From the Thorley Archives

  Gladys Warboys and 'The Book of Thorley: Chronicles of a Century'

On September 2nd 2002 Mrs Gladys Warboys celebrated her 100th birthday. Gladys (Eagling) came to Thorley in 1920 as a teacher at Thorley School, married Frank Warboys in February 1928 and has lived within sight of her church of St. James the Great ever since. She takes great pride in the fact that the extended family that she and Frank brought up played an active part in the parish, being prominent members of the church, the bellringers, Women's Institute, the cricket team and amateur dramatics.

Gladys' first associations with the church began when, as a young girl, she regularly walked with her grandfather, George Watson, the few miles from Little Hallingbury to St. James. In 1915 Gladys left school to look after her brothers and sister so that her mother could return to full time teaching during the First World War. At sixteen she became a pupil teacher at White Notley whilst attending the Technical College at Braintree. Then in 1920 Miss Eagling secured the position of assistant teacher at Thorley School at the end of Church Lane. Gladys taught at the school until her marriage in 1928 when she was obliged to leave her position. (Female teachers were not permitted to combine the responsibilities of marriage and a teaching profession until after the Second World War.) Gladys and Frank had four sons and a daughter, fifteen grandchildren and at least twenty-seven great grandchildren. As the family grew up she returned to occasional teaching as and when called upon at Thorley, Northgate and Little Hallingbury schools. In 1953 she returned to full time teaching at Great Havers School until her retirement age in 1967 and then to part time teaching until she finally retired at 70. Her headteacher at the time, Stan Brownridge, still remembers her with affection as the teacher that every parent could turn to for advice on all sorts of occasions.

Apart from her family commitments Gladys has three major interests, Thorley church, the village of Thorley - its people and its history, and botany. Her vivid memories and photographs of St James provided much of the material for the present church guide. She recalled how men and women sat on separate sides of the church, that there was a decorated text around the chancel arch and in her early days there were rings at the back of the church for tethering the sheep dogs. Gladys was a keen photographer and she has supplied the church archives with many views of the church and village events. In 1985 she committed her accumulated local knowledge to paper in the form of a pamphlet entitled 'History of Thorley'. This provided the basis for a short series of articles in the local Herts and Essex Observer. As a keen teacher of nature study she expected her children and her pupils to learn the names and descriptions of all the plants that could be found in the fields, woods and hedgerows of the Thorley countryside.

In 1999 the Annual Parish Meeting voted to produce a book about the past 100 years of Thorley. An East Herts District Council Millennium Fund grant was applied for and received for this purpose. Councillor Sylvia McDonald with a group of villagers initiated the project and with my help, as the Thorley church historian, has set about collecting memories and photographs. Past and present villagers are being invited to share their personal anecdotes and photographs. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

The occasion of Gladys' 100th birthday has provided the ideal opportunity to launch the book with a reception in the St Barnabas Centre. 'The Book of Thorley: Chronicles of a Century' will 'walk' the many footpaths and bridleways, visiting the houses, farms and meeting places of yesteryear. The planned publication date is Rogation Day 2003 when villagers and friends will be invited once more to 'beat the bounds', redefining Thorley's boundaries in the traditional manner. Our publisher, Halsgrove, specialises in this particular series of local histories. The book will be in a large format (A4), 160-page hardback and contain over 200 historic photographs, map, drawings etc. and be priced at 19.95. Details of how to reserve your copy may be obtained from Sylvia McDonald or myself.

Gladys Warboys and some former pupils at her
100th birthday party in the St Barnabas Centre
on Tuesday 2nd September 2002

Bill Hardy
September 2002

From the Archives