Aldbourne Heritage Centre

(BW = Jean’s brother)

Q: What are your earlier memories of the village? Were you born in the village?
JW: Yes
Q: Where did you live when you were born?
JW: I lived down there where the Bishop lived and was born there. But we moved to Windmill Cottages when I was 2. We moved down to the bottom of Baydon Hill and we were there for 50 years before I moved down here.
Q: So which cottage did you live in?
JW: Where the Fat Cat Cottage is; where Eddie and Stephanie live. Of course there were no houses from where Wilkins lived, where Josie lives now, up until Windmill Cottages and was all open; and the chalk pits were still there and Mr Jim Stacey had chickens all along the top, and Mr Hale had the field going towards the chalk pit where the bungalows are. But we were also in the chalk pit every bonfire night. We used to have a bonfire in there and Mr Pelly Barnes, Pam’s father, used to do a great big guy and we’d all assemble in the Square and we used to make tar torches with a rag tied to a stick, dipped in tar, and we used to light them and walk up Baydon Hill in a procession.
Q: You don’t remember that?
BW: No.
JW: The next day we used to take potatoes up there and roast them in the embers. I still remember it when I have a good bonfire.
Q: I wrap them in foil now; and so when the war came, that stopped?
JW: Yes, I think maybe.
Q: You must remember the celebrations for VE and VJ day?
BW: We had a big bonfire at the Pond.
Q: Was it actually in the Pond?
CB. Well it used to dry up.
I. But it wasn’t a concrete pond?
JW: Oh, no; it was a natural pond. Another thing I remember very plainly Mr Bertie Liddiard, who had a farm where the Glebe houses are now. He also had a field Up Haydon.
Q: So tell me, where is Haydon?
JW: That is the Four Barrows road.
Q: Why is it called that too?
C No one knows. Haydon.
Q: I must look it up, I’ll go to Devizes and have a little search.
I & JW: Not Grasshills.
Q: I must start calling it Up Haydon, Haydon.
JW: Yes, just Haydon.
Q: Because I call it Four Barrows when I take people on tours around.
JW: He used to take his cows from the farm in the village up to his meadow Up Haydon and when they came back down they always used to go into the pond to have a drink and sort of wander around.
Q: Did it sort of extend a bit more?
JW: Oh yes, it was right up to the wall of the cottage, Mrs Delme-Radcliffe’s cottage.
Q: Oh yes.
JW: It was just, stone blocks, which was called the stepping stones.
Q: Yes.
JW: And they’d just walk along there, and of course the brook was open then, where the railings are now, it used to be an open gully and the water used to run through there in the winter and on into the brook. And the Pond came almost up to there.
Q: And it would come across from the sort of car parking bit.
JW: No, no it was sort of where the railings are because that was the Pond area.
Q: So it flooded?
JW: Yes, we did have floods on occasion. Lottage Road was flooded.
I Yes, I’ve seen photographs of George’s. But he gave them all to the Civic Society. He offered to give them all to me but I said I didn’t want them. I wish I had said “Yes” now.
JW: Some are very interesting.
Q: Because I know they are safe in the village somewhere. Oh that’s interesting yes, you are remembering things.
JW: And the schools, of course we had the two schools, the big school and the little school. You’ve heard about them?
Q: A bit, but it is always interesting; different people remember different things.
JW: We were talking about the heating in the big school, there were two open fireplaces and we used to have the fire alight. Oh yes, one teacher she used to love it, she’d stand, because of course there were guards around, with her skirt sort of … warming her bottom. And there was this big tortoise stove. And, of course, the outside loos.
Q: Did you have a word for the outside loo? When I was at school we used to call them ‘the backs’. Other places have different names, you don’t remember?
JW: No, most people used to say the ‘lav’.
Q: I don’t know where the word ‘backs’ came from. What we always used to call them; the boys backs and the girls backs.
JW: We used to have, you know, a third of a pint of milk each day; used to collect it from Stacey’s farm in West Street where St. Michael’s Close now is.
Q: In bottles?
JW: Yes, in bottles, yes. The thing I used to remember, because I always used to play with the children and call them the poorly children. They were always given a spoonful of virol, well I call it virol, and they were always given a sweet afterwards and I used to think, oh Gosh, why can’t I have some and the sweet.
Q: Was that during the war?
