Aldbourne Heritage Centre

Q: Tell me Mabs, how long have you lived in the village?

MB: 74 years

Q: And what brought you and your parents to Aldbourne?

MB: Father was a Dabchick and Mother came from a village nearby and they married and came to live in West Street.

Q: What is the very first thing you can remember?

MB: I suppose living in a happy home atmosphere, school at four years under protest. The second day threatened by the headmaster and running up Back Lane. We had four girls and one boy in the family. That’s about it really.

Q: Tell me what was a treat for you in those days?

MB: Treat was a Sunday School tripfor the day to a seaside town.  That’s about all really otherwise we very rarely went out of the village.

Q: That was my next question in fact, how often you left the village, say in a week or a month or a year, what sort of things took you away?

MB: 1952, I was working away wasn’t I, latterly I was working away, but until then probably going to Swindonfor the pictures or shopping because we had a bus service there, or visits to East Grafton, mother’s home.  And this was when I travelled by Barnes’ carrier to Hungerford, then a local bus from there.

Q: And did your family attend the Church or Chapel?

MB: Yes, father was a Churchgoer, in the choir, rang the bells and grandfather blew the organ.  The children helped, I would see us being paid sixpence.  My sister was often told off for reading a novel and forgetting duty.  Mother was also at Church but normally at home cooking the Sunday lunch.

Q: Tell me a little bit about your childhood home?

MB: Home was a small, happy home in West Street; grandparents lived next door, providing a change in meals occasionally.   Everything happened in one room, eating and washing and cooking.  Cooking with an old range that was here.  Doing the washing, the copper stood in the shed  up the garden, we had quite a large garden providing veg, meat because we had pigs and chickens and the loo was also in the garden.   We also had an allotment to help out with food.

Q: Do you have any memories of crimeat all in the village?

MB: Well the only thing I can think of is my father poached, I can say it quite safely now and we actually kept ferrets for doing this and we had a little Jack Russell as well, and so of course we got plenty of rabbits which was very useful in those days.

Q: Are these the famous rabbits that appeared on Henry VIII table?

MB: Yes

Q: Which were supposed to be very big?

MB: Yes they were, The Chase wasn’t it?

Q: The Warren?

MB: Not The Warren, it was up by Betty’s, up that way, the Gentry’s, that direction more I think.

Q: What about the effects of modern life, for example things like the car or gas and electricity?

MB: It seemed to me we always had gas and electricity, I mean we had a very old radio so I assume we always had electricity. But no car, although my uncle had one.  Transport was mostly bicycles, everybody biked everywhere.

Q: And what about employment?

MB: Well I left school at 14, cleaned at the headmasters, he retired at the same time as I did. I delivered milk for the local farm, I think a lot of people did that too.

Q: Was this the Browns?

MB: Yes and also there was the farm across the road here In West Street. I looked after children and some days took a trip up to Great Barr in Birmingham with the family.   I didn’t stay very long because I didn’t like the town at all.   I also tried to have short visit,  for three weeks I think, at the NAFFI, which was in Chewton.  Then off to work in The Priory in Marlborough, the boy’s house for ten years.  That’s about it really, I seem to have moved around a little bit.

Q: What did you do for entertainment in those days?

MB: Guides, Girls Friendly Society, which was very nice and the Vicarage. We had a very nice Vicar here and he invited us to the Vicarage to play games, snooker and games like that because the girls had nowhere otherwise.   The boys had the boys club and he helped out there.   Very nice couple.

Q: Did you go to the cinema at all?

MB: We had cinema, due to the Americans being here in the war.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit perhaps about your everyday lifein your own home; housework or laundry?

MB: Well we all had to help out with the work, we all had to help with the washing-up and doing everything before we went to school because being quite a big family we had our own jobs to do.

Q: Your mother kept you with a rod of iron?

MB: Well yes, except for my sister who got away with it, she always disappeared in the garden. She was rather cleverer, I think that’s when my love of cooking started probably because we helped out when we could really.  One thing we had to do when the potatoes were being pulled up on the allotment, we had to go potato picking, which I hated.   That’s about the only job I think, otherwise there was nothing very strenuous to do or anything like that.   No we didn’t do any washing, my mother did all the washing, I don’t know how they did it really.

Q: Can you remember anything about the local facilities, the shops or the pubs?

MB: Yes, we had four bakersactually baking on the premises, there was one next door here for a very short time because I only just remember that.  One very nice one did cakes and all that sort of thing,  called Katie Barratts, it was on the corner as you go down Lottage Road.   Quite a lot of shops really, offering most things.   The only thing we have never had in the village was a Chemist, I suppose it was too expensive to run one.

Q: What about the shop that was where Raffles was?

MB: Where Raffles now stands was a rather different shop, it had a wonderful collection of needlework, and wools on the right hand side as you went into the shop and on the left hand side you probably fell over a bag of dog food or something where all the animal food was kept. Made for rather a certain odour in a small shop.   Oh, in The Butts was a very small, a very small wooden place it was, all they sold was sweets, which suited us very well.   We only had the odd farthing or half penny to spend in those days.

Q: What could you buy with a farthing?

MB: I think liquorice and things like, not very much.

Q: Bubblegum?

MB: Yes, small things.

Q: Sherbet fountains?

MB: Yes, definitely sherbet fountains. I don’t know whether you can still get them?

Q: Yes you can. What about holidays?

