original old farm cottages; they have now undergone some major changes, and are barely recognizable. The cottage to the right was the home of the Shrubsole family. My mother was the youngest daughter of the Shrubsole's seven children and this was her family home until 1935 when she and my father were married.
My first memories of Gain Hill were around 1940. At that time my mother's father, her sister Rose and her brother Percy were still living there. My father owned a motor car and we would often visit the family on week-ends but our motorcar rides came to an end in October 1939 when my father joined the army.
It was towards the end of May 1941 when I started school, about two weeks after my fifth birthday. The Second World War had already been in progress for over a year, and the Battle of Britain was raging over London and South East England. Where we lived in Wateringbury was only two miles south of the R.A.F. Fighter Base at West Malling, and the airfield soon became a prime target for the German's nightly bombing raids. It was fair to say that life at that time was quite frightening. Whenever possible my mother would try to get away but as I was at school it would sometimes only be for a weekend or when we were on school holidays. The place she like to visit most of all was to her family home at Gain Hill. It would take about two hours to get there on two different buses. We would leave home early in the morning and go into the bus station in Maidstone, and then catch another bus out through Yalding to Collier Street.
After getting off the bus at Crow Plain, it was about a fifteen minute walk along the lanes. As soon as I could I would run off along the lane with mother calling after me to stop, or keep out of the grass but of course I would pretend not to hear. The lanes were quite narrow with high hedges and deep ditches on either side. About halfway the lane joined another lane by a bridge where water ran under the road. I liked to throw little stones into the water and watch the ripples. Sometimes I might be lucky and see a small animal running along the bank; it was all great fun. When my mother caught up she would tell me off for not listening to her, and for the rest of the journey I was made to walk like a gentleman (as she would say). My darling mother never did understand that I was only good at two things; one was running, the other being naughty.
We walked on up the little hill past a few old cottages, and soon we came to the little dirt track on the left where we had to turn. This little track led into a small farm area that we knew as Gain Hill. On the right was open grassland where sheep grazed and sometimes baby lambs would be jumping about. Usually there were one or two haystacks nearby, which in Winter would be used as feed or bedding for the animals. On the left were several low open sided sheds with thatched roofs where the big hay wagons were kept. Further along on the left we come to some trees growing around an old pond that was fenced off. I was always told not to go near the water because of the snakes, and for once in my life I did as I was told. Next to the pond was the little garden gate that usually hung partly open, as if saying come in, you are welcome.
We walked through the gate onto a rough uneven path that had large stones and parts of house bricks sticking up all over the place. It was not a good path for running on as I remember. I would stop to admire the large Pampas grass that grew in the corner of the garden; it's large tall white feather like flowers always fascinated me. They looked like the tail feathers of some giant bird. By now mother had usually spotted her father working in the garden, “Hello Daddy” she calls out. He looks up and waves. We walk on down the path towards the two cottages; theirs was the one on the right where we all meet at the back door. Mother gives her father a hug and a kiss, I am invited to also give my granddad a kiss, reluctantly I do so, his large bushy and very prickly moustache was never very inviting. At this point Auntie Rose appears from somewhere inside the house & I anxiously look around for my cousin Beryl. “Give Auntie Rose a kiss” my mother orders. “Hello Auntie Rose” I say standing on tip toe to give her a quick peck on the cheek. She smiles, then turns to go back inside, and we follow her in.
Within ten minutes we are all having a welcome drink and some of Auntie Rose's buns. I like her buns as she always managed to slightly burn the tops and bottoms giving them a special taste. I liked my mother's cakes and buns too but they never had that special burnt taste that I liked. I guess that I was a picky little so and so, never satisfied mother would often say.
After our refreshments it was out to play with Beryl; we had good fun running around the farm. There were lots of places to run and hide from each other and play tag. Sometimes we would go with Granddad when he fed the animals. For most of the time we got on very well together without any problems. However now and then we did have our little disagreements, which was usually my fault over the rope swing. It hung from one of the lower branches of the big old Oak tree in the garden, next to the shed where Uncle Perce kept his little Morris eight car, and yes, I must confess I did rather dominate when it came to that swing. Sometimes my mother had to settle things by giving me a smack but it never made much difference, despite my affection for my little cousin.
(How I wish I could say sorry, but sadly Beryl died 1997 aged 60 years. R.I.P Dear cousin.)
