Huge family pay tribute to Hailsham’s ‘Nanny Hedges’

The late Doris Hedges (centre front) and her six children
The late Doris Hedges (centre front) and her six children

Doris Hedges, a close and much-loved member of what must be one of, if not the biggest family in Hailsham, has sadly passed away aged 96.

Doris was born in Hailsham and lived every day of her 96 years in the town. And, testament to how valued the life she led here was, not a single family member after her has left it either.

Family was everything to Doris and she was everything to them; all six of her children and all 111 grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren – a number that was soon to rise to 113.

Despite having a brood so big, they were as tight-knit as the closest of families.

Doris was born in September, 1917 and attended Grovelands School before becoming the first ever resident in The Holt, in a house that was to stay in the family for 70 years.

It was here she met her husband-to-be of 25 years, Alfred, who was a tree surgeon and often tended to the branches behind Doris’s house.

Mrs Hedges worked in the Burrfields rope factory near to her home but later put her job on the back-burner to have children – four sons and two daughters in total.

As they grew up, instead of flying the family nest, they stayed close by, always knowing that Doris’s door was open if ever they needed it.

Even as her family got bigger, whether it through marriage or birth, Doris never shied away from giving the newest member the warmest possible welcome.

Her family said, “She had some sort of magic touch, a rock that if a baby was crying, she would stop them, there was just something about her.

“Everybody used to call her ‘nanny’, even my friends at school who weren’t related to her used to call her ‘nanny’.

“Her family was everything to her and she was just able to make this rapport with everyone. She was always there for everyone and now there’s just this big hole.”

Doris’s second biggest passion, after her family, was gardening. “She’d be out there for hours, drinking cups of tea and gardening until it was dark,” her family added.

When she wasn’t landscaping her own back yard or one of her children’s, she was tending to the gravestones of late family members at the local cemetery, up to 12 at a time, as Doris outlived eight of her nine brothers and sisters, despite being the eldest.

Her family said, “That’s just was she like, always caring about everyone else.

“She was so well-known around the town and she’ll be missed by everybody.”

Doris’s funeral will take place on Wednesday, November 20 at St Mary’s Church in Hailsham (1pm).