Aldbourne Heritage Centre

Q: How long have you lived in the village?
PB: I’ve lived here for 85 years, except for 10 years out during the war.
Q: You came here when you were a few months old didn’t you?
PB: Yes, seven months old
Q: So not quite a Dabchick?
PB: I’m not a Dabchick at all. Sorry
Q: What brought you to the village?
PB: I was just taken in by a village family at the age of seven months.
Q: What was the very first thing you can remember?
PB: The first thing I can remember is walking up the hill, up Castle Street because we then lived in the first cottage, on the left. The first thing I can remember is the steepness of the hill, so I was probably too fat then.
Q: What was very special, a treat for you when you were very young?
PB: I suppose a new book was always my greatest treat in life, right from very young years, and of course we didn’t get many books because there was no library so we read the same book over and over.
Q: Did you pass them round the village?
PB: No, they were too precious in those days.
Q: How often did you leave the village and why?
PB: Very little, just to go into Newbury on the old carrier’s bus shopping with my adoptive mother and occasionally Sunday School trips to Silbury Hill or Savernake Forest.
Q: That was a real treat wasn’t it?
PB: Yes it was.
Q: How did you get there?
PB: Oh usually Barnes very old bus or there used to be another gentleman in the village who had a bus for hire too.
Q: Do you remember when you went to the railway station in Hungerford, did you ever go on the train?
PB: Once we had a Sunday School trip that was so stupendous for us because we got on the carriers bus, went to Ogbourne and caught the train. We had to change at Marlborough and we went right down to Devon for a seaside trip and that was wonderful; on a train you know.
Q: I didn’t know there was a station in Ogbourne?
PB: There was; you can still see the remains of it. Chris Warrington remembers coming to Ogbourne station when he was granted leave from the forces and having to walk from Ogbourne to home, because of course that was the nearest station.
Q: You said your family attended Chapel; you used to go to Sunday School?
PB: Oh yes, Sunday School twice a day morning service and this was at the old Primitive Methodist Chapel round West Street which is now pulled down and not a stone to say where it was.
Q: Is that where Church Cottages are?
PB: Yes, I think they are called that. Just opposite you know where Sandra Barnes lives. Sad really because I was married there, my three children were all Christened there. Very sadly they pulled it down and left no memorial.
Q: So you used to go there every Sunday?
PB: Every Sunday, we used to go and do a scripture exam some time in the year, once a week and there was always a junior endeavour. There was a Christian endeavour for adults and a junior endeavour, yes, so we were in there quite a lot.
Q: But then in those days people didn’t travel around so much, so the Chapel or the Church was every much a social point.
PB: Absolutely, it was your social occasion and the village was really divided up into Chapel and Church, should be the other way on really, because of course there was the old Wesleyan Church at the beginning of Lottage Road, you know where they still use the new one now. That was quite a division; you were either one or the other. I suppose it was rather nice in a way, because these days you really don’t know quite where you belong any more and in those days, as a child you knew where you belonged. Whether you approved of it when you grew up was another matter.
Q: But that was nice for you because you met all your friends, because you were the only one, weren’t you in your family.
PB: Oh yes.
Q: No brothers or sisters
PB: No, No. I had quite a lonely time, but I think I was very happy alone really, still am.
Q: Well you don’t seem to be. You have so many friends.
PB: I know, after my husband died I lived here alone and in my job I‘ve been in very lonely places with children on holiday you know and I’ve been absolutely secure. But on the other hand I like company as well. Yes I’m very content.
Q: Your childhood home, what was it like?
PB: My childhood home was a very small cottage that belonged to the Browns at The Manor. My home was the very last cottage as you go up West Street on the right hand side. There is still a little cottage there, opposite The Manor.
Q: Where Mr. Brown used to live, a little white cottage?
PB: Eric Brown, yes. All my three children were born there.
Q: The village was obviously very different in those days?
PB: Oh absolutely.
Q: Was there any crime in the village or not, everyone left their doors open
PB: No there was not because we always had a policeman living in the village and he was very much in control, especially of the children, you know. He would box their ears if they were doing something and one we had was a great cricketer so he was also involved with the village in a nice way. No there was very little crime; you could leave your doors open, your windows open and go down to the village.
