Dorrie lived at Riverbank, Sunbury-on-Thames in a house that backed on to the river complete with a boat house sporting terracotta dragons at the ends of the gables.
The boat house at Riverbank
“Riverbank and the Little House - Riverbank was a tudor house black and white beamed the ‘small room’ on the left had a door in the panels in the corner which lead through to what was known as the Monk’s passage this lead to the garden room down steps was virtually under the house. The morning room stretched across the width of the house and overlooked the large garden that led to the bridge over the backwater and the main lawn and veg gardens about 1⁄2 and acre was on the banks of the Thames to the right was the boat house always smothered with clematis in the summer. The kitchen had steps down to the garden so that we could gather the fresh herbs. Dorrie loved cooking. Upstairs was large and rambling Dorrie’s bedroom looked out over the garden with a large bay window and cushioned window seat ‘My perch”. Bedrooms led off right and left with rooms facing the busy main road to Sunbury-on-Thames.
Next door was the Little House a small cosy cottage where Uncle Sam lived part of the time and after his death my grandmother would stay there. She always said it was haunted by a happy ghost. Gran was not nervous and given to imagining things so I never knew whether this was true but if I stayed in the Little House it always felt cosy and friendly.” Jeanne Bryson
Riverbank and Little House from the front, Sunbury-on-Thames. Dorrie died on 22nd May 1977, at “Riverbank”, Lower Thames Street, Sunbury-on-Thames.
After Uncle Geoff died at the wheel of “Lady Violet” Dorrie was heartbroken. I did not know of his death at that time I was still the only breadwinner to provide for my four children, my husband had left in 1968 selling the cottage and 9 acres where we lived and having told me that he didn’t want me or my bloody kids he was selling the house because he needed the money and that was the last time he even spoke to me. So I was unable to get to Geoff’s funeral as my sister never told me about Uncle Geoff and I learnt later from Dorrie that she had told Dorrie I knew and wasn’t coming.
When I managed to see Dorrie she felt sure Mary wasn’t telling the truth and thank goodness she wrote to me and I went straight down. She was really ill in the hospital at Kingston-upon-Thames. But it was so good to see her and in her usual inimitable way we danced the Conga round the Ward in celebration or being reunited. I went down a couple more times and I cherish those special times but I could see she was not well and missed Geoff so much. She told me that when she died I was not to be unhappy as she had had a fulfilled and very happy life. No tears and you must not wear black. Flowery frocks and only pick flowers out of the garden, fill the house. I kept saying its not going to happen I can get down again soon. But she insisted on discussing it she told me she had told Mary to share the jewellery with me and have what you want out of the house. Yes, Yes I said not really taking it in.
So it came as a complete shock about 10 days later I was due to go down for the weekend when Mary phoned to say Kathleen, the housekeeper, had phone to say Dorrie had died of a heart attack. I hired a car and went down meeting my sister and her husband Alan at Riverbank. I was astonished the place had been left to get unkempt and grubby many of furniture and belongings missing. My sister held forth as though she owned it and wouldn’t let me have a key or a copy of the will. I went and found Kathleen and was really cross with her for not keeping the house clean and tidy. The kitchen was a mess Dorrie would have been so upset. As we stayed at Riverbank after Kathleen had gone home I set to and cleaned the kitchen and scrubbed the floor and hoovered the morning room. The next visit was for the funeral and I wanted to pick flowers for the house it was a constant battle with my sister but I was going to do what Dorrie had asked and I filled all vases I could find because her friends would be coming back to the house for refreshments after the service. It felt so strange without Dorrie’s exuberant personality but she had said no tears but it was hard when Frankie and Johnny and her other friends kept hugging me and saying how much like Dorrie I was. Jeanne Bryson