Aldbourne Heritage Centre

Q: How long have you lived in the village?

JA: Well, I was born in 1934, at Nealson 22nd March, I’ll be 65 next year; my grandmother bought Neals in about 1922 when Mummy and Daddy were married and it was a family home. When I was five I went to the village school.

Q: What do you remember about being at school?

JA: It was quite frightening really to start with, because I started in 1939 and the evacueescame down.

Q: Oh yes, tell me about that.

JA: And this was really and truly great because we had a school teacher whose name was Miss Hawksworth, it was in the days when, the slightest little thing and up went your sleeve …. and a slap. No, you mustn’t do that, it was ….  Anyway we were told, just after the war had started, in about 1940 I suppose, that we were going to get a load of children, evacuees, down from Dagenham; they were bombed out.  They came down and were given to people to look after, and they came to school.  We were all rather terrified of them, we all thought they were all much bigger than us and I remember, in particular, there was one boy called George Ball, and I took one look at him and he looked rather like Just William, a proper bully, but he took me under his wing and I felt very highly honoured. But the schoolteachers took a distinct dislike to him because he was big; but we all got on very well really.  We had Miss Hawkesworth, who was a real ‘Miss’; and she used to come and visit after work.  In about 1930, four years before I was born, Grandma Penny took in boarders into Neals and this old lady came. Her husband was Mr Edward Wentworth from Eastleaze Farm and he died, and she was wanting somewhere to go until she found a situation; so she came to Neals and she died in 1956 or something, but she stayed with us all that time.  She had a broken leg, and it was in the days when they couldn’t mend them, so she always walked with a crutch and Miss Hawkesworth used to come and visit her.  Auntie Wentworth was a real old maid really, she was terrific old lady. When she was a hundred; first of all our Queen came to the throne in 1952, so we thought it would be a jolly good idea if we got a portable radio and let Auntie Wentworth hear the Queen’s Speech. It was terrible, the Queen speaking out of a box; no, she wouldn’t have that, so that had to go.  She was a hundred years old in 1953/54; of course she got her telegram from the Queen, we were all very excited.  I mean the Bishop of Salisbury came to visit her and, oh, we had everybody in the world, there was champagne everywhere; her sisters were there, Miss Florence and Miss Grace, who were also well over 90.  The Queen’s telegram came; she took one look at it and, of course, it wasn’t in the Queen’s handwriting so she just didn’t want to know; it was wicked.  She was a great old lady, she really was.  She came to Eastleaze as a housekeeper and of course, Mr Edward Wentworth said to her one day, “How does Caroline Wentworth sound to you, rather than Caroline Eling?” So she became Mrs Wentworth.  I don’t think he lived all that long after but she was a great old lady really.  I always remember we had a Mrs Liddiard who came in and cleaned up for Mummy and Daddy, odd jobs, and she said that she worked for this Mrs Edwards at one time at Eastleaze and, of course, these young girls were hauled over the carpet if they did something wrong.  One day, we called her Nanny Liddiard, she went into Mrs Wentworth’s bedroom and she thought, oh eau de cologne,  she dabbed it all over her; then suddenly realised that the bottle had gone down about 2 inches. So she thought, ah, I’ll fill it up with water; of course it went like milk.  So she was hauled over  the carpet, given the sack.  I remember more, really, of Aldbourne in the war.

Q: Yes, tell me about that.

JA: It was great, it really was. I know that it was awful, there was rationing, you never saw bananas, you never saw an orange, but people were different. You never locked your door; I don’t think we had a key to any of the doors in Neals, people just came and went.  Everybody pulled together, it was a thoroughly united village, I suppose everywhere was.

Q: Do you remember children’s parties? Did you have school parties?

JA: Yes we did, but during the war they were very, very meagre. Everybody had to bring a bit.

Q: That’s right, but you still had them?

JA: Oh yes, we certainly did. I remember; it was always at Christmas, we had a school party in the Memorial Hall and in the Church room, which is no longer there, and we had Father Christmas who was so obviously dressed up.

Q: And did you do Nativity plays?

JA: Well no, we didn’t. I don’t think we did for the simple reason that we couldn’t have lights on in the Church.

Q: I did them at school.

