Wivenhoe Remembered: The Gooch Family            

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The Wivenhoe Encyclopedia

 Sea-Change:  Wivenhoe Remembered 

Landowners: Wivenhoe Park and the Gooch family

There had been two big landowners’ houses in Wivenhoe, the Hall and the Park. But the Corsellis family at Wivenhoe Hall went bankrupt in 1896, and the house was burnt down in 1926. A garden folly survives next to the Congregational Church, and its park became the King George V Playing Fields. Hence by the 1930s the Gooch family at Wivenhoe Park were Wivenhoe’s only gentry family. Wivenhoe Park in turn was requisitioned by troops in the Second World War, becoming a headquarters for the SAS, afterwards half reoccupied by the family, and finally in 1962 sold to become the site for the University of Essex. The Gooch family continue to farm the estate.

Country gentleman - Annabel Gooch

I’ve often wondered just how interested he [Charles Gooch III] was in farming. I think he obviously had farm managers and people doing the work because I don’t think he knew all that much about the farming. But it obviously was something that he wanted - to set himself up, I suppose, as a country gentleman, the family not having been country gentlemen before that. And I suppose that’s what people did, isn’t it? He bought the house from the Rebow family. The Rebows had done all the Victorian alterations and then I think ran out of money and had to sell up. So he bought a lot of the furniture from the Rebows but unfortunately not the Constable painting of Wivenhoe Park which is now in the Washington National Gallery. We have got an inventory of the furniture that came up for sale with the house and it’s surprising just how much he bought. But he really did it very thoroughly because all the plate and silver was crested – by this time, he’d got a family coat of arms – and all the plate silver was crested and the plates are crested so he obviously did things in a very very thorough ground way, to set himself up.

Mother in law - Annabel Gooch

My mother-in-law was a wonderful warm, outgoing character but during the War Wivenhoe Park was requisitioned by the Army, and the SAS were stationed there and, of course, they used to entertain the officers, and my mother-in-law fell in love with one of the officers and after the War she went off with him. He was a tea planter before the War, in Ceylon, and she ran off to Ceylon with him which was, obviously, a very difficult and a traumatic time. My husband Charles was 13 and his brother, Robin, was nine. But she was one of a string of girls, seven or eight girls, and she was at the top end of the family, and the second youngest was a schoolteacher and she used to work at a school in Much Hadham, and used to spend the school holidays at Wivenhoe Park with her sister and brother-in-law. So when mother-in-law took off to Ceylon, she went on coming back and, of course, it was perfect, because her two nephews were coming back – they were at boarding school, they were at prep school then, but they came back for the holidays – she, being a schoolteacher, came back for the holidays, and she went on coming back for the holidays. So, in the end, my father-in-law married her. They had no children, though. So it was all very neat because their aunt was looking after them and bringing them up. And she was a lovely person, too. They both were, they were lovely. Both lovely women, in completely different ways.

Sueing Gooch - Charles Scofield

My Grandfather took Charles Gooch, who owned Wivenhoe Park, to court over a chappie, the coachman, who used to carry the coal scuttles in for the fires. He damaged the back door. And this chappy’s name was Dick Poole, who we knew very well – a member of the Masonic Lodge – and he carried these and damaged this door. So Mr Gooch wouldn’t pay my grandfather so he took him to court! My father moaned and said, ‘Another day we’re losing!’ And, of course that was settled out of court and he, Mr Gooch, brought my father home in a horse and trap. That’s a funny story to tell, isn’t it! That goes back quite a way.

Dividing the Estate - Annabel Gooch

The Estate was divided up into two – Home Farm, which is opposite the University. When you come out of the University and you get to the traffic lights on the A133, sort of opposite you, and slightly to the right, that is Home Farm. And then the other centre is Fen Farm which is next door to me here, about quarter of a mile towards Elmstead. But it’s all being consolidated now - the centre really is Fen Farm. And there were maybe six or eight people working on the farm after the War and now we’ve only got two. We’ve got two retired because, of course, in the old way, they have retired and they’re living in the houses where they always lived while they worked here. So when they retire they don’t always want to completely retire and they will do part-time at busy times like harvest. And Alan Daley across the way does a lot of work in the woods – tree-felling and pruning and that sort of thing. So they don’t usually completely retire until they have to. Brian Buckle has had to retire because he’s got a bad hip. And I should think he’s about 70 now because he’s the same age as my husband.

