News from the Archives: On Holiday with the Nettlefolds

Winterbourne was built in 1904 for John and Margaret Nettlefold and bequeathed to the University of Birmingham 40 years later by John Macdonald Nicolson. Follow our dedicated team of archivists as they explore Winterbourne’s past and share with you the special objects, photographs and documents contained within the Winterbourne Archives.

Everyone likes a holiday, sometimes lying on a beach, or climbing mountains or travelling to exotic places. However, most of us cannot spend weeks at a time away from home. Margaret Nettlefold, however, took trips frequently, sometimes with her husband, John, sometimes with her children, and sometimes with other members of her extended family. She would go walking, cycling or generally touring around by train and car.

The extended Nettlefold family on holiday, News from the Archives, Digging for Dirt, Winterbourne House and Garden

The extended Nettlefold family on holiday

As an example, we have looked at Margaret Nettlefold’s holiday diary entries for 1907. She started the year with a two-month trip to the West Indies and South America with her father and younger sister, Arthur and Mary Chamberlain. When Margaret returned from this trip on 4th March, she was greeted by her husband, John, and found that her son Robert had died two days earlier, at eleven months old. But, in this article, we will consider her family holidays in Britain.

Around three weeks later, the whole family went to Painswick in the Cotswolds from 28th March until 15th April. Margaret drove down with two of her children, Nina, age 12, and Beatrice, age 8, and a friend, Mrs Sonnenschein, while the rest of the family, John, Evie, age 14, Ken, age 10, Lois, age 4, and the Nurse came down by train.

Evelyn Nettlefold on holiday, News from the Archives, Digging for Dirt, Winterbourne House and Garden

Evelyn Nettlefold on holiday

During the holiday, various visitors accompanied them to places of interest such as Stroud, Cirencester, Chedworth Roman villa and local churches. Margaret noted at Chedworth: “wall about 2 feet high, small museum attached. 2 very good mosaic floors carefully preserved in situ. Stands beautifully amongst woods at head of narrow valley.”

Margaret liked collecting flowers, sketching, and photographing: “Took some Kodaks & then walked round to the Church at Tetbury.” For most of the holiday they had good weather, and were able to take plenty of walks. John played golf with Nat Harman (husband to Margaret’s sister Katie), while the children took it in turns to go riding and take trips in the car.

Painting of a view of Florence by Margaret, 1907, News from the Archives, Digging for Dirt, Winterbourne House and Garden

Painting of a view of Florence by Margaret, 1907

In April, Margaret had taken a four-day trip to Devon with friends, Mr and Mrs Heaton, to find suitable lodgings for a holiday which the whole family eventually took in August, travelling down to Bude by train.

The ten members of the family, plus nurses, had 3 sitting rooms, 5 double and 3 single bedrooms and just one bathroom with hot and cold running water, all for £15.15s a week. They enjoyed swimming, bicycling, sometimes on a tandem with John, trips by boat and socialising with other holidaying families. John returned to Birmingham for six days, to attend a Housing Congress, and returned by car. He seems to have had a lot of time off work!

Margaret in Devon with her father Arthur Chamberlain, Nina and Lois, News from the Archives, Digging for Dirt, Winterbourne House and Garden

Margaret in Devon with her father Arthur Chamberlain, Nina and Lois

In addition to all these holidays with the family, Margaret also enjoyed several short three-day trips with John; including a weekend away in May at Redlynch with relations; in November to go to the National Gallery and the theatre in London; and in December to visit Aunt Alice Beale, her mother’s sister. She also went to Florence in October for three weeks with John and her cousin, Ida Chamberlain. She was away from home for over 150 days in 1907. Amazing!

This article was written by Archive Volunteer Sue Tungate. The Archive Team lead free tours of the house at 2pm most Tuesdays where you can learn more about the history of Winterbourne. Please ask at reception for details.

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