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Dorina Neave was the last of the "Landed Gentry" to live in Dagnams. She lived there from 1908 up until the second world war. She wrote three books this being the last, it was published in about 1950. The book is mainly about her life in Turkey. There are several pages with comments (some bitter) and reminiscences of her time at Dagnams, these are reproduced below.
ROMANCE OF THE BOSPHORUS
Portraits of Dorina Lady Neave, 1949 above & 1920 below.
ROMANCE OF THE BOSPHORUS
ON November 26th, 1908,1 was married by the Bishop of London at St. Jameses Church, Piccadilly, to my mother's relative. Sir Thomas Neave; and he put an end to my returning to Turkey.
We settled down at his lovely home, Dagnam Park in Essex, where I learnt to love every brick of the dear old Georgian family mansion, with its beautiful Charles II walled gardens, and great cedar and elm trees, and one magnificent monarch among trees with such a spread of its immense branches that it required twenty-six supports to hold them up. It was a "cork ilex' and of its kind, the Kew Gardens' tree expert told us, there were only two others in Great Britain of its date, height and circumference; it was the pride of our lawn. After the birth of two daughters and two sons we spent the shooting season every year at Llysdulas in the Isle of Anglesey, which on her death in 1915 my mother-in-law left to my husband, and there, up to the time of the Second World War, we annually spent the autumn months. Much as we wished to visit Constantinople together we never found an opportunity of doing so, as in April, 1909, when we had intended to go to Turkey, a bloodless revolution took place there.
Abdul Hamid's conversion to Constitutionalism was accomplished with amazingly little difficulty. Elections were held and Parliament met before a month was out, and one of the first acts of the new Government was to dismiss the army of spies who had been maintained by Abdul Hamid at a cost, it was stated, of £1,200,000 a year. Large sums of money found their way to the troops with a view to undermining their loyalty to the new order, on the pretext that religion was in danger, and after the revolt that broke out on April 13th, 1909, among the troops in Constantinople, a counter-revolution was proclaimed. Its existence was brief.
The Committee of Young Turks met at Salonika and resolved to put down the counter-revolution by force, and by April 24th the Third Army Corps, under Mahmoud Shafket Pasha, had overcome the rebellious troops.
Whilst staying at the Carlton Hotel in London I was paid a visit by Lady O'Conor's three daughters, who had by then grown up into charming schoolgirls and now lived in England with their widowed mother; she also came to see me when I had a house for the season in Great Cumberland Place. It was a great meeting-place for my old friends as well as those of my husband, though he was no lover of London life and spent much of his time visiting his estate in Anglesey. Cynthia Surtees, who married our neighbouring squire at South Weald in Essex and to whom I had introduced Christopher Tower, often stayed with me when her husband was away on a shooting expedition. Tudor Vaughan also visited us when home on leave when he was Minister at Stockholm, and Sir Ronald Macleay and Evelyn, his wife, were our constant friends, not only in London, but at Dagnam and Lysdulas when they were home on leave from China or the Argentine. We were all so astonished and deeply interested in all that was taking place by revolution and counter-revolution in Turkey, that we often met, to talk over the amazing events in Turkey.
ROMANCE OF THE BOSPHORUS
SECOND WORLD WAR
When Dagnam Park was commandeered for the occupation of our troops during the winter of 1940, I packed up my belongings, as furniture removers stored our pictures, furniture, and china in one part of the house.
Many of the treasures had not been moved for 200 years and now lay huddled on the floors. My Turkish friends came to help me, as they were allowed petrol for their cars to come as far as Dagnam Park, about twenty-three miles out of London. I shall never forget the concern of Madame Akcer and her daughter Madame Bel-Bez when they left me packing up my home with only two caretakers, old Sarah Barker and her daughter Emmie, our old retainers.
But worse was to come!
That night the Luftwaffe had switched off its bombing attacks on aerodromes and industrial targets, and made London its objective. |
Bombers in successive waves flew up the Thames and as they | passed over our house they scattered an avalanche of incendiary bombs and fourteen delayed-action bombs.