My father-in-law - Annabel Gooch

Charles Gooch [IV], my father-in-law, I knew quite well. He never went to school, which rather a lot of young men didn’t in those days. He had a tutor. He was extremely musical. And when he went up to Cambridge he started up a group of people playing a band and it was called the ‘Footlights,’ and it’s still called the ‘Footlights’ and they travelled abroad. They went on tour to India. They played at the Café de Paris. And he could play any instrument, and he didn’t need a bit of music either. He just understood, exactly, how to produce the sound. And it’s very much an inherited characteristic because my husband played the piano, and his brother’s son is now a Junior Conductor at Covent Garden. And our grandson appears to be very musical in that he’s been playing the piano for two years, and at the age of eight he has suddenly discovered that he can play a tune without music, which is very exciting for all of us.

The Hunt - Annabel Gooch

It was father-in-law [Charles Gooch IV] who was Joint Master of the Essex and Suffolk. He hunted the Essex side, although I used to hunt, we used to go and hunt over on the Suffolk side as well, but he was in control of the Essex part of the Hunt. And of course that doesn’t exist any longer because it’s too urban and too dangerous to hunt in this area. The hounds were kept near Hadleigh, and they still are, and they would box them over. There was a meet every year at Wivenhoe Park and the beagles used to meet too, but they were the Colchester Garrison Beagles, and I think they still exist but again they can’t really hunt around here, because of all the roads. At the meets the people would come into the hall and they’d be given drinks and sausage rolls and that sort of thing. And it’s called a ‘Lawn Meet’ so, in essence, they’d stand on the lawn outside the house. But obviously if you were on horseback you couldn’t come into the house, but the Hunt supporters, and people who were going to follow the Hunt, would come into the hall, perhaps.

White horse - Brian Buckle

[My father] had to look after the old hunter, you see, because they used to hunt three times a week, didn’t they, Essex and Suffolk. Yes, when it come home, that had all got to be washed with Fairy liquid or something, you had to get it clean, a bloody white horse!

The Park - Brian Buckle

That was all parkland, because there was a big herd of deer on there. But, of course, when the Army moved in, they either ate them, or the deer disappeared. All there was grass, and then the Army, they had it, and improved the road round it, and made one big side of concrete there, and two like that, where their three tanks used to sit, because I can remember the three tanks sitting there.

Everything stopped for shooting - Brian and Agnes Buckle

You see, but being this is a shooting estate, you wasn’t allowed to catch a rabbit. They had paid keepers, and you wasn’t allowed to look at a hedge if there’s a rabbit or anything in a hedge, you just shut your eyes, that was so strict to shooting. But, of course, that’s all fell by the wayside now, you know. You can shoot a rabbit, now, if you’ve got a gun. But I never did carry a gun.

On one of Charles Gooch’s shooting days you was given a list, and the whole place ground to a halt that day, a shooting day. Everybody what was fit enough to walk, used to have to report down to the Keepers’ Cottages, which was past the big house, where they built what they call the ‘New Park,’ which is sold away private. Well, down through the wood, there’s two cottages; Dr Palmer’s step-daughter live in one. They’re let out. But that’s what they call the Keepers’ Cottages, and you had to meet there, and that’s where the guns used to meet.

And going back years before then, before I started working, the guns used to lunch in the Keepers’ Cottage, because they’ve got a one enormous big room and a little kitchen, and they used to bring the big table down from the Park, and the food used to come out the Park, they told me, and because there was only ever eight guns, never no more, sit there, and they’d be waited on, while the beaters used to sit in the barn and have a meal.