MB: Holidays we went to my mother’s village, East Grafton.  A small village about 16 miles away.  We also went up to Stock Lane, about two or three miles out of the village because the daughter used our house during term time for her meals and that was a sort of thank you for us to go up there and it was very nice up there.   Fresh air and everything.  But mainly East Grafton.

Q: Do you remember anything at all about the value of property/houses?

MB: Yes, my father had a chance one day to buy a larger house about three doors away, an old cottage but he couldn’t quite make the £400. Think about the price of it today?

Q: What about leisure activities, what did you get up to as children?

MB: Well I didn’t except Guides and things.

Q: Climb trees?

MB: Oh yes in the Browns, Its called The Beeches up there.   We used to take a picnic and sit in the tree.  Things that now children couldn’t do. Yes we amused ourselves.   We didn’t have a piano either, but a lot of singing, my father sang very nicely.  But that’s all really.

Q: What organisations were you involved in?

MB: I joined the Guides and the Friendly Society and of course in those days the Mothers Union existed for the mums, because they couldn’t go out could they, unless they’d been to church after having a child. They had to be churched.  I assume the WI but I didn’t know much about the WI then.

Q: Was your mother a member of the WI?

MB: No she wasn’t, I think she was probably too busy looking after us all. We quite honestly some times were pretty close, the first part of the family.   My sister is only four years younger and then twins 18 months later and often some of us of the smaller ones were farmed out to, to what in those days they were called ‘aunties’.  They weren’t particularly aunties, but that’s what they were called.  That doesn’t happen now.

Q: What about a general view of the village, how it was then. You said there were lots of shops?

MB: We had everything here really that we needed. I can’t ever remember wanting for anything.  Mind you we were very poor, we had charity shoes.  We had to go up to Palmers, which is where the Co-op is to get our shoes and did they pinch too.  We were that poor that we had to have help like that.  I think father was a builder, but they didn’t give them a lot of money did they.

Q: What about the provision of medical care?

MB: That was good, we had a good doctor, Dr. Millsand we had a nurse in the village as well and there must have been a midwife around somewhere.  Two surgeries actually in the village, in Neals and also in Mrs Jerrams house which was on The Green.  Dr. Mills would come day or night if we had sickness in the house, he was wonderful.  We had to call him once, I understood that my sister was his first customer because she sat in the bucket of boiling water, because at that time this used to be an old wash house. Originally it was a fish shop and somebody in there was cleaning the fish shop.  There was a fresh fish shop there next door, where the framers was.  Actually going back it was also a bakers.

Q: It had many roles?

MB: It had, it had really.

Q: Do you have any memories about your school days. You didn’t like school did you?

MB: I didn’t mind school.

Q: I thought the head master chased you up somewhere.

MB: Well when I was four. I was OK after then.  We certainly didn’t like the teacher in the first form.  Because in those days she could of course rap your knuckles.  They wouldn’t dare do it now, but she could.   From then on it was all right.   A lot of the boys and girls went on to Marlborough.

Q: But you left school at 14?

MB: I did, because there were so many coming after me they said they couldn’t afford it. In those days you had to provide your uniform and all your books and accommodation, because you had to stay the week there.

Q: Can you remember what you did out of school, out of school activities. Was anything ever organised for you?

MB: Rushing round the village I suppose, when we weren’t helping in the house. In the evenings we were allowed to go out until about 9 o’clock and if we weren’t back then father was on his bike looking  for us.   My sister was rather cleverer than me I think, she lay on the seat I remember once and everyone sat on top of her so he couldn’t find her.  That’s when we played  (I don’t know how to spell it) ierpe, which was a kind of hide and seek game round the village.

Q: What about special events and celebrations in Aldbourne?

MB: The Feast and the Carnival were the main things.   The Christian celebration is the Feast of course.  With the Feast and Carnival came a fair and we welcomed that because a very nice lady called Miss Foster lived in Pond House  and she gave us free rides at 6 o’clock.   So she had quite a few people when the fair started.  Carnival was much the same as today, with the exception being horses and carts were used for the transport.

Q: What about transport and travel, what do you remember about that?

MB: Barnes bus, I remember going on Barnes bus more than anything.

Q: And bicycles?

MB: I couldn’t ride, I tried it once, but gave up very early, and I’ve never ridden since.

Q: How about village traditions, can you remember anything of those, any spoken traditions?

MB: I don’t remember anything in that way quite honestly?

Q: What about war time memories, getting a bit closer?

MB: There were troops stationed in the village. We had Canadian, English and American at different times.  I did remember the boundary were Mrs Duchar’s flat is, was used for the batman, that’s English, the batman lived up there.  The Canadians were very generous, they used to go to sales in The Chapel almost next door and leave bundles of clothes on our doorstep.  The Americans gave, it must have been me, large tins of pineapple.   Mother made pineapple pie and we had what was left of course, known as Pineapple Johnny after that.  Close friendships were made during the stay of all troops really.  A lot of people had open house and they welcomed everybody and that’s when we had the cinema. The Americans, they’ve all been back since, haven’t they?

Q: You said something about nylons?

MB: Yes, we got those lovely nylons and also I remember going up to Upham, a plane came down there and I remember going there and getting the perspex and having rings made with that.   Someone must have been doing it for us.

Q: Do you have any special memories about the weather?

MB: The weather; the floods caused by snow on the hills because it couldn’t get down; only once it happened, it came all down West Street and around The Green. I remember my uncle carrying us across the flood to go and see what The Green looked like so I couldn’t have been very old, I think it was 1941 and I was nine then.