Q: So when the car came along obviously life changed tremendously didn’t it?
PB: Oh absolutely. I mean to go in a car was almost, I don’t think I went in a car until I was just about getting into my teens and that was one that was owned by a friend of my father, you know and he was a local preacher for the Methodists and he sometimes used to go to villages through the Lambourn valley and he would sometimes take us with him. And of course driving was no hazard then because there was nothing about.
Q: I suppose really you hadn’t seen much outside the village until the car came along, apart from these odd journeys?
PB: No, I did go to London quite a bit because my adopted mother, she came from London and I had two adopted aunts living up there, so I was sent up there for my school holidays in charge of the guard on the train from Hungerford.
Q: And were you met at the other end by your aunts?
PB: Yes, because I was quite young when I did that. But I never seemed to mind what I did, I was very brave.
Q: How old were you then?
PB: Oh I started when I was about eight and I think it went almost on until I left school. It was my annual holiday to go up there.
Q: It was very brave at eight to be going up on your own on the train.
PB: Yes it was most unusual really I suppose. Don’t know why that was.
Q: Well as long as someone met you at the other end you were alright because London is a big place. And who would you put in the charge of the guard nowadays? A precious animal or a child?
PB: Well even London wasn’t the hazardous place it is now was it?
Q: I suppose you went from Swindon didn’t you.
PB: No, Always from Hungerford. There was a good train service.
Q: I suppose Mr. Barnes would take you on his coach?
PB: Yes that’s right, yes. It’s fascinating you are making me remember all my past days.
Q: Employment, was there very much employment in the village and what can you remember?
PB: Not really, I would say there wasn’t very much employment. I mean all girls used to go into service, either as a domestic or in my case I wanted to look after children so I went as a nanny. Of course the boys used to go on the farms didn’t they?
Q: You would have the blacksmith and people like that?
PB: Yes, but there weren’t any firms that could employ a lot of people. Later there was when my children needed jobs there was more about then. There was the egg packing station and different things.
Q: There would have been farming presumably. Would they employ a lot of people on the farms?
PB: More of course, because they didn’t have the machinery did they, yes they did. When I was living in this cottage that I told you about in West Street I could remember hugging my baby and looking out of the window wondering how long it would be before it arrived,and at 7o’clock every morning all the workmen who worked on Browns farm, which there were about eight or nine, would gather at entrance to The Drove. At 7o’clock when the clock struck they would all walk up to the farm.
Q: And they probably worked very long hours did they?
PB: Yes, they worked long hours from seven until five I would say but they were more sensible hours though than all these staggered hours today. Life was much more sensible. Like my grandson – in – law; one week he’s on earlies today, now he’s on lates, on at 3 gets back about 2; and then having to go 4.30 to 3. Not good really. People are like cattle, they need regular hours.
Q: Entertainment, I’m sure you must know about that?
PB: We made our own entertainment mostly. Our own entertainment I suppose was hymn singing and choir. I told you they had a United Choir. When my children were small we had a visiting cinema twice a week in the Memorial Hall. I think it was a Tuesday and a Friday. If you sat on the platform, which in those days was the other end of the hall, you paid an extra shilling and they showed you which film was coming next time. There was a little lady that used to bring ice cream round. Actually my family didn’t go very often because I was one of those that put their children to bed a regular time you know.
Q: Was it very well attended?
PB: Yes, it was something for the youngsters and for people like me who didn’t really get out of the village to go to Swindon to go to the cinema there. It was very much enjoyed.
Q: They’ve brought that back in Ramsbury?
PB: Yes so I gather.
Q: So every day domestic life in the home, there were people who were servants in houses weren’t there. The cooking was very different presumably?
PB: Oh absolutely.
Q: Did you cook over a fire or?
PB: My mother cooked over an ordinary coal fire, spit and oven at the side.
Q: Heating the water of course?
PB: Yes, water we had to get our water from the well. I wasn’t allowed to do that until I was about 11 or 12. Let the bucket down and wind it up. Great fun really.
