Abbreviations used for those speaking:
|AD: Andrew Davis
CW: Chris Wege
DH: Derek Higgins
EM: Eric Miles
JM: Jane McNeilly
KB: Kate Barber
LE: Lindsey Eardley
|MC: Marigold Curling
PA: Pam Appleby
PH: Peter Helps
PL: Peter Lawrence
PW: Penny Ware
PWW Patsy Wright-Warren
After introduction and pleasantries…
PA: I’m not going to make a speech, but I thought I’d start off telling you about the Home Guard, which I thought might interest you. And then I hope that we shall just talk to each other, because more can come out in that way.
The Home Guard really was really marvellous. I mean Dad’s Army was nothing! Kath, you all call her Kate [Barber], her grandfather was the sergeant. Michael, our dad, was only a private. I can’t remember who the others were. There was a Major Gower. He wasn't a Coleshill man. I suspect he was in charge of villages that had their own Home Guards — I don’t know. He used to come up and they used to meet, parade and drill. Don’t forget, most of the men had been in the army. I find it difficult to realize that the war was only 20 years after the other one, so these people could still be soldiers, couldn't they.
They used to meet sometimes in the Village Hall, but mostly in the windmill. They used to guard the water tower and the windmill. Were you in the village, Peter?
PH: I was in the LDV at Cambridge at that time, which gave me extra petrol coupons!
PA: Yes, you’re right, it started off being called the Local Defence Volunteers but then it became the Home Guard. People find it odd, but we honestly did have wooden barricades. You know how a sawing horse is built? With wooden crossbars. They were built like that across the width of the road. They were ever so heavy. It took three or four men to wheel them round. We had a barricade at the top of New Road. We had one at the Tower. We had one at the bottom of Coleshill Hill, which you call Chalk Hill, and one at the bottom of Barracks Hill. From time to time they used to detail a few men the guard this thing and check everyone who was coming into the village. And of course it was only village people who were coming into the village! They used to say, ‘You can’t come in until I've seen your identity card,’ and the person on the bike used to say ‘Don’t be so bloody stupid. You know perfectly well who I am!’. ‘But you can’t come through.’
I was talking to Irene Appleby today. She used to live in Kate’s house. She said one day her Mum had a stand-up row with Bob Payne because he said ‘I’m not allowed to let you pass until I see your identity card’. Because she hadn’t got it with her, you see. That was the sort of thing that used to go on.
Honestly, at the start, they only had one rifle. When it was Dad’s turn to have the rifle, because they used to have it for a week at a time, he used to sit and clean it every night, because it was lovely. And I used to have to help. I don’t know if anybody’s ever cleaned a rifle, but there was a pull-through, and there was a piece of metal like that (gestures) with a string attached. At one end of the string you’d but a bit of rag that tied on…
PA: That’s right. Four-by-two! …and that had got oil on, so you he to say ‘Now, drop that down the barrel. And I had to do it, because when Margo used to do it she used to do that (gestures) and that used to damage the barrel. So drop it down the barrel and then pull this thing through. And then you did it with a clean one.
PH: It wasn’t a Lee-Enfield either. It was probably an old Canadian point three hundred
PA: I don’t know. It was so heavy I could barely lift it. But then, of course, they got their own rifle. So then he could do it all the time, which was rather nice as it kept him quiet.
My brother Roger hadn’t gone into the Navy by then, so it must have been sometime in 1941, and there really was danger of an invasion. And I can remember Roger running in saying, ‘I’ve got to go back, Mum, can we have something to eat?’ And we were in bed, but we heard it. It was after nine o’clock. They were standing everybody to. And I can remember that they were out all night, and Mum said to me, ‘Your Dad and Roger are down at the windmill, so you better take this down to them’. And I took the Thermos flask and some sandwiches down the windmill, and I said, ‘Mum wants to know when you’re coming home, Dad.’ And he said, ‘No telling.’ But they did actually come home that lunchtime. But they did have to stand to. So there really was once a serious alert, but that was about the only time they did anything that meant anything.
I don’t know whether you know or not, but we had a searchlight in the cricket field, for about a year and a half. That was Army, nothing to do with the Air Force, but they were there. And Enid Stubbings, who you must all have known, found her husband from there. His name was Patmore and he was always called Pat, but I can’t remember what his first name was.
Also, in the windmill — and I never found anyone else who did it — but the Girl Guides used to make camouflage nets. I suppose Ruth Howard, the Guide Captain, and as you know they owned Windmill House… I suppose she organized it. But we used to go down two or three nights a week, stand on boxes and make these huge camouflage nets. It was nasty work because the stuff they used was impregnated heavy canvass. All different colours. They had a complete net, all fixed up. And they threw a blank net over it, and you had to fiddle through the blank net and find an orange knot, and tie an orange knot there, and then the next one might have been a green knot. It really was hard work for little girls, because we were only about eleven. But that’s what we used to do.
We used to go rosehip picking. From the school. I don’t know who organized it. It might have been through the WI. We used to go every afternoon through the rosehip period. Did anybody else do anything like that?
JM: I did it when I was young in Gloucestershire. And we got paid for it too! But only a very small amount.
PA: Oh, we didn’t get paid.
MC: I didn’t get paid when I did it in Hertfordshire.
PA: In the war?
PA: Did you do camouflage nets? No? I have never found anybody else who did it. But do you think Giles organized that, through his connections?
PH: He might well have, yes. No, Giles was in one of the secret services…
PA: SOE, wasn’t he?
PH: He went to Yugoslavia. He was backing the royalists. Which, of course, was the wrong horse. Someone called Blagdon, who also lived in the village, was backing Tito.
PA: Oh really? I didn’t know that. What else…?
Oh, yes. I had terrible trouble with Julian Hunt, because I could see that he didn’t believe me. For quite a long period, we shared the school with a Roman Catholic school. We had it in the mornings, and they had it in the afternoons. I knew he really wasn’t at all happy about it. One day when he was in my house I said, ‘You don’t really believe me, do you, Julian’, and he said ‘Well, I have never seen any records of it.’ So I rang Irene, a cousin who has left the area now. ‘We did share the school?’ ‘Oh, yes,’ she said, ‘With those nuns.’ ‘That’s right,’ I said. And this was really quite a thing for the village children, because it was isolated in a way. We really couldn’t understand these children calling the nuns ‘Sister’. We didn’t understand that at all. It was all very strange, you know. We didn’t understand why they never went to church. But they had the school in the afternoon. I can’t remember how long for, but it was quite a long time. But anyway, dear Julian had to admit that I was right, because somewhere he found some records. But it was never recorded in Bucks’ education records, and there was nothing in the school records to show it apparently. Which I found very odd. But it was a good year that we only went to school in the mornings. And that was when we did things like rosehips and various other things that Mr. Young used to take us out into the fields for.
