Flints and dollies

January 19, 2021

We have Tom George, the son of the manager of Market Lavington brickworks, to thank for his oral history memories of growing up at the brickworks in the 1920s and 1930s. They were sited on both sides of the Broadway, west of the railway line.

Clay was dug by hand from the pits and taken by rope hauled truck along a railway line to the the hopper by the brick making machine. This had a frame on top, to prevent falling in.

See The Brickworks for the rest of this Lavington Forum article written in 1949 by Michael Sainsbury and Michael Baker following a school visit to the brickworks.

Tom George said the clay contained many flints that could cause big problems both to the machine and in the firing. Wooden dollies were cylindrical with one side larger than the other. These were put in the machine so that the flints broke the dolly rather than the cogs on the machine. However, if a brick was made with a flint trapped in the clay, the brick would burst open when heated in the firing process.

For this reason, Mr George paid his sons 3d for every bucket of flints they took out of the clay. Tom remembered that it took a long time to fill a bucket. (The twelve sided threepenny bits with their thrift and later portcullis designs were not in circulation until Tom would have been about seventeen, so he earned an old silver coin, or maybe three large copper pennies.)

Memories of Fiddington House

January 18, 2021

We have met Glyn Arnold before and shared his childhood memories in Childhood mischief in the 1930s and 40s. Young Glyn’s home was the middle of the three houses along The Clays in the 1930s. Not surprisingly, living there, his oral history recording includes his memories of Fiddington House, which was run as an asylum.

On this map from 1900, The Clays is marked as fp (footpath) and runs almost parallel to the High Street running through the centre of Market Lavington. (See Along The Clays.)

Glyn remembered continuing along The Clays to the back entrance to Fiddington House. There were farm buildings by this gate, where pigs and cows were reared, along with gardens and orchards which also supplied some of the food for the residents. Fiddington House was a large property, surrounded by grounds and lawns and it had a lake alongside the road to Easterton. Glyn also spoke of a little round chapel, where the patients walking in the woods could stop and rest.

Glyn said the asylum was a good source of employment for local folk and that a lot of the nurses lived in the village. He would have had opportunities to visit as the Church fetes were always held in the grounds.

Like many residents remembering Fiddington House, he talked about Miss Benson, the daughter of the owner. She lived in the lodge and had a grand piano. Glyn, and many others, used to stop outside and listen to her playing ‘lovely highbrow music’. (See Diana Benson, Fiddington Lodge and The end for the lodge at Fiddington House.)

Some of the residents were fit enough to be allowed out and about in the village. We have met Jonny Maddox, (with his interest in the church sundial) before. He was well known for going around the village on his white bicycle and handing out religious texts. Glyn was given a lovely bible by Mr Maddox. Apparently, Mr Maddox used to wear a white coat. Glyn went to old time dancing classes in the parish room (where the nursing home now stands) and came home in the dark. Sometimes he saw a white figure in the orchard, who he thought, and hoped, was probably Mr Maddox in his white coat, but he’d hurry along and arrive home flustered.

Among the other residents from Fiddington House, Glyn remembered a gentleman who scuffed his feet as he walked down the street and another who walked with a stick. There was also a young lady called Poppy, who was ‘dressed to the nines’ with all her clothes and lipstick in matching colours.

For more information on Fiddington House, see At Fiddington House and another At Fiddington House, Fiddington House – 1920s, Fiddington House – 1963, Fiddington House – a brief history., Fiddington House Asylum and An Advertisement for Fiddington House.

Childhood mischief in the 1930s and 40s

January 17, 2021

Another of the oral history recordings at Market Lavington Museum adds to our understanding of what life was like for local youngsters just before and during World War II. Glyn Arnold was born in 1933 and lived most of his life on The Clays, which runs parallel to Market Lavington HIgh Street, on the Salisbury Plain side of the road.

Like so many village children, he remembered his first school teacher being Mrs Elisha, whose class was in the old parish room (where the nursing home now stands). His junior school days were in the Victorian school building next to St Mary’s Churchyard, with teachers Mrs Baker and her daughter Sybil and headmaster, Mr Stowe.

