Press readers solve Dutch mystery

1:04pm Tuesday 29th January 2013

By Mike Laycock

PRESS readers have come forward to help a Dutch woman discover why her grandmother came to live and work near York at the end of the Second World War.

Jill Weenink appealed last week for assistance in gaining a fuller picture of her grandmother Grada Tjooitink’s early life.

She said Grada had come to England with her sister Willy in 1945 and worked at a big house near Appleton Roebuck, but she did not know which house and what they were doing there.

She said it was a mystery to her family why, so soon after the liberation of Holland, the two girls had came to England, and if she could gain any information, it might provide the missing pieces in the jigsaw.

Within hours, several readers had contacted both The Press and Jill with a stream of information.

Jill said she had received five emails so far, which had revealed that the big house where they worked was Nun Appleton Hall, situated about two kilometres from Appleton Roebuck.

She said she had been told it was once a nunnery, but had been owned until the 1980s by Sir Benjamin Dawson, a wool mill owner from Bradford, and his wife, who had had quite an extensive staff at the hall. However, it had later been sold to local businessman Humphrey Smith, of Samuel Smith’s Brewery, and it was currently unoccupied.

Joan Coulthard contacted The Press to say she had been living on the Nun Appleton estate in 1945 and remembered two Dutch girls coming to work at the house for the Dawsons. She said her mother had even invited them to come for tea on one occasion.

She said the Dawsons had struggled to find staff at the end of the war, and the girls must have been invited over to fill the vacant positions.

Jill said she was very surprised by the big response to the article. “It’s really nice that Joan can remember my grandma and her sister,” she said. “I’d like to get in touch with her to ask her a few things.”

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