Lee Bosence was born in 1909 in Battersea, London, one of eight children. At the beginning of the First World War her mother took the two youngest children to Whyteleaf in Surrey, which was then a very rural area. A sense of freedom and a love of wildlife which was established in her childhood were to become the driving influences of her life.
She graduated in English and Psychology at Bedford College in Regent spark, London. In 1937, after periods of teaching in both France and England she came to work at Summerhill School in Leiston. Here she met Paxton `Chad’ Chadwick (see separate entry), who was teaching art. Lee then joined the Communist Party in 1937. The outbreak of the Second World War caused the school to move to Wales for the duration. But the couple did not follow Summerhill’s move to Wales and Lee became Chad’s second wife from 1940. The consequent loss of accommodation prompted them to have a very basic three bedroom house built on the common at Leiston. Building regulations at the time required this to be low enough to be hidden by the gorse. It eventually became their home for the rest of their lives, and brought Lee into close contact with heathland.
Leiston Common was requisitioned by the MOD, and with Chad away serving in the armed forces, Lee moved to Sizewell where she worked for two years in the women’s machine shop at Garrett engineering works. Here she joined the TGWU. When the machine shop closed, the Land Army beckoned. It was not for long though: Lee readily answered the call of the Communist Party to take up the position of Assistant Industrial Organiser, a full-time post in Ipswich. She was the first ever Communist elected to West Suffolk County Council and stood as the Party’s parliamentary candidate for Eye, Cambridgeshire at the 1950 general election.
In 1948 Lee and Chad were allowed to return to their home. They were able to buy two pieces of heath adjacent to their bungalow. They resisted the pressure to cultivate the land for food production, preferring instead to use one part for egg production, and the other for grazing, which preserved its heathland character.
Chad worked as a wildlife illustrator for Penguin books. After Chad died in 1961, Cassell, the publisher, invited Lee to complete the Pantoscope series of educational paperbacks he had begun. Her research into aspects of fishing and fruit industries gave her the confidence to begin her own literary career. Subsequently she wrote a number of documentary books embracing a range of topics from the future of agriculture to lighthouses and lightships. Research for these took her from Rome to Cuba and to most of the lighthouses in the British Isles.
Lee maintained the example of Chad’s impressive electoral interventions for the Communist Party even into the late 1960s. For example, in 1967, Lee Chadwick stood in Leiston for the East Suffolk County Council elections. She polled 160 votes but this was an impressive 43.4% of the Labour vote and represented a large proportion of the voters.
In 1975 Lee teamed up with artist Evangeline Dickson and Dobson Books to produce the successful `In Search of Heathland’. This had been a personal ambition for many years and the project was due to the combination of Lee’s extensive knowledge of the underlying geologies and historical uses of heathland with her own observations of the biological complexities it supports and her passionate feelings for it.
She was very much involved with the Suffolk Sandlings Group in its formative years in the 1980s. Throughout her life Lee was a principled, tenacious and courageous woman, with strong political views. These qualities came to the fore when she acted as Environmental Witness for the opposition at the Sizewell B public inquiry, speaking up for heathland where others failed to.
Lee Chadwick died at her home on Leiston Common on 22 March 2003 aged 93 years, leaving a son, Peter.
Sources: based on `Profile: Lee Chadwick’ written by Eric Parsons for White Admiral 37 and other material, including the Morning Star, 17th April 1967