You are in [Places] [Newtown] [Hidden Cottage]

Hidden Cottage is the usual name of a property in Hungerford Newtown, lying on the east side of the main Hungerford road, about 500 metres south of the Newtown crossroads.

The property has now been greatly extended, and is now run as a nursing and elderly care centre.

The origins of the house:

The house was built circa 1842 and owned by Miss Elizabeth Shepherd. (It appears not to be listed in the 1841 census, although this is in poor condition).

The 1851 Census shows Miss Elizabeth Shepherd living at Hidden Cottage aged 67. Miss Shepherd is described as a clergyman's daughter of independent means, and the census also records a visitor and three servants.

Hidden Cottage is located near to Little Hidden Farm, and in the 1861 census it is actually called "Little Hidden Cottage". Interestingly, for a time it also had the name "North Hidden Cottage" as described in the sale details of 1862 below. By the time of the 1880 OS map, it was simply "Hidden Cottage".

By 1862 it was owned by Mr Jelfs, whose death brought about the sale by auction of the property.

Nick Hidden kindly sent (Mar 2018) a description of the house that appeared in the Reading Mercury at the time it was sold 10 May 1862:

Sale by Auction - North Hidden Cottage, and Land, near Hungerford, Berks

Peremptory sale in consequence of the decease of the late owner. Mr. Jelfs

At the Bear Inn, Hungerford on Wednesday 28th May 1862 at three o clock the very pretty and attractive freehold residence called North Hidden Cottage, surrounded by its own grounds with carriage drive leading to the house, late the property and residence of Miss Shepherd, deceased; consisting of a modern built dwelling house, containing good underground cellars and larder, dining and drawing rooms, butler's pantry, china closet, front and back kitchens, laundry and brewhouse, five bedrooms and servants' room and closet, with conservatory and toolhouse attached.

In the yard a large coach house and stable with one stall and two loose boxes, and a good loft and lumber room over, cart and cowhouses and other buildings, and large rainwater tank.

A very large and productive garden and orchard, well stocked with fruit trees, and a well with excellent water. Also three rich meadows adjoining. The whole contains 7a 1r 2p and adjoins the turnpike road from Hungerford to Wantage and Oxford, and is about 2 miles from Hungerford, on the line of the Berks and Hants Railway.

The situation is commanding and very healthy. The whole of the buildings were erected by the late Miss Shepherd, for her own residence, within the last 20 years, and are in a very complete state of repair. The property is free from tithe rent charge, and is subject only to an annual quit rent of 6d and a land tax of 8s per annum.

This is one of the most desirable properties in the neighbourhood and is well adapted for the residence of a genteel family. It is well suited for a hunting box, and is close to the Craven Kennel, and within reach of other packs of hounds.

Early possession may be had. To view apply to, etc

At present, we do not know who bought the house in 1862, nor any subsequent owners until c1910.

The Pinckney family, c.1910-mid 1970s:

Hugh and Winifred Pinckney bought Hidden Cottage, and moved there c1910. Earlier members of the Pinckney family had been bankers in the 17th century. Interestingly, in the 1840s, 119 High Street, Hungerford was Pinckneys Bank (now NatWest Bank).

Hugh and Winifred Pinckney had six children - Winifred "Joan" (b. 21 Jul 1905, d. from flu 22 Mar 1919 aged 13), Betty (b. 20 Apr 1908, later Betty McCubbin, d. 21 Nov 1999), Anne (b. 30 Jul 1911, later Anne Gresham-Cooke, d. 4 Dec 1988), Philip (b. 7 Apr 1915; d. 7 Sep 1943), Colin (b. 6 Dec 1918; d. 23 Jan 1942), and Diana (later Barr-Hamilton).

Philip joined the SAS Commandos, and Colin became a pilot in the RAF. Both died in the 2nd World War. Read more about Capt Pinckney P.H (SAS) and F/Lt. Pinckney D.J.C. DFC. There are several mentions of Colin in Douglas Bader's book.

