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Antiquities and Peculiarities
of Normandy
Red Leys
Children's home

Built in 1925, Red Leys was a large comfortable house that stood at the entrance to Strawberry Farm, off Station Road (now Glaziers Lane), Normandy, to which Albert and Dora Kirsch with their two daughters Etelle and Olive came as its first owner-occupiers. Albert taught French at the Royal Grammar School Guildford. As was the normal practice during that period, they let some of the rooms in the house to other families. One such family that came to Normandy from Leeds in 1940 was "Brer" and Marjorie Martin (nee Boon, brother; Ron) with daughter Janet, aged eight,. When the Kirsch family later moved to Flexford Close (now Christmas Pie Avenue), the Martin family bought Red Leys

Mesdames Parker & Hulme
Mesdames Parker & Hulme

Regrettably, Mr Martin died of a brain tumour in 1949. Marjorie, who was a trained and qualified teacher in the Rudolph Steiner techniques of teaching, had before his death started a Kindergarten at Red Leys for local children. She was a brilliant teacher and business woman. Following his death, Marjorie befriended and housed children whose parents were receiving long term treatment for tuberculosis in The Milford Chest Hospital Godalming. With the teaching assistance of Miss Elizabeth Turner and the general help of Mrs Hulme of Bushy Leas, Pound Farm Lane (who remained in her service until 1972), they effectively managed the influx of those children in addition to the running of the Kindergarten. However, the service that Marjorie provided for those children attracted the attention of the London Boroughs. They saw in Red Leys the opportunity to satisfy their need to improve the health of the capital's children in the aftermath of the war years and to place children, in need of special care, into good foster homes.

And so in the mid 1950s, Red Leys Children's Home, Glaziers Lane, Normandy came into being and from then on Marjorie became "Mummy Martin", a title that was used not only at Red Leys but to all that she came into contact with, within the community.

Initially, Miss Elizabeth Turner helped Marjorie with the work of Red Leys, departing in 1959 to Rustington, Sussex, to manage for Marjorie a similar home to that of Red Leys. Elizabeth's place was taken by Miss Patricia Parker (who became affectionately known as "Parkie" to the children), then 35 years of age and a trained nursery nurse from Guildford who remained until her retirement in 1972, but regrettably died from cancer in 1977. Kate West joined the team in 1966 and when she married in 1972, she and her husband Stuart continued to work with Marjorie inheriting the title of "Mummy" and "Daddy" with Marjorie adopting the new and unwelcome title of "Granny Martin". Lou Norman arrived in 1980 to help, remaining until the death of Marjorie and the closure of the Home in 1983.

Marjorie Martin c.1972

 Marjorie Martin c.1972

Marjorie's daughter Janet, and her husband John Monamy, were both active in helping with the affairs of the Home. John will be remembered for riding his beloved "Hispana Spisa" everywhere until an unfortunate accident on the Hogs Back. Although he survived the accident the severity of the injuries he received contributed to his premature death two years later in 1975. Other helpers and support staff during those happy, family years were: Mr Butlins (accountant), Anne and Tony Lorton (business advisers and managers), Gwen Mayhead (Personal assistant, company secretary and accounting procedures), Mrs Coomber, Mrs Mollie Warner, Mark Hebburn (gardener), Rene Jackson and Kevin Bentley (odd job man). Dr Harwood, should be included also, for not only was he a personal friend of Marjorie, but it was he who more often than not, responded rapidly to the medical needs of the Home.

Marjorie's activities were not confined to Red Leys. She recognised the need for her charges to socialise with others and so became involved with St Mark's Church and the Normandy Youth Club, then a most active concern, run at the Normandy Village Hall with Leaders Tony Kellerman and Winifred Mason. All live-in staff and children were obliged to attend St Mark's Church on a Sunday, the filled pews being witness to their presence. In addition all children under the age of 11 years went to Sunday school. As the date for the Annual Church Fete approached, so the staff and children became a formidable and active work force in making and finding produce for the stalls.

During the summer months of each year Toc H, an organisation that had strong links with Red Leys, undertook a project for the Home. The project served more than one purpose. It occupied the attention of the children, thus relieving the staff of some of the burden of promoting interest games, gave an opportunity to young persons to contribute to a worthwhile cause and at the end of the day, satisfaction in seeing the fruits of their labour used with so much enthusiasm by their much younger charges. One such project was the construction of "Fort Normandy" and another was the "Walking Beam".

Normandy Fort
c1980
Normandy Fort c1980 

Marjorie became ill in the October of 1982 and died the 6th of February 1983. Her memorial service took place at St Mark's Church, Wyke, followed by a cremation service at the Guildford and Godalming Crematorium. There were to be no floral tributes, but donations were to be given to The Sir Malcolm Sargeant Memorial Fund for Children, a charity that she had supported all her life. Her death heralded the end of the Red Leys Children's Home in Normandy, because the property had to be sold to provide financing for death duties. Her death also brought to a close, an era of care in the community, directed by a singularly gifted and unique person, who throughout her life was never other than a kind and generous person.

In September 1983, Red Leys was demolished and today four dwellings occupy the site namely: Red Leys, Kenanian, Tahoe and Redlands. It is gratifying to know that the name of Red Leys lives on.

Advertisement for Red Leys children's home from the Ash and Normandy 'Official Guide' c.1955

Advertisement from Red Leys

Peter Blakiston

 
Also See
Red Leys Remembered - by Akin Egbedi
Our small part in the story of Red Leys - by Tony Lorton

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