Part 3 of the West Horsley Place in the Second World War Series.

During the cold winter of 1939, the Marquess and Marchioness of Crewe held a Christmas party for the evacuees. On 22 December 1939, Birch & Gott were paid £1 and 1 shilling to install fairy lights for the party. 

There was a large, decorated Christmas tree placed in the hall and a log fire was burning in the grate. An evacuee called Lilian adored ‘the beautiful Christmas tree… It was quite a surprise to us when we saw all the lights, bells, [and] sweets which were hanging on it and especially the presents which surrounded the bottom of the tree’. They had pheasant for Christmas dinner and a large Christmas cake. 

Each evacuee was handed a present by the Marquess of Crewe. Jean loved her present – ‘a sewing machine’ – while Nellie happily received a ‘Pastry Maker’. Daphne was ‘more than pleased with [her] present which was an evening bag’ and David was very happy to receive a ‘watch’ and he wrote that ‘I will always keep it with me and never part with it’.


There was dancing to the music from the wireless, a play which the evacuees wrote was performed by the maids and many games were played. For example, they played musical chairs and musical orange. It is possible that musical orange was a game where an orange was passed around and when the music stopped, the child with the orange was the winner. An orange would have been a rare sight for many of the evacuated children and considered a real luxury.

After the party, the evacuated children wrote thank you letters to the Marchioness. All these letters were written on 28 December 1939, so one can easily imagine all the children together writing neatly and carefully under the supervision of their teachers. Marjorie wrote that ‘we don’t know how to thank you enough for the enjoyable time you have given us… I think we were all very lucky children to be in such a lovely place.’

The children were also treated to a party held by the local Women’s Institute across two days on the 28 and 29 December. Maybe the children wrote their letters on the 28th, to distract them from the fact that half of the children in West Horsley were attending a party that day.

However, by mid-1940 many of the children had returned to London, and the remaining children in West Horsley Place were moved to the Rectory. In April 1940, across the Guildford Rural District, 700 children had returned to London. There was a similar trend across the country. As no bombs had fallen on Britain by the middle of 1940, many parents began to call their children back home. Many poorer parents were also struggling to fund the cost of their children being hosted by another family. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be long until the bombs began to fall on Britain – and West Horsley Place.

By Hannah, student recipient of the Bamber Bursary