Basil Ede 1931 – 2016
Has anyone famous ever lived in Bodle Street? One notable past resident was Basil Ede the wildlife artist, who lived with his wife, Daphne, and son, Ashley, at Pebsham Hall. A neat, dapper man with well-trimmed beard and well-cut jacket and tie, Basil Ede specialised in very precise, very correct and perfect paintings of birds. An abstract painter he was not. His paintings were correct in every detail and in every feather. Basil Ede was a founder member of the Society of Wildlife Artists and had solo exhibitions in London galleries throughout his career. He was also well-known and popular with collectors in America after a commission from the American ambassador to London. In America he embarked on an ambitious project following in the footsteps of Audubon to paint every native North American bird in full size. 95 birds were painted (out of 650). Unfortunately the project could not be completed because in 1989 Basil Ede suffered a major stroke. The whole right side of his body was paralysed, including, of course, his right hand. Undaunted Basil Ede taught himself to paint with his left hand and after two years was able to resume his painting career, painting now in oils, until his death in 2016.
Basil and Daphne Ede were friends of my parents, and we would meet the at drinks parties. I don’t remember that they participated greatly in village life. As neighbours we got on well with no unfortunate breaking through fences or cattle incidents (which may be some kind of record). My brother remembers being asked to look out for golden plovers among a flock of green-winged plovers or lapwings – he remembers that there were no golden plovers. The Edes moved from Bodle Street to Ripe. Daphne is still alive, and Christmas cards of golden pheasants and other lovely birds still arrive here at Hole Farm every Christmas.
My great, great, great, great grandmother was a chicken crammer!
I was interested to read in Charles Harding’s piece on Fred Creasey in last month’s The Bodle, the reference to the rather barbaric process of chicken cramming. At the turn of the 20th century chicken production was a major industry in our area. (Photo July 20th 1908)
The chicken were fattened using a piece of machinery known as a crammer, this could be operated by one man who held the unfortunate bird with both hands enabling him to operate a treadle with his foot, forcing the cram; traditionally a paste made up of oats and tallow into the birds crop down a rubber tube into its throat. Chicks could quadruple their weight in weeks, speeding their inevitable fate.
Three years ago my wife Jan was presented with a beautiful family tree, hand drawn by our daughter Elizabeth, an art teacher, who had spent most of her long summer holiday researching and preparing. She had also produced a family tree for me; my dad’s side did not go very far back because of the lack of information to hand but my mum’s side travelled back to 850ad. Elizabeth said the search engine went wild and she got so excited that she burnt the midnight oil sitting fascinated as it spewed out all sorts of gems. I will not bore you at this time with the detail but suffice to say that one of my ancestors was Lord Robert Baynard 1155 – 1235 of Baynard Castle which still stands in Essex.
When we received the family trees we both scoured them thoroughly. There was a footnote that Elizabeth had produced on Kezia Collins 1774 – 1859, my Great x 4 Grandmother, that stated along with her husband Joseph 1766 – 1854, reared chicken on their farm where she was the first to force feed poultry using a crude machine. The business grew and in 1788 she started sending chicken to London to benefit from the higher prices.
I made it my goal to find out where she was buried and found that her grave was at the Old Heathfield church.
Jan and I along with Elizabeth and my grandsons Gabriel and Daniel spent a summer afternoon combing the graveyard and after a couple of hours decided to call it a day as we had no luck.
Just as we were leaving I happened to turn my head and there it was Kezias and Josephs head stone. I spent a while contemplating her life, happy in the knowledge that I had found her however dubious her exploits were. My mum would have been fascinated to find that her roots were around here having been born in South London and spending her formative years in Tunbridge Wells not knowing that her ancestors had come from just down the road from where her son would never want to leave.