Thursday, 21 February 2019

8. Annabel & Patrick Dott in Croydon: 1919 to 1923

Patrick had family ties to Croydon – his mother had lived there and he had sisters and brothers still in the area, though not actually living in his parish.  

St Luke's was quite a new parish – Patrick was only its 5th vicar and it had its 50th jubilee in April 1922 while he was there.  His income will have risen noticeably, as directory entries show that the stipend for St Luke's in 1891 was £365 a year net, including residence, while at Dringhouses in 1890 it was £160.

The church building itself was still unfinished and Patrick announced on his arrival that the work would continue as already planned at a cost of £3,000.  Sadly, some time after he had left the parish and the church had indeed been completed by the strenuous efforts of the parish and vicar, it was very badly damaged in a fire in June 1929 and work had to begin again.  

In 1919, Patrick was coming into a rather challenging situation.  St Luke's had been without a vicar for some time and the Rural Dean, the Rev Patrick McCormick, spoke to the congregation at Patrick's induction about the need for parishioners to trust their new vicar.  He said he was sure that Patrick, with the knowledge of men that he had gained in the military camp where he had done such good work, would not ride roughshod over people's feelings.  Unfortunately, Patrick and two long-standing churchwardens did indeed fall out badly in 1921.  There was a difference of opinion over the expense of the planned War Memorial and the argument played out messily in the pages of the Norwood News.  However, it was all finally settled when a new solution was suggested and the memorial cross that can be seen today was erected.  

The report of the induction service in the Norwood News of 3 October 1919 gives us a glimpse of Patrick and his new church.  There was a "ladies' choir in their gowns and mortar-boards," a lay reader and a curate.  Patrick announced the compromise arrangement he had already agreed with factions in the congregation that the service of Matins would alternate on Sunday mornings with that of Choral Eucharist.  He was a High Churchman, so more frequent Eucharists will have been very much his aim.  A report in the West Sussex Gazette on his appointment to Barnes in 1923 mentioned that he introduced vestments to Woodside and that the congregation had given him a cope.  Unsurprisingly given his background in mission work, he told his new congregation that he would probably introduce extra services of a mission nature, sometimes in the open air.  He was enthusiastic about the possibilities.  

While Patrick was very actively making changes at the church and being involved in the civic life of the area, Annabel was particularly busy.  The Rural Dean had introduced her to the congregation, rather dauntingly, not only as an architect (mentioning the donation of The Orchard and saying – according to the report in the Norwood News – that "the cost must have run into something approaching ten thousand pounds, judging from the comments in the Press at the time," which seems a rather exaggerated figure) but also as "a brilliant writer, articles from her pen appearing in the Nineteenth Century and the Architectural Review, the latter on the technical subject of fitments – labour-saving devices."

She was certainly active in the normal run of parish activities – suggesting a parish fête to raise money, arranging a tea & entertainment for 350 to 400 children of the unemployed of Woodside, with a Christmas tree, innumerable bags of sweets and a parting gift to each child of a bun and an orange in 1921 – but we can be sure there would have been a lot of muttering and uncertainty about a vicar's wife whose past achievements were as unusual as Annabel's – especially as, at the same time, she was very active outside the normal run of parish duties.  

She began with a parish building project.  On 27 February 1920, the Norwood News announced that
The Rev Patrick Dott will soon be in a position to welcome parishioners to the new "vicar's room."  The idea is to have a rendezvous where men and women alike may call informally at any time, meet others on parish business, see the vicar, or sit and read or smoke while they wait.  Mrs Dott has designed the whole thing.  She is directing the building operations, and has laid out the furnishing scheme.
From this use of the room in December, I would think Annabel had a hand in suggesting the speaker:

