LATONA (and more), BRAYSTONES
by Miles Gaythwaite
In the summer of 2007, Tom Dalzell's pages on this site about the Braystones beach bungalow "Latona" came to the attention of his relative Miles Gaythwaite, who also had fond memories of the bungalow. Miles has kindly contributed his own essay, revealing even more about this fascinating place:
'Latona' belonged to my grandmother, Mrs. Sarah Agnes Gaythwaite (née Brennan) (1867-1962), and I used to spend much time with her in the summer holidays at the bungalow in the late 1940's and early 50's, times which I enjoyed greatly. She only spent the summers at Braystones, spending the rest of the year in Glasgow with my parents. My father, Wilson Robinson Gaythwaite (1903-1976) was her son. My grandmother was known as "Aunt Sally" as Tom Dalzell says. This was to distinguish her from "Aunt Sarah Gaythwaite" (who I never knew) who was apparently even more formidable than my grandmother.
At the time access to Braystones was best by train from either Whitehaven or Barrow, as the station was right on the beach. The lane which led down to the station from the main road was very rough and narrow and there was very little parking actually at the station. When visiting Braystones my parents used to leave the car in Braystones village, in the farmyard of the Warbricks' farm. After crossing the railway line from the station the path along the beach, in either direction was very rough and strewn with rocks and boulders. Only 4 wheel drive vehicles could get along to the bungalows.
Every morning one of the local farmers (it could have been Johnny Warbrick) used to drive his tractor along the beach with a trailer carrying milk churns, replacement Calor gas cylinders and a few odd foodstuffs. One went out with jugs to the tractor and bought the milk, which had to be done daily as there were few if any refrigerators around at that time. "Mod cons" simply did not exist.
As milk went off quickly the jug containing the milk used to be put into a large basin of cold water which slowed down the souring process. Alternatively the milk could be boiled, (I detested the taste of boiled milk). There was no running water (that had to be collected in a pail or jug from a spring), no sanitation, no electricity and no town gas. One of the saving graces was the availability of bottled gas, Calor Gas. This was used for cooking, lighting (using amazingly fragile special mantles) and heating. I seem to recall that some folk had Calor gas refrigerators but my grandmother did not have one. Meat was kept in a meat safe, a kind of wooden hutch with sides made of perforated zinc which kept the flies out, at least in theory. Looking back I am surprised that more people were not ill because of relatively primitive food hygiene. My grandmother who was a good baker had a tendency to bake large batches of apple or rhubarb tarts which she would then store more or less randomly in various cupboards and drawers all round the bungalow. She would then forget about them and they would tend to be discovered some time later with splendid growths of whiskers, which were always jokingly said to be the penicillin which kept us well!
Washing involved getting the water from the spring, warming it up (if wanted) and then washing using a ewer and basin (which were not quaint anachronisms there at that time). Post war most of the lavatories were in small huts separated from the bungalows and containing an Elsan closet. The foul tarry liquid, called Elsanol, did at least help to keep the natural pongs and the flies at bay. Emptying the Elsan was not one of the great joys of Braystones. One had, of course, to be sure to empty the pail on the ebb tide; however the rocks going down to the sea could be rather slimy and slippery and occasions had been known when the carrier came to grief complete with the pail and its malodorous contents! Horrid.
My father, who was an engineer, had the idea of constructing a windmill beside 'Latona' in order to generate some electricity. There were no commercial windmills available at that time and he had to design one from scratch and then to build it. Which he did. Unfortunately it never really worked all that well. Either there was too little wind, or too much (usually the latter) and on at least one occasion the blades of the windmill flew off and landed in the garden of the next door bungalow - fortunately with no damage to the occupants. Also dynamo technology was not all that good and even when the wind was behaving the electricity generated was not really enough and the batteries were usually inadequate. This meant that at best one might have some small electric 12 volt lights going, but certainly no heating. However all these "privations" were part of the charm of Braystones and I always enjoyed my times there, even when the weather was not cooperative.
