The Groves of Academe

Gisella was indeed given the job as assistant teacher at the local school for girls.  It is situated in a large room, and twenty girls from the ages of six until thirteen receive their education in this room.  She has been very busy learning her teaching, and getting to know the girls.  She loves nurturing their interest in the world around, and helping them to learn by themselves through the skills of reading and writing.  Her sisters were worried that she would not be strong enough to manage full days of teaching, but she has done well.  She rests when she gets home whilst the others cook the tea.  Her wage is very much appreciated.

It has been a busy couple of months at No 9b Upper Kettle Street, with Lucy working in the bakery and Gisella in the school.  The girls have made a garden bed with the help of a friend who made boxes in which to put earth, and they have planted some vegetables.  They are hoping that the vegetables will grow, because here are walls around three sides of their small yard, and the house – all blocking light.  (Friend Sylvia, please take note!)

Two more members of the family have returned from their travels, with an addition from the wider family, and a friend.  Rosina had been travelling in Japan with the Perry family, and returned in early May with a Japanese friend – Keiko.  G had been visiting Argentina and America with another family and she returned at the end of May. She brought with her little Hope, her cousin, who is but a babe of eighteen months.  Aunt W has her hands full with her family of thirteen, and is hoping that Hope will bring her cheery personality back to the family homeland, and receive a better education and more attention than in her busy household.  Evenings are now filled with much story telling, once the garden has been inspected and watered.

The house is filling up – Grandmother Mags sent a beautiful trunk from her sister Mrs Sag, decorated with a whale, all the way from Minnesota.  Hitty G had quite a journey with storms tossing her ship in the Atlantic Ocean, but she brings the news that Grandmother Mags will be returning to England, now that her other daughters are settled and past their crises overseas.

Ettie proves herself useful to Mrs Beauchamp, and spends much of her time at Mrs B’s very dilapidated house which is nearly a hundred years old.  It was built  the year King George III came to the throne – 1760.  It sits a little out of town on a little hill with a lovely park.   Ettie is helping to supervise the workmen as they replaster the outside walls, and go through the house – room by room – painting.  Mrs Beauchamp wants the colour scheme kept just as it was when she grew up, which is where Ettie’s supervision comes in very useful.  The workmen are all for dark colours, but Mrs Beauchamp prefers light colours above stairs.  She thinks they remind her of the happy days when she was first married to Mr Beauchamp and they came to live in her family home, Tor House.

9b Upper Kettle Street is looking very crowded in the evenings, even though Ettie stays very often at Tor House with Mrs Beauchamp.  The girls have asked their landlord whether they can open up the attic to use it as a bedroom.






Work II – the Groves of Academe?

Gisella has been receiving visits from a lady she met at church, who knew that she might be a little lonely in the daytime with Lucy out at work.  Mrs Beauchamp enjoys Gisella reading to her – her eyesight is a little difficult these days, and the young woman is an expressive reader.  Mrs Beauchamp brought some carrots and a beautiful pot of parsley with her yesterday, and drank a dish of (new) tea with the family.  She had mentioned recently that the Board school assistant was leaving to get married very soon, somewhat to the surprise of the Schoolmistress.  She brought up the subject of Gisella’s fine schooling at Lady Alice Owen’s school, now run by the inestimable Mr Hoare.

Today Mrs Beauchamp came after lunchtime, before the usual hour for calling – to ask Gisella to go along this evening with her, to Mrs Blenkinsop’s house.  Mrs Blenkinsop was very interested to hear of Gisella’s excellent schooling and interest in books.  She wishes to talk with her about the possibility of helping out as an assistant at the Board school.

Gisella loves children, and does indeed love reading and writing.  She has learned a little French and Latin, along with geography and history.  She is not sure that she is strong enough yet to contemplate such an enterprise, but thinks that it will be much better suited to her than work in the mill, or indeed the bakery – since flour in the air makes her sneeze dreadfully.  She wonders whether she could make over Lucy’s plain blue dress?

Work I

The weeks passed, and there was no sign of work.  The girls had asked at the mill, and all of the shops in the town, but there were no jobs to be had.  They were growing tired of eating bread which they baked, and eggs which Lucy was buying from a farm a few miles away.  It was a great relief that the weather had warmed up, and they could let the fire go out at times, as well as retiring to bed early to save on coal and candlelight.


One day earlier this week, whilst buying yeast to make bread at the bakery, Lucy was asked whether she was still looking for work. One of the assistants at the back of the bakery had contracted a dangerous and contagious disease, and was not expected to return. Mrs Fells had kindly spoken for Lucy and the family and it went in her favour that she could bake bread, and so she started work, wearing Grandmother’s old gardening jacket and petticoat, washed carefully and ironed.

The relief that was felt all around was very great, since the small amount of money Lillibet had been able to send them had nearly run out.  But they would continue to have to economise carefully, eating mainly bread, porridge and eggs, and reusing the tealeaves until they gave no more.

