Life after the War: by Rose

Jack arrived home, presumably in July or August 1945. Kate was born in November 1945 and by the autumn of 1947 we had moved to Gloucestershire to Burden Court Farm, Tresham.

Burden Court Farm, Tresham, Wotton-under-Edge, Glos
Burden Court Farmhouse in 1946



The farmhouse, though small and with small rooms, was a beautiful Cotswold stone house overlooking in the far distance the Bristol Channel and, in good weather, the blue of the Welsh mountains. They had to sell The Wood House to finance this purchase, which was a great sadness, but inevitable.

Burden Court farm was right on the edge of the Cotswolds, above Wotton-under-edge, which Jack proudly pronounced in the local manner as woottonundridge. The last field on the higher part of the farm was called World’s End.

Farmer Jack Donaldson
Jack in Gloucestershire, Burden Court farm, looking at a field of lucerne (alfalfa)


It was about 500 acres and a few years later they rented another 275. This enabled them to make enough income to send Thomas to Eton, me to Cheltenham Ladies College and, later, Kate to Cranborne Chase school. This was no mean feat, and I remember the almost regular conversations at the end of the school holidays, as to which cow would have to be sold to pay the fees.

Frankie continued to write. Her great success was the Marconi Scandal, followed later by a ground-breaking biography of Edward VIII which won her the Wolfson prize for history.  She became an acclaimed writer and wrote continuously until she died. We gave her a Toshiba portable computer with one 3.1/2 inch floppy drive and a tiny screen for her 80th birthday. I heard her putting down Denis Healey one day because she knew how to do footnotes and he didn’t at that time. (It helped having 2 daughters in the  trade).

They both farmed successfully until the early 1970s. Jack worked continuously for prison reform and was a governor of Kingswood Approved school near Bristol.  He wrote an important report on the subject of prison reform with Frank Pakenham, Lord Longford; and became Chairman of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders among other charitable works. He became a life peer in 1967 to represent Labour’s policy on prison welfare, agriculture and the arts. He  was for several years in close touch with Grendon Underwood, our neighbouring prison in Buckinghamshire (1960-70)

He joined the Labour government as under-secretary for Northern Ireland  and later Minister for the Arts. His passion was always music. In his youth he had started the first Eton Jazz band (The Eton Outcasts) and also played saxophone inthe Cambridge Jazz band led by Fred Elizalde ( In later life he was on the board of Covent Garden Opera, and later ENO, for many years.

Jack Donaldson Eton Outcasts, the Jazz band in 1920s
Jack and the Eton Outcasts, the jazz band which he started
Anthony Crosland
A frequent and popular visitor was Tony Crosland, our MP

He hated becoming a peer, and refused it at first, but was persuaded by his Labour party friends (Tony Crosland – who was our MP, Roy Jenkins, Denis Healey and others) that the party needed him to help represent them in the Lords. He would have been glad of it without the title and the appearance of privilege, but he settled into it and enjoyed the work and, increasingly, the pleasures of the House of Lords, which are many.

Some of my mother’s books expand the story of their life. The wartime books of Approach to Farming and Four Years Harvest have been mentioned. She also wrote Child of the Twenties, about her youth, Freddy Lonsdale about her father and A Twentieth Century Life in her last years as well as numerous others on different topics. She died in 1994 and Jack followed her in 1998.

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A Woman's War