The Perfect Housekeeper

Many years ago one of our near neighbours was an old lady called Joan Harbord. One day I asked her in for a coffee. As she entered the house she said,“ I first came here 90 years ago!.”

Thomas Hockly was a successful Victorian Master builder, at one time had 27 employees and was responsible for quite a few buildings in the Queen’s Gate area. When he had made his pile he came to Barnes in 1875 and bought a strip of Lonsdale Road ( ‘you can’t keep a good man down’) where he built quite a few houses on the south side in the Italianate style with deep overhanging eaves which must by then have been slightly passé as the style took hold in the 1830’s but perhaps enabled him to use up old stock in his warehouses. 

Two houses away he built a house for one of  the Wedgwood family, which they named Etruria House. Our friend Paul lives there and jealously preserves the magnificent Deodar trees which are the home of the crows in our area and where Craw-Craw, my own llttle friend began his days. 

Mr Hockly built our house for himself in red brick instead of the yellowish London Brick which he used for all the others. He lived here with his his seven children, a cook , a housekeeper and his wife who died young. The eldest daughter, who never married, had expected to take over running the establishment when her mother died but alas Papa had fallen for the charms of the Housekeeper who was well endowed in the bosom department and had married the lady. When Joan described her, she made gestures delineating a very large bust indeed – adding “She was a real housekeeper!”.  Mr Hockly kept a pony and trap in the lttle stable at the side of the house and every day,  the weather allowing, he drove himself up and down Lonsdale Road, dressed in a grey morning suit with a matching grey topper.

The Harboards were one of the first families to move into the terraced houses which start three houses away, in 1905. Joan was 5 and used to come and play here with the Hockly grandchildren.

The story now takes a dark turn. The spurned daughter confided in the little 5 year old girl, Joan, telling her how unhappy she was with her father’s new wife. She had decided to commit suicide but couldn’t make up her mind whether to jump from a window or to take poison.“

And did she?“ I asked
“Oh yes!”
“And how…???”
“Poison!”

Joan died just before her hundredth birthday and the turn of the century. Mr Hockly was still alive in 1911.

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