Posts Tagged ‘1940s’

Mystery of Easterton Hill crash revisited.

November 2, 2013

Back on January 6th 2012 we published a blog entitled ‘Mystery of Wartime Crash. This was based around a photo on a 1980s newspaper and some correspondence in subsequent issues of the paper. You can click here to see that blog.

We are revisiting that story today because we have just acquired our own photo of the aircraft which came down. It is not of the highest quality – indeed our print has been made back to front – but it is better than the dotty image of a 1980s newspaper.


Plane which came down on Easterton Hill

The rear of the photo is clearly captioned.


The caption says 1944, but was it?

The correspondence in the 1980s pondered on just when this mishap occurred and whether locals might have got things muddled. Martin Honeychurch appeared to have done some thorough research for in his letter to the paper he suggests the photo was taken pre-war.

He writes:

The aircraft G-ACKR is a De Havilland Leopard Moth built at Hatfield in 1934. Out of 66 British registered Leopard Moths 44 were impressed at the outbreak of the 1939-45 war for communication duties with the RAF and the ATA.

Leopard Moth G-ACKR was first owned by J R Bryans, Heston, then sold to L. H. Stace, Heston in 1935, before being impressed in March 1940 and given serial No. SX9294.

As soon as G-ACKR was impressed it would have most certainly been camouflaged and had the No. SX9294 in place of the civilian registration.

I’m guessing the photo was taken when the aircraft landed, maybe unintentionally, on the hill causing much local interest and perhaps sustaining some minor airframe damage and this has become confused with another later accident.

So Martin (and it would be good to hear from him) definitely thought this was a pre-war photo and not 1944 at all.

It’s a longish shot, but maybe somebody will recognise somebody in the crowd of onlookers which might help identify a year for certain.

Do, please, get in touch if you have any more to add on this mystery.


A Nit Comb

July 11, 2013

You never know what will turn up next. Nit combs wouldn’t be everyone’s first choice for a museum item, but they are useful little tools – if you have nits. And of course, they form a small part of history – particularly with regard to attitudes.

It all depends on when you lived as to what you think of nits and crawlers in the hair. People of a certain age will recall the nit nurse visiting schools and the sense of utter shame for those on whom nits or lice were discovered. The same people might also recall that when their own children were at school it was not uncommon for the letter to come home saying a case of nits/lice had been found and please check your child’s hair. And sometimes you found the wee beasts. Nobody made much fuss about it. You used the appropriate chemical hair wash and raked out the eggs or egg cases with the nit comb.

We can imagine, that in the 1930s or 40s when this nit comb was made, then crawlers or their eggs were deemed disgraceful and regarded as a sign of uncleanliness – which is entirely wrong.

A nit comb from the 1930s or 40s at Market Lavington Museum

A nit comb from the 1930s or 40s at Market Lavington Museum

This comb, clearly well used, was found during renovations at the former Volunteer Arms pub in 1992. The small gaps between the tines allowed hair to pass through, but any items stuck on the hair would be dragged out by the comb. This one is made of bone and we can only wonder whether it was dropped by accident or in horror at the discovery of nits.

We do not know, of course, who lost the comb.

Nit combs are still available today. A very similar looking plastic item can be purchased for 50p or less.

Playing Cards

July 5, 2013

Some folks refer to playing cards as ‘the devil’s picture book’. But mostly they are, or have been, a perfectly harmless amusement. There are so many different games that can be played. Some are pure luck, some require speed of hand and others need some mental dexterity. They surely, of themselves are not devilish.

We have recently acquired a couple of packs of cards of some antiquity. The first, in a damaged box is described as ’Rufford Playing Cards’. They were sold by Boots and similar packs were made and marketed between 1930 and 1955

Rufford Playing Cards - probably 60 or more years old and now at Market Lavington Museum

Rufford Playing Cards – probably 60 or more years old and now at Market Lavington Museum

The cards, which had belonged to a Canada Rise family, are in remarkably good condition considering they are at least 58 years old.


