Cottesmore – a village shaped by war and the threat of war

Memories of an Evacuee at Cottesmore Hall

In 1939, at the beginning of World War II it (Cottesmore Hall) was requisitioned by the War Office for the accommodation of Evacuees. (eventually 42 were accommodated here with a further 40 in the Village.

Sheltered from the War by isolation from the turbulent zones, watched over at night by black-out, A.R.P. and Fire-watchmen, spiritually and mentally guided by thoughtful teaching staff, physically stimulated by good food and healthy outdoor and indoor exercise, nursed tenderly in sickness, we suffered none of the hardships that were the lot of so many evacuees.

My mind flooding with memories, I recalled the splendid view from our bedroom window overlooking the park, where sheep and horses alike grazed calmly in the green meadows – the long corridors downstairs leading to the dining rooms, kitchen and pantry on one side and the classrooms on the other – the lovely gently rounded staircase going up to the dormitories – the endless succession of lunches, teas, school hours – the dances at night – the games room with billiards and table tennis, the library with its books - the children – names on the doors- "Quakers", "The Allies" – our duties around the house – boyfriends – being marooned in the snow all through January and February –parcels from home and midnight feasts in the bedrooms – examination studies in the linen room, where it was warm – riding lessons and later, the school magazine.

Best of all, Christmas! Shall I ever forget?

Our catering officer – a stout, tall lady with the thinnest ankles I ever saw – organised the most wonderful party to which everyone in the village was invited. I can still see the huge Christmas tree, from floor to ceiling, laden with presents, the long table spread with snow-white linen, the garlands flowers, food and the children seated around – each girl partnered to a boy….. The drinks, the turkey and the pudding flamed up with brandy; the gaiety, the wonder and the joy as each child received its gift – the dancing and the fun!

Sadly I wandered around the dusty Hall, remembering long forgotten moments. Where were they now – those days of yesteryear? Gone – forever – and all that remained were memories.

I climbed back into my car and drove towards the present.

An extract from a story "Cottesmore Revisited" by Eve Holden which was broadcast by Radio Leicester on June 29th 1970 at 6.45 pm