Norwood News, 17 December 1920
Dr Sophia Jevons on Citizenship
In the vicar's room, St Luke's, Woodside, Dr Sophia Jevons, L.C.C. [London County Council], gave a address on Citizenship to about fifty women and girls on Thursday of last week.
Now that women have the vote they ought to realise their responsibilities and duties, said Dr Jevons.  Women should attend the meetings of candidates before deciding for whom they should vote, and remember that much of their daily life was influenced by the power of the local authorities, a power for which they as voters were responsible.  The speaker gave many useful hints relative to children's health and education.
In the spring of 1921, various pieces about Annabel appeared in the newspapers, which must have caused a good deal of interest in the parish.  In March, newspapers across the country syndicated a story about Mrs Dott and a "gossip seat."  The Yorkshire Evening Post reported
One of Mrs Dott's original ideas is a gossip seat between the kitchen doors of semi-detached houses. 
"I know maids are bound to gossip so I thought they might as well do it comfortably, so I made the two kitchen doors face each other and put a seat in between."
I think this must relate to the Goathland cottages, which were the only semi-detached houses that Annabel had built; why it became a newspaper story in 1921, I don't know.

The Daily News in Perth, Australia, ran the same piece with the additional information (there's no way of knowing if this is an accurate report):
As soon as the first house of any group is built she lives in it herself for a fortnight in order to find out what alterations should be made.  Then she embodies them in the rest.
These articles prompted a piece in the Norwood News.  I am not sure how to interpret its tone.  What can the writer mean by "quaint"?  And "designing of flats for gentlewomen" sounds rather dismissive; in the interview in The Vote Annabel refers to flats for "bona-fide professional women workers":

Norwood News, 25 March 1921
A "Discovery"
From time to time references have been made in these columns to Mrs Dott, the Vicarage, Woodside, and her work as an architect.  The quaint parish parlour at Woodside is evidence of her resourcefulness.  The daily press have this week discovered Mrs Dott in relation to her building, especially in relation to the designing of flats for gentlewomen so that there shall be a saving of labour.  Before coming to Norwood Mrs Dott designed houses in Yorkshire.
On 22 April 1921, the much more substantial interview in The Vote appeared.  It ended with a resumé of Mrs Dott's work since coming to Croydon and shows how swiftly she had moved on from the creation of the vicar's room.  I'm afraid I haven't been able to check how accurate it is, but it's clear that, as well as being a founder member of Women's Pioneer Housing Ltd, Annabel had decided to provide housing for women herself:-
"So much for my work in the past," Mrs Dott continued.  "Since coming down to South London I have undertaken other building, such as the practical reconstruction and modernizing of an old manor house, the addition of a parish room to the vicarage, and the conversion of a big house into flats.  Another project in the same locality is the conversion of an old-fashioned house into self-contained flats for professional women workers, which I have furnished with really old and valuable furniture.  These are now ready for occupation at reasonable rentals, and, if any of your readers, who are bona-fide professional women workers, would care to write me, to the address of THE VOTE, I would consider their applications. 
"Reconstruction and conversion I find quite interesting," Mrs Dott finally concluded, "but building is really my bent, and you may be interested to learn I am now constructing several thatched houses in a wood in Sussex, of which I shall have more to say when the project is further advanced."
The article mentions the conversion of a big house into flats and the conversion of an old-fashioned house into self-contained flats; it is possible, of course, that the report is mentioning the same project twice.  Annabel certainly had just such a project in hand in South Norwood.

In February 1920 she heard that 14 Lancaster Road was to be sold, and she decided that it would be ideal to convert into flats for single working women.  She approached Sidney Woodcock and his wife, who held the underlease, and they agreed together that she should buy the leasehold term from the superior landlord, that the Woodcocks should stay in the house but that Annabel would have a lease on the rest and would sub-let it.  

