Memories of My Home By Rosemary Winstanley..


 I was born in 1914 so I cannot remember  much before 1917 when my Father was  invalided home from France suffering  from severe phlebitis as a result of three  years in the wet trenches. There were  four of us children then, my elder sister  Pamela, elder brother Clement, the baby Tristram born 1917, and myself. Later two more sisters arrived in 1919 and 1924. I had one of the happiest childhoods possible. We lived on the top storey at Braunstone Hall - The Nursery Wing. - Day nursery, night nursery and other rooms. Our lives were ordered by our very dear Nanny Mrs Hattersley she was helped by the nursery maid whom Nanny always called Bessie (when the maids changed Nanny said she couldn't be bothered to learn new names.)

Downstairs there was a schoolroom presided over by our Governess Miss Lease, we started a few hourly lessons at about five years old then as time went on we left the Nursery entirely for the schoolroom; my brothers were there until they left for their boarding school at the age of eight and a half years. Miss Lease had been my Mother's Governess and had educated her and her sister's. We never had anyone else and were incredibly fortunate to have two such loving, patient and lovable women to guide us in our youth. As children our lives were spent either in the Nursery or Schoolroom. When small we were dressed in a silk or velvet dresses after tea and were sent down to the drawing room from 5:15pm to 6:15pm to see our parents - it was the only time in the day that we were ever allowed to go down the front stairs. Our parents of course did come up to the Nursery, I well remember my Father coming up to read Grimm's Fairy Tales to us.

We always wore pinafores when we went into the garden - self coloured material with coloured braid round neck and pockets. Nanny used to open the nursery window and blow hard on a loud whistle when she wanted us to come inside. We had staff of about 14 inside Butler, footman, parlour maid, cook, kitchen maid, scullery maid, head housemaid, Housekeeper, still room maid and pantry boy. At Braunstone Hall the servant's quarters were quite separate from the main house, it was another building built around a square Court Yard connected to our house by a long passage with a green baize doors, I think it was a satisfactory arrangement, but I always pitied the footman or housemaid who had to bring our meals to the Nursery up 76 steep winding stone stairs. Once a very pretty maid called Lizzie stumbled and the huge black tin tray skated down the stairs with all the food and crockery. My Mother heard the crash and arrived on the scene and said "Oh Lizzie" and Lizzie; cap awry on her pretty dark hair, sat back on her heals and said, "These things are sent to twy us".

Lizzie could not pronounce her R's. I seem to remember much more extremes in temperatures then - very cold winters with snow and ice, and very hot summers. When the big pond froze over people came out from Leicester and nearby and skated. We used to play in a square tank, (now in my possession) and I can remember my brother turning the hose on a Dr Blakesby and soaking him through! He came instead of our dear family doctor Dr Spriggs during the War and Clement did not like him. We were taken for walks, holding on to the pram with the latest baby in, down Leg O' mutton Hill to Western Park, or in the opposite direction along the Hinckley Road to Hangman's Copse to where the road went off to Kirby Muxloe. Later we rode our ponies down Coal Pit Lane (Braunstone Lane) to Aylestone, which was then a village - on both sides there was nothing but fields, trees and hedges. The Old Hall was of course still there where my Ancestors lived from about 1650 until Braunstone Hall was built in 1776.

When I was young Mrs Johnson lived there and was my Fathers oldest tenant, and I know she lived until she was well over 100 years old - she was a great character as was her nephew Harry Porter who farmed the land. I remember once with my brother Clement we called in to ask if she would lend us 6d to visit the village shop kept by Lena Martin, and she had an enormous canvas bag brought to her that must have contained pounds and pounds. At last she unearthed a sixpence with injunctions to my brother not to forget his debt!! We used to go out in the Governess Cart drawn by a pony - we were taught to ride by William Andrews the groom - a man we all loved. When my Mother had a new baby Mrs Andrews always followed suit and the score ended up equal at six each! One of my earliest recollections is my Grandmother's coach - it was there in the coach house - very dark navy blue - upholstered in the same colour and smelling very fusty. I never knew what happened to it. Above the coach house or garage as it became there was a loft in which onions were put to dry and in a corner of this loft my Father discovered (before I was born) a very beautiful old 18th century Sedan Chair that had been shoved away when they went out of fashion.

