Aldbourne Heritage Centre

Hello, I was born Anne Wilkins, in Lottage Road, opposite the Alma Road turning, and proud to be a true Dabchick! My father was born in West Street, Aldbourne, and my mother’s family moved to North Farm Cottages when she was 14 years old.  I remember a long back garden, with chickens on the bank at the top, also a large white rabbit, and Mum mangling washing in the shed by the back door.   A treat for us was going for car rides, and having a pound to spend at the Fair, Aldbourne Feast, which lasted all night.  Rides were 20 old pence.  Miss Foster paid for free rides for the children when Scarrott’s Fun Fair came during most of the war.  We used to have camp meetings connected with Chapel.  These started at West Street Pump, and then processed to outside of the Post Office, into the Square by the Pond, and then up to the field behind the Hall.  We weren’t really interested, I mean it was Preachers like Mr. Sampson and Don Thomas, but the main reason for going was, if you were sat in the field, you could see the Fair lorries pulling in after 6 o’clock, which they were allowed, and putting up.  Great excitement! As I have said, I attended the Lottage Road Chapel, as did my father’s parents, Mum’s mother attended Church when she moved to The Drove.  I belonged to the Sunday School and the Youth Club.  We did scripture exams. We would learn memory tests, which started with one verse for the youngest, and the eldest learnt three or four verses, usually from the New Testament. We then answered questions on pieces we had been revising.  There was a Scripture Shield presented by the Gloucester District, to which the Chapel belonged.  West Street Sunday School used to win it quite a lot, but we did win it one year.

In about the end of February, beginning of March, we would start practising for Anniversary.  Members of the Chapel would form a Choir, and I remember Tommy Barnes, who was the Conductor, walking down the Chapel shouting “No, no, no you Tenors, you are not right!”.  We practised the songs and anthems for about six to eight weeks.  At last the great day arrived, the ladies would dress in their Sunday best, and we would always have a new dress for the afternoon.  We would be seated on a platform built at the front of the Chapel, services were morning, afternoon and evening.  We gave the Congregation a hymn sheet, but I could never understand why, because I am sure they couldn’t sing the songs that had taken us weeks to learn!  People used to sit out on the bank opposite the Chapel, because they couldn’t get inside.  We used to hold PSAs, Pleasant Sunday Afternoons, and I can remember Mrs. Lilian Smith, Charlie Barrett singing solos and Bob and Stella Barnes singing duets.  Stella Barnes produced a Nativity Play, “A Maid of Nazareth”, one year, and I can remember Dorothy Wilkins, Henry Stacey, Nan and Jean Wootton as some of the people taking part.  Harvest Festivals we always helped, decorating the window sills, which were sloping and you could never get anything to stay put.  One year, somebody had a bright idea!  We would make an Arch to go over the front of the Pulpit, and hang the grapes from them.  Unfortunately, the Preacher that weekend was quite a tall man, and he spent the whole of the morning service dodging bunches of grapes, which was hilarious to us.

M.A.Y.C. Weekends!  This was one of the highlights of our year.  We would travel to London on a Barnes coach, on a Saturday morning, spend time sightseeing, go on to a show in the Albert Hall given by Youth Clubs from all over the country.  We would sleep in Air Raid Shelters on Clapham Common.  I remember long rooms with iron bunks.  On Sunday morning, a service was held in the Methodist Central Hall.

Shops in the Village!  One thing really is a great thing in my memory.  Ern Barrett’s cakeshop!  His wife used to run it, and she had the most gorgeous counter with a thick brass rail along the front of it, and his speciality was three-cornered jam puffs, they were delicious, and I have never had anything like it since.  In those days, I can remember five bakers, five pubs, and three places of worship.

Holidays were spent at Bournemouth, lodging in a B. & B.  I remember having a plastic swimsuit, which was orange and white.  Janet and I had festival dresses, these had a deep border with scenes of the Festival round the bottom of them.  As you can guess red, white and blue!  Brownies were run by Miss Williams.  We met at Beech Knoll, in what is now the garage, and then moved to the Courthouse, which was the Vicarage.  As a family, we moved to the shop at the corner of Castle Street in 1948.

Things I remember!  It was still on rationing, and we had to collect coupons from customers.  The tea coupons were so small, the only way we could keep them, was to thread them on to cotton.  Sugar was in blue bags, the top of which was folded in a special way.  If you did it right, you could turn the bag any way, and the sugar would not run out.  Lard came in large blocks to be weighed out.  We had large round cheeses that had to be peeled.  Sometimes they peeled very easily, and another time they would prove to be very difficult.  The cheese was cut with a wire, between two handles.  We used greaseproof paper for wrapping, and brown and white paper for the bags.  Ice-cream!  A real luxury!  It came down from London by train to Hungerford Station.  Mr. Barnes would then bring it out on his carrier.  It was in a red chest, packed in cold ice, which you daren’t handle else it would burn.  We would put a notice outside on a mock Ice-cream cone which stood about three foot high, saying that Ice-cream would be on sale from 2 o’clock that afternoon.  People would queue, and within about half an hour, we would have sold all the Ice-cream we had.  Dried fruit and rice was kept in large wooden drawers in the counter, or small drawers on the shelves behind.  We had the misfortune to have the big plate glass windows broken twice.  Once when the Gas Board put a pipe in under the pavement, which in those days was a tiled area, and once when the sewer was dug, some mates decided they would throw stones, and would let the dirt that was piled at the side fall down into the trench on a man.  Well, one man threw the stone and missed completely, and hit the plate glass window.  They would cost about £50.00 each in those days, and they were about half an inch thick.  It was really a quite horrendous bang when it went off.

Aldbourne School was the big Victorian building.  Dark green curtains would divide it into two classrooms.  When the Secondary Modern opened on the Common in Marlborough, they took desks from Aldbourne to be used.  These were an iron frame, with a desk and a shelf and a tip-up seat.  They could seat two children.

Feast!  The Dodgems were built out to the white line on the main road.  Mr. McKeon used to be a Special Policeman, and he was always on Traffic duty, directing the traffic.  We would go out at about half past six at night, and not come in again until 10 o’clock.  On the Tuesday night, they decided that it was time to take the Fair down, and my parents used to sleep at the front of the house, and they said that it sounded as though they pulled all the pins out and just let the whole construction fall down on to the metal floor.  They had never heard such noise in their life, and they always knew that they would get no sleep that night.  I can remember Mr. Edwards shouting all evening “One more car, just one more car”.

Finally, food!  Two things I can remember from my childhood.  Lamb tail pie, and I still see my grandmother singeing them over a candle, and bacon pudding, which was made from a suet pastry, small pieces of bacon, onion and parsley were cut up.  It was rolled up like a jam roly-poly, and boiled.  It was absolutely delicious!