Herbert Druitt founder of the Red House Museum was essentially a gentleman of leisure, he trained as a lawyer but his passion was collecting and documenting the past which he pursued throughout his life until his death in 1943.
His diaries recall in exacting details the minute areas of his life and his many interests.
Welcome to part 1 of the 1931 Herbert Druitt Diary podcast. My name is Gerry Hooper and over the next twenty five minuets or so I will recall the life and times of Christchurch as written in Herbert Druitts diary from January to June 1931.
Herbert Druitt founder of the Red House Museum was essentially a gentleman of leisure, he trained as a lawyer but his passion was collecting and documenting the past which he pursued throughout his life until his death in 1943. His diaries recall in exacting details the minute areas of his life and his many interests.
January 4 Sunday
It is my birthday today a nice fine sunny day but colder, in the afternoon I went to number 15 the High Street where I was born 55 years ago. After tea I went to see Jack my brother who is ill in bed but he is cheerful and chatty.
January 9 Friday
Cold but not so frosty. Mrs Brian Dear who with her husband are the caretakers of the Red house Museum, came to me looking for her husband she had no food in the house so I supplied her with a pot of apple jelly.
January 18 Sunday
It would have been my mothers 98th birthday today, Charlotte my sister came to lunch and we had jugged hare and some 1920s champagne. Charlotte then went to see Jack who she found very ill and living on slops.
February 12 Thursday
After a rough night a very fine day, Charlotte came to lunch and we had the last pheasant of the season and drank in champagne to the memory of Elizabeth Knight who was my childhood nurse. We also drank to the new bell in the Priory church which is being rung for the first time today. At 2.15 we set out to the Priory church and up to the belfry. Dexter rang the new bell and Charlotte struck a note on it
February 15 Sunday
Brian Dear found out that the bell was to be dedicated at 5.30 so we went up to the tower with the ringers, the Reverend Gay and Walter Tuck. The Reverend Gay prayed by the bell and then Preston rang a short peal, afterwards Gay said that the bell I’d given them was a generous honourable gift and to me the ringing was a good token for Elizabeth Knights birthday. After tea I saw Jack who seemed cheerful and I told him he looked better.
February 18 Wednesday
A very cold wind from the north. Brian Dear rolled the Creedy Path and then took round the February issue of Christchurch Miscellany. After lunch I went to the Priory church, Sparshotts man was in the porch fitting the wires for the new electric light. I had fried parsnips for lunch and fried haddock and egg sauce for tea. The Australian mimosa is out in the green house.
February 20 Friday
Tillers man and Brian Dear have more or less completed digging up the shrubs along where the new fence is to go at number 15. I went to the church after 12 o’clock and stayed there until 3 so White got me out the burial register for 1816 to 1846 and I took notes for the Christchurch Miscellany. Spickernell came at 2.30 and I had a long discussion with him on repairs and what course of action to take.
February 21 Saturday
A beautiful day and Basils 30th birthday. After lunch I went to number 15 and Brian Dear photographed the back of Joseph Whites soon I feel to be demolished. After tea I wrote some more for the Miscellany, I declined an invitation to tea at the Kings Arms with Preston Gavison who gave incorrect information on the new bell to the Christchurch Times so I shall not let him have a photograph of it. The bell rang in the afternoon.
February 25 Wednesday
A beautiful day and milder. Brian Dear did another slice of cleaning the Creedy Path. I went to the church and the mason was at work on a piece of Portland stone. In the afternoon the Prime Minister Ramsey Mc Donald was shown over the church by the vicar. In the afternoon I went to Bulstrodes where I took notes of books etc. Afterwards I saw Jack he looks very thin, his wife says he can’t have anything containing meat but only milk and brandy as though milk was not an animal fat. I told her I shall not go again.
