Jennifer Maureen Cox, known to most of us as Jenny; a small, stoical and independent lady. She had her regular habits, including a daily walk around the village, and we always knew where to find her on any given day of the week. She never admitted to a day's illness and had never had a day in bed, but was unfailingly polite and ready with a smile to affirm that she was well, thank you, even when looking up from her wheelchair a week before her death. Her story started when, after seven years' engagement, a young couple had saved enough money for their cousin Ron Jeffs to design them a bungalow called Litton. Six years later Jenny was born of Jim and Eileen Cox in that bungalow on Burton Road, she was their second child. Her older brother David was born four years earlier in the same house, and a second generation would later be born there too. Shortly before Jenny's birth her paternal grandfather, George, had died, so her parents moved down the road into the farm house at Wych with Maud and Gran Cox. Wych Farmhouse had four bedrooms but no electricity until the 50's. Maud disliked the new electric so the house was still usually lit by oil lamp. Wych Farm was where Jenny grew up, cycling into school in Bridport, first at the Convent then The Grove School. The extended family all kept closely in touch; the Jeffs kept a caravan on the farm and the Tappers would bring their tent, so the summers were full of cousins camping on the farm. At Wych there were two small 'heavy horses' for the work on the fields, where corn and flax (used to make local rope) was grown. After the death of one horse in 1943 a Ford Standard tractor was purchased. There were always at least two dogs and many cats, all with a useful purpose, living at the farm. In 1958 David bought a whippet. Days later the back door was opened to find a bundle of fluff left on the doorstep as a present for Jenny. The fluff proved to be a border collie dog given to Jenny by neighbours. Monty learnt to drive out rabbits from the fields and Zoe the whippet caught them. Monty was to live a long life in the comfort of the indoors, curled up on an old car seat under a blanket with Zoe. The dairy herd also boasted a bull which was brilliantly named Willy. As well as cows, the farm had pigs and plenty of chickens. When Jenny was a teenager she was in charge of these chickens. She developed an egg round and would load up her bicycle to deliver the eggs to regular customers, adding metal jugs of milk to the load. She became a bit of a favourite with some of them who occasionally left her small gifts. In the winter of 1963 there was a fire at the farm that destroyed a barn full of winter feed. At four in the morning Jenny cycled across the fields in the dark to alert her brother David who lived on West Cliff. They rushed back to assist the firemen. Family habits included a roast beef Sunday lunch, cooked in the Rayburn in the lounge, with both grannies at the table. Attendance in church was at least once, often twice with Sunday School for the children. Whilst they lived on Burton Road they were members of St. John's in West Bay. The radio would be a source of entertainment. They listened to ITMA comedy and "Ray’s a Laugh". For years Jenny had to put up with listening to the The Archers because the other women liked it. The family would attend the operatic shows in Bridport, whose cast would often include members of the Roberts family, who would later become David's in-laws. Jenny's other grandparents lived in Litton Cheney running the blacksmith and village shop. Her grandfather George Curtis had died the year before Jenny was born and May, known as Little Gran, had continued with the shop. Eileen and Jenny frequently travelled to Litton, for years using bicycles, to help May, especially as she grew frail with age, until her death in 1967. It was then decided to give up the farm and have a change of life style. Settling into Beech House the two women ran the shop and Jim turned the large expanse of land into a profitable vegetable plot to supply the shop. The orchard at the bottom was put to the traditional and infamous use of cider making. Jenny, then in her late twenties, always had her extra jobs. This time she became a house keeper to a local lady. Also people would phone the shop to leave a shopping list and Jenny would later deliver the boxes to individual houses. If there were workmen regularly in the village Jenny would make sandwiches to sell to them. When it was time to 'shut shop' the shutters were closed and tea was laid, but the evenings were always interrupted by knocks at the house door by villagers requesting the little things they had been unable to purchase during the day. Jenny decided it was time to learn to drive, it took several years, but she had a very patient teacher in Jim Collins. Eventually she gained her licence and happily tore round the windy local roads in her little cars. Every Wednesday would be 'cash and carry' day. The trip to Dorchester always necessitated egg