Q: Laundry, well you did your own?
PB: Oh absolutely. Really old fashioned way too with the copper with the fire underneath. The blue bag that’s supposed to turn everything snowy white in the rinse you know.
Q: Was the blue bag bleach?
PB: No, it was just a big cube of blue in a cloth and you squeezed at bit into your last rinse water, this is really my mother more than me and yes the washing was fairly white. Not too much or it would be blue so you had to know how to do it.
Q: Tell me all about the shops in the village because they were very different from what they are now?
PB: Very different. Now what did we have, four bakers all cooking their own bread and some of them cakes as well. There was an extra pub as well where Barnes used to be.
Q: There was The Crown and the two on The Green presumably were there?
PB: I can’t remember two on The Green; mind you I wasn’t a very ‘pubby’ person. Being brought up in strict Primitive Methodist home one did not go to pubs.
Q: Were there any other shops, was there a clothes shop or a shop where you could buy bits and pieces?
PB: Oh yes, Palmers had the grocer’s shop which is now the Coop. Evelyn Palmer, who died last year I think it was, she had a little clothes and shoe, ornaments well gift shop as well really right next to it. Joined on to the grocery shop which was Wally Palmers; now the Coop. Which was lovely, because if you wanted a gift you could go there or if you wanted clothes or anything for the children or yourself she had it.
Q: So that was between the Coop and Pettywell was it, along there?
PB: Yes, but it was actually joined on to the shop, just had another door and it was a long narrow shop, it was very big. Yes that’s right, right next to Pettywell.
Q: And you had more butchers in those days?
PB: Yes we had two good butchers.
Q: Where were they, was one where Humphreys is now?
PB: Yes, one was there and the other was opposite the pond where those new houses were built.
Q: That was pulled down?
PB: Yes when they built the houses. I think it was probably used as an office before then, because its ages since we had two butchers. And of course we had a visiting dentist twice a week, his name was Mr. Leahy. He had his surgery down South Street where we used to go to the doctors surgery, opposite; the end of the new houses, I was trying to think who lived there as a child. Do you know Julie Alder? She used to live there.
Q: Oh General Cooper
PB: That’s right, that’s where the dentist used to come.
Q: Was there a doctor before the dentist?
PB: No because all the time the doctors surgery was there and the dentist, it belonged to the Alders. Do you know Julie Alder who lives round St. Michael’s Close, she’s in a wheel chair now, it was her childhood home. And when we used to go to the doctors surgery Mrs. Alder had a lovely coal fire going so we could sit round it. All the medicines used to be left on the table outside in a sort of patio for you to collect.
Q: Oh that’s where they have a conservatory now.
PB: That’s right, yes
Q: In that conservatory there’s a well which General Cooper found.
PB: Yes I believe he did, but I can’t remember that from my point of view.
Q: So you went through there and then you went into the doctors surgery did you, straight in though the front door.
PB: No, we went through the side into this sort of covered up alcove and then through Mrs. Alder’s sitting room where we were allowed to sit in front of this coal fire and then the doctor was in another little room. It’s a lovely fascinating house.
Q: Farming practises, we’ve said a bit about the farming haven’t we, the Browns farm?
PB: I suppose one could say I’m not an expert on farming, but very mixed farms then, the old horses you know used to pull the plough with their lovely fluffy legs. And of course they used to keep chickens much more in the little farms. It was really much more mixed farming I would say.
Q: They grew their own vegetables I expect, a lot of the people?
PB: Oh yes I mean they grew fields full of beet and different things. Can’t say I took that much notice of farms when I was young.
Q: You said you used to play up Oxford Street?
PB: Oh yes in front of Windmill Cottages. Before those houses were built on the left, where the old cottages finish on the left as you go up Baydon Hill. Then all those houses were built after the war. But before they were built it was all chalk pits, almost cliff like. You could climb and dig and things. It was an absolute haven and of course there wasn’t the traffic on the roads so if you went to these places around the village your parents weren’t in fear of you getting run over. And my mother had a friend who actually lived in Windmill Cottages before the war when I was a young child and we used to go there to play and that was lovely in their really old fashioned gardens at the top of the hill. I cannot remember the windmill, I don’t know when it was taken down, I have never been able to find out. They’ve got it in the archives.