That’s really the start.
CW: Pam, can I ask you about the searchlight? The people who were manning that, were they billeted in the village?
PA: I think they were. I think they must have been. There were only a few men, you know, and they came and went. And I strongly suspect that one of them was billeted with the Stubbings, you see, that house being so close.
CW: I’ve just remembered, because we had a girl, a WRAC, who used to come for baths. She came from the searchlight.
CW: ATS. That’s right, I got it wrong.
PA: Was she here?
CW: Yes, but I don’t know where she lived.
PA: They kept themselves very much to themselves. Although we used to go and look through the gate, we were never allowed onto the site. The cricket field. They could have gone into some of the huts in Rushymead. Don’t forget that Rushymead had got Price-Forbes down here. And there were huts to house a lot of the staff. They could have gone there. I don’t know.
The other thing, did you know that the railway clearing house was down here? In Coleshill Lodge.
PH: They took all the railings. All the railings were taken and never used for anything. Sadly.
PA: The railway clearing house was here for the whole of the war, you know. They built quite substantial huts in the garden. And then after the war Maurice Greenfield lived in one them. It was a super bungalow that he lived in there.
PH: Of course, the Village Hall was RAF huts…
PA: That’s right. Old Mr. Harrison went to Halton for it, didn’t he?
PH: Ted Harrison did?
PA: Yes. Bowers farm. John’s father.
PH: Was the Coleshill Home Guard ever involved in an exercise? You would have known because they would have been in an awful flap.
PA: At weekends they used to do things. But I think it was all done in a very casual way, you know.
PH: Cambridge LDV was involved in an exercise and one of my colleague medical students was run over by a tank! He was laying there in the fields, as instructed, with his pretend rifle, and lay there a little too long. He wasn’t seriously injured but he was run over.
PA: I don’t think they every did anything serious like that. They used to drill and things. And Uncle Alf used to sort them out, but it was all done in a casual sort of way. I know they didn’t have uniforms for a long time. They just used to have an armband. In the end they got uniforms.
PL: Pam, I remember an unexploded bomb being pulled up at Rushymead. Was that connected, do you think? Was that bomb aimed at the searchlight, or was that just coincidence?
PA: Herbie Dean used to listen to Lord Haw Haw. You had to take what Herbie said with a pinch of salt. But he said that Lord Haw Haw said that he knew that Price-Forbes were in Coleshill. But it was generally assumed officially, that (the bomb) was just chance.
JM: Can you explain what Price-Forbes was?
PA: It was a very large insurance company. And Mr Forbes, who lived at Rushymead, was the Forbes in Price-Forbes, as was his eldest son. It then became Sedgwick Forbes, and after that the Forbes seemed to get dropped. But it was a very important insurance company, and they moved all of their staff down to Rushymead, Mr Forbes’ house, at the beginning of the war. But the night that bomb dropped, I think there were two unexploded bombs. The one they dug up very late was one of the biggest ever, apparently. But that night, there were at least two explosions, just across the fields from us. There was also a lot of incendiary bombs and it was suddenly as light as day. Dad said ‘Come outside and look at this.’ So we went outside and we’d never seen anything so pretty. Fireworks had nothing on it. It really was the most pretty, beautiful sight. And Dad said to Roger, ‘Get a spade. We shall have to go and put them out.’ And the village men went across the fields, which they knew like the backs of their hands. They had all been in the army, so they knew you had to put them out with earth, not water.
PH: There were also stirrup pumps. Do you remember them?
PA: Yes, I do. But we never had them. We had one at school. One stirrup pump, which Mr Young used to teach the boys how to man it. Not the girls. The girls weren’t allowed to touch it. But I don’t know if this place had a stirrup pump or not.
PH: My grandmother had one.
PA: She would, wouldn’t she? Bless her old heart.
AD: What is a stirrup pump?
PA: A stirrup pump? You put your foot on it and pump the thing!
CW: You stand it in a bucket. It’s a long pump. And you put your foot on a projection on the side…
PA: To hold it steady.
CW: …and you pump up and down like this (gestures).
PH: And somebody else took the end of the hose.
They were specifically for incendiary bombs.
PA: Oh, were they? Dad said, that’s no good — because my brother had picked up a pail — because he said you want earth. And that’s what they did. That’s the closest we ever got. But, my God, they sounded very loud.
PL: Did you hear any of the bombs coming down?
PA: No. I can’t remember that. But I can remember the noise.
PH: They made lots of noise. A Molotov candelabra lit up the whole sky.
PA: Yes. They were beautiful.
AD: Where did the incendiary bomb drop? Whereabouts?
PA: If you go down Chicory. The Water Tower on your right. Then Rushymead. In the field there. That’s where it was. In the field in the field next to Rushymead.
JM: Can you say that again? When you go down Chicory?
KB: That’s what that road is called, Chicory.
PA: From the Magpies down to the Water Tower is Chicory.
I haven’t heard that one before (say several people).
PH: The bottom of the Magpie Round, as we used to call it?
JM: Spelled like chicory, the vegetable?
PA: I don’t know. I’ve never seen it written. I’m amazed that that’s gone out of use.
KB: We still call it Chicory.
PL: So where is it? In the village?
KB: From the Tower, down to the Magpies.
PA: And the field on your right, as you leave Rushymead, was where those bombs dropped.CW: Can you tell us any more about the Blitz? Could you see London from Coleshill?
PA: Yes. I don’t think we knew an awful lot about it. The Gerrards Cross siren used to go when the London ones went. From time to time when the wind was right, you could hear it. I don’t remember seeing anything or hearing much. Not in the way, for example, the night the Crystal Palace went up – that was seen very clearly from Coleshill – because I was got out of bed to see it. But I can’t remember – because most of it was in Docklands, an awful lot of it, wasn’t it? But I can’t remember seeing the blaze of the Blitz – no.
JM: Was there a blackout here?
PA: Oh yes! It was very... I mean someone used to walk round and knock on the doors if there was any sign of a chink. Yes it was monitored too.
JM: Did you ever see planes coming over?
PA: Well you heard them, yes. We certainly saw them go over to Coventry, no doubt about that – because we saw them – early evening.
JM: And what sort of news did you get of what was going on?
PA It was kept quiet. Coventry was kept quiet for quite a while.
JM: How did you get your news?
PA: The wireless.
JM: And that clearly wasn’t instant news.
PA: Oh no. I don’t think anyone was told about Coventry until about a day later. Peter, I can’t remember, but I don’t think we were told.
