Q: How long have you lived in the village?
MM: I was born at Stone Cottage in Lottage Road, in 1939, but my parents actually lived at Preston.
Q: So you’re a Dabchick?
MM: I’m a Dabchick
Q: Does it mean something special to you?
MM: Well I’m proud to be a Dabchick. A true Dabchick having been born in the village. There won’t be many Dabchicks in the future as most of the babies are born in hospital now..
Q: What brought your parents to the village?
MM: My father came to Preston from Marriage Hill to work on the farm for Mr, Sid Watts. My mother came to live at Preston when she married my father. She came from London, but had village connections. Her grandfather Brind lived in the village and she used to come and visit them. Her mother also came to live in the village, later on in the 30’s, but went back to London again in the 40’s.
Q: What’s the very first thing you can remember Mary?
MM: My earliest memories are of the soldiers on manoeuvres, camped outside the cottage and myself sitting in the trench having a drink from their tin mugs.
Q: What was a treat for you?
MM: Well a real treat was fish and chips from Mr. Brown’s Fish and Chip shop in Aldbourne, or a tin of fruit for tea on your birthday.
Q: And how often did you leave the village, say in a week or a month or a year and why?
MM: We didn’t go very far. Sunday School outing to the seaside once a year, possibly I think this was Southsea, by Barnes Coaches. We would visit relatives in Newbury by public transport. We went to stay with my grandmother Evans in London when I was a bridesmaid at my cousin’s wedding. Sometimes we would go to Swindon by public transport, only if you needed something special. And I went to London to stay with my grandmother for a holiday.
Q: And did your family attend Church or Chapel in Aldbourne?
MM: My brother, my mother and myself attended West Street Methodist Chapel. My brother and I went to Sunday school there.
Q: And your childhood home, what was it like?
MM: Our home was very basic, we had a kitchen range to cook on, this was the only heating in the house. At Preston we had a brick floor with coconut matting on the top in the living room. Upstairs you had a square of lino in the middle of the bedroom. We had electric light at Preston, but water came from a well in the yard. There was a toilet down the garden, squares of newspaper hung behind the door. It was very cold in winter and to help warm the bed you put a brick in the oven and when it was warmed through, you put it in the bed, wrapped it in a towel and put it in the bed. When we moved to Dudmore Lodge we had no electricity, we had oil lamps, candles. We had a kitchen range again for cooking, no running water, a pump over the sink which pumped water from a tank in the garden. The water went to the tank from the roof, and this went through filters and then we pumped it at the sink.
Q: Any special memories from Chapel days?
MM: Yes, there was junior endeavour on a Tuesday evening when sometimes you had a magic lantern slide. There was Wednesday afternoons for the ladies which I think probably would be the same as Women’s Fellowship now. The Methodist camp meeting was held in the field behind the hall. This was an open air religious meeting on the Sunday before Feast. The Feast was not allowed to come into the village until after 6 o’clock in the evening, I think just after people had started church and Ramsbury Band played at this meeting.
Q: And what about entertainment?
MM: There wasn’t much in the way of entertainment. We had a radio, or we played ball games or card games. Mr. & Mrs Kirby from Farringdon brought the mobile cinema to Aldbourne about 1946. The films were shown in the Memorial Hall every Tuesday evening and in the winter, on Saturday afternoons ‘cause I believe in the evening they had dances. I don’t remember the exact price, but I think it was sixpence in old money which is two and a half pence now for the hard chairs and 1/6 for the plush seats, which would be seven and a half pence now. My brother used to help in the projector box.
Q: And what about every day domestic life, any special memories?
MM: As we had no running water for my mother to do the washing, she had to get water from the well to fill the copper, then she had to have wood to light the fire under the copper to boil the water, more water from the well to rinse, then the whites would have go in the bath with a blue bag to whiten them. But if you over did the blue bag you ended up with blue whites. After all this you then had to put it through a mangle and to iron, you heated the iron in front of the kitchen range. And to have a bath, again you would draw water from the well, heat it in saucepans on the fire, pour this into a tin bath in front of the fire. You made jams, chutneys, homemade wine; and most of my clothes were made by my mother. We had pigs and chickens down the garden and also bees. Tommy Humphries would come from Marlborough to stick the pig which was then cut up. The sides of bacon would be taken into the pantry and salt would be rubbed in over a period of time to preserve the meat, this would then be used all winter. You also grew all your own vegetables.
