ID: WW01_411 / Winifred Hone

TitleLord and Lady Alexander - Winifred Hone memoirs
AbstractMr and Mrs Alexander were great friends of the Greenwoods, I always understood that this influenced them to come and settle in Mersea, buying Well House Farm from Mr Orson Wright and farming there for several years. Mr Alexander was First Lord of the Admiralty in Mr Winston Churchill's coalition government. While settling in I got to know him very well and they used to come here for meals. They liked to be called Ester and Bert. Mr Alexander, in spite of his high office, was a siimple and understanding man, Mrs Alexander was very kind and friendly living at the farm in the simplest manner. They employed a working manager and his wife used to drive the tractor and a young maid who used to help in the house, they treated her as one of themselves having meals together. Mr Alexander used to return to his parliamentary duties on Sunday and as I used to drive to London about once a week I used to give Mrs Alexandra a lift up to Admiralty House as she usually had farm produce to take with her Rabbits, Eggs, Flowers etc. The first time I went to Admiralty House it was awe inspiring. As you entered there was a large padded chair with carved topped canopy. It was the doorman's chair and it was so made to protect him from the draught. A very large conference room to the right, elaborately furnished with a lot of nautical emblems in gold, with the chair that Pepys had occupied still at the table with the hole cut out to accomodate his stomach. They were then living in the flat at the top of the house, Mr Churchill had converted the servant's quarters into a flat during the War. A small private lift which you operated yourself took you there. The first room I was taken to was the bedroom that had been occupied by Mr Churchill, even the same folk weave bedspread and the chest next to his bed that he a doodled on when thinking out the fabulous speeches that we all listened to, to give us fresh heart. The rooms were very large and still contained the same furniture and hangings that had been put there by the Churchills. Mrs Alexander took me into their enormous bedroom and out of the first long drawer of an enormous chest showed me personal Xmas Greeting cards from many members of the Royal Family, all personally signed with an affectionate little greeting and in many cases a gift such as a handkerchief embroidered in gold with exquisite lace. When I think of the simple way they lived at Well House Farm, it was unbelievable that she had been hostess at Admiralty House when it was in full commission. The time I met them was when they only lived in the top of the house. Referring to Well House Farm they had in their bedroom the Blue Velvet Chairs that they had sat on at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth, which they very much treasured. By this time they had become the Viscount and Viscountess Alexander of Hillsborough. In one sitting room was a large white piano which had been given to him by a famous band leader. Lord Alexander could sing a sea shanty with anybody and could accompany himself. In this room there were many snapshots sent to them by members of the Royal Family, one in particular a snapshot of Queen mary nursing her granddaughter Princess Elizabeth signed from Mary 'the oldest and the youngest of the family'. Also many others sent to them by Princess Marina. He let the shooting rights of the farm to my grandson Ronnie who at an early age was a wonderful shot. On one occasion he was out shooting with John Harrison and they accidently shot one of Lord Alexander's pet ducks. He was very understanding and told them to forget it but never to do it again.

The City of Sheffield must have thought very highly of him as they presented the most fabulous canteen of solid silver plate housed in an antique bowed fronted chest with 3 draws when he entered The Peerage, and still wrapped up in the tissue paper as when it had arrived.

Winifred spells Alexander as Alexandra
Well House if often spelled Wellhouse

AuthorWinifred Hone
SourceMersea Museum / Wendy Brady