Aldbourne Heritage Centre

Q: You have arrived in Aldbourne, as small girls.
MC/JP: Lived in the council houses down there and went to the Methodist Chapel and Mum’s son-in-law was the local preacher – we used to have baths every Saturday night, before Sunday; and after that we would have malted cod liver oil and treacle and have our chests rubbed with Vic. The first thing I can remember, I think, is seeing a little mouse in the bedroom at Christmas time sat upon the chest of drawers eating a sugar mouse. We always were allowed to open one Christmas present when the Band came round at half past four; so I would open one thing and she would open something different, because we knew we would have the same.
Q: So you got two presents for the price of one, really.
MC/JP: Went to Aldbourne School, Miss Hawksworth and Mrs Moulding, have you heard of the teachers? – Miss Stroud she was before she married Mr Moulding. And we used to have to say ” Good morning Miss Hawksworth, Good morning Miss Stroud”. We used to knit, we were taught to knit at school, we knitted vests and the wool was with the lanolin in it still.
Q: Who were these for, yourselves?
MC/JP: No, they used to go off somewhere – goodness knows what they were like, smelly and oily I imagine.
Q: What sort of subjects did you do at school?
MC/JP: Reading, writing, arithmetic. We did a bit of parsing, which I could never get hold off – a bit of history, poetry.
Q: Nature study?
MC/JP: Yes, we used to do pressed flowers and we used to have a prize for the one with the best pressed flower collection. We had school photos, but they were just single ones. Sometimes they would enlarge one and, quite often, Molly’s was often the one that was enlarged. This particular time, the teacher called me out (she called Joan out) and I said “That’s not me, that’s Molly” and Molly said “That’s not me, that’s Joan” – it was Joan of course.
Q: Did you play games with people pretending to be each other.
MC/JP: Occasionally, at Mayfield we did – we swapped places at the dining room table once or twice; to muddle poor Miss Hugall up.
Q: When I was a Sunday school teacher I used to teach a set of twins, the Seagrey twins; and I could just about tell them apart when they were together but when they were separated it was very difficult.
MC/JP: (Joan) Jim followed me down the road one day because he thought that I was Molly, but that was partly Wally Palmer’s fault….Have you interviewed Wally Palmer at all?
Q: Did you tease boyfriends? Because that’s another favourite.
MC/JP: Yes, in the war time, at the dances. What else can we tell her? (Molly) The Chapel Anniversary; have you heard about the Chapel Anniversary? It used to take place once a year, the week actually before Whitsun and we would all have new dresses, new hats.
Q: What was it an anniversary of? The beginning of Chapel?
MC/JP: It must have been some sort of celebration of Chapel, but whether it was a specific date I am not sure, because it was always held on the week before Whitsun and, as you know, that date changes. We used to have a choir for which we had a book of songs or hymns, which we used to practice and then sing them on Anniversary Sunday. All the children used to do a poem or we used to do a little duo – Dad used to do a little duologue for us – the Chapel was always full in those days.
Q: Did they have games in the afternoon?
MC/JP: No – that was a different event. We had Camp Sunday once a year which was held up in the meadow at the top of Lottage – the village end, there is a meadow behind the Memorial Hall and there used to be Camp Sunday and Ramsbury Band would always come over. We had the greasy pole, but not then, because Camp Sunday was a religious thing. I think it was Whitsun; Whit Monday, a fete, which was sometimes held in Brown’s meadow.
Q: There was service in the morning and games in the afternoon.
MC/JP: Do you want to know what we used to eat in those days?
I. Yes please.
MC/JP: We used to get fish from Mr Brown and we could buy fish for two old pence, a twopenny piece of fish and a pennyworth of chips, that was from Mr Clifford Brown’s shop in the village, that’s where the old framers was. For tea we often had toast and dripping which would have been beef dripping with salt on it, or toast and lard with sugar. Faggots from Auntie Lou – that was Lou Stacey opposite where the hairdresser’s was. Opposite there she had a shop; she used to make her own faggots, you could take your bowl up and get your faggots and all the gravy. If we had bread and butter, but we didn’t have bread and butter and jam – we had to have bread and margarine if we had jam, or paste; the taste of butter with the jam took the taste away.
Aldbourne School – inkwells, pens with nibs, blackboard of course, with chalk. We were taught writing between lines; your a’s had to be formed like that and the b’s…, anything with a loop went up to the next one and a tail went down to the bottom. The school bell was rung along Grasshills.
Q: This would be in the old building.
MC/JP: If the bell stopped, you were late.
Q: How quickly could you get there?
MC/JP: Pretty quickly, we could, because we lived in the first council house onto Grasshills and we just used to run along like that. It didn’t take long. In our exercise books – I could show you one – we used to colour inside the cover with paint and sharpened skewers; make patterns; and we had some poems inside.
