My thoughts have been directed today towards the WWII names on the Memorial Hall and in St Michael’s Church.
On the anniversary of the sinking of HMS Hood, the cheerful face of Desmond Wootton always comes to mind. 17 years old and one of 1415 lives lost on 24 May 1941.
I often pause and read the names on the Aldbourne War Memorial Hall, and am gradually learning more about each of the names thanks to friends, archives and the shared memories in our village. Today’s research has been to help sort out information for the 100th anniversary of the Memorial Hall, and the exhibition planned for this coming July. It has been interesting to delve into the Hall Minutes and find that the British Legion sought permission to install a third memorial tablet on the Hall in July 1947. At a later Committee Meeting the design was accepted, leading to the unveiling and dedication of the plaque we see today on the Hall. A service took place on 20 June 1948.
I have photographed the Walrond Brothers, Edward and William, many times. Usually at Harvest Festival when their inscriptions are obscured by vegetables and flowers. Or at Christmas when the knitted Nativity figures progress along that handy flat surface. I’ve not yet closely studied their ancient family history, or the connection with the other large memorial inside the church: that of the Goddard family. However, there is this fascinating article on the Aldbourne Community Heritage Group website – Aldbourne Chase Disputes
Last weekend, my friend Peter kindly emailed me this photo of a Walrond family plot in Brighton (having spotted the Aldbourne connection) and it was time for me to start to investigate the family tree. Starting with Robert and Clara Walrond, together with their sons Robert Dudley (b1879) and Francis Hiller (b1882).
Robert and Clara were married in 1873. They had three daughters (Ethel, Hilda, Lilian) then eldest son Robert Dudley. The newly widowed Clara was living with Lilian and her family at the time of the census in 1911.
Robert Dudley Walrond married Hilda Dorothy Blundstone on 19 June 1909. It looks as though they had three children: Robert Edwin (1910), Karen Dorothy (?) (1912) and William Eric (1915). Robert Edwin Walrond returned to England from Buenos Aires in 1932, giving his address as ‘Aldbourne, Bramcote Road, Putney, SW’. It seems likely that Robert Edwin was returning from his family property in the Argentine.
Robert Dudley Walrond died in 1954, and his funeral took place in St Michael’s Church, Aldbourne. In the Parish Newsletter (July 1954) Robert is described as “the head of the last remaining family descended from that ancient Wiltshire family that included Edward and William, who lived during the reign of Elizabeth I”.
Robert Edwin Walrond continued as a benefactor of St Michael’s Church, and was mentioned several times in newsletters until the announcement of his burial (ashes) appeared in April 1965. The family tomb in the churchyard bears the names of Robert Dudley, Robert Edwin, William Eric and his wife Rosemary (nee Larcom), Karen Duras (nee Walrond) and Karen’s only son, Peter.
The Union Flag will be flown from the tower of St Michael’s church, Aldbourne, on Sunday 6th February, to mark the 70th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II on 6th February 1952.
At 5.30pm 70 rounds will be rung on the church bells – the same bells that have been rung for various occasions over the past few hundred years, but this is the first time they’ll have been rung for a Platinum Jubilee.
“Rounds” is the name given to the bells ringing in order down the scale from the smallest bell (with the highest note) to the largest (with the deepest note) – in our case this is our Tenor bell, cast in 1516 – the one you hear when the clock strikes the hour.
On Sunday 6 February 2022 you will also hear the bells being rung down. Please note there is no Evensong service at St Michael’s Church on the 6 February 2022, but the bells will be ringing in the morning as normal to call worshippers to church for the earlier than usual (10am) Holy Communion service.
This watercolour by Frank Batson (1896) was purchased by the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society with the aid of the MGC and V&A Purchase Grant Fund.
In 1989 the Society acquired an 1890s painting of the church, ‘Evensong: Aldbourne’ by Frank Batson of Ramsbury, to record the work of R.G. Hurn who had recently retired as Treasurer, a print of which fronted the 1990 Christmas card.
Andrew Sewell – “Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, St Michael’s Church, Aldbourne (1994)
Parliament Piece … on one of his visits to Ramsbury Cromwell was said to have held a Parliament in the grounds adjacent to the house. It was from that that the owner in the 1920s … renamed it Parliament Piece as he could not stand its earlier name of the ‘Rookery’. Before he bought it, the house and Hilldrop had been owned for over two hundred years by the Batson family who took a prominent part in village life. Their wealth had been created in the slave trade and sugar plantations of Barbados in the 17th century.