The backs of the cards have a classical design.


The face sides are very standard, with the joker and the ace of spades of interest.


These cards certainly make an interesting addition to our collection of pastimes from past times.

The Market Place – but when?

March 11, 2013

Here’s a photo of Market Lavington Market Place with some kind of parade lining up – both military personnel and youngsters in scout uniform.

A parade in the Market Place, Market Lavington

A parade in the Market Place, Market Lavington

It isn’t the best quality photo you ever saw and we haven’t fully worked out when it was taken, but it has much of interest.

A separately written caption tells us that this is an Armistice Day parade after World War 1. This could, technically be correct, but it certainly isn’t immediately after the first war. Take a look at the rear end of a car which is in the photo.


That bit of car looks to be about a 1937 model – or newer

Whilst we can’t positively identify that car, it looks to be something built from about 1937 onwards.

Now we are going to look at the hotchpotch of buildings at the back of the Market Place.

Where Fred Sayer kept his suite of buses and charabancs

Where Fred Sayer kept his suite of buses and charabancs

This had been where The Lavington and Devizes Motor Services had stored vehicles. The windows on what was left of the lovely old house to the right carry evidence of that usage.

We are adviswed to travel by bus or coach

We are advised to travel by bus or coach

There was can see the notices urging us to ‘travel by bus’ and to ‘travel by coach’. The middle window indicates that a phone had been used by the company. But this doesn’t help us with date.

Market Lavington Prize Silver Band

Market Lavington Prize Silver Band

A small contingent of Market Lavington Prize Silver Bandsmen are playing. The bass drummer looks to have a young admirer.

On the right of the photo is the main collection of people on parade.

Men and boys on parade in Market Lavington

Men and boys on parade in Market Lavington

It looks as though the soldiers are wearing forage caps which were introduced in about 1939. It seems to point to a time for this photo being the 1940s. Unless you know something different!

Second World War Home Guard

March 7, 2013
Xharlie Spreadbury and Sid Mullings on the platform of Lavington Station during World War II

Charlie Spreadbury and Sid Mullings on the platform of Lavington Station during World War II

Here we see two fine soldiers, doing their duty for King and Country. The two men are Charlie Spreadbury on the left and Sid Mullings on the right. They are standing on the down platform of Lavington Station.

We know nothing about Mr Spreadbury, except that he was the company cook.

Sid Mullings, we know rather more about. He was born in about 1899, the son of William and Amelia. William was a basket maker, a trade which Sid followed him into. He was to be the last of a long line of Mullings family members to work in basket making.

In 1911 Sid lived with his parents and brother on The Clays, Market Lavington. Sid served in World War I. Indeed, he is wearing medals awarded to him for service in that conflict in the photo. We believe he served in the Machine Gun Corps.

Sid married Emily Perrett in 1924. In 1926 the couple lived on The Clay, possibly with Sid’s parents. Daughter, Margery was born that year.

In 1939 Sid and Emily are listed on the electoral roll on The Clays. Sid’s mother, Amelia was with them.

Sid died in 1973.

Market Lavington Band – 1947

December 28, 2012

It is good to report that, once again, Market Lavington has a Community Band whose first public performance was at the carols in the Old School just before Christmas.

Older people recall Market Lavington prize Silver Band which packed away its instruments in the 1960s. Today we are looking at that band in 1947, by which time John Merritt had been its leader for more than 50 years. The mounting of our photo, taken by Burgess Brothers of Market Lavington has suffered damage, but the photo itself is in good enough order.

Market Lavington Band in 1947

Market Lavington Band in 1947

The photo dates from 1947 and was taken outside Beech House on White Street. Clearly cups had been won that were deemed worthy of inclusion in the photo.

When choosing this image for a blog page, we thought it was well captioned. Actually, it isn’t. The names attached to the back of this photo quite clearly don’t belong to it. It lists the people in four rows where, clearly, there are only three here. So having carefully started to transcribe the names onto this blog page, we had to stop.