Q: Holidays, you said you didn’t really have holidays did you?
PB: No I just had my London holiday and my first holiday with my own family of three boys was when my youngest was 12 that was the first holiday. Mind you’ve got to remember that the war was there as well so that was five or six years when you wouldn’t have gone on holiday anyway, even if you’d been quite well off. Holidays were such a treat when they finally did come. The children were thrilled to bits to go somewhere different, having waited so long.
Q: House values, everything is comparative isn’t it?
PB: House values; my adoptive father bought that first cottage up Castle Street, you know where I told you I remember going up the hill, past the tennis court to the top of the hill there is a row of flint and brick cottages, where Ceri Hanlon lives. My son is in the next one to him at the moment. We had the first one and my father, because everyone was terribly hard up in those days, he sold it for £100. That’s about the only thing I know about house values.
Q: Do you know when that would have been?
PB: Well it was when I was about, I’d started school, seven or eight I would say and I was born in 1920 so in the late 20’s early 30’s houses were going for a song really, well we call it that now of course it wasn’t to them.
Q: Leisure activities, what did you do when you had a bit of time off?
PB: I was very happy, I always played alone. I was always very interested in flowers and things. There again we were taught the names of every flower and tree from school in those days. We had nature walks every week and I think there is hardly a flower that I don’t know. They don’t know the difference between a dandelion and a daffodil now and neither do the teachers; Susan went on a Nature Walk with the Aldbourne School, she was amazed; they don’t know the difference between one tree and another so how are they going to teach the children? I think you used your imagination so much more that’s the main thing, because you didn’t have all these toys and gadgets that they have now, which is horrible.
Q: Can you remember any of the local industries; the fustian factory had obviously closed by that time.
PB: Yes, I can’t remember that at all.
Q: The chair making and bells and all that sort of thing?
PB: That was before my time.
Q: The blacksmith?
PB: Yes, they didn’t employ anybody very much. Of course there was a blacksmith at the top of Back Lane where the Warrington’s live; part of their house was a blacksmiths shop as well. Mr. Aldridge his name was.
Q: There’s one just to the side of The Square isn’t there?
PB: Next to the Library that one used to be. Of course there again I wasn’t in the position to want to go to the blacksmith. I mean it was used mainly when I was a child for horses, shoeing horses and things. So I don’t really remember much about that.
Q: Were you a member of the girl guides or anything like that?
PB: No I wasn’t, I don’t know why. Perhaps it wasn’t in the Primitive Methodist tradition.
Q: You joined the Methodist things rather than, well perhaps the WI.
PB: I did yes when I became an adult, I was on the WI committee for quite a few years.
Q: Scouts, Meals on Wheels?
PB: There wasn’t as far as I know any Meals on Wheels.
Q: Didn’t people help each other?
PB: There was an old lady in the first bungalow down here called Mrs. Jackson and I think for about six years, because I was cooking for my family of five anyway and very often one or two more, I always used to cook her a lunch every day for six years until she went to hospital. My husband always used to say, I think Meals on Wheels must have just been coming in because he used to say ‘Meals on Wheels, you’re doing Meals on Legs’.
Q: Medical care, well you spoke a bit about the doctor didn’t you?
PB: Our doctor’s surgery was in South Street. I was one of those children who had just about everything. I think my adopted mother must have very much regretted taking me because if you had the doctor in it was five shillings to come to the house and the earliest doctor I remember was a Dr. Kellett. I think he lived in the village but I’m not sure. It was really a worry if you had to have the doctor to the house because it was five shillings they couldn’t find. Well then we had Dr. Mills, he was a super man, even when Wilf came back from the forces and we didn’t have any money, and he was still charging to come, he never ever sent a bill if he knew you didn’t have much money, you’d say “When are you going to send your bill?” “Oh don’t worry about it : don’t worry about that” he used to say. He charged the people who had money of course, and looking back I think how marvellous that was. Of course medicine was very different, there were no antibiotics; lovely bottles of cough medicine you used to have. You never get a bottle of cough medicine now, tonics you know. It was a placebo, I suppose.
