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The Grove, Whippendell Bottom

2nd of October 2007

I recently came across a photocopy of an interesting article entitled Kings Langley, Chipperfield and Cherry Trees, written by Jean Tearle. I have so far been unable to identify the source of this article, but am hoping that Jean would be happy to share with you that part of the story that relates to Chipperfield. (Please call me if you can help with information � 01923 269480).
When Jean was eleven, her family moved  from Langley Hill to a cottage in The Grove at the bottom of Whippendell Hill, an area she described as a valley between two steep hills making a natural boundary for the Palace, ideal for the Royal Park palings. There were 6 cottages in a row at right angles to the road. A large green double gate gave access to the driveway with a pedestrian gate at the side. Outside the gates were two or three staddle-stones. A flint wall ran alongside the road, over which hung branches of lilac, golden rose and a profusion of flowering shrubs. On the inside of the wall were gooseberry and currant bushes and innumerable fruit trees. The cottages were set in an acre or two of gardens, orchard and spinney with no divisions between them.  Each had a lawn with flower borders and fruit trees on the Chipperfield side.
In spring, the spinney at the back of the cottages was thick with primroses and violets and provided a good place for clothes lines, being high up and out of view. The only means of drinking water was a well, which was flint and stone lined. Every other day, Jean and her father would carefully unwind the rope and lower the 7 gallon bucket until they felt it hit the water at the bottom. They had to take great care not to lose the bucket, which was then hauled slowly back. Rain water was used for washing clothes and dishes.
Jean�s mother cooked on a small kitchen range and used a primus stove for the quick heating of kettles. They had open fires for warmth and the soft light of Aladdin lamps in the evenings.  Jean�s father kept a car in a garage in the orchard. Next to the garage was an old wooden apple store which stood on staddle-stones.
A very old lady called Mrs Higgins lived in the first cottage, which had a big window looking onto the road. In the front parlour there used to be an over-large fireplace, with an open grate and side ovens or ornamental panels, which was said to have originated from Kings Langley Palace. Jean was told that Mr Higgins, who was long since dead, had built the cottages himself and used bits and pieces from here and there for the interiors.
On a return visit to the area, Jean was shocked to see all the houses in Chipperfield Road and the bridge over the A41 by-pass. She remembered the higgledy-piggledy group of cottages at the foot of the hill, elm trees, which overhung the road and dropped their branches in gales, traffic at a complete standstill in icy weather  and everyone working together to clear a track through deep snow on the steep hills.
Elizabeth Weedon, who has lived in the first cottage since 1951, has kindly provided me with further information about The Grove. She says that the drive used to run immediately in front of the cottages by their front doors and that the old gates were still there when she moved in with her mother. She personally removed these superfluous barriers with their gateposts, which were upside down tree trunks with branch stumps buried in the ground for stability. She recalls building the brick wall herself during exceedingly hot weather.
The cottages, she says, were built circa 1801 by a Mr Higgins, whom Elizabeth assumes was father-in-law of the Mrs Higgins, who lived there during Jean�s lifetime. Mrs Higgins died in 1947, four years before Elizabeth  moved in. The capped well is now concealed under Elizabeth�s gazebo. She used to water the garden from it until it fell into disrepair.
Mary Nobbs

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