When I had finished writing Part 3 of my family’s story in Shanghai I printed it off and popped it in the post addressed to Jessfield House. I thought the present owners might like to know that their house in England was actually named after a place, Jessfield Park, that my grandmother loved in Shanghai (having moved their in 1927 to marry my grandfather).
It was so lovely to receive an email from the present owners of Jessfield House the very next day a;though I was shocked to find out that Jessfield had been turned into flats and a taxi office and at one point squatters had moved in.
I was delighted to hear, however, that it had been rescued and restored, it is flats no more, and is once again a well-loved family home.
They asked if I had any photos but I couldn’t find any of the house, which is strange when you think how prolific a photographer my grandfather was in China. I did however, find the above pencil drawing by him which my grandparents had used as a Christmas card in 1951.
..to Jessfield’s new owners. It was lovely to hear back from them with an update on the house that we all loved so much.
Thank you to all of you who have left such lovely comments about my Shanghai posts. My father was delighted that you found it interesting and, Meg, I passed on your thanks which really touched him.
Thank you too to Tara from Ready, Click and Go, who told me about a fabulous book with old photographs of Shanghai displayed beside modern photographs taken from the same spot called Changing Shanghai by Xu Xixian. The difference, even from photographs taken in the eighties and nineties, is amazing! The copy I ordered arrived from America in plenty of time for my father’s 83rd birthday. Normally I’m really stumped as to what to get him. He won’t expect this!
A special thank you too to James, who left a fascinating comment on Part 3 about his Chinese grandparents who were born in Shanghai about the same time as my father. Remember me telling you about my father and his friends fighting with the Chinese boys? I wonder if James’ grandfather ever had a fight with some English boys! It’s quite possible!
Just like my Grannie told me stories about Shanghai in the twenties and thirties, his grandmother has told him many stories about her life there and why they too left. She remembers it as a “beautiful progressive city with many tree-lined avenues.” Their story though is as heart wrenching at times as my families, if not more so.
Update 18th July 2014
Today, after a long fight with cancer my father, John Burrington, at the age of 84, passed away. My mother was holding his hand with my sister and myself at their side in St Richards Hospital, Chichester, West Sussex.
At his funeral so many people turned up that many had to stand outside to listen to the service. It was actually a really lovely day and I wish he could have been there – to me it certainly felt like he was.
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Wow. How did I get here? Well I’ve just read ‘The Binding Chair’ by Kathryn Harrison , about life in Shanghai during the late 19th and early 20th century. I decided to come online to see if I could find photos of the places mentioned, like Bubbling Well rod, and The Bund. Then I found your page and read it all. Now I’ll learn m ore about the dreadful practice of foot binding, which was also a main part of the book. I was horrified to learn that Mothers inflicted a life of pain and disability on their little daughters because apparently, Chinese men were aroused by looking at smashed, broken feet, which looked like pigs trotters. So that’s my day planned out then.
I can’t remember when I first heard of feet binding but it may have been watching the film ‘The Inn of the Sixth Happiness’ when I was a little girl. I thought it was also so women couldn’t walk very fast let alone run but I may have made that up in my own head! I actually have some tiny shoes from China that you would assume were children’s shoes. They’re very beautiful with intricate embroidery but lose their beauty when you know they are for the bound feet of an adult woman.
I don’t know Kathryn Harrison’s book. I must check it out.
Thank you so much for letting me know how you came across my blog! Learning about other cultures is always interesting and even if some things surprise or disturb us, never stop discovering!
Amazing the Jessfield House! It is seem to me mystical and curious though I will make a trip to visit the mysterious of Jessfield House. Thanks!
Probably best not to visit Jessfield House as it is privately owned. I hope to visit what was Jessfield Park in Shanghai one day though.
A fitting finale to your series on Shanghai! I can imagine how delighted your father must have been with his special gift 🙂
Hi Kathryn, I read this post and it gave me chills. I felt compelled to read the rest of your Shanghai series. I read part 1 and I was captivated. I had to read parts 2 and 3 right away. What a beautifully written and touching story about your grandparents and father’s life in Shanghai, their travels and their return to England. Your words made old Shanghai come so alive. I love the history and sense of nostalgia your writing conveyed. I can feel how much passion you put in writing in these posts. They were very touching; I was a bit teary at the end of part 3. I also enjoyed all the old photographs and drawing. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story about your family.
Thank you Marisol. That’s very kind of you. I’m glad you found it so interesting and moving. I’ve more photographs which I will add to the gallery at some point.
I echo Simon’s thoughts – a lovely conclusion to your Shanghai tale and how lovely too to get such interesting feedback.
Thanks, it was wonderful hearing from everyone.
That’s a wonderful drawing, and I was a little disappointed when I first read that the house had been turned into flats, but then I was happy to read on and discover that it’s a family home again.
Yes, it is such a relief that it is being looked after again. It will always hold a special place in my heart as I have such found memories of my grandmother and our holidays visiting her there. And of course, my father grow up their (after leaving Shanghai) so it is very special to him too.
What a lovely conclusion to the story
Thanks Simon. 🙂