We also saw all of the planes and gliders going over for Arnhem. They went over, and those heavy planes – they were laden with soldiers – and they were ever so low. You could see the tow-rope and the glider. And these heavy planes were towing the gliders so slowly, and they were going over for about three hours. I can remember that very distinctly.
CW: I can too. What about the doodlebugs? Can you remember hearing or seeing any of those?
PA: Yes. Well we had fatalities in Chesham Bois. Colonel Hanbury –Sparrow’s daughter was killed. That was an irony because his wife was German. We only had about three you know – we didn’t have much. We certainly had one in Chesham Bois. I can’t remember where the others were, but I think we had three.
CW: There was one in the woods near Hervine’s Park – right in the middle of the woods. It did no harm.
JM: What sort of celebrations did you have when the war was over, here?
PA: Well we had a party. We had a party in the Village hall. You’ve got to realise that the Village Hall was pretty primitive you know: there was only one Ladies’ loo – and that very seldom worked. I don’t know what the men did – they went round the corner. But we did have a party in the hall.
I mean it was a bit scratch because we were pretty hard up for food by then. People think that people in the country got on all right – well we didn’t. I mean we could go and pinch rabbits. Dad used to – horrid – snare rabbits. Most of the village men did. It’s horrid but they did it.
And I can remember quite early on as a magistrate: old Jack Adams, you know where he lived. Well he was very territorial about his land. He was in his living room one day looking out to his fields – the hedge alongside Chickory – which was full of rabbits (and still is) – and he saw some men, and these men were poaching his rabbits you see. So he rang the police and the police came and picked these men up; and in due course they came to court. It so happened that I was sitting that day.
These men came from Slough and they said ‘Well what we’re doing Madam is we get these for the elderly folk people of Slough – for the poor of Slough. That’s what we do you see.’
So I said ‘Oh yes, yes, yes!’
So we got outside and I said [to a colleague] ’I’m sorry, I can’t take this seriously, because if I hadn’t lived off those rabbits I would have starved during the war. If old Jack Adams can’t spare a rabbit or two it’s a poor old do.’
So we fined them £5 each and let them go. But I hadn’t realised that Jack Adams was in the back of the Court and he stomped out, furious, because I think he wanted these men put in prison. We weren’t going to do that for ‘im.
PH: That was before rabbits became a real plague.
PA: Well that was before myxamatosis, yes. Interestingly, I don’t know whether you go into the Rushymead gardens often now, but I guarantee that if you walk down the drive at Rushymead you’ll see rabbits. When we had a garden party there last July it was really incredible: the wildlife. Because the rabbits were out – the partridges were out – down the field the ostriches were wandering about – it was incredible. The rabbits take no notice of people in that garden.
KB: Mum used to tell the tale of when they used to have chickens and Grampy had been out with his gun nicking somebody’s pheasants – poaching pheasants.
PA: Yes well Uncle Alfie was a very good shot and he always had a gun and occasionally he would bring us a pheasant, you see. I’m afraid it happened a lot. Village people went poaching – it’s as simple as that.
PH: They were called stubble-cocks out of season.
CW: One or two names in the village: ‘Blind Betty’, the pond opposite the Barracks Cottages, do you know any reason for that name?
PA: I don’t know that name
KB Mum used to talk about Blind Betty, down on that bit, yes.
PA: Did she?
KB: She didn’t know where it came from either.
PA: No, that’s new to me.
KB: I remember that when we used to go on the common, we weren’t allowed to go near Blind Betty.
PA: Well where are we talking about?
KB: You know the field beyond the pond – between the church and the common – at the bottom there just opposite the cottages. There’s that pond there.
PA: Yes of course there is.
PWW: What was the common like and how did you use it when you were a child?
PA: Oh, we lived on it! The common was quite, quite different. I don’t know whether it was the rabbits who kept it down, and the kids playing on it, but there were clearly defined paths and open spaces. You could walk down and the paths were very clearly defined. You see there was a path down to the centre with the ‘Cricket Pitch’ on the right. We called it the Cricket Pitch but it was very swampy, and I don’t know that anybody ever played cricket on it, but that was always the ‘Cricket pitch’.
And then there was lovely sort of humps and dells that we used to sit in, and lovely hollow hedges – we called them tents. We used to get into these hollow hedges and Kate’s Auntie Doris was an absolute wizard at lighting a fire with one match, you know. And we’d all stolen two matches and somebody had stolen the tiny piece off the end of a matchbox. And there was no one as good as Doris for lighting fires. And we used to go to the Clay Pits, which in those days – I haven’t been there for years – have the Clay Pits still got all of those saucepans and bottles and stuff? Yes? Well we used to go to the Clay Pits and try and find a saucepan that didn’t leak, and if it did leak we used to have a piece of rag that we threaded through the leak and we used to light a fire and boil the water, and have marvellous times. And we spent the whole time down there and that’s all that we did, but it was wonderful.
PWW: It was more open then?
PA: Yes, most of it was open, you see.
PH: Miss Dendy was terrified of fires on the common.
PA: Well I know. But we never set light to it.
PH: We used to smoke Clematis ends when I was a boy, and Miss Dendy saw the smoke from that and sent for the police.
PA: Yes well there you are. But we were left alone and we came to absolutely no harm. I think in many ways we had a marvellous childhood because we were trusted. We would walk to Hodgemoor Woods and spend the day in Hodgemoor, and we came to absolutely no harm. And blackberrying and things like that.
PH: It wasn’t Babes in the Wood?
PA: Oh yes. And they were lovely and we used to bring them up and put them on people’s graves that hadn’t got flowers. And we were given our freedom. Somehow magically we knew when it was 12 o’clock, which was time to come home for our dinner and I don’t know how we knew, but we did. I suppose hunger told us. But we had a marvellous time on the common and all the kids playing there.
PH: Marvellous nightingales singing too.
PA: Well absolutely. [To CW:] Yes well your house used to be called Nightingales.
CW: Well just down the road from my house.
PA: Mr Aldridge.
CW: Yes. We are a couple of doors up from that.
PA: Then of course the Army came to Hodgemoor and when the Americans came that really was a boon. We used to go up there and talk to them. The American Army brings its food with it – I’m sure you all know that – I mean they don’t live off us, they bring their food with them.
They used to eat well. My God! The food! W used to go and look. There was a lovely man called Johnnie, and he was in charge of what they call the ‘Chow’. He used to say ‘Yer want some pineapple, kids? So we used to say ‘Yes please.’ And he used to open this massive tin of pineapple you see, and we used to eat as much as we could. He used to say ‘Will you take some home?’ We’d say ‘Please.’ He had aluminium pots and he used to give us this stuff to bring home. Mum used to say ‘You mustn’t. You mustn’t!’ ‘No, it’s alright, Mum.’ There was no danger, you see. We weren’t afraid of anyone. My God, they fed us!