Apart from lessons with the teachers, Glyn talked of visits to Mr Burbidge in the cottage behind the school (now Market Lavington Museum). He taught the children about beekeeping and showed them the hives in his garden and at the end of the churchyard. Grove Farm was close to the school and Mr Francis let the school have an area of his land as an allotment, where the pupils could learn about gardening. Other village folk taught them woodwork and blacksmith’s skills.

In this picture, Glyn is second from the left at the back. (For more information about this occasion and other names, see A school outing in 1947.)

Glyn felt his childhood years were in the good old days, when the youngsters had respect for the three policemen in the village and their parents and teachers. They would get a clip round the ear if they were out of order. Of course, this didn’t mean the lads never got up to mischief, but Glyn felt no real malice was involved. He spoke of Horry Griffin, one of the police who lived down The Spring. He caught the boys scrumping and they ran off round to Broadwell, but the policeman had a bike and got there first, before they could head off down The Clays. They were given a warning and then taken home, where they would get a clip from their parents.

One of their pranks was to tie string to the door knocker of the butcher, Mr Doubleday. They would hide in the Market Place and pull the string and enjoy seeing Mr Doubleday open his door, to find no-one there.

Mains water did not come to Market Lavington until after the war, which meant there were no flush toilets. Dawnie Cooper collected the buckets from the privvies and took them to empty on the allotments along The Clays. In the Autumn the boys aimed their scrumped apples at the buckets, hoping to splatter Dawnie with the contents of the buckets.

Pupils who passed the 11+ exam could go to school in Devizes or take advantage of a legacy which funded boys from Tilshead, Cheverell, Market Lavington and Easterton to attend Dauntsey’s School. Glyn went to Dauntsey’s but was not really happy there. The uniform rules meant the pupils wore short trousers all the ear round. As they walked home from school, the local boys would taunt them, calling them ‘Donkey’ or ‘Eeyore’.

We will share more of Glyn’s memories in another blog post.

A Lavington lad’s wartime memories

January 16, 2021

Among the oral histories at Market Lavington Museum is a recording by Gilbert Jenks. He was about eight years old at the start of World War II in 1939 and was a pupil at Market Lavington School. Aged eleven, he moved on to secondary school in Devizes, travelling there in the back of the bus, whilst the fare paying passengers sat at the front.

Many of Gilbert’s memories from this time coincide with those of Aubrey Chapman. (See World War Two memories and Christmas carols.) Gilbert remembered there being soldiers camped all around the village. Some were stationed in the old bus depot in the Market Place. Others were camped at Ladywood, near Canada Woods. Those in the woods near Russell Mill Lane had anti-aircraft guns. There were Italian prisoners of war at Bouverie House (The Old House). They were collected by lorry each morning, guarded by a soldier with a gun, and taken to work on various farms.

Gilbert talked of the Home Guard doing target practice in the field behind the church, where the land sloped down to the Northbrook stream. They fired a big gun, a Blacker Bombard. These could send a 20lb bomb about 100 yards. Local boys would pull it back up the hill with a rope.

Gilbert was one of a large family. They moved from their council house on Spin Hill to one of the new homes in Northbrook Close.

This picture shows the Northbrook Close homes, completed, on the right at the top of the hill. Gilbert said that only the first four were built before the war. The rest of the land designated for development was used by Dauntsey’s School to grow potatoes to feed their students in what had been Market Lavington Manor House. Gilbert remembered Mr Jack Marks preparing the land up Northbrook along with his shire horse and a couple of land girls.

A land girl at Grove Farm

January 15, 2021

We have been following the life story of May Cooper, based on her oral history recording held at Market Lavington Museum. (See An interwar childhood in Market Lavington and Life in service in the 1930s.) May had been working as a scullery maid but, at the outbreak of World War II, she said the options for girls were to work in an ammunitions factory, to join the forces or to become a land girl. Her father had told her that farm work was too heavy for a girl, but now she had her chance.

