When St Albans solicitor Jane Dismore published her first book earlier this year, it wasn’t just the culmination of five years’ hard work, researching and writing it in her spare time, but also the result of something that had happened to her father almost 40 years before.
On a family holiday in the Loch Rannoch region of Perthshire in 1973, her father John took the dog out for a walk one evening – and returned two hours later visibly disturbed, pale and shaky. He reported going into a garden and the dog becoming increasingly agitated and the word ‘Pamela’ flashing into his mind, before coming upon the headstone of Pamela Hambro.
“The memory of what he told us stayed with me,“ says Jane, “and many years later I decided to find out about this woman who had caused my father to question his whole philosophy.“
The Voice from the Garden is a historical biography of Pamela Hambro, who was born in 1900 into the Cobbold brewing family of Suffolk and who married into the famous Hambro banking dynasty. Set against the backdrop of the World War One, The Voice from the Garden charts the fortunes of the two families at that crucial period in history.
“The book is partly social history, set before, during and after the Great War,“ explains Jane, who has lived in St Albans since 2006, “but the centre of the story is the love story between Pamela and Charles Hambro.“
So who exactly was Pamela? “She was, probably, fairly typical of that time but the difference is that she was the product of the marriage of trade and aristocracy,“ Jane says. “Previously aristocrats would only have married among themselves but now their wealth was crumbling and they were becoming hated, so a lot of them would have been glad of a marriage into trade. So Pamela wasn’t spoilt – she was expected to associate with her father’s employees and tenants and to go and visit the sick and the poor.
“Her husband Charles was a war hero,“ Jane continues, “and his family weren’t aristocrats, they were bankers. A lot of the Hambros I’ve had contact with are still very much involved in finance. So they had money but they weren’t blue bloods, it was hard earned.“
It took Jane almost five years to research and write the book because she had to fit it in around her job as an employment law solicitor in Hertford. “There was so much research to do for it,“ she says. “I did a lot of talking to Pamela’s descendants and looked through the national archives and some in Suffolk where she grew up and in Kent, where the Hambros had their estates.“
Pamela died in 1932, aged just 32, from pneumonia and was buried in her favourite spot on a hillside above Loch Rannoch in Perthshire, where she and Charles had spent their honeymoon – and where, a little over 40 years later, Jane and her family would arrive on holiday.
- The Voice from the Garden is available from all good bookshops, Amazon and from www.janedismore.com