Aldbourne Heritage Centre

I. I’ll show you a photograph of some bell ringers stood outside of the church. Approximately what date would that be.
GN: Around 1950; somewhere or other around that.
Q: Can you tell me the names of them starting from the left hand side at the back?
GN: The first one is Arthur Palmer, George Barnes, Me, Reverend Gilding, Bert Kush, Fred Read, George Jerram, and the front Wilf Liddiard, Reverend Gilding, Gilbert the butcher, then Mr Wood the schoolmaster.
Q: He lived at One Ash, the Turnpike.
GN: All these hand bells in the front, they’re in the tower now, they were all cast in the village.
Q: You ring those; where did you ring the hand bells George?
GN: I used to go all round at Christmas.
Q: How many of you would do that? From that photograph how many?
GN: About 4 or 5 of us I s’pose. When I moved from Aldbourne up to Baydon, I was working and when I got down to Aldbourne if they’d been called in somewhere, and the bells wasn’t ringing, well I didn’t know where they were, they could be down Lottage Road and they get called in, I didn’t have a clue where they were.
Q: At the time of that photograph, you were living in Baydon? And how did you get down to Aldbourne?
GN: On the old push bike.
Q: And that’s the one you’ve got in the back now. Were there any other times you rang the hand bells? Apart from Christmas?
GN: No. We’ve got a brand new set now.
Q: Did you ring at any other places?
GN: I’d rung at every one in the Marlborough branch.
Q: And how did you get there in those days?
GN: On the old bike. Sometimes we’d go with Fred Read, he had a motorbike and side car, and then eventually he had a car, but mostly on push bike. It was anything from here as far as Everleigh.
Q: In the Church, then, where about did you ring the bells from? At that time.
GN: On the ground floor. This is in Aldbourne.
Q: You weren’t ringing from where the bell ropes are now.
GN: I’ll show you a photograph of the ground floor, the ground floor room. It’s about the only one in existence that I know.
Q: At that time you were also in the Church choir?
GN: Yes, my father, he was Percy Newman, he was gone by the time, this was all taking place. Arthur Palmer was the main instructor then, he used to have us down from the choir. It was all done on the ground floor.
Q: Tell me about your early childhood. Where did you live?
GN: I lived at Preston then.
Q: Which house was that?
C Opposite the farm.
Q: The middle of the three houses on the right hand side, as you go through Preston. How old where you when you left Preston and where did you go from there?
GN: I went onto Marridge Hill.
Q: Were you at school at the time?
GN: I went to Aldbourne school, and we walked from Preston to school and then from Marridge hill to school..
Q: What age where you when you left Marridge Hill?
GN: Must have just about left school by then. I was working for Sid Watts on the farm then.
Q: That’s the farm as you go through Preston on the left hand side. What happened to your father then?
GN: He was head gardener at Marridge Hill, and when he came up here he went on for Lomax round at Baydon House Farm. That’s how you came to Baydon.
Q: What about your time during the war? Would that have been around about that time, or before the war?
GN: We lived at Preston, I was in Ramsbury Home Guard.
Q: Why the Ramsbury Home Guard and not Aldbourne Home Guard?
GN: It was for Jack Watts and the Watts’s. Being on the farm, I was exempt.
Q: Reserved occupation
GN: Then about 1943, or late 42 I was called up. Then that was it.
Q: You saw service where?
GN: Mainly in the Middle East and then I was at Monte Casino. That was where my right leg has shrapnel in now.
Q: That was in that battle? You saw the relief of it, did you?
GN: No, I was invalided out.
Q: Was that the end of your Army days then?
GN: Yes. Then the this band started up again after the War. Some of them didn’t come out until 46 or 47. It takes a long time to teach anyone to ring binary. You’d know what it was like to have to ring a peal from the ground floor. I’d never pealed them from the ground floor. Up above, where we are now.
Q: How long would it take to ring a peal from the ground floor?
GN: Oh, I think about 3 hours, near enough 3 hours. I’ve got the Pealing Book in there; your name is in there and Paula’s.
Q: That’s so good, George. You went to school in Aldbourne, who was the headmaster, or headmistress?
GN: Jackson, and there was the Sharp person. Jackson took standard 6 and 7 and Mrs Sharp took standard 4 and 5, and then where the other infant school, Mrs Moulding used to teach there.
Q: I had her for one year. What age did you leave school there, what did you do when you left school there?
GN: Straight on the farm, at 14.
Q: I suppose it was horses then?
GN: Oh yes. Sid Watts had the contract and used to do the tarmac and gravel a lot of the roads round here. He had a horse which pulled the tar pot, then the same horses would do for the gravel cart. We used to hire a field off one of the local farmers, oh he could be out as far as, maybe, Bedwyn or Ramsbury or anywhere like that and leave the horses there for the night.
Q: How many worked for him?
GN: I don’t know. I worked for Ern Barrett after that as baker boy.
Q: In the Square? Your brother Eddie, was he younger than you?
GN: No , he was older.
Q: He lived at Marridge Hill with you?
GN: We all lived there then.
Q: Fred’s younger though, your brother, Fred?
GN: Yes.
Q: When did you meet Dorothy then?
GN: 1953. Then we married in 56, so this year will be our golden wedding. Big deal. My life has really been connected with ringing more than anything else.