Barbara Croucher “The Village in the Valley – A History of Ramsbury” (1986)
In the early 18th century, a Batson heiress and her husband, William Davies bought the property. Their eldest son, Thomas, died in 1759 without marrying, but had changed his surname to Batson. His brother, Edmond, changed his whole name to Thomas Batson. Edmond married Elizabeth, ‘one of the ancient family of Lascelles, of the County of York’. Edmond/Thomas and Elizabeth didn’t have children, so the property was passed through a succession of nephews (including the Meyrick family) until vested in Alfred Batson – who returned from Italy following the death of his father (also Alfred) – in 1856.
I wouldn’t have been able to navigate the Batson family without the assistance of Barbara Croucher’s fascinating writing, and the discovery of the fabulous new book (with amazing photos and illustrations) by Rowan Whimster, published in 2020 by the Friends of Holy Cross Church, Ramsbury.
There are memorials to the family in Holy Cross Church and churchyard. Frank’s ashes were interred in Holy Cross churchyard in 1931. Information from a register produced by Jane Handford is on the Ramsbury web page of findagrave.com. This is searchable by name or surname.
In the 1851 census Alfred and Mary Elizabeth Batson and their five children were listed as resident in ‘Babbicombe’, Devon. By 1861 and living in Ramsbury, the rapidly increasing family included ‘Francis C’, aged 2, born in the village.
The Batson family certainly played a huge role in Ramsbury life soon after arriving in the village.
Education of the village’s children became an urgent priority for Ramsbury’s Victorian movers and shakers. Those same influential figures were also determined to help illiterate adults escape the bonds of rural poverty. In the 1860s Alfred Batson of Parliament Piece and the Burdett family from Ramsbury Manor joined forces to provide a village meeting room as an alternative to the temptations of the village’s pubs and drinking houses. As well as accommodating a soup kitchen for destitute agricultural labourers and their families, the Burdett Reading Room [now the village library] was the venue for night classes run by the Batson family.
Rowan Whimster – “Ramsbury: A Place and Its People” (2020)
By 1881, Francis C was 22 and his occupation was given as ‘Captain Royal Lancashire Militia’. In the 1891 Francis C Batson was the head of the household in Ramsbury, occupation ‘Artist’.
One of the earliest references to Frank Batson’s work that I’ve found is a report on the Bazaar at Ramsbury Manor in July 1891. This was a fundraiser towards the restoration of the ancient parish church at Ramsbury. The goodies listed on ‘Mrs Batson’s stall’ include a fine display of embroidery and a large number of pictures in watercolours and oils. Sketches ‘from the brushes of Mr Frank Batson and Mr Stephen Batson’ found a ready sale. (Newbury Weekly News 23 July 1891).
Andrew Sewell observed in his notes dated 1989 that there are four labels on the back of the Batson painting in the Wiltshire Museum.
In the spring of 1904, The Cornishman newspaper reported that the same painting was exhibited by Frank Batson at the Newlyn Art Gallery. In March 1905, the Western Morning News described Frank Batson’s contributions to the collection at the Passmore Edwards art gallery, destined for the Royal Academy and other London exhibitions – “three Venetian subjects, which were small but dainty”. Easier to transport than the 6’x4′ cricket painting!
Frank Batson was listed on the 1911 Census as a theology student, boarding in Castle Gate, Nottingham. The Nottingham Evening Post 29 September 1919 noted that he and his brother, the Rev V.L. Batson, presented three watercolours by their father, Alfred, to the Nottingham Castle Museum. Frank may have moved from Nottingham between 1911 and his death in 1931, but at the time of his death his residence was given as Fern Lodge, Chilwell, Nottinghamshire. Probate granted to Elizabeth Annie Batson, widow. The Nottinghamshire Society of Artists included some of Frank’s works in a memorial exhibition during the autumn 1931 (Nottingham Evening Post 12 November 1931).
Frank Batson had eleven siblings, some of them have their own stories reported in history books and the national press. There are reports featuring the self-styled ‘King of Lundy’ (Arthur Wellesley Batson) which I’ll save for another article on another day. A sister-in-law, Henrietta Batson, collected folk songs and Mummers Plays; including versions from Chilton Foliat and Baydon. The Baydon version was the foundation for the return of the tradition to Aldbourne in 2018 https://aldbournearchive.wordpress.com/2019/01/05/aldbourne-tradition-revived-the-mummers-are-back/.
