Alfred Henry Brown

 

Outside old cottage in Cromer hyde c 1906. Click image to EnlargeAlfred Henry Brown was born at Basingstoke, Hampshire on April 3rd 1867,where his father, Joseph Brown, worked on the railway. He had a good voice when he was a boy and sang in the choir of Winchester Cathedral, where he won a gold watch. When he died it was buried with him because Grannie didn’t want any argument about who should have it. When her Father died there had been a dispute with her sister, Aunt Ginnie, about who should have a lovely oil lamp, probably the only thing of value they had, and she didnt want it repeated. One of his early jobs was for the Earl of Calthore, but his first job as under gamekeeper was for the Queen Mothers family at St. Paulswaldenbury,St. Pauls Walden, Herts.

 

It was while he was there that he met and married Mary Ann Abbey, who was the daughter of George Abbey, later the gardener at Stagnoe Park,the neighbouring estate. Their first married home was in the left hand cottage of a pair that stood outside the church gates and they started their family there, with the first three children, Ernest, Herbert and Frederick. These flint cottages are still there today.

Alfred in 1925He then went to work for Lord Mount Stephen at Brocket Park, Lemsford, Herts. Where he was again under keeper, although it was a much bigger place and famous for its game birds. The future King George the Fifth often went to Brocket on shoots and there is a well known family story about an argument among the visitors after dinner about one of the hundreds of birds that had been shot. They asked for the bird to be found and brought to the drawing room but, of course, the keepers couldn’t do this. Never the less, they found a bird that fitted the bill and this was sent up and nobody knew the difference.

 


Game Keepers cottage in Cromer HydeWhen the family went to Brocket they lived in a cottage, one of a pair, at the end of Cromer Hyde Lane with no water or sewage, where Percy, May, Eva, Christine and Mildred were born. There was a well some way down the lane that provided water for several families. About 1912 the family moved to a new house some way down  the  lane, still without sewage but this time with water, where Ivy Stephen and Esme Jane were born

 

 

Gastlings Lodge,Southill ,nr BedfordWhen Lord Mount Stephen died the new owner of Brocket, Lord Cone, cut down staff and Alfred had to look for work elsewhere. With the help of his son Herbert who wrote many letters on his behalf, he got a job as gamekeeper to David Bowes Lyon, the Queen Mothers brother, at Southill near Bedford. The house was one of a pair at the entrance to the estate near the old Southill station, and although it had water it still had no sewage, gas, or electricity.

 

Some of the pheasants were kept for their plumage and in the front parlour there was a collection of long beautiful feathers in a polished shell case on the mantelpiece. The kitchen was the most used room and this had a large range always alight, winter and summer. The windows were of leaded glass and a lighted oil lamp was always kept in the window after dark and could be seen a long way down the lane.

He was a good vegetable gardener and grew most of their needs in the large garden. There were several fruit trees and outbuildings including a pig sty they did not use. He had many traps that gamekeepers used at that time and they kept a large store of wood and coal.

When they were little girls Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret often went to visit their Uncle David and sometimes went into the old folks kitchen, much to their delight.

He was an old fashioned country man with simple pleasures and not much conversation. He liked a glass of beer at home and in the local pub. In his early years he kept trained gun dogs but they never came into the house. He was always dressed in Victorian gamekeepers apparel, consisting of tweed jacket, waistcoat, short corduroy trousers buttoned below the knee, heavy boots and shaped polished leather gaiters that stretched from knee to boot. After his death Mary Ann went to live with her daughter Ivy at Bedford.          

 

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