JW: No, it was when I was at school in the 30’s But I always used to feel a bit cold, and well, we didn’t really get treats at home. Our treat was on Saturday. Sunday morning, Dad always bought us sweets on the Saturday night and they were ready for us Sunday morning. We didn’t have a lot of treats. I remember school of course, big school, sitting by the guard dog?, just a curtain, a green curtain so you could always hear what was going on the other side; you could hear the talk.
Q: And did you have the desks all in one, with the iron frames?
JW: Yes, ink all over the place.
Q: And were your teachers men or women?
BW: Three men and one woman
JW: Head master; one came from Swindon, Mrs Sharp.
Q: Quite a journey.
JW: Yes, by car. Not many people had cars in those days.
Q: So when you were children, there’d still be a lot of horse and carts?
JW: Oh yes, we had the carrier, Mr Smith from Axford used to come round; Tommy Barnes had his little old van when we were children. A carrier business; he used to do calls, carriering. Oh yes, it was quite an occasion for us to go to Swindon. Really, a treat. Never went out of the village, people like us. We weren’t particularly well off you know. Farm labourers.
Q: And you would go on the bus? Barnes’s?
JW: Yes, uh no. There was the Bristol buses to Swindon. We would go into Hungerford; most of the people would go in time to catch the train. Quite an occasion for us to go into town..
Q: But there would be pretty well everything you needed in the village?
JW: Oh yes there was. There were five bakers, five pubs.
Q: Five pubs, now I knew where The Victoria was; where was the fifth.
JW: There was The Bell, where Barnes’s offices are now. Margaret and Ian Tongue. Barney West, he was there for a long long time.
Q: Do you if the, you know where the old Post Office was, on the corner of The Green, was the house that faces up the Green towards the Church a pub or a hotel at one time?
JW: Yes I think it was. Have you read Mrs Gandy’s ‘A Portrait of a Village’?
Q: I have read that, yes. Because I’ve got a tape of Charlie Hale talking about slides; it is wonderful ’cause George is making corrections; you know, George is obviously projecting the pictures here, he keeps interjecting. But because I can’t see what they’re looking at, I’ve got to imagine what they’re looking at. And he’s standing on the steps of the Church and talking about somewhere down that he can see on The Green, facing him.
JW: Yes, so it must have been.
Q: Thank you. Some places he’s talking about in Castle Street and I don’t just know how to place it. I don’t know whether he is looking up or down. I ought to play it to someone like you who would know what he was talking about.
JW: Then of course we had a cobbler, at the bottom of the road, who used to mend shoes. Racing stables on The Green – Hightown, yes. There were three builders, and a resident policeman. Used to go round on his bicycle and a lot of children were scared of him. I know I was. Blacksmith and a farrier, Mr. Aldridge, lived up where the Warringtons are. He used to shoe race horses. Mr Liddiard used to do just general. Had a grocers, newsagents, two hardware shops and three petrol pumps in the village; Aldbourne Engineering, Marge Barrett in the Square with her store where Stable House is, and Mr Lund round where the framers is. He had a petrol pump outside. So we had really everything in the village. And Palmers, they were grocers but Evelyn’s Mum, she used to have drapery, shoes; and I know, for Sunday School Anniversaries, which were great occasions, she also used go to London to a milliners and select straw hats. Most of the children their mums bought their straw hats from Evelyn’s Mum. It was lovely to go up there and choose a hat. So there was everything in the village; the corn shop and wool.
Q: Now tell me about Sunday School outings.
JW: Well we went to the – there were two chapels and the Church, of course, the Prims and the Wesleyan, we always went to the Primitives. And Anniversaries, about six to eight weeks before time we used to have special music and learn it; very often we sang at least two composed by Gerald our conductor; Music he actually wrote you know, original, and always an anthem which was the highlight of the Anniversary. And all the children used to do a recitation. We used to have a platform which, I suppose, was 2 to 3 feet high so we were way above the congregation, the chapel was absolutely packed I must say. Always a new dress, a new hairdo, usually black patent leather shoes. Always hats of course, and special preachers and it was a special meeting. At Lottage Road, we always had ours at Whitsun and the Wesleyan had theirs later. They had a gallery and we could sit in the gallery. We were always very good in the Lottage Road Chapel.
Q: I remember this is why I was so jealous of the Chapel, they always went to a big field far away and had a big picnic.
