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Edith Midgley (1922-2002)

19th of February 2003

Edith Midgley, who died on 16 November last year, lived all her life in Chipperfield. Many people will have recollections of their own association with Edith, but as a tribute to her, I have brought together some of her own memories which she recorded in 1998 for the `Chipperfield Within Living Memory’ project.
Edith, an only child, was born at 5, Dunny Lane. Her parents, James and Ethel Birch, were the first people to move into the new council houses there in 1922. Edith had a very happy childhood and spent hours playing on the Common or in the fields opposite their house. There were always lots of other children to play with. Sundays were always special. Sunday best clothes were worn and that included hats. Edith attended Sunday School, which was run by Kitty Bunyan in the village school in the afternoon with a monthly morning service in the Church. Regular attenders received books as prizes. Mothers and children went on an annual church outing to somewhere like Southend. Kitty Bunyan also ran the Candidates’ Club, which was an evening club for girls of school age and over. The group met in the Village Institute, but in good weather they went to Waterhouse’s Meadow (now Kings Close) to play cricket and rounders and Edith really enjoyed this. She attended the Brownies and the Guides meetings in the Village Institute and annual Guide camps at Church Lane, Sarratt. Schooldays were spent at the village school, where there were four classes. Mr Bidnell, the Headmaster, taught the top class and played the fiddle for country dancing. Friday afternoons were best, because the pupils played netball in the playground. If it were wet, they had a serial story. `Sir Lancelot’ was Edith’s favourite.
On leaving school at 14, Edith went to Pitman’s College in Watford for two years to learn shorthand/typing. In 1938, she went to work in the office at Simmonds’ Nursery. When the war started in 1939, she worked in Hemel Hempstead and then at Dickinson’s Offices at Apsley. Much to her employers’ annoyance, she volunteered for the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, where she remained until 1945. She had met her future husband, Jack, at a dance in the Village Institute in about 1940. He had been stationed at Chipperfield Lodge on Whippendell Hill with part of the 21st Tank Brigade until the time of Dunkirk. Sadly Jack was later taken prisoner of war. They met up again after the war and were married in St Paul’s Church by Canon Jeffries at the end of 1945,
Jack worked as a driver for Simmonds’ Nurseries and Waterhouse’s and Edith worked in the office at Waterhouse’s. They decided that they would build their own home and bought the plot on the corner of Alexandra Road and Langley Road, where three old cottages had been demolished. They had difficulties in obtaining a building licence and building materials were in short supply after the war, but by 1949 their house `Bradfield’ was completed and Jack set up in business as the village barber. He had done his apprenticeship in Bradford after leaving school (I imagine the name was a combination of Bradford and Chipperfield).
Edith, retired in 1982 and Jack closed down his business a little later, but they continued to live in the village in their retirement. Jack died in 1994 and now that Edith has gone, another chapter in village history has come to an end.
Mary Nobbs

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