At the public meeting hosted by Haddenham Village Society on Wednesday 10th October, Cynthia Floud described the memoir of Phyllis Ford, her husband's grandmother, which she has edited and which has just been published by Camden History Society.
Phyllis Ford (b. 1886) spent her childhood in middle-class Victorian and Edwardian Hampstead.
The story of her ill-matched parents, penny-pinching and preoccupied with social status, her brothers banished to distant Empire, and her pro-suffrage sister, are worthy of a novel.
Phyllis does not shy away from indecent exposure, sexual coercion and the constraints of courtship; she turns her sardonic gaze onto decor, dance cards and doctoring; she moves from the social rules of women's cycling to riding on horse buses. Her catastrophic education does not dim her enthusiasms for art, tennis and swimming, while her social success leads her to meet many local luminaries.
She describes the perils of life before the NHS and the impact of housing developments on the "suburb" of Hampstead but, above all, she illuminates the enormous gulf between rich and poor, between her middle-class existence and the people of the slums to whom she sought to "do good" via the Band of Hope.