The Hermitage Mystery

Noted as being the Howard Family, The Hermitage, Hermitage Lane. Believe there is a connection to the Baggaley family also from Mansfield. Can anyone add anymore information?

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  • Col. J.N. Vallance was my father.

    We moved to The Hermitage in December 1938. We were leasing it from the owner, Bob Manners. When WW II broke out in 1939 we tried to break the lease so that my mother, my sister and I (aged 2 and 4 respectively) could move in with my grandmother, but Bob Manners would not allow us to break the lease and so we had to stay on at The Hermitage, which we bought after the end of the war.

    I think it was very difficult for my mother being stuck there in isolation with a two-year-old (my sister) and a four-year-old (me). Additionally the blackout and lack of petrol forced us to walk everywhere or take the bus from Sutton Road. This involved walking uphill up Hermitage Lane to the shops on Sutton Road for groceries; this was a tough climb for us. Our dog, Judy, a collie retriever cross, would carry the shopping basket for us. Our nanny left to work at an orphanage and it was hard to find folks to help with both the large house and the extensive garden. Bob Manners had employed three full-time gardeners at the Hermitage so the gardens front and back were fully cultivated when we moved there just before the war. Once the war started it was impossible to find gardeners and the garden became very wild and overgrown. The only available help was very old men who could not manage heavy work. Part of the grounds from the donkey shed to the Hermitage Lane end of the property were converted to allotments so that the people who lived in the cottages by the mill on Hermitage Lane could grow vegetables.

    We used the cellar as our air raid shelter and my sister and I had bunk beds at the wine cellar end. Planes would fly overhead on their way to bomb Sheffield and would drop bombs randomly on their way back to Germany so the sound of air raid sirens would send us into the cellar. My father had instructed my mother to lock my sister and me in the cellar if the Germans came, and she had Gurkha knives with which to defend herself!

    There were always animals at our house. After the war we kept pigs. You were allowed to kill two pigs a year for home consumption. We kept them in a pen behind the old donkey shed, which was behind the greenhouse, and my sister and I tried to ride them but without success! The pigs would race round in circles and try to throw us off. The sides of bacon were hung in my bedroom because it was the right temperature. I would lie in bed and gaze up at them in their white cotton shrouds.

    We always had dogs, sometimes as many a six at a time. Some slept in the stable and some in the house. We also had a very large Dutch rabbit named Bun who lived in a doghouse in the backyard and used to come into the house, guarded by one of the dogs, and eat the bulrushes on the hearth in the den. I had a tabby cat name Micky Baba who liked to sit on the Aga. On one occasion he helped himself to a kipper that was being poached in boiling water in a skillet on the stove. The kipper was very hot and it stuck to his paw so he danced around desperately trying to detach it.

    John (10/01/2019) mentions two people associated with our house. Mrs. Edith Warrener (his “gran”) and my mother were great friends. They used to like watching wrestling on TV together on Saturday afternoons while my father was out shooting. Edith used to joke about hanging a black flag out of the window when my sister and I came home from boarding school. Edith’s departure was a great loss for my mother.

    My father had been used to having a batman during his army service in the war and he liked to continue this practice afterwards. Ken fulfilled this function and was a great help. Also for a while Dad employed a very elderly man called Mr. Ince.

    Lulu was a chicken that my father had rescued from Eastwoods where she had escaped when being loaded onto a lorry for slaughter with the other broiler chickens. He brought her to The Hermitage and she lived in the old duck ark in the backyard. She was very tame and used to watch TV in the flat with Edith. My father gave her a clutch of mallard eggs to hatch, and when we visited in 1969 the ducklings had feathered up and were old enough to swim in the lake, but Lulu, being a chicken, did not take them to the water. So we all had to help catch them and put them on the lake. Lulu liked Chappie dog food, and my father would sit on the front porch with the tin and a fork and tap on it and call her (“Run, Lulu, run”) and she would come running to get it.

    The Hermitage was sold after my father’s death in 1981.

    By Susan Vallance Warren (05/10/2021)
  • When Col and Mrs Vallance lived at The Hermitage, access was via Clumber Builders’ Yard. I visited quite often (1972-1981) as I was an employee in his office. A true gentleman. I think, at some point (if my memory serves me correctly) Col Vallance was Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the county). And, of course, OBE.

    By Christine Passant (19/09/2019)
  • This was Hermitage House, home to the late Colonel and Mrs Vallance, to whom my late grandmother was housekeeper and lived on site. They held lively parties here, and entertained some famous persons and antiquarians, the famous explorer/historian?? Sir Mortimer Wheeler, and a regular luncheon guest was Mr Sooby, of the estate agents, Crampton, Sooby and Eastgate. They employed a driver/gardener called “Ken” who accompanied Colonel Vallance on his duties as holder of an honorary commission in the Territorial Army, acting as his batman. My late gran cooked, prepared shoot lunches, game brought back from the often attended shoots and much more. This was her retirement from service, from which she had looked after a Jewish diamond merchant in her early teens in London, seeing great music hall acts of the day at Drury Lane, Marie Lloyd, Harold Lloyd and many more. Working as a cook on the Isle of Wight also, but her time in domestic service ended at the Hermitage.

    By John (10/01/2019)
  • In the early 60s Col.Vallance the solicitor lived there

    By John Pollard (07/11/2018)
  • Looks very much like the house which is next to the lower dam at Kings Mill reservoir. The path that runs alongside its wall used to take you through a small tunnel to Hermitage Lane. It’s now been gated off. A large stone wall runs along the side of the house.

    By Shaun Smith (01/05/2018)

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