March 4 Wednesday
The Creedy Path looks dirty after so much rain. Tuck came to ask for a job so I sent him to mend the woodwork of the scullery and sink and the standing board which he did alright. Charlotte visited and she said that Jack was about the same, very drowsy. After supper I went to Aldridge who insisted on paying me for the Christchurch Miscellany 4 shillings for the year, very, very kind of him. We had a pleasant chat and he told me that he had seen in the paper that the Prime Minister Ramsey Mc Donald gave the Reverend Gay £100. I had a hot bath in the afternoon but it didn’t do me much good.
March 9 Tuesday
I got up about 8 o’clock and found Shrimp the cat utterly listless and took him to my bedroom whilst Edith lit the fire. Brian Dear took a photograph of him resting his head on his paws, he remained quiet until a little before 1 o’clock then he gave a struggle and cried and his teeth closed on the basket and the poor little cat quietly ceased to breathe. I ought to have paid more attention to him but he must have been old and his complaints of long standing when I had him. Still his beautifully marked tabby fur was in good condition but inside a skeleton weighing very little. I put him in a half dozen size wine case with snowdrops, yellow geraniums and rosemary. Brian Dear carried him to the magnolia border at number 15 close to where I first saw him. Brian dug a grave by the wall where the violets are blooming. RIP. In many ways he was a wonderful cat and I believe he naturally born without a tail. Tuck came to the funeral, I felt very sad and Elizabeth Knight liked him. Charlotte came in after tea and said that Jack was more cheerful.
March 13 Friday
A beautiful sunny day. A note from Basil to say that his father Jack died at 5am, I wrote to him. After lunch I went to the church and the mason was not there. Basil came in the evening and talked about his father in a more or less revolting manner, apparently they had kept him under dope since last August and he died at a very inconvenient time. The funeral is on Monday at 2.30.
March 14 Saturday
A beautiful day and warm in the sun. Went to the burial ground with Brian Dear and Tuck. We bought some lilies at Watts nurseries, cleaned the Christmas wreaths and arranged daffodils at the family and EKs graves. Tarrant was digging Jacks grave and I gave him a shilling. We had a leg of lamb for lunch for the first time since EK was alive. In the afternoon I went to 15 and made up a bag of rosemary for the cross on Jacks grave.
March 16 Monday
A cold wind and a sunny afternoon. The funeral left Beechfield at 2.15 with pall bearers and Bullers and Cole. The mourners were Maggie his wife and Basil, Alan and Lillian, Charlotte, Mr and Mrs Basil Hardy and Emily Nippard who was a servant. There was a lot of wreaths and the hearse and motor cars. The burial service was conducted by the vicar the Reverend Gay, Bennett read the lesson and the hymn was Abide with Me. The mayor and corporation walked before the procession from the church to the town hall. By 3.30 the cars had returned to Beechfield, so there ends poor John, our beloved Jack. I’m glad I did not go. The fact is that I find relatives very trying. In the evening the bell ringers rang a muffled peal for their practice night and in the church the organist played Rest in the Lord which Charlotte says Jack and Maggie had at their wedding at Eastbourne 38 years ago.
March 18 Wednesday
Brian Dear took some of the Christchurch Miscellany round but Dr Drain and Joseph Taylor don’t want it any more. I went to see Aldridge in the afternoon about public and income tax matters and he was very kind to help, I cannot see to these things myself. There was a football match on the recreation ground Barracks verses the Police.
March 19 Thursday
I did a lot of tidying up of papers. I went to see the photographer Mr Venning and ordered him to take photographs of 10 High Street the site soon to become a cinema.
March 20 Friday
I paid Venning’s bill for the photographs. In the afternoon I went to the burial ground and looked at the wreaths on Jacks grave. There were red carnations from Basil and tulips from Neville and the same from Abbot, white flowers from Charlotte and from Alan. The flowers in my cross had faded so I took them out leaving one in place with the rosemary looking quite fresh.