Q: What about facilities in the village at that time?
MM: Oh gosh there were a lot of facilities; bakers, Freddy Palmer, he was a baker, a grocer and they also served materials, haberdashery, underwear, shoes and slippers. Ern Barrett was the baker, he also made wedding cakes. Frank Wilson, baker/grocer. Joe Wilkins basic baker and grocer. Bert Stacey was a baker and a grocer. Freddy Palmer and Ern Barrett used to deliver bread outside the village as far as Lambourn Woodlands. Louisa Stacey – which was later Alice Hale – she had a grocers and also a small lending library in there. Marg Barrett she just sold groceries. Pubs: there was The Bell which was Bert West or Barnie West, The Queen, George Dew, The Masons Arms, Eric Brown, The Crown, Mrs Smith and later Rose Slocombe; and The Blue Boar, Mrs Davey and the boys Social Club. There were hardware shops, Charlie Allsop he sold paraffin, bicycles and all hardware and mended bicycles. Tommy Lunn, kitchenware, paint and hardware. There was a wet fish shop that also sold fresh fruit and a fish and chip shop, that was Clifford Brown. Johnny Claridge, he had a small allotment and he sold vegetables, flowers and bulbs from his bicycle. Lester Walsh was a window cleaner. The Post Office was run by Mrs Liddiard which was then up on The Green. Then also later by Tommy Bradley and Marion Bradley. The Doctors surgery was Doctor Mills, that was opposite the Post Office and then it moved to Neals in South Street. There was also a Doctor Varvil at Castle Street, but he didn’t do as much as Doctor Mills, he was more Lambourn and Baydon. Mr. Keeble, the blind man, lived in Lottage Road, he was a basket and mat maker. There was a butchers, two butchers, Mr. Liddiard which was Mayo and then Gilbert. There was a slaughter house behind there in the earlier years and then Mr. Humphries in The Square. We had a visiting Dentist, a Mr. Griffiths and there was also another one at Neals in South Street whose name we think might have been Mr. Roth. There was the fire station on The Green. There was the gents’ hair cutters, Mr. Bond, Jack Cuss, Charlie Barrett. Road sweepers, Reg Mildenhall, Charlie Barrett, Arthur Chamberlain and George Barnes. Paper and sweet shop in The Square was Mr. Belmont and later Target, I think. Petrol pumps, Charlie Allsop, Tommy Lunn, Marge Barrett and the Foundry. Animal foodstuff, wools and haberdashery was Muriel Liddiard which was up towards The Green. Shoe repairs, Lilly Palmer and Percy Edwards. Taxis, Joe Wilkins, Tommy Lunn, George Dew and Marge Barrett. Thatchers, Genny Brind and George Wilkins. Chimney sweep was Mr. Crook, I think, first and then there was a Mr. Puttick, Bill Puttick. Blacksmiths, Noah Liddiard, later Alan Liddiard who was in The Square and Mr. Aldridge up Back Lane. Milk delivery Charlie Hale and Flo Stacey. Piano lessons, Nancy Aldridge and Mrs. Gilligan. Then we had the village nurse, Miss Oliver. Village policeman, Mr. Blake and then Mr. Waite. And there was a ladies hairdresser, Mrs Flintham. And the ladies that used to lay out the deceased, Mrs Bonnie Barrett and Mrs Pelly Barnes. And the Miss Bickhams, they belonged to the WVS and used to give out orange juice, cod liver oil and rosehip syrup.
Q: And what about farming practises?
MM: My father was a cowman and he milked the cows by hand. The horses worked on the farm and were later taken over by tractors. Horses pulled the binder to cut the corn. This was made into sheaves, these were stooked to dry then they were either threshed and the corn stored in sacks in the granary or barn or made into ricks to be threshed later. Ricks were thatched with elms to keep them dry. Hedging and ditching this was done in the winter. The hedges were cut and laid to keep them thick and tidy. Ditches were cleared, obviously to keep the roads free of water; the coppices would also be cut out to keep them free from all the mess and that. Some of the wood would be used for making hurdles. Haymaking, the hay was made into stacks and this was cut with a hay knife as required for the cattle or some went into the hayloft. Shepherds had small huts on wheels in which they stayed with their flocks day and night when lambing. The shearers came to shear the sheep in those days. Butter was made in the dairy at the farm. Water meadows were flooded to make lush grass for the cattle or to be cut for hay. When it came to the last cut of the corn, the last piece that was going to be cut, everybody used to gather round in the field to catch the rabbits as they came out ‘cause that would be your next day’s dinner.
