My mother, Caroline Compton, who died aged 81, lived much of her life in Hampstead, north London; In fact, much of it is on the same street, Downshire Hill, numbered 47, 48 and finally 41. Her parents, Diana (nee Croft) and Fred Uhlman, were respectable figures from Hampstead, their home a hustle and bustle where the Free The German Cultural Association and the Artist Refugee Committee were founded.
In her book Hampstead Memories (2000), Caroline remembered stables on Downshire Hill, sheep grazing in nearby Kenwood, ice skating on Whitestone Pond and a ski jump built on scaffolding with snow imported from Norway magically appearing on Hampstead Heath.
Caroline was born at Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire during the Second World War. Her father, a German-born artist and writer, was interned on the Isle of Man at the time of Caroline’s birth, an event that inspired him to make a series of drawings of a girl with a balloon, symbolizing hope and part of a later life published collection of internment drawings entitled Captivity.
She spent her early life in Hampstead surrounded by left-leaning members of the artistic community, who shaped a sense of social justice that remained strong throughout her life.
She attended Burgess Hill Junior School in Hampstead, where misconduct was viewed as a subject of questioning and analysis rather than punishment, and then went to Parliament Hill School for Girls, which presented a culture shock with its more traditional attitude. Later, at St Clare’s School, Oxford, she enjoyed the independence of student life, mixed with students, and discovered the modern jazz quartet and heels.
In 1963 she spent some time as a volunteer in a camp for displaced persons in Austria.
Three years later she married Albert Compton, known as ‘Compo’, a master builder, and together they worked to restore and revitalize the interiors and garden of Croft Castle in Herefordshire, which had been owned and cared for by her mother’s family had passed to the National Trust.
Her connection to the place remained strong and in her role as the castle’s ‘keeper’ she was widely interviewed by authors and art historians. Thanks to her father’s story, she was also sought after by those researching the emigrant experience; and she held two exhibitions of her father’s work in Germany.
She spent her last 10 years in Oxford, close to her two grandchildren.
Her marriage to Compo ended in divorce in 1976. She leaves behind two children – myself and my brother Tristram – and her grandchildren.