We’ll now hope that somebody out there can give us names. Of course, there are some we recognise – like John Merritt sitting just right of centre as we look at it.

Even without names we have a handsome bunch of men (did they really exclude the female half of the population?) who look thoroughly proud of their status as bandsmen.

Christmas in the Village (2)

December 26, 2012

This drawing was published, along with E J Stowe’s article, in the Wiltshire Life Magazine for December 1946. It shows St Mary’s Church which was (and is) one of two church communities in the village along with what was, in 1946, the Congregational Church.

St Mary’s Church, Market Lavington as drawn by Eric Hopkins in 1946

The drawing is credited to Eric Hopkins. Eric has chosen to produce his sketch from the East end of the church, showing the tower to best effect. It’s a delightful image which Eric signed and dated, commenting on the fact that the church was built in the Norman style.

Eric Hopkin’s signature. Eric was born and raised in Market Lavington

So who was Eric Hopkins?

Eric was born in 1926. His parents, Samuel and Ada (née) Alexander had married in 1923.Eric was photographed as quite a young man, perhaps aged about 10, outside the family home on Church Street, Market Lavington when building works uncovered an old notice about the Hope Coach (click here).

We know Eric produced this sketch in 1946. The following year he married Phyllis Hatswell. The Hatswells had lived at the Market Place in 1939. A daughter was born to the couple in 1952.

We haven’t traced what happened to Eric but by the mid-60s Phyllis was listed as head of her house and the only elector. Her address was given as The Manor House so we imagine she was an employee of Dauntsey’s School who owned that building. She died in 2001.

Christmas in the Village

December 25, 2012

By E. J. Stowe

Published in Wiltshire Life Magazine – December 1946.

Wiltshire Life magazine (approx A5 in size) for December 1946/January 1947

E. J. Stowe was Headmaster at Market Lavington School and a writer on country matters

EVERY Christmas at Market Lavington we are enlivened by the merry chords of the village band playing the well-known carols. In the streets and in the lanes the bandsmen stand round their leader and play to us at our door.

This is a custom of so long standing that Christmas without our band and carols would not seem Christmas at all. We welcome their coming with gifts of money; but years ago “the big houses” welcomed them with more than a donation. They invited them inside and regaled them with beer and eatables.

When I was a boy, I looked forward to another band’s serenading on Christmas Eve, Their visit, long after dark, was an event to be looked for, and we youngsters stayed awake as long as we could, anticipating their arrival. When their music reached us, sudden and near, we were agog with excitement. We jumped out of bed to peer through the curtains at their twinkling lanterns and the bright reflections of their instruments. We loved their music, as it echoed and re-echoed on the glassy air to become a swirl of harmonious sounds, whose beauty seemed enhanced by the very coldness of the air and the uniqueness of the occasion.

I recall, too, the visits of the hand-bell ringers, who always visited us on Boxing Day. They were our Parish Church bell ringers, whose chimes had cheered us Sunday by Sunday throughout the year and this was their way of spending their holiday as at Xmas. They came to us wrapped in greatcoats and wearing mittens. They tramped from house to house in the snow, giving at each a short round or two on their twinkling bells. They collected quite a large sum of money and used it in providing themselves with a good supper at one of our Inns.

When they visited us, they stood in a circle around their leader, who gave them brief instructions about “bobs.” As a boy, I used to wonder why “Bob” (one of the men was named Bob Chapman) should need so much attention. I watched Bob very closely, but to my untrained eye I could see nothing amiss with what he did. But still the leader shouted “Bob.” It was sometime before I discovered that the cries of “Bob” were really ringing instructions when he required a change in the order of ringing. It was fascinating to watch the eight of them swing their bells, shoulder high and then jerk them at the precise moment to swell the harmony of movements, their whole attention was fastened on their neighbours whom they watched with sidelong glances. They said nothing at all. They listened to their leader’s shouts, whose “Bobs” momentarily broke the rhythm of their movements. The chain of sounds spread upwards until the houses re-echoed their merry chimes and the streets and the lanes seemed Lilliputian Cathedral towers with their bells aswing.

