Manor House, Ratlinghope

Photographs show that the Downing family had a developed pattern of making visits to Ratlinghope in Shropshire from about 1911 to 1939.

Mary Downing‘s photo album that covers the period 1904-1917 can help us place a date on some of the batches of photos that have survived. She records numerous trips to the shooting lodge at Llanbrynmair owned by Sir Watkin Wynn from 1904.  However, the first reference to Ratlinghope is August 1911.

Ratlinghope, Aug 1911

Ratlinghope, Aug 1911

Mary’s album shows a set of five photos – a group of shooters and well-dressed picnickers and one notable picture (above) of a Car Reg ‘E 517’. At the bottom of the page Mary has written Ratlinghope Aug 1911.

There are two further groups of photos, one from Mary’s album, dated 1916, and another loose set that appear to be all taken on the same occasion. It seems likely it is 12 August, 1916, given the depiction of dead grouse or pheasants laid out on the ground.

Ratlinghope, Aug 1916

Ratlinghope, Aug 1916

Mary’s album shows a second visit, probably a year later on 12 Aug 1917. Although she herself was on nursing duties, latterly in Derbyshire, it is possible she joined the family gathering on leave.

Ratlinghope, c. 1917; off to the shoot

Ratlinghope, c. 1917; off to the shoot

After 1919 Molly Downing in her pocket diary records regular visits to Ratlinghope in the 1920’s, usually at Whitsun. One such visit records a hotel stay by Noel and Molly in Craven Arms on the Saturday and the next day on Whitsunday, 15 May 1921, she writes as follows:

…glorious and perfect run via Acton Scott Hall to Ratlinghope – too lovely hot no-one to receive us, met Mr Glen, the clergyman, then climbed a very hot hill to meet our host and hostess – prepared our lunch in kitchen, joined by clergyman and his daughter who dealt in racing ponies, wonder down to new pool and dam, up to Darnford in car across heather, Noel and Arthur Browne fishing while Marion and I guarded the captured trout….
Manor House, Ratlinghope, c.1925. Back row: Willie G, Daisy?, Molly, ?, WED, Nancy, ? and Jack Grazebrook; Front row: ?, Crib the dog, Noel

Manor House, Ratlinghope, c.1925. Back row: Willie G, Daisy?, Molly, ?, WED, Nancy, ? and Jack Grazebrook; Front row: ?, Crib the dog, Noel

There is one photo from about 1925 in Juliet’s album. There is no annotation and the date is an estimate based on the two Grazebrook children. Nancy, who was born in 1905 and Jack born in 1906

In the set of 1939 photos, (again Juliet’s album but fully annotated and dated) two young men, Mac and Hugh, are identified. Mac it is believed is Michael Scott-Mackirdy, a young RAF pilot, retired through disability in 1937. He went on to marry Nancy Lloyd, who was cousin to both Hubert Broughton (Hugh) Showell and Noel Downing. Hugh Showell (ie the Hugh in the photo) was another keen aviator and the two appear to have arrived in one car to join the Picnic. Also present was Frances Best a schoolfriend of Pamela Downing. This picnic is recorded in Molly’s diary even though she does not appear in the photos.

Ratlinghope, 2021

Ratlinghope, 2021