Lilian Moody (1906-1988) Voluntary Work at War-Time Nurseries

Heather Fogg

Lilian Moody and her husband, Herbert, slept downstairs in the specially strengthened half during the first few nights that they spent in their home in Hampstead. The Battle of Britain raged overhead. Then Hertfordshire County Council, for whom Lilian’s husband worked, told him that he must

move out to Hertford to live, in order to avoid the possibility of being injured while travelling to and from work. At first the couple had to live in lodgings because the town was crowded with evacuees, but eventually they were able to rent a bungalow in High Molewood.

Herbert’s work as Senior County Architect for the County Council included visiting some of the large country houses in Hertfordshire and ensuring that requisitioned rooms were ready for their new temporary purpose as accommodation for evacuated children of nursery age. They were riot always so suited, One day a child climbed up and threw a dart into a Rembrandt picture. The picture had to be sent to a restorer and the packing up alone cost over a hundred pounds (a -great deal of money in those days).

Lilian used to accompany her husband on some of his journeys and so she chose to do her war work by helping the social workers at County Hail to administer tt1ese nurseries. Petrol, of course, was in very short supply, Lilian put her name on a board in County Hall to say where she needed to go and any council official who was going in that direction gave her a lift. She was out almost every day and visited all the nurseries throughout the county. The nearest one to London was in the Southgate area, but the others were scattered countywide. Brockett Hall was for unmarried mothers. Some nurseries had twelve little children, others more. Pregnant women came to stay at some of the houses to have their babies so that they were away from broken nights and bombs.

It was obvious to Lilian that some of these mothers had very little to do with which to occupy themselves and also that there was an acute shortage of toys. She contacted a few big London shops and they sent her pieces of n 1ate rial from their cutting rooms. Clothes were rationed and new material ha d to be bought with precious coupons. It was thus difficult to find pieces for needlework lessons and Lilian was able to give some to schools. But . the bulk of her material she used for toy-making. She did the cutting out herself and then went round the county distributing pieces to the mothers who were willing to sew them up. In those days when shops had so few toys these home-made ones were most welcome, especially as the children were allowed to keep these toys as their very own. Hertfordshire received some toys from the Canadian Red Cross but these went to nurseries for the benefit of all the children and did not become personal property.

All women, who were able to do so, were required to help with the war effort. At one time Lilian had to go before a tribunal, consisting of Mrs. Purkiss-Ginn, Mrs. Addis and Mrs. Evans and explain that she was indeed carrying out necessary work. She was supported in her plea by the then Director of Education, Mr. Newsome. It was agreed that what she was doing was important, but if the verdict had been otherwise she would have been drafted to another job.

As a volunteer Lilian often felt that she was able to be more successful in dealing with people than she would have been as a paid professional. It was easier for her to be accepted, particularly by those who resented the in flux of evacuees and the presence of professional social workers. She greatly enjoyed her daily trips around the county and developed a deep love of rural Hertfordshire. After the death of her husband she remained for the rest of her life in what had been their temporary home in High Molewood.

This is based on part of a tape recorded interview made in 1986. Other details that Lilian mentioned in the tape were published in WATERFORD IN TIMES PAST.







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This page was added on 24/12/2021.

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