[Margaret] Angela Boys surveyed the kitchen table, which was now covered in the débris from her efforts to ice the christmas cake. This was the first time she had attempted such a thing, and she had been anxious to finish the job before the cook returned to work the next morning.
This would also be their first Christmas at Bourneside*, and she was determined to make it as normal as possible for her father, whom she felt responsible for, now that her mother was not with them,** and her brother Geoffrey was a prisoner of war, having been captured at the Battle of Mons. Of course, one of the reasons they had come to St Mary Bourne was that her Aunt Lucy (Boys Miley) was living at Haven Hill, which was in easy walking distance, and they would probably be having lunch with the Mileys on Christmas Day.
But she really ought to begin at the beginning, as Miss Jarvis, the headmistress of Conamur had always reminded them. Born in Kensington in 1897 to [later Sir] Charles Vernon and Marion (nee Pollock) Boys, Angela had been sent like other girls of her class to boarding school, latterly in Sandgate, Folkestone. The writer Jocelyn Brooke described Conamur as:
The building at the end of the Riviera later became the Marine Hotel… the school inculcated a breezy and strenuous optimism…Corot and Greuze hung on the walls, while the singular flora of Art Nouveau, sprawling water lilies and fleur-de-lis, burgeoned unexpectedly in corners. Little girls in sage green djibbahs were perpetually tearing breathlessly to and fro as though the school were run on the lines of a military detention barracks.
Angela was now seventeen and had returned to look after her father and run the household in the absence of her mother and older brother. Some days like today she felt very grown-up and responsible, but at other times – as she would admit only to herself – she felt rather alone and in need of mothering herself.
Bourneside was a large house for the two of them and her father spent much of his time in his study; it was going to be up to her, she could see, to make some sort of life for them in the village, particularly as he very often returned to London mid-week. She missed her brother very much, even if he did tease her as all boys teased their little sisters, she supposed.
The Bourne Valley was pretty, and seemed rather quaint after London and even the relative sophistication of Folkestone. The house had been built some time between the 1882 Ordnance Survey map, which simply shows fields, and 1907, when it is recorded in property sales. At the time of the Tithe Award in 1841, the land was owned by the Herbert family, owners of Stoke Farm.
Angela gave a final, satisfied look at her cake – well, the cook had made the cake, beginning of course on Stir-Up Sunday, but she had made it beautiful. Even if she did say so herself.
* Bourneside is NOT to be confused with the house in the village street of that name. At this period, what is now Hill House was called Bourneside. The following is the extract from references to Bourneside in the Hampshire Record Office’s online catalogue.
** Charles and Marion Boys had been divorced in 1910