Miss Ethel Davies 1897- 1974 (Miss Dave), Co-Director of Caldecott Community

The following is taken from Elizabeth Lloyd's book "The Story of a Community" written in 1976. The original is held in the Caldecott Association Archives.


[Leila Rendel] solved the future of the Community [when co-founder Phyliis Potter left in 1935] by saying that she would stay on to run it, and after offering a Directorship to one or two members of the Staff, who declined it, almost immediately appointed a new Director, a woman in her early thirties who had been on the Staff for a few years. Her name was Ethel Davies and her appointment was viewed with astonishment and concern by the rest of the adult Community. She was to work in total harmony with Leila Rendel for over forty years, until in fact, the day of the latter's death at the age of eighty-six.

miss dave dressedupEthel Davies was born in Liverpool in 1897, the youngest of the two daughters of a well-to-do Ship's chandler; there were three sons of the marriage. They were brought up in a fine old terraced eighteenth century house, one in a long street that runs down to the Mersey and the docks; once an elegant street, lived in by single prosperous families, but now like much of the Liverpool of that century, the houses are let out as single rooms and flats and are shabby and with an air of decay.

The house in Huskisson Street in the early nineteen hundreds was not a peaceful one though and Ethel Davies had an unhappy and difficult childhood and girlhood there: her parents were living in a state of great disharmony and were literally not on speaking terms.

After leaving school in Birkenhead, Ethel Davies took a Domestic Science Training. Towards the end of the war in 1918, she joined the Ambulance Brigade as a driver, the only time in her life when she drove a vehicle of any sort. She remained in England, probably in Liverpool, for this period.

After the war, she eventually met up with another young woman, Betty Hillyer, a doctor's daughter from Somerset who had also a Domestic Science Training at Gloucester.

These two young women took a job together in a family which had seven children. Betty Hillyer cooked and Ethel Davies looked after the house and acted as a kind of 'parlour-maid'; it is more than probable that she had a good deal to do with the numerous children. Every evening she and Betty Hillyer changed into some form of evening dress and dined with the family, the former having laid the table and put the food on it and the latter having cooked it.

At the end of nine months there Ethel had to return to Liverpool to look after her mother who was ill. At the end of another nine months she saw an advertisement: it read - "Wanted, someone who enjoys working hard for little money". She answered the advertisement, was accepted and joined the Staff of the Caldecott Community at Goff's Oak, in Hertfordshire.

After she had been at the Community for four months she wrote and asked Better Hillyer if she would join her at the Community, which she did at an annual salary of £40.

For the first few months they shared a room, a double bed and a candle, in a lodge at the bottom of a drive to the house.
They worked together in the pantry and dining-room; the latter was used every morning after breakfast for 'gym' classes and all the trestle tables, off which the Community had its meals, had to be taken down, stacked at the sides of the room and as Betty Hillyer writes, - “rushed up again at the end of the morning in time for the mid-day meal”....

...Ethel Davies, meanwhile, was moved from the pantry work to become the girls' matron. She then became the new Director. Shy, diffident and very unsure of herself she must have looked upon this appointment with as much concern as the rest of the Community.