Nativity Plays are closely associated with Mumming plays, which are indigenous to the Countryside. Mummers have been part and parcel of village life ever since Christianity began. Although their plays varied up and down the country, they always followed the same pattern. They grew out of the ancient plays showing Winter as Death and Spring as Life. To this was added as time went on, stories of Crusaders- stories of St. George and stories of Turkish Knights; the former (St. George for merry England) always the conqueror of the latter.

Some years ago I revived the Mummer’s Plays at West Tytherly in Hampshire, where the performers were all young people and the village audiences certainly appreciated them. After all they were intended primarily for village folks and I found that the addition of one or two famous English personages added interest to the story and the inclusion of a bit of local history gave point and amusement to the theme.

The historical references and incidents need not be too exact. Neither need the story be chronologically correct. There is a great deal of scope given and taken in this kind of play. Even the language can be at times mere gibberish. The idea is to amuse the people and not instruct them. If the audience is convulsed with laughter, the players are spurred on to excel themselves and this delights all. The wit which appealed to my Hampshire folk might fall flat on a Northerner, so a good deal of licence is necessary, but reference to local people (provided they are jocular and apt) never fail to raise a laugh and always go down well.

Christmas is the time of family reunions. Sons and daughters, with their children, travel from far and near to spend the festival with their parents.

Paper chains are hung across the ceiling, holly and mistletoe decorate the walls, and mantelpiece is thick with Christmas cards. Sometimes the paper chains break and wreathe the heads of the people sitting in the room. The family gather around the dining room table soon after mid-day to their turkey and chicken, plum pudding and mince pies. The first part of the afternoon is spent in resting – the men in the dining room and the ladies in the parlour.

The latter part of the afternoon the men spend (as they do on most Sundays) walking around the fields and looking at the stock and examining the crops. No countryman would think his walk right if he had no stick, for sticks are useful in many ways. Sticks are more than staffs in their hands – they are implements or tools, indispensable for their investigations. So the afternoon wears on until the sun begins to lower in the western sky, the men turn their steps homewards, for Tea comes in with nightfall in December.

Then the lights are lit, and as many a village has no grid, the lamps with their frosted globes are set in their standards in the dining room and drawing room.

After tea the tables are set out in the drawing room for a miniature whist drive. Here amid a continuous babble of conversation, the players move from table to table. The drive is a boisterous affair and not the serious game we know it can be when played in the Parish Hall with its M.C. and its many rules. After an hour or so, scores are added up and the prizes awarded. There are booby prizes too, for the lowest score and the recipients are made to reveal their prizes to the family amid much banter and copious hand clapping.

Supper follows and then the young people get busy taking up carpets and rearranging the furniture. Someone volunteers to play the piano and the rest of the evening is spent in dancing. Thus, with intervals for the wireless news, the evening draws to a close amidst conviviality and fun. The party breaks up at a late hour with invitations to other parties on the morrow.

Seldom nowadays do we get the traditional Wenceslas kind of Christmas weather. In the last seven years I remember only one such Xmas. Then deep snow lay over and around the village and the familiar byways, fields and hedgerows were completely shrouded from view. Around our houses the wind sculptured the snow with lines resembling those on the sands after the waves have retreated from the shore. The village streets were so deep in snow that the villagers found it better to walk than to cycle. The postman, instead of delivering his letters soon after dawn, arrived with them at noon. He, too, had discarded his cycle and was tramping through the snow with his sacks and parcels. But he was as merry as ever and his only comment was “I don’t enjoy this Christmas card snow Sir! ”

The change I notice most when deep snow covers the countryside is the directness of the routes people take to reach their objective. When footpaths are invisible, the villagers plod straight across field and furrow to the Church, or to the shops; and the children do the same to go to school. Usually village folk keep strictly to the twisting paths and circuitous lanes, but a snow-covered land gives them a new-found liberty and they make straight for the smoke of their cottage fire without regard to any rights of way or Parish Council regulations. And this is as it should be.