JA: Did you? Well I think we were more or less…. Aldbourne was overrun with the American Army and I think that took up everything.  The American’s were very good to us, if it wasn’t for the American’s and their K rations, I don’t think the children would have seen many sweets at all.  They used to go down to the camp, which is down where the football field is now, and it was like another world.  They had everything; everything we didn’t have, they had, and the waste was quite something.  They were very, very good to us. Some of them were billeted on us; I always remember a friend of my Mum’s, of course petrol was rationed, Daddy had an extra ration because he worked in Marine Mountings factory in Swindon making guns; and he was allowed a ration of petrol.  But there was a friend of Mummy’s who used to get round the American’s for petrol; she used to have these great cans of petrol in her garage.  Well, one day there was going to be a blitz on this, our village constable was going to go around, because he had heard that people were doing this.  Of course Mummy, being very very trustworthy, having the surgery at Neals, said to Auntie Lena “Oh, bring it up to Neals and we’ll put it in the kitchen and we’ll cover it over with carpet”.  So she brought this stuff up; who should come in on the evening it had all arrived and been covered up, but three American officers to visit one of Mummy’s evacuees, and they were sitting on these drums. And Mummy was a very cool person; everyone was going “Oh dear, what will happen if they smell it?” But they were quite happy sitting on these carpets. I can remember afterwards Mummy saying “Well, they had no idea it was there; that was alright.” And I said to my grandmother afterwards, “Just say if somebody had said, ‘I can smell petrol, I can smell gasoline’”.

Daddy decided we were going to make a ‘dug out’ because we were right in the flight path of Coventry. And the American’s had an airforce base at Ramsbury airfield, and we had the airborne division here also; several bombs were dumped over by Harry Sheppard’s farm over the top of Castle Street.  So Daddy decided he was going to have a ‘dug out’; so he dug this great big hole in the back lawn at Neals and, of course, the springs came up; so it was more like a pond.  I can remember my Grandmother Penny, she started to go a bit funny, she was eighty something, and she thought this was terrible – a war on and Daddy had dug a swimming pool.  Another thing that always used to make us laugh was Grandma Penny had five sons and four of them were in the First World War; when she started to go funny, she thought that these soldiers in the village were her boys coming home; and these poor men used to walk all round Butts to come down into the village to miss Grandma Penny. Because she’d rush out and say “Charles, you are home at last.” And of course we couldn’t get them to realise she was going a bit odd and she thought that they were her boys, the uniform you see.

Q: Sad really.

JA: It was sad. But it was, as I said, a great time.

Q: Did the village celebrate, do you remember that?

JA: Oh yes. We had a bonfire.  Oh this was something that might interest you.  The first bonfire was VE Day, Victory in Europe, we had the bonfire round the Pond, so everybody danced round the Pond. And, of course, everybody who was a bit that way inclined, got drunk; and it was chaos really, because the American’s were still here.  Well, that went off all very well, everybody was very poorly the next day but we all had a good time.  VJ Day, we had a bonfire up the top of Baydon Hill in what we called the Chalk pit, which is now houses, just below Windmill Close.  There was a young girl, Marjorie Bowes, she was about 17 or 18, and somebody had got hold of some bullets and they had this brilliant idea, these young boys that got hold of these bullets, they’d obviously been left behind in the camp in the rubbish.  Boys don’t realise. They bunged them in the fire.  So of course Marjorie Bowes was shot; I think it was in her arm and her leg.  It was a bit of a damp squib, the whole issue of VJ Day.  They had to get the ambulance to take Marjorie off.  I can remember blood pouring down her face; she had very very fair hair, but nobody owned up to it, of course, but it was so unnecessary. I suppose nobody ever thought to tell these boys you do not do that sort of thing.  They thought it was just like fireworks. We had that and we had something going on on The Green; I can remember the bonfires mostly. And, of course, putting out flags and our village constable telling everybody you’ve got the Union Jack upside down.  We had a village constable, who was a real, real old fashioned village constable, rode a bike. Oh, if only we had one now.  It was such a good time.  We had quite a big do when it was the Coronation.  Of course it rained, as is its wont. The first time I’d seen television, a lady in the village said “Oh, would Julie like to come and see the Coronation on our television, black and white?”  I can remember sitting in Mrs Ballard’s sitting room and sitting glued to the television. There were about eight people in this tiny little room and the tiny screen.

Q: I’m two years younger than you are?

JA: Are you? Trevor’s two years older, Trevor Tiplady.  Oh, Aldbourne, but it has changed. Where we are sitting now was a farmyard.

Q: Oh was it?