Q: School days, what can you remember; you loved your school days didn’t you?
PB: Not particularly, I just took things as they came; our school is now pulled down and the School House where the head master used to live. I can’t think why they pulled that old school building down because it was lovely architecture you know, really of the period.
Q: Where was it?
PB: Just above where the new school is. On the side of the Churchyard. There was a big room and everybody was in that room. The infants had a special room. There was a big green curtain that cut off the younger ones from the older ones. I remember my teachers. We had a Miss Hawksworth, who came from Swindon and was very grey in every sense of the word – grey hair pulled back tight in a bun, grey tweeds; taught us how to knit on four needles, socks, taught us how to use a sewing machine. Another teacher was called Miss Stroud, but she did marry later on and became Mrs. Moulding. Miss Stroud lived on The Green after she got married and used to give piano lessons, because I had my piano lessons from her. She was lovely, I think she rather knew I was not having a kiss and a cuddle and I think she was extra sweet to me. That was the thing about teachers in those days, they lived in the village and they knew the family and what sort of background their children had, which was a great help I am sure. Another teacher we had was a lady called Mrs. Sharp, very buxom and full of PT things. She used to give us (I’m sure that’s why I ended up with such a big bust) all these exercises. Then our headmaster was Mr. Jackson who lived over The Butts, he had a daughter who was a missionary and every so often she came back from Bangkok, which was Siam. She would come back and then he would teach us Siamese national anthem which we would all stand up and it was w,a,t,a,a,s,s,i,m so when you sung it, it was ‘what an ass I am’, but you know none of us ever cottoned on to it until we were getting on; wasn’t that mean. She had a sense of humour. She told us the most interesting things about her work out there. I think the schooling was so good considering the limited time they had and the big classes which they had which they grumble about now. We had school choirs and we learnt The Lady of Shallot. We were introduced to lots of literature and poetry, folk music belonging to our country. They’re not introduced to anything now. I find it so frustrating. Its got to the stage where the teachers themselves don’t know now. We left school at 14 or 15 we didn’t know everything, but basically history, geography. Most of us could read and write and reckon. Now they can’t read or write; I think they stay on to 16 or 17. I watch University Challenge; when questions about the Bible come up, you know they are not going to be able to answer them.
Q: Special events and celebrations, what can you remember about the Carnival and all the things that happened in the village?
PB: Carnivals, we always had good Carnivals. I can’t remember when we didn’t. I never liked Carnival; I don’t like things that happen where there are loads of people. I don’t like to see all the beauty of the village cluttered up. The family go out and throw their money around. I had two sons in the Aldbourne Band which of course was always marching around. The last time I saw my eldest son who died at 44 was in the Band on this corner. They had a Dutch band over that year and I had Dutch people staying here. We had a hectic weekend and John played a tuba, a heavy instrument, as you know. As they stopped on the corner, like they do to let the traffic go past on the main road and, do you know, I never waved to him or smiled at him. He died the next morning; he just sat up and died and I thought “Gosh, I never even waved at him”. Ever since I have been a little sad as they go round the corner.
Q: The Feast?
PB: I didn’t like the Feast very much, although the Feast was much more exciting than it is now. It had black man who swallowed these flaming torches and walked on hot coals in his bare feet. There were like a chicken with two heads that were shown off in these booths, which in a way of course especially for us children was more exciting. I expect you have heard of the lovely lady Miss Foster who lived across the stream opposite the blacksmith, all us children used to go down there at 5’clock and for an hour we could have free rides provided by Miss Foster.
Q: Was she related to Mrs. Delme-Radcliffe?
PB: Yes she was. And Monica; Monica was her sister; and there was another one, Joyce Robertson who lived on the Green. She died young; you wouldn’t know about her. But this lovely lady used to do this, which was such a help to the parents, although it was a 1d and 2d in those days. That was a lovely thing that happened in the village. Fetes were much more exciting than they are now, there was so much more going on in a fete, like the greasy pole where people used to sit on and knock one another off. Bowling for pigs and all sorts of things. Much more variety.
