Compton Street in 1937

Memories of Compton in the early to mid 20th Century

One of three clergy widows living in the same house, Compton Down, Hilda Willis was an accomplished watercolourist who recorded some lovely views of our parish between the 1930s and 1950s
Quite by chance, last year, I visited Johnby Hall in Cumbria,  a wonderful B&B run by Anna and Henry Howard.   I was so delighted by this unusual and utterly charming B&B that I decided to go back for a holiday this year.

Compton Street from Hurdle Way
Watercolour of Compton Street seen from Hurdle Way (date unknown)

Anna Howard’s mother, Frances Parsons, heard that I was returning to Johnby Hall and having noted in the Visitors’ book that I lived on Compton Down, she was determined to meet me.

We had a wonderful meeting and it transpired that Frances had many happy memories of visiting Compton Down as a child, in the 1950s.   Her Great Grandmother, Mary Cremer (née Awdry of Thomas the Tank engine fame), her grandmother  Hilda Willis, an artist and watercolourist, and her great aunt  Vera Wethered all lived  together in Peter Betts’s house – Compton Down, Hurdle Way. They were all Clergy widows!  Mary Cremer died there in 1959 aged 103.

Compton Street painted on 21 June 1937 by Hilda Willis
Compton Street painted on 21 June 1937 by Hilda Willis

However, not only did Frances have these wonderful memories but she also has the most enchanting collection of watercolours of Compton Down and the environs, painted by her grandmother, Hilda Willis,  mostly in about the 1950s,  and she brought these  with her to show me.

I photographed the pictures she was able to bring and she has since, very generously and thoughtfully, sent me photos of a whole lot more which I have now shared with Peter Betts and with Adrian Walmsley.  We are hoping  that we may be able to get some postcards made from a selection of the photographs that we have of her paintings.  This view along Compton Street appeared on the front cover of the Parish Magazine for September 2013.

This is an edited version of the article by Susie Evershed in the September 2013Parish Magazine