On the 21 June 1909, a baby girl was born to the culturally talented Mr and Mrs Paul Jewitt of Hampstead Gardens Suburbs, London.
Christened in the names of Silvia Mary (but given a family name of Sally) this young girl, together with her brother and two sisters' spent her early years in the tensions and turmoil of World War 1; during which she started her education at the Henrietta Barnet School.
Whilst there, Sally showed much interest in, and displayed a natural talent for, Art - a subject at which she subsequently graduated from the Kilburn Polytechnic and, later from the Central College of Art in
By the time her education ended post-war austerity had gripped the whole of Britain resulting in few employment opportunities - especially for women. Any offer of work was readily accepted and Sally found herself painting designs on silk scarves, in Dickensian conditions working nine hours a day, six days a week for five shillings (25p) a day. Such were the harsh economic realities of the time that
Sally endured this work for nearly a year before moving to other employment in London where, although the working conditions had improved, the pay was equally poor.
The severe austerities of the Twenties of course, affected the lives of millions and for many it was a gloomy time. But Sally's buoyantly optimistic spirit found an outlet in the walking holidays she so much enjoyed with her parents. Whilst many people today take flights or motor to foreign parts, the vast majority of people in the Twenties were limited to "Shanks pony" sometimes accompanied by a pony and trap carrying tentage and baggage. It was in this fashion that, late on, summer's evening in 1927. Sally and her parents arrived in Wherwell and pitched camp in the area of what is now called Beech Grove.
On visiting the village next morning it was a matter of "love at first sight" and enquiries were made of the local shopkeeper -Mr Olif- if there was a cottage for sale. Though none was available at that time Mr Olif agreed to inform Sally's parents if one came on the market. He was as good as his word: some fifteen months afterwards he offered one of his own cottages for sale and a few weeks later Sally's parents took possession of 28 Church Street, as their holiday cottage, for the sum of £210.
The cottage at that time offered only basic accommodation; water was drawn from the River Test: lighting was by candles and oil lamps: toilet facilities were at the end of the garden: floors were earthen and heating was by open fire, Yet, despite these limitations Sally loved this cottage and considers this to have been her true home from 1928.
About this time Sally was working in London's Marble Arch Cinema where live stage shows were presented in the intervals between the silent films and the special performances of the "new talkies". For these shows Sally was appointed Wardrobe Mistress and Dress Designer becoming well acquainted with many famous stage personalities of the day - including the very famous Markova and equally famous Ivor Novello. It was whilst working here that Sally married and later, the young couple travelled widely in the entertainment spheres including a period, during the Thirties, at Radio Luxembourg - one of the first commercial radio stations in Europe.
The deteriorating political situation in Europe, however, necessitated a premature return to England and the early months of World War 2 found Sally and her, now four children living in a cottage on Chilbolton Common. From here her children used to walk to Wherwell School carrying lunch, books and repirators. Various circumstances, however, combined to require Sally to return to the London area and once more Sally was experiencing the stress and turmoil of another War. This time however, the dangers from aerial attacks forced her to move to a large house in Essex. There, Sally applied her talents to illustrating children’s books whilst coping not only with her own four children but also with four evacuee children from London.
On the death of her mother in 1959, Sally, who had now remarried, returned to 28 Church Street with her, now, five children to care for her father who died later in 1967. It was then that Sally turned her talents to the business of decorating porcelain - a task which she fulfils with dedicated skill to the present day. Working alone in her garden studio she produces work, which is widely acclaimed, and in much demand for the elegant beauty of her designs. Although her only day-to-day constant companion is her dog Rosie - which she exercises vigorously around the village twice a day - Sally is nonetheless-, visited frequently by some and sometimes all, of her five children, twelve grand-children and six great-grand-children whose company provides a natural outlet for her zest for life, her ready sense of humour and "young-at-heart" spirit.
Throughout her many years in the Wherwell, Sally has sometimes made valuable contributions to the anthology. It is, therefore, not only fitting but also with pride that, in her 90th year, we present this pen portrait of a lady who has endured the vicissitudes of life arising from the turmoil, perils and hardships of two World Wars and the years of austerity which followed; coped with the rapidly changing economic and social climates of our time; and, yet, emerged with an unfailing strength of character. Her spirit of independence unbroken, and sense of humour intact, but above all, with an unimpaired talent, still providing beauty and joy to so many people.
To all who know her Sally Chetwyn is, and always will be, a splendid example of - THE WOMEN OF OUR TIME.
Wherwell Anthology XXV First published August 1998
J. Hellier (1998)