Aldbourne Heritage Centre

Q: What I would like to ask you both first is what were almost your first things you can remember looking right back to childhood? Can you think of anything like that?
Carol: The first thing that I can remember certainly is when Guy was born I was shipped off to the Vicarage in Aldbourne, which is now the Old Court House, to stay with the Reverend and Mrs Elliott, who were great friends of my parents and I stayed there while Mum and Guy were in hospital and was forever being told or hearing “keep that child out of my sight” by the Reverend Elliott. I don’t think he had much time for small children. That is my first memory, that was in ’39 and I can also remember the very bad winter of 1940 when a certain birch tree at the back of the house had its top taken out by the freezing rain and snow that fell and it made it so heavy it just broke it down.
Q: Why did your parents decide that you should go to the Vicarage? Was this such a traumatic situation?
Carol: No I think it was the fact that Mrs. Elliott had a great love of children, she’d had four of her own, and she probably even offered to take me. I remember creeping into her bed every morning after the Reverend Elliott had got up. Yes, that’s the first thing.
Q: How about you, Guy?
Guy: It’s interesting because it’s probably the first thing I remember was being bundled under the kitchen table next to the terrier dog in dog basket which was underneath and then Carol joining me moments later and then it was like thunder. I didn’t know what it was, but apparently it was the bombs which were dropping for Daltons old house which is now Westleaze, so yes, that is the very first thing that I can remember. After that, it was fairly vague, until probably about 1944 when, Carol by that time was at school, and I was very simply treated as the mascot by the American Servicemen and I had the best playgroup one could ever dream off because I was taken off with them for most of the day, and they played soldiers, which was a pretty serious thing; a ride in a jeep was always a bonus, as they paraded outside the house shortly after eight in the morning.
Q: Which house was that?
C. At the farmhouse at Ewins Hill.
Q: They were camped up there?
C. No, they transported them out of Ramsbury where they were based and the Ramsbury unit trained at the North of Ramsbury whereas the Aldbourne units trained to the north of Aldbourne, and I mean from my point of view there was thrupenny bits and pennies and halfpennies and Rowntrees Fruit Gums and Wrigleys spearmint chewing gum and it was great fun. I mean it was if you like primitive conditions compared to today but Mother and Father established great friends with a couple of American Servicemen; sadly one who died at Normandy as a parachutist, and the other one, well, still keeps in touch with the family now. The widow is actually over in San Jose, California. So that’s some of the earliest memories. I can also remember fairly vividly, because it was a vivid experience, my first sort of known holiday, and that was to go down to Cornwall in 1944. It was vivid in more ways than one because I went then with not only Mother and Carol but also with Olive Fraser and her two children, Katharine and Duncan who lived on The Green in Aldbourne, and the two mums and four children all went down to a place called Pentire Point opposite Padstow, North Cornwall and intending for a fortnight’s holiday.
Carol: The reason I must butt in is that we went down there is that the doctor thought I had TB and he said “what Carol needs is a dose of sea air”. He said “had we got anywhere you can take her” and Olive Fraser knew somebody who had relations in the village actually, it was Peggy Fisher, Mrs Stewart, her sister, and we went to stay in this cottage at Pentire Place Farm, and on the way down on the train, I contracted measles, so it was not TB at all, it was the measles that was the matter with me. I gave it to Katharine and Duncan Fraser, they in turn gave it to Guy. We were there for six weeks.
Guy: So it was a pretty long stay one way or another and measles was a notifiable disease and movement was restricted, so one couldn’t go very far anyway or travel back. I can remember, it was interesting because I think it was George Dew, who kept the Victoria Pub in Aldbourne, next to West Street Motors there, and I got a feeling that he took us into Swindon Station and from Swindon Station it was an all day train journey, fairly slow, but vivid sort of memories of seeing a barrage balloons above Bristol, Plymouth and Exeter. And also the ruins at the side of the railway tracks, certainly Plymouth, because it was a creep journey with a steam engine and carriages. You know, because the tracks were being repaired and there were demolished buildings or blitzed buildings right up the side of the railway. And so it was probably late afternoon before we actually arrived at Bodmin Road, and then the taxi from there to Pentire.
Q: Could we come back to the War? Other than the fact that the Americans were based in this area. What other direct impact; you mentioned bombs at one stage, was it an isolated incident?
Guy: Yes, very isolated.
Q: Was that pretty much all that happened?
Guy: From an enemy aspect, yes. The principle reaction for the area was that father went off on his Home Guard, which I didn’t know much about I must admit, but the sheer involvement of the volumes of American personnel in the area.
Q: When did they first arrive?
Carol: Late 1942? Or early 43?
Guy: 43 I would think.
Q: It was really the build up to D Day?
Guy: Oh yes, that’s right. The other thing that I can, such a vivid memory as well Mike is that the parachute training drops that happened over, because the farm was right on the edge of the dropping zone and that dropping zone went from almost Stock Close Farm to Ewins Hill Farm and then right down to Hilldrop Farm near Ramsbury, and you got a multiple colours of parachutes. Anything up to a thousand parachutes coming out at a time from being discarded from either gliders or from Dakotas DC3. There were the occasional bomber conversion such as the Stirlings and the Halifaxes that were towing gliders as well, but the sky used to be covered with parachutes.
