Aldbourne Heritage Centre

Q: I believe that you are a Dabchick, a true native of Aldbourne, does that make you very proud and you let people know you are?
RP: Yes, and one day I was coming home on the Ramsbury Flyer when the driver must have been quite new because he said, “Why are Aldbourne people known as Dabchicks?” I looked around the bus and realised that I was the only true Dabchick there, so I told him the story of the strange bird that alighted on the pond. Nobody knew what it was so they sent for the oldest person in the village who proclaimed it a Dabchick; so I was able to tell them that. Usually I am very bashful.
Q: How long have you actually lived in the village?
RP: All my life, in five houses. I was born at Baydon Hill, near where John Hunt lives now. I am not quite sure if it is that house or the next one. Then when Dad was building the house in Stacey’s yard we lived where Peter Lawler lives now, just for a little while, then we moved into the new house. Next door to that was the Police Station in those days, and from there we moved to Mayfield and then to here, to Inglenook, which Dad built when he retired from building.
Q: When were you born?
RP: March 13th 1918, I’m nearly 90 years old.
Q: Who were your Mother and Father?
RP: Charles Stacey was my father, he was the builder. He was the one who built the builders yard.
Q: What are your earliest memories of life in the village, where did you go to school?
RP: I went to Aldbourne School but I don’t have happy memories because I’m left handed but was made to write with my right hand and that was a drawback the whole of my schooldays. When I took the 11+ it was in three parts, the first was at Aldbourne School, which I passed, the second part was taken at the old Grammar School in Marlborough, and we had to be away from home the whole week. No way was I doing that, so I failed my 11+.
Q: Who was the Headmaster?
RP: Mr Jackson, who used to tell us all about bees. He also kept bees. Dad used to say “What did you learn at school today?” “All about bees”. I also remember an incident when, up on the Swindon road, a spark from an engine, in those days there used to be steam engines, caught the Woodleys Barn in West Street alight. Some of the older boys went running to try to help put out the fire, and when they got back to school, they had the cane for being late!
Q: At what age did you leave school?
RP: 14 years old. All that time we were taught at Aldbourne School, we only had a curtain dividing the classes.
Q: What did you do when you left school?
RP: I helped my Mother at home look after my father and Uncle Harry, a bachelor, and Uncle Herbie who’d lost his wife, that was OK for a while. Everything was hard in those days but I wasn’t getting any money so then I went to work handling eggs, with Hilda Stacey, at the Egg Depot which was in the Masons Arms then. It was a very small concern, the eggs were handled, he would pack them and would take them to London once a week. There weren’t many people working there; while Mrs Mays did the bookings. Hilda Stacey and I had to do the handling. I had to leave there quite suddenly because my father’s secretary went down with infantile paralysis and I had to take on the booking. By this time I was 18, and courting. My then boyfriend got me into the hand of doing the booking, and the evening before I got married I was doing wages for about 50 men. We were living where Wally Palmer lives now. And, yes, my father employed 50 men.
Q: Can you remember the houses in the village that your Father built?
RP: He built all the council houses down Lottage Road just before the 2nd World War. He also built a bungalow towards where Wally lives now and the Police house.
Q: You’ve got a model of the Church, when did he do that?
RP: Dad was very friendly with the Vicar from Mildenhall, and he managed to get the plans of Aldbourne Church. I am only too pleased to let people come and see it or take a photo of it, because it’s lovely. Its about 10 feet tall, in the tower. He worked so hard then. It’s a perfect replica. He was very clever, my father. My granddad was killed down the well so Dad had very little schooling but he went on to build up his business..
Q: What sort of things did you do as a child for a treat?
RP: We had Band of Hope one night a week, then we had social evenings, and we made our own entertainment more or less.
Q: Your family was very close to Chapel, what did they do there?
RP: Sunday School and then Chapel.
Q: Was there much crime?
