Flesh can be put on the bare bones of the history of Greenhill House by this lively account by Cecil Rhodes whose memories go back to the early part of the 20th century. He was born in the village and lived there most of his life. This account was recorded by the ‘Old Timsbury’ Group which met at Greenhill House in the 1980’s. It is reproduced by kind permission of the Cheshire Home.
Last week when I was here it brought back memories of Greenhill House because my sister, Dorothy Rhodes, was in service here till about 1912, Col. Lane was the man that kept Greenhill House and she was a servant for many years, started as a parlourmaid and worked herself up to cook. There were three servants, a maid, a coachman, a gardener and a boy who’d go with the messages back to Timsbury, run errands, chop the sticks, clean the shoes. They had to be clean in them days because ’twas spit and polish, nothing like today, just wipe them round with a rag, because ’tis all vulcanised stuff today. We had good leather and we had to black it.
Col. Lane kept two chestnut horses and a carriage and they always used to trot them out on a Saturday afternoon. It was very nice in this area because within 300 yards were three big houses – the Vale (Gamlin used to keep that), Renny’s (Boweses used to keep that) and Col. Lane used to keep Greenhill House. If you were going a bit further afield there was Pendoggett – they started to call that Parish’s House about 40 years ago – Cooper kept that. They always used to bring out their carriages. Col. Lane used to try to bring out his chestnut, Bowes used to bring out the grey and the Gamlins down there used to have dark brown horses. They all used to try and outdo one another and they only trotted them out on a Saturday afternoon. Saturday afternoons there were no coal carts because they finished going to the pit, so there was nothing at all on the roads. You wouldn’t see nothing more than a flock of sheep or a few cows. The carriages used to go through and we’d think a lot of it because it was very nice to see them. Of course, we used to call them ‘gentry’. When you saw them you had to raise your hat, the same as you did to the schoolmaster and the rector. It was manners, it cost nothing. Although they were gentry they were nice to speak to, they’d always speak to us.
My sister used to get half a day off on a Wednesday, and either Sunday morning or Saturday evening, alternate Sundays for each one to go out at different times. Sometimes Col. Lane used to have quite a lot of people here who used to come from Chewton Mendip and Ston Easton mostly, and they used to have parties and they came onto the lawn. I think it was just where we’m sat now (the lounge, Greenhill House). My sister used to say they were hours before they got to bed but he used to always see them alright the day afterwards and gave them the day off.
I used to come down to Greenhill House with messages for my sister and there was another young servant there and her name was Savery and her house was out at Thornbury and she couldn’t get home sometimes because you had to save up a lot to get home in those days. She had to walk from here to Hallatrow to catch a train and then she had to get back from Thornbury. For an afternoon out and evening it wasn’t much so she came down to our place at Hook so mother used to say when it was dark around 7 o’clock, “Go with Lily part of the way” and I was afraid myself really, but I had to go because mother told me to.
Greenhill House was different then. They did come through big French windows straight onto the lawn there. There was a lady on the piano and two blokes either side with violins. To see them out there, I thought to myself, “When I grow up I hope I’ll be able to dance” and I did. Through watching them I was keen on dancing. My sister let me peep through the window. I didn’t have to be seen, because those others were ‘up above’, I was nobody. I used to say to my sister, “Why have the men got white gloves on?” and she told me that the ladies had bare backs with their evening dresses, and it was so that a man’s hand when it got hot shouldn’t make a mark on their backs.
After the motor cars came the horses were forgot. Lady Jarrett of Camerton Court liked to take the rise out of them all and be top dog, coming through with her four-in-hand. But there were no gentry in Timsbury after the motor car come about. They all seemed to vanish at once. The horses were wiped right off the road.