Q: You were in the choir as well?
GN: Yes.
Q: Who were those people who were in the choir as well, at the same time as you?
GN: I know Arthur was. No, I don’t think any of the others were.
GN: Wilf Liddiard. (C. I’m not sure he was), Charles Woodward, he used to go to Church quite a bit. We used to walk down for evensong, have tea with Arthur Palmer, and all go back after. Great friends.
Q: You’ve never had a car, have you?
GN: I always used the old bike or walked.
Q: What about shops at that time when you were young at Preston and Marridge Hill, what did you do for shopping?
GN: Well the shops at Aldbourne, there were more then than there is now.
Q: How did you get your shopping, did you walk to the village?
GN: Well I didn’t have to do that part of it.
Q: I suppose that was your Mum or someone was it?
GN: There was Wilkins’s, Palmers, there was a paper shop, about five bakers; Wally Palmer’s father was a baker, Ern Barrett, Bert Stacey, Frank Wilson, they were all bakers.
Q: Were you in any organisation apart from bellringing in those day? There was Home Guard?
GN: Yes that’s all, but then that disbanded. It was mostly ringing.
Q: What happened in that very bad winter in 1947?
GN: When everything on the walls got all icy. We were living round at Wentworth cottage where George’s Mum and Dad lived and George was born actually. The trees all tinkled with the ice on them and it went on for days and days. You were at Pettywell.
GN: Moved from Preston to Pettywell during the war, I was away. Fred can remember dates much better than I can.
Q: What did you do for leisure?
GN: Ringing; I wouldn’t interfere with her Mothers Union, WI or anything like that, so she wouldn’t interfere with my ringing. I did my ringing that was it.
Q: Ringing was the major part of your life. Did your father have any transport?
GN: A bike. So we didn’t go very far.
Q: Tell me about your employment George, when you went to Baydon. When you left school you worked at Preston Farm.
GN: Worked at Preston Farm before the Army, then I worked for Sid Watts; then Ern Barrett, the baker, in Aldbourne. So I was a baker boy for a while.
Q: Where in Aldbourne was that?
GN: In the Square, on the corner opposite the forge. Horbrook House. Then I was called up. When I came out the Army I went to Chiseldon Army College, to Chiseldon Camp, for people who were coming out of the Army and going on refresher courses and that sort of thing. Then in 1950 was when I went to Harwell.
Q: How did you travel to Harwell?
GN: Different contractors buses.
Q: Were there any other people in the area who were at Harwell with you?
GN: Oh yes, with Bob Richardson, Dobbin, his boy, worked in the boiler house. I was in the stores, Arthur Brown, he worked at Harwell, and Ted Bishop. That was a 40 mile round trip every day. About 20 miles each way.
Q: Then you continued there until you retired.
GN: Yes. I was just lucky they were beginning to make people redundant, when I was about 63, I still had two years to go. I was beginning to think I would have to go on the dole, but, touch wood, I didn’t; I stayed there until I was 65.
Q: [ to wife] You’re a Baydon girl, born and bred?
GN: Dorothy
Q: What’s your recollections of your early days in Baydon? Where did you go to school?
GN: Yes, I went to Baydon school, all the time until I was 14.
Q: What can you remember about the war in Baydon?
GN: Well it was comparatively quiet here really. Some bombs dropped at Russley Woods. That was about all we heard. We blacked out and rationing, but life went on pretty steady to me.
Q: Was it an exciting time, or particularly hard?
GN: No just ordinary.
Q: What about the menfolk in the village?
GN: Well nearly everybody in my day worked on the farm. There were 7 or 8 farms about here then but hardly anybody worked outside the village. I think Harwell was what really took people out of the village.
Q: Can you tell me how you met George?
GN: Well it was about in 53 and I was down at the fish and chip van which called weekly. George got off the Harwell bus and that was where we met, at the fish and chip shop, and we’ve been together ever since.
Q: You were born and bred here, what about your parents?
GN: Well I think my mother was born here and I think my grandmother, and others before that. My Grandfather was born here as well.
Q: What was the family name?
GN: I was a Miles before I was married, and my mother was a Lawrence before she was married. A lot of people were inter related because nobody went anywhere much.
Q: George you were saying about walking to school from Preston, can you tell me about that?
GN: There were telegraph poles all the way from Aldbourne to Hungerford and Newbury I suppose. So that we got there on time we used to walk one and run two, that made a bit of extra time.
Q: What about coming home, you used to run I suppose?
GN: No, going home we used to take ages, ’cause we used to mess about under Hodders Bridge.
Q: Tell me about Hodders Bridge.
GN: That was just built across the brook in 1936. I think the plaque is still on there from when it was built.
Q: And that bridge is where? Bottom of Ford Farm hill
GN: How can I put it now? Between Aldbourne and Preston, bottom of the hill. There was a clump of beech trees but they cut all them down.
I. Is there a connection between the person the bridge is named after and Aldbourne?
GN: I believe Hodder was a Council man; it was named after him.
Q: Tom Hodder?
C, Could have been.
Q: We used to ring on handbells something called Hodder.
GN: It was a change, wasn’t it? I don’t know what it is now, but that was one of them.
Q: Can you remember anything more about your schooldays, people you were with?
GN: Gerald Jerram, Bill Stacey, Des Wootton, all around that age.