Moving into 9b Upper Kettle Street

March 1st. With a little help, and a lot of heaving, furniture was moved into Upper Kettle Street.  It was a modest amount of furniture, the basics, because the rooms are small and there is no spare money.  After getting everything in but not ordered, over a restorative cup of tea discussions take place about how to improve the money situation.   Various opportunities are possible – there is a cotton weaving mill in the town, and there are shops.  It’s also possible, Lucy hopes, that there will be ladies who need dresses made, but she worries that they are not known in the town.  Only one friend from past times knows them, it is old Mrs Fells who encouraged them to come.  The first night is spent huddling up to each other on the mattress with sheets and blankets for warmth.  Tomorrow, Lucy will make some pillows, and hopes to find fabric for curtains.  Gisella will see about getting the chimney swept – the fire smokes.ImageImage

9b Upper Kettle Street

As you know times have been hard in recent years and some people have had to move for new jobs, have had to take up new occupations and make a series of distressing changes in their lives.

Even the Wren Cottage dolls are not immune. So I have to report that the income my Hittys and Hettys relied on has failed, and our little friends are temporarily parted. Lillibet had to give up the nice home they rented and has gone to the capital to take up a dress designing job. Hittys Lucy, Ettie, Lottipeg and Gisella have been looking for a place to live, where Lucy can dressmake and Gisella can possibly work in a shop.

Today, they found just the place. They will take No 9 Upper Kettle Cottages, or rather the back wing of the house, 9b. It is a newly built (for 1850) house in an area where weaving and cotton work is growing. They will have a yard (I mean, a yard – not a garden – and an outside water closet. They will move in their few possessions and a mattress this afternoon. They are quite anxious to put up some curtains! They have had to sell many of their lovely things to raise the train fare to this town.

Barley Gruel (can be made in advance and reheated when required)

2 pints water, 2 oz pearl barley, 1 oz raisins, 1 oz currants, 1/2 tsp ground mace

Put the water in a cooking pot with the barley, and if you can afford it, the raisins, currants and mace, and boil until the water is reduced by half, and the barley is tender.

Possible additions, escalating with your means: 1 oz raisins, 1 oz currants and 1/2 tsp ground mace.  Butter to taste.  2 tablespoons sugar.  2 fl oz white wine.  Possibly not all at once!

Can be made alternatively with oats to give porridge.

To console themselves, they will refer to No 9b as Wren Cottage – it’s certainly as small as a wren!  The dimensions of the rooms are : 8′ 10″ by 6′ 5″, ceilings vary 6′ 9″ tall.  One room downstairs, with range;  one room upstairs and an attic.  The water closet is outside, 5′ deep by 2’6″ wide.   It’s a good thing our girls are around 5′.

Looking at the new home.Image

Hitty Lucy comes home

Hitty Lucy has returned from her Master Dressmaking course.  She had caught the Stage Coach from the city, and took the last leg of the journey sitting with the Rector in his gig during a hail shower.  She was welcomed home by Ettie with a shawl and a cup of chocolate.  Ettie remarked that most of the Dressmakers she knew were ladies even if the old fashioned mantua makers were often men.  Why was Lucy not a Mistress Dressmaker?  Lucy shushed her, “You’ll have the men up in arms!   Don’t fill your head with such ideas!”  There were to be great plans for stuffs, trimmings, and new wardrobes for all.   However, events have caught up with us as you will shortly see.  Great changes are afoot for the Wren Cottage dolls.


Hot Chocolate Drink

Grate a quantity of dark good quality chocolate into a bowl, and first mix, then briefly whisk with a chocolate whisk with water, heating over a bain-marie until it is well incorporated and hot.  If you like the chocolate thickened, add an egg whilst whisking.  Add a grating of fresh nutmeg, and serve.

Ratafia biscuits

Take 1 cup/4 oz ground almonds, and sieve or pound in a bowl.  In another bowl, whisk 2 egg whites with 1 teaspoonful of orange-flower water (or orange liqueur) until stiff.  Then mix thoroughly 6oz / 3/4 cup of caster sugar (superfine) into the almonds and lastly fold in the whisked egg whites.

Cover a baking sheet with rice paper, and place small teaspoonfuls of mixture on it, well spaced out (they spread).   Bake for ten to twelve minutes at 350 deg F or 180 deg C (Gas 4), until they are just coloured beige – they should still be soft underneath.  Cool them on the baking sheet, cut out,  and keep in an air tight container.

Molinette, or Chocolate whisk

chocolate whisk



Hitty Gisella has a Map

Hitty Gisella has insisted on balancing in a balletic manner on the very top of this cloth map of the US  whilst brandishing a to-scale map of the British Isles.

I am having to point out where all her US cousins live, which involves a lot of pins and turning to and from the heavy atlas.  We are hoping to print the map out onto a piece of cloth, and fussy cut (aha, a good job for a little doll with little fingers, nay?) around the B. Isles and to relocate it in the Atlantic just east of Florida.  Strictly this is only for the purposes of Hitty genealogy, ones friends and relations.

I think the whole escapade must be a figment of her imagination, since she is of course not well enough to do such things, yet…