But everything stopped for shooting. Don’t matter what you was doing, if you was doing a critical job the day afore, ‘They’re shooting tomorrow. You be there, now, at nine o’clock.’ It was about every fortnight, on Tuesday. But when the old gaffer was still able-bodied to do it and everything, when that was Christmas shoot, he used to send the food and the drinks down from the house for the beaters. He always had crackers! He always brought a couple of crackers down for the kids. Good crackers! We didn’t have good crackers then! But as I say, as the younger generation come along and Charlie, which I always called ‘my proper boss,’ and this new one’s working now, that don’t happen now, no. They still shoot every fortnight. But the old gaffer, you see, he was a gentleman. You were never allowed on different fields, or you didn’t do any hedging anywhere near - about a week before we went shooting. Pheasants, partridges - then the partridges died away, then that was just pheasants. And then, of course, the partridges have come back again now, and everybody seem to want to shoot for partridges, because it’s more fun to shoot a partridge than a pheasant, because they’re flying in the open. See, pheasants are coming out of woods, or out of bits of maize.

A gentleman - Brian Buckle

He flung a big party on VE Day, in the wood, the old gaffer did. He was a wonderful chap for parties, see, because he loved parties and he loved music. He used to come in next door, like, and us little ’uns used to disappear out, come in and play the piano, because we stored a piano for a person, and he used to come in there and let rip! He could play any musical instrument.

He was a gentleman. Whatever he said went, but yes, he was. He’d say, ‘I’ll have it done my way,’ and that was done his way. Yes, he was okay. But when I was 14, he used to frighten me. He used to come in the mornings, if you met him in the yard, and he hadn’t got his pipe on, for Christ’s sake get out the way! But if he’s got his pipe on, he’d give you a quid! But as I grew older, things mellowed him.

But as I say, as the younger generation come along, and Charlie, which I always called ‘my proper boss,’ and this new one’s working now, that [Christmas shoot] don’t happen now, no. But the old gaffer, you see, he was a gentleman.

To the bathroom - Brian Buckle

My mother used to say that the old gaffer was a rum ’un, because when the cook was away for a fortnight, see, she had an annual holiday, she had to go down, because she was a good cook, my mum, she used to be a cook for a doctor where she come from when she was single because, see, they was all in service, them sort of people, and she had to go down there and be there for breakfast. And he always had a habit, because he was a character for ladies, wasn’t he? Yes. He always had a habit, he’d walk out of his bedroom, see, with no clothes on, with his towel swinging round, ‘Morning!’ and she’d be going up the stairs and all he used to say, just give a cough and walk to the bathroom!

Swimming - Brian Buckle

He wouldn’t have no clothes on to go swimming, the old gaffer! I’m talking about when he was 65 or more! He never put no clothes on! Charlie was the same, he used to go swimming in the reservoir with no clothes on. He used to take all his clothes off and jump in the reservoir and them come out again! Because them sort of characters do that. They don’t see no shame or embarrassment or anything.

Pony and trap - Brian Buckle

The old gaffer broke his leg once. I was still at school I expect but I can remember my father come home and said to my mum, ‘Old boss has broke his leg,’ that’s when he lived at Elms Farm, and then the information used to filter from one farm to another, say, ‘You won’t see old So and So this week, he’s broken his leg.’ Father come home that night, about two days, he said, ‘He’s been out. I’ve seen him,’ he said, ‘He’s got hisself a pony and trap, and he’s got his leg stuck up on the top, driving the pony and trap round!’ You can’t keep him down!

Quite a character! - Annabel Gooch

My father in law [Charles Gooch IV] was quite a character! He was very amusing and had a fairly bucolic sense of humour. I don’t know how to describe his character, really. He was quite a domineering sort of person. I mean, he wanted the family all to do what he wanted them to do and he wanted to control. When we were first married we really couldn’t make any decisions without him, he had to be consulted about everything. But I was 21 and my husband [CG V] was 28 and was fairly highly qualified, having been at Cirencester [Agricultural College] and also worked as a Land Agent with Strutt and Parker in Ipswich, so he was very knowledgeable. But father-in-law had to keep control of everything, so he had to be consulted about whatever we did.