Carol: I used to drag Guy along to see if we could get to a parachute before the Americans could, so that we could get hold of them, so that my mother could make underwear out of them. And another thing I can remember my father always warning us not to go outside too much or too far from the farm when they were doing these drops, particularly with gliders because having let the glider go as it were, they would then drop the hawser, the tow rope, yes, and I think Dad found a couple didn’t he? But it was you know…
Guy: It was a very thick rope. It was probably a good two and a half nearly three inches in diameter, and then probably the best part of you know about 200 or 300 feet long, so it was a very substantial weight to it as it were, and then clasps on either end obviously…
Q: Presumably they came round and recovered it?
C. Guy, Oh yes, they did, would soon be round picking up any, or attempting to get any parachutes that had landed in trees, because the colour coding of the parachutes reflected on what, in theory, was in the bag beneath, it was probably only about one parachute in ten was personnel..
Q: Right, they were dropping ammunition and all sorts….
Guy: Yes, food, in theory, yes, so a lot of it was practise dropping, not only for personnel but to find out the wind variation, the drift on the parachutes, you know, how to recover them from trees, all this sort of thing as well.. Yes, it was important. The other thing which was almost a forgotten thing as well Mike was that in the hedgerows they used to put cardboard cut outs. These cardboard cut outs could represent an enemy, but the thing was never to stand near one, or if you saw one, then to walk fairly quickly past because they were used as long distance target practice by sniper rifles and so that was the other thing, and there were quite a few of those sort of planted along the roadside, as I say a sort of practice shot tactic as much as anything because people would walk upon them, suddenly see the sort of cardboard cut out shapes in the hedge and that was what they were designed for.
Q: Did these gliders ever crash or?
Guy: Some did unfortunately, Yes, there was a bad collision at Whittonditch where two DC3’s actually collided, both towing gliders, and there were a number of people killed there. Yes, there was a crazy situation at Axford whereby they dropped a glider into a field there and it was an aircraft, Captain Horn, aircraft pilot, but he believed he could recover the glider from the field and in the attempted to take off the whole lot crashed
Q: So there is the memorial actually at the Red Lion.
Carol: Another thing that happened during the war which actually impacted on the farm was the fact that there were prisoners of war in the area and we had them up at the farm potato picking, and they were Italians and Germans.
Guy: And they came from the camp just beyond Baydon, just prior to the Lambourn turn, there was a prisoner of war camp there, which was of course very close to Membury Airfield…
Q: Yes, is that where all these aircraft were based?
Guy: The majority of the aircraft that were used for the dropping were actually at Ramsbury at Rudge, and there. I think that Membury was perhaps, yes, a similar but it was more of a support and there were fighters as well that came into Membury at the same time.
Q: Coming back to the effect on Aldbourne, other than rationing and food restrictions and things like that, and the fact that people you say were called up in the Home Guard, some of the men in their 20’s and 30’s would have been called up….
C. Guy and Carol, Yes, yes…..
Q: So there would have been a lot of women at home alone?
Guy: The Land Army Girls. That was the other, although we didn’t have them at farm, but they were certainly on other farms….
Carol: Of course, they were an excused …
Q: Occupation?
C. Carol, yes, they didn’t have to… they were working on the land, then they weren’t called up..
Guy: The other thing of course that obviously affected you know, certainly rural communities was the petrol ration and the non-availability of transport. I mean, our form of transport at the farm was a pony and trap, and that was Danny, who was very much of a character. He was a formerly a baker’s delivery pony in Swindon, and during the mid war years the farmer took his bicycle into Swindon and came back with his pony and trap. The pony and trap came all up the Kingshill in West Swindon, all along the Bath Road, Devizes Road, Marlborough Road, straight out through Liddington, when it got to Liddington Hill, he actually steadied up, because he had actually not been that far out of Swindon….
Q: Or up a hill before …..
Guy: Well, he’d been up Kingshill a few times, and the streets around Swindon, but a tremendous character, and I mean that really came out of various things that he did. He was grazing at the side of the brook just outside what is now Strawberry Hill on a piece of grass there my father called to see someone in one of those houses. He strayed a bit too far and tipped himself over and the trap as well into the brook, so he had to be released out of the harness and was absolutely soaked, and he almost had pneumonia as a result.
Q: At least there was water in it in those days …
Carol: Oh yes, in fact we thought he had drowned, Dad had to cut the traces and everything to get him out.
Q: Perhaps an interesting aspect comparing the village today and then, was The Bourne generally flowing?…
Carol: Yes, as I remember it, yes…
Q: Flowing, most of the year?
C. Carol, Yes and Lottage was very often flooded.
Guy: Of course, there was an open ditch from where the Foundry was going right to the end of Lottage then, which wasn’t covered and, of course the other thing is that when a fellow started school, Carol was already there, it was school children up to 14 years old because there was no secondary education as such. There was a Grammar School, that took the 11 plus but if the children didn’t achieve the standard.. (Carol. Got a scholarship to the Grammar school)… Yes, and…
Q: So did you actually finish school at 14?
Carol: I went on to the Grammar School at 11, yes.
Q: But if the children who didn’t ….
Carol: In 1948, the next year the Secondary Education Act came into being, so Guy in consequence went to Marlborough Common, the Secondary Modern School.
Q: Before that, what happened to children when they got to 14 ?…
Guy: They then finished their education, and that education was all provided at the village school, so there was no transportation of children. Carol in fact boarded at Marlborough….
Carol: I was a weekly boarder. It was an innovation because they had never had boarders there, going to the Grammar School before and there was the.. I think it was in anticipation of the Education Act, because they took children from as far away as Tidworth and Ludgershall and the Collingbournes, and yes, there were a couple from Avebury, but it was Wye House almost opposite … well it’s the big house on the left at the roundabout as you go down the hill onto the main road at Marlborough, and there were about 30 of us to start with, boys and girls, with a Housemaster and a Matron and we had dormitories of three, four and five girls and boys.
