Georgian home and gardens
Fir Hill, Droxford, Hampshire, UK
1929 – 2004
The Hulberts from WWII
World War II
Major and Mrs Hulbert had two sons, both of whom became army officers in World War II. The elder son, John Harvey Hulbert (1912–1980), went to Cambridge from Winchester College in 1931 and was commissioned into the Royal Artillery on an army scholarship in 1934. He was posted to 19 Field Brigade at Bordon, 22 miles north-east of Droxford and used to ride over from there to Droxford. In 1937, he was posted to a Battery Lieutenants course with the French Army stationed at Poitiers and Saumur.
He was then transferred to the Royal Horse Artillery and, on mobilisation, was posted as an intelligence officer to the British Expeditionary Force, 1st Corp, and was evacuated at Dunkirk. After that he held a number of staff jobs and was a battery commander in A-force, armed with guns and mules, being trained to invade German-occupied Norway, though the force was never sent. At the end of the war, he was part of Control Commission stationed in Berlin. He was released from the army to stand as a candidate for Parliament in the 1945 General Election, and resigned his commission in 1947.
The younger son, Thomas William Gerard Hulbert, known as Gerry, also joined the Royal Horse Artillary and reached the rank of Captain. He was killed in action at Sidi Rezargh, Libya, on 21 November 1941.
Captain Thomas Hulbert and his parents are commemorated by the fine stained glass east window of St Mary and All Saints, Droxford, designed by Christopher Webb, which his brother donated to replace the previous window that had been destroyed by a bomb dropped in the churchyard in 1940 by a German bomber returning to base.
World War II wrought a few changes in the use of both Fir Hill and the mill. Droxford Mill was used as a Red Cross base and the stable block at Fir Hill became the base of the Droxford Home Guard. There is a fine photo of the Droxford Home Guard arranged for a formal picture on the Fir Hill lawn facing the River Meon.
The Fir Hill stable block suffered slight damage in the form of a long scrape along the street-side wall when an American tank briefly lost control when heading down Garrison Hill, Droxford towards a port on the south coast in 1944.
Gerard Hulbert outside Fir Hill, 1930s
Source: Anthony, Gervase and Victoria Hulbert
Inscription commemorating Major Thomas and Mrs Kathleen Hulbert, and Capt Gerard Hulbert on east window at St Mary and All Saints, Droxford
After the war, the flat above the stables and coach houses was used for a few years as a ‘dame’ school for about 10 local children under the firm management of Ms Cicely Etheridge, the daughter of Canon Etheridge, the rector of St Mary and All Saints from 1926 to 1945.
Mrs Kathleen Hulbert died at Fir Hill before the war on 27 November 1937 and Major Hulbert some years later on 19 November 1943. They are both buried in the churchyard of St Mary and All Saints, Droxford.
Fir Hill and Droxford Mill then passed to Major and Mrs Hulbert’s surviving son, Lt Colonel John Hulbert, who lived at Fir Hill with his wife, Mrs Elisabeth Hulbert, and their three children, Anthony, Gervase and Victoria.
After the army, Lt Col Hulbert worked in the family chemicals business, Burts and Harvey, later part of Akcros Chemicals. He helped revive the Hambledon Hunt after World War II, during which it had been disbanded, and became its MFH in 1949. The hounds were kennelled at that time in a large shed half way between Droxford and Meonstoke.
On 18 November 1950, HRH Princess Margaret was the guest of honour of the Hambledon Hunt to mark its 150th anniversary season, and came to Fir Hill as a guest of Lt. Colonel Hulbert to take part in a hunting breakfast followed by riding to hounds herself. The visit had been arranged by one of Princess Margaret’s ladies-in-waiting who lived at Creech House near Denmead, six miles from Droxford.
Lt Col Hulbert's two sons, Anthony and Gervase aged 10 and 8, greeted Princess Margaret at the main east door of Fir Hill dressed in jodhpurs, short boots, tweed jackets and ties, but no gloves or hats in order to spare them having to raise them in the correct manner. Their sister, Victoria, aged 5, was also dressed in jodhpurs. While the boys bowed and shook Princess Margaret's hand, little Vicky had to curtsey - no mean feat in a pair of jodhpurs.
The hunt met in the paddock at Fir Hill, enjoying the traditional pre-meet cherry brandy, and then left for the countryside. After the hunt, Princess Margaret returned to Fir Hill for luncheon.
Lt Colonel Hulbert was also a keen supporter of the activities of the Droxford branch of the British Legion, that had been formed in 1921.
Inscription commemorating Lt Col John and Mrs Elisabeth Hulbert on east window at St Mary and All Saints, Droxford
Droxford Home Guard in front of the east façade of Fir Hill
Source: John Moon collection with thanks to Tony and Jo Williams
Princess Margaret with Lt Col Hulbert in the Fir Hill driveway, 1950.
Source: Antony, Gervase and Victoria Hulbert
Lt Colonel Hulbert decided to move his family out of Fir Hill in the early 1950s because of the difficulty in acquiring building materials owing to the continuing rationing regulations, which meant he could not carry out much needed repairs. The Rev Anthony Hulbert can remember that after the plaster ceiling of the long drawing room started to collapse in places his father strung tennis nets across the room to catch any more falling plaster, and the family then sat in their chairs below the netting.
Lt Colonel Hulbert therefore decided to rebuild the Droxford Mill building as an attractive family home and the family moved there in late 1953. He then put Fir Hill up for sale but kept back the Mill itself as well as the property contained in the 1901 conveyance, namely Parker’s Cottage and the seven-acre pasture.