A New Forest Childhood 1903-1916 by Thomas Gilbert Scott - Read Online
A New Forest Childhood 1903-1916
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The memoirs of Thomas Gilbert Scott growing up in Sway in the New Forest before the Great War. This ebook version does not contain the photographs, family tree or map of the print edtion.

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A New Forest Childhood 1903-1916 - Thomas Gilbert Scott

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TOM SCOTT spent the greater part of his life as a doctor in Newbury, in Berkshire, where he and Buffy brought up five children, but Tom’s own childhood had been spent at Sway in the New Forest. He was born in 1903, one of the youngest of ten children whose father was a doctor in Bournemouth.

Tom died on 10 November 1979 and wrote these memoirs shortly before that; I think he meant to go over them again, for there are unfinished notes and the odd gap. They were written and rewritten in two notebooks, with subject headings in the margins. I have occasionally moved chunks in order to avoid hopping about from one subject to another, and have added dates, names and relevant additional snippets from various members of the family in square brackets. Otherwise, they are exactly as Tom wrote them, and give a vivid picture of the life of a comfortably off large family (as well as the ten children there were seventy-two first cousins) living in the country before the 1914-18 War. They are also acutely observant of the Forest, its flora and fauna, and of country practices and crafts.

I have added three appendices. These give additional information about Sway (for which we are hugely indebted to Tony Blakeley); an outline of Tom’s later life; and more information about Scott family antecedents.

Photographs come from family albums and also from Tony Blakeley.

My sisters Elizabeth Fortescue and Georgina Burrows and my daughter Annabel Taylor have all been involved in the production of the book, and we thank Andrew Barron very warmly for designing it.

The photograph of Tom on the back cover of the book was taken by Elizabeth Fortescue in 1979 shortly before he died.

Caroline Taylor, September 2003


MY GREAT, great, great grandfather was John Scott, a grazier [yeoman, d. 1777], who lived at Braytoft near Skegness in Lincolnshire — then on the coast, now miles inland. His mother was Ann Wayte, descended from John Bradshaw who signed Charles I's death warrant and whose sword I have.

John Scott's eldest son was trained as a doctor but died when a young naval surgeon, having insisted against advice on boarding a plague ship which had docked in Portsmouth harbour, where he caught the plague and died. So a younger son, Thomas [1747-1821], the tenth of thirteen, was at the age of ten sent to a boarding school at Scorton in Lancashire where he spent the next six years of his life. He returned home at the age of sixteen, did a years work on the farm, and was then sent to a doctor practising in a town some eight miles distant to be trained. However, after three months he was returned home in disgrace, having committed some immoral act! His father was furious and put him to work on menial tasks with the sheep. For the next ten years he led a dissolute life keeping bad company.

One day he had a row with his father, threw his shepherds smock on the floor, and said he was going into the Church. He saw the Dean of Lincoln, for whom he translated the Greek Testament at sight, first into English and then into Latin. He was then told he must see the Bishop of London. So he Walked to London in boots that he had made himself, and records that he was here able to stay with some better-off relations — a maternal aunt [Bridget Wayte] married to one Lancelot Brown, better known as 'Capability' Brown.

He eventually entered the Church and became a celebrated divine, producing a five-volume copy of the Bible with his commentaries, from which he became known as Scott the Commentator. He wrote several books, as well as many tracts and books of sermons. He was an early follower of Wesley. He died in 1821 but took a long time dying and often asked for his sons to come and see him. On one occasion two of them rode on horseback from a considerable distance and on asking their father what it was he wanted to see them about, he said: 'I think it is time the potatoes were planted.' This was March 24th!