For me the inside of the cottage was just as exciting as the outside, with so many wonderful things to look at, a bit like being in a modern day antique shop. The red brick floors were well worn from age and endless scrubbing; a few well worn rugs were placed in the doorways and around the fireplace. A long wooden handled copper warming pan hung on the wall over the sofa and endless well polished brass items were placed around the fireplace. Large dome shaped glass cases that contained stuffed birds dotted the room; my favourite one was an Owl holding a mouse in one of its claws in a woodland setting. Dozens of old family photos hung on the walls. Everywhere I looked there was something different that attracted my attention. Everything was well polished making it plain for all to see, that Auntie Rose did a good job of taking care of the home. Gain Hill was such a nice place to visit I can now understand why my mother always wanted to go back there whenever she could.
Grandmother Shrubsole had died before I was born but her cacti collection lived on, and still flourished in their fancy pots that stood on the wide sitting room window sill. I was always interested in their shapes, and how their needles formed geometric patterns, while others had long tails that hung down all around the pot. Above the cacti, and hanging from a hook in the ceiling was the cage of Joey the yellow canary. When he decided to sing all conversation had to stop, it was so loud that he often had to be covered up to keep him quiet. I can still hear him as he tried to compete with the Grandmother clock as it marked the passing hours with its rapid ringing sounds.
Life at Gain Hill was very primitive. No gas or electricity, only candles and oil lamps for lighting, and coal fires for heating and cooking. Although they did have a rather unusual three burner oil stove, which also had an oven. The only other one that I have ever seen like it is here in Australia, in the pioneer museum nearby in the Adelaide hills town of Birdwood. All the water came from a well in the garden, and had to be pumped up by hand. I can remember seeing Granddad carrying two buckets at a time with the aid of a yoke, a wooden devise that fitted across his shoulders with metal chains to hang the buckets on.
After tea Uncle Perce would put on his Home Guard uniform and go out and join the other Home Guards on night patrols. Later in the evening as it started to get dark Auntie Rose would light the big oil lamp, and put it in the middle of the round table. I thought the lamp was quite magical; its cut glass oil container would cast fancy patterned shadows on the walls and ceiling, as we sat and did drawing or colouring before bedtime. Sometimes my mother would say that if I was good we could listen to the music from the little wind-up barrel organ, that played music from paper scrolls that had holes punched in them, another one of Gain Hills magical items. Eventually it was time for bed, and I would go off to sleep watching the flickering shadows from a candle placed on the nearby washstand. Outside I could hear the wind blowing, and I would look forward to another exciting day tomorrow. The following morning if the wind was in the right direction, I would be woken by the sound of a train as it sped along the nearby railway line. Sometimes we would walk along the lane to the railway bridge, and watch the famous Golden Arrow steam train hurtling along the almost straight stretch of line towards the coast.
Just for a few hours we could almost forget that the war was raging only a few miles away. Then the unthinkable happened. On our next visit we found that a Search Light and Gun Battery had been installed in the meadow next to our farm. From then on Gain Hill also had its share of bombs dropping all around, making holes in the meadow and nearby orchards. For the next few years we just had to put up with whatever the Germans decided to send.
Grandmother & Grandfather Shrubsole now rest next to each other in the churchyard at Collier Street.
Written by John P Smith
7th March 2009
Our Oak Tree
On my 2007 visit to Gain Hill I was amazed and delighted to see that our lovely old Oak tree was still standing. As I stood there looking at the tree and the remains of the old shed where Uncle Perce kept his car, my memory worked overtime. It was just a few yards to the right of this picture where Beryl & I stood by the garden fence, and posed for that photo of us, that my mother took so many years ago.
This is John Smith & his mother, Caroline, in the Summer of 1940
at Gain Hill
And here is that picture of
John Smith, the author, & his cousin Beryl
This photo is of Caroline Shrubsole
On her wedding day
17th August 1935
Taken at Gain Hill
Another photo taken at Gain Hill
This is Rose Shrubsole
taken in the mid 1930’s
Another photo of Rose Shrubsole
at Gain Hill
This time with her niece Beryl
taken in 1938
Here is Beryl again, this time with her mother
Edith at Gain Hill
taken in 1940
George Henry Shrubsole
taken at Gain Hill in the early 1930’s
This is a lovely photo of George, John’s grandfather, & reminds
me so much of my grandfather Frederick.
George & Frederick were cousins, their father’s being brothers
so it’s not surprising I guess that I get reminded of my grandfather
each time I see the photo.