Bedgebury means the world to me and when I was told that there was a book going to auction full of original drawings from Bedgebury in the 1850s I knew that I had to have that book. I drove to the auction house with the full intention of buying that book and walking away with it regardless of the price. Fortunately, the price was not astronomical although it did go for the full cost of its estimated value. There was only one other person bidding on it over the telephone so I have no idea who the other person was who wanted it.
The book is very special to me and I guard it with my life. I have shown it to a select group of people but the most important person I have shown it to is Betty Batchelor, whose husband researched the history of Bedgebury over his lifetime and wrote the book, The Beresfords of Bedgebury Park.
I was having a conversation with a local person who mentioned Betty to me and I immediately realised that I needed to meet this person and I needed to show them this book. I eventually got Betty’s contact details and rang her. We made a date and little did I know that I was in for a real treat as her daughter who lives in Canada had just arrived to visit so not only would I get to meet Betty, but Lorna too.
I arrived at Betty’s house at 3:30 on Tuesday 16th January 2018 as previously organised and the visit was everything I had hoped it would be and more. Lorna was so friendly and I did not realise Betty was 91 so Lorna was able to fill in many details that Betty had forgotten over the course of my visit.
Initially, I spoke about how I came to be at Bedgebury. Telling them the story just reinforced how important it is too me. I feel an incredible surge of love when I think of everything Bedgebury has brought me.
They were fascinated by my story and grateful that I shared the love that they also have for this wonderful place. Lorna began to speak of her childhood and of special moments and places as she remembered them. Every now and then Betty would add something or Lorna would ask her mother a question which more often than not Betty was able to answer.
Finally, I decided it was time to take out the book. I had already mentioned it but they had no idea of its beauty or historical significance. It was an amazing conversation as we went through each page and they were able to describe the location and its significance to them.
I cannot tell you how incredible it was to hear these two people look at those pictures and tell me what those pictures meant to them. Not only that, Betty is an artist and she noticed the detail which Emily Susan Drummond (the artist) captured. We discussed the medium which Emily chose and the most amazing thing is that Emily wrote descriptions of some of the pictures and this just adds to the intrigue. It is unbelievable to imagine I have this book full of all these beautiful images and that this book was gifted to Lady Beresford who lived at Bedgebury Park house at that time. What an incredible piece of history. I am so lucky.
I had mentioned to Betty that I wanted to take a photograph of her and I asked her to pick out the image which meant the most to her. Lorna and Betty discussed this and decided they liked the image of the library in Bedgebury Park house. I am grateful they chose this one as the colours are very strong and they work well in the photograph.
I made some minor adjustments to the lighting and furniture and got in close to the fireplace so I could get the photo. I am pleased with it as I think it represents the importance of listening to the older generation and trying to discover as much as you can about history in your local community. I know they were excited and happy as well and it makes me happy to know that I was able to bring joy to them. I have since made contact with Lorna’s brother and cannot wait until I get to meet him.
Lorna got in touch with me on Friday the 19th and we spent the afternoon together. We drove round and she showed me Twyssenden from the outside which features many times in the book. Then we went to the church in Kilndown and she explained to me how it came to be built and Alexander Beresford’s involvement in it. Coincidentally, he had his 21st birthday on the 18th January 1841. I heard all about it from Lorna as she explained it was the first time Lord and Lady Beresford “showed the full potential of their capacity to celebrate.”
“Many of the gentry of Goudhurst and his lordship’s tenantry and tradesmen were there. The company arrived at 7 p.m. and were ushered to refreshment rooms for tea and coffee. Guests were introduced to Alexander by Roos, the architect. At 8 p.m. the company assembled in the ballroom and were received by Lord and Lady Beresford.
It was a truly pleasing sight to see ladies and gentlemen wending their way down the mazy dance with the son or daughter of a farmer or tradesman. The ball was opened by Lady Beresford and Col. Stanhope with a country dance and there were quadrilles, waltzes and country-dances until midnight when supper was announced. In the dining room were full length portraits of Lord and Lady Beresford and the tables groaned with good things.
Tables had been laid for one hundred and thirty. After loyal and other toasts had been drunk, the band played ’See the Conquering Hero Comes’ and J.J. Dodd sang ’The Soldier’s Dream.”
The Marshal addressed the assembly and said:
“It has been our anxious desire to improve the condition of the ignorant and indigent, and when I look around me at the company assembled on this occasion, I am confident that we shall be supported in our endeavours to improve the habits and morals of the poor.’ At three o’clock the noble Lord and Lady retired, but the younger branches had recourse to the ballroom, where they continued to dance till nearly six o’clock.”
Lorna read this paragraph from the book her father wrote and I was so fortunate to be the one she addressed. I am so pleased I reached out and my friend encouraged me to make an effort and ask to take a photograph of the moment when I met Betty. That moment is etched in history in my mind and I will never forget it.