Colin and Carol Higgins – Brother and Sister – Evacuees Gatesheath Hall – WWII

In 1939, aged just 8 and 5 years old, Colin and Carol Higgins were evacuated from Liverpool to the relative safety of the Cheshire countryside. On arrival at the Tattenhall Road Railway Station, they were then taken to the Barbour Institute and it was from this building that they became the responsibility of Mrs Rosemary Clegg of Gatesheath Hall.

Colin and Carol recently re-visited Gatesheath Hall – their stories are the first that have come to light regarding individual Evacuees that spent time in Tattenhall during WWII, albeit that there is mention in the School Log Books of the ‘Bottom School’ (i.e. Tattenhall Senior School, located on the High Street) of the Headmaster going to meet a train from Liverpool.

Dated 10 January 1941 – ‘Mr Woodiwiss visited the school with reference to allocation of evacuees received from Liverpool yesterday. Head Teacher absent from 2pm to supervise allocation of Liverpool evacuees’.

Dated 13 January 1941 – ‘Miss N Boyce, Evacuee Teacher, commenced her duties today’.

Dated 17 January 1941 – ‘Total evacuees – 33′.

Colin Higgins and Carol Copeland (nee Higgins) on their nostalgic visit to Gatesheath Hall 2014

Colin Higgins and Carol Copeland (nee Higgins) on their nostalgic visit to Gatesheath Hall 2014

Colin’s Recollections …

‘I was eight years old when my sister, Carol, aged 5, and I were ‘packed off’ at the start of the Second World War.

My first memory after saying our Goodbyes to our mum and dad, was boarding a train with our classmates (and gas masks) at Wavertree Station in Liverpool and arriving at Tattenhall Road Station at Tattenhall, near Chester. I remember the station platform seemed to be covered with milk churns. We were then taken to Tattenhall Village Hall.

Carol and I were selected by a lady – Mrs Clegg – and taken in her car to a big house which turned out to be Gatesheath Hall, a house dating back to the 17th century.

We were put in the charge of and looked after by the Cook, Margaret Yule, who became of sort of second mother to us. We had our meals with the staff and not with the Clegg family. At the time, Mr and Mrs Clegg also employed a Butler and a couple of Servant Girls.

Mr and Mrs Clegg had two children of their own – Josephine and James, aged about 10 and 6. We had great fun with them over the years. However, they had their own Nanny whilst my sister and I attended the local school at Tattenhall, about 2 miles away.

Our mother and father visited us when possible at weekends but in view of the very limited wartime public transport, they somethimes had to walk from Chester – about 7 miles each way.

Carol and I often talk of the exciting things at Gatesheath – the hunting horses and dogs, the stable yard and barns etc where we played – and the lovely gardens – and the Clegg’s own private woods. In particular, I remember the full-sized wooden horse in a cage used for polo practice.

Mr Clegg was Master of the Hounds when not away in the Army.

The Gardener showed me lots of interesting things about plants etc but to his shame he showed me how to make a smoking pipe and smoke Lavender! I probably only tried this once!

My bedroom at the top of the house faced towards the River Dee and Merseyside (as it is called now) and I recall lying in bed watching the searchlights as enemy aircraft approached. I must have worried then about my parents’ safety in Liverpool when the raids commenced.

Overall, my sister and I were at Gatesheath for about 4 years, apart from a short period in 1941 when air raid attacks had quietened down. However, when Lord Haw Haw, the traitor announced that Liverpool would be targeted, Mrs Clegg sent for us to return to Gatesheath for safety’.

Carol’s Recollections …

‘My brother and I were pupils at Heygreen Road School, Liverpool 15. I was 5 years old and Colin was 8. I was left in the classroom with one or two other children to wait for brothers and sisters, and then we filed out. I can’t remember my parents telling me that I was about to leave Liverpool and live with strangers but I do have a strong recollection of filing out of the school and crossing the playground, holding my gas mask and seeing people standing behind the school railings; presumably the poor worried parents!

My next memory was the train – looking out of the train window at fields and trees. We arrived at Tattenhall and were taken to the Village Hall where we were all given food and drinks. The people of Tattenhall then came to take away their Evacuees. A lady took Colin and me. We were put in the back of a large car and driven off (probably my very first car ride).

Gateheath Hall – The car stopped in front of a very high hedge adjacent to a very large house. I think we then were taken up to a very large attic where there were several beds. I seem to remember a Mrs Williams and daughter Verena and a Mrs Perkins and Tommy also arrived but I think they only stayed a few days. Colin and I were kept and given our own bedrooms.

Soon after arriving, a maid took me to a local farm to collect milk in a churn. I don’t think I had seen real cows before. We were put in the charge of Margaret, the cook, and maids and had our meals with the kitchen staff. The owners of the house were Captain and Mrs Clegg and they had two children – Josephine, who was away at boarding school and James, who lived at home and who had a nanny and governess.

The countryside was bliss – fields of cowslips – when I see them now the smell transports me back to the time I picked armfuls of them. Gatesheath had a wood and what fun that was – climbing trees – here again the smell of fir trees, damp leaves, brings back memories. We had fun and freedom to enjoy country life.

There were Shetland ponies in the orchard, hens, dogs, birds. There was a polo practice pitch surrounded by a net. I loved sitting on the wooden horse. I think Capt Clegg was the Master of the Cheshire Hunt because the huntsmen would gather outside Gatesheath and I think there were several hounds kept at the house.

We had complete freedom to roam around the house and to play in the various rooms. When I went to my bedroom I had to pass through the attic where there were huge pipes and boilers – I remember running past very quickly. There was also a huge ‘cage’ full of children’s toys – bikes, prams, dolls – it was an Aladdin’s cave. My favourite thing was a bookcase full of books for children. One day, Mrs Clegg called me and asked me to read to the Governess – ‘Why can’t James read like Carol‘ she said. James was the same age as me and we went to the village school in Tattenhall!

The School – we went by bus each day and walked home after school – 1.5 miles. I remember walking under a railway bridge and hearing the thunder of the trains overhead.

Tattenhall School (in view of their ages, Colin and Carol would have attended the former National School on the High Street) was very crowded due, no doubt, to the big intake of Liverpool children. I wonder if they still have the big iron pegs for coats in the entrance – or indeed if the school is still standing! We sat at small long desks for two children. One day I fell off and was made to stand at the front with my face to the blackboard. I was able to go back to my place because I was the only one who knew the two meanings of the word ‘leak and leek’.

In the holidays and at weekends, James, Colin and I had great fun together and we got up to a lot of mischief I think. James once ran off with Admiral, Sir Percy Noble’s hat which he had left in a huge Admiralty car outside the Hall when he came to visit.

Liverpool was severely bombed but we were kept safe. We will always have happy memories of our time at Gatesheath Hall and our thanks must go to the owners, Capt and Mrs Clegg, and the staff who looked after us so well. One of the maids even made me a beautiful pink dress!

Thank you Gatesheath’.

Our particular thanks to Colin and to Carol for allowing us to reproduce their recollections on the Website.




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