Thomas Scott had a large family, one of whom, another Revd Thomas Scott [1780-1835] married Euphemia Lynch [1785-1853] whose grandfather, Nathaniel Gilbert, had owned the 'Gilbert estate' in Antigua in the West Indies. This Thomas Scott also had a large family, one of whom was Sir George Gilbert Scott, the architect, and another Samuel King Scott, my grandfather, who was a GP in Brighton. My grandfather was clearly a man of immense energy; he had a large practice in the town and was an immense walker, walking extensively in Switzerland and the Lakes as well as in Sussex. He married Georgina Bodley [d. 1901] who was a sister of George Bodley, another eminent architect who worked closely with the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood. Grandfather died suddenly of a coronary thrombosis at the age of forty-six [in 1865], leaving Grandmother with a large house and thirteen living children. She had given birth to fourteen, but one lived only a few days and one, Maitland, my father’s nearest and closest brother, died at eleven of heart failure following rheumatic fever. He was a great favourite with the family and his death left a deep sorrow on my father for many years. [Tom's grandmother and her surgeon son Alfred were listed in the Brighton Street Directory as still living at 15 German Place, now Madeira Place, in 1888. Reginald John Ryle MD, who married her daughter Catherine, took over the house and was living there in 1900.]

After Grandfather's death there was little money and a public fund was opened in Brighton to help Granny. Some of the family could remember running to get a copy of the weekly paper with headlines: 'Scott fund reaches £ . . .' My father, Bernard [b. 1858], was sent to Lincoln Grammar School where he was taken in free by the headmaster who was, I think, a brother or a cousin of Grandmother's. He came home twice a year only, and it took all day in an unheated train. School was very Dickensian and he was beaten almost daily; there were two hours' work every morning before breakfast, and that consisted of bread and water, and the food altogether was poor. He used to make a little pocket money from richer boys who threw him pennies for standing on his head on the planks laid across the dykes as bridges. (Both his and my earliest memories were of standing on our head.) Other members of the family were sent off to live with friends or relations.



WHEN MY FATHER was sixteen he went to Guys Hospital to train as a doctor. He shared rooms in Putney with his elder brother Tom [who was also studying medicine], and had to walk both ways to and from Guy's daily. He passed his final exams at twenty but had to await his twenty-first birthday before he could qualify. He learnt surgery at Guy's under the Lister spray, which meant that in addition to careful cleanliness all operating was done under a fine spray of carbolic acid in order to control infection; the results were surprisingly good. Later, he and my mother spent their holidays in a small hotel next to St Bride's Church in Fleet Street, and Daddy spent each day at Guy's watching the development of the new aseptic surgery.

After leaving Guy's he went to the Sussex County Hospital at Brighton, where his eldest sister, Georgie, was matron. She had trained at St Thomas's Hospital where Florence Nightingale still came to lecture and used to have batches of young nurses home to tea on Sundays. There was a nice story that one day Daddy was sent for by the Board of Governors. He entered a large room and was confronted by a lot of elderly men seated at a long table. The Chairman waved him to a chair and then asked: 'Dr Scott, we want to know what you would do if fire broke out in one of the wards. What would be the first thing you would do?' My father was aware that there was a fire drill, about which he knew nothing. He thought deeply, and then with an air of great solemnity replied: 'I would go and pack my portmanteau.'

About this time [c. 1884] one of Daddy's younger sisters, Emily, married Albert Wright, a prosperous solicitor in Liverpool, who was a widower with two children. The wedding was held at Brighton, and in the house party were Albert's widowed sister, Mrs Whitworth, who lived in Windermere, and her fifteen-year-old daughter Lydia. There was a grand dinner party the night after the wedding; my father was in charge of the arrangements and had to announce which man should accompany which lady into dinner. Lydia was very attractive but shy. No one came to take her in, and she began to think she was to be left out as being too young. But when everyone else had gone in, my father came and took her arm, saying: 'Lydia, I am to have the honour of taking you in to dinner.' He clearly fell for her, and before she left he asked if he might come to call on her in Windermere when he was free. She heard nothing for two years, during which period she had a fairly gay time. She went with some girl friends to a boarding school at Scarborough, and during the holidays there were parties, dances and in winter skating on the lake, often at night with lanterns.

At the end of two years he wrote saying he had a holiday and was coming up. He called, and they had a very happy time walking in the Lakes. He then left for London where he had to stay for a few days before returning to Brighton, but on the train south he wrote her a long letter professing his love and proposing marriage. He asked her to wire her reply to an address in London. The reply came the next day, 'Writing Brighton'. So he had to wait; but the letter was there for him when he got home, accepting him. They did not meet