They used to bring food into the village as well. They weren’t here for long – about 8 or 9 months. People made friends with them and used to have them in the houses – and make the poor things drink tea, which they hated, of course. Margo had a friend called Paul, and he said ‘We shall be going soon and I shan’t be able to tell you when we go, but it will be soon. When I go I shall leave some things for you under the hedge.’ And then we realised one day that they’d gone. They went one night. They’d gone, and obviously it was the invasion. And we went down and he had left, believe it or not, a marvellous Yardley wooden shaving bowl. Now we were – during the war – exporting Yardley soap to America! We must have been! We had got this Yardley shaving bowl, and various little bits, which we took home to Dad. Dad thought it was marvellous. And Paul had left them for us. But that was the end of them.
And then the Poles came and made a home, and lived there, and had a church, a shop and a school up there – an absolute village. And they did the same in Penn Street. The time came when the local authorities thought well something has got to be done about this. We can’t have this, they have got to integrate. Fortunately the lady who was the Housing Officer of what was then Amersham Rural District Council, had married a Pole. So that was marvellous as she had an intro, and persuaded them that they had got to leave. And they put them in council houses, and they integrated so well into the community.
LE: How long had they lived there in Hodgemoor camp?
PA: Well they must have lived there for three or four years because they were firmly established. They had the church, school, and their own priest.
KB: I think they were there a bit longer than that.
PA: They may have been.
KB: I used to go up there with Uncle Rob to deliver meat, and then some of them came through to Coleshill School. A couple of sisters came with me to Raans Road when that school opened. So it might have been a wee bit longer.
PA: It may have been, because they didn’t come until after the Americans left in 1944. So they would have come late 1944 you see and I suppose the civilians came in ‘45 – they couldn’t have come before.
DH: Did they use the buildings that the army had vacated?
PA: Yes, they used the huts, the army huts.
PH They were visited by Beatrice Temple, the daughter of the Archbishop of Canterbury, a senior officer in the WRVS.
PA: Did she help bring the civilians, the women and children, over? There were a lot of elderly people and women there, you see. There were families there and after the war they had got out – God knows how they got out – but those who could, wanted to get out of Poland. They didn’t want to be under Russia, did they?
PW: But how did they get here?
PA: I don’t know.
KB: I think they just suddenly appeared.
CW: I think it was just before the communists got really established, and they managed to get the families out.
PL: There is a memorial in Hodgemoor Wood which commemorates that camp. It was unveiled probably 10 – 15 years ago, because |I was invited to go, and I think the Lord Lieutenant unveiled it. The Polish community had a celebration in the Catholic Church in Great Missenden – all in Polish – and it was impossible to understand what was being said. Then they had a nice breakfast in the Polish Club – a reception.
PA: They were very hospitable.
PL: They were lovely people.
PA: They made a great contribution locally.
PL: And the people who were guests there [ at the reception] were given a loaf of bread as well as having a whole meal and I remember I sat next to somebody who was the Polish Newspaper editor. I said well what’s the circulation and he said well sadly it’s declining but nevertheless he had got a job on it.
PA: Of course the Polish Club in Amersham is still very active.
PL: Yes, I once went there to try to get them to put down something of the history of Hodgemoor or the Polish Club, but I never got anywhere really. It just needed someone who had got the threads of the story to build on it.
PA: I think Tadius Makowski would have been the only person who did both things.
EM: I worked with somebody who was a boy up in Hodgemoor and he said that he used to come across to them lime-trees outside Hill Meadow – in the lay-by – and pick the berries. His Mum used to make soap with them.
KB The youngest of the sisters that I went to school with, married the butcher Derek Babb.
PA: An awful lot of Polish soldiers married local girls and settled ever so happily. It was a very successful affair.
PL: A person who does know quite a lot about it is the daughter of the Pearce’s, the farmers at Stockings Farm – Ros Pearce.
PA: Of course she would know as she was living so close to them.
PA: Talking about the common: Mrs Bates who lived at Thornbury Cottage didn’t have a water supply. She got her water from the well at the top of the Common (which you have given away - you should never have done that - it was very wrong). She used to carry two pails and the boys sometimes used to say: ‘Shall we carry them for you Mrs Bates?’ - in the knowledge that she would give them a penny each. But she used to come home – it was a good long walk across the common, you know. But why they’d got no water I can’t think.
CW: There was a little cottage that was burnt down, and that had a well.
PA: That was a little bit down the hill. Well Irene Appleby, my cousin (I talked to her today), it was her Uncle and Aunt and they’d only been married a short while. My cousin has a newspaper cutting about it.
CW: The name of the well that she got her water from up by Wheatsheaf Cottage, was Jacob’s Well. Why is it called Jacob’s Well?
PA: I don’t know. It was a working well with a pump. There was no danger – none of this nonsense that you had to cut it off in case of children. We often went to it to have a drink. There was a huge stone over the top. No one would have come to any harm.
You’ve given it to the house, haven’t you!
CW: I don’t know when that happened.
KB: I can remember going there as a child. It was completely separate.
PA: The village had got no right to do that, to let it go to a private person.PL: Was there a rivalry between Coleshill children and Winchmore Hill children?
PA: Oh Yes!
PL: Or between church and chapel?
PA: Not so much between church and chapel because the majority of the village children went to the chapel. Only a few went to the church.
PW: When did the chapel end here. There was a chapel when I first came to the village but when did it end?
PA: I don't know.
EM: My mother-in-law who lived in Winchmore Hill always said that whenever there were Nits or anything in Coleshill School they always blamed the Winchmore Hill children..
PA: Well I suppose we did (laughs). But we got on all right really.
KB: There was great rivalry between the cricket clubs, etc. but it was always friendly.
PA: Of course it was. We all played together perfectly happily in the school playground.
JM: Was there a school at Winchmore Hill?
PA: No. They either went to Coleshill or Penn Street depending on which end of village they were from.
EM: They do say that there would have been a school at Winchmore Hill but because they weren't Church of England, they never had one built. They were all chapel people so Lord Howe wouldn't build one.
PH: Funnily enough there was a Sunday school at Winchmore Hill. We used to cut out the things for Lucy to take up there. Now Pam, there's one little bit of local history that I know you can settle. There was a little flint circular gazebo opposite the Rosary. Now what was that for?
PA: Well we called it the Butter House but I don't know why. But it was flint with a stone floor; it would have been cold so the big house, the Rosary, might have stored butter there.
MC: In the Rosary garden there's an identical one but I don't know what that was used for originally. But that was listed long before the Rosary was listed.
PA: Really. Well I don't know why they knocked down the one in the field.
KB: I can remember it being half down.