Two other close family members were also killed in wartime:

- Christopher Arthur Gresham Cooke (b. 16th June 1899) joined the Royal Navy at the outbreak of the 1st World War. He joined the cruiser HMS Aboukir which was sunk by a torpedo on 22md September 1914. He was one of the the 50 men who survived, out of a crew of 750. He then joined the battleship HMS Vanguard, but this was destroyes and all the crew were killed when the magazine exploded whenit was achored in Scapa Flow on 9th July 1917. Christopher was aged 18 years.

- Nicholas Gresham Cooke (b. 26th August 1913) was educated at Marlborough and Trinity College Cambridge. He joined the RAF at the onset of the 2nd World War, initially in 46 Sqn flying Mk I Spitfires, but then moved to 264 Sqn flying the 2-seater Defiant fighters. His was the first Defiant to shoot down an enemy aircriaft, and he was awarded the DFC as a result. He was missing over the North Sea on 31st May 1940 - dying at the age of 26 years.

[With thanks to Vivien Gainsborough Foot who kindly lent, in March 2018, a copy of the privately published book "Your Uncles" about the lives of Philip, Colin, Christopher and Nicholas. Thanks also to John Pinckney, compiler of the Pinckney Family History website.]

In 1923, the Pinckneys greatly extended Hidden Cottage. The house (after this extension) had 11 bedrooms which was divided into two (with a swing door on ground floor and a passageway on the first floor). There were about five or six  bedrooms in each half.

In 1948 one half was given to Roger and Anne (nee Pinckney) Gresham-Cooke. Gerald Gresham Cooke wrote (Mar 2018): "My parents (Roger and Anne)  moved there in 1948 (I was 7) and I left at 19 - 12 happy formative years. My brother Hereward and I roamed the 30 acres of land happily climbing trees, teasing Granny's (Winifred Pinckney's) cook & generally the "sun always shone." There were two lawn tennis courts & one hard. We were spoilt. In the orchard, was a tree that my Aunt Betty McCubbin planted when she was small & she proudly showed it to me when she was 87 - it was of course fully grown then." Gerald adds: "My father Roger Gresham-Cooke CBE was MP for Twickenham from 1955. He died "in office" 22 Feb 1970."

Rosalie Monbiot (nee Gresham Cooke) adds (March 2018): "The house also had a wonderful walled kitchen garden, a fabulous rose garden and that the front lawn was mown for a croquet lawn by a pony pulling a mower. The family also planted up a woodland known as Dunkins which I imagine is still there today."

The other half of the house was occupied by Diana (Barr-Hamilton) who lived there with her young family. Winifred Pinckney also lived there with them until she had to move to Edgecombe nursing home.

In c.1960 Hugh and Winifred Pinckney gave some adjacent land to John and Betty McCubbin, and they built the house called Putkins (now called "The Warren").

More about this family and Hungerford Newtown can be heard under Reminiscences. Listen particularly to Betty McCubbin's recordings.

The Barr-Hamiltons sold their end of Hidden Cottage to some Americans called Close in 1968/9. Daphne Barr Hamilton thinks the Gresham-Cookes’ had sold their half to the Winsor some time earlier.

Gerald Gresham Cooke added (March 2018): "Betty's end of life  was hugely co-incidental. She was born in Hidden Cottage, then slept in the same room over-looking the lawn for the next 40 years until she married John McCubbin, when they built "Putkins" (now "The Warren") in the grounds. After John died, she returned to Hidden Cottage which was then a Nursing Home and she returned to exactly the same room for the last 10 years of her life as she had occupied for the first 40 years!  When I visited her there - a year before she died, I went downstairs to the old Oak Room (which had lovely panelling) and there on the wall were the marks where a Cromwellian Clock had been 30 years earlier - a clock I now look after. I was delighted to see nothing much had changed!"