Q: War time memories, I think you can tell me one two things about those?
PB: Not particularly about the village you see because I wasn’t here. My adopted father was in the Home Guard, that was really funny, but they took it so seriously. It wouldn’t have been any good at all if Germany had got across here mind you. They sat out all night on the Downs and things. They were very much like Dad’s Army, not quite so funny. They had all this anti-gas ointment they were all issued with and all these guns and uniform. And if we had been invaded it would have been absolutely no good at all. Well I don’t think so.
Q: Can you remember anything about the weather, was it different in those days?
PB: 1947; I was saying to Susan, a year or two ago, that was when my youngest son was born I can’t remember anything about the weather, except that I was pushing the other two around in a pram, you had a big pram with seats as they stayed in a pram quite a long time when you wanted them to and I can remember pushing the pram through snow in May. I can’t remember anything else about it – the daffodils were covered in snow ( May 22nd my youngest child was born ) and it didn’t last only a couple of days. Susan said “1947. That’s the year you told me you were pushing my Dad and Rick through the snow when you were expecting Chris. So that was that.
Q: Can you think of anything else that might be of interest? You seem to remember so much.
PB: I suppose I’m lucky that I can. It seems the longer I live, the village gets less and less facilities. When I think what we had years ago in the way of shops, bank, building society. Three petrol pumps, one where you say; one was along West Street; the last one to go was the other one
Q: Was that for the Brown’s farm?
PB: Oh no, it was for the general public; there used to be a shop there, where Mrs. Duechar lives, there is long house going back towards the village the next one was the shop and petrol pump, opposite where the picture framers was. You used to take your wireless there to get the batteries, which were acidy glass things, charged every week; you mustn’t spill any on your clothes because it would burn. The other pump was right opposite where the butcher’s is now on the left hand side as you go through the gap. There was a shop there then. A lady came along and made it quite nice now; I can’t remember who it is.
Q: Lady Johnston.
PB: Is she glamorous?
Q: Yes she’s glamorous.
PB: There used to be a shop and a petrol pump there. And now you have to go out of the village to get petrol.
In the war the American troops, the ones that did actually land in France, were trained here and you would see them doing their jumps from the planes. Then after the war we had German prisoners and Italian prisoners.
Q: Where were they?
PB: Mostly that side; the army huts survived longer that side than they did this side of Farm Lane.
Q: Were they in Rectory Close as well as Farm Lane?
PB: No. That was owned by the Jacksons at the Manor. That bit’s quite modern. And all the houses in Claridge Close all belonged to Jacksons land. There were one or two Italian prisoners who didn’t want to go back and they went to work on the farm. And not so very long ago there was one still living, quite old like me, not in the village, but somewhere close. The American troops varied, some were very nice and cultured and that was the ones that had to do the droppings over France and lost their lives, must have lost such a lot, paratroopers you know, and then we had a very rough lot of German prisoners. The Italians were never any bother. Different personalities. You didn’t dare be too friendly when the Americans were here because they would expect sex and it’s just amazing how many babies still remain in the village. Where my mother-in-law was in Hampshire they had coloured troops and that was even more revealing. Along came a baby, black and it was said ‘we always knew you had something to do with those black troops’ and the baby was lovely, black and shiny and lovely. One had to be quite high faulting. But they were very generous; they would give you nylons, they’d give children sweets and different things. Strangely enough when we were around at the old chapel, the old Primitive Methodist there must have been one German soldier who must have been a Methodist or Lutheran, or whatever, he used to come to chapel to the services and he used to go up to my mother’s to tea and he would always make wonderful things for my children if we were up there to tea as well, and they were only tiny then, out of newspaper, lovely boats, hats and all sorts of things. I don’t know what happened to him. Went back probably. He was really nice. There’s not a trace of the Army huts now or anything else.
Q: The football changing rooms, what were they then?
PB: I think it was a shop then.
Q: It wasn’t a guardroom then?
PB: Not as far as I’m aware. I was away a lot of the time.