Q: It must have been difficult for the school to have had all this thrust upon them, they must have the space presumably?
Carol: Yes I think they did. I think when I went there, there were just over 300 children and by the time I left there were about 450, so it had grown quite considerably. It was an Edward VIth Grammar School founded in 1550, it had a pretty good reputation.
Q: It would almost have been competing with Marlborough College at that stage?
Carol: It would have been, yes, yes. The only contact we had with Marlborough College was table tennis actually.
Q: That was pretty low level. You would have thought you would have had some football and cricket.
Carol: Cricket and tennis? No we didn’t. I played in both the hockey and the tennis team, and we went all over the County playing other Grammar Schools, Calne, Chippenham, Swindon; Headlands and Commonweal, and how far south did we go? Can’t remember, Devizes we went to.
Q: And the College were set apart?
C. Carol, yes.
Guy: I mean the other thing is that of course with the Secondary Education Act a lot of the Authorities had to try and find sites for schools, because there wasn’t the availability of buildings, suitable buildings, so, and also the raising of the school leaving age from fourteen to fifteen as a result, and therefore it was the old American Hospital, again on top of Marlborough Common, that became the Secondary Modern School and years ago it was a conversion of the Nissan huts and various other buildings certainly became into being used.
Q: Yes, just making a change like that, the impact all over the country must have been tremendous.
Guy: Oh yes, and of course the bussing then of the children out of the village and from the outlying areas to take them daily then into Marlborough and back, so, yes it was quite an interesting exercise.
Q: Who was that?
Guy: That was Barnes’s Coaches of course.
Q: Yes Guy, you were saying ….
Guy: I mean the other thing as well was the limited amount of contacts that one had because of the non-availability of free transport or, not free transport but the restricted buses that visited the rural areas, and also the lack of private cars. I think it was probably about 1949 when father got his first Ford Van.
Carol: I was certainly at the Grammar School because I remember him coming to pick me up on a Saturday afternoon; if I was playing hockey or tennis, I stayed overnight on the Friday night, so that I could go with the rest of the team and he would pick me up if the weather wasn’t too good from the boarding house at school, and I certainly remember having cycled in one Monday morning which I used to do during the summer, and then cycle back on a Saturday after having played tennis, one wet day my father came to pick me up, and backing his van over my bicycle, so he had to mend it and get a new wheel.
Q: So there was no public transport provided at that stage to take the children who were living in Aldbourne for instance and having to go to Marlborough, because not all of them could board I would imagine?
Carol: No, in fact it was only, I mean none of the other children from Aldbourne boarded. It was only because I lived out of the village that I boarded, and I think at the time it caused a bit of tension.
Q: How did the others go in then?
Carol: They went in on the bus which was run by Barnes’s, and I don’t know whether they went in on the same bus as you went in on…
Guy: No it was a separate bus because I think the Grammar School bus actually went via Axford and Mildenhall, whereas the Secondary bus was really a full bus already and went straight via Ogbourne through to the Common, but I’ve got a feeling the Grammar School bus actually started at Baydon, and picked up Baydon and then from Aldbourne.
Carol: That’s right it did, Pearl Downie was at the boarding house; Anne Liddiard, she was actually at the boarding house; so there were a couple of other girls there.
Q: Well, we’ve talked about some of the first things. What would you have regarded as a treat, in food terms perhaps because we are really talking about a period during the war, I suppose, the memories you have been discussing?
Guy: I think the treats really came in the summer when there were a few strawberries or raspberries or redcurrants around, and they were, it was the fruits out of the garden as much as anything because most of the food was home grown. I mean Father was a great gardener anyway, and so there were always loads of cabbages, cauliflowers, Brussels sprouts, greens and potatoes; then in the field side potatoes, apart from perhaps a few early ones in the garden the potatoes were planted out in the field and they were a market product as well. They were supplied to Stacey’s and Barrett’s and even Palmer’s as new potatoes for sale so …
Q: In your situation, your family were pretty well self sufficient?
Carol: We were. Mum used to make butter, occasionally cream cheese, and at that time I think we kept probably all of the milk ourselves, because we only had two cows during the war. The old cow, as she was called, Dolly and Bunty was the other one?
Guy: Her daughter, yes.
Carol: And I mean they were pets before being useful for anything else, but the potatoes we didn’t use were put into huge sacks and used as we need them, all through the war.
Guy: And of course, the other thing was that the other root crops that were grown out in the field was kale for cattle and then there was mangels which are disappearing from the countryside virtually nowadays but also swedes, and the swedes of course was a dual function because not only one ate the bulb, but in springtime the shoots came and so the swede tops, we used again as a green stuff, so they were always …
Q: As today. Something which you wouldn’t imagine using anymore, even swedes I don’t think are eaten all that much..
C. Guy, No…You sort of keep one swede in the fridge and at various meal times cut bits off and ….
Q: You mention actually leaving the village, almost of necessity, due to illness, when you went to Cornwall.
Carol: That’s right, yes.
Q: Did you generally leave the village much or was there sufficient here to keep it more self contained…
Guy: I think it was a lot of self entertainment then I mean. The WI even used to put on their own drama things as well. There was the cinema that was available and I can remember coming down to the village cinema which ran a couple of nights a week, I think it was Tuesdays and Saturdays, or Tuesdays and Fridays, and you know, it was usually an ‘Old Mother Riley’ film or Arthur Lucan, Stan Stennant or various characters like that or a Chaplin film or Buster Keaton film as a starter, and then you probably had a western as a main film, so that was one element of entertainment, and then I think the other thing is. as a small kid, yes, when we used to pal up with other school kids it was self entertainment.