It was amazing that none fell on the house or on any of the outdoor buildings, as by 2 a.m. Noak Hill village and the whole countryside was brilliantly illuminated by a blaze of flames.
It was a most spectacular scene.
The noble facade of the Mansion was flood-lit by the incendiary bombs' flames, and the leaves and branches of the great elm tree gleamed from the light of the leaping flames; the skies glowed, crimsoned by the burning docks, factories and churches in London. One hundred and three German planes were shot down by our valiant pilots that night.
The air was filled by the cacophony of the defence guns and bomb explosions as I stood on the very spot where Samuel Pepys had watched London burning in September, 1666. (Editors note; this cannot be true Pepys account of the fire is written from London, he was at Dagnams in July 1665)
After such a night of violence, it was a surprise when I looked out of my boudoir window next morning not to see a visible sign of the terrifying vicissitudes we had experienced. Peacefully the reflection of the Mansion was to be seen in the placid waters of the lake, and beyond the scattered leaves from the grand old Cork ilex tree on the lawn, (One of the three largest trees in England. Age unknown) all that remained of the worst raid we had so far been through were the black, scorched patches made by the incendiary bombs.
Greatly did it add to my loneliness as I silently walked through the empty rooms which were filled by happy memories of the years spent at Dagnam Park. On the eve of my departure I lingered in the old walled-in garden before the troops came into the house. A hallowed spot!
It dated back to Charles II's time, and through the wrought-iron gates could be seen a vision of pink roses, growing in profusion. They have always been my favourite flower, and the Rev. Pemberton Barnes named a fine specimen he brought out 'Dorina' after me; it was grown right down the border to the bathing pool, where our famous Stone dog appeared to guard the Rose Garden, as it stood reflected in the pool like hammered silver. At sunset, as the sun sank behind the trees, it seemed to me a sign of farewell as it faded out of sight; while the frogs croaked good-bye', and the bats at dusk swept down as if to give a parting salute, reminding me of the last time I dipped my 'Queen of the Bosphorus" flag, when I left Turkey in 1907—never to return.
Nature's farewell signs of homage, as I interpreted them in my reverie, were rudely awakened to the reality of war-time by the cacophony of the siren screech, the roar of guns and the warning rung by bells in Noak Hill village by Harry Barker, the air warden, as enemy bombers swept over the garden.
Memories of the happy days spent on the Bosphorus under the enthralling spell of sun-drenched, sparkling waters, will ever be recalled to my mind by the scent of flowers, sounds of the birds, and the flicker of fire-flies, as on that evening.
It was with a sad feeling of finality that I bade farewell to my dearly-loved home and garden, though I little knew that after the War, when I hoped to return to live at Dagnam Park with my sons, I was to have, instead, the shock of hearing on the evening wireless News: "Dagnam Park is to be taken by the Town and Country Planning Scheme as a Monster Satellite Town." That was the first intimation any of us received from the Socialist Government that we were to be robbed for all time of the home the Neave family had owned for 200 years, and which before them had belonged to the Duke of Northumberland.
Three Mansions have been built on the Estate, and the last one was built by Richard Neave, who was the Director of the Bank of England at the time of the Gordon Riots, and who was given a baronetcy for having stayed alone with a friend to lock up the bank after it had been deserted by all the employees.
WHEN I returned to London there was comparative quiet and peace, as the German Air Force had been diverted to attack Russia.
So, I offered my services as a voluntary worker at The Hon. Edward Coke's factory in Euston Road. The work was not difficult, but the dirt and the noise of the engines, and the hammering of the men at work became overpowering, and at the end of a year's service I had to undergo an operation for overstrained muscles; the death of Ned Coke was due to overwork at the factory. Strange and sad indeed became the contrast to my gay days on the Bosphorus and my happily married life, surrounded by my family, and living alternately in our beautiful Essex home and at Llysdulas, our home in the Isle of Anglesey.
When Dagnam Park was bought over our heads and my Dower House, Dagnam Priory, had also gone to the L.C.C., much as I begged to have it left for me to live in, I was homeless, as Llysdulas was also requisitioned. I had to hunt for a flat in London, and was fortunate enough to get one in Albany, Piccadilly.