RP: The only crime I really remember was when the Browns kept losing their fowls. They lived across the road here. They were shut in but never locked in. The man across the road was going in and stealing them. My Dad built the house this side of the Nursing Home, which has stones, a bit of church work in it. He built it on spec. and somebody came along and bought it, Mr Edwards, and then his friend Mr Inkpen would like one so Dad built him one; and somebody came along and asked him to build a house in Folkestone, which he did but the builders there were very jealous of another builder, he couldn’t get materials very easily and eventually went bankrupt. It was an awful worrying time for him. Going back to me; I left school at 14. When Dad’s secretary went ill, I took on all the bookings and taught myself to type.
Q: Tell me about the shops in the village when you were young.
RP: Well, there was Palmers, they sold everything, we would do the work but there was no cash for the work; you took your wages in groceries. There were two Staceys shops, and Joe Wilkins which was Barnes before. So there was no money about.
Q: Sort of barter. What about the pubs and publicans?
RP: George Dew had The Queen , I don’t know who had the Mason’s Arms nor the Blue Boar nor Crown, and Barney West had The Bell.
Q: Not that you ever went into pubs. What about the farmers?
RP: There was Uncle Arthur Stacey in West Street, next house to where Sandra Barnes lives. All that was Uncle Stacey’s farm. It was jolly hard work, Auntie Flo used to separate the milk, and people used to take their jugs for a pennyworth of separated milk. I used to spend all my weekends, as soon as I came out of Chapel on a Sunday, round to Aunt Flo’s. There was also Charlie Hale, Bertie Liddiard at Glebe Farm, Browns, he was the big one, at The Manor, and Fred Sheppard on Marlborough Road.
Q: What buildings were in existence then that are not now?
RP: I don’t remember the windmill, only the chalk pit underneath it.
Q: What other local industries were there?
RP: There was the foundry with Lovedays.
Q: What organisations were there?
RP: Womens Fellowship which I still belong to. I was secretary for years and years and had to get the speakers, but now I’ve retired. That’s still going, averaging about 30, Wednesday afternoon. One week it was held in Wesleyan and the next week in Prims ; that was before the Chapel was built. Now we meet in Lottage Road Chapel.. I was married in the Methodists here in Lottage Road Chapel, but my daughter Davina was married in West Street. We also had Band of Hope social evenings on a Monday night, and on Friday night we had home made entertainment then in the Methodist. We also had Women’s Institute. I resigned from there about two years ago. I only used to go out on winter nights. It’s ridiculous; they kept putting the annual subscriptions up. I got married in 1932. Major Powell ran the racing stables at High Town on The Green, and his brother lived in Abergavenny. Major Powell went down and saw Don, my husband, Powell riding a horse, and his brother said, “Look at that chap riding that horse, you could do with him in your racing stables.” That was how Don came to Aldbourne. Started work at the racing stables. That’s how I started going out with him. I had had lots of boy friends before that. He lived at Lil Smith’s in Lottage Road, she took in stable lads and introduced me to him. When we first got married we lived at Mayfield. He stayed on here. They used to have morning and afternoon stables. It was jolly hard work. If they were riding up Haydon, the Four Barrows track, and one of them fell off, that would almost cost them a weeks wages. Mrs Powell was quite a tartar , she was a rascal.
Q: What are your memories of wartime in Aldbourne?
RP: The stables were all taken over by the Ministry. I have a bottle which was made by the prisoners of war that were housed in the stables, I don’t know whether they were Italian or German, but they gave it to my mother as she used to take them in on a Sunday evening after chapel for a sing song.
Q: Where were they housed?
RP: In the stables. One gave my mother this ship in a bottle which he had made.
Q: How did you travel about if you wanted to go to a big town?
RP: Dad always had a car, a funny little old car; but was driven about by his nephew. One day he said to his nephew, “Let me drive, I want to learn to drive”, but he wouldn’t tell my father how to stop the blooming thing. He hadn’t got a clue how to stop it! Its unbelievable now.
Q: Do you remember the Americans in the village?
RP: Yes, they were very good and generous with their things, many of which we could not get.
Q: Did you have anything to do with them at all?
RP: They were very liberal with their things. They had many things we didn’t have.
Q: How do you remember Carnival?
