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Duncan Sladden's Memories

In his memoirs written in 2005, Duncan Sladden, a Scottish Episcopal Minister, the youngest son of Cyril Sladden, wrote a section about his memories of Badsey.  Duncan died on 17th April 2011 in Dunblane, but his widow, Margaret Sladden, has given permission for these memories (which have been sent to us by Alex Naughton, Duncan’s great-nephew) to be published.

"One of my earliest memories is of sitting on my paternal grandfather's knee at the age of three.  He was nearly 80 at the time.  I am the youngest son of a youngest son. That makes the gap between generations about 40 years' long.  My Sladden ancestors had lived for many generations in Kent.  But my grandfather moved as a young man from Kent to Worcestershire, to the village of Badsey near Evesham, another fruit growing and market gardening county.  He managed a small brewery in Evesham. He was married to a half French cousin, Eugénie Narcisse.  They raised at Badsey a family of 8 children, 4 boys and 4 girls. My grandmother sadly died in 1916, when my father was away at the War. 

What a blessing it is to be born with a plentiful supply of aunts and uncles. 

I was called "Duncan" because my mother* was three-quarters Scottish, being descended from Mackenzies on her mother's side, and from Scottish Browns on her father's side. She was proud of her Scottish ancestry.  Her elder brother, Cecil, had fought in France with the London Scottish regiment and had been killed on 1 July 1916 at the battle of the Somme.  We had a photograph of him looking very handsome in his kilt.  An early memory is of Remembrance Day every year, when we solemnly kept silence for 2 minutes to recall the Armistice on 11 November and to remember those who had been killed in the First World War.  I can remember gazing at the picture of Uncle Cecil I had never known, understanding something, even at a tender age, of the glories and miseries of war. 

As a child I was only once taken on a holiday to Scotland, when I was about 11.  It took us most of three days in our ancient car to travel from Berkshire to the Black Isle by easy stages. We stopped the first night at Catterick in Yorkshire and the second night at Dunkeld in Perthshire. we eventually reached Avoch on the Black Isle in time for tea.  I remember that my father, who had been driving through the rain, felt quite exhausted by the journey.  Travel was much slower and more adventurous in those days, before there were any motorways. 

Most of our childhood holidays were spent at Badsey, where our grandfather and our maiden aunts lived.  Seward House was a large rambling 18th century stone house with a large flower garden, with a tithe barn, stables, outhouses, chicken-runs, vegetable garden and orchards.  It was a wonderful place for children to roam in and to play in.  To me it will always be the nearest place to Paradise.  Sadly the last of our Badsey aunts died some years ago. The house has been sold. It was turned, rather appropriately, into an old people's home.  I hear now that the Old People's Home has closed and that the house is being turned into flats.  We still have a tiny foothold in that beloved village.  Our late distant cousins, Pat and Nancy, bought the tithe barn from Auntie Juliet and turned half of it into a delightful house covered with climbing roses.  This is now jointly owned by their son Michael Sladden and by their daughter Patsy Miller.  Our cousin, Pat, who began life in New Zealand, was an electrical engineer and a great DIY person.  He did much of the work converting the barn himself.  They furnished it beautifully at remarkably small expense by buying furniture second hand at auction sales.  So there is still a Sladden presence in Badsey in what used to be the barn.  We have enjoyed some family gatherings there. 

We did many delightful things when we were children on holiday at Seward House in Badsey - feeding the chickens - helping to pick the apples and plums in the orchard - playing tennis or croquet on the lawn - pushing a big roller over the lawn to make it nice and flat - going for picnics - attending the annual village flower show, where Grandpa had won prizes for his roses and where the aunts had won prizes for vegetables - helping to make the most glorious bonfires - searching for fossils - making scent - spending happy days putting together an exhibition of things we had found or made - inviting the grown-ups to come and see at sixpence per head - spending the proceeds at the village shop, which sold just about everything - where they sold sweets in great big jars - and up the road there was an old fashioned bakery from which came the most beautiful smell - watching them bake old fashioned loaves in an old fashioned oven - listening to the bells of the village church ringing in the New Year or summoning us to church on Sunday - to that church where so many members of the family are buried in the churchyard - where the oak panelling in the church was given in memory of my grandfather, Sir Julius, with this inscription: "Whatsoever he did in the Lord's house, he did it with all his might."

So many of my happiest memories are associated with Badsey, a place which I still visit in my dreams!"


* Duncan’s mother was Mela Brown Constable, whose war-time letters to her fiancée, Cyril Sladden, may be viewed at  Her older brother was John Cecil Brown Constable.