Local industries:- there was T.D. Barnes, they had a carrier business – if you wanted a carrier, Mum would tie a piece of cloth to the pole at the bottom, because there was a path to our house. Because there was a brook at the bottom with a bridge over, then mum would tie a piece of anything to the pole so that the carrier would know that you wanted him to fetch something – from Swindon.
Q: So at that time then, was the bourne open along the side of Lottage Road? Because my husband and I were talking about this when we were walking at the weekend; it was culverted quite a long way along. When was it filled in?
MC/JP: After the war I think – it wouldn’t have been during the war. It wasn’t covered in when I left the village.
Q: And we were looking at the flat area at the side of the road; then there’s the slope and then the broad flat bit and we wondered if that was where the bourne was.
C. Yes, one of us fell down there into the stinging nettles, didn’t we? One of us.
I. Oh, really.
MC/JP: Mrs T. D. Barnes had a small café – I am sure lots of people told you this. She did wedding receptions – she did our wedding reception (Molly & Jim Cullis). She was a little bit off with me because we had alcoholic drink and, of course, Methodists were strictly tea-total at that time. She did mine as well (Joan) and we had alcoholic drink as well.
The seat in the square was mostly occupied by the old men – the village elders.
Q: Whereas now it is occupied mostly by the youngsters.
MC/JP: Yes, that’s right; I don’t know where the old men get to.
Q: Stay at home mostly.
MC/JP: The cinema shows were during the war – were they, Joan? – oh, in the village, before the war. I can remember them. In the village hall – the stage was at the other end at the time. I think they used to break down as well, pretty often. I know it did once anyway.
Q: What else did you do?
MC/JP: Saturday night dances – they were run by Mum Slade and Mrs. Eatwell, actually, and they were for the ‘welcome home’ fund it was called. For soldiers when they came home.
Q: This was the war years.
MC/JP: Yes, it would have happened during the war. We had lots of socials. And socials were different in that we used to have jelly and fruit, tinned fruit, and cream – stuff like that, cakes, trifles, you didn’t have what they have these days. Things like that. And we haven’t mentioned the Sunday School Hall. During the war we had another building – the Sunday School Hall. At the beginning of the war the soldiers used to come and we had evenings there where they had board games where the soldiers came in.
Q: Sort of soldier’s rest rooms? Somebody else, it may have been Connie, said she used to go and help make sandwiches for them. Was it in the building where the post office is now?
MC/JP: No – it was in the Lottage Road Methodist Sunday School, the one we are talking about. Perhaps Connie’s is different.
Q: I thought that was a nice thing – it would make them feel more at home.
MC/JP: Of course it would, yes. And we used to have them down on a Sunday; they came to Chapel.
Q: I am not surprised that many feel so warmly towards Aldbourne, I’m sure they got very well looked after.
MC/JP: The Americans as well, they were well looked after. One fell in the pond; no, the brook. You know where the brook goes under the road by Goddard’s Lane, well one fell in the brook there and the people who lived in the house there took him in and gave him some of father’s clothes. I don’t know. Ruth; Ruth Powell.
Q: Was he alright, apart from being wet?
MC/JP: Oh, yes, but he couldn’t tell it was a flood and you couldn’t tell where the bank was and he fell in the brook. We had a little boy drown in the brook.
Q: How did you feel about the war when you were here– did you feel it was something that was far way and didn’t really touch you?
MC/JP: Almost, didn’t we? To start off with, at Mayfield which was where we lodged in Marlborough, when the alarm went off, we used to go down to the dining room, didn’t we? There was a big long wooden table and we used to get under that but, after a while, we would just stay in bed, because we realised nothing was really happening in our area. But to start off with, we used to go downstairs. But I think the war to us was really just something you heard about almost. With the soldiers in the village we had a good time with it and, at that age, 15, 16, 17 you don’t realise the significance of it.
Q: It was something exciting, different to the way it was before. I can understand that.
MC/JP: We’ve lost a lot of the facilities, as no doubt you know, in the village. We used to be able to get petrol.
Q: There’s a lot gone since we came in 1994, and we could still get petrol here and the other framing shop was still here, the bank had only just closed, there were two hairdressers and the haberdashery shop was still here on the Square.
MC/JP: Liddiard’s do you mean?
Q: I don’t know what it was called but it was in the shop that subsequently was a hairdressers and is now an office.
MC/JP: No, it wouldn’t be Liddiard’s because that was where Raffles was – Liddiard’s corn store.
Q: Yes, I’ve seen photographs of that. People have said that there was no need to go into Swindon, you could pretty much buy everything you needed, whether it was clothes pegs or curtain fabrics to everyday items.