Q: Apart from catching rabbits, what about leisure activities?
MM: My father played in goal for Aldbourne, this was their leisure activity in the Aldbourne football team and he also played cricket for Aldbourne. We used to go and watch the cricket being played in Coronation Meadow, before that I think it was in Rectory Meadow. My brother also played cricket and, as I said, my mother and I would go and watch. After he finished playing football and cricket he would sometimes go to Swindon to watch the Swindon team play and they would have an evening in the pub in the village, either The Queen or The Crown. Probably my father would play crib or darts or dominos in there.
Q: Were than an equal number of local industries and if so what were they?
MM: This was a very strong farming community and I’ve counted about 20 farms I think. There was Anthony Brown in West Street; Arthur Smith in West Street; Flo Stacey, later Gordon Hale also in West Street. Bert Hale, Kandahar/Lottage Road. Berty Liddiard, of Glebe Farm, but the actual land was out by North Field. Sep Homes he had a smallholding in Lottage Road, which was Alma Farm. Charlie Hale was on Baydon Hill; Bert Palmer, and before him was Purves, at Ford Farm in South Street. Sid Watts at Preston which was half in Ramsbury and half in Aldbourne parish; Oliver Hawkins in, Southward Lane. Then there was Mildenhall, Southward Lane. Godfrey Wentworth on Ewens Hill. Joe and Bill Humphries; they lived over The Butts, but they had various pieces of land around the village; Jimmy Bomford of Laines just outside the village; Fred Gentry of Dudmore Lodge and before that I think it was Churches; Mr Ogden had a pig farm on the Dudmore Lodge Road where the Hobby’s now live. Jack Hale in Marlborough Road; also Fred Shepherd along Marlborough Road. The Blands were Aldbourne Warren; Lawrence and Pembroke were at North Farm and the Lamberts were at Upham.
Then there’s builders: Charlie Stacey later became Chris Mantle that was Lottage Road and Dick Stacey that later became Mantles. Jerram brothers they were builders and wheelwrights, they were in West Street. Bill Liddiard was in The Butts. The Foundry dealt with agricultural machinery and cars, that was in Lottage Road under Mr. McKeon. Coaches: Tommy Barnes ran the coaches and he also ran a carrier service to Hungerford Station. They would take things for you and put them on the train. There was a coal merchants, that was Tommy Barnes sited in The Square; Fred Barnes in Back Lane, he also sold logs. Tommy Barnes’ wife Ada had a small café there as well. There were racing stables run by Bay Powell on The Green, Hightown. The egg depot run by Mr. Mays was round in The Masons Arms yard that moved later to Marlborough Road. Evers & Wall, the agricultural spraying firm, were in the Masons Arms yard. Finally there were undertakers; Jerram Brothers and Charlie Stacey.
Q: Now what about school days, often supposed to be the best years of our life?
MM: I’m afraid I didn’t like school. I went to Ramsbury School until 1947 and then on to Aldbourne. Miss Williams was my first teacher at Aldbourne then into Mrs Wood’s class and the last class was Mr. Wood, this was where you sat your 11+ exam. Mrs Moulding was the music teacher. After passing the 11+ exam I went to Marlborough Grammar School in 1950. We boarded there from Monday to Friday, Barnes Coaches ferried us there and back. I cycled to Marlborough nearly every Saturday in the winter to play in the hockey team. There were not many after school activities. I joined Brownies. Mr. Wilkins ferried the children from Lodge and Woodsend to school in his car. We had a visiting dentist and the nit nurse came to inspect your hair. In the morning break you had a small bottle of milk. Heating was a large iron stove, a tortoise I think they called it, in the room. The children went home to dinner, but I had to go to my aunt’s for lunch because I couldn’t get home to dinner. And it was when I was at Marlborough Grammar School that we heard of the death of the King.
Q: And finally, what about war time memories?
MM: I don’t have too many war time memories, but as I said earlier I can remember the troops in the trenches, the Americans walking by and they used to give us chewing gum. Also going to a Christmas party at the Rudge Aerodrome, Ramsbury organised by the Americans at their camp and how revolting the gas masks smelt when you put on, very rubbery. Prisoners of war worked on the farm and they used to make us wooden toys; and my father, he was in the home guard.