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Shoes and socks off we’re going for a paddle!

Holidays from Haden Hill House

A photo at the seaside taken on one of the family’s holidays to the seaside.

We are almost at the end of summer and autumn is just around the corner (yay!). Due to Covid 19 many people have chosen to take a break in the UK this year, so you might have recently taken a trip to the British seaside. So I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the family seaside holidays which were taken by the family who lived at Haden Hill House.

As a wealthy family at the turn of the 20th century George Alfred Haden Haden Best, his two adopted daughters Alice and Emmie (also known as Emily) and their friends and companions spent much time travelling around the country.

They would catch a train from just a stone’s throw from Haden Hill House which could then take them for long holidays across Britain. Their wealth meant they could spend weeks at a time on holiday. Although by the end of the Victorian people even working people were taking a trip to the seaside, for them it might be a day trip or if they were lucky a few days.

Alice Cockin and Bertha Emma Bryant (Emmie) were never formally adopted by George Alfred, and they continued to visit their families in Old Hill. It seems that Emmie came to live at Haden Hill in 1886 when her own father died, and she later called Mr Best ‘dad’. It is likely that Alice came around the same time when the girls were around 16. Mr Haden Best never married and he found little boys rather boisterous, so the company of genteel young ladies probably suited him. It seems they were a close nit new family and spent a lot of time together.

Alice (sitting lower) and Emmie (sitting higher)

Emmie and Alice weren’t plucked from destitution by Mr Haden Best; their relatives were respectable lower middle class families from the local area. However, by moving into Haden Hill House their lives were completely changed. Lower middle class young ladies would have normally expected to have become teachers or worked in a shop maybe until they married. As the ‘daughters’ of a gentleman Emmie and Alice were now able to spend their time pursuing interests like painting, writing letters, drawing, photography, reading and crafts and of course extensive travelling.

Cockin, Alice; Brace of Pheasants; Sandwell Museums Service Collection;

We have a fabulous amount of detail about some of their trips through Emmie’s diaries as she describes in detail the day to day activities which they got up to on their travels.

One of Emmie’s diaries.

We are also lucky enough to have a few (sadly not very many) photographs of some of these trips, possibly taken by Alice who was a very keen photographer and her own family owned a photograph studio in Old Hill.

We think this is Mr Haden Best taking a walk along the cliffs.

We know from Emmie’s diaries that from 1998 to 1900 they travelled to north and south Wales several times, Devon, Northumberland, Yorkshire and Great Marlow and stayed for several weeks each time.

In 2015 Sandwell Museums, together with community artist/ curator Jo Loki undertook a project called Best’s Angels (a name given to the girls’ Sunday school which Mr Best supported and which Emmie and Alice attended). The Heritage Lottery Funded project, involved a number of community engagement projects with community groups and schools but it also involved transcribing some of Emmie’s diaries.

Many of these extracts showcased their trips day by day. They are a fascinating insight into what a wealthy young lady might do on her holidays at the turn of the 20th century.

Click the links below to read extracts from Emmie’s diaries.

A trip to Saundersfoot in South Wales – Here Emmie describes some lovely details about an idyllic few weeks in Wales by the sea in 1899

A three week trip to Ilfracombe in Devon in 1899

The Hadens on holiday!

Emmie describes their five week trip to Northumberland

North Devon 1900 – Another trip to North Devon came just a year after their Ilfracombe trip!

Haden Hill House around 1900

You can find out more about the ‘Best’s Angels’ project and more information about Haden Hill House and Emmie and Alice here

Socks off for a paddle

These diaries and handful of informal photographs give us a lovely insight into the only family ever to live at Haden Hill House. It seems to tell us their lives were happy and carefree.

….the chain makers of Cradley Heath just down the road from Haden Hill House probably felt very differently about their lives!

Published by Sandwell Museums & Arts

Sandwell Museums & Arts Service is a local authority organisation part of Sandwell Council. We have some fantastic heritage buildings to visit with fascinating stories to tell as well as a lively programme of events, activities and exhibitions each year between April and December.

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