MC/JP: She knew where everything was in that shop, but it was a terrible, terrible, muddle, Mrs Muriel Liddiard it was – awful muddle. Mum used to go to Newbury on a Thursday to the market, not every week, that was an outing, on the bus. Five bakeries were in the village then. Ern Barrett used to make lovely little fancy cakes.
Q: It would be nice if we had one now. What about the lovely cream horns that came…
MC/JP: Say you had a half a crown to spend – he wouldn’t let you have it all with cream cakes, you had to have some of his plain as well. He made them go round. Of course, Wally Palmer’s lardy cakes were out of this world. Did you ever buy his lardy cakes?
Q: My husband is very partial to lardy cakes; we do buy them from Jez.
MC/JP: I was just going to tell Kay that on the 1st September, which was a Friday, the territorials went off to the war, but into the village came this boys school. We were expecting mothers with children, mothers and babies. I know a friend of ours had an extra bit on her house, she got this extra bit all ready for mothers and babies, that was Dolly, but when they turned up they were a boys school. So people went up to the school where the evacuees were and picked who they wanted. I suppose I shouldn’t say this but there was one boy who was a bit over weight…Joan and I, we were 11 or 12; and we said “Mum will wait until the end and bring him home” She was very kind. They only stayed about a week, they didn’t stay long; they shouldn’t have come apparently.
Q: Where had the mothers and babies gone?
MC/JP: No idea. Then we had children from Dagenham, real sort of East End children, chalk and cheese to Aldbourne. There was a couple next door who didn’t have buttons on their clothes, things like that. Jim was an evacuee, yes, my husband came from the East End, Isle of Dogs, came to Swindon. He was an evacuee. Anyway, Mum came home with five children that day, she had three for herself and two for her daughter who lived next door, and was away.
Q: She was obviously a very kind hearted lady.
MC/JP: Oh absolutely. She was lovely. She had a brother and sister, and, although the girl was too young to come to school, she was allowed to come with her brother. That night the girl cried, so Mum let her sleep in the same bed as her brother, which was, of course, not really allowed. She was only a little one, not very old.
Q: Amazing what went on then, but I think it depended on who you were put with. Some people undoubtedly had a very positive experience. My Mum was evacuated to a number of different places. The first place she went to was dreadful, the lady was an alcoholic and completely incapable of looking after a child. Mum went to school the next day after going home soaked through so that her skin was dyed blue with the gabardine and the teacher, saw the state of her, asked what had happened and she told them that she had gone home and been left on the doorstep in the pouring rain all night. And then went to a different home and that couple were magnificent; they wanted to adopt her. She had such a good time, they were second parents to her so I think if you got the right people in the right place, it could be a life-changing experience.
MC/JP: People did their own haircutting, you know – Dad always cut our hair, a little fringe, and shoe mending. He mended all the shoes.
Q: Did he do these things for other people as well?
MC/JP: He used to cut hair for other people, but I don’t think he would do shoes. We used to have quite a few of the village people come for hair cutting – go outside – he’d sit them on a chair outside.
Q: People were more self sufficient I think.
MC/JP: We had to be, you didn’t have the money to spend out on hair cuts and things like this.
Q: And expectations were different as well.
MC/JP: Yes. The house we moved into in1935 was one of the first that Uncle Dick built, wasn’t it, and we were quite thrilled to be going to a house, from a council house, that was being bought. Really not a lot of people had houses in the village really, not to buy, only the more well off people; lots of cottages with farm workers in and so on. That was in 1935.
Q: Where was that?
MC/JP: Just up the road in Lottage, you know where the brook starts, two places back from the road, on the right hand side as you go up, just before the start of the brook, that’s where we moved to then. Uncle Dick actually, who was Mum Slade’s brother; he, a Stacey, built quite a lot of places in the village, some of the bungalows up Baydon Hill and so on. I think we actually went into the first one he built there. And Jim said it was held together with six inch nails. Don’t let that be broadcast. Not only that, we used to pump water into the tank in the scullery, most people wouldn’t have been doing; they’d have been getting buckets.
Q: Practically everybody I have spoken to had to get water in buckets from the garden or from the well.
MC/JP: This was pumped into a tank and we drew it off from there.
Q: Which I imagine, was a great modern convenience at the time..
MC/JP: It was. With an indoor loo, a water closet. I don’t know what else we can tell you.
Q: Holidays, what did you do for holidays.
MC/JP: Went to relatives, we went to relations and one day a year you would have the Sunday School outing, which was four bus loads, or charabancs as they were, would have gone from the village.
Q: And did you always go to the same place?
MC/JP: Oh no, we didn’t – went to Bournemouth, Weymouth
Q: Gosh, that would be a long way to go in those days.