sandwiches to be made, because egg sandwiches were always made, back in the day when the trip had taken far longer! Her travels took her across the stretch of Dorset to visit family or friends. And she continued the habit, started in her youth, of taking an afternoon Sunday drive, offering when possible to take dear friends out with her. Eileen played the organ and Jenny joined the choir at St. Mary's in Litton. She was a member of the women's institute. She played whist and bingo. She had pen friends from the days of her youth. She had a legendary skill, or knack, of winning things, but refused to play the Lottery. Her 'Jenny Cakes’ have also become a bit of a legend of their own; she made two types, lemon drizzle and farmhouse. Each and every time they came out perfectly. If ever she knew that family was visiting she would make a cake for her visitors to take home, in bags stretched with the weight of them. As we moved away from the area, friends have come to appreciate Jenny Cake in Hampshire, Sussex, Somerset and Birmingham. Jim died in 1981 aged 76, at home in Beech House and Jenny helped her mum care for him. Many years later when her mum grew frail Jenny cared for her too, enabling Eileen to stay at home. Every day Jenny would take her mum out in a wheel chair for a walk round the village, so they could both enjoy the fresh air and chats with neighbours and friends. Eileen died in December 1999 aged 92 in her favourite armchair. Jenny then closed the shop and sold the house that had been owned by the family for nearly a century. With the help of her brother David she found a new small and sunny home in Manor Farm Close. The tiny pocket handkerchief sized garden was packed with vegetables poked between flowers, she was far too successful and gave her surplus away to the neighbours, and every year more pots of gaudy annuals were added to the front patch. Shortly after moving in she suffered a house fire on Boxing Day. Undaunted Jenny continued to have an open fire, where she could make her favourite teatime treat with a toasting fork, and used the same fire guard that had failed her that Boxing Day, but with it bashed into a safer shape. At any family event Jenny would like to be there, and has been very much part of the life of David's four grandchildren. Christmas was always spent with the families of either Cindy or Jim. She would arrive armed with home made Christmas pudding, a wobbly pink blancmange trifle, pickles and beetroot jars. Always a helpful guest she happily threw herself into a noisy Christmas last year within the household of Jim's extended West Indian family. Jenny enjoyed the thought of our family stretching across the world. She had maintained contact with a cousin Muriel who had been born in Canada. One week before she died the niece and great niece of that cousin came to call on Jenny during a European visit from Canada. Their noses were the same shape and they were the same height! Jenny was delighted. It was only Wednesday 16th May that Jenny was suddenly taken into hospital. The day after her 72nd birthday she was told her life expectancy was seriously short. With the help of her dear cousin Mary and the hospital chaplain she prayed for strength and courage to face the coming weeks. She unhesitatingly made major decisions about medication and life choices and by Monday 11th June she was back in her little home. She thoroughly enjoyed being looked after by the many varied carers and nurses. She kept her door unlocked so that her house was open to all her many visitors, and she spoke very warmly of her neighbours. Sadly she did not have long to enjoy this spell of relative health. Her passing was quiet, the morning after Jim gave her the last rites, tucked up in her own bed with Cindy sat beside her, she left this world to join the party in heaven. Jenny was a special little lady with an inner strength that could surprise us. We had imagined that she would enjoy a long life like many of the women of her family. We imagined that our birthdays and Christmases would be marked for many years yet with an envelope containing the same freshly minted paper note inside it that we have all been given all our lives. So we are grateful for those times of fun memories, like her 70 birthday party, hair raising trips in her car, tea in the cafe on market day, bags of things that she had won but didn't want and her Jenny Cake. God bless you, our Aunty Jenny
The Cox Family
Mrs Eileen Cox just after her 80th birthday. At the time she said she had no intention of retiring - although she liked the open air, she didn’t find the change from farming, milking cows and looking after chickens ‘too bad’!
Eileen Curtis (Mrs Cox) in 1914 (at the front)
The following tribute, compiled by her niece and family, was read at Jenny Cox’s funeral on Wednesday 4 th July 2012
Eileen Curtis (Mrs Cox) ‘did her bit’ in the 1914-18 War by Collecting Eggs for the Troops at the Front
Jim Cox ‘did his bit’ as well
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