Our planned exhibition to mark the commemoration of VE day on the weekend of the 8th/9th and 10th May unfortunately cannot now take place. However, we would like to bring you some elements of it here on our newly refreshed website.
In Object of the Month our volunteer Catherine Smith explains the story behind the Chest of Drawers in the Dormitory, a poignant reminder of the evacuees who came to stay in the house during World War 2.
In 1939 Colonel Thomas Gayer Anderson became billeting officer for Lavenham and welcomed into his home at Little Hall five boys from a school in Bethnal Green in East London.
Our exhibition would have told their story together with more general information about life in World War 2.
Here are photos of the exhibition in previous years to whet your appetite.
World War Two Rationing
Our volunteer, Miranda Ellison describes domestic life in WW2 reflecting on how it differed from our situation today.
As a nation we are going through some hard times right now during the Covid-19 pandemic. We are all still able to buy the required ingredients for our usual meals but the recent shortages on our supermarket shelves might have caused some of us to reflect, or even remember, what it was like for Britons living during World War Two.
This year Little Hall had been preparing to commemorate World War Two and mark the 75th Anniversary of VE Day. Sadly, the Covid-19 lockdown has prevented us from going ahead with this. Instead, to remember those days, we have gathered some war time recipes and other memories. This will be one of the ways that we will reflect on what life was like 75 years ago, as we ourselves are now called upon to nurture that same ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ attitude of our forebears. You might like to try making some of our recipes, or even share with us recipes or memories from those days. We would love to hear from you through our website or Face Book (@LtHallLavenham) page. Recreating these recipes at home is a great way to bring a bit of history back to life.
The government of the day introduced rationing, a basic allowance of staple foods. It helped to ensure an equal distribution of staple food for everyone throughout the country. Early on during the war the Ministry of Agriculture introduced the Dig for Victory campaign. This encouraged people to supplement their rations by growing their own fruit and vegetables. People dug up the flower beds in their gardens, public parks became allotments, and even the lawns outside of the Tower of London saw vegetables planted.
We have no evidence that Little Hall’s garden was used in this way. In a photograph we have seen dated circa 1929, which we are sadly unable to publish here due to unknown copyright ownership, the garden looks more like an orchard full of mature trees. The Colonel made no mention of growing vegetables in his book ‘The Colonel’s Tale’ in which he records his memories of living in Little Hall, which is for sale in our well stocked gift shop. His contribution to the war effort was to take in five boys evacuated from bombed out Bethnal Green in the East End of London. He was the local Chief Billeting Officer and Commander of the Cambridge sub-area of the Home Guard.
To understand just how much, or little food people had to survive on during those days here is the Weekly ration for 1 adult
- Bacon & Ham 4 oz
- Meat to the value of 1 shilling and sixpence (around about 1/2 lb minced beef)
- Butter 2 oz
- Cheese 2 oz
- Margarine 4 oz
- Cooking fat 4 oz
- Milk 3 pints
- Sugar 8 oz
- Preserves 1 lb every 2 months
- Tea 2 oz
- Eggs 1 fresh egg per week and a dried egg allowance
- Sweets 12 oz every 4 weeks
This demonstrates just how creative the cooks in each household had to be to produce healthy and nutritious meals for their family’s day after day, week after week and, as it turned out, year after year. Could we survive on this amount these days?
(Weekly ration and ration book image taken from www.the1940sexperiment.com)
Corned beef fritters
|2 oz wholemeal self-raising flour||Mix and blend the flour with the salt, beaten egg and dash of milk|
|Pinch of salt||Beat until a batter is achieved.|
|1 egg||Add corned beef, onion and herbs|
|Dash of milk||Melt oil in a pan|
|Pinch of thyme||Drop in a spoonful of the mixture and press down to form a patty|
|2 teaspoons grated onion||Fry on either side until crisp and brown|
|6 oz flaked corned beef|
One I made earlier served with salad and a home-made potato salad. I suspect that this is not war time portions though!
Potato, cheese and onion pasty.
|8 oz short crust pastry||Roll out the pastry 1/4 inch thick into an oval shape|
|4 oz partly cooked potatoes diced or sliced.||Place potato, and onion on one half of the pastry oval sprinkle the grated cheese on top.|
|1 large onion, sliced||Wet the edges and fold over the Salt and pepper other half of the pastry on top.|
|4 oz grated cheese||Press and crimp the edges together.|
|Cut three ventilation lines in the middle and brush with beaten egg or milk.|
|Place on a greased baking tray in a hot oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown.|
Both these are from a collection of recipes from Medieval, Tudor and World War Two times put together by our garden volunteer Vivian Warner. Copies of this booklet are available to buy in our gift shop.
This cake was not a new recipe during World War Two, however, it was probably revived during the war years as, when sugar was rationed, carrots provided an alternative source of sweetness for cakes and biscuits.
|Ingredients 230 g self-raising flour|
85 g margarine or cooking fat
85 g sugar
115 g finely grated carrot
55 g sultanas
A little milk or water
1 reconstituted dried egg or 1 fresh egg
Preheat oven to 220˚C / 200˚C (fan) / gas mark 7.
Sift the flour into a mixing bowl.
Rub in the margarine or cooking fat.
Add sugar, carrot, sultanas and egg.
