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Dr Elspeth Veale interview: Background

Name and date of birth:

Elspeth Veale, for official purposes though I'm known as Elizabeth Mary. I was born on 6th May 1916.

Father's name and profession:

Henry Charles Veale. He was a Methodist Minister

When did you move into your first home in Wimbledon?

During the 1950s and 60s I was living in Raynes Park, shopping locally and travelling to and from town regularly.

I understand your father also worked in Wimbledon?

Yes, for a very short time after he retired he served at South Wimbledon Methodist Church and Martin Way Methodist Church. He died in 1955.

Professional education and career:

I took my first degree in history at King's College, London, in 1937 and also a higher degree [in history in 1953 after several years of research. The book developed from my research was published in 1966 with a second edition in 2003] which is why I am called "Doctor Veale". I taught at schools and then for half of my professional life at Goldsmiths College, University of London. My profession - and my hobby - has been the study of history.

When did you first join the Wimbledon Society?

I think about 1970.

Work and activities at the Museum:

I attended first the Local History meetings, then became Curator of Manuscripts and was then on a small committee set up to prepare a new exhibition to go through the history of Wimbledon right around the walls of the Museum. I did a lot of preparing of several of the panels.

Can you describe the Museum before you made these changes?

Well, it was very different indeed. To start with the whole site of the Club and the buildings above it were sadly in need of decoration, particularly the hall. I remember most clearly an enormous mahogany table in the Museum and old glass cases which you had to be very careful not to lean on with one or two medieval manuscripts in them. No additional rooms. It was a very small and rather chilly room.

Were there many visitors?

Well a fair number. I did a duty, of course, on Saturday afternoon. This was before Sunday opening. I used to regularly do that. I don't remember the number of visitors. I don't think it varied a great deal. There were ups and downs.

The Local History Group:

Oh well, that was a much more energetic group. It had quite important people on it. Not only the people who survived like Richard Milward and the man in charge - Guy Parsloe - I knew him very well and admired him. I found him very helpful. I knew him in other circumstances later on in life. I always admired him. And names I also remember were Alan [Elliot] who was already a member and the woman who wrote "Raynes Park, a Social History" – [Evelyn Jowett, published by the Merton Historical Society, 1987]. She lived in Merton Park and she did a lot of very important work for the Society. I think at one time she thought I was a suitable woman to be chairman because she laboriously went with me all the way to North London to hear me give a lecture. But I refused to take over such a responsibility, having had my fill of attending committees in my last years before retirement.