A few of the bungalows were occupied all the year round, but most of them were really only used in the summer. A couple of bungalows away, to the north, was 'Plas Isa' which belonged to the doughty Miss Davidson. She lived there all the year round and I think felt that she had a superior claim to be boss of the area; whereas my grandmother being only a summer resident should have assumed a somewhat inferior position. My grandmother did not take that sort of thing lying down and occasional turf wars would break out between her and Miss Davidson. However most the time they superficially were on good terms and they smiled at each other, even if through clenched teeth. When fetching water I was always careful to keep well clear of Miss Davidson as I was never sure whether I was in the clear or not!
The bungalow immediately adjacent to the north (called 'Summerville') was semi-detached. One part was occupied only for part of the summer by an elderly lady called Miss Fenwick who I think came from Scarborough. My grandmother got on rather well with her. The other half of the bungalow was occupied in summer by two maiden ladies from Whitehaven who were both very pleasant. One was called Miss Kitty Cowie, she had been a teacher (or possibly a headmistress) at a school in Whitehaven. She was a clever and interesting person who was an avid and successful crossword addict.* The other lady was called Miss Dixon who was a milliner and owned a hat shop in Lowther Street in Whitehaven. The shop was only a few doors away from Miss Batty's tea rooms, and when my grandmother was visiting Whitehaven we often went in to visit Miss Dixon.
The bungalow on the other side, 'Fairfield', belonged to a family called the Halfpennys, who were rather younger than the other residents I have been talking about. Mr. Halfpenny was a senior manager of Albright and Wilson (at that time called Marchon) in Whitehaven. They were not there all that much, mainly just weekends and a longish period in the summer. Both he and his wife were most pleasant and were always very helpful to my grandmother. When the windmill decided to misbehave it usually landed in their garden.
As I have mentioned, milk came round every day (except Sunday) to the bungalows. Apart from that much was to be bought from the small shop which was almost opposite Braystones station. This was run by a Mrs. MacGill who was very pleasant and, apart from keeping the shop, was an important clearing house for local gossip. For provisions that could not be obtained from Mrs MacGill one really had to take the train and go to Whitehaven - as trying to get things by car from Egremont was really too complicated. I cannot now recall the name of the stationmaster at Braystones station but my grandmother used to be ushered into his parlour whilst waiting for the train, where she engaged in decorous conversation with the stationmaster's wife. My grandmother used to prefer to get off the train at Corkickle as she did not much like going through the tunnel to Bransty, even although that would usually have been more convenient for the shops. Apart from doing food shopping a trip to Whitehaven usually involved lunch at Miss Batty's and a visit to see Miss Dixon and, most likely, to go the nicely old fashioned ironmongers, also on Lowther Street, where the manager, a Mr. Barlow, used to discuss matters of what things my grandmother needed for whatever outbreak of DIY she was currently involved in.
My grandfather (Aunt Sally's husband) who was dead before I was born was called Tom Dalzell Gaythwaite. He had a coaching business but he was apparently a very easy going man and it was really up to my grandmother to run him and the coaching business to keep things going. They had one child, namely my father. My grandfather was related in some way (which I cannot now recall) to Tom Dalzell who at the time I was visiting Braystones lived on, or just off, the Loop Road in Whitehaven. My grandmother liked going to see the Dalzells, who were most hospitable, and she was very fond of Tom Dalzell's wife, Ada. I presume that the "Tom Dalzell" who has written the material on the Latona website is their son, who was known as "young Tommy" at the time.
My grandmother had been a court dressmaker, but apart from that she was very good with her hands and was pretty competent as a builder and general handyperson. This was just as well given her involvement in the coaching business. However one day when in her 80's she fell off the roof of the bungalow which she had decided needed immediate painting. My father had told her not to go up on the roof, but she paid little attention to his admonitions. Whilst she was not seriously hurt it did rather sap her confidence. I think it was shortly after that that my parents prevailed on her to sell 'Latona' and my grandmother thereafter remained in Glasgow. She died in her mid 90s.
Miles Gaythwaite, September 2007
*My cousin came up with one mildly amusing thing, which I had forgotten. Miss Cowie, the teacher, apparently played football for a Whitehaven ladies team. Quite out of the ordinary, at least at the time.