Much more of a farmer - Annabel Gooch

Charles Gooch [IV] was much more of a farmer. He didn’t actually drive a tractor but he was very interested in livestock because when I married in ’61 we had pigs, sheep and cattle, and we had to give up the sheep because Greenstead Estate was built. Before it was built it was just green fields. And, of course, a lot of people moved from the outskirts of London – there was this policy to move people out of rather squalid areas of London, and put them on the edges of villages up here in the sixties – and they had dogs and they let them out, and the dogs would run over to our side, beyond Salary Brook to us, and where the grazing was, and the least they did was separate the lambs, but very often they just murdered the sheep, just pulled them apart. So, in the end they made a decision to give up sheep. And my father-in-law kept on with the pigs and the cattle and when he died my husband [CG V] gave up the pigs because they were too free-range, quite honestly. You couldn’t make any money out of pigs unless you cooped them up in buildings and kept them confined and they were very happy free-range pigs.

And he kept the cattle, and we gave up the cattle last year. He’d built up a beautiful herd - the original cows were Aberdeen Angus cross, and then, I suppose it was the mid-Eighties when his father died, we went over to France and looked at French breeds of cattle and he decided to have a Limousin bull, and so ever since ’85 or so, the breeding has been what’s called a ‘single suckle herd,’ which means that you have the breeding herd, and you have calves every year and you keep them for a year. They graze on your fields until the autumn and then they come indoors and are fed during the winter, and kept warm, and then they’re sold as ‘prime beef’ at about 12 or 14 months in about May the following year. So this June we sold the calves from last year, but the cows having gone in the Autumn before, and the bull having gone the summer before that, the whole thing was just phased out. And, unfortunately that’s the way things are going. There’s so much paperwork involved with keeping livestock now. Every time you move them you have to get permission and it’s all become so difficult – certainly in this area, anyway. And it’s not a particularly well-known livestock area, this. It’s much more arable. We’re now purely arable. We’ve got about 900 acres under cultivation and it’s all corn crops - it’s wheat, barley, don’t think we’re growing oats any more because we’ve got no one to feed them to. And sugar beet.

Country manners - Annabel Gooch

Charles Gooch was a country gentleman. He didn’t ever want to live in London. In fact, I hardly remember him going to London. He went to London for our wedding. He did occasionally used to go up and take his wife shopping. People around here, they used to refer to him either as ‘The Colonel,’ because he was Colonel in the local Home Guard, or ‘The Squire,’ and actually, he was a typical squire. He wore country clothes, he had country manners. He wasn’t smooth and sophisticated. He was tall and powerfully built but he did his own thing. I think he was his own person. He was confident and he didn’t really need to follow fashion, or even to follow social behaviour. He was quite good at opening the house up for charitable functions, in that way he was very generous, and he would have the Hunt Ball there, and he would have all sorts of big charity parties there. Charles Gooch was a well-known local character. And he was well-known for his very individual personality. Quite definitely.

Committees - Annabel Gooch

My mother-in-law was on the Committee of the Conservatives and I think was Chairman of the local Red Cross. Patricia, her sister, was, I think, on the Committee of the Colchester Rose Society. I know, when I first came down here she was exhibiting her roses quite a lot. In their way they did good works. They did what was expected of them.

Dressed in black - Betty Govan

With the Royal British Legion and the Wivenhoe Conservative Party, Christmas Parties we used to have in the Legion, Mr and Mrs Gooch were always there, and I can always remember her sitting there all dressed in black, like they did in those days.

The first Mrs Gooch - Freda Annis

Mrs Gooch used to open things and that. Of course, during the War, she went off with some Army man! But she came back here to live because she lived at Cross Farm. Colonel Somebody she married, he only died a few years back and she hasn’t been dead all that long. And, actually, he married her sister. They were an American family. People used to say you’d expect someone like that to be...but they really were quite ugly women. They were big as well, you couldn’t say she was nice looking, you really couldn’t! But they were very good to the Parish. When we used to have the Mothers’ Union sale – we always had a sale in November – and there was one woman who, I think she’d worked there as a servant at some time, and she always used to go up and she used to get some beautiful stuff, or they would give her the money towards it, and they used to come and they would spend money there. They were very good like that, especially with church, they were always very ready and would help.