Vivien Gainsborough Foot added (April 2018): "Hidden Cottage is a long, rambling, very pretty house with a veranda and all the main reception rooms - drawing room, dining room (known as the Oak Room) and Morning Room - on the south side. The Oak Room, a beautiful panelled room, came into its own at Christmas when we often used to seat 20 people round its huge dining table. The house is very well situated, sitting in the centre of a beautiful garden with a huge west facing flower border, tended by Winifred and the gardener, a rose garden, orchard, walled kitchen garden and surrounded by fields and woods. And an enormous front lawn.

In the centre of the house there is a long corridor dividing the reception rooms from the kitchen, scullery and Servants Hall. As children we were never allowed to enter the Servants Hall without asking permission first. But this corridor was rather dark and there was a huge tiger skin on the wall. I would always run past the skin, running my hand along the whole length of the skin in terror hoping that he would not jump off the wall.

Winifred and Hugh Pinckney lived in the west end of the house and Roger Gresham Cooke (MP for Twickenham 1955-70) and Anne (née Pinckney) and their four children lived in the east end. The children are Rosalie b. 1935 now Mrs. Raymond Monbiot OBE, myself b. 1937 now Mrs. Cedric Gainsborough Foot, The Rev. Canon Hereward Cooke, b. 1939, died 2009 and Gerald Gresham Cooke b. 1941.

It was an idyllic place in which to have a childhood - I lived there from 1948 - 1958. All I seemed to do was ride my pony and play tennis. I rode all over the Berkshire downs completely safely on my own. 3 tennis courts (one hard court, two grass courts) and delightful tennis parties. But, in fact, together with my sister and our two brothers, we had a school room with a governess (Miss Margaret Thompson) and two or three other children used to come and join us. It was excellent grounding for when we went to boarding school. So I suppose I must have learnt something.

Oliver Brown (who lived in Hungerford Newtown) was chauffeur to Winifred and Hugh Pinckney and they had an old Wolseley car with a running plate which Oliver polished till it shone. He was also our Groom for the horses and we learnt everything we knew from him.  He always wore britches and gaiters. The stables were a really old fashioned set up with loose boxes, a tack room and garages which have all now disappeared. Oliver was the man who mowed the lawn with a pony wearing rubber shoes pulling the mower. Oliver was also employed as the gardener and I used to try and hide amongst the peas so that I could eat them without him seeing; of course, I was always caught. I adored him and he used to call me Miss Vivi.

Doris Billingham also called me Miss Vivi and she lived with her family in the cottage across the field from the house and was parlour maid to Winifred and Hugh. Norah Giles lived in the village and was the cook. We loved all the staff and played terrible tricks on them.

The outside doors to the house were never locked - it was all so safe. The postman used to bring the mail in a leather bag which he left in the scullery and picked up a second leather bag with any outgoing mail."

The Windsors, 1960s/1970s - late 1980s?

In the 1960s-1970s Hidden Cottage was bought by Bobby and Anne Windsor. Anne was a nurse, and she wanted to be able to care for her elderly parents in the best way - so she jolly well bought Hidden Cottage, and converted it into a care home (or ?nursing home). It was a great environment - with wonderful care.

When both her parents died, the Windsors sold it as a going concern - and it has continued as a care/nursing home ever since - under a variety of owners.

Hungerford Care Home:

It is currently Hungerford Care Home (a Brighterkind home).

With thanks to:

- Trevor Gore, Colin McCubbin (Canada), Vivien Gainsborough Foot, Gerald Gresham-Cooke, Daphne Barr Hamilton and Nick Hidden.

See also:

- F/Lt D J C "Colin" Pinckney DFC

- Capt P H Pinckney

- Scrapbook of A.T.S. Service during World War II of Elizabeth Pinckney (later Betty McCubbin) of Hidden Cottage, Newtown [HHA Archive U2]

From the Audio archives:-

- Oliver Brown with Fred Bailey and Betty McCubbin, 1986

- Betty McCubbin with Pam Haseltine, 1992