Aldbourne Heritage Centre

With hindsight. Aldbourne in the late 1940s was a bit of a ‘literary oasis’ with writers Hammond Innes, Gerald Brenan Foster all living here at that time. At the close of that decade, another writer moved here and took the village to her heart: she was Ida Gandy.
Ida was born in 1885 in Bishops Cannings where her father was the vicar. Her somewhat unconventional mother was a writer and no doubt some of this rubbed off on Ida because she became a compulsive writer at an early age and she was keen on social reform. She took herself off to London to undertake social work, not the conventional choice for a young girl from a ‘good’ family in the early 1930s. She took a job with the Workers’ Educational Association which resulted in a move to Peppard in south Oxfordshire, where she met the local GP. Dr Thomas Gandy whom she married in 1915. He became chairman of the local Labour Party, so both he and Ida seem to have been keen socialists. They lived there for fifteen years and raised three children but Ida still found time to write and stage plays for the local amateur drama group, These proved to be popular and were performed elsewhere.
She also wrote children’s books. Her first book ‘A Wiltshire Childhood’ was published in 1930. In 1930 the Gandys moved to Shropshire and soon Ida was writing and broadcasting about Shropshire country life. During WW2 she was very active in the WI, helping with the many evacuees in that area. Dr Gandy retired in 1945 and they moved to Dorset but sadly, Thomas died in 1948. Ida soon returned to Wiltshire and settled in Aldbourne, living for over 25 years at ‘Upper Sixpenny’ cottage in West Street. By the early 1950s her family were grown up and working in far flung parts of the world and Ida travelled a lot to visit them. She also restarted writing. In 1960 ‘Round about the Little Steeple’ was published, a carefully researched social history of Bishops Cannings between 1573 and 1623, a fascinating and very readable account of life in a Wiltshire village. Another book based upon her family history appeared in 1963. By 1965, then aged 80 she embarked on another book about Shropshire. Finally she wrote the book for which she is best known in Aldbourne: ‘The Heart of a Village -An Intimate History of Aldbourne’, This was first published in 1975 by which time Ida was a remarkable 90 years old! Ida died in September 1977 and is buried in St. Michael’s churchyard. Her ‘Heart of a Village’ proved very popular and was reprinted in 1991. Copies are still readily available via eBay and on-line booksellers. The book is essential reading (and re-reading) for anybody living in the village and there is always something ‘new’ or forgotten from the first reading. Despite the extensive list of ‘Reference Sources’ (which shows how diligently Ida carried
her research before the days of the Internet), there are a few doubters who question some of the information but until such as somebody else puts pen to paper, Ida’s ‘Heart of A Village’ remains the definitive and most readable history of Aldbourne.
Ida’s son, Professor Robin Gandy, (1919 to 1995) was a protégé and close friend of Alan Turing (of Bletchley and computing fame). Robin went on to become an eminent mathematician specialising in logic.