Aldbourne Heritage Centre

I. The first question, perhaps, is how long have you lived in the village?
EU: Not quite all my life because I lived in Hayes in Middlesex for seven years during the war but other than that, I’m 85, so say 80 years more or less.
Q: You’re a Dabchick aren’t you?
EU: Oh yes, I was born at Pettywell. We were Dixons, our name was Dixon until I got married. I was born at Pettywell in Oxford Street.
Q: Very convenient, was there a shop there?
EU: I remember a shop there, it was a bit , it wasn’t quite like it is now ’cause you could.., it was when they had the old biscuit tins, buy arrowroot wafers, that ‘s the best, you get five of those for a penny, they sold all stuff, which they did in those days., but there was always a shop there.
Q: Was that when Wally Palmer was there?
EU: Yes, it was his father, I remember his father, I’m not sure who was there before that, but they were there Wally and his sisters. They were born in the house next door, while we were still living in Pettywell.
Q: How convenient for you, right in the centre of the village.
EU: Absolutely yes, it was very nice there.
Q: Still very nice, isn’t it?
EU: Yes.
Q: Being a Dabchick, does that mean something special do you think, to you?
EU: I’ve been a Dabchick, you have to be, getting a fall in the pond and fall in the brook, to be a Dabchick.
Q: Did you do one of those?
EU: Yes, I did both several times.
Q: So, What brought you to the village, did your parents come here?
EU: They’d always lived here, my grandfather and great grandfather, they were shepherds. Willing shepherds, they now say. They’d always lived here. He was a boot and shoe-mender; he lived in the house where we were born. The big window as you go up there there’s a bigger window then the smaller one and then the door, that was where he had his shop, he used to make and repair shoes there.
Q: In part of the house?
EU: Yes it was all done in the house.
Q: Was he the only shoe-mender?
EU: I expect he was in his day, to start, but after that there were two more in the village. I remember the other two. I don’t remember him because he died before I was born, but there were two shoe menders shops in the village after, so you could always get them repaired.
Q: How convenient, it’s a pity we haven’t got one now isn’t it?
EU: Well, it’s cheaper to buy a new pair, but in those days there wasn’t that much about really was there? Everybody had enough to get by, nobody starved, because you just carried on.
Q: You didn’t really need to move out of the village?
EU: Oh no.
Q: Everything was here?
EU: There was a baker, Ernie Barrett, where the bottom of The Green up to Oxford Street and there were two or three more. There were more shops, so you could always get what you wanted. Of course, we had garden at the house and my father had an allotment out Lottage so he grew all veggies so we were alright.
Q: So, you were self sufficient really?
C Yes, my father kept bees so we had honey as well. I took a swarm of bees once, when I was quite young. He was working and they swarmed in the tree, and I’d seen him do it, and I saw it so I put on all the gear and I took the swarm.
Q: Very brave of you.
EU: It was but I didn’t realise until after.
Q: Very good honey was it?
EU: Oh yes. We used to sell it a shilling a pound pot. It all went in the honey I expect; it was hard turning the handwinder by hand, it came out that was the honey.
Q: Tell me how you make it? We don’t make it like that nowadays do we?
EU: In the hive, the frame, which is the honeycomb, you put it in it’s flat. Then the bees, they go in through the little hole in the bottom and they build the wax out to make honeycomb like you buy now. They put the honey in it and used to seal it, it was like wax, so when it was time to take the honey, you just took the section out. They had wooden tops and cut the top layer where it’s been sealed and they then went in this metal extractor through one side then through the other and you turned the handle then all the honey came out. It was quite a job. It was all part of life we didn’t think anything of it. We’d always had bees.
Q: What is the first thing that you can remember? or is that a difficult question? Do you remember going to the little school?
EU: Yes
Q: Were the teachers very good in those days? Were there large classes?
EU: My teacher was Miss Hawksworth who taught us for sewing, besides all the other things. Then Miss Stroud, who later became Mrs Moulding and then Mr Jackson.
Q: They all taught different subjects?
EU: Two were in the little room and then the big school where you went up when you were halfway through, before I did my curtains but I expect you already heard all of that. You just moved from class to class.
Q: Did you enjoy it because the children nowadays seem to love going to school.
EU: Yes, part of living, quite liked it, just carried on.
Q: What did you consider was a special treat?
EU: Well I think Sunday school outings, Bournemouth or somewhere. We used to go at six o clock in the morning. That was living it up a bit.
Q: You didn’t move out of the village very much did you?
EU: Not a lot, no when we were little we didn’t . There wasn’t anywhere to go, nobody thought really . Used to go to Swindon very, very, very, occasionally. Only, it was a treat, it wasn’t a regular thing. We just never bothered about doing anything particular.
Q: How did you get around when you were really young? I know there was a cart that used to go to Hungerford.
EU: There was a carrier, it used to go to Swindon, before the buses.