The rest is history - Alan Green

Charles Gooch stuttered. Now, the old man got buried, I think in Wivenhoe churchyard, but certainly his funeral was held at St. Mary’s. It was a horse-drawn carriage affair and several people there, but I was only a youngster then - it was even possibly before the War, so I would have been a maximum of nine years old. And then Charlie Gooch, he inherited – is probably the word I’m looking for – all the Estate, and during the War that was taken over by the government. To start with there were Czech soldiers there, then there was the Tank Regiment, and that finished up with the SAS. After the War Gooch retook possession and he tried to get building permission for the land, and the government would not allow him to build and they paid him £440,000 – according to the paper – not to build. A few years after that the University decided that that was a good place to have a university and the rest is history.

A strange man - Dr Ted Palmer

I looked after Gooch for years. Well, I suppose I can say a little bit about him. Gooch was a strange man but very likeable, with his Master of Foxhounds and things, and his booming voice. It used to be said that he could talk to anybody in any of the rooms in the house up there.

Lord of the Manor

While in many purely rural Essex villages landowners retained their social dominance unchallenged into the mid-20th century, Wivenhoe was also a maritime and industrial village, and local memories of the Gooch family suggest more mixed attitudes.

Just like a coronation - Charles Tayler

I remember when old man Gooch who used to keep the Wivenhoe Park, when he died, we was at the Boys’ School, we was schoolchildren, and we all had to parade outside the School so we could see his coffin coming down on a wagon, with horses. The coffin was on one of the old corn wagons. That was all painted up and done up and Tebbitts horses in tracing, that was just like a Coronation that was to us in them days.

Lord of the Manor - Brian Buckle

Mr Gooch was Lord of the Manor, I expect, where the Wivenhoe Park was, that covered Elmstead, and I suppose it covered Wivenhoe and all, because that bit of ground I always tell you when I see it outside the school, see, we had to do all that work, the Council are not allowed to touch it, because that’s Lord of the Manor’s. You know that bit of grass outside the Millfield School? Well, I did read, once, somebody’s going to set some trees on there. And I said, ‘Well, they’ll have a job, then, because they’ll have to ask the Lord of the Manor first, because that’s who that belong to.’ We had to get that cultivated and set all that grass on there, and so that had to be kept tidied. See, the Lord of the Manor still have their say.

Mr Gooch and rabbiting - Glendower Jackson

Every boy in Wivenhoe had a bike. And on the bike, in the summer, along the crossbar, we had a stick with a knob on the end. And when the harvest was going to be cut by binders, horse-drawn binders in those days, word would get around who was cutting and where and then we’d tear up to the fields and just wander around behind the harvester and when the rabbit bolted out everyone would chase him because it was extra meat. You know, meat was on ration, you couldn’t get an awful lot. But it was great if you took a rabbit home. That was two days’ meal, a good-sized rabbit. But Mr Gooch who owned Wivenhoe Park, he was the fairest man that I ever met. A lot of boys are quicker at catching rabbits than others. Some are much slower, of course. And he would make every boy who caught a rabbit put the rabbits in line at the gate. And there would be a huge line of them. And when the field had finished cutting he would allow the man who drove the binder and the man who sat on the binder to take a rabbit each. And he would get all the children to line up and take a rabbit as they went out – so one boy didn’t go home with half a dozen. He was very fair, Mr Gooch. Whereas other fields, they didn’t care. If you caught six you took six. And, of course, the parents were very grateful.

‘Good morning, Gooch’ - Sylvia Weatherall

Dad was working up there one day and there was Bill Clark and several of his bosses, and Dad was filling the cement thing. And Mr Gooch comes over and says, ‘Good morning, Mr Clark. Good morning, Mr So-and-so.’ And, ‘Good morning, Gibson.’ And he did not turn a hair, he just said, ‘Good morning, Gooch.’ But that’s just how he was, he could really put you in your place.

Lords of the Manor, almost - Freda Annis

The Gooches were the Lords of the Manor, almost. And, of course, Mr Gooch never missed going to church. I didn’t know his wife or anything, we only knew the daughter, who used to come occasionally. And Charles [CG IV], he was the one that people got to know. And I think it was through most of his escapades that he was well known at one time! But the father turned the Estate over to him and he carried it on. And, of course they’ve still got a lot of farms. But I think they were, on the whole, from what you can hear, very good people to work for.