PA: It was never complete in my time. I suppose some clever clogs thought it was dangerous.
MC: Somebody said it was to take tolls on the road. But it can't have been really because who would have wanted to collect tolls from people coming into the village.
PA: No the turnpike was down by the Queen's Head.. That was the only turnpike.
MC: It must have been some sort of house for keeping things cold.
PA: Well we always called it the Butter House.
PH: I'm sure it was an ice house originally, which would be the place where butter would be stored before refrigerators came in. Refrigerators didn't come in before the end of the nineteenth century, about 1870. Before that we used to import about 100 tons of ice per year from Norway. And America used to export thousands of tons all over the world. It all had to be kept insulated. The original ice houses were dug down very deep. There may have been timber to make an air space around it and then the ice was chucked in during the winter and possible supplemented by imported ice. And then straw packed on top of it. But what intrigues me is whether that butter house was the Coleshill store for butter or whether it was just the Hely-Hutchinson's or their predecessors because apparently every mansion had an ice house. Funnily enough, I've been reading about Napoleon and Wellington in a wonderful series of novels by Scarrow. And during the retreat of Moscow, it actually mentions Napoleon getting wine out of the local ice houses to console himself.
PA But that surely belonged to The Rosary, not to Coleshill House.
PH: Yes well interestingly, Marigold's got another one in her garden
PA Yes, but that field belongs to the Rosary so it can't have been for the Hely-Hutchinson's.
MC: It didn't belong to the Rosary originally but it does belong to the Rosary now. In the past, it may have belonged to Coleshill House. At one time it belonged to Cherry Tree Farm so it belonged to the Adams family.
PH He bought the Docker land so probably it did previously belong to Coleshill House.
MC: I never saw that Butter House.
PA: It must have gone before you came.
PH: The cowshed where I was taught to milk by David Pusey was right where Cherry Tree Farm is so it might have been for storing the Coleshill butter.
PA: I wouldn't have thought so.
PH: But anyway, you've settled it because it was called the Butter House.
PA It had a stone floor, flint walls and I don't remember it having a roof.
PH Adams should never have destroyed it because it was listed apparently.
PA Yes but old Jack Adams did that sort of thing.
PW: Can I just go back to the church and the chapel, and the school and the Sunday school. This intrigues me. You said the majority of the children were chapel children, not church children. So who went to the church?
PA: Winchmore Hill was exclusively chapel. Of the village people, well the Carters went to church...
PW: was everybody still buried in the churchyard?
PA: Oh Yes.
PW: So you can't tell from who's there.
PA: No. I don't know where the chapel records are.
KB: Did they go to Amersham, Pam?
PA: Yes, I suppose they did because the King's church took over. The chapel was, in a sense, under Amersham because Mr Pratt who was also Amersham Town Council clerk used to come up occasionally to preach. But for regular things, Mr Bryant used to cycle from his house on the London Road near to Chalfont St Giles. He used to cycle twice a day to take the morning service, the evening service and the Sunday school. Mrs Bates used to play the organ. Mr Bryant and Mrs Bates used to run it between them.
PW: When I was looking at some of the newsletters that Derek put on the website, there was a bit at the back of the newsletters saying who was organist choirmaster etc. And the church warden was a Mr Saunders who lived in Chapel Cottage.
PA: Yes that was Cyril.
PW: So he went to church in All Saints' and he lived next door to the chapel. So I thought this is a curious. What made the difference who went to which – church or chapel?
PA: If you were better off you went to church. There was a little bit of that.
JM: Was the chapel Presbyterian?
PA: No, Baptist.
PH: When All Saints' took over the chapel in Winchmore Hill (St Andrews Church as it was), the trustees were Rector Briggs, Mr Bunce, Lucy Taylor (my grandmother) and Mrs Wycliffe-Taylor. Lucy Taylor ran a Sunday School up there. I always remember pushing the Reverend Nightingale up to Winchmore Hill in the snow. He had a three wheel Heinkel. I think the drive was on the front wheel so it didn't have very good traction up the hill. Nightingale later became a Catholic.
PA: The other person who had a thing like that was Squire Drake. Because during the war they gave Shardeloes up to be a nursing home and they lived in The Larches. From time to time, they had to go from the Red Lion down to there to get the valet and say the squire needs your help because he's too drunk to come home under his own steam. Or they'd have to go and get the valet because he'd tipped himself out, bless his old heart. He injured his back in a hunting accident.
PH: He had a very very powerful wheel chair.
PA: Yes, he had three wheel thing with one at the front and two at the back with a black waterproof apron over it. I don't blame him for getting drunk, poor old love. But he often tipped himself out.
PH: He used to come up New Road so powerfully that one time I remember (I think he was in his cups) he forgot to throttle back and came round the corner and pitched into the ditch that used to be outside Rosary Cottage. I happened to be there and helped him out of the ditch. He was a very terrifying man to speak to.
JM: Is that the same family as the Tyrwhitt-Drake's?
PA: Yes he was a Tyrwhitt-Drake.
When the new rector, Tim Harper came, Bill Tyrwhitt-Drake still owns the living and at that time, I think when I was Chairman, for some reason I had to go in the front of the church and I found myself sitting next to Bill Tyrwhitt-Drake and I said, “I can remember your uncle.” Ad he said, “can you really?” and we spent the rest of the service talking about the old squire. But he was a terrifying old man; his face was that colour!
CW: He used to send a brace of pheasants up to my father at Christmas time instead of paying his dental bill.
PA: Yes, I bet he did. I suppose your father had a lot of that.
CW: In those days, yes.
PA: Yes because that was how Doctors and people got paid. That was another thing; Mrs Green in the shop ran a hospital club and a family paid fourpence a week. And if you were unmarried and over a certain age, 16 or 18, you then became independent and paid tuppence a week. And if you needed to go to hospital, into Aylesbury Hospital you went. A ll this talk that people didn't have hospital treatment before the National Health Service is a load on nonsense. I can remember mum going into hospital on two or three occasions into Aylesbury because we paid this fourpence a week.
PWW: It was Aylesbury, not Amersham was it?
PH: Apart from the GP service.
PA: Yes the GP service you had to pay for but I think the poor people were treated extremely generously. I don't think dear Dr Henderson would take more than a few shillings from anyone. I know mum never hesitated. If we needed a doctor, we had a doctor. Mind you, most of the time we didn't because we were incredibly healthy.
PH: Can you tell the story about the polio epidemic?
