Broadlow Cottage by the canal

Broadlow is often mentioned in Frankie’s letters and resonated with me. This is possibly because it was near the canal, which we loved. We used to bathe in it in summer and in the colder winters it froze and we went skating. I have never been very sporty but this kind of skating was easy as the ice was fairly rough and so less slippery and though you could not go so fast as on a modern skating rink you also fell over less often.

There were barns at Broadlow and cattle were kept there – young cattle not needed for the daily milking as it was a little way away from the main farm buildings. It was there that a bullock feinted at Frankie with its horns and broke her watch strap. It was a gift from Jack and she wrote to tell him about it.

“29 January, 1943

I have lost my watch you gave me. I was carrying a forkful of silage down at Broadlow when a bloody great bullock charged playfully at me in his attempt to get at the silage and his horn grazed right down my arm and wrist. I didn’t realise it at the time, but he must have skimmed off my watch, and, of course, when I did find out and go back to look, the straw was all trampled and trodden.”

The cottage at Broadlow was also fascinating to us, on account of its inhabitants. There was a small, ill-equipped cottage with no road access, near the canal. Here Mary Dunn came to stay with her new partner when she left her husband. We adored her and I remember one day seeing her lying face down on one of our wicker garden chairs, with not many clothes on. I said, “What are you doing?” to which she replied, “Trying to get my back brown.” I was completely mystified and added this to the store of imponderables displayed by grownups.

Frances Donaldson Broadlow Cottage
Broadlow Cottage in the field near the canal

Our new dog Bonzo had a bad start and killed 12 chickens over a period of a few days. Frankie said, “One more and I will have him put down.” He never killed another of our chickens but he killed one of Mary’s. Frankie said that did not count, so there was a stay of execution. We all grew to love him, so that was a relief.

The other person who lived there for a while was Mr Butler, my father’s wartime batman and a man of many gifts. I do not know if soldier’s still have batmen, but it was customary for officers then. They were not servants, but I suppose a bit like a butler (no pun) or an administrator. Once when the cazalets had a bat flying round the bedroom and Peter got up and got ris of it, he returned to bed and said to Leoonora, “So what am i?” Answer: “Your batman”. We were told this joke and thought it very funny.

Alan Brookes, the current owner of Gypsy Hall, had to pull the cottage down as it was attracting local youth who took bricks off it and chucked them through the roof, and other malicious acts. He wrote, about Broadlow Cottage:

“Broadlow Cottage had an out house close to the main cottage. In the out house was a sink with a cold water tap and a water boiler for washing clothes, heated by coal underneath. There were 2 exit doors. There was an outside lavatory with separate access as well with a round bin with a wooden seat which one had to sit on, this would have tobe  emptied periodically, possibly to fertilize the vegetable garden. The main Cottage had a hall made of asbestos (a later addition) and I think a cold water tap in it. The downstairs room had a small coal fire with 2 ovens attached and cupboards either side of the fire place. There was a cupboard under the stairs and a backdoor at the bottom of the stairs. Upstairs there were 2 small bedrooms with a fireplace in 1 of the bedrooms. Close to the cottage there were some farm buildings photographed in “Four Years Harvest” and in-between was a grass yard, a public footpath ran through the corner of the yard. The Canal was close by and I now suspect that early inhabitants would have been able to acquire coal off of the passing barges.”


A Woman's War