I know we went carol singing up there. That was when I was Sunday School teaching - the choir and the Sunday School teachers, we went carol singing at Christmas. We used to go up and round the Cross and that, and for some reason - that was when Charles first had the Park - and he asked, ‘Could the carol singers go up to the Park?’ And it was a cold, frosty night, but they had lanterns because I don’t think there were any lights further up. So we went up and all stood in the courtyard and sung carols, and there were two servants up at one of the windows and they were so upset because their eldest boy, I think he was a little boy about three, and he’d been trying to keep awake and he’d gone to sleep before we got up there! But they took us into the kitchen. Well, you never saw such a spread in your life! Really lovely - it was hot cocoa, or tea. The men had something stronger! There was quite a crowd of men and Charles siphoned them off to the side, but we had sandwiches and sausage rolls, mince pies, you know. We had a lovely do. Whether the choir and that went any more, I don’t know.

Scouts camp - Alan Green

We’d already arranged a [Scouts] Camp there when the University decided to have the ground, and Mr Gooch came over on the Friday evening and asked if the boys would like to go fishing because the big lake contained quite a lot of fish – there was only one lake, then, of course. And the boys, of course, were delighted! And we had fish dinners, fish suppers, and fish breakfast, I think, because he told us not to put any back once we’d caught them. ‘Goochie’ was his nickname. I suppose he thought he was sort of the Lord of the Manor, above most, and a little bit aloof. I was from the working-class and we didn’t really mix.

Wivenhoe Park house

Wivenhoe Park house history - Annabel Gooch

I met my husband in London and we knew one another for about two years before we married. And I used to come and stay at Wivenhoe Park. I think I first came in about ’59, because we were married in ’61. The house was bought by my husband’s grandfather – they were all called Charles. My grandson is Charles VIIth, so that’s how many Charles’s there have been! And he bought it in 1901 and he chose Wivenhoe Park and the estate around it rather than Layer Marney Tower, which was also up for sale, because the land was better. The house was Georgian with beautiful Georgian features and plasterwork. It was altered, altered very well, by somebody called Thomas Hopper, but was not considered the beautiful house that Tudor and Elizabethan Layer Marney is. So he chose this estate for the land. The land was very good, and it is. And he was a Classics scholar and had a wonderful library of books – Latin and Greek. He had a marvellous library at Wivenhoe Park.

Wivenhoe Park  - Annabel Gooch

I suppose, in hindsight, it wasn’t all that long after the War because I first came down here, I suppose, in ’59? And the house had the most wonderful proportions – well, it still has, except that some bits have been removed, like the staircase. It had these marvellous overmantles, wonderful marble fireplaces, marvellous 18th century plasterwork, and yet because all these houses had to be redecorated after the War by the Ministry of Defence or Ministry of Works, would it have been? Because the Army messed them up quite a lot and I think most requisitioned houses had to be redecorated and there wasn’t enough money to, perhaps, do exactly what ought to have been done. Which was the gilding of the mirrors and that sort of thing, so they were all whitewashed. But there was something rather charming about the simplicity of all that, there was nothing at all pretentious. There were these beautiful features but they were very low-key. And the curtains, it seemed that the only material that was available at that time was toile de jouy [French country style print fabric], and, of course, the windows were so high and there were yards and yards of unlined toile de jouy. Lining just didn’t come into it much either.

The house interior - Annabel Gooch

They had meals in the dining room - they used, as a dining room, the hall really. They had a dining room table at the bottom of the staircase which, again, was a very large area, so there was plenty of room for it. In the room which is now a bar, where the Chippendale overmantle was, that was their main sitting room. And then their grander room, which they only used for parties, was where the Board Room is now. It’s the room beyond the room where the plasterwork is, with the bay window over the garden. And the room where the plasterwork is was the library and there were mahogany bookcases all around which were taken out. That was quite clever because those alcoves were obscured by the mahogany bookcases, so I think probably my husband’s grandfather must have put them in but they were quite clever because where the plasterwork drips down, they fitted in like that rather beautifully. It was quite surprising when they took them out, actually.