JA: Yes, Auntie Flo’s farmyard. Where the white house is, down at the bottom, that was the farm house; it’s called Glebe Cottage.  There were four Glebe’s, council farms in the village.  There was this one, there was one down South Street, which is now a housing estate.  There was one down Lottage, which is now Kandahar, that used to be a Glebe farm – they had geese there.  But this farm here, they used to go Up Hayden, which is right up over the top there, to bring the cattle down this road here.  Bring the cattle down for milking by hand. There used to be a bull in the corner out there. And we very often laughed, because milking, I mean, the milk was taken from the cow and put in the bottle and delivered.  Not like it is now, half boiled before you get it.

Q: Used to go through coolers, though.

JA: Yes, but I mean nobody ever wore gloves or overalls or anything, everybody walked about and coughed and sneezed all over everything.

Q: I used to go and collect it for the school. With like a big churn with a tap on, two handles and two of us had each day, different people, to go to a farm half a mile away to fetch the milk for the school.

JA: We were lucky because they just came down to the farm here and took it up to the school.

Q: In the winter we had one of these big tortoise stoves and in the winter Mrs Burton, the teacher, had a big pan she used to heat it up in. Where was the school?

JA: The infants schoolis where the little school is now that’s been turned into a club house; and the big school was somewhere where the car park is; that was a real shame that was pulled down.  I think it was not supposed to be pulled down; it was a beautiful school.  If ever you want to see pictures of it, Jean Wootton’s  got some pictures of the school.  She’s a cousin of mine.

Q: You can tell me then where exactly she lives.

JA: She lives in the second house up on the right, there’s a block of three in Castle Street, newish houses. They used to be very, very old and they were pulled down and these three put up.  Sheila Emberlin lives in the first one, Jean lives in the second one, with her brother, she’ll show you lots of pictures.  She knows a lot about things because she’s lived here all her life.

Q: Tell me a bit about the doctor’s surgeryat Neals.

JA: How far back? The doctor that brought me into the world was a Dr Henderson, back in 1934; they started having a surgery there. That was when they used to ride a horse over from Lambourn; and then there was a Dr Bowden who used to come on a motorbike and get bladdered; and have to sit in Neals garden until the next day until he’d sobered up.  He used to get drunk on home made wine, which was the most potent stuff that you know, 100% – 140% proof!  Our doctors used to come over, then there was Dr Morrison, I expect most people remember Dr Morrison and his wife Mrs Morrison, they came over from Lambourn.  We had mostly the Lambourn doctors at Neals and the Ramsbury doctors used to go to a place in The Green, opposite where the old Post Office is, next to Bell Court.  Then Dr Mills and Dr Osmond went into partnership and it all came to Neals; and then Mummy had our back kitchen, where the old copper used to be, made into a surgery properly so it was away off the house, just a door in between.

Q: I remember coming there when I first came to the village.

JA: Do you? Into our big kitchen, the waiting room.

Q: Only about once I think, I saw Trevor Tiplady, I think.

JA: Oh yes, he came straight from doing his National Service to Ramsbury, he’s been there a long long time.

Q: Were there any amusing incidents other than the doctor recovering in the bushes at the back?

JA: There were lots, I think Trevor’s got most of this all written down. There was Dr Varvill; he was a real gentleman, he was; when it was the Lambourn doctors.  Now he lived in Castle Street in the big house, Barn House; I don’t know who lives there now – he lived there with his wife, and he used to come to the surgery, when we had the surgery in the house, and he came in one day and he said he’d been up all night.  It was snowing, it was terrible weather, it was awful and I don’t know if you know Hellscomb – North Farm, there’s cottage that’s down in the bottom – down there there was no water laid on, there was no electricity of course, there was no electricity in the village, but this old lady had called out the doctor.  They’d had to get her son to go up to North Farm to telephone, I think they were one of the few people that had telephones, for the doctor.  So he’d gone out and got down there, he’d had to walk down from the road, he managed to get his car to the top of the road.  He had to walk down to Hellscomb; when he got down there, I can’t remember what her name was, but he went in “I’ve actually got here, are you feeling better?”  “Oh,” she said, “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with me; it was my birthday and I haven’t seen a soul all day.”  And he said “What could I do but sit down and have a cup of tea with her.”  This was about midnight, you know.  He was as cool as a cucumber, he didn’t loose his temper.  There’s things I can’t tell, because I don’t know the proper stories, because we didn’t hear what went on in the surgery.  We just heard snippets from other people.  People used to come to the surgery just for a sit down, it was like a meeting place.  Trevor Tiplady will tell you.  The waiting room was more like a meeting place.  When Mummy died, oh dear, oh dear.  Of course my name was mud, because, with death duties, I could not possibly have stayed there. And besides that, it was a very large house with little steps everywhere, and I just started to lose the use of my back; I’d become paraplegic and, of course, in a wheelchair, how could I live there.