Yes, I will. It was '46 or '47 and I was working at Goya at the time and I developed an incredibly sore throat. And the lady who was the welfare officer then said Pam, I think you really must go and see Dr Henderson about this because this is how polio starts and I don't want to frighten you but you must go and see him. So I went to see Dr Henderson and he said, yes it is a bad throat isn't it. And then he asked, are you one of the Coleshill Applebly's. So I said, yes I am. Then he said well that's all right, my dear, you won't get polio. So I said, that's good Dr Henderson. And he said, you had earth closets, didn't you. And I said, yes. No my dear, you'll have had it half a dozen times and got over it and you've built up a wonderful immunity. And I've got patients who'd give their eye teeth for your immune system.
PWW: He was right.
PA: Yes, I think he was.
CW: on the old maps behind the Barracks cottages there's a little row of buildings. They were earth closets, were they?
PA: Yes, of course they were. It was normal. It went on the marrow head or the rhubarb.
JM: Can I ask something else. I'm sure you remember him, we had Philip Harris for lunch the other day. They were our next door neighbours when we moved into Forge House. We got to know them very well and they then moved down to Northleach in Gloucestershire. He is eighty five and has a remarkable memory. He's actually just had a bit of heart trouble but he came up a couple of weeks ago on a Sunday. He will come to this group if we want him to but in the summer time.
PA: How lovely. If you're in touch with him please send him my very best wishes.
JM: I will because I will be in touch with him. I said that you were coming this evening talk and told me a little bit about his life history and I thought I'd take it down while I had the chance to. He mentioned a chap who lived at Patsy's cottage called Happy. And he couldn't remember Happy's surname.
PA: My great uncle – Higgs.
JM Was he related to the Higgs who lived in Pond Cottage?
PA: yes because the Higgs who lived in Pond Cottage was Uncle Tom and the one who lived down Barracks Hill was Uncle Will.
KB: Will lived where Patsy lives. That was the family home.
PA: Yes. So where did Uncle Harry live?
JM: Was Happy, Harry or not?
??: Harry wasn't the one at Winchmore Hill?
PH: Happy had a lovely old shire horse which he did the ploughing with. And this animal and he had such a wonderful relationship. It used to carry him to the field, Gospel Meadow or somewhere and it used to do the ploughing and everything, turning round. Then he'd put a few rabbit snares in the hedge and then it would take him home. He used to chew the end of a pipe and it would take him home to Lands Farm.
PA: Well David Pusey never had to tell his pony when he was out on the milk round. The pony knew exactly where to stop. And if he had a new person, he could have said when the horse stops take some milk. And that's another thing about hygiene where we've become stupid. We used to put a milk jug outside the front door. And David Pusey used to come with a churn, ladle it out and go off on his way. If you felt very concerned you put a little bit of muslin over it.
PH: One of the anecdotes that Chris picked up was that the chap was rather mean about the dishing out of milk. Do you remember?
PH: But I came to the defence that David would never short change anybody.
KB: And then they had the dairy up at Cherry Tree Farm didn't they. Because I used to go up there and bottle the milk.
PA: That's right. And I've got a lovely painting, well a crayon - Mr Stubbings was a master of crayon. - of that farm.
PH: Do you remember the land Army was represented in Coleshill because Mrs Raymond Pusey was a Land Army girl.
PA: And Cyril Gelland's wife Marjorie, she was a Land Girl.
PH: And she did the milk round after poor David died.
CW: Snipe's Well: have you ever heard that name?
PA: No I Haven't. Most of the cottages had wells. We had one although we didn't use it because by that time we'd got very advanced and we had a tap in the front garden that four cottages shared.CW: How deep down was the water – sort of this sort of deep, far down?
PA: No, not very far down at all. You see the water level in those days in this village was incredibly high. I mean there’s this – I’ve told you this tale before – I mean it’s terrible really….
We used to stand (laugh) stand in Stoney Path, behind the hedge, when there was a funeral, and watch the men - in the graves – baling water out, until the last minute. I mean it was terrible really. And then you see a man used to say “Get out quick! They’re coming, they’re coming!” And they used to clamber out of the grave, throw branches in – see, that’s how high the water level was. So I should think the water in our well was pretty choice if you think about it, based where it was!
JM: Did the pond look very similar to the way it does today?
PA: Oh no
JM: …or quite different?
PA: The pond had got a slope…………..and I gave you a photograph of how Stevens and all the traders used to walk their horses into the pond, for the dual purpose of the horses having a drink and moistening the wheels. They could just go straight in, you see. And then they put the sort of embankment in, didn’t they.
KB: And the islands used to be more prominent as well …
PA: Oh yes! And they was almost two distinct ponds – because the one at the back you see we always used to call the Horse Pond
PWW: What the one that’s in the Valentines’ field?
CW: So that bank …went right across
PA: Yes. And whether I’m right or not, but we were always told that the bit of the pond nearest to the cottage was very, very deep. We never went round there, because we were told – that was the village lore – whether it’s right or not…
PW: Which side?
PA: Standing facing the pond, on the right next to Pond Cottage – we were told. And if you look into it, if you go there and look it is very dark, or at least it was.
PWW: under the willow trees?
PA Under the willow trees, yes.
PWW: Perhaps we shall find out, when it’s dredged
PA: Well the pond’s looking better now, isn’t it? But you see, every year that used to freeze over…
KB: We used to skate on it…one foot on the ice and carry on across
PA: Of course we did – slide on it..
AD: When was the last time it froze?
All: Last year
PA: But did it freeze enough? We used to say to the older boys “Does it bear?” And they used to say “No, not yet” and somehow these boys knew…”No, not yet” and then suddenly, there we were, on the pond.
KB: You didn’t dare break any ice or throw anything on it
PA: Oh no – because the boys, by running up and sliding, used to create an absolute glass path and then…
KB: Because I used to run up and Uncle George used to run behind and take…
PA: …and take you up. Yes we used to say to the boys “Take us up”, because the boys had got greater strength and they could get right up, you see…
KB: Imagine Health and Safety…!
PW: Well I think that’s why nobody went on it this last winter – because it must have been perfectly frozen enough to be skated on – but nobody did, did they? Because we’re not in the habit of it.
PA: But you wouldn’t have kept my generation off it
PW: Nor my generation - (to Eric Miles) We’ve had this conversation, haven’t we, about skating at Shardeloes? When I was a child we used to come all the way from Chorleywood to skate at Shardeloes!
PH: We went skating at Shardeloes too – but we also skated on the village pond
PA: But we didn’t like you, Peter, because you skated over the slides!
CW: I remember one particular winter when it froze quite well – three-quarters of the way across – but not quite on the very deepest bit, at the back, and a very well-known member of the village – an upright gentleman – a titled gentleman – I won’t mention his name though – came along and saw his children sliding round on the pond and he shouted out “It’s not safe! You’re to come off! Come off immediately!” And they didn’t and so he stumped onto the pond and he stumped across and he said “Look it’s not safe here!” and he stamped his foot and he went straight through…much laughter…right up to his waist!
