Aldbourne Heritage Centre

Q: Margaret, how long have you lived in the village and would you like to tell us something about your background?
MP: Well, I’ve actually lived in the village for 59 years. I’m not a Dabchick but my father was. His parents, Barney & Liz West kept the Bell Inn in The Square. My holidays and weekends were spent here so that my parents, Bert and Bena West could help out in the pub. We lived in Swindon and when petrol was rationed we used to cycle to Aldbourne on Saturdays and back again on Sundays, every weekend. Sometimes we missed the bus – I mean we used the bus, then when my grandmother died we came here to live at The Bell.
Q: What is the very first thing you can remember?
MP: I think Aldbourne Feast and Carnival were the first things I remember. The fair was all around The Square then and we used to have blankets at the windows to keep the noise down.
Q: What was a treat for you?
MP: I used to enjoy going up to Dudmore Lodge, especially when Mrs Gentry came down in the pony and trap and I went up to play with Margaret in the barn.
Q: I wonder how often you used to leave the village?
MP: I went to Swindon every day to Swindon School.
Q: Did your family attend Church or Chapel?
MP: My family went to Church.
Q: Would you like to tell us something about your childhood home, what it was like?
MP: Well, mostly we lived upstairs but we always had to have our Sunday dinner by 11 o’clock so that it could be all out of the way by opening time which I did not like. We also had no flush toilets which I hated. The washing was done in an old copper in what was called the washhouse and then I used to like sitting in the sitting room upstairs and watching the people going to Chapel on anniversaries. They were dressed in new clothes – it was special – I thought it was Feast Sunday and the Band would march from West Street Chapel to Fred Hale’s paddock which was the field up behind the Memorial Hall where they would congregate and hold a camp meeting, that was always something special as well.
Q: Let’s move on then to employment?
MP: Well, I went to work in Swindon on the 8 o’clock bus and getting back at half past six at night.
Q: And what did you do for entertainment in those days?
MP: Well there used to be films in the Memorial Hall. Also dances every Saturday evening. Major Powell’s stables were in the village then and so there were stable boys from there, some from Baydon and some from Lambourn, so there used to be a lot of people come.
Q: What about local facilities in the village?
MP: Well we had 5 bakers, 5 pubs, fish and chip shop, a wet fish shop, greengrocers, three petrol pumps, a cafe, 5 grocery shops, 2 shops selling haberdashery, a Post Office, 2 butchers, a local carrier to Newbury and a local Doctor. There also used to be a carrier from Axford who always used to come into Barney’s on his way back and have a cup of tea.
Q: Did you have holidays at all?
MP: Yes, we used to go on holiday with my aunt to the seaside and various other places.
Q: And what about other leisure activities?
MP: Well, there were just film shows, concerts, whist drives, socials and WI.
Q: And what was your view generally of the village?
MP: Well in my view, the village has changed like anywhere nowadays, some things for the good but some not so good. A lot of people came here and fitted in and everything was fine; but others found they wanted to change things then they moved onto pastures new.
Q: And how about the provision of medical care?
MP: Well we used to have a doctor here but unfortunately we have to go to Ramsbury now.
Q: And what about the transport and travel and the effects on modern life, as we call it?
MP: Well we always had a car. We went to visit relatives on a Sunday when the pub was closed and we’d go to Marlborough, Newbury, Devizes.
Q: And finally, Margaret, how about any War time memories you’d like to share with us?
MP: I can remember when the first soldiers came, the Worcesters. We had them billeted some of the batmen at The Bell. I used to sit on the stairs when I was sent to bed and listen to them singing. I learned quite a few songs. Later on the Americans came and we used to run out of beer. Just a little which the regulars would come out back and have. My grandma has some thing she looked after for one of the Americans which she sent back to his parents after the War and we didn’t hear anything at all. And then when I read “A Band of Brothers”, I found out what had happened to him as it was mentioned in the book. But we never heard anything ever again but his name was Skinny. It was quite nice to read it in the book about what had happened to him.
Q: Well that’s very interesting Margaret.