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May 25, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Pam & John Cooke – Apley profiles

Pam Cooke 10In my series of Apley archive interviews, earlier this evening, I went to do my 50th interview with Pam Cooke, to hear her Apley Estate memories. She’s lived on the Estate all her life as well as marrying someone who worked for Apley all his life. Her father came to work as a shepherd (to 100+ sheep) at Astol (the farm 2 fields from Apley Farm Shop) when Pam was 6. He also looked after 4 working horses there. Pam went to school in Norton (walking across the fields to school) then in Worfield, where she met her future husband John Cooke. He was the son of the gamekeeper Ted Cooke & brother of Freddie who’s just retired after 50 yrs working at Apley.  Her first job was as an administrative clerk in Bridgnorth in the AT&E (Automatic Telephone & Electric) factory.  In 1955 Pam & John moved to 12 Bridgnorth Road where they stayed for 50 years 1955-2005.

They used to pay Mr Roney-Dougal (Apley land agent at the time) their rent in cash at the start of each month in the thatched barn in the Hundred House carpark.  In 1955, any tenant of an Apley house or cottage had to go there to pay their rent, forming a queue (up to 20 at a time) – first come, first served.  Bicycles were stacked up against the barn sides; others came by bus (but the rural bus service was poor) or on foot.  Mr Roney-Dougal’s car was 1 of the only cars around in 1940 & probably belonged to the Fosters.  Mr Sharpe had a horse & trap for shooting days, to pick up the deer shot in the park.

As well as working as a woodman at Apley from the age of 14 (1948), John mowed the lawns at Glebe House & Stockton House, where Pam also worked for Lady Cavan & Canon Crowson respectively.  (One morning, Pam arrived at Stockton House to find Mrs Crowson standing on the kitchen table, afraid of the mice which she’d spotted). John was an exceptional vegetable & flowers gardener – he grew 200 dahlias on one side of their garden at 12 Bridgnorth Road, but also gladioli, sweet peas & chrysanthemums.

She remembers Major AW Foster organising children’s parties on the lawn at Stockton House & being present at them, chatting with the children.  He was kind & well liked by the workmen. He saw them cutting thistles in front of Apley Hall & sent a message (via his butler, Robert ?) to tell them there was no need to work in the rain.

Pam has a super collection of Apley photos pre-dating 1952 (including this one of land girls), a few of which I’ve included in the Second Apley Archive Exhibition which well launch on Wednesday 28 May, 6-7.30pm – open to all.

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