Mix well and then add sufficient milk or water to make sticky.
Pour mixture into a lined baking tin and cook in the over for 40 – 45 minutes or until golden in colour.
|For the frosting |
150 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
45 g/ 3 tbsp caster sugar
300 g full fat cream cheese
|While the cake cools, make the frosting:Place the butter in a large bowl with the caster sugar, beat it for 2-3 minutes until light and creamy,then beat in the cream cheese until smooth.|
(National Trust war time carrot-cake recipe with added frosting from BBC Good Food – Easy Carrot Cake)
Children’s Games during World War Two
During World War Two many toy companies, particularly those who made metal toys, ceased making toys and instead made war material. This meant that new mass-produced toys were scarce, so the children of Britain were left to use their imagination and create their own games. For those living in rural areas this could mean exploring the countryside around them, for those in towns and cities it could be playing on the streets, in local parks or, scarily as we now know about the danger of unexploded bombs, playing on bomb sites! The most common proviso for all this freedom was that the children were to return home before dark. I wonder what games the boys, who were evacuated from Bethnal Green to live in Little Hall during the war, played in Lavenham?
The current lockdown situation and the need to maintain social distancing is placing restrictions on our children’s activities right now. We have created a list of games suitable for indoors or in the garden, that the children in 1940s Britain used to play. Did you play any of these games as a child?
|Five stones (or Jacks)|
|Two balls up the wall|
|Hide and Seek|
|Long rope skipping (with 3 or more participants)|
It was not all play for children in those days. Many were given daily chores to perform. My mother-in law remembers having the daily task of tearing newspapers into strips to be used in the smallest room in the house. However, in those days this room was usually a shed in the back garden! How times have changed!
We, the volunteers at Little Hall, hope that you, your friends and loved ones stay safe during this troubling time and we look forward to welcoming you to Little Hall when restrictions have been lifted. Until then please keep checking this website and Face Book (@LtHallLavenham) page for updates and further information about the history of our lovely Little Hall.
Memories of VE Day 1945
Some Little Hall volunteers share with us their personal and family’s memories of VE Day
Life-long Thorpe Morieux resident, Valerie, remembers going to her dad’s local pub, the Plough and Fleece in Cockfield, to celebrate with her family. She was about 6 or 7 years old and said, ‘someone must have borrowed a car for all of us to get there’. A bonfire had been built on the green opposite the pub, which was lit in the evening. ‘Everyone was very happy’ she remembers.
Little Hall volunteer, Caro, does not have the same happy memories of VE Day as she was suffering from scarlet fever. Her mother and father had to stay in and so did not join in the festivities. Caro’s mother was disappointed about this and would often tell Caro over the years, in a joking way of course, that ‘she had ruined her VE Day’
Fellow Little Hall volunteer, Miranda was told by her mother, Vi, how she had celebrated whilst serving as a Wren in Egypt. She was stationed in Cairo at the time and told how she and a group of fellow Wrens hitched a lift with the Army to Alexandria where they attended a celebratory fleet dance. She remembers that there was an atmosphere of jubilation and celebration. ‘Everyone was very happy’. Her joy was more subdued though as her fiancé was still serving in the Navy in the Far East. This made her keenly aware that the war was not yet over. The next day she got a lift back to Cairo with Army transport and on the Sunday attended a special service at the fleet club.
Little Hall’s Chair, Graham, tells us how his mother-in-law, Margaret, spent VE Day. She was 14 and remembers it as being a lovely sunny May day. It was school as usual that day and, after dinner, she and her fellow students were told to assemble in the Main Hall where they were told the ‘Good News’ – victory at last! To top this off the children were also allowed to leave early.
That evening her family decided to walk into the centre of Luton which was only a few minutes walk away. As they neared the centre of the town they were joined by more and more people and by the time they reached the main street the place was heaving with folk singing, shouting and dancing. At some point she lost her family, but she did not care! She was so happy singing and dancing, being hugged and kissed by one and all and joining in with all the happiness and joy surrounding her in one huge party. It was a day Margaret will never forget.
Another volunteer, Catherine, told us how her mother, then aged only 15, remembers that she walked to work that day as usual, after all the war was still going on. The day does stick out for her though as she remembers the weather being especially pleasant. Catherine’s partner’s mother, on the other hand, worked in a bomb making factory where the workers used the distilling equipment, they had been using for chemicals, to make gin. Imagine what the celebrations must have been like there!
Catherine’s and Miranda’s mothers were not alone in remembering that the war was not yet over as several Lavenham men had been captured during the war and had not yet returned home. Some of these men had been captured by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore and did not come back until September and October of that year. Their return must have sparked renewed celebrations as they were welcomed home by their relieved families, as well as their community.
SECOND WORLD WAR MEMORABILIA FOR SALE IN OUR GIFT SHOP
Just some of the items for sale in our gift shop. Our stock covers a wide spectrum of historical periods, from ancient Egypt, Medieval and Tudor times through to the Twentieth Century, all covering a range of interests and subjects.
We also have a selection of greeting cards depicting local scenes, images of Little Hall, the Brill Cat Collection as well as a range of affordable gifts.
Please come to see us when we are able to open again.
Little Hall and its team of volunteers will be waiting to meet you and share with you the history of this quaint and intriguing museum.