With thanks to Warwick Hood, Jenny Greaves and of course the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes. I’m so glad that I’ve finally got round to writing up our chats about the painting and started a journey into the Batson family history. More to come!
When I was asked by the Carnival Committee if I would write some of my personal memories of the Carnival with which my family have been so closely involved over the years, so many things came to my mind that I find it difficult to know where to begin.
My very first memory of the Carnival is setting off from the shop in West Street (now the framers) where we then lived, to take part in the procession with Molly Lunn (Stacey), as Bride and Bridegroom. We were between five and six years old!
We have come a long way since those days, when the Carnival was a much simpler affair, but nevertheless an important event in our village life.
When my father took over from Mr Arthur Ford as Secretary, around 1930, we had moved to Southern Farm, and for a few weeks each year, the Carnival took over our house which was overflowing with posters, prize cards and collecting boxes, etc.
At that time, all the proceeds were for Savernake Hospital and every collecting box had to be clearly labelled to that effect.
Unlike today, there were no events during the week preceding the Carnival, except for ‘Bowling for the Pig’ which took place in the Square from Friday evening onwards.
A comic football match on the Saturday afternoon was a jolly event, leading up to the grand procession which, by any village standards, was always second to none and drew crowds of onlookers.
After a tour of the village (not quite so far in those days), the procession always wound up in front of the Old Rectory, where the prizes were given out from the steps of the house.
The climax to the evening was the Carnival Dance in the Memorial Hall, but when the Fun Fair became part of the celebrations, this event was dropped through lack of support.
I clearly remember the Sunday evening Carnival Service, also in the Memorial Hall, at which one of the resident doctors at Savernake always took part. One thing that stands out in my mind is that we always sang the hymn ‘Sun of My Soul Thou Saviour Dear’, and I associate that hymn with those services to this day.
I was seventeen when the powers that be decided to introduce a Carnival Queen to the proceedings and I was literally thrown in at the deep end. It was a new venture for the Committee, and I and the four attendants: Marjorie Barrett, Nellie Crook, Molly Brind and a young girl who worked at ‘High Town’, were more or less left to make our own arrangements. Not for us the glamorous crowning ceremony, the bouquets and presents etc. We made our own dresses and the cloak and crown were borrowed from Swindon Carnival Committee.
I seem to remember that we did visit the local hospitals and, on Carnival Day, my uncle Chris (Hawkins) dressed as a coachman and drove us round in the procession in an open horse-drawn carriage which we had decorated ourselves. I think we worked harder than the Committee that week.
Sadly, the Carnival lapsed during the War, but was resumed with even greater enthusiasm at the earliest opportunity.
When hospitals came under the Health Service, the Carnival proceeds were divided between the Memorial Hall and the Sports Field which had to be reclaimed after the War.
Although the Community was much smaller in those days, it was surprising how much money was raised each year. The boxes were all taken to the [Memorial] Hall on the Monday evening and the total takings were known the same night.
For several years a special feature of the Carnival was Mr Cooper’s vintage car which transported the Secretary at the head of the procession.
Our involvement in the Carnival carried into the next generation and sometimes it was difficult to think of new things to do each year.
One year we even took Tim’s pony into the old farm-house kitchen when it rained during the preparations. The only other shelter was already taken by Andrea’s pony.
The Band has always played an important part in the proceedings and that involved my husband and later, Tim.
There have been many memorable incidents too numerous to mention, such as the year history repeated itself and Andrea won the 1956 Carnival Queen.
When Mr Tony Gilligan became Secretary in 1962, things were far less hectic on the home front but Carnival week remained very important for our family.
These days, relegated to the side lines, I get very nostalgic at Carnival time and when the Band plays ‘Nightfall in Camp’ and the flags are lowered round the pond, I feel sad for the things that are past, but glad that so many of our new residents have caught our Carnival spirit and are helping to keep the tradition alive.
Carnivals have come and gone in neighbouring villages and towns, but hopefully ours will go on. Long Live Aldbourne Carnival!
Nancy Barrett writing in the 1986 Aldbourne Carnival Programme
When crossing the Green, do you sometimes look up to see which of our two customary flags are flying from St Michael’s Church tower?
