549 Church Street
Story submitted by Jenni Slaven, owner of 549 Church Street
based on a letter and photos from Mrs. Joan C. Couper.
Jenni writes that while she was home one day, she was visited by an elderly lady and a middle-aged couple (her son and daughter-in-law). The lady, Mrs. Joan C. Couper, was the granddaughter of the original owners, Christopher William Dickens and Phoeby Lacey of England, who built the house in 1924. Mrs. Couper was visiting from her new home in British Columbia. Jenni welcomed in the couple and witnessed a truly special moment as Mrs. Couper related to her relatives the memories that came flooding back as she walked through the rooms. The following are excerpts from a thank you letter Jenni received shortly after the visit, giving insight into life in Beaconsfield in its earlier years.
Facts about the house
It was built as a summer residence in one corner of a four-lot property at the corner of Lakeview and Third Street over a period of several years beginning in the late 1920’s. The original address was 549 Third Street. It was changed to Church Street in the 1940’s. In the 1930-1940’s it became a permanent residence for my grandparents. The name Wembley Cottage over the front door was copied from my grandfather’s childhood home in Wembley, England.
Things I remember about the house
The dark green kitchen of the 1930’s was a bit of a mystery, no water taps, just an ugly green water pump in a sink (to match the green walls no doubt), great if you had the strength to pump the water – I didn’t as I was only three. I Just remember being very thirsty most of the time. (Just kidding!) The outhouse of the 1930’s and 40’s was not my favorite place to be, even though we used it only in summer. For toilet paper we used tissue paper which my grandmother cut into six-inch squares and hung on a long nail on a wall. There was an Eaton’s catalogue to browse through as we sat. We also hung our artwork on the walls and it was obvious to us all at a very early age that it was unlikely that any of us would be making a living as artists. Oh well!
Trees and flowers
Single and double lilac trees in shades of white, pale mauve and deep mauve were numerous around the property. Under one tree was a large patch of lilies of the valley which bloomed every year with no coaxing. Peonies, in white and several colors of pink were all over the grounds. They had a lovely fragrance. When I was married for the first time in 1957 at Christ Church on Fieldfare Avenue in Beaurepaire, we decorated the church with baskets of those peonies (Probably because the price was right). I can close my eyes right now and smell them ― how lovely!
Mrs. Couper was clearly thrilled to see the house of her youth once again, and to have someone like Jenni, who loves the house as well, with whom to share her remembrances.
Introductory and last paragraphs written by J. Slaven
Letter condensed by D. Bouchard-Serhan