The history of my mother’s family is not as clearly defined as that of my father, but the earliest records of the Bridgen family go back to the 18th Century, where the family originated from the Hampshire-West Sussex border of England.
Monica was one of four children born to Helen and Sidney Bridgen. He was a headmaster at a school in the quiet little village of Cassington, near Oxford, and later in the villages of King’s Somborne and Herstmonceux.
Sidney’s father had come from Midhurst and his mother, Sarah Pusey, from Wandsworth. Helen was the daughter of Patricia and John Perkins of Ockham, Surrey, and most of Helen’s childhood was spent in Leicester and Rutland area where her father owned a large cabinet making business. According to my mother, Grandpa Perkins was very musical and played the cello, had a lovely bass baritone voice, and was much sought after to entertain people at parties. My grandmother’s sister also had a good rich singing voice and played the piano. Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit any of this musical talent.
My mother had two sisters, Barbara and Marguerite, and a much beloved brother, Harry, who was a pilot, tragically killed during the war. It was through him that she had met my father when she was still a schoolgirl.
My mother’s side of the family was generally blessed with artistic, literary and musical talent. Her sister, Barbara was a very talented writer, and my grandmother, Helen, was known for making richly coloured rugs, a fact that I had no knowledge of when I began working in textiles. It was only after I had started researching and making my own fibre wall hangings that my mum made the connection between my work and my grandmothers. Although I had never seen any of these works, she said that our colour sense was very similar. I find this a significant and interesting link and my regret is that I never got to see her work.
Monica’s childhood was spent living and playing in the gentle, English countryside, an environment that probably influenced her interest in the arts. She was extremely talented artistically and apart from writing poetry, was very good at drawing.
The poem below was written by my mother when she was only 15 year’s old:
Although her first love was art, Monica’s father had wanted her to become a teacher and so she registered at Goldsmith’s College, but her stay there was cut short due to the escalation of the war and the fact that she was soon to be married to my father, the adventurous pilot from Africa .
They married and had two children by the time the war had ended, and in 1946, Reg and Monica decided to return to Africa and settle in Rhodesia. My father traveled by air, whilst my mum, with her toddlers Patrick and Paul, went by sea on the Carnarvon Castle. They were met at the docks in Cape Town by my father and his uncle, Randolph Nesbitt, a colourful character who had led the Mazoe Patrol and won the Victoria Cross for the rescue of the beleaguered party at Mazoe Mine, Rhodesia, in 1896.
My father, having gone ahead of his family, had in the meantime acquired a Humber Super Snipe, and so he collected his young family and they traveled to Salisbury in style.
And thus began their African adventure…
(To be continued…)