Life after Lucy: Helen Gibson

by Helen Gibson on 28 February 2017


B.Ed  1973-74

After a year at Lucy Cavendish College completing my B.Ed while my children were in primary school, I taught in a Middle school before retiring in 1988, when there was a scheme to reduce staff to accommodate falling rolls and offering us early retirement terms.  My husband was also a teacher and had a number of alternative interests in lecturing for the Extra Mural Dept, WEA etc and advising local authorities on listed buildings.  This was one of my interests, too, and between us we re-listed buildings in Saffron Walden and Brentwood, getting the data on to the computer for the first time, which was to be so helpful for future generations. In the years before my husband’s death in 2006 he advised Historic Royal Palaces on Hampton Court, The Tower of London, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace, all of which were undergoing repairs and being filmed by the BBC as a series called Tales from the Palaces.  Alongside this work, we acted as guides at the C13 Templars’ Barns at Cressing Temple in Essex, which I continue to do.

Cressing Temple BarnCressing Temple (left), located between Witham and Braintree, is of great importance owing to its unique buildings and gardens. Given to the Knights Templar in 1137, its Grade I-listed Barley and Wheat Barns, built in the 13th century, are among the oldest timber barns and few surviving Templar buildings in England. Displays inside the buildings outline the history of the Templars and the site.

As a result of my involvement there, I have offered to guide individuals or groups round the barns, which now boast a Tiptree Tea room, serving delicious cream teas!  Among Cressing Temple's many gardens, the Walled Garden is faithfully reconstructed as a Tudor pleasure garden - one of few in the country and the gardens provide an ideal spot for a picnic.

There is a printed guide book, partly written by my husband, but an actual personal experience is a completely different matter and I had arranged for a party of Lucy Alumnae to come in the summer of 2016 but this had to be postponed, and we hope to try again in 2017.  Please watch out for Alumnae Events in Nautilus as we’d love you to join us!

As I am now a grandmother of five, aged from 5 to 15. I am always keen to promote Lucy Cavendish as a means of enabling women to combine family and career; this has been a problem for my daughter and my daughter in law.  It is one of the most taxing features of women’s lives and Lucy Cavendish College is one of the very few organisations to tackle it head on and to place children’s needs at the fore and to welcome them in college.  It seems to me to be entirely unacceptable to expect women to delay a family until so late that biology intervenes, risks increase, and grandma is in her seventies.  The accommodation of pram or Zimmer frame then becomes the choice!

Thanks to Lucy Cavendish and my mother, I was able to pick up study in my 30s and I am grateful to Marie Lawrence and Joan Simms for being instrumental in enabling me to do so.