RP: I have been going to the Carnival since I was 4 or 5 years old and my grand daughter still does; she’s as keen as ever; never miss out on Carnival. I went in the Carnival with Mum and Dad and then Don. There was also, and we looked forward to, Aldbourne Feast which was a very big thing. We looked forward to it for weeks and weeks. The fair people used to come with horses before the motors. We listened for them coming along Lottage Road but they weren’t allowed to come in on Sunday evening until after the Church bells had stopped because they thought it would keep people away from church. There was also Sunday School Anniversary, that was one of the special occasions, when we all had to have new dresses and learn long recitations. Then we had special hymns to learn and Tommy Barnes, and later Bob Barnes, took us for that. At Christmas the Band would come round early in the morning and we would hang up our stockings. I was taken round to Auntie Flo for Christmas as she had no children, and she would invite me round there, and I would wake her up at 4 am in the morning “He’s been, he’s been”.
I remember deep snow down Lottage Road, and also floods down Lottage when they came half way up our lawn before it began to subside. And then the cottage where Stacey lives down the road, it just went straight through their houses.
Q: How has the village changed?
RP: We don’t know people like we used to then. I don’t even know their names. I speak to my neighbours over the fence, she’s a part time school teacher. They’re very friendly but we don’t go in for coffee like we used to years ago, but they go out to work. When I lived at Mayfield, Jose Swash’s grandfather Bowes lived near the house and he worked at the racing stables. He liked to have a bet and if he heard me out the back he would ask me to lend him half a crown but I never had it back; but I never told Don that I was letting him have this half crown. One day Don heard him ask me and told me not to lend him any money, so that put paid to that, so next time I had to say that I was sorry I hadn’t any change! I think we appreciated what we did have then more than we do today, we take things for granted now. I used to help with Meals on Wheels; get speakers for the Fellowship but now, in my old age, I just attend the meetings. We used to go to chapel Sunday morning to Sunday School and then through to the Chapel, then Sunday School in the afternoon and Chapel again at night. In the summer we would go for a long walk after Chapel and meet up with other families for a chat. Everyone was expected to go to Church or Chapel on Sunday, it was the done thing. I think it declined when people had cars and started to go out more on Sundays for other interests. My only trip out was to Abingdon, because my mother had a sister who lived there, and that was half a days journey to get there.
Q: Do you remember the policeman?
RP: The first policeman I remember, when I was about 10, was PC Coombes. He lived in the Police House next to us. His wife was a very nervous person and never wanted to go anywhere; whether she had a nervous breakdown. Her daughter, Vera, is a special friend and she still sends me a Christmas card every year. Then there was PC Drew.
Q: Which families were in the village?
RP: There were ever such a lot of Staceys. Dick Stacey had a big family, mostly daughters, and they got married. My father was Charles Stacey, his brother was Jim Stacey and his son Bill and now his grandson Andrew lives in William’s Cottage in Lottage Road. I think the only one of Dick Stacey’s daughters left in the village is Nancy. Dick Stacey was my father’s first cousin. Dad built the Council houses down Hungerford Road and round into Farm Lane. It was just Staceys and Jerrams, and if there were both asked to price a job, and one was very busy, he would put a price in a bit higher, so it would be given to the other, that’s the way things were.
The Camp Meeting was held in the field, I think Rushen owns it now, at the back of the Memorial Hall.
Q: What did you do for fund raising?
RP: There were jumble sales, and once a year the fete that was for the Churches, it’s been on The Green for a good many years now but I remember it being held at The Malt House. Once a year we would go on the Chapel outing, that was the only time we really left the village. We went to Southsea or Bournemouth with Duck’s charabanc that used to come from Marlborough and they had a canvas hood. The Church and the Chapel had separate outings. Mum had it very hard; I went to my aunt’s in Abingdon and I would stay for the whole of the summer holidays.
I used to go to spend a lot of time with Joe Wilkins mother.
Q: What about medical care?
RP: The doctor used to come to Mrs Alder at Neals and when the medicines came over they were just left on the shelf for everyone to help themselves.
Palmers used to sell underwear, stockings. You could buy everything at Palmers, or at Joe Wilkins and before him at Barnes.