When Mr. Anthony Eden opened the Turkish House called Halkivi in Fitzharding Street, he asked us to try and make it a meeting-place for our Turkish friends, for though they were not our allies, we still remained good friends. Sir Wyndham Deedes, the Chairman of the Halkivi, asked me to undertake the social side of the Turkish House, and I felt quite as if I were a liaison officer for our Oriental friends.
Once a fortnight I invited a number of my friends to the Turkish ladies' 'At Homes', which became a great feature of amusement at the time when America came into the War. Many of the officers and members of the American Embassy took part in the 'At Homes' and Mrs. Churchill charmed the hostesses by sending a telegram offering her compliments to them.
Mrs. Anthony Eden and Lady Chatfield were amongst the guests and representatives of all our Services who attended these entertainments.
Later, I took my Turkish friends on sightseeing expeditions, and one which was greatly enjoyed was a visit to Windsor Castle. By kind permission of H.M. Queen Elizabeth my party was shown over the Royal Chapel and round the Big Hall by Lord
Wigram, and shown from the terrace the Royal apartments. We were all invited to tea by Lady Wigram and shown over her delightful rooms in the Tower.
Lady Megan Lloyd George, our Anglesey M.P., entertained my friends at the House of Commons, and it gave the Orientals great pleasure to be given seats in the Strangers' Gallery and to have the good fortune to hear a debate; and they were very interested in the ceremonious customs.
After a view of the House of Lords, it was decided to pay a visit to St. Paul's Cathedral, and our American friends offered to come with us.
I found few English people who took the intimate interest in our famous buildings and monuments that was shown by the average type of intelligent American. They showed us much we had never observed in the aisles and transepts and in the black velvet-like depths of the dark caverns, where the vaulted arches seemed to sway above us. We reached the crypt as Even- song was about to take place, and watched the procession of choir in scarlet cassocks emerge from the shadows of the old walls and grey memorial stones and statues, chanting the evening hymn. The sound of the up-to-date warning by electric sirens penetrated the sinister gloom of the underground caverns where sarcophagi and tombs were stored in our great symbol of Christianity in the centre of our City.
The rhythm of the chanted hymn faded out of hearing, as we hurriedly climbed up one of the steep staircases, of which thirty exist in St. Paul's Cathedral, and after paying homage at the High Altar, we gladly reached the great entrance gates, the noise of the sirens growing louder as the enemy planes drew nearer.
The slanting rays of a watery sunset shone out as we left, casting a silver greyness on the blackened stones which had mercifully escaped the ferocious attacks made on them by the German pilots. There were few signs of the fires which had surrounded St. Paul's, but owing to the clearance of many of the buildings which had formerly blocked it from view, it stood revealed in its true proportions.
The pigeons strutting fearlessly on the steps of the Cathedral seemed to have been undisturbed by the bombs. Quietly nodding their iridescent heads, and hopping busily on their delicate mulberry-coloured feet seeking the crumbs scattered by visitors, they were entirely absorbed in eating, till their attention was drawn to the noise of the sirens again sounding in the distance. But fear of the sudden noise scared even the bravest of the flock when the guns roared, and with a great rush of wings they wheeled high above the great edifice. The old custodian in charge of the pigeons told us that when the famous Guildhall was consumed by flames in the big fire raid many of the night perches of his pets were destroyed. They circled above the flames, but when at dawn the "All clear' sounded, undeterred by the damage wrought by the great conflagration the homeless pigeons returned with the flock from St. Paul's where shelter was found for them on the facade on their friends' accustomed perches. What an example set to mankind by the wild pigeons!
The sinister black-out during the winter, pierced by the wobbling notes of the sirens, followed by the blood-curdling drone of approaching enemy bombers or the ghastly hum of V1 pilotless planes, with the even more terrifying because noiseless approach of rockets, made life hideous.
But above all the sounds of horror, the echo of Winston Churchill's exhortation broadcast from the B.B.C. rang in my ears when the raids grew unbearable.