Carol: Yes children used to come up to the farm to play. I think they came up to the farm to play more than we went down to them to play. If you like it was more of an adventure for them.
Q: You had wide open spaces?
Carol: Yes that’s right.
Q: A lot of interesting items which perhaps they didn’t see in the village?
Guy: No. I mean one or two of us became specialists in tree house building as well. Wonderful tree houses; amazing we didn’t fall out of them, but that was good fun. I mean the other thing again Mike was that with the non-availability of, if you like, late night public transport and one thing and another, there was the very occasional trip into the theatre to Swindon and that was either provided with taxi of George Dew or Tommy Lunn. They both had big American cars, Hudson Terraplanes
Q: What year are we talking about now?
Guy: This would have been probably 1946 to 1948 period, something like that. So that was the old Empire Theatre then in Swindon that was still going, and Father and Mother were quite keen on that side of things….
Q: That was part of the big Empire chain of theatres…
Carol: Yes, there were Empire’s everywhere. Yes, so it probably was. And a I think Dad occasionally used to go to the football and occasionally we would be allowed to go too, and we went we used to get pushed right down to the front of the terraces, then sort of “gosh, where’s father?”
Guy: Yes.
Q: How about your involvement with the Church?
Guy: The first sort of real occasion Mike, remembering the Church, I must admit was Harvest Festival and taking a low level basket of damson plums up towards the altar and them all trickling out up the aisle, so I was probably about three or four then, I would think, but Harvest Festival at Church was quite an event because there was a lot of farmer involvement then. There was a lot of food produce that actually came into the Church and it would, I’m not sure where it went off to then, but yes, the Church was generally full with a lot of vegetables and fruit.
Carol: I think it probably went to Savernake Hospital. It could have done, yes.
Q: Did you regularly go to Church or tended to go just for the major festivals? This isn’t a quiz and the Rector isn’t going to hear about this!
Guy: I mean I would have thought it was probably about once a month or every three weeks, something like that we went down. It was usually Mother, Carol and I, to go to Matins. And the interesting thing is, dear old Mrs Elliott, and so it would have been war years as well, because her daughter, Judith, was actually my god mum, but , in the back corner, the Southwest corner of the Church, there was a little area that was sort of cordoned off and the very small chairs which the Church had, the little armchairs, they were the ones that were all used for the children at Sunday School. We used to go to Sunday School.
Q: Were these the ones that were made in Aldbourne?
Carol: Yes. Little tiny toddlers chairs.
Guy: Yes, and the other interesting thing I can remember there as well Mike, in that south transept, towards the West end of the Church there was a cordoned off area because the wooden floorboards had actually collapsed, and there was a hole in the, you know, three or four pews couldn’t be used because of this hole in the floor where it had rotted out or something. That little bit of thing I can remember, then of course when the Reverend Elliott died there was quite a refurbishment memorial which my Father partly organised as well, for the updating the church, and that area where the old floorboards were, that was one that was changed.
Q: Later you were a member the PCC?
Guy: Yes, that wasn’t until the 1960’s I imagine. Yes, Father was a member of the PCC and also a School Manager as well; so, I mean, I started my schooling with a Mr. Adams, as the teacher, then he left and a Mr. Jackson who had been a previous headmaster came back for, I think, about a term and then it was a fellow called Cliff Wood who then took over as headmaster. So there was, and the first teacher that I had that I can remember was of course Mrs. Moulding, and the infants part of the school and junior school was actually in the old school building there, which is used for church functions and various things and there were probably something like three or four classes there, divided across the middle by a curtain, and Mrs Moulding was in one part of it, and had two classes and then Olwen Williams worked in the other part, teaching the next sort of age, you could hear what was going on
Carol: Olwyn Williams was also the Brown Owl for the Brownies,
Guy: And in 1947 I think she broke her leg, didn’t she, skiing and badly strained her ankle.
Q: In the village?
Guy: Yes, I think it was actually
Q: I was going to come on to the 1947 winter and your memories of that, because that is perhaps an opportune time that you having mentioned that, to bring that up. I mean, I have heard talk about the 1947 winter; I know I was living in the north of England, no I wasn’t living in the north of England, I was living in the south at that time, and that we heard all the stories of the problems that our relatives were having in the north, we weren’t quite as bad, but how did this affect Aldbourne?
Carol: Well, we didn’t go to school for six weeks, because we couldn’t get there, and, in fact, we had staying with us the daughter of one of my godmothers, who had just returned from India and she came and stayed with us and went to the village school, when we could get there, but we had a whale of a time, tobogganing; Dad converted an old sidecar into a toboggan; yes, it was great fun and we spent most of the day tobogganing.
Q: Sounds good.
Carol: Yes, it was great fun and, ah, there were several people who would walk up over the drifts an bring up papers or bring up any mail
Guy: A loaf of bread, or something like that
Q: Yes, I often wondered how you managed for food
Carol: Yes, but Mum used to make bread as well and on one occasion, Hammond Innes and his wife both skied up and came to see us to find out how we were
Q: Where did they live?
Carol: In a little cottage in The Butts which has
Guy: Now been demolished and rebuilt
Carol: Next door to South Cottage, nearly at the bottom where the new house is that has got the …….