PA: Served him right!
PH: Of course the cows used to drink…
PA: Well it would never freeze as much under the bushes would it?
KB: And we used to sledge down Windmill Hill…
PA: Well of course we did, yes.
KB: …Sid Ware’s father, by the windmill, he used to have loads of sledges…
PA: …we used to come down Samsons, and we used to come down New Road and skid straight across the main road. We DID! See, there was no traffic.
PWW: You’d have a problem now
PA: We would have a bit of a problem! See that’s why I say, we had a wonderful childhood! You see, think of the lovely hills we’ve got – down the hill from Samsons…to barracks… and the boys used to dare each other and they eachused to go down the hill, you know…see how far up Samsons they could get..
KB: Well I used to roam but I couldn’t let my children roam
PW: Which is Samsons?
PA: Samsons is the hill up the road up to Winchmore Hill. Is that name lost?
PW: One other question I had, thinking about you talking about tobogganing down Windmill Hill – do you know when…there used to be a fence along the common, so in the early photos as you look up Windmill Hill with the common on the left, there’s a fence all along the edge of the common. Do you remember a fence?
PW: So that must have gone a long time…
PA: No recollection of a fence there
CW: It was just opposite the windmill
PH: What sort of date was it Penny?
DH: The photo was 1901…
PH: Because there was a time when people used to graze some of their animals on the common
PA: Yes – well perhaps it was there for that purpose
CW: Actually I did read something about the building of that – it was about 1890 something that it was built, put in – because it was considered unsafe. There was – well there still is – quite a steep bank there…
PA: Yes there is – a very serious drop there
CW: …I imagine in those days the road went straight to the edge, there was no bank, edge to the road like there is now. It would have gone straight to the edge and people could have just wandered over it
PA: Well they could easily.
JM: Were you self-sufficient in the village? If you didn’t have a car and didn’t take the bus, could you live off the village shops? Could you live perfectly happily…
PA: No – but we had a wonderful service from Amersham: Stevens and Puseys the butchers came up, once or twice a week; Kings and Haddons, who were the two chemists, worked together and they came up twice a week – and if you had a prescription and you gave it to one, the other one would bring it up, they worked together; the coalman used to come; the paraffin man used to come; Mr Haycraft, with the accumulators (if you know what they are – they were what you ran your wireless from), he used to come and change the accumulators; Renshaws and someone from Penn used to come with drapery and the like… Who else used to come?
KB: Did a bread van used to come up?
PA: Yes, Whitesides and Snells used to come up; the village shop was very well stocked…
JM: So you wouldn’t have to go anywhere, you could be…
PA: No, it used to come to you, you see, yeah. See the butcher would come in with a big basket and he’d have a joint of beef and a joint of lamb or mutton or whatever and he’d say “What are you going to have?” and you’d say “I’ll have some of that” or he’d go back to the van and get what you wanted. (As) I say the paraffin man used to come and he’d have a van with hardware in it, you know…
JM: And vegetables? Would you grow your own…
PA: Yes, everybody grew their own vegetables. We lived better than anyone for vegetables, because everybody had a huge garden. And Dad…the only thing that we ever bought … tomatoes, he wouldn’t grow tomatoes – but that was alright because Mr Lane had huge greenhouses up there and we used to buy tomatoes from them. And he grew potatoes, all the greens, peas, runner beans, broad beans, carrots, parsley, mint, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, everything, celery…
JM: So you had unpasteurised milk, water from the well, that was very adjacent to everything else…
PA: Well, no, we got posh – we had a tap
JM: …but very little illness, very few infections…
PA: Well the vegetables were the main thing weren’t they? And then we had blackcurrants, redcurrants, gooseberries, white currants, Victoria plums – that Kath’s father was magic at grafting Victoria plum trees – damsons, apples, greengages – you have everything!
KB: And when did they start the allotments along there? Because I can remember…
PA: Oh I can’t remember them being started, but every village person had one, yes – that was where most people grew the potato crop for the winter, you see, and every Good Friday, dad used to plant his potatoes…
PH: …and cherries from Winchmore Hill.
PA: Yes, and from Larkins – from Luckings Farm and from Larkins: White Hearts from Luckings Farm and Red Hearts from Larkins.
PWW: Was there any water at the allotments then? Because I think they failed really, because there wasn’t…
PA: Yes, there was a tap! I’m sure there was a tap.
CW: Well I think the tap was in the garden of the house next door, because I had an allotment for a while and water was a problem
PWW: Nobody used them in the end because it was too difficult…
PH: There were a good many pumps, Chris, as you know
PA: I could have sworn there was a tap there…in the middle, half way down…
KB: Yes, I seem to remember there was…
PA: Half way down, on the right, there was a tap.
Additional Note by Peter Helps: Undoubtedly there had been a stand tap but this had been quietly eliminated by the early seventies; because I can well remember George Dean who continued to work their allotment, one of the last, having to bring water in petrol cans and other containers to water his vegetables. He came by car from Sibley's Mill in Old Amersham. The removal was probably the major factor in the demise of 'The Allotments'.
AD: When did the village shop close?
Discussion amongst those present!
PL: Do you remember when electricity came to the village? Or was it here all your lifetime?
PA: It wasn’t in a lot of the houses but it was in the village, as was the gas.
PL: Well you mentioned paraffin and I wondered…
PA: Well we had the paraffin. We had the electricity put on about 1945 or 6 – but it was in the village, everybody else had it. I mean, after all, the Howards had a television set! Before the war! I can remember seeing it. It was in Ruth’s sitting room, in the little room to the right as you went in the front door. That was Ruth’s sitting room
KB: Herbie Dean was the first…we used to go and knock on his door and watch Children’s Hour
PA: Ah but I’m talking about 1936 or 7! See the Howards had…see Giles was a bit that way, wasn’t he? And I can remember – because I used to go down there a lot - when mum died, Mrs Howard sent a note up: “Mrs Howard thinks it would be beneficial to Pamela if she would come and work Saturday mornings”. So Pamela went and worked Saturday mornings…and (laugh)…but she taught me to cook, yes, bless her old heart…but they had this television which of course wasn’t working, but it was huge and I think the picture was about that big – no bigger – and this massive thing – square – goodness knows how much workings it got in it.
And I suppose it was the only one in the village because you see the Dockers wouldn’t have had it and the Forbes’s wouldn’t. Your granny wouldn’t have had one, would she? Television? Before the war.
PH: No – she was a great one for radios…There was one little anecdote about the war – you know she had a Jewish refugee as a cook called Charlotte Bloch, who used to listen to the British radio, in her upstairs bedroom, in what’s now called Walnut Tree Cottage. And because people knew that she was a German, one or two people – old Rogers - thought that she was listening to Lord Haw Haw or something, listening to the enemy – there was a bit of gossip about this.