She started work on a dairy farm in Tinhead with two other girls who had come from London, with little experience of country life. She enjoyed opportunities to play tennis, skittles and darts with them in the evenings. There were 200 cows on the farm and she had to know them all by name to ensure she milked them in the correct order. Unfortunately, May got cowpox and had to give up milking.

She moved on to work at Grove Farm, in her home village of Market Lavington. The Community Hall has now been built near where the farmhouse stood. In this 1972 photograph of Grove Farmhouse, we can see the cows in the yard just below, but May was able to do farm work other than milking there.

She spoke of ploughing, working with horses and with tractors. In the mornings she was involved with the milk round, riding a bicycle with a two buckets of milk on the handlebars. She recalled being on Northbrook on one occasion, when the photographer’s car came round the corner on the wrong side of the road and knocked into her bike, spilling all the milk.

Later, May moved to Mr Snook’s farm in Urchfont and married from there.

For more information about land army work in Market Lavington, see A land girl at Knapp Farm.

Life in service in the 1930s

January 14, 2021

We have already met Joy, who provided us with an oral history recording of her memories of life in and around Market Lavington from the 1920s onwards. (See An interwar childhood in Market Lavington.) When she left Market Lavington School, aged fourteen, in the mid 1930s, she wanted to be a cook. An older sister got her a job as a scullery maid at Roundway, near Devizes. We often think of girls in service in big houses in late Victorian and Edwardian times, but Joy described a very similar work regime as late as the 1930s. She started work at 5 am and, if there was company at the house, might not finish until 10pm. She worked seven days a week, with just a half day off starting at 3pm and needing to return by 9 pm. A scullery maid did the dirty work in the kitchen, such as preparing the vegetables and cleaning and polishing the grate.

Joy wasn’t happy at Roundway and was pleased that her other sister was able to get her a job as scullery maid at Clyffe Hall in her home village of Market Lavington.

Although it was a strict life in service, Joy was happy at Clyffe Hall and liked the old cook, Mary Breach, who taught her a lot. This photograph of Clyffe Hall staff in 1930 shows Mrs Breach in the centre.

At Market Lavington Museum, we have some of the kitchen utensils from Clyffe Hall, which Joy might have known, including this potato ricer and a tongue press. (See A Potato Ricer and Clyffe Hall’s Tongue Press.)

Lord and Lady Warrington owned Clyffe Hall when Joy was there, but Lord Warrington died in 1937 and his wife sold up and moved away. (See Lord Warrington relaxes.) She found Joy a job at Rowdeford, where she worked until war broke out in 1939.

An interwar childhood in Market Lavington

January 13, 2021

May Cooper was born about 100 years ago and, in 2011, aged ninety, made an oral history recording for Market Lavington Museum. We are very fortunate to have this evidence of what a young girl’s life was like in the 1920s and 1930s. Her very early years were spent in the family home on Church Street in a long white building, now subdivided into cottages, but remembered by some village residents as the one time doctors’ surgery.

In earlier years, her father, George Cooper had been a haulier, taking furniture to London by horse and cart. He’d been in the Wiltshire Yeomanry and lost his sense of smell in a gas attack during World War I. May also told us that her father’s parents had farmed at New Farm on Salisbury Plain, a mile over the top of Lavington Hill. When the army took over the plain for military training, the farm was demolished and May’s grandfather moved to farm at Easton Royal.

Of course, this family history predated May’s memories, which really began after her father took over his grandfather’s coal merchant business and May’s family moved to Parsonage Lane, to the house behind James’s bakery, now the post office. (See Number 2 Parsonage Lane.) George Cooper had four lorries, of which three were requisitioned by the army in World War II.

May had two brothers and two sisters. She remembered playing half way up Lavington Hill and also at Broadwell, where the children played amongst the trees. (See Broadwell 1929)

Our museum founder, Peggy, also talked of playing there, remembering the spiked fence surrounding the area and saying no-one actually came to real harm on it. May had a different memory, saying that her brother’s friend was killed falling onto the spikes and that May’s family were not allowed to play there after that. (The spiked fence was removed for iron recycling at the outbreak of World War II.)