In December the Post Office becomes a busy place of work. The counters are loaded with parcels, the mailbags with letters. There you find game, rabbit and poultry neatly labelled, tied and parcelled ready for sending to distant relatives.

The window of our Post Office (filled with photographs and postcards, our postmaster being a skilled photographer) looks gay and attractive. Official formality of the office is over-ruled by the homeliness of the “taking photographs” or developing “snaps.” On the side counter are piles of photographs, most of them marked “With the season’s greetings.” A village Post Office has nothing of official aloofness about it but is the friendly place we like it to be. Many villagers would rather shop in the village than in the neighbouring towns, as here they are known, there they are not. Intimate relationships make for good dealings and fair transactions.

In December we find temporary postmen “sorting letters” ready for delivering. There are few secrets in a village Post Office, as all the business is done in one room. There are no separate sorting rooms, despatching departments) money order sections (and what not) found in our town offices. So all the work is transacted in the public view. The postmen are our friends) whose names we know – even their little idiosyncrasies we appreciate. One postman has a professional interest in garden flowers and my wife and he exchange plants) or seeds. If we have seedlings he likes, we present him with some and if he thinks our garden would be improved by the addition of some plant or other he not only suggests their inclusion but also presents us with them. Officialdom in the village is not so apparent as in the towns because small numbers make life more communal and personal.

I find but few turkeys being reared this year in the villages for the Christmas market. Before the war, a hundred or two were reared each year in my own village alone and about the middle of December at least a day was spent killing the birds and despatching them to London. One by one the birds were hung up to a barn beam and killed by a swift twist of the wrist. It is a curious fact that turkeys which are so delicate to rear when young are so difficult to kill when fully grown. As adults they become the tyrants of the farmyard and delight in lording it over all the other birds. Should an ailing hen allow herself to be caught unawares, they are sure to peck her mercilessly to death with their axe-like beaks. They “gobble-gobble” up and down the farm and its lanes all day long until the December butcher arrives. Then peace returns to the farms for a few months until the spring brings with it the squawk and squeak of the young turkeys once more. If the turkeys are gone, geese have come to supplant them. Geese are easier to rear and they are becoming the favourites of the small- holder and even of the cottagers with a piece of grassland at the back of their houses. Near my house a few geese have been reared into fat plump birds ready for the table and they should make good eating at Christmas.

In the country Christmas is a pretty lengthy business. For the school children, it begins in October when they start to make their Christmas toys. They fashion gay soldiers out of cotton reels, miniature dolls-house furniture from padded matchboxes, and workmanlike warships from boxes “scrounged” from the village shops. The more competent of the boys make complicated aeroplanes, tanks and guns from odds and ends of wood so skilfully that any London Store would be proud to display them on the counters.

The members of the Young Farmer’s Clubs, too, have been busy since September (when their Winter programme opened) making model poultry houses, miniature sheep cribs and wattle hurdles for their Christmas Exhibition: These have been constructed in their workshop where their instruction in rural handicrafts has been interspersed with visits to local craftsmen who have co-operated in their training. One or two of the older members have worked in the Village Smithy under the friendly eye of the Smithy himself; They have been preparing for their blacksmith’s badge and on the anvil have learnt something of the ancient craft of the country blacksmith. There they have forged “shut” links, angle plates, hooks and eyes. They have drilled and countersunk screw holes. They have welded links into chains, made rings for “bitels” (the countryman’s name for the- large wooden mallets found on every farm) and “shut” (welded) the irons for the scythes. And all this work has been done with a view to their Christmas show, held a few days before December 25th.

The W.I. Choir too, began their Christmas preparations in October, when they commenced in the Schoolroom their practices of the less known carols. Here week by week they have met in the gathering twilight and rehearsed their parts under the baton of the Vicar’s wife; and here (or in the Village Hall) they will have their service of carols at Christmas to which the Whole  Parish will be invited.

