Chapter 18

Chapter 18



The journey took three or four weeks and finally we docked at Liverpool. Geoffrey Chance and Bennett, the gardener, chauffer and handyman, were there to meet us. Budge had not seen her father for 5 years and I had never met him, so it was an emotional meeting. Bennett took the luggage in one car, and Geoffrey drove us three back. I remember well admiring the open countryside after the jungle and the arid Indian plains, and then later, when we got to Stourton Court, the Chance house, the rose garden and lawns.


I had several weeks of demob. leave due to me, and the thought of work I pushed to the back of my mind. My mother came down to stay for a few days looking much the same as when I had last seen her. She had stayed in London for the whole war, being at one time the only occupant of the block of flats near Lowndes Square where she lived and was the air raid warden for the block. She had also been burgled twice, and had lost all her more valuable possessions. After a short stay at Stourton I went up to London to see what friends had survived, and to present myself at Olympia for demob. and there with hundreds of others got a civilian suit, a hat and a pair of shoes and then departed, a civilian once more : later I got a cheque for £104 as a war gratuity which I put into the P.O. savings bank and used as an excuse for minor extravagances, although I did not in fact draw it out for many years.


We now had two problems; the first to get a job and the second to find somewhere to live. I had been offered two jobs, although offered is probably too definite a word, before I left India. Hugh Chance, then deputy Chairman of Chance Bros. had asked me through Geoffrey whether I would be willing to return to India to manage some proposed branch they were contemplating out there. I had turned this down out of hand as I had been abroad, except for a few months, for 12 years, and, in any case did not want to work in India, and Budge would have hated it. The second “offer” was from a man I had met on the boat coming home. It was to join him in Rhodesia, to run a copper mine that he owned; he was a much older man than I,and said that he thought that I was just the sort of person he was looking for. He gave me his address, but I never followed it up.


Finding somewhere to live was much more difficult. We were living with my in-laws who were kindness itself, not a good arrangement for either family, but building licences were impossible to obtain,as all house building was concentrated on council houses of a maximum size of 1200 square feet, and there were no houses for sale. The Chances had lived in Kingswinford in a large house called Greenfield, now a pub called The Swan, and early in the war had bought Stourton Court and moved there; when they moved the Admiralty had requisitioned the house and used it as offices. After we had been living with the Chances for about 3 months, the Admiralty gave notice to leave and the house was vacated. Geoffrey then most kindly gave it to Budge and we moved in. 1947 was one of the coldest winters for many years, and on leaving, the Admiralty had omitted to drain the central heating system with the result that every radiator was cracked, and the house flooded. Replacements were unobtainable and we spent the coldest few months of my life until summer came.


Geoffrey one day suggested that I join him at Himley Brick. I was not at all keen for two reasons, the first being that manufacturing one product struck me as being a very boring way of making a living, as I was used to constantly changing work that one gets as a civil engineer, and the second was that a nephew of his, Norman Forbes was already working at Himley and had been there since he had left school, and I could not see that there could possibly be enough work to occupy us both. However Geoffrey said that I was to think it over and let him know when my leave was over; he also said that he was most anxious to retire from full time work as he was tired out after the difficult war years at Himley. Eventually I said that I would give it a try for three months or so, and we agreed on that, and at the end of my leave I started work. To begin with my fears of not enough to do were justified, and I made enquiries as to other jobs more in my line, and was quite happy at the possibility of going abroad again and Budge too did not demur . Then Norman got married and his father-in-law found him a job as a company secretary, which he had qualified to be when a prisoner of war, and he told Geoffrey that he would be leaving; Geoffrey then told me that this was most providential as he had intended to make me managing director of Himley, and was wondering how to put this to Norman. So I stayed at Himley.


Meanwhile Budge had become pregnant again, and one day while I was digging in the garden at Greenfield, Dr Murphy came out and said that we had a lovely little girl. I was a bit disappointed at first at not having a son, but after seeing Jinny was so no longer, and since then have never regretted for one moment at having three daughters.


Eryl Ransome had divorced Gordon and was without anywhere to live, so Budge had offered her a flat in the house, but quite separate. She had been living there for some time, but after a bit decided that she would like a house of her own, and bought one on the canal at Kinver. We too had decided that Greenfield was not really where we wanted to live permanently, as the area was getting increasingly built up, and the house was cold, and we wanted to move into a more countrified area. Owen Grazebrook owned an old and broken down farmhouse at Stourton, where the tenant had just shot himself, and he had decided to put it on the market by tender. We inspected it and saw that it needed a tremendous amount doing to it but that it was in a good area with very good views, and a very short walk from Stourton Court. We therefore put in a tender of £4750 for the house and 6 acres, and after a week or so, were told that we had got it, which, pleased us enormously. Budge then put Greenfield up for sale, but it was still a buyers market and there were no sensible offers, until one day our agent played golf with a director of a Wolverhampton brewery and suggested to him that it would make a good hotel, and so after an inspection the brewery bought it for £6750. Then came the interminable business of getting licences to repair the Stourton house, finding materials and a competent builder, and getting the work done. All of this took a year, and we moved in in 1951.


Sadly at about the same time Geoffrey suffered acute pains in his abdomen, and was admitted to hospital for examination, where it was found that he had cancer of the colon. He was discharged to home but lasted only a short time before he died. He was greatly mourned by all as he was a very well respected and greatly loved man. I personally felt his death very keenly, as he had been most kind to me and Budge. In addition to this I was left in sole charge of Himley Brick, and had only been there for a comparatively short time, and had no previous experience of the brick trade, or indeed of commerce. Geoffrey’s widow Evelyn, took his death very hardly as she had been totally dependent on him, and it fell to Budge to deal with the emotional side, and I the financial side, and we had a most difficult few months. Evelyn was convinced that she would be penniless, and yet was most difficult to persuade to move to a smaller house, as Stourton Court was far too large for one person, and needed servants and a gardener and a great deal of heating and maintenance. Evelyn herself was a semi invalid, and could not walk far, nor do any normal household work. Eventually with the help of the doctor we persuaded her to agree to move into a small rented house nearby, and got builders in to make it ready for her occupancy, but just a few days before she was due to make the final move she was found dead in bed one morning. Two doctors diagnosed that she had had a heart attack, so that no inquest was necessary.


There is not a lot more to be told. The family grew up, and went to school and eventually got married, Sue first, to a distant cousin Hugh Chance, then Eryl to a Frenchman called Geoffroy Lefebure and lastly Jinny to a budding solicitor Geoffrey Shore. In due course nine grandchildren were produced, all of whom have been a great pleasure to me. Also in due course all three marriages ended in divorce. Lastly my dearly loved wife Budge contracted cancer of the breast in 1958, and although it was kept in check for thirteen years, I am convinced by her great courage and cheerfulness, in the end it beat her, and she died on Nov 11th 1971. A remark by the specialist who attended her in the last few months is worth remembering, it was ” I have never known a patient who complained so little. Her first words to me were always to enquire how I was, and I had to drag out of her how she was feeling”