Guy: Almost into Farm Lane, yes
Q: Yes
Carol: Yes, that’s right, they lived there, delightful couple, and they came up on a couple of occasions to make sure we were alright. They were actually very good skiers, because they skied right down the Down, I remember watching them going back down to the village once. Guy and I used to fit on old tennis racquets to our feet because of the drifts
Guy: Because the drifts were severe, I mean they were seven, eight, ten foot high in places. The road was just levelled from bank to bank
Q: What about the water supply?
Guy: Water supply was rainwater with us. We relied on rainwater right up until the 1960s
Q: But during that winter it was all solid most of the time?
Carol: It was underground.
Guy: Well, it was underground rainwater storage, so it was, it was free?
Q: Obviously it didn’t freeze up either?
Guy: No, no.
Q: I guess your taps in the house did occasionally?
Guy: No taps in the house,
Carol: No, it was buckets
Guy: Of water
C. Carole. Dipped the water from a little hand pump on – we had quite a number of tanks actually, there were two underneath the house virtually that we used, and one of which had a pump and the other one which I don’t think ever had a pump and we just dipped water in a bucket
Guy: We had storage facilities for up to 15,000 gallons of rainwater and that was principally for the livestock and then, of course, the livestock used the pond as well, but the farmhand carried the water out of the underground tanks to the troughs. Father used to cut out holes in the ice at the pond, so the cattle would still drink there anyway and, yes, it is true to say that I think the climate has changed a bit, I mean certainly the last couple of years it has been much drier but, in saying that you know, it was only five or six years ago we were getting four foot of water a year, not the normal average of 30 – 32 inches.
C. Carole. We had a limestone filter to actually filter the water that we used for drinking,
Q: I see, yes
Carol: But otherwise it was just a kettle on the range and boiling water. Yes, there was always a kettle on the hob.
Guy: And in fairness, you know Saturday night was bath night or thereabouts, it was a tin bath,
Carol: In front of the fire.
Guy: Brought in front of the fire, into it there was a bucket full basically of hot water that was put in it and yes, it worked perfectly well.
Q: You had a curtain around the bath?
Guy: No, no, no, no.
Q: Oh, it was Saturday night show-time.
Guy: That’s right, yes, yes.
Carol: Definitely, oh dear, and we had these big old stone hot water bottles that, you know mountains of eiderdowns and blankets on the beds to keep warm and, in 1940, I remember that particularly, I mean every time there was an air raid, and a lot of the bombers would go over Aldbourne and the Aldbourne area on the way to places like Birmingham and Bristol and Coventry and we would be out of bed and under the kitchen table with the dog.
Guy: One other thing that I can just remember from the wartime nights was actually seeing these white beams, which were searchlights; very seldom did they really come on because from sort of 1942 – 1943 onwards the Luftwaffe weren’t making that much effort over this country, it was going to the eastern direction, so the searchlight element died out.
Carol: Talking about lights, I remember Dad taking me out in 1940 one night, I think it was fairly late in the year probably, say like September / October time, and saying look at, showing me the glow because we could see the fires in London in the sky, the glow in the sky.
Q: When did you first have electricity on the farm?
Guy: 1955 we had a little generator unit that came in, that was basically only a 25 volt lighting system
Carol: We had
Guy: Paraffin lamps.
Carol: Everywhere.
Guy: And the pressure lamps as well, they gave out.
Q: Like a Tilley lamp?
Guy: Yes, but the mantle lamps, the ordinary wick mantle lamps, gave tremendous light and quite a lot of heat, one has to add as well so they were either hanging up , from a frame, or they were placed on a table or higher position.
Q: Gas supplies, I imagine, were much later.
Guy: Gas supplies – we didn’t have bottled gas until probably the late Fifties or early Sixties and the gas came to Aldbourne about 1946 / 1947, because I can just about remember them digging the trenches for the gas. Paraffin was the alterative cooking method.
Guy: And primus stoves,
Carol: But most of the cooking was done on the range, which was in the living room, it was an old
Guy: Belfex Minor.
Carol: That’s right, yes.
Q: A little bit like an AGA?
Carol: Not really, because it had an open fire, and a good hob in front of it where you could not only get a kettle but a good sized saucepan.
Q: I understand.
Carol: You got a big oven at the side where everything was cooked and at the bottom you had actually got an area where you could brown something like pastry.
Guy: And a grill tray.
Carol: Or something like that, because the heat actually went across the top of it, and below the bottom of the oven.
Guy: And then right around the oven.
Q: What was the fuel in it?
Guy: I think it was coal and wood, yes, there was a lot of wood.
Carol: We burned a lot of wood in the war, yes.
Guy: From that point of view.
Carol: And of course, another thing that perhaps applied to a lot of places in the village, that there was no inside toilets, I mean we had a privy down the garden and if you had to go out at, well you didn’t have to go out at night but, I mean during the daytime, we had pigs at the time, and we had an old sow who was forever getting out and, I can remember several occasions getting trapped down there because the old sow wouldn’t let me out and if it wasn’t the sow it was the ferrets that got out with somebody sitting in there.
Guy: And the cockerel.
Q: Why did you have ferrets?
Guy: Mainly for rabbiting, because the rabbit infestation.
Carol: We lived on rabbits during the war.
