Betty was born in Hemel Hempstead,
and grew up with her younger sister Rita. From an early age, Betty was
confident and spoke her mind. At school, Betty could be relied on to give a
comprehensive account of who had said or done what, and was a reliable witness
to everything that went on. She had a
happy childhood, and later worked as a secretary for her Dad. Amongst other
things Betty was an accomplished pianist. When she was young she played in a
swing quartet during the war. She took
up cycling as a hobby and became really proficient.
Betty held a national cycling
track record for over four years. She decided not to continue as she found her
pre-start nerves too hard to bear. It was cycling that brought Len and Betty
Betty picked Len up from a ditch
where he had fallen from his bike on the Brighton to Glasgow road race shortly
after the war. Len used to tease Betty calling her Bossy Bet from Bedfordshire,
and also told how her father’s employees referred to her as the Boss's Bossy
daughter! They got married and John was born in November 1949. Then Peter
followed in 1953. There was a gap, and then along came the twins Simon and
Dinah in 1959. The family were living in Eaton Bray below Dunstable Downs, a
village in the Chilterns. It was always a bohemian style family, and while the
twins sat in their high chairs, a pet hen, Higgledy Piggledy, wandered around
tidying up after meals. Len worked as a toolmaker. Betty often worked outside
the home doing market research and at one time running her own junk shop. She
had a lifelong passion for bargain hunting and old and unusual furniture and
bric a brac. One artefact, a stuffed crocodile, gave Peter nightmares for some
time, after brother John hid it in his bed for a joke.
The family moved quite frequently
from one renovation to the next at a time when most families wouldn't dream of
taking on such projects. As a result they lived in a wonderful old forge, a
large old farmhouse, an ex-pub (haunted) and finally, Athol Terrace, by which
time they had a small but very lovely old house (renovated entirely by
themselves of course) in the Dordogne, Chancel. Len and the boys were put to
work (somewhat reluctantly) but it was very much Betty's vision and
determination that steered them. She was an amazing interior designer, and many
of the features of their houses were really inspiring and unusual. She was also
a passionate gardener, working tirelessly to create a place of beauty.
The whole family were passionate
about cycling. John and Simon followed in Len's footsteps, joining the road
cycling world and competing in races, Simon at professional level. Simon's life was tragically cut short in when
he died in an accident in 1995.
Before tourism got started Betty
and Len were keen travellers driving all over Europe and camping. Betty was
never happier than when she was staying in a different campsite every night –
she always found someone new to talk to.
Simon suffered with car sickness, and one of their cars was known as the
Vauxhall Vomitorium. Then there was the family Land Rover, tended to by Len. In the back a bucket of washing that Betty
said would wash as the car bumped and whizzed along. Then bits of it could be
hung out of the window to dry as they sped ever onwards. Peter remembers Betty
always cooking. At the end of a day travelling, the four children would be shut
in the tent while Betty concocted a delicious stew for the family. Betty loved
cooking and making amazing feasts and banquets for parties and dinners to whom
everyone – friends, family, and anyone who happened to be passing, was always
Betty and Len loved France, and
spent much of their time at Chancel – their house in the Dordogne, travelling
there in the Spring and returning to Athol Terrace in Dover in late Autumn.
Betty continued various projects in France, including working alongside a house
agent and finding houses for friends who also wanted to live in the area. Dinah
also spent a lot of time in France, and for a long time worked as a guide at
the Lasceau Caves.
Even in later years, Len and Betty
still enjoyed travelling, always camping out of the back of their car. They
enjoyed touring around other parts of France and Spain, always keen for
adventures and making new friends.
Her family were all important to
Betty as well as her many friends.
Betty loved her grandchildren who
have great memories of holidays spent with her and Len in the Dordogne. She
loved her great grandchildren too.
Although she didn't meet her youngest, Alexandra, she smiled whenever she
looked at her photo. She knew her great grandsons, Fred and Rupert and loved to
Towards the end, even Betty had to
slow down eventually. Gradually she grew more tired and less able
physically. She was confined to bed most
of the time over the last two years, but still enjoyed a positive outlook,
welcoming family and friends who visited, enjoying the view from her window and
looking at pictures and her favourite magazines, house and garden – and always
the Francophile, Maison et Jardin. Just before last Christmas, she said people
probably thought she was lazy, staying in bed all the time, but she had so many
plans for what she was going to do in the future. “There's a bit of yellow
material...and I'm going to cover that chair with it.” Planning and creative to the end.
this over view of Betty’s life was read aloud at her funeral service held at
Barham Crematorium on 3rd February. Most of the Potterers Committee
plus Andy Jones, Sue and Brian, were present