You are here: Home > Auntie Bertha . . . A Godmother   Go Back

Auntie Bertha . . . A Godmother

Auntie Bertha in 1941
Miss Bertha Charman
Nov 1896 – July 1981

Auntie Bertha was part of my life from before I can remember! Auntie Bertha was Cook for the Parker Family – a Family of Property – who lived in Sandisplatt, a Landed Gentry’s house in Sandisplatt Road in Maidenhead: JH’s mother was employed in domestic service at Sandisplatt in the capacity of Parlour Maid. JH is not entirely sure of the hierarchy of persons employed by the Landed Gentry but . . . Mummy did tell me about clearing grates and lighting fires in rooms after rising from her bed at about 5.00am! And Mummy did say to JH - words to the effect - that Mrs Parker had knocked on Mummy’s door with some ‘request’ – to which my mother politely replied that that particular afternoon was her half-day off! There was no doubt that my mother was – almost – treated like a ‘below stairs servant’ on occasions - as might have been considered the norm amongst the class-ridden social mores of the time. However . . . my sister and I were told by Miss Cameron, whose father, Sir John Cameron, was a previous employer, that my mother sometimes was a most difficult person for the other below-stairs staff to work with. I feel sure that my mother, who had a disrupted childhood . . . her mother having left the matrimonial home when all three children were still very young . . . lacked social confidence, and was of a querulous but ingenuous disposition.

Mummy was working for the Parkers in Maidenhead when she met my father, who called at the Tradesmen’s entrance apropos his business in insurance. Mummy was puzzled as to why Daddy did not ask her out (on her one half day a week, or was there a day off as well?) as he was obviously captivated! It transpired that Daddy had been attending dancing lessons during his weeks of ‘absence’!
JH's Mother photographed in the garden of Sandisplatt the home of the Parker Family in Maidenhead where she worked in domestic service in the early 1930s Daddy met Mummy at the tradesmen's door possibly when he was canvassing to acquire insurance business
Auntie Bertha, obviously, was higher in the below-stairs hierarchy than my mother who went to Sandisplatt in the early 1930s – when the old established order of employment of members of the poor/lower classes by the members of the wealthy/upper classes had still not been completely ‘ruffled’ round the class barriers by the War to End all Wars. I have no recollection of meeting a butler, or housekeeper, or other below-stairs staff, but I am sure that there was another maid in the establishment – who presumably had replaced my mother following her departure when she married Daddy. My mother had no other home: her home was Sandisplatt. And so from Sandisplatt she went to All Saints Church in Boyn Hill Road to be married. JH went to this church when she was an infant school pupil, as the Infants School was housed in the Church’s cloisters – and the Junior School was a few hundred yards away at the top of Boyn Hill.

Daddy learnt to drive whilst in the RAF but we did not obtain a car – of the ‘sit up and beg’ variety - until his return home after the war. So there were many walks to Sandisplatt from Woodlands Park to visit Auntie Bertha. The route we took was a right turn – northwards - out of the gate of 8 Waltham Road, past Wallaces’ shop which was next door. JH recollects that Mr Wallace Junior was somehow different, but still a neighbour who peopled JH’s world and was not in the least bit alarming to meet in the shop. Mr Wallace Junior was ESN, in other words, he had learning difficulties - in modern parlance. Mummy’s friend, widowed Mrs Prout – who lived in a house attached to the Village Hall in White Waltham – also had a daughter who was somehow different . . . JH recollects her Father telling JH that, after Mrs Prout’s death, Miss Prout was arraigned before the Courts for some misdemeanour and it was apparent to everyone that this lady needed succour in the community, as she was even unable to understand as to why she was standing in front of the Magistrates.