Mystery wooden chest

An old wooden chest was found by a Bexhill couple who wanted to know if anyone would claim it.

Monday, 29th June 2009, 5:07 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 7:58 pm

Robert and Gillian Schifreen of Cooden Drive discovered the mystery vintage tuck box in their new house in Peartree Lane and told the Observer it belonged to a man called George Bovey.

The box also had the name of Malvern College on it and was full of the accumulated bits and pieces of a past life - old cine film of car rallies and air shows, and menus from regimental dinners in the late 1930's, as well as old photographs and mementoes.

Robert and Gillian hoped that someone would know more about the owner, or his family, and now Les Bittan of Pankhurst Close has come forward with information.

Les worked for Mr Bovey, and his sister Mary, from 1952 when he was just 14, and helped run their smallholding at Henley Down.

The house was called Meadowcroft, and Les looked after 18 acres of land with 1,500 chickens, 60 pigs, two goats and two dogs.

"I worked there full time Monday to Saturday," said Les, "for two pounds and sixteen shillings a week.

"George was lovely - the nicest man I have ever known. He never married, and neither did his sister, they lived together and they never worked.

"George was very animal oriented and he liked his garden. He was shellshocked and used to walk with two lady's garden forks to stick in the ground or he would fall over. He would often fall and crash and I would have to go and stand him up again. He couldn't get up once he was down. He was hurt in the second world war - he never talked about it, and would not. I didn't even know where he was - he did tell me where he was stationed, but he would not talk about the war...but wherever he was, he got a terrible bombardment. But he was a good boy - he really was."

In 1960 George and Mary moved over to Peartree Lane - Les was recovering in hospital from a bicycle accident at the time, but soon rejoined the household where his wife Liz also worked.

"George looked after me - he did. I remember once going over there across the fields in the snow and when I got there he said - where's your hat? I said I didn't have one and he went straight out and bought one. He used to do things like that."

The house in Peartree Lane was in those days called Chelvington Lodge, and Les stayed working there until three years ago, helping run the house for Mary after George had died.

He is curious to see what's in the Bovey chest and feels that with his long family connection he is more than entitled.

Les commented: "It just seems so interesting to me. I went up to the loft and cleared it out but there were just some empty chests. I never saw that one - it must have been behind the rest."