Q: Then people got the train if they wanted to go anywhere, going far?
EU: Yes, go to Hungerford and get the train from there but I don’t expect many did that. My father was a carpenter, he worked in the village so he had no reason for going out.
Q: When your father died before the war,
EU: No, he died in 1964, he had a bungalow out Lottage after he sold Pettywell, then he moved up Baydon Hill, first one going up, the newer ones, a bungalow. The people who are in there now, and the ones before, built it up and made a house. No, he died in 1964.
Q: How often did you leave the village? In a week would you leave the village, or how often would you leave, not very often?
EU: Not very often. Can’t remember, quite rare to go very far at the beginning, then later on, things improved a bit and we used to go out a little bit, but not at the start.
Q: You mentioned a treat to go out on Sunday with Sunday School. Did you go to the Methodist Church?
EU: No, the Church. We used to go Sunday School in the morning, Sunday School in the afternoon and we didn’t always go to Church at night, but sometimes we used to, but always Sunday School, morning and afternoon; that was part of living. Sunday was Sunday, we weren’t allowed to sew or knit or do anything. Nothing had to happen. It’s different now, Sunday is the day that everybody does everything.
Q: Did your parents always go to Church?
EU: They were always Church people, I don’t say they went every week, and we were all Christened and confirmed, and my sister and I were both married at the Church. My brother was married where they go,
Q: Was the Church fairly crowded in those days?
EU: There were more there than now because they had the old pews. I think there was more. I’m sure more went.
Q: Did they have as many services?
EU: More because it was communion at 7 o’ clock and 8 o’ clock, then morning service, Sunday School in the afternoon, and then every Sunday there was an evening service. So they had more than they have now, but of course the vicar lived in the village. The vicar was only responsible for Aldbourne. He only had bike and used to visit a lot, quite a different thing. Now he lives at Ramsbury and has the whole area.
Q: Then they were very busy on Sunday and during the week they had the time.
EU: Yes, to visit around, they were all sort of very nice and you got to know them quite well.
Q: Was there any crime in the village?
EU: No, I don’t ever remember anything; not to be a nuisance.
Q: It must have been lovely in the village when there weren’t many cars?
EU: There was nothing really, cars were quite unusual. When we moved here there were only two cars in Farm Lane and that was ours and Mr Bill Reid. When you look at it now! That was nearly sixty years ago. It has expanded. Mr Reid was the father of Ken Reid. They were in the one that Keith lives in now, the far one and Ken lives – the end one.
Q: Can you remember the pay that people were paid when they were employed.
EU: My father had about £3 a week, which was good, and that was because he was a carpenter, on the farm they didn’t get as much as that. That was good.
Q: For your entertainment, that was in the village, was there a film club or something?
EU: There used to be the Carnival and the football tournament, and there was a dance after each of those and there was one on New Year’s Eve. This was when I was about 15 or 16 when the youngsters think it was improving as a place.
Q: Did you have a job when you left school?
EU: My mother died when I was 15, so I stayed home and looked after my father and my young brother who had gone to the grammar school. Then I moved up to Hayes with my other brother. When I did, my father got married again then I came back and got married and worked up there. And when I came back, I got married and worked at Aldbourne Engineering in their office. Mr McKeon, down Lottage, at the foundry; they started then they moved up to where Mrs Deuchar lives, then he had the shop on the corner, Aldbourne Engineering, where they sold everything. That would be before your time; it’s a house now opposite the Post Office, there was a petrol pump and I used to do the office work. Mrs McKeon was there and said would I help them out in the afternoons. That was in 1946. They never ever told me I didn’t suit, I worked for them for 30 years. Nina McKeon, I go up to see her once a week or fortnight, she’s got very old now, forgets now.
Q: What about everyday domestic life in the home, looking after your father and brother?
EU: The floor, it wasn’t like it is now, you had to get down on your knees and clean them. We had a carpet sweeper which saved a bit of trouble.
Q: What about the laundry as well?
EU: The washing had to be done, just lit the copper. Somebody used to come and do the washing, my father thought was a little bit much, and I think she only got about a shilling to come, and her lunch. I used to iron. We had a wooden roller mangle, then we got modern one, an Acme, with a rubber one and it was quite different.
Q: We’ve spoken a bit about the shops and there were about 5 pubs, you could buy most of what you needed in the village. Most of the shops, are they houses now?
EU: There used to be Staceys opposite the butchers, and then there was Mr Ern Barrett on the corner, Palmers, people at West Street, 2 shops in West Street, and the bakers as well. You could get everything you needed, it wasn’t bad at all. The Post Office was going up towards The Green.
Q: The farming practices, everything revolved around the farm?
EU: There was always Brown’s farm. I remember they walked the sheep through the village out to the fields out Lottage once or twice a year, whenever the sheep had to be moved. You’d have a job to do that now.
Q: There just weren’t the cars were there?