March 23 Monday
I went and paid the rates for half year on number 15 the High Street at £9. 14shillings and 8 pence and for the Red House at £14. 5 shillings and 11 pence making a total of £24 and 7 pence. Someway of economizing must be found this spring. In the afternoon I went to the church and found the porch had been swabbed with water, I then went to the Red House and found another window broken and the drain stopped up. Brian Dears wife said that it had been like this for a year. I got Starks to put something up against the window and I told Brian to keep a watch on this sort of thing, this can’t go on any longer. I began taking the thyroid pills prescribed by Dr Davidson.
March 24 Tuesday
A bill from Taylor for work on the sixth bell for £97. 4 shillings and sixpence. I went to the Red House and lectured Mrs Brian Dear on her dirty rooms and getting furniture on hire purchase. Afterwards I went to find her husband at his mothers and I gave him a lecture. But I still brought him back to Woodstock for supper.
March 27 Friday
My legs were aching so I did not go out to number 15. Starks still at the Red House drain. In the afternoon I went to Bulstrodes where I found the missing volume that I wanted. Turk my dog has a rumbling cough so I will try to get some cough pills from Owen the chemist. Mrs Starks formerly Jane Barnes our washerwoman is 80 today so I sent her a bottle of wine and a pot of apple jelly.
April 3 Friday
A wet morning and hot cross buns. I did not go out but tried to tidy a few things. I had fishcakes and parsnips and egg sauce following the traditional of the elders. In the afternoon Brian Dear saw a football match Christchurch versus Boscombe, the latter won 3 / 2.
April 9 Thursday
I felt very seedy with a cold and feeling giddy. Brian Dear went to Bulstrodes and bought various books and a bookcase. It is 52 weeks since Elizabeth Knight my nurse died.
April 14 Tuesday
A coldish wind all day. I went to number15 and picked some hyacinths and daffodils. I went to the burial ground in the afternoon and arranged the flowers on EK’s and mother’s graves. The birds had pulled out all the flowers in the black Wedgewood bowl since Sunday. My neck is bad and hands cold. Poor King Alfonso of Spain abdicated.
April 19 Sunday
Wet and windy and cold, I did not go out. Fifty years ago today Disraeli died, I put primroses near his portrait in the hall. Dear me what a change in fifty years. I spent the day with the Christchurch Miscellany and had a hot bath in the afternoon and after I read a book about the accession of Queen Victoria.
April 20 Monday
Another very cold and cheerless day, I stayed in and wrote Christchurch Miscellany finishing the main number. Merryfield is continuing repairs at the church and Brown putting up a screen for repairing of the east chancel buttress. After supper I went to see Bateman who wants to find a historic name for the new school connected with Christchurch and after suggestions it was thought that Portfield might be the most appropriate.
May 4 Monday
A beautiful day and quite hot. The dismantling of the post office at 16 High Street continues. They took away another safe today and took off the brass plate of Druitt & Sons from the front of the house with a notice that they had moved to Castle Street.
May 7 Thursday
Much rain in the night. Brian Dear went to Cecil Pardy at Millplace Pit and fetched some pottery and a pedestal pot, a flint and some large rough stones. In the afternoon I went to the church and then onto Jenkins who tested my eyesight and arranged for a pair of spectacles having broken my old pair.
May 11 Monday
I spent the morning cleaning up the drawing room. Doctor Mark’s macaw escaped from it’s cage and it spent the night in trees at Holroyds and then went on to those at Birchfield where a fool volunteered to rescue it, got bitten and fell and the frightened bird flew here to Woodstock and it refused to be caught.
May 12 Tuesday
A dullish day. The macaw seems to have disappeared. Brian helped Fogaty with the truck to move his petty session material to his office in Church Street. After tea we weeded a space for French beans and got it done by 8pm. Number 9 High Street is still in course of demolition.
May 14 Thursday
A nice fine day but strongish wind. I went to number 15 and found yellow tulips and honesty in purple and gold for a vase. Charlotte came at 12 noon and Mrs Whitfield came at 1pm and we had lunch and coffee, most excellent. Brian Dear photographed us on the back lawn with Turk our dog. Lunch lasted until 2.45and at 3.15 Bellamy came and we went via Stony Lane to Winkton and across Avon Causeway and so home by 4.30 to tea with our very best cups and saucers. The plum pudding at lunch was very nice and Brian Dear helped with the champagne.