The furniture - Annabel Gooch

The furniture was marvellous. Absolutely wonderful. Beautiful furniture. Some of it was Victorian and there were some extraordinary Victorian sideboards and things which had been put down in the basement which, I suppose, my husband’s grandfather must have bought – huge, over-ornately decorated mahogany with lion paw feet and that sort of thing, and countless leaves. But the really lovely furniture was, I suppose, mainly Regency and Georgian.

Plan  - Annabel Gooch

When you go through the front door into the hall the kitchen, which originally was in the basement, was moved up to the room on the left. I’m not quite sure what that is now. And then you walked through from the hall and there was the staircase but that’s all been taken out. And to the right there was a long vaulted picture gallery going all the way down to one of the windows over the garden, but that’s all been boxed up. There was, above the staircase, a landing with a cupola, and you could see the sky through it.

Into service - Muriel Ryder [from a Colchester Recalled interview]

I went into service at Wivenhoe Park [in 1937]. I got £1.50 a month. I got Tuesday afternoon off, and Sunday once a fortnight. The uniform was blue and white with black stockings and flat shoes for the morning, black dresses and white aprons and caps for the afternoons. My bedroom was right at the top, all us servants we all lived up at the top. The butler used to come and wake us up in the morning. We had to be down in the kitchen by 5.30, not a minute later.

It was hard work. You start off by doing all the vegetables in the kitchen, all the washing up, and then I would help the cook. The kitchen table was massive, scrubbed top. I had a huge blacklead stove to do, with great big ovens each side, I had to keep that clean. That’s the only cleaning I did. The only duty I did other than that was the oil lamps. Fifty-two oil lamps, I used to have to clean them every morning, fill them up, light them up every evening and then take them and plant them all over the house, for everybody, just before dusk.

There was about 23 of us altogether. But I’d been there about two years when it was reduced down to about nine of us. There was the cook and me and the chauffeur-gardener, there was the nanny and two under-nurses, there was the butler and the parlourmaid, and there was four housemaids, and the handyman. We all ate in the house.

Parties every week

The family were only Mr and Mrs Gooch and the two boys. Parties every week, any excuse for a big party, the house would be chock-a-block. They always had the hunt up there, you’d be handing them out punch in the morning before they went, there’d be cocktails when they’d come back, they’d disappear, and then they’d be back again at 8 o’clock for a five course meal. There’d be at least 40 of them. We never finished up in that kitchen before 11 o’clock at night, never. But whatever they had upstairs, we had downstairs. Even when the champagne was all gone, there was always some in the kitchen for us. We had some good times there.

Out of this world

It was a four course meal every day. You also had a very good breakfast, a big fry-up and porridge. We had a huge kitchen garden, it wasn’t far from the lake, a very high wall round it – everything came off the garden. They never bought vegetables. Everything was grown. We used to make all our own ice cream. We did everything, jams, marmalades, bottled fruits. All the eggs came in off the farm. You never went short of nothing. The wine cellar was always filled up.

We always had a lot of game, we’d have deer occasionally. They had two great game larders where they hung up all the pheasants and hares that were brought in by the gamekeepers. And that cook never cooked a bird or a rabbit or a pheasant or a hare, she never cooked anything, until it was crawling with maggots. The food was out of this world. I never realised that there was such food to be had.

After the War - Annabel Gooch

I can’t remember the bathrooms terribly clearly but there was probably a bathroom for six bedrooms. I think what happened after the War is that they didn’t, for instance, use the top floor at all, it was just attics and storage. And only the ground floor and the first floor were used so obviously that helped as far as keeping the heating under control. And then moving the kitchen up from the basement was probably done then, I should think, because before the War they would have had a lot more staff and they would have probably had it below stairs.

The kitchen garden was still going in a small way. It was still there but the greenhouses, I don’t remember that they were still there. But they would grow just enough for the house so most of it was not in use.

