In 1967 my parents, Patrick and Nancy Sladden, came to England after retiring from the Far East, and they of course visited the family at Seward House. The household consisted of Aunt Juliet (as we knew her), her sister-in-law Aunt Peg (George’s widow) and Uncle Cyril.
Seward House was a beautiful Cotswold stone house and exuded a warm welcome for all who visited. They were very family minded and kindly hosts.
To clarify my connection with Seward House requires a little background information.
My great grandfather, Dilnot Sladden, was the older brother of Julius Sladden. Dilnot had followed their eldest brother George, a Master Mariner, to Tasmania and on to New Zealand, arriving there about 1860.
The Sladden family was very close and kept in touch by correspondence, and by visiting throughout their lives. Lewis (my grandfather) was the oldest son of Dilnot. He sailed all the way from New Zealand to England to go to school at Dover College. He lived with his great-uncle and aunt, George and Marian Coleman, in Deal. George became Mayor of Deal.
After school, Lewis returned to New Zealand where he trained as a Land Surveyor and surveyed much of the South Island, having a glacier and a mountain saddle named after him.
Lewis’s son, Patrick, my father, left New Zealand in 1925 to train with the Eastern Extension Cable Company in Adelaide, Australia. He spent the rest of his working life in the Far East, with a period of study in England when of course he would visit his cousins at Seward House. My parents would always visit Badsey when they were on leave in the UK, otherwise their leave would be in New Zealand.
In 1970 Aunt Juliet decided to sell the barns and orchard at the back of Seward House. My father purchased the barns and some orchard land. Over the next few years he converted half of the barns into a home, and my mother created a lovely garden. The orchard land became the housing estate we have now at Seward Road and Seward Close.
Our family had stayed at Seward House from time to time before we purchased the Barn, and when my parents were out of the country I would visit at weekends. My bedroom would be in the attic overlooking the rose garden or in the lovely big bedroom next door to Aunt Juliet’s, also overlooking the rose garden. I remember Tizzy (Miss Tizard) who was a companion to Aunt Juliet’s older sisters when they were alive. Tizzy lived in a flat in the old vicarage. When that building was pulled down she moved to Post Office Lane until she died.
I remember Mr Holley cycling down the High Street to do the heavy jobs and to look after the garden. Mrs Holley must have walked! She was a lovely warm comfortable person and came at least three times a week to cook - making cakes for the week’s teas, and pies and other meals. I also remember Daisy Addis who used to clear the fireplaces and do other odd jobs.
Aunt Peg was in charge of the kitchen and Aunt Juliet the household. I remember Uncle Cyril visiting the dairy outside the kitchen to check on the apples which were stored there. I can see him sitting in the Morning Room reading the days newspapers with his magnifying glass. His bedroom was above the Morning Room.
All our meals were held in the Morning Room. It was a life of routine and regularity. There was always a substantial lunch with afternoon tea taken in the Drawing Room. If it was a lovely day, the French windows were opened out onto the garden. Supper was back in the Morning Room.
Anthony and I were married in St James’ Church. Some of our wedding photographs were taken in the garden of Seward House. The Reception was held in the unconverted part of The Barn. Our two children, Lucy and Jonathan, were baptised in Badsey and the garden of Seward House was their extended playground when we were visiting my parents. The children enjoyed going up to the kitchen to visit Mrs Holley or whoever was around. Later our daughter, Lucy, was also married in St James’ Church. The Reception was held in the unconverted part of the Barn.
The Seward House Sladdens and my parents joined together in many celebrations at the Barn or Seward House, be it a visit from extended family, a birthday or just to catch up. My brother Michael, his wife Elspeth and their children, Mark and Chloe, were frequent visitors from New York. In later years, when the Sladdens became more frail, my parents provided their support.
Our family carried on the Sladden tradition of providing the venue for the Church Wine and Cheese evening in the old barn. We tried to continue it even after my parents died. It is a venue that has seen many village celebrations over the years.
By the time Tony and Barbara Jerram arrived in Badsey, my father had died. They became good friends to my mother and Tony created a beautiful vegetable garden just inside the drive which many will remember.
When Aunt Juliet died, Aunt Peg moved to Devon to be near her daughter. Seward House was then sold for a Nursing Home which served Badsey villagers well for the time it existed. It served my parents well too, providing help when needed, then meals for my mother as she became more frail.
We were all sad when the old house was sold - but it has become several families’ homes and happily looked after. Now the Barn is no longer in our family’s hands - having just been sold, it brings to an end the Sladdens’ long association with the village.
My father and mother with their daughter-in-law, Elspeth, are buried in the Sladden plot.
Patsy Miller (née Sladden), September 2016