My father, George Ernest Spencer (known as Ernest) had worked as a Journeyman Gardener at Barleythorpe Hall, Rutlandshire. My father also worked for Miss Henrietta Sophia Butler as her gardener at Ashlands, Leicestershire. When she died, my father, who had come to Tattenhall 6 months before me, went to work for the Wignalls as their Head Gardener. There were 6 gardeners working for the Wignalls (at the Rookery) together with 5 grooms, 2 chauffeurs and 19 staff in the house looking after Mrs Wignall. My father had been growing orchids but carnations were grown at the Rookery.
I went to work for the Wignalls from about the age of 14 but I had been going there with my father from the time we moved to Tattenhall. Because I had been ill, I was unable to join the Army so I became one of the Rookery gardeners. I started off in the greenhouses. When I first started, all the army kept coming up the drive during the war. I remember one evening in particular because we always raked the golden gravel on the drive every week and they simply ploughed it all up. We had to put tons of limestone down. The soldiers commandeered the Wignall’s House (the Rookery). Some officers lived in the house and the American soldiers were in massive huts as big as chicken sheds with beds a metre apart. I worked at the Rookery for 56 years and retired in 1998.
One of my earliest memories is when I went to the ‘Bottom School’ and I was diagnosed with TB (tuberculosis). I remember going to Tarporley and then to the Liverpool Sanatorium. The water bottles froze solid because we slept outside. We were in the open air all night. I was also in there during the bombing of Liverpool. At school, my nickname was ‘Nipper’ or ‘nip Spencer’, because I was so small!
During the war I can remember sitting at my dad’s when they blew up the farm at Newton Crossroads (farmed by the Walkers). I remember Lord Haw-Haw telling us on the radio that they were going to bomb Beeston petrol dump. There were thousands of incendiaries – Brookfield’s Coal House was on fire – my brother was home on leave and I remember he kicked an incendiary.
On the High Street and Burwardsley Road, I remember ‘Yew Tree Cottage’ (Burwardsley Road) – they made chips in a big copper boiler and served chips over the stable door. At Bateman’s (now the Post Office on the High Street) they sold carpets and linoleum for floors which was a ‘big thing’ in those days.
The winter of 1947 was incredible, the road had 6-8 feet of snow and there was 6 weeks of frost.
We wish to report that Ray Spencer died peacefully at home on 6 July 2015, aged 87.