Most of the cottagers have made other Christmas preparations as long ago as September when in their garden they erected their fattening coops in which one or two young cockerels have been pampered into the giant birds they now are, almost ready for the Xmas dinner. The gleanings of corn, gathered by the children from the harvest field have supplemented household scraps to make them these fine robust birds and many a cottager would prefer his Christmas “chicken” to even a turkey. The more fortunate of the villagers who have  a sty at the bottom of the garden have anticipated Christmas even longer, for in mid-Summer they purchased a couple of weaner (piglets about two months old) to fat for Christmas. In my younger days, every cottager possessed a sty. It was small in size; but great in importance. The pigs were of the greatest interest to the whole family and even to the neighbours. The pigs changed the household and garden waste into bacon for Christmas, which when well salted and “cured” kept good and fresh for many weeks during the Winter months. Any Sunday morning in the autumn the villagers could be seen leaning over the wall of the pigsty, studying their animals or discussing them with a friend.

The disappearance of the pigsty is one of the things to be regretted in our village life and in spite of the effort of the Small Pig Keepers Council, its re-appearance is not so widespread as we should wish. With its going, many cottagers lost a topic of conversation and a thing of mutual interest with their neighbours. Had we taken steps to maintain this useful village institution we should have been the better prepared to meet the menace of starvation which faced us in 1940.

But most villagers have long ago secured their Yule logs. In early autumn they obtained loads of legwood (the countryman’s term for the long branches left where the timber merchant fells his trees). My family have been busy at the sawing horse with the cross-cut and even my small son, aged nearly eleven, has been with his miniature hand saw converting the branches into small logs for the parlour fire. He and his elder brother have built a tidy stack of logs “seasoning” in the shed.

Timber cut in September is full of sap and it is best to let the logs dry out (or season as we country people call it). They will be ready for the fire early in December and we look forward to sitting around our log fire this Christmas. Country folk for countless years have enjoyed a log fire at this season and there is nothing to beat the merry crackling of oak logs on a winter’s day.

So for country people, the thoughts of  Christmas, (like the thoughts of youth) are “long-long thought” and the rural mind is occupied with them at intervals throughout at least a quarter of the year.

The Potato Harvest

November 26, 2012

During the Second World War it was imperative that as much food as possible was grown in Britain. Areas of what might be called leisure ground were taken in hand to be productive agricultural land. This happened in Market Lavington, as elsewhere.

So here we see what had been the Warrington Playing Field. Goal posts are still in place but the pitch has been turned into a potato field.

Harvesting potatos on the Warrington Field, Market Lavington during World War II.

The caption on the back of the photo suggests the men in the picture are harvesting the crop, but we can see no sign of that happening.

Men to identify.

Can anybody name any of the men?

Violet and Prince

November 14, 2012

What we call a genealogy page is something we do from time to time on this blog. Those are the posts where we select a local inhabitant and write a brief biography of the person concerned.

We are rather short of information concerning today’s characters, Violet and Prince. We don’t know when or where they were born, how or if they are related and we know nothing regarding their parentage or ancestry. We know nothing about when they arrived in Market Lavington, nor on when they left or if they reached the ends of their lives here.

We do know that the couple worked for the Gye family of Homestead Farm on what is now Drove Lane in Market Lavington. So the boss would have been James Gye whose daughter, Betty now lives in Devizes. We are not even sure of the date of our photo. It is probably in the 1940s.

Violet and Prince – shire horses working at Homestead Farm in Market Lavington.

Violet and Prince were horses that worked the land up there on the sands of Market Lavington. They look to be a fairly well matched pair of shire horses.

Now come on! They look absolutely lovely and serve to remind us that the horse was still a major force in agriculture within the living memory of older folk.

The person half hidden by Violet could be James Gye. He is standing behind what looks to be a sack filled with potatoes.