BROOK COTTAGE

As the brook has always flowed through the garden, it is possible that one of the earliest family names shown in the records could have lived here - Waiter de la Broc, who was always quarrelling with his relatives!

In the 1841 census, No. 2 Poplar Cottage is recorded as the residence of John and Mary Duberry. The spelling of the name suggests that they were of French origin ­and as Mary is listed as a lace maker, it is possible that she was responsible for starting the lace making or even a school, to pass on her ethnological skill.

At No. 1 lived John Parsons, annuitant, with his wife Mary, and their son Frederick, an engineer, and also Mary their granddaughter, aged four. By 1861 Mary was a young widow, earning her living as a cook.

In 1873, the cottage of now five tenaments, belonged to the Hampden Estates, but was sold with other property, to John East, together with "all mines, minerals, rights, ways….."etc.

At this time, therefore there were five families living in what was called 'Poppy Cottage' - John Dewbury (son of the Duberrys, who anglicised his name), Samuel Tombs, Boas Lacey, Jesse Lacey and Thomas Grimsdell. By 1902 the cottage was sold to Thomas Hopcroft for £125, and he let part to a Mrs Stevens and the rest to Thomas Stratford. (Thomas Hopcroft left it in his will to his daughter Rose).

Thomas Stratford lived with his wife Lucy, nee Redrup, at the far end - he was a farm labourer on the Grange Farm at Kimble, and turned his hand to odd-job carpentry, but on Sundays was Deacon Stratford at the Chapel. The Stratfords had many children - one of whom when grown up went to live at Coronation Cottage, and the youngest, William who married Charlotte Hills, went to London. Their daughter Emma, married, and had many children, amongst whom were two sons, Charlie and Albert Cannon, who came to visit and play in the lane - immortalised on both a postcard and a cigarette card with their Crockett friends.

As years passed, Fred and Mollie Crockett came to live at the cottage end near the stream, and George "Pusser" Smith and his large family of girls lived at the road end - amongst whom there was Kitty, Betty, Dorothy, Margaret and Ollie -

Pusser Smith had a horse and cart and he used them to sell firewood, but was also seen in his other capacity as a chimney sweep, usually very black all over! He used to tell stories of being a stretcher bearer in 1914-18 war, but they were somewhat exaggerated. In 1942 Mr Smith still lived at No.1 and 2 Poppy Cottage, and a Mrs Stiff lived at No.3, but in 1944 a Mr George Cutler took over the middle cottage. The next year, Mr and Mrs John Coatman bought the cottages, and joined them into one, and re-named it Brook Cottage.

Mrs Coatman was a sculptress of some renown and made the statue of St.Dunstan in the church at Monks Risborough. They found early flint axe heads in the garden and other interesting objects, amongst which at the side of the road, behind a bush, the remains of a communal privy, which had probably served the group of cottages nearby.

The Coatmans left in 1982, and the cottage was re-thatched and re- constructed - the front door being moved to the north east of the cottage, amongst other alterations made by the new owners.

Footnote: Mike White remembers accompanying a plumber friend (Jack Sheehan, who rented the larger of the Willowdale cottages) to Brook Cottage in the 1950s because Jack was worried by some timber. (Jack's hand had gone right through an outside wall!)

 

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