Eighty years ago, many children were being evacuated from our big cities to places less vulnerable to the attentions of the German Luftwaffe. Cockermouth was one of those places, where large numbers of evacuee children came to stay.

It was compulsory to accept an evacuee where it was judged that people had room to accommodate one or more, although not everyone was happy at the prospect. Whitehaven Records Office has a folder with many letters from disgruntled people, giving reasons why they should be exempt from taking an evacuee. One such person explained that her maid had far too much work to do to find time to look after an evacuee.

Many children came from Newcastle, but some came from other places, including London. Sometimes, whole schools were evacuated with their teachers. A Newcastle boys’ school (St. Cuthbert’s) was evacuated to Wood Hall on the Carlisle road. Wyndham School, where the present caravan park is, was requisitioned for use by Belmont School, the preparatory part of Mill Hill School, near London. Mill Hill School relocated to St. Bees during the war. David Aston, who was at Belmont School, recalls with fondness the regular bike rides from the school, sometimes to Keswick, where the boys would ogle the Rodean girls, whose school had been evacuated to the Station Hotel there. The Belmont boys would also cycle down to the Cricket Club at Sandair for cricket, or swim in the outdoor pool at Wyndham School (then known as St. Helen’s), known affectionately by the boys as ‘The Stinker’ because it did not smell too fresh.

Many unaccompanied children arrived, as

well as mothers with babies and young children, all needing to be accommodated. They arrived at Cockermouth railway station and were taken to a reception centre, where individual children would be selected by householders. The Chief Billeting Officer at the time, Mr. Aitken, urged townspeople to give the new additions to the town a warm welcome but this must have been a difficult time for both householders and homesick children. Some children had good experiences and others not so good.

Les Whitefield from Newcastle was sent to live with a family who he describes as even poorer than his own family but who looked after him well:

“We each got a hard-boiled egg for breakfast – a rare treat in wartime. We had to stand at the table (no chairs) and drink tea out of honey jars (no cups), no sugar, no milk …”

Joan Harvey (nee Shorthouse) and her brother had happy memories of their evacuee days, living with Miss Peel, then headmistress of Fairfield School, on Fitz Road. Joan remembers sitting in the witness box at the old Court House on Main Street, watching Miss Peel directing rehearsals of the Harmonic Society’s performance of ‘The Messiah’.

Finally, a request relating to WWII: we have been contacted by a volunteer at a Dutch museum who is trying to contact Pauline Shepherd, whose brother Harry Smith died in a plane crash over the village of Nieuwlande during the war. She needs further information from her about Harry for an exhibition they are planning soon. Please get in touch if you can help.


Proudly present their 2019/20 season 24th September 2019

The Temple Ensemble

Mozart Clarinet Quintet Schubert Octet 15th October 2019

John Paul Ekins – Piano Concert includes Mozart, Liszt and Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition

12th November 2019 Maggini Quartet

Concert includes Haydn, Bridge and Beethoven 3rd December 2019

Scottish Ensemble A Candle-light Seasonal Treat

Concert includes Bach, Sibelius and Tavener 21st January 2020

Elizabeth Bass – Harp Concert includes Debussy, Britten and Hindemith

11th February 2020 Busch Trio

Concert includes Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert 17th March 2020

Leon McCawley – Piano Concert includes Schubert, Janacek and Grieg

All concerts start at 7.30pm in The United Reformed Church, Main Street Cockermouth

Cost £18.00 for non-members (accompanied children free) and students and unaccompanied children half-price EXCEPTION

3rd December 2019 which starts at 7.30pm in Christ Church, Cockermouth

Costs £23.00 for non-members (with accompanied children free) and unaccompanied children and students’ half-price

Tickets are available from Billy Bowman’s Music Shop

in Lowther Went two weeks before each concert or from the Secretary Mrs Susan Allison on 016973 71397

All are ensured of a warm welcome Registered charity 1037505

JAMES A. MURRAY Carpenter, Joiner and Kitchen Fitter

Loft Ladders • Glazing • Guttering

• Building Maintenance • Sash Cords • Dry & Wet Rot Treatment

• Replacement Doors • Fencing • Flat Roofs • Laminate Floors • Traditional Floorboards

T. 01900 829 791 M. 07548 548 955 • Fully Insured • Time-Served

Evacuees collecting scrap metal for the war effort. Joan Harvey (then Shorthouse) is far right

01900 823966 •


3 Lawson Garth Brigham Cockermouth CA13 0SX QUALITY CRAFTSMANSHIP

ISSUE 435 | 19 SEPTEMBER 2019 | 5

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