MC/JP: It was so exciting for us you see we actually went on a train at one place, but I can’t remember which one it was. We used to go to our grandparents near Newmarket, but we didn’t go on holiday like we do these days. But it was a holiday wasn’t it? Used to enjoy it; Mother had eight brothers and one sister – ten children in all. They grew their own peas and things. That’s what we did for holidays.
Q: What about the winter, because there was supposed to have been a really bad winter during this particular timeframe and what do you remember about that.
MC/JP: Well I remember sitting in front of the fire and roasting all our legs and as soon as the doors to the passage were open you got a blast of cold air and waking up with Jack Frost on the windows at night; lovely patterns. We are spoilt these days with central heating, but I wouldn’t have it any different. But, I used to love sitting in front of the fire, but you did get your scorch marks on your legs, chilblains, really hot at the front and freezing at the back.
Q: Did you have any experience of pipes freezing?
MC/JP: Yes, we did, but that would have been later on after we were married. I can’t really remember when.
Q: Different people seem to have been more affected by it than others. People living further out and, having to walk in in the snow, may have made more of an impression.
MC/JP: We used to have…if it was a very dry summer, the well used to dry up and we used to have to across the road, to Aunt Nell, we used to call her, to Miss Palmer, and her well was obviously very deep and we could get water from there. If you go up Lottage you will see all the water running out, that’s where she lived and that’s where her deep well is and the water table is obviously much higher there.
Q: Yes, I notice at the moment walking along Lottage by the run of cottages opposite ND Services and, although they have all got the weep holes there are positive streams coming out. The bourne does seem to be particularly high this year.
MC/JP: It must have been high in about 1940 because some of the soldiers that were billeted at the Stables used to visit; Mum used to have a lot of soldiers in, really; and they had to come down the lane across the meadow to get to our place. They couldn’t come right down the lane and along the road because it was flooded. John Light and John Brooks; oh, I remember the names; they used to come to Chapel.
We used to have local preachers come from all round the village to the Methodist Chapel.
Q: Provision of medical care?
MC/JP: We had Dr Mills who was based in Ramsbury who did the whole area and there was a Dr Varvill who lived up Castle Street. But Dr Mills was; I think would do more or less everyone and he would rush up the path, we’d open the door and he would rush in. The surgery was up the Green next, almost, to where Harry Sheppard lives on the same side as Raffles. In the house there, we had the surgery. Then it moved down to Neals; Neals came after the Green. I had to go up to Lambourn to the doctor once when I had a bit of a mishap. I had stitches; you can’t see them now, it’s on my ring finger. I had six stitches there and, I mean, they would do it in the surgery, stitch you up. I was given sixpence. At that time I was used to having a Saturday’s penny.
Q: So it was almost worth cutting your finger?
MC/JP: Yes, it was really wasn’t it? There weren’t many cars in the village at that time. Charlie Stacey, he took me up there, we went in his car. But that was another doctor obviously we used, a Doctor Green.
Q: Why would you have gone to Lambourn?
MC/JP: I don’t know why we should have gone to Lambourn rather than Ramsbury at that time – I was about 8, 1935 it was.
Q: But you survived childhood without any of the major mishaps?
MC/JP: Yes, we did. One of us shut our finger in the car door – Freddie Palmer’s car.
Q: Did you have any experience of any crime at all, because hardly anybody can even think of something and the picture being painted is that Aldbourne was completely crime free.
MC/JP: We would go out and you wouldn’t think of locking your door because nobody would come in and take anything. I can’t remember anything. And everybody knew everybody, so if someone was up to no good, everyone would know who they were.
Then there was the ‘stop me and buy one’ – I expect somebody has told you about that have they?
Q: No.
MC/JP: Well, he was the ice cream man; he would be on his bike but he would have this trolley where you could…..
Q: Like a delivery boy?
MC/JP: Yes, a covered in sort of thing and we used to get snow cream on a stick I think it was for a penny or tuppence. That was ‘stop me and buy one’. A bloke used to come round on his bike, I suppose he was a Sikh –with a turban on his head, selling things. Lil always had him in.
Q: That would be unusual, I imagine?
MC/JP: Yes it was – that was at the beginning of the war wasn’t it? No I think it was when we were out in the council houses. I think it was earlier than that. Oh, your memory is so much better than mine. I don’t know whether it’s being in the village all these years. She was like a sister, really, Lil.
In war time we had visitors from the Channel Islands, Jersey or Guernsey, because that was occupied. We used to put the wives up. We had soldiers from there and their wives came to visit.
Q: Is there anything on your notes that we haven’t covered?
MC/JP: No.
Q: Well, then I will officially close it. This concludes the interview carried out with Molly Cullis and Joan Phizacklea.