I was born in Aldbourne on 24th July 1939 and christened at the Lottage Road Methodist Chapel on the day war was declared, 3rd September 1939. Most of my life has been spent in Aldbourne apart from 2½ years National Service and 2½ years in Australia. I am currently living in Spain since 2003. My mother, Hilda, was born in the village and met my father, Ronald Arthur, in Swindon whilst visiting her sister, Winnie, who was living in Swindon at the time. My earliest memory is of standing on the gate watching the soldiers marching up to the camp which is now Westfield Chase. I must have been three or four years old at the time.
Another very clear memory is of walking home from school when I was about 6, seeing my first black man. I stood at the bottom of Castle Street and saw a mule and cart coming down the street. It was Darky Barrett, a well known character from Lambourn Woodlands who frightened the life out of me. It’s the fastest I ever ran home. During war years it was a treat to go to the shops with sweet coupons but Christmas was probably the best treat, an apple and an orange in a stocking, as I recall. My childhood home was one of four black cottages, as we called them, now Pudley Cottage; a one up, one down with a scullery with one outside tap between four cottages. I lived there until I was 10 when we moved to an ex-Army hut down by the football field where two houses now stand; then it was up to Westfield Chase in 50/51. Modern life has, of course, changed the village from my childhood days, Not always for the better. I remember sitting in Lottage Road in the summer popping the tar bubbles without any thought of cars; you’d be hard pressed nowadays to find a part of Lottage Road to sit down.
I was employed at Chas Staceys, the builders; Mr Chris Mantle was the proprietor, as an apprentice carpenter, working 45 hours a week for £1 10s (or £1.50p in today’s money). After a year I had a raise to £2 and, at the end of my apprentice ship in 1960, I was earning £7 a week. Then it was National Service and back to £1.50p a week.
Our entertainment; not a lot really except for the pictures on a Tuesday provided by Mr and Mrs Kirby from Faringdon. He’d turn up with his van, erect his screen at the end where the stage is now. A little room outside was the projection room. We saw Tarzan, Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, The Bowery Boys, Three Stooges and, of course, the Pathe News all for 6d, (2½ p), 5p if you were at work and for 2 shillings (10p) you could sit in the posh seats on the stage at the back.
Facilities; of course we all know about the 6 grocers, 5 bakers, 2 fish shops and 5 pubs; rather a lot for a small village; but plenty of opportunity to earn a few shillings delivering bread on Saturdays. Mr Freddy Palmer paid 2 shillings and 6 pence (12½ p) for delivering his bread or milk from the three dairies on a Saturday. I later delivered bread also for Ern Barrett; also delivered goods after school for Mr Tommy Barnes’ carrier business he had collected from Hungerford and Newbury for the local people. Like most young lads, summer holidays was an opportunity to help on the farm; following the binder, stacking sheaves, collecting bales and, of course, chasing the rabbits.
Doctors and medical care is something Aldbourne has always been quite fortunate with. Dr. Mills from Ramsbury; Dr Varvill lived in the village, Dr. Morrison form Lambourn held regular surgeries in Lottie Jerram’s house next to Bell Court and later at Neal’s in South Street.
The Feast and Carnival were always the big events in the village; Feast probably being the more attractive to us youngsters; waiting for it to arrive, then rushing down the street to watch them putting it all up. I remember best a lad called Johnny Biddles; he could whistle like a canary and his father had a coconut shy; and also, of course, Miss Foster’s free rides. The Carnival was always a big day but no Fair after the Carnival, just the dance after the Carnival procession.
My wartime memories are just of soldiers marching up to the camp; we did get chewing gum from some of them.
Weather; I remember the floods in 1947, the water rushing out of the tennis courts in Castle street like a river; not being able to go to school because we had no wellies. Apart from that, the summers just seemed long and hot; maybe it’s getting older, we only remember the good times. Overall, as a young lad living in Aldbourne during the war years and the 50s, it was a great place to grow up and, even with all today’s mod. cons., I think we had it the best.