Guy: During the war years was bad, and as much as they might have provided food, the amount of food that they actually consumed, was a vast amount, I mean it was, if you like, I don’t say the rabbit was the horse of the second world war, as the horse was to the first world war, but, bearing in mind that over a third of the food production of the first world war was actually to feed the horses. To then create the other two thirds, as it were, so you know from that point of view, it was the rabbits did a tremendous amount of damage. It wasn’t until the early fifties when the first myxomatosis hit us, that one realised as to the total crop improvement that actually came about.
Carol: And in actual fact, I mean Guy and I used to go along and help Dad and a couple of fellows – Ian Palmer from Rectory Wood used to come up with Les Swash and Teddy Gale, and we would all go ferreting, and it was nothing for us to come back with two long poles of hazel, with rabbits hanging, Guy. and I would take one of them on our shoulders and come back with anything between 20 and 30/35 rabbits, and you know it made a jolly good meal.
Q: Yes. Very sustaining meals. Yes. So let’s just turn to something slightly different. Was there much crime in the, in the village as such?
Carol: I never remember any, to be honest.
Guy: No, I think that, there was the old policeman, PC Blake, who, who was around and you know there was always the typical kid who taking apples and so on, like that, or jumping over, it was all minor stuff. I don’t think there was any sort of recognised house thefts; one could walk away from the house and leave it unlocked and there wouldn’t be any fear of anybody going in and taking anything.
Q: No, so there wasn’t the big Aldbourne crime or the big Aldbourne murder or anything then?
Carol: Not that I remember, no; Ramsbury was the place for murders.
Guy: Yes, they had a sort of spate there of undesirables, but generally in Aldbourne, it was..
Carol: Pretty law-abiding, I think.
Guy: Fairly good, I mean the crime, I have to say generally didn’t come about until the mobility of the population and once the people had cars to move around in, then it brought the crime with it, and I mean there was certainly wartime crime; there was bribery with the American sort of dumps, because there were fuel dumps and things like this.
Carol: People used to acquire a jerry can of fuel.
Guy: Yes, you had the petrol smuggling which in turn went to spirits for drinking, as opposed to spirits for motors.
Q: Yes, that was just because of a lack of …
Guy: And cigarettes or drink were obviously – was a tradable commodity,
Q: Yes, yes, yes
Carol: And some people would go to extreme lengths to actually conceal what they managed to acquire, whether by, you know.
Guy: Lawful or unlawful means.
Carol: Unlawful means, things like trucks, that got hidden in ricks of corn, when the sheaves were waiting to be thrashed and in the middle of them you would find an army truck.
Guy: Or a tractor,
Carol: Or a tractor,
Guy: This is, I mean there was one character who was caught out and did three months in Oxford gaol – a farmer.
Q: No relation of yours?
Guy: No, no, no, no, no, no – well known, well known to my father though, for all that.
C. Carol. For all the wrong reasons.
Guy: Yes, yes.
Carol: Oh dear.
Guy: He was, he was a quite a great character, as well.
Carol: I shouldn’t mention any names.
Q: No, you wouldn’t wish to do that.
Guy: No, we can’t do that.
Q: It says on here, on this trigger list, lost buildings; now what can you tell me about that?
Guy: Yes, a couple of local instances to the farm, or three instances to the farm; one was the disappearance of the old cottage, which was next to where the present farmhouse is anyway, that was a pile of ruins as I only remember it, it was a pile of heaped rubble, and chalk, and the occasional bricks, most of the bricks had been extracted when father built the extension to the house at the farm anyway. There was also, where I now have a landfill entrance to the recycling yard as well, there were the remains of the garden wall, and cottage walls, actually there that was a flint and brick cottage there, which was probably abandoned prior to the Ewins Hill farmhouse, I suspect it was abandoned back in the 1890s.
Carol: I was going to say before the turn of the century, I think.
Guy: And a lot of the plum suckers have actually grown up through, but you can definitely see the walls and in effect what happened was, we needed the bricks for building, so any brick piers or quoins that were just taken out and transported back up to the farm. But the most significant one was probably Pentico Farmhouse. I can just remember perhaps as an abandoned building, and that was right on the Ramsbury / Aldbourne boundary, at Pentico Wood, and Carol would remember it more than I could, but I can just remember the frame of that building before it was blown up by.
Carol: The Americans used it for target practice and it was abandoned before the war, certainly I don’t know – did old soldier Dowling live there, or did…..
Guy: No, it was Kemp , the keeper was there, and another one, I’ll think of his name in a minute, but, yes it was abandoned, probably in the sort of mid/late thirties, because all of these places were so isolated, it was really a matter of trying to get to them.
Carol: My parents, in the winter, Christmas 1927 actually went and spent Christmas with the keeper and his wife, and as they walked down, there was actually a right of way, I don’t think they went on the right of way, because they would go straight across the fields in those days, but just past the entrance to the recycling yard and a bit farther down on the left hand side, there is a right of way, and that goes down into what’s Pentico Bottom and the cottage, the farmhouse was down there and Mum and Dad went down to have Christmas Day and as they were going down there, it started to snow and the blizzard was so bad on the way back, that the keeper had to walk back with them to make sure they got back home and also Mum was about five months pregnant I think with my sister Mary.
Q: They didn’t walk back with the keeper!!
Carol: Exactly.
Guy: Yes, yes.
Q: Never heard of again!!
Guy: No, no, I mean, but the other fascinating point of that particular day was that when they got back to the house, inside the new part of the house which Father had recently built, there was nearly a wheelbarrow load of snow that had blown through the keyhole – would you believe – into the front room
Q: It must have been a big keyhole!!
Guy: Yes, well.
Carol: One of those big old iron locks.
Guy: Yes.
Carol: And it faced due east.