The Sussex scheme mentioned in the article was much more ambitious.  Annabel had bought 50 acres of woodland and intended to build a little self-sufficient community of houses there.  In March 1920 she advertised in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette for a builder with knowledge of Cob building who was prepared to erect a cottage; she also required a thatcher.  And this piece appeared in a Sussex newspaper:

Sussex Agricultural Express, 14 May 1920
Mrs Dott deposited plans of some cottages to be erected at Grey Wood, East Hoathly, in Cope or Pisa work, no block plan showing drainage and water supply was included, damp course was not shown.  The plans were ordered to be returned for amendment.
The following year, on 2 July 1921, this very enthusiastic piece appeared in the Worthing Herald:
A Sussex Dream Spot
Arcadian Delights at East Hoathly 
It is very refreshing in these days of stern realities to meet an idealist, but this was my experience the other day (writes a 'Herald' representative) when I went to see the Rev W P Dott at Gray's Wood, near East Hoathly.  Mr Dott, who is the vicar of Woodside, a large and populous parish near Croydon, is something more than an idealist – he is that rara avis a practical idealist and yet modest withal.  It was my misfortune that I did not see Mrs Dott (she was in town the day I called), for to her Mr Dott gives all the credit for the undertaking on which they have embarked. 
Jacobean Residences 
The idea is to build sylvan homes of rest and quiet for gentle people.  About a year ago Grays Wood, a beautiful piece of typical English woodland about 50 acres in extent, was in the market and Mrs Dott, whose scheme was already formulated, purchased it.  It previously belonged to Lord Chichester and was one of his most favourite pieces of covert and abounds with game.  Part of the wood near the road was cleared and in that space, amid the birch, ash and oak trees, nine houses of the type one dreams about – with stone encased mullioned windows, wide fireplaces, oak floors, beams and panelling, all the delights of Jacobean residences with all modern conveniences – are being built.  The dwellings are being erected there on each of three sides of a square. 
Woodland Fruits and Flowers 
An ornamental lake and old-fashioned courtyard and garden are to be made in the square.  Behind the houses the virgin woods are to be unspoiled and yet made even more delightful.  Mrs Dott, who has been energetically engaged on the scheme for some months, has planted bulbs all through the woods, and where she has sown seeds foxgloves have sprung up in rich and beautiful profusion.  The Ministry of Agriculture, always ready to encourage the reclaiming of the land, has given 1,000 fruit trees, and these are to be planted here and there in the woods where the atmosphere is always warm and the soil favourable for their growth.  An enclosed orchard is also being formed.  
Such a haven as this will indeed be a place of rest and quiet.  In three months' time it is hoped that the scheme will be completed and then I am to go and see Mrs Dott.  It is in such a place that I should wish to live when my ship comes home.
Three months for completion sounds a little hopeful, given this report regarding planning approval (though perhaps it was granted retrospectively) – and the Worthing Herald article mentions nine houses, while this report from the Uckfield Urban Council mentions seven:-

Sussex Agricultural Express, 8 July 1921
East Hoathly
THATCHED COTTAGES. - The Surveyor of the Uckfield Urban Council has reported that the plans of seven cottages at Gray Wood, East Hoathly, for Mrs A Dott, had been approved.  Thatched roofs had been specially allowed by the Ministry of Health.  The Housing Committee resolved to grant certificates for subsidy
I think Patrick was available for interview with the Worthing Herald because – presumably worn out after the months fraught with arguments over the War Memorial, which had ended with a newspaper report of the resignation of one of the churchwardens under the headline "Pathetic Vestry Incidents" – he had had to take time away from work.  The Norwood News in mid-July reported that he was returning, having been away for some time.

One of Annabel's projects had run into difficulty.  The conversion of 14 Lancasater Road, South Norwood, had not gone according to plan.  The episode sheds interesting light on Annabel's lack of method and her slightly slapdash approach, as well as her other activities at the time.

Annabel had spent £2,000 on buying the lease and repairing and furnishing the house.  Unfortunately her agreement with Mr Woodcock had fallen apart, and at the beginning of April 1922 Annabel sued him in the King's Bench Division for possession of the top floor, second floor and basement floor, and rent of premises in arrears, and damages for waste.  Mr Woodcock told the court that he had suggested a solicitor should draw up the agreement made between them originally, but Mrs Dott refused, saying she was quite satisfied that they could arrange matters amicably.  This had not worked out.  The case was reported in the Norwood News on 7 April 1922.