PA: Well the Bagehots had an Austrian refugee you know and they came to the Bagots as refugees - that was the mother and daughter – Edith came to the school for a while, Edith Pruse, and we were quite pally. But mother and daughter then moved to America because at that point America wasn’t in the war and they thought there was more chance of their father being released from Austria to America. There was no way they would release him to England but they thought if they were in America…and I often wonder whether he did get out, but I don’t suppose he did, poor man. But they were delightful people.
PH: But the Bagehots were wonderful people…
PA: They were wonderful people but Mrs Bagehot was Jewish wasn’t she – no she was German…
Additional Note by Peter Helps: Mrs Ether Bagehot was English, born 'Pollock' the daughter of a judge. There was deafness in the family and she had been stone deaf from birth or early years – and communicated by lip reading . She spoke so softly (she did not always realise this because, being deaf) and was used to being lip read herself within the family and by her friends. So it was indeed difficult to hear or lip read (if you were unskilled) what she had to say.
Ref. The 'Jewish' or 'German' rumour, Ernest Bagehot, her husband, who presented the aspect of a archetypal English country gentleman of independent means, was born 'Schwann' and under this name bought Windmill House – which rather baffled Julian at first. He was descended from a German Jewish line of immigrants and changed his surname to 'Bagehot' during World War One. He had joined Paget's Horse and fought in the Boer War and was proud of the fact that he had never done a day of paid work in his life. His father put him to work as a young man in his London office, but at lunch time the rest of the staff begged his father to send him away as he had already totally reorganised the office.
PH: She was stone deaf
PA: I know she was, bless her, completely deaf
PH: I used to have to lip-read with her. One of my cousins, who was staying when I was trying to practically lip-read, let off a 12 bore just behind her, to see if she really was deaf. It was very disconcerting for me!
PA: Because she was so deaf you see she’d never been able to speak English. I mean it was very difficult to understand what she was saying. Wasn’t it? You got used to her.
PH: We used to play a lot of card games. The other rival person for card games was Jane Fawcett, who was a wonderful character. She was the daughter of Sandford Fawcett, who tried to prevent all of his daughters getting married. In Marigold’s front room, she knows, he used to sit at the north end of the table, with his daughters all the way along. One of my grandfathers used to come and tease them through the window – the father couldn’t see. He was, of course, Master of the Waterworks, Sandford Fawcett.
PA: My mum was in service at your house – that’s how she knew dad.
MC: I remember the doctor - telling me he went to see…I can’t remember the name…Fawcett and she was sitting in bed with her umbrella up.
Additional Note by Peter Helps: Her name as 'Agnes' but she answered to the nickname of 'Cabbage'. She spent the latter part of her life in a large bed on the top floor of The Rosary. The roof was not always impermeable, hence the umbrella.
My brother and I were taken up to see her once when we had been invited to tea and games at 'Jinnies' (as Jane Fawcett liked to be called) because she had managed to incubate and rear in said bed a clutch of partridge eggs. The partridge hen had been taken by a weasel and surprised by the finder of the eggs so they had not been sucked by said weasel. We saw the tiny chicks in a pen made by piles of Times newspapers like a lambing pen. Quantities of Times newspapers were the only other visible furniture in the room that we could see. The chicks were finally conveyed to the gamekeeper at Brentford grange and survived as far as I know until adulthood. (I hope not shot.)
Jane Fawcett is commemorated in one gate to the churchyard and furniture near the alter at All Saints'.
PW: Can I ask one other question – do you remember evacuees? Because I’ve met a couple who’ve come back…
PA: Well we had an awful lot – we had families and we had children and there was one terrible, disgraceful day - and I don’t know how it happened and who had organised it – but one day suddenly two coach loads of women and children arrived and there was no preparation for them and I think a few village people took in, say, a mother and child, but there just wasn’t room for them and they spent the night either in the windmill or in the village hall . As I say, there was no lavatory of any description in the windmill. I don’t know what happened. There was only one lav in the village hall and that’s where those people were put.
They stripped Mr Howe’s orchard, because it was September. It was just the beginning of the war. I think someone in London was panicking and said “Get them out of the City”. They took all of the fruit. They took Herbie Dean’s damsons because they’d picked them before they’d tasted them, so of course they got a bit of a shock when they tried to eat them. I can remember one of them saying “Where’s the fish and chip shop?” And I said “At Chesham, but it only opens Friday nights!”
And I mean it was awful. And then they‘d all gone within days. Then we had the proper evacuees Well a lot of village people and they took…I mean we had the Taylor family they came down from London. They lived in the little cottage behind Mr Crane’s – what do we call them? They’ve gone now haven’t they? They build those flats in front of them – I’m looking over the common
PW: Yes I met someone who came back one day and said I used to live here but I can’t see where it is any more.
PA: Well I bet it was one of the Taylor family, because they lived there. Mr Taylor used to come down for the weekends. We had a number of people who took houses. And a lot stayed, you know, they never went back…Quite a lot stayed…Of course we also had – and I can never work out why – the Fordham and Baldwin family, who were related, came from Sunderland! Why did they come here? How did they know Coleshill existed? And Mrs Watson’s family came from Wales!
PWW You’d think they’d be safer in Wales!
PA No, that was before the war – they came for work. But it always puzzles me – what made that Watson family suddenly appear in Coleshill. And certainly it amazes me why the Baldwins and Fordhams (the Baldwin was the mother and the Fordham was the daughter and son-in-law) two distinct families related came here and stayed. How did they know that Coleshill existed?
PL: Is that Vic Baldwin’s…
PA: Yes! But they came from Sunderland – they were coal miners.
MC: Well I think she was working for someone, Muriel Baldwin, when she came down here and then she met her husband. I think she was here for quite some time before she got married and lived here.
PA: Yes, you might be right. But her mother came, you see and her sister, sister-in-law came. It’s always puzzled me why they came, but they did.
MC: I think she had a job and then the mother came down when her father died.
PA: Muriel was a rather lovely person.
MC: She was indeed.
KB: Superb voice she had – singing voice – because they used to have the choral society in the school.
PA: Yes. But her poor husband had tuberculosis, I think.
MC: He died very suddenly.
CW: Has anybody got any serious unanswered questions? Because I think you’ve talked a long time.
PA: My father always used to say “Whatever else you can do Annie (he used to call me Annie), you can talk!”
CW: Well thank goodness you can!
[There was talk of when she might return to talk to us and if Philip Harris and/or Bill “Dixie” Dean were to come she would love to come back with them.]