Recently I had a short break in the Cotswolds, situated a short drive from central London. With its honey coloured houses and small fields bounded by hedgerows it epitomises rural England.
We visited Sudeley Castle, a large house with links to much of England’s history including the grave of Henry VIII’s last wife and the only English Queen to be buried in a private house.
[O]wned since the 19th century by the Dent-Brocklehurst family, who manufactured gloves for Victorian ladies, the house had a large exhibition showing the house’s connection with English history and for children a room devoted to badgers. It was in the exhibition that a notice caught my attention:
Sir Philip Brocklehurst (1887-1957) the great-great-uncle of the present family at Sudeley, who went to the Antarctic with Shackleton in 1909, is the only recorded guest at Claridge’s who was allowed to bring his badger to stay with him when he came to London.
A connection with badgers clearly ran in the family, after all their surname means brockle (badger) hurst (hill).
A later descendant, Mark Dent-Brocklehurst in 1972 whilst living in Kensington brought home two baby badgers. Naturally the young charges were taken to the nursery for the children’s nanny to administer care. One badger later was given to Mark Dent-Brocklehurst’s mother at Sudeley Castle, while ‘Badgie’ resided in a comfortable kennel at their Kensington home, doing his ‘business’ in a suitable drain.
The family with nanny in charge would set off to Kensington Gardens on fine days to join the other nannies of titled families from this exclusive quarter in London, each pushing a crested pram. Incredibly conversation turned without hesitation to “my hasn’t he grown” as if a badger reclining in a smart perambulator was a perfectly natural occurrence.
When too old for his pram ‘Badgie’ was walked on a lead around London’s streets. He once escaped only to dig up some of the well-tended gardens of their neighbours. Later the badger was taken to Sudeley Castle only to tangle himself up in the 17th century curtains. Eventually the badger was released back into the wild.
This book tells the tale of Brock, and the badger’s life with the Dent-Brocklehurst family in the late 60’s and early 70’s, including growing up in the nursery with Mollie and Henry and subsequently coming to the live at Sudeley Castle.
Story by Elizabeth Ashcombe
Illustrated by Katie B. Morgan