Q: Right,
Guy: I think the other thing that, that one does remember from the village, in the, if you like, post-war years when I got to know it as well, is that there was the Doctor’s surgery, along at Neal’s here, and there was also a Doctor that used to come to Bay House as well, that was the Lambourn Doctor, that visited there and then I mean the principal industry of Aldbourne, after the war years, were over, was the return of the racehorses, back to Hightown, and the use of all those boxes again there, farming of course played an important part and there was a lot a people connected directly with the farming business. There was also, two Barnes families involved, one with the coal and carrier service, which is the present T. D. Barnes & Son and Barnes Coaches which they now are – they had a coal merchant job at the same time but also, there was Barnes which was up by the School, and he was the wood merchant – he did fire logs everywhere so that was another side of it. The Aldbourne Engineering was a proper engineering works in those days.
Carol: A foundry.
Guy: It was a foundry, so there were actually castings and they were quite advanced because they even did castings in aluminium which was, you know, coming on quite a lot then. And, numerous builders that had sprung up as well and there were two Staceys, there was Jerrams obviously, and there was Liddiards, so there were four principal builders actually in the village at that time.
Q: Can we just concentrate on the stables; there must have presumably been a Smithy.
Guy: There were two smithies in the village, there was old Noah Liddiard and hence the sons, Alan and Snowy or Len, and that has always been a foundry; not a foundry, a smithy, next to the Library, as long as I can remember there, and the other one was Mr. Aldridge, who lived where Chris Warrington now lives and there was a little smithy there as well and that was next to the school, so one used to ..
Carol: His wife used to run a small private school there, which my sister went to actually, along with John Bland who used to live at, who died not too long ago,
Q: What ages were children at that school then?
Carol: Well, she was there until she was about…
Guy: Four?
Carol: No, Guy, she went away to school just after I was born, I think…
Guy: That’s right..
Carol: She would have been about eight..
Guy: Or nine.
Carol: So she was there for about four years I suppose, before she went to another school at Faringdon.
Q: Where would they have the gallops?
Guy: The gallops were principally at the side of the old Bishopstone Road, which is the Roman Road which is an extension of Grazzels, or Grasshills Road, crosses Lottage Road and there was a gallop up the side of that. But they used to ride out a tremendous amount, yes.
Carol: Everywhere, they’d use all the..
Guy: Byways and minor roads – they used to be a bit of a menace when they came up past the farm, if they interfered with Father taking the milk down to the village there was usually a lot of cursing and swearing went on between…
Carol: And Mrs. Powell, the trainer’s wife, used to ride out regularly, with all the stable lads, and this pony that we had, Danny, his field was right opposite the existing farmhouse and he used to stand at the back of the field and snort when he heard them coming and he would charge down to the fence and sort of skid to a stop, snorting and blowing, and of course these racehorses were spooked, and the number of times jockeys got thrown off outside the farm and Mrs. Powell’s language was bluer than blue, unbelievable to us kids.
Guy: Quite entertaining, you know.
Carol: Stand there and hide our smiles.
Q: What about the Hunt? There would be a Hunt as well?
Guy: Yes, that was the Craven Hunt then and it was popular and supported by the farmers very much.
Q: Who would be the Master of that? Were the Browns involved?
Guy: No.
Carol: In fact, they weren’t even hunting people, the Browns, I don’t ever remember any of them hunting but it was the Craven – the Craven was to the east of Aldbourne – the hunting area between Newbury and Kintbury, the Craven House was somewhere along there and meets were often held at that place and we would hack over from here right across to there – the other side.
Q: Were there Meets in the village?
Guy: Yes, yes.
Carol: Yes, frequently.
Guy: But to the north, as soon as you got to Wanborough, it was the Vale of the White Horse Hunt and there was also the old Berks Hunt as well; to Marlborough and Savernake Forest, of course, it was the Tedworth Hunt, so there were a good number of hunting groups all around.
Q: And did a number of those would come and meet here?
Guy: It was only the Craven because Aldbourne was Craven, as was Ramsbury; but I think once you got to Marlborough, it was the Tedworth Hunt and that was on that side.
Carol: But the only time I ever went hunting at odd times, it was always with the Craven, And I remember going to Baydon once and certainly hacking over to the other side of Kintbury, used all the back roads, but barely had occasion to use a main road, and I think we used to get a good days hunting.
Q: Did you have your own horse or…?
Carol: Well, no I didn’t; my sister kept a horse at Minal Woodlands and the farmer who owned it at that time had bought a pony from some gypsies who were camped at a place called Sound Bottom, which is between Whitehill going out of Ramsbury down to Axford and where the Aldbourne Road meets it, there is a byway up past the Pumping Station up there, and you have got to keep going up there and you come to Sound Bottom and there were numerous gypsies encamped there and old Walter Powell used to keep an eye on what ponies they had and he saw this pony and he said to them– “you willing to sell that pony”, and I think he bought it for ten guineas or something or other, and called it Sparky, and he was a wonderful pony who pulled strongly, at the end of the day, my hands would sometimes be almost raw with holding him, but my sister kept her horse.
Q: So you followed on a pony rather than a full sized horse?
Carol: Yes, yes I wasn’t up to hunter size, you know, at that time, I think that would have been in the late forties/early fifties before Mary went to New Zealand.
Guy: Yes, and the other thing of course is that as indeed there is now, there were a lot of principal shoots as well, the Ramsbury Estate had very much bigger number and larger number of keepers and probably had three or four keepers then, that were looking after pheasant rearing, pheasant releasing and partridge and hares and of course rabbits, I mean it all came within their control at the same time, and so that was quite an industry in itself as a by-product of the farming side. Yes, so that was.