May 18 Monday
Brian Dear went to Iford to photograph Clingan’s farm and then to number 15 where we cut the front lawn with the big machine and the rose lawn in the afternoon, a tiring process. Brian Dear brought in a brick from the bakehouse chimney at number 9 High Street inscribed “W.D. 1834”. We then finished the 1929 plum pudding the last from EK’s regime.
May 26 Tuesday
I got up and went about as usual but felt giddy, could not talk properly but it passed. In the afternoon I took Charlotte to the church and showed her some of the work being done on the Reredos, she came to tea bringing some coloured lithographs by Ferrey the local artist for me to see. I must be careful to return them soon. After tea we went to number 15 where we found the macaw sitting on the top of an oak scrapheap, they were trying in vain to entice it with an apple, it flew later to near Woodstock.
May 27 Wednesday
A dull day felt thundery and hot. Charlotte left at 1.30 for the coast route to Tunbridge Wells. Brian Dear went to Stanpit to take photographs of roadworks near Stanpit Marsh. The macaw spent most of the day in the bushes at 15 and flew off about 7 o’clock just as I was bringing Aldridge to see it.
May 29 Friday
Brian Dear took carnations and tulips and lily of the valley for the Druitt graves. After lunch I went to the church where I met Spickernell and we examined various points and decided to do no more to the south transept until the mason comes next week. I walked back to number 15 and found number 10 nearly disappeared.
June 7 Sunday
A very wet day. I wrote to Mrs Whitfield and opened her bottle of anchovies she sent me in December 1929 and they were quite good. At 1.30 am in the morning we had an earthquake but I was up then and felt nothing but if I had I would have put it down to the heavy motor traffic which may God destroy.
June 11 Thursday
I felt faint and giddy and had an enema at 11 am which I have not had for some time and this settled the discomfort just a bit.
June 13 Saturday
A sunny morning but cloudy for the rest of the day. Brian Dear and I finished cutting the lawn at 15 and picked some flowers for the burial ground and took them up after lunch for the graves. Jack’s grave appears to be neglected and he has only been dead 3 months, his wife has not been there since Easter. I had a chat with the Town Clerk after tea he said that Lord Malmesbury has consented to give up the Pound to the town council.
June 14 Sunday.A very dark morning with thunderstorms and rain, sun in the afternoon but drizzle later. After tea did some more weeding to the onions but it’s weary work and I doubt if it’s any use labouring against nature.
June 15 Monday.Brian Dear went to the burial ground and reported that the flowers on the family grave were good. Merryfield is cleaning out the stores on the sides of 9 and 10 High Street and they are digging out the footings for the cinema. Brian took a photograph there, I suggested to some officials to protest against the Pound being built on.
June 21 Sunday.I spent the afternoon and evening weeding near the asparagus beds at number 15. Miss Pelham-Clay came into the garden and I gave her some buddleia. I met Carter of Lloyds bank who told met that Brian owed him £3, dam the little fool.
June 22 Monday.It was a lovely hot summer’s day. I sent Brian Dear to Mr Carter at the bank with a cheque for £3 to pay his debt to him. After tea Jean Pardy brought some pottery found today probably from a rubbish trench at Hatch Farm behind houses at Millpond. In the evening I sat outside the drawing room and it was a lovely night.
June 23 Tuesday.I had a bad night last night with constant perspirations. White of Purewell told me of something he’d found in his garden and it was an old button of the Christchurch Volunteers, I paid him sixpence for it. After supper I sat like last night at number 15 and thought of the dead who had lived there. I was very giddy and seedy all day and uncertain of foot and generally deplorable. This sort of thing can’t go on and it will drive me mad.
This completes Part 1 of the 1931 Herbert Druitt Diary Podcast. More information on Herbert Druitt and the fascinating history of Christchurch can be found in the Red House Museum.