Like most churches, we usually fly the Cross of St. George with the Union Flag flying on national occasions. But on 17 September, for some years we have flown an unusual flag to commemorate the British, American and Polish soldiers who lost their lives in Operation Market Garden toward the end of the Second World War.
Some sixty years after the actual battle, Cecil Newton and some of his surviving comrades were presented with the flag we will be flying. Apparently, the design of the flag represents a bridge to the future and a hope for European reconciliation and peace.
We are proud that Cecil and several other veterans, who fought selflessly on our behalf, still live among us.
A follow up to Wakefield & Brind, posted 21 March 2020, especially for #WarGravesWeek. Three family headstones commemorating lost sons.
The ornate carving on Thomas Brind’s headstone has weathered rather better than the lettering. The Monuments Digital Record on the Aldbourne Heritage Centre website has the following entry:
[In memory ]/ Margaret Ann/ wife of/ Thomas Brind/ who died/ 12 November 1876/ aged 31/[ ]/Mary/ wife of/Thomas Brind/ [ 10 ] June [1924 ]/ aged [ 75 ]/ Thomas Brind/ died March /[ ] /[ ] / [inscription should also refer to Sergt Colin Brind, died in France 1914]
The headstone for John and Martha Wakefield has a military badge at the top. I’m no expert but it seems likely to be the King’s Royal Rifles. Colour Sergeant Wakefield was, ‘undoubtedly the oldest living Rifleman at the time of his death’ in 1940 at the age of 94. He was also the oldest member of the Aldbourne & Baydon Royal British Legion. He joined the 60th Rifles in 1870. A newspaper report at the time of his death relates that John Wakefield took part in the ‘famous march from Kandahar to Kabul under Lord Roberts’. He called his house after that march and the name carries on in Aldbourne to this day. The headstone records the loss of the couple’s eldest son in France on 21 March 1918. Martha Wakefield died in 1928.
Finally, Thomas Brind’s grandson, Derek Thomas Brind, is commemorated on his parents’ headstone. Derek was the only son of Joseph Belcher and Annie Brind. The family were able to contact Derek’s own son in Australia a few years ago.
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Irwin Bishell, DSO, TD – Royal Artillery Commanding 94 (The Dorset and Hampshire Yeomanry) Field Regiment Died 01 October 1944 aged 45 – Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Awarded 17 August 1944
Distinguished Service Order
“Throughout the operations carried out from the ODON bridgehead between 1 and 15 July he has displayed the highest qualities of leadership, meeting all emergencies with calm and resolute action and setting an example of devotion to duty and contempt for danger which has been an inspiration to all those in contact with him. The efficiency and morale of his Regt under the most exacting conditions have been of the highest order.”
Awarded posthumously 19 October 1944
Much of the information I use for the Aldbourne Archive, here and on social media, comes from the internet – Ancestry, CWGC, Museums, The British Newspaper Archive etc. But one of the great joys of living in Aldbourne is that people often have memories and stories to share.
In 1936, the then Major Bishell acted as an adjudicator for the special prize offered for the best entry in the Aldbourne Carnival. The winners were Mr and Mrs C Stacey for a ‘satirical representation of the 1936 summer’. Apparently, the float was an ingenious sprinkler system spraying rain over the occupants of the vehicle, who were endeavouring to harvest “hay, in process of decomposition.” (Found a photo, and updated 1 October 2021).
Mrs Bishell was very active in the Women’s Institute and held meetings at ‘The Southward’, with competitions and events such as ‘flower pot racing’, ‘clock golf’, and an egg & spoon race – again, if I find a picture ….
By July 1939, Major Bishell, a Veteran of the Great War, was in command of the 217th Battery, 112th Field Artillery Regiment, R.A, T.A, with headquarters at Prospect Drill Hall Swindon’s Own Regiment – North Wilts Herald 21 July 1939.
Andrea West’s father, Eric Barrett, was stationed in Gibraltar when his son Tim was born. Eric was called to the Governor’s House to receive the news. The message was organised via Lt Col Bishell.
