Photos of Hilary

Before my grandparents died they moved into a care home. This required downsizing. My Mum and Aunt carefully went through all their things and set aside some boxes for me. The contents of these boxes hold precious connections to my grandparents and going through them is slow and thoughtful work.

Among the treasures is a box of old photos, many of which feature my Aunty Hilary. I am struck by how many photos of her exist among my grandparents’ things. Granny was forever throwing things out but I suppose that these photos endured because my Gran loved Hilary and because Hilary’s history was in a way also hers. Finding the photos makes my heart ache for their beauteous friendship of many years and reminds me of how my Gran always spoke about Hilary, and how Hilary always spoke about Granny. Dates and notes scrawled in Hilary’s exuberant hand remind me of how she also put photos in letters to me.

Aunty Hilary knew me for my whole life but it wasn’t until I found all these photos and put them in order that I had any sense of her whole life. I cherish having these small pieces of her history but they are also amazing because of the glimpses they give into everyday clothing from the 1920s to the 2000s.

I thought you might be interested to see some of them, so have put together a small selection.

Hilary, May 1922, 2 1/2 years

Hilary, May 1922, 2 1/2 years


Here is Hilary aged 2 1/2 years wearing a knitted ribbed pinafore with jubilant pom-poms.

Us at Herne Bay 1929

Us at Herne Bay 1929

I love how everyone strides forth together in this photo, so well turned-out and walking straight and tall. Hilary is 9 here and pictured with her parents. Although the photo is black and white I fancy that dress to be Navy Blue and I wish I knew what colour her mother’s dress and hat were.

9. Aug 1960

9. Aug 1960

One of the only photos I could find of Hilary in the 1960s. She is around 41 in this photo; a little older than I am now and radiant in a floral-print dress. I am certain she sewed this herself because she adored flowers and this is exactly the sort of print she would have gone for.

Hilary, Wilfred & Margaret, 1970

Hilary, Wilfred & Margaret, 1970

Again with the amazing flowers! Here with my Granny and Grandad and I’m almost certain that gown is of her own creation.

Hilary, Dec 1972

Hilary, Dec 1972

In her 50s Hilary seems to have hit her stride with a stately and proud personal style. In this mode she could rock a cape and had quite a collection.

Miss Hilary Devereux, County Hall, 1979

Miss Hilary Devereux, County Hall, 1979

I’m not sure what is going on in this photo on which Hilary wrote “Miss Hilary Devereux, County Hall, 1979”. What I do know is that she conducted a study into divorce among members of the Clergy on behalf of the House of Bishops through the 1970s. She traveled up and down the country interviewing divorced Clergymen, attempting to understand and de-stigmatise their situation within the Church of England.

I wonder if she is presenting her findings here?

context unknown

context unknown

I wish I knew when/where this photo was taken. At a guess I would say it was taken in Ireland but it reminds me very much of the pictures of Hilary as a very young girl and I love how at home she appears in the wild landscape with her satchel and robust work dress.

Felicity's Baptism 1980

Felicity’s Baptism 1980

Here is one of the first photos I could find of us together. It’s badly framed so you can’t really see Hilary’s face but you can see her coat and me in some kind of puffy dress looking a bit displeased! There were a few photos of this day and I also love this one of my young parents standing in Hilary’s garden after my christening.

My parents in 1980

My parents in 1980

This garden was a constant source of pleasure and the photos I find most touching are the ones that clearly celebrate moments of gardening triumph. I too like to document the wonders of my garden and it was wondrous to discover in this box of photos that Hilary and Granny did the same thing.

clematis

clematis

You just know this photo documents a victorious year for that clematis.

Tulips

Tulips

And that Hilary did not have the heart to slay the dandelions when she saw how lovely they looked with her tulips.

The garden and its ever changing seasons were a constant source of creative inspiration to Hilary and flowers were one of her favourite subjects in the art classes she enjoyed throughout her retirement.

From Dennis - Wednesday Mornings, Christmas 1984

From Dennis – Wednesday Mornings, Christmas 1984

This one of her at the regular Wednesday morning sessions is my favourite; she looks so poised and concentrated at her easel and I remember her talking fondly of these sessions and of Dennis, the teacher who took the photo. I do not think she made the bright blue ensemble which she is sporting here but I think her waistcoat is Welsh Wool Tapestry.

Eric and Hilary, Brittany, 1986

Eric and Hilary, Brittany, 1986

Hilary loved her art comrades and her letters to me were always full of news of trips here and there to paint. I was only 7 when she went to Brittany and failed to grasp how much fun she’d had but now I look at these photos and hope that I am as happy in my retirement as Hilary looks here.

"Over 80s" tea party at Betty's, Christmas 2005. Hilary, mary, Audrey.

“Over 80s” tea party at Betty’s, Christmas 2005. Hilary, mary, Audrey.

Hilary’s bold colours were a signature aspect of her style. I remember her writing of a tea-party for over-80s that she attended and I am struck now by the bright pink and black print of her outfit.

The Three Graces

The Three Graces

This last photo was taken in the 00s at some point; it was sent me by Betty (of the tea-party) after I read one of Hilary’s letters at her funeral which mentioned this outing to Rochester. What I find most amazing is how like her 2 1/2 year old self Hilary looks in this picture; she has the same mischievous smile and the same direct, unwavering gaze.

And if I squint I can almost imagine that the bundle of lunch in her lap is a pom-pom.

Looking at all the photos together in the album I feel really lucky to have had such a fine role model. Hilary showed me how to find joy in all things, how to love All The Colours, how to fight a cause you believe in and how to delight in a messy garden. I love that my Granny kept and treasured all these photos and I hope to carry on the amazing work of my excellent ancestors.

In sewing, in knitting, in repairing, in gardening, in cooking and in love.
You can hear a tiny recording of Aunty Hilary in my latest podcast here, in which I interview Linda de Ruiter and Andrea Franklin of Tall Yarns’n Tales, who helped me to keep Hilary’s amazing style legacy alive by turning some tweed that she left me into my treasured woollen tabard.

5 Responses to Photos of Hilary

  1. Susan says:

    Felicity, that was a treat! when I saw that first photo my mouth flew open in exactly the same smile. In the 4th photo, the dress she is wearing has a very interesting and contemporary top to it. Yea to Hilary 🙂 Thank you.

  2. Elaine says:

    Such sweet pictures. She looks so happy in all of them.
    Thank you for sharing.

  3. colleen says:

    Lovely, Felix. You’re very lucky to have such a treasure trove, especially those photos from the 1920s. The Three Graces is also a corker! Here’s to hearty and happy times with family and friends.

  4. Terry says:

    Once again, you’ve moved me to tears. What a loving testimony to a radiant, creative woman. You needn’t fear: you are carrying on the legacies of those admirable women splendidly, and adding your own unique flourishes!

  5. SallyWool says:

    Lovely, my mother has photos of herself as a child in the late 1920’s that are very similar, there are even a couple of her striding along the prom of some seaside town with her mother and grandmother. I too, an surprised at the number of photos from those early days as cameras and photos were not a cheap thing in those days and she was brought up for the first few years of her life by her mother alone, I suspect it was her grandparents who own the camera. Times were hard then and the more find out about my mother’s family the more I know that I come from a line of strong women. We all need to cherish and celebrate our ancestry. Thank you for sharing them.

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