Anyway, May claimed that she preferred being with older people rather than playing with the children. She used to read bible stories to blind Mrs Forde, who lived in one of the cottages near the bier house. (See May Cox’s map and The Church and Grove Farm in the 1890s.) She also helped wash glasses for Mr Trotter at the Volunteer Arms public house.

May’s schooldays were spent in the village school on Church Street. Her infant teacher was Mrs Elisha and that class was in the room nearest the road. Her next teacher was Mrs Dury, in the middle classroom. Mrs Baker (mother of Sybil Perry) taught May next and her final teacher was Mrs Laycock, who took over as headteacher after her husband died. Schooldays ended at fourteen and we will consider May’s memories of working life on another occasion.

The Tip-Top Bakery in WWII

January 12, 2021

Jim Sheppard started baking bread in Easterton in 1926 in a rented bakehouse, but soon converted 1 Jubilee Cottages into a successful bakery and he was able to employ several assistants. (See Jim Sheppard and Jim Sheppard again.)

In this photo, Jim is on the right with one of his workers. His daughter, Joy, informed us that two of his staff went into the army and one into the navy in World War II. At the time, Joy was a pupil at secondary school in Devizes. She sometimes took time off to help at home and eventually left school to work in the bakery.

We have seen the delivery vans before. (See The baker’s delivery van.) Joy reminded us that the business had had a Reliant and a Raleigh three wheeler van over the years and that one or two ladies drove the van during the war. Joy herself got her provisional driver’s license as soon as she could, so that she, too, could help with the deliveries.

They kept the bakery going throughout the war but, in 1945, Jim Sheppard sold the business and Joy married and became a farmer’s wife in Easterton.

Easterton memories of 1930s

January 11, 2021

Joy’s oral history recording contains all sorts of snippets of information which build up a picture of life in Easterton village before the 1939-45 world war.

Market Lavington Museum blog has often focused on the carnival parades for Hospital Week which started in Easterton and made their way to Market Lavington. Joy remembered that the church fete held at Easterton Vicarage also featured a fancy dress parade with a route from White Street, along the High Street and up King’s Road.

Other summer memories included army convoys making their way through the village and up to Salisbury Plain, which kicked up a lot of dust. The children used to wave to the soldiers.

There was also a Sunday School coach outing to the seaside at Bournemouth or Weymouth. As well as the beach, there was excitement to be had by visiting Woolworths, where nothing cost more than 6d. (This was before the time that Woolworths had come to the local town of Devizes.) The children took sandwiches for their lunch, but stopped in Salisbury on the way home to buy chips.

Back in the village, Joy remembered the smells coming from Sam Moore’s jam factory, which employed a lot of local people. There was seasonal work to be had too. The women were involved in the hoeing, pea and fruit picking and so on and were able to take their babies and children to the fields with them.

Other employment in the village included joining the staff at the big houses, such as Kestrels and Queensfield. Joy remembered smartly dressed maids and cooks wearing uniforms and chauffeurs with peaked caps.

We are very pleased to have this recording to remind us about local everyday life over eighty years ago.

Buying an ounce of tobacco

January 10, 2021

At Market Lavington Museum, Joy’s oral history recording gives us insight into many aspects of life in the neighbouring village of Easterton in the years before the second world war. Her father, a baker there, smoked a pipe. Joy remembered being sent to Godfrey’s or Burnett’s shop to buy him an ounce of tobacco. (16 oz (ounces) = 1 lb (pound). A kilogram is about the equivalent of 2lb 3oz.) She would be given a shilling to pay for the tobacco.

For more information and pictures of the two shops, see Easterton Shop – 1930s and Easterton Shop in the 1930s.

The silver coin on the left is a shilling. (20s (shillings) = £1). There were twelve copper pennies in a shilling (so 240d = £1). Joy remembered that the tobacco cost elevenpence halfpenny an ounce, which left a halfpenny change, with which she could buy sweets.

Fruit chews were four a penny or a farthing each, so Joy could buy two chews with the change.

Britain did not convert to decimal currency until February 1971, although farthings were no longer in use by then.