Aldbourne’s War Dead and Easy Company’s Band of Brothers
US National World War II Museum ‘Band of Brothers Tour’ June 2017
Getting the story out there is vital for archaeology, and there are so many benefits if it’s done well. A case in point came following the Operation Nightingale ‘Band of Brothers’ dig on the football field. It’s a really lovely story from David Shaw-Stewart who lived in Aldbourne during 1944 and who saw us on Digging for Britain. He got in touch thanks to Professor Roberts whom he contacted after the programme. Never will there have been a more suitable site mascot too!
As a family, Father, Mother, myself and older brother, we lived in Hadley Wood in North London. I was born in 1936. Sadly my Father died and with the outbreak of war we moved to Wiltshire to the village of Aldbourne to live with one of my Mother’s sisters, Aunt Peggy.
It was here that we were neighbours of the camp of Easy Company known as the “Band of Brothers”, Southward Lane. Residents of the house were: Owner: Lt Colonel T. I. Bishell, 94th Field Regiment, Royal Artilley. Killed in action at Arnhem. His wife, Mrs M Bishell (Aunt Peggy); Daughter, J Bishell, (Joan) Son, J Bishell, (John). My Mother, Mrs E A Shaw-Stewart, (Betty) My Brother, C A Shaw-Stewart (Colin) Myself, D E Shaw-Stewart (David).
The grounds had a large kitchen garden as well as ducks and geese providing eggs and being good “guard dogs” for security. We used to get our milk every day from Mr Hawkins’ farm that was across the road from the camp. I used to watch the soldiers marching up Southward lane every day to go on their training exercises up over the downs and also on to Pentico Wood. They would throw sticks of chewing gum to me. They also would go along the valley, opposite from the drive up to the house, to fire live ammunition into the hillside. They discarded belts of empty machine gun bullets which we picked up and used as bandoliers. We also collected belts, water bottles, mess tins, helmets and bits of ammunition such as rocket grenades. The house looked down the valley across the road to Hungerford so that we were able to watch much of their training across the farmlands including parachute drops. On one occasion they set fire to a hay stack. Unfortunately the village fire engine was still horse drawn and the horses were out ploughing a field.
My Aunt Peggy and Mother were very involved in helping the war effort in the village and were friends with many of the military personnel in Easy Company and also with the large Airforce base at Membury nearby. They would have drinks parties for officers of Easy Company. I remember the well- dressed soldiers coming to the house. My Mother was friends with one of the officers called George. I never knew his surname. He gave her two badges which my Mother sewed on to my Brother Colin’s chimpanzee teddy called “Switzy”. The two badges were the 101st Airborne and the eagles head. I am not sure where the badge for the Anti-Aircraft Company came from. Switzy is still a companion today.
On “D” Day the camp was deserted. My cousin Peter and I went down to the camp. All the doors were left open and there were open boxes of live ammunition on the tables. The end of an era.
I can remember when the Worcesters were stationed in Aldbourne. They were in Powell’s yard, by the Blue Boar. There was a big house there. There was a front entrance from The Green and there was an entrance round the back, then you go up the lane, to the playing field.
John Fisher – Aldbourne Oral History Project 2006
The troops came to Aldbourne. First of all the Worcesters; I don’t quite know where they were stationed apart from Lottage Road. The Harrison’s had a poultry farm, just below the Foundry and they were actually stationed in those chicken huts, which people would probably never believe. They were round the village but, because I was only 11, you don’t take much notice; but I know these men paraded every morning with broomsticks because there were no rifles, and so they paraded and marched up and down the road.
Audrey Barrett – Aldbourne Oral History Project 2006
The accounts book for the Aldbourne Memorial Hall has many entries for receipts and outgoings for soldiers stationed in the village. The two officers mentioned in the following extract were both 67th Field Regiment Royal Artillery.
The regiment left Worcester in the summer of 1939 to camp out near Lyndhurst in Hampshire, then moved in the autumn to Aldbourne in Wiltshire, on the edge of Salisbury Plain. Both were conventionally picturesque places: Lyndhurst was in the middle of the New Forest, and wild ponies often wandered into the streets; Aldbourne was an unspoiled village with the usual accoutrements of church, five pubs, cottages, a green, a duck pond and a purling stream. It might be nice to think that the War Office picked these locations to provide the young recruits with fresh memories of the peaceful and bucolic country they’d be fighting for, but the nearby artillery ranges in both places were the more likely draw.
At Aldbourne the troops learned that in January they would set sail for France, where they’d become part of the British Expeditionary Force, which had been assembling across the Channel since the declaration of war.