Q: It is interesting now that the Ramsbury Farms have obtained a brewery now, in Aldbourne Parish.
Guy: Yes, yes, but in fairness you see, so many, I mean there is, yes, I think a brewery even in Aldbourne but certainly The Malt House, here, used to dry the barley out and, also, you still find areas where there’s hops, I mean I have got hops up at the farm that are still growing, that are good quality and so a lot of farms not only made their own cider, they made their own beer as well. So you know it all served that extra purpose as well.
Q: Who, in your life, or early lifetime, the forties and fifties, was the owner of The Old Manor, as we call it now?
Guy: That was the Lewinskis; I don’t know a great deal about them, I mean apart from that they were Polish, I think.
Carol: Yes, they were – they were Polish Jews, I think.
Guy: And, they kept themselves very much to themselves but in fact it was Chris Humphries’ mother who came to the Lewinskis as a housemaid to look after them. I can just remember the Lewinskis’ daughter’s wedding.
Carol: Yes, it was an amazing thing.
Guy: About 1946 or 47 and she walked from The Church back down to The Old Rectory as it was called then, and yes, it was quite memorable.
Carol: Because all the men were dressed in their best and the bride and the bridesmaids and everybody walked down, straight down to The Pond and round The Pond and of course it wasn’t enclosed, the old Pond in those days. I mean cattle went across from Liddiards Yard, but as they walked past, you could smell the mothballs. I always remember that; I mean dresses that were Edwardian, they’d obviously been handed down and brought out, beautiful dresses. I remember one particularly, a lady with a magnificent hat, a pale green thing that was in sort of layers of what looked like organza, and it was just amazing.
Q: Who were the guests? Was it mainly village folk?
Carol: No, they were mostly relations from London. I am sure that the Lewinskis came down from London probably at the same time as Jimmy Bomford did, before the outbreak of war.
Q: Where did they get their money from? Do you know? Was it diamond merchants or….?
Guy: I don’t know, I mean a lot of the East Europe or, yes, I was going to say the European Jewish population, certainly sought refuge in this country after the war.
Q: Yes, well of course, the Polish population…
Guy: The Polish population, yes; they were the post-war Polish population really, or the war-time Polish population. I think a lot of it was from the Pogroms that started off with Lenin and Stalin in Russia, so that drove them westwards anyway, and from that, it was unsavoury, you know, during the 1930s in Germany. So a lot of them moved on westwards yet again, some here and a lot to the States obviously; and I think that influenced the area to a degree and, bearing in mind, all these people brought money and wealth with them. I mean, Jimmy Bomford was an amazing character; he wasn’t a Jew, but he provided much needed investment in agriculture, which was in its doldrums.
Q: Where did he live?
Guy: He was at Laines Farm, Stock Lane, where Brian Kingham is.
Carol: And in 1953, Mum and Guy and I, drove over in the pony and trap, on June 3rd or June 2nd to watch the Coronation because they were the only people in the area who had got a television set and amongst other people who were there was Diana Dors.
Guy: But also, I mean all the children, of all the farm workers were all there, I mean, he had an open house; I mean, it went on for about seven hours. It was a long drawn out television thing; but, yes, I think Jane Bomford, Jimmy’s wife was a marvelous character because she had a glass eye and she used to go up to children and say “ Now I’ve got a glass eye, which one is it?” “It ‘s that one” and of course, that’s when Johnny Morris was actually Farm Manager and so, I mean, the farms, our farm and Jimmy’s, actually adjoined each other, so hence the sort of contacts that we had with them.
Q: Because Johnny Morris lived, well he was Farm Manager up there, when did he sort of become famous as an entertainer really, I suppose?
Guy: Late forties onwards, he was known again to Desmond Hawkins who lived in the village, I mean, Johnny came down, more-or-less, with Jimmy Bomford, just prior to the war, and, I mean, Johnny didn’t know much about farming, no more than Jimmy did; but they had their mistakes. But nevertheless they, it was the funding that really overcame the …….
Q: Much the same as the present owners.
Guy: Yes, yes, it is, yes; all these farms need investment if they are to survive and Ramsbury Estate is another good example that the welfare hasn’t come from farming, it has come from diversification and investment, and you know much the same as the present sort of…
Q: Is that Harry Hyams behind that?
Guy: Ah, no, no; that’s a Swedish family called Pierson. He bought a lot of Littlecote Estate as well, so Ramsbury Estate now is about 7000 acres in total, but there is probably a good 2500 acres of that which is woodland, there is a lot of woodland involved in that Estate as well. But it is sad again that the old timber yards have all disappeared they used to be in-house timber yards, as was with the Ramsbury Estate, there would be the off-cuts that would be used for firewood, there was coppicing which was used for the hurdle making in the past, virtually all the farm fences were made out of local timber, as opposed to pressure treated imported timber, I say imported certainly from beyond the area timber was taken and brought back and transported all over the place, mainly because of regulations on usage.
Q: Well, I think at that point, Carol and Guy, we can close this up and I would like to thank you both for what, for me, has been fascinating and I hope for the others who in the future will be able to listen to edited sections of this will find it equally fascinating.
Guy: I hope so.
Q: Although we had a bit of script here, giving us all some suggestions by David, I think the way it has gone, its – and both of you as we hoped, have developed it in such a way that it has made it even more interesting so, thank you very much indeed.