On May 20th, we took another train from Waterloo Station, this time to Leatherhead, Surrey to see Fetcham Park, the house where my grandfather, Arthur Barnard Hankey, spent his childhood. We saw the famous ceilings and wall murals by Louis Laguerre (1663-1721) whose paintings can also be found at Blenheim Palace and Chatsworth among others.
The house was sold in 1924 and went out of the Hankey family. But the present owners, Sandra and Malcolm Young, and their daughter, Laura, were happy to have us visit. They gave us Hankey descendants a delicious lunch
and a tour of the tiny church and the graveyard where many of our ancestors are buried. They pointed out a door frame in the dining room that they’ve preserved with a sheet of plexiglass. Hankey children down through the decades stood against this wall to have their heights recorded. We found my grandfather with this notation. May 11. Arthur 1914. 5 ft 11 and 1/2 “. They invited me to sign at the bottom of the same door frame. May 20, 2014. Almost exactly 100 years later. My grandfather never got much taller. Here he is with my mother, about to escort her into the church for her wedding. (She was 5’9″ but even accounting for her chic platform shoes, I have a feeling he might have been adding a few inches when he recorded his height that day in Fetcham.)
Other than that she has only one other memory of Fetcham. During the war, when she and her parents were living at 60 Pont Street, they often tried to get out of London on the weekends for a break from the grim, gray quality of the bombed out city. Once they took the train to Fetcham which at that point had been leased to the University College of London for their Anatomy and Physiology Departments as their buildings had been bombed during the Blitz.
Air raid shelters had been dug in the front of the house, but other than that the place appeared much the same until my mother and her parents rubbed away the grime to peer in the windows of the old garage. Inside, in neat lines, lay the embalmed bodies of dead soldiers. The corpses, probably contributed by families to the medical school, were awaiting autopsies by medical students as part of their training. My mother reports that she and her parents returned to their Pont Street flat in London quite shaken by their country outing. They never went back to Fetcham.