JW: No, we didn’t used to do that for Anniversaries; but we always had a Sunday School outing. We used to have Newbury and District trips; Lottage Road had a trip to Devon. That really was the highlight. Used to start out very early, get there about midday and left always at 6 o’clock. Only time we went to the seaside – we never went on holiday. Used to go to Bournemouth or Weston super Mare. One time we actually went by train from Ogbourne St George. A special excursion with literally hundreds of children and their parents of course from Ogbourne Station. And they did a special trip. That was when I was sort of in my middle teens. Because, really, children, they used to carry on through Sunday School into the Church naturally when I was a teenager, it was just sort of automatic that you carried on. You didn’t stop going at 11, you just kept on and went to Chapel. But was a lot of things going on in the churches and chapels and a lot of the entertainment was done from the churches – plays, concerts, socials. In January or February they arranged a Social Evening with games, refreshments. That was where we got a lot of our entertainment. Then we chased round the village played ierkie, one team used to go and hide and the other had to find them. Or paper chases, marbles and you could play in the village on the roads because there wasn’t the traffic.
Q: Which war?
JW: Oh, it has been there since the First World War – the Memorial Hall, 1930s, – the British Legion, they all lined up when it was opened. I think it was about 1930. Obviously it’s been used for village activities. ‘Course during the war – British Army and Americans here during the war. It changed things quite a lot.
Q: You were a teenager then?
JW: Yes, I was a teenager then.
Q: So you would have been very impressed with the Americans?
JW: Mum was so strict; they were interesting as were the British. People were very friendly and they did invite them into their homes.
Q: Chewing gum and things like that, I was little but the soldiers used to throw it out of the back of the lorries and we used to absolutely dive for it
JW: It was nice that they had places they could go to. They had a recreation room, Church room, they could go to. We did make a lot of friends.
Q: So coming up to more recent times, what sort of things have happened in the village that have made an impression on you? Or has the village just seemed to have gone on? There haven’t been any big scandals?
JW: There haven’t been any big scandals or anything that I’ve heard about.
Q: Any fires? Any recent fires?
JW: No, its been really a very quiet village. It’s expanded – there’s been developments. Estates have grown up almost outside the village which you don’t really notice. You can come into the village and not know there are these nice little estates there, the only way you see them is, and now of course the trees seem to have grown up so much, people aren’t lopping the trees. A good view is from Windy Ridge. But other than that the village really hasn’t grown very much, except in filling.. And of course the shops now are all closing down.
Q: That seems to have happened since I came to the village, cause I came in 1970 and a lot of things have closed since then, you mentioned the doctors surgery.
JW: Oh yes, we had two doctors surgeries. One was a Lambourn doctor and he came down to Neals at Turnpike, and the Ramsbury doctor used to go up to a house on The Green, next to Bell Court. Mrs Jerram lived there, they used to have a surgery up there. Some of our family when to the Lambourn doctor and some to the Ramsbury doctor, just crazy.
Q: Did it work out like this because they didn’t like one and liked the other or?
JW: I don’t know why.
Q: I have a lovely story that Trevor Tiplady told me about Johnny Morris when Trevor first came to the village how Johnny Morris pulled his leg. That was in Neals.
JW: Yes!.
Q: I talked to Julie Alder, who lived at Neals.
C Of course, everybody could hear what the doctor said to the patients. We used to sit in the little greenhouse and the surgery was just there, everybody knew what everybody had.
Q: It was there when I first came and I must have seen Dr Tiplady but I can’t remember, all I can remember is going and sitting in the greenhouse. My impression is, I was so new and no one knew me, how friendly everyone seemed to be.
JW: Aldbourne has been known to be a friendly village. Well I hope it is for people coming in to the village. Even today when newcomers come in. I hope we are friendly.
Q: I’ve only heard one person, of all the people I’ve spoken to, be a little resentful about people coming in to the village. And I said “I’m an incomer” and they said “You don’t count”. But there are still a lot of families in the village who have been here a long time, aren’t there?
JW: Yes, there are.
Q: Are there still a lot of people that you were at school with?
JW: Yes; I know that families split up now, the younger ones go out of the village, people my generation have always stayed in the village. I do think that even today that once young people have been away from the village they do come back again. I think they do.
Q: A good thing they are building the new homes at Claridge out where the Council Houses were. Anything else you can think of?
JW: Pumps. Sir Oswald Mosely lived at Crowood, and he was a blackshirt, and I don’t know when it was – there was a shortage of water and they used to come and pump water in the pump didn’t they?
BW: The farmers used to.
Q: And that was the one by the Pond.
JW: The one in West Street wasn’t even used.
Q: But Crowood is a couple of miles out?
JW: Yes.
Q: They didn’t have a well out there to draw water.