I still have this chair and treasure it greatly. We always walked to Church on Sunday mornings with our parents - down the cinder path or Church Walk and through the shrubbery over a little wooden bridge that crossed the stream and up Church Field. In those days our family had it's own "Horse Box" (pew up near the old alter). It had high wooden walls and only the clergymen and choir (when we stood up) could see us. When we were very small we were given religious books with coloured pictures to keep us quiet during the sermon! One of our greatest treats was to be allowed to go to Evensong - generally with my Mother's maid we took torches in the winter and I considered it very exciting, of course there were oil lamps in the Church then. When the fruit was ripe in summer the kitchen garden doors were kept locked, but we were very good at getting in and helping ourselves to apples, pears, peaches, gooseberries and my favourite luscious juicy apricots. I vividly remember once I was under a strawberry net with my brother when along came Henry Rodwell, our very dear head gardener. He was carrying his horrible club that he used to kill the birds with. He stood and looked at us - caught red-handed and said "You be mighty big blackbirds!" He never would get us into trouble.

He, his brother George and his son Willie were with us for years, and, I believe his family before him. My sister Pamela had a tame pig called Alcibiades that went literally everywhere with her, but alas one day he savaged the post man and Father had it disposed of. Talking of pigs, a sow died just after farrowing leaving eight little piglets. My Mother had a pen made for them in the cellar and she her Governess and her maid reared the lot, giving them bottles day and night every three hours. I can still remember some of the names - Dempsey, Carpenter, Daisy! One of my chief delights were the visits to Kirby Muxloe Castle. This belonged to us having come through the Hastings family - my Father gave it into the keeping of the then Office of Works in 1911. In my youth we could still go up to the second storey, though now that is not allowed I think. As we grew older we were allowed to go into the dining room for Sunday lunch and as a great treat had half a glass of cider. The Butler did not approve of "schoolroom folk" he never even offered us things like cream! We had a pets and birds cemetery under a ring of very dark yew trees on the west side of the Hall. We would hold hands in a circle over a little grave and sing "On the Resurrection Morning".

I shall never forget the snowdrops; they literally carpeted the ground in the shrubbery. In the spring - a wonderful sight. When I was about eight I was coming back from the bathroom to the Nursery about tea time on a winter's evening and in front of me I saw a lady dressed all in white, she was quite near, but I only saw her back and she went into the room at the end of the long dark passage that was then my Governess Miss Lease's bedroom. I told my Nanny and she said she wondered who it was and then I forgot all about it, as there were always lots of people in the house. Some years later most of us had the measles and we were quarantined in adjacent rooms on the nursery floor - the nursery maid temporarily sleeping in the Governess' room. She woke up one night in a fright and said there was a young woman in a white veil and a long dress bending over her.

It was not until I was grown up that I learned that my Fathers two sisters May and Georgina entered a Roman Catholic Convent (The Order of the Sacred Heart) when they were 17 and 19, May died of tuberculosis in her first year of novitiate before taking her vows. Novices of course wear white robes. Miss Lease's bedroom had been hers. Undoubtedly it was she I saw and since then I have had other experiences of spirits - or ghosts as some people call them. I dare say after my death I shall return to Braunstone Hall - It was one of the great loves of my life and I really never got over leaving my birthplace when I was 12 and we had to leave my home..



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The first records of Braunstone are found in the Doomsday Book of 1086..

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Tanky Smith - was a copper from Leicester with a penchant for disguises..

The History of Braunstone Hall..

Braunstone Hall was built in 1776 for the Winstanley family, lords of the manor..