"We shall defend our Island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing-grounds, we shall fight in the fields, in the streets, we shall fight on the hills, we shall never surrender!" These were courageous words. Our great Prime Minister was a man head and shoulders above any living man of his day; proudly we share him with our American friends, for Winston Churchill's father, a grand old English gentle-man, married a beautiful and talented American gentlewoman, and their son is a fine descendant of our two English-speaking nations.
Not withstanding the sorrows and losses, trials and anxieties endured during the War, I have much to be thankful for. Though Clifton Yali, my home on the Bosphorus, has been burnt down by the Germans, and Dagnam Park, our home in Essex, has been taken from us by the Labour Government and bought over our heads, we still have Llysdulas, the old home in Anglesey, and I have had the joy of welcoming my two sons, Major Sir Arundell Neave and Captain Kenelm Neave and two sons-in-law, Brigadier F. G. A. Parsons, O.B.E., husband of my elder daughter, Dorina Eileen and Major Sir Richard Williams Bulkeley, husband of my second daughter, Renee who all returned safely after serving abroad. Though Kenelm the youngest of the four, was wounded in France and missing until rescued by the Welsh Guards. A happy event took place when Arundell married my god-daughter, Richenda, the only child of my life-long friend, Eveline Whitaker, who married Sir Robert Paul who had been a prisoner-of-war in Turkey.
In this book I have tried to recall and transmit memories of a mode of life very different from that which the new generations know. The world has drastically altered since my happy and colourful years on the Bosphorus. Nevertheless, I have much for which to be thankful. Though Clifton Yali, my home on the Bosphorus, was burnt down by the Germans, and Dagnam Hall, my home in England, has had to pass, with the shift of the times, out of our possession, we still have Llysdulas, the old home in Anglesey. War and shared dangers are great humanizers: like so many mothers of sons I have known the agonizing anxieties, but I have also known the joyous reliefs which war can bring, for I have had the joy of welcoming two sons and two sons-in-law safely home from battle-fronts.
Again we have moved into a time of rumours of new wars. Our ancient Faith teaches us that man's destiny is in the hands of our Almighty Father. "Even though I pass through the valley of the shadow of death, yet will I trust in Thee." The new 'faiths' emerging from the East are based on a denial of the existence of the Deity. We may well be moving into that true Armageddon, where godlessness will meet its final overthrow. With such clouds lowering over the human race, it is surely no weakness to find pleasure and reassurance in looking back to more gracious and less troubled times, the happy years which we have all had, in different ways, from which the memory of a face or a voice, or a pink rose, unlocks a flood of recollections. It is in the hope that others may draw such relief from anxiety that I have written this book of the days I spent on the sunlit shores of the Bosphorus in those so-different days, as well as of other times in Great Britain.
I find it very difficult to sympathise with Dorina Neave. She had to undergo an operation for “overstrained muscles” (whatever that is) but I suspect she was simply knackered after a hard days work, something she certainly was not accustomed to. She was extremely fortunate to be able to choose her accommodation, unlike the working class Londoners who suffered night after night of nazi bombing during the blitz. At the end of the war those members of the armed forces who returned home did not expect to return to “business as usual” they had earned respect, and they expected change, they expected jobs and they expected homes. That meant that people like Dorina and her ilk had to give up a little, and it is clear that Dorina was not inclined to hand over anything of her own free will, least of all Dagnams and the associated land. As far as we the future residents of Harold Hill are concerned, the Atlee Labour government was heaven sent.
Along with the victors we, the sons and daughters of the victors, were determined to inherit the earth, and our bit of the earth was the Dagnam Park estate.
Dorina retreated to her “modest” mansion in Anglesey, and in our thousands we populated the new council estate, now known as Harold Hill. To us, the next generation, it was heaven, it was space and peace, it was woods and trees, it was lanes and flowers, it was home and it was ours. The landed gentry were the farthest thing from our minds, they were history. The last people we thought about as we roamed in Dagnam Park and the surrounding countryside were the previous owners. This was ours and we were keeping it.
|In 1940 the Neaves occupied both of these "stately homes" they were both requisitioned for military use during the war and Dorina declared herself "homeless"|