The last years in the old house - Annabel Gooch

There was heating downstairs and there was heating in the master bedroom upstairs, but that’s all. So my husband’s bedroom was freezing! It was enormous and absolutely bitterly cold!

[For help] they had my mother-in-law and her sister’s retired nanny, who did the laundry, and they had a live-in cook and her husband was one of the gardeners. But that was when I first knew them in the late Fifties. And then they had various people coming in from the village, to clean. Not all that many for such a big house. I think they entertained a lot. And there were shoots too, and shooting lunches. They would bring in extra staff at times like that. There was somebody called Doris used to come in from the village when they had a lot of people.

Selling up - Annabel Gooch

Father-in-law sold the house. The Essex County Council were looking for a site for the University and they narrowed it down to two. It was Wivenhoe Park or it was Hylands House on the edge of Chelmsford and they wanted to have it at Colchester because at the time, Colchester was a quiet country market town. I mean, there were the big firms like Paxmans and Woods, but there wasn’t the amount of industry going on that there is now. It really was a quiet little market town and you could park in the High Street and there was a market in the High Street and they felt they wanted it to have – the University – to have a rural setting, and this would be better for the academic spirit than a big county town like Chelmsford. But, of course, I think the University has turned Colchester into a much busier place! And, anyway, my father-in-law wasn’t looking to sell but in the end he was persuaded to. And again, he made the decision.

A disappointment - Annabel Gooch

My husband was actually born in the house – well, they both were, my father-in-law was actually born in the house – and in his mid-twenties my husband was obviously imagining that he would live there one day and bring his family up there, so it was extremely disappointing when his father decided to sell. But it was his father’s decision. He said, ‘It’s better for you, you’ll never be able to keep this going. So it’s better for the whole family if we do sell it.’ It had become a strain to keep the house going. I mean, the heating was phenomenally expensive. But, you see, in those days, in the early Sixties, people didn’t open their houses much to the public. They didn’t open their gardens either and we often talked about it and we were just the right age group to have taken that decision to keep it going by opening it and there was such a lot to show, we could have done it. And I’m a madly keen gardener and so I would have replanted the garden and it would have been huge fun. But in the early Sixties people were struggling but they weren’t thinking about opening their houses to keep them going. It was just a bit too soon.

A new house - Annabel Gooch

We built a new house. And that was a very well-known classical architect called Raymond Erith and it was Quinlan Terry who studied under him, in his business in Dedham. But he was a well-known classical architect, and Raymond Erith worked at several classical houses, like 10 Downing Street, and built several country houses. Interestingly enough, my father-in-law knew Basil Spence. And he asked him to, first of all, to build him a house, and he said he was too busy because he was building Coventry Cathedral. That’s always rather interested me, I wonder what sort of house he would have built!

My father-in-law died in ’83 and his widow lived there for a couple of years and then didn’t want to live there any more. So the house was left to her and we had to decide whether to buy it from her or not, and we were perfectly happy here so we decided not to, and so she sold it. This is a very cosy house and the children, by that time, had more or less left home and we didn’t need the space. It was a pity, in a way. In many ways I think it was a shame, but anyway, that was the decision we took. And the chap that bought it, who is a solicitor from Chelmsford, is still there. He’s lived there ever since he bought it in about ’85, so he obviously is very happy!

Little connection now - Annabel Gooch

So we brought up our children at Tye Farm. I’m much more attached to Elmstead than Wivenhoe. We decided very early on that we would go to Elmstead Church - not that it means anything but my husband was Lord of the Manor, my son is now Lord of the Manor of Elmstead, and it’s a smaller place and we love the church there, so we had a family pew in Wivenhoe but we sort of gave it up. We’ve got plots in the Wivenhoe churchyard so my husband is buried there with the rest of the family. The Gooches weren’t Lords of the Manor of Wivenhoe. No. We had two. There were Elmstead and Greenstead. They still have two. But Wivenhoe not. And I think probably that’s because of Wivenhoe Hall where the Corsellis family lived which was burnt down in the Twenties, I think they probably had the Lordship of the Manor of Wivenhoe. I know various people in Wivenhoe but I can’t really say that we have much connection now.

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Last updated:
05 January 2015

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