A letter from Annabel, written to Mr Woodcock from East Hoathly, Sussex, was read out in court.  It  gives us a vivid picture of her life
You said I am an elusive lady, and no wonder.
What with fruit-tree planting and building in Sussex and parish work at Woodside, I have scarcely time to eat or sleep.
To make matters worse, I have been ill, so will you forgive the long delay in sending agreement? ...
The judge, Mr Justice Lush, said that "it seemed a terrible thing that all this money should have been spent and that the scheme had not been allowed to fructify".  He suggested that the parties should try to come to an arrangement.  Fortunately they succeeded, Mr Woodcock recognising that Annabel had acted purely from philanthropic motives.
Mr Justice Lush, in expressing his approval of the course adopted, said it was eminently a case for settlement.  Mrs Dott had done what she had over this house from philanthropic reasons, but, through want of business habits on the part of the parties, he thought it would have been almost impossible to arrive at a solution.
This time it was Annabel's health that gave way:-

Norwood News, 22 Sept 1922
The Vicar and Mrs Dott left on Thursday for a stay on the Continent, the medical adviser insisting on Mrs Dott having a thorough change
In February 1923 she was back at work, and applying for planning approval to convert a house in Lancaster Road (the same one? another one?) into four flats.  She was still newsworthy – the West Sussex Gazette even reported this:

West Sussex Gazette, 26 April 1923
Overhanging Trees: A Motor-Bus Mishap 
The danger of overhanging trees to the occupants of motor-'buses and chars-à-bancs was shown on Tuesday of last week, when several passengers travelling on the outside of the afternoon 'bus between Chichester and Selsey were struck by a branch.  Mrs Patrick Dott was struck full in the face, and received an injury to one eye, and two women sitting behind were also struck, and one had her spectacles broken.  Happily the glass did not penetrate the eye.  Mrs Dott was not so fortunate in escaping injury.  The bough struck the eye, causing intense pain, and she had to be taken to London to consult a specialist.  Much sympathy has been expressed both in Chichester and at Woodside, Croydon, where the Rev Patrick Dott is vicar.
But before many weeks were past, she and Patrick were to leave Croydon.  The Norwood News on 6 April 1923 reported that at the evening service on Easter Day, Patrick spoke to the large congregation from the chancel steps: 
They had had, he said, a splendid Easter festival, and it was a great joy to him to know that notwithstanding so many were away, 590 had presented themselves that day at the altar of that church.
But it would be his last Easter as their vicar, because the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's had preferred him to the rectory of Barnes in place of Canon Kitson.  The Dean and Chapter must have been looking for a vicar who would not be afraid to make changes, as Canon Kitson had been at Barnes, an important post, for thirty years.  Patrick, said the Norwood News (with an unspoken look back at the War Memorial episode, presumably), had been 
a "live" vicar in every sense of the word, and a vast amount of organising and progressiveness has been manifested in all departments of church work. 
A vicar of such a temperament is naturally faced here and there with differences of opinion, but differences of opinion are evidence of vitality.  Where they do not exist it too often means indolence and sloth.
The Norwood News of 22 June 1923 reported Patrick's warm farewell to his parishioners:
he referred to the large amount of social work which goes on at Woodside, commending it warmly as a part of Christian life.  He paid a heartfelt tribute also to the Church Council and to the large body of Sunday school teachers with their superintendents.  Of the choir and organist and the Guild of Servers at St Luke's, he spoke with earnestness and gratitude, and a special word of heartfelt thanks was offered to the churchwardens, Messrs G T Tobitt and J Holden for their loyal co-operation in the work of the parish.

Note: the name Grey Wood appears in several forms  Gray's Wood, Gray Wood, Greywood etc.

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