Q: How old were you?

JA: I was 40 when I left, 1976 Mummy died.

Q: Six years after I moved my parents into the village. I moved my parents here in 1970 because my Mum was poorly and they were living up in Buckingham and I was working in Swindon and I was travelling, often for several weeks at a time; I travelled daily when she was not well.  So I moved them, so that was six years then.  That first six years I remember going to the doctors at Neals.

JA: My daddy, I expect you know he was bandmaster for Aldbourne Band and he had TB, and he had to be in an isolation hospital at Swindon for about 9 or 10 months.  It was just before streptomycin started so he had to be isolated.  He lived for the Band, he was so musical.  He took me for piano lessons, I passed exams before I had to go into hospital and give it up altogether.  He was a wonderful man. He had one brother who also played in the Band;  oh, that’s something you might find amusing.  Daddy’s brother was 11 years younger than Daddy.  Uncle Fred had five children, they are all out in Australia now.  Uncle Fred played the double bass; and Uncle Fred was a bit found of a drop of beer or anything else he could get hold of.  They used to say that at Christmas time, when they were going round Carol singing with the Band, of course he went.  Of course he would get a free drink, and they’d get home. And then they’d got to meet at 4 o’clock in the Christmas morning to go round.  Where’s Fred?  Where’s Fred?  They used to call him Luke.  Where’s Luke?  I can’t remember seeing him after about 10 o’clock last night, he must have got home – he’s probably sleeping it off.  Anyway they got half way round this particular Christmas morning, and somebody said, “there’s a terrific noise in somebody’s vegetable patch, we’d better go and see what it is”.  It was Fred – sort of recovering, with his double bass, lying in this lady’s vegetable patch, half way up Castle Street.  It happened to be a Miss Longhurst who was very, very, very prim and proper.  So Fred was, sort of, dragged out and carried on with playing his rather large double bass, feeling very very poorly and looking absolutely terrible, pea green I should think.  And he used to go up to the top of the tower, play up there. But Uncle Fred was a character; Daddy used to disown him. Daddy wasn’t a bit like that.  Uncle Fred was the life and soul of the party, all the younger members of the Band have heard about him.  Daddy fought in the First World War; of course, Uncle Fred was too young. Uncle Fred was in the Korean War. He was a cook. He came back; then, of course, his children went to Australia at different times, they are all out there now.  They paid for him to go out with them, and he died out there.  He was a character, a real character, again only because of the home made wine.

Q: Sounds like the village were all inebriates

JA: Oh, they were.

Q: Because people used to make much more of their home made wine, then I think.

JA: Yes, I think, well it was the only thing to do, if you wanted a drink. Because my grandmother, I remember when she came to the village, Grandma Penny, she had the Blue Boar.  And that was as far back as when they used to have their gin and their whisky in barrels; and they had to break it down, what they call bring it down, to bring it down to a certain strength. And she had the Blue Boar for some years, and then, of course, I think just after the First World War, she left there and went to different places in the village. And then she bought Neals for £400  which seems absolutely unbelievable now.  We had no electricity; I can remember having hot oil lamps and a loo outside.

Q: So you had oil lamps until when?

JA: Oh until the beginning of the war, 1939. I think that was probably because of the war that we had electricity.

Q: I suppose the American’s wanted it.

JA: Yes, they had their own generators. But I know that it was quite a long, long time.  I can remember having the oil lamps at Neals; ’cause I always remember, recently, thinking how Grandma Penny used to darn and sew and make things by oil lamp light and hardly anybody wore glasses.  It’s amazing when you think back, what they did.

Q: My father’s mother had oil lamps. And, constantly, when we were children, it was “Mind the lamp, mind the lamp”.

JA: I can remember the first radios we had, you had to have an accumulator, and you had to have it filled up at the garage. Huge great radio.  I talk about these things to my friend, Alison, she’s a psychiatric nurse in Swindon now, and she 28 years old and she looks at me in great disbelief.  Even pounds, shillings and pence.  I tell you who you ought to go and see and talk to, Len Liddiard.  His brother was the blacksmith, Alan.

Q: He made my gates for me.

JA: Oh a wonderful man; he used to do Grandma Penny’s errands when he was a boy, and I don’t know if you can remember the way he talks, very slow. Grandma Penny, who was a bit of a stickler, used to say  “Alan, will you speak up”.  She loved Alan. The young girl that comes to see me, Alison, that’s her grandfather, Len Liddiard, who lives at the Old Blacksmith’s. The Library belongs to them.