Local Face: Margaret Ridgway
Margaret Mortimer was born in Park Street, Aylesbury, in 1919 and naturally attended Queen’s Park School, now the Queen’s Park Arts Centre, leaving at the age normal for the time, 14. Susan Diane, the daughter of Margaret’s brother Frank, later set up the eponymous dance school there! In order to register with an employment agency Margaret had to pay a fee of £1 so her first employment was washing up in local cafés in order to save. Once she had the money she signed up with Kingsbury Servants’ Agency.
In 1934 Margaret secured a position as Scullery Maid with Lord and Lady Anstruther whose London home was not far from Buckingham Palace. As the most junior person on the staff she lived in the attic with other girls where the water froze in winter. She was up at 5am every morning to light the range ready for Cook to come down and start the breakfasts. She used a wooden tub for water and scrubbed the floor on her hands and knees. Her hands became very rough and dry. The work was hard but there was great cameraderie amongst the Below Stairs staff – yes, it was just like the TV show Upstairs, Downstairs. She later trained as a Parlour Maid.
Margaret hadn’t broken her links with home, though. She had a beau, Arthur Ridgway, who would cycle from Wendover to visit her in London! There was a lot of talk of War in those years so they married in Walton Parish Church in June 1939. He had found a one up one down cottage next to the Rose and Crown pub in the Tring Road, demolished and re-developed about 7 years ago. He was called up and Margaret didn’t see Arthur again until the end of the War. Meanwhile, Margaret was contributing to the War effort by cycling to work in Rivetts in Aylesbury. Unfortunately, during that time she became ill and was admitted to Tindall General Hospital for surgery and a long convalescence.
Arthur returned from the War with no teeth but as he had been an ambulance driver, he was able to continue with that work at Princess Mary Hospital, Wendover, until he retired. They were both very sad to see the Hospital close.
Margaret was never able to return to full-time work but she did put the skills learned in service to good use. She made all her own clothes by sewing or knitting and became an expert embroiderer. Later on she would send embroidery work to her other brother, Eric, who had emigrated to America. He died about 10 years ago and her eyesight deteriorated so no more needlework.
While Arthur and Margaret were living in Tring Road, they saw the Colet Road estate being built so when their landlord ended the tenancy, they moved to Hampden Road. In those days, Wendover had 3 greengrocers, 2 pharmacists and a wet fish shop. The Manor Waste had Carter’s Garage which is now Budgens. Arthur’s sister eventually moved into Vinetrees and they looked forward to living there in retirement but Arthur died before the move about 25 years ago.
Margaret has really enjoyed living in Vinetrees as it is so close to the High Street. She is now registered blind but is still able to do her own shopping and look after herself. She is particularly grateful to the staff at Wendover Post Office who are most helpful and Budgens who always come to her aid as she enters the shop. Thankfully, her brother Frank does all her reading and writing for her. Bucks Association for the Blind organised for Margaret to attend a Blind Club in Bedgrove once a fortnight. Their last meeting before Easter was on Thursday 18 April and they celebrated her birthday as it was her centenary on Monday 22 April. Congratulations, Margaret.