By Nathalie Banaigs
Each town has its individual characters, those who leave their mark in people’s memories. Faversham has a few and Jacqueline Hitchcock is one of them. She has character, personality, charm, humour and presence.
We talked to her at her home in Davington.
Jacquie’s father was a cockney Londoner and a policeman. Her mother was French, raised in France by nuns where she learnt how to be a seamstress. They lived in a flat in London's East End.
Jacqueline Makepeace was born in March 1927 in Queen Charlotte Hospital in London. The mention of her birth immediately triggered the first story she can tell:
“ On that particular day, they had a visitation. A lady said “Comme elle est mignonne! – Isn’t she lovely?”… talking about me, nine days old. The lady – as my mother’s only interest in her was – wore the most beautiful toque. It was Queen Mary, who asked her what my name was going to be. She said “Jacqueline”. She asked lots of things. You could see the poor matron was doing her nut because she was being kept too long.”
So here you were, nine days old, blessed by a Royal. That’s not a bad start, is it?
She continues: My academic career started when I was three. I went to a little school where I can remember so proudly wearing a blue skirt and a little white jumper. I know it sounds silly, giving you irrelevant stuff but in a way, it isn’t irrelevant because it’s all part of me.
From there, she jumped straight to journalism, when she worked for the Wembley News at the age of 16.
“I biked into Wembley. I went into the local juvenile employment bureau, but only for a few minutes because a man said : “You! Take this paper”. He told me to write something. I wrote something and that was it. Then a letter, a typed letter, arrived. It was the Wembley News saying: “Would I like to start?” Which I did. “
For three years, she covered sport and show business for the Wembley News. Then, at the age of 19 she decided to go to Paris.
“I’d been to visit my parents’ parents in France. I thought I’d like to learn French because I didn’t know French, to my disgust.”
She was working for Weekly Sporting Review covering show business as well as sport. She met many people, some from the intellectual elite of the time in Paris, including French author and filmmaker Jean Cocteau. The beautiful Jacquie also started modelling in Paris.
In the Spring of 1951, Jacquie went to Spain. Whilst in Madrid, she met Vincent Hitchcock at the British American Club.
Jacquie remembers: “I was talking to a chap called Edgar Neville, a film producer. He was interested in me then because I had just finished dubbing several films.” She was dubbing films as well…
Vincent recalls that day at the British American Club in his book “Torero”:
“I spent a number of evenings at the British American club, playing snooker. One such evening I was playing in the foursome with my American friend, Lyn Goodale, as partner, when a tall willowy blonde walked through the snooker room and into the bar, which on the night of the weekly dance was open to women members. As she passed I remarked to Lyn that we would have to get ourselves introduced, but we continued playing and it was just as I had sunk the black that Frank Porter, a chap whom I knew slightly, came out of the bar and said that he would like to introduce me to someone who wanted to meet me. Taking me to the blonde he said:
“Here you are, Jacquie, you said you wanted to meet a bullfighter. This is Vicente.” He then introduced me to Jacqueline Makepeace.
I said the customary: “How do you do?”
“You speak English!” said Jacqueline, astonished.
“But why not? I am English”, I replied.
“I thought you said he was a bullfighter,” she said, turning to Frank Porter.
“Oh, he is a bullfighter all right but he happens to be English,” Frank replied.
“I never knew English men went in for that sort of stuff,” Jacqueline said to me. “I think it’s beastly. How you can go out there and stab a poor little bull to death, I really don’t know. I would like to do the same to you.”
This was my cue. The rest of the evening was spent in convincing her that the bulls were neither poor, little nor bewildered. By the time the club closed she was very interested and I promised to take her to see a bullfight on the following Sunday.”
Jacquie knows what attracted her to him: “He was quite good looking. He was very good looking, as a matter of fact.“
Vincent writes in his book: “At the close of the 1951 season, Jacqueline and I decided to winter in England. Although neither of us had spoken of marriage it was mutually assumed that that step would be the natural outcome of our friendship. In London the Press were quick to notice our association and printed photographs of us together, labelling Jacqueline as “El Ingles’ new fiancée, Jacqueline the second. She took this in good part and it was one night after a Christmas party that I asked her to marry me.”
But Jacquie was called to the South of France as a correspondent. Vincent returned to Spain in February, alone. She joined him from Cannes and they went to England together.
Jacqueline and Vincent got married in London at the end of 1952 and settled in London. Jacquie recalls: “It was a very pleasant life. We met everybody, because he was so different. Lots of interesting people! And always modern ones. Yes, I met lots of people through London… Nice people…. There was the Crazy Gang for a start. Which were wonderful. They were so funny. Flanagan and Allen.“
Vincent was still fighting throughout the years, training in the spring and fighting in Spain every summer. In London, they lived in Southbury, in Jacquie’s parents’ house. Their daughter Vanessa was born in November 1954. And Teresa in May 1957.
In 1958, Jacqueline and Vincent moved to Faversham, in an old farmhouse in Davington.
Jacquie explained: “We wanted a small holding so we looked into small holdings and there was this house. Just the house, £1,100. That was it!” Jacquie has been living there since.
She remembers Davington village at the time: “There was nothing this side of the road. There was just the other side.”
She also remembers the Creek: “There were lots of barges! Lovely. There was a bit of everything. And there was that lovely Colin Frake… They were all bargemen. That’s what they did! In fact, they were the best, most complete ship builders.”
Jacquie and Vincent’s third daughter Francesca was born in April 1959 in Tankerton. So was Antonia in August 1960.
In 1962, Jacquie’s involvement with the Faversham Society started, joining the executive committee in the early days. One of the first things she was involved with was the cleaning of Stonebridge pond, with Vincent. She became press officer for the society, getting a number of features about Faversham in the national media.
Jacquie always had great admiration and respect for Arthur Percival (co-founder of the Faversham Society). When we mentioned how grateful the town was for Arthur’s dedication in protecting Faversham, Jacquie exclaimed: “ Absolutely! No hesitation! You can absolutely say that with honesty. It was so true. It built Faversham. And it was Arthur that did it.”
In the 1960s, she was still modelling when her daughters were little. With their father away much, Jacquie had to earn money. She went modelling in London whilst a neighbour babysat for her.
“I was modelling everything. Shows… Lots of underwear in catalogues.”
In 1962 Vincent and Jacquie separated. The call from Spain was too strong.
Around 1970, in her forties with four daughters, she decided she had to get a job. She took her O levels, first tried to be a primary school teacher but eventually chose pottery. From around 1973, she taught pottery at Ethelbert Road Boys School and moved with it to Abbey School when it was amalgamated with the girls’ school.
She became Chairman of the Faversham Society in 1997 and kept this role for 11 years. During her time, one of her achievement was to launch the Open Gardens scheme.
Jacquie took many of the exciting opportunities that were offered to her. As she insists: “And I didn’t let anybody interfere with what I was doing!”