EU: When Mr Liddiard had Glebe Farm, they used to take the cows from Glebe Farm up to the back of the Old Court House to their field, through The Green.
Q: It must have been quite dirty then really?
EU: So many things that wouldn’t be allowed in many ways now, but it used to be. It never did anybody any harm.
Q: You didn’t have any holidays, did you?
EU: No. We didn’t go away. We used to go up to an Aunt in the Woodlands, just for our holidays. I don’t remember my Mother and Father going away at all. Probably didn’t.
Q: The house value, can you remember how much?
EU: For about £100 you could buy anything you liked, well you know, more or less. That was a lot for people to have in those days.
Q: What did you do for your leisure activities? Were you a member of any organisation?
EU: I joined the Girl Guides, we used to meet in the stables at the Rectory, as they were then, once a week. Then, when I came back after the war, Mrs M Liddiard and Mrs Eatwell and I started a little weekly whist drive in the Church rooms, going up Marlborough Road. It’s now been made into the kitchen of Hampstead Cottage. It belonged to them and they used to let us have it. We had a savings group, National Savings, started after the war, well going through the war I think. We used to run a Thrift Club through the National Savings, and we used to buy a half crown stamp, used to give for prizes; it was a shilling to go in. So all we took went back into that. We ran it for about 20 years.
Q: Quite exciting to win it.
EU: Oh, yes.
Q: Do you know anything about Butterfield Hall?
EU: To be quite honest I’ve never heard of it. Where is it?
Q: And the windmills around?
EU: Up Windmill Close, up Baydon hill. I don’t remember. The windmill had gone before.
Q: Had the bottom part gone as well?
EU: I don’t remember any of the windmill. I know where it was.
Q: Were there any other large houses around?
EU: Always the Old Rectory and the Old Manor, now, other than that, they’re just as they are.
Q: Were you a member of the WI?
EU: No, I never joined.
Q: Or Meals on Wheels?
EU: No
Q: What about the village generally? You were talking a bit about the houses down here.
EU: They’ve all been built since these were built. That was where the army huts were and this was here. After the war they built them and then carried on building the different ones.
Q: You could see them very well but you weren’t living here at that time, were you?
EU: Yes, I was living here, this was built after the war, over there after these houses, we lived here from when it was built.
Q: When did you move in here?
EU: What, living in this house, since 1949, quite along time.
Q: What about medical care? You had a doctor, didn’t you, in the village?
EU: Yes in the village, there were two; the Lambourn and the Ramsbury doctors. One had a surgery at Neals and the other one (the Lambourn one) used to be. that was Mrs Jerram, up on The Green. That was where we went to see the doctor.
Q: Schooldays; we were talking about that. What happened at the Carnival? Did you used to go along to the Carnival, and did you take part in it?
EU: Yes, it was quite a thing, different to what it is now. It was all the village people who joined in it. Got a lorry or truck or something and decorated it up. It was quite good really.
Q: Wartime memories, what can you remember about that time? Or, was that the time when you weren’t here?
EU: No, I was in Hayes. I remember up there it was a little bit more than down here. I used to come down about once a month, come by train but I don’t really remember much. The Soldiers were here, but I wasn’t really very involved.
Q: Can you remember was the weather very different to what it is now?
EU: Well, it was always, in the summer it was summer and in the winter it was cold. Really more extreme, it might just we feel it was but it was always cold in the winter, we would get chilblains on your feet, you never get chilblains now do you?
Q: No, but maybe the shoes are better now.
EU: Could be that, and of course all the heating and that now. We used to sit by the fire and maybe that’s what gave up chilblains. It was always coal fires of course. The summer was more summery than it is now, but it might be just imagination. It seemed to be warmer and colder. They say it’s global warming now. Don’t they?
Q: They do. When I came last time we were talking about the house where we’re living, Southward House. What could you remember? Tell me that again because I’m very interested.
EU: When we came here, which is 60 years ago nearly. It was Mrs Wilson and her son David, they lived in the farm house, and where the house is now was a sort of open shed. They were called cart sheds. They were there for some while and then I think they sold it to the three Miss Lawrences who came there to live. They stayed in the big house until one died, it was rather a big house, and they had this other house built. Mr Bill Liddiard built the house and the Miss Lawrences moved into it.
Q: Where the Leighs are now?
EU: The two of them had a little dog, a terrier dog, and then they sold the big house. I think it must have – was to Dr. Peill, I think they followed them in. After they moved someone else moved in, and when it was an open barn, it was a long barn. Johnny Morris who lived in the village and had a caravan, which was quite unusual in those days, used to park it in there before it was knocked down and made a house and built up. Two ends were left, it was quite different looking over it then. The trees hadn’t grown so you could see it more. The house itself hasn’t changed, not the outside appearances, it’s just as it was, it’s just the other bit.
Q: Is there anything else you can think of that you’d like to say?
EU: No I don’t think so.