Walrond Family Ancient and Modern

Walrond Memorial in St Michael’s Church, Aldbourne (2022)

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).

With thanks to Peter Turvey who spotted this grave at the Brighton (Woodvale) Cemetery (2022)

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 and Clara’s youngest son Francis died at home of wounds on 15 August 1916. Francis is also buried at Woodvale, Brighton.

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.

Article about the late John Fisher – Dabchick April 1993

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”.

1954 Aldbourne Parish Newsletter – with thanks to Aldbourne Community Heritage Group

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.

Aldbourne Churchyard 2022

Fundraising for the Aldbourne War Memorial Hall – Past, Present & Future

Aldbourne War Memorial Hall Account Book

Aldbourne’s aim from 1917 onwards was to build a hall in remembrance of the lives lost in the Great War, and also ‘fitted in every way for public meetings, with arrangements for concerts and theatricals – a building which all hoped would be a real and lasting centre for community life and interest in the village’ (North Wilts Herald 2 May 1919/British Newspaper Archive).

I think those long ago fundraisers would have enjoyed the idea of a Duck Race.

The present-day Memorial Hall Committee invites everyone to enjoy the very welcome return of the Easter Extravaganza on Saturday 16 April 2022.  On the Green if fine, in the Hall if not. The Ducks will race again!

 Our Memorial Hall is still ‘fitted in every way’ to cater for public meetings, concerts, theatricals, Yoga, Lunch Club, hire for parties and wedding receptions – the list is seemingly endless. 

My focus for this month is fundraising; both by the groups who book the hall and for and on behalf of the Hall itself.  A quick study of the history surrounding the early days of the campaign in 1917 and how funds were raised, shows the great ingenuity of the population of Aldbourne.  Bearing in mind that this was during a time when the countryside was still recovering from the effects of the Great War, and many families were suffering great hardship; their menfolk being dead, injured or enduring incapacitating illnesses of the body or mind.

One report from March 1919 relates that on one day concerts were held in the afternoon and evening at the schoolroom; followed at the weekend by a dinner for the Aldbourne lads who had been on active service.  At the same time as raising funds to create a memorial for the fallen, our village was also looking after those who had returned.  It is also interesting to see that Aldbourne Band “resuscitated after four years .. received a cordial welcome”.  Speeches were made, bravery was acknowledged and by the close of proceedings the sum of £15 was handed over to the scheme for which Aldbourne people were working so heartily.

Jumping forward to 1928, a kitchen was added to the Hall and declared open by Miss Evelyn Fox from the Old Rectory.  The newspaper of the day lists all the festivities arranged to celebrate the opening, with generous prizes awarded for a ‘Knock-out Whist Tournament”, parcel tying and a balloon race.  More music, this time from piano, banjo and violin.  At the end of the day another £13 5s was raised for the kitchen fund.

Whist Evenings seem to have been a real attraction and have raised considerable funds over the decades, both for the Hall itself and for village organisations.  In December 1932 no less than 42 tables were occupied for an evening aimed at reducing the debt on the Hall.  A fine turkey was won by the highest scorer, Mr R Hutchins.

So successful was the fundraising that by October 1935 after a year of hard work and several particularly generous donations, the treasurer Major Ingpen was able to announce that the Hall was, for the first time, free of debt.

With thanks to Alison Delorie for helping to collate the information for this article. Also thanks to Alan Heasman and the Aldbourne Community Heritage Group for sharing their encyclopaedic collection of newspaper articles and Parish Magazines.

Originally published in the April 2022 Dabchick Magazine

Aldbourne War Memorial Hall 1922 – 2022

Photo: Catherine Hutchings #AldbourneRemembers November 2018

Over 100 years ago the village worked together to honour the memory of those lost in the Great War, and those who died following injury or illness. 

At the same time, the aim was very much to provide a room ‘fitted in every way for public meetings, with arrangements for concerts and theatricals – a building which all hoped would be a real and lasting centre for community life and interest in the village’ (North Wilts Herald 2 May 1919/British Newspaper Archive).  After due deliberation and a review of the money raised, the Memorial Hall Committee accepted the tender of Messrs Moulding Bros.  The sum of £1,000 was in hand from the fundraising that began in 1917; the cost of building had fallen, and the successful tender was for £1,200.  The contract was signed on 13th December 1921.

By 9th January 1922 it was decided that the names should be outside the Hall and suitable stones were on order.  Miss Todd of Hampstead Cottage proposed that the list of names in Church (unveiled in March 1920) should be inscribed and ‘those who had died since’ also included.  The building committee were authorised to arrange for a foundation laying ceremony when the right time arrived.  It must have been such a relief that the long years of loss and huge efforts for raising funds were finally moving towards that common aim: community remembrance and a venue for people to gather.

With the festive season just over, is it too soon to write about food?

The Senior Citizen’s Christmas Dinner (then known as ‘The Old People’s Tea) moved into the Memorial Hall during the 1920s, has endured since, and took place again in 2022, with great success.  Well done to all concerned!

When war came again, the Hall was requisitioned for use by the troops billeted in the village from October 1939.  There was a Canteen Manager, Chef, Barman and Vegetable Cook; it certainly seems that the troops were very well fed and watered!

American veterans returned in June 1974, and by their special request sat down to lunch with Fish & Chips in the Memorial Hall.  In 1994 the Parish Council hosted the Troop Carrier Veterans’ Association with tea and scones for the presentation of a commemorative plaque to the 436th that operated from Membury.  In 2015 villagers and visitors alike dined on roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, organised by the Aldbourne Community Heritage Group and a tour group from the World War II Museum in New Orleans. Photos can be found on the Aldbourne Village Gallery https://www.flickr.com/photos/aldbournevillagegallery/albums/72157651910392603

How many of us in the present day have attended community events in the Hall, or hope to in the future?  There have been a full range of refreshments, from comfortable chats with tea and biscuits to themed concerts with three course meals.  Luncheon Club, Soup & Puddings, Barn Dances and Quiz Night Suppers, Scouts and Guides pop-up cafés and that great favourite, Big Breakfasts.  The Memorial Hall is now fully open for all activities – for more information or to book, please visit https://wvha.org.uk/listing/aldbourne-memorial-hall/

Originally published in the February 2022 Dabchick Magazine

Senior Citizens Christmas Dinner 2022

If anyone has memories (or photos) to share from past events, please get in touch.  We are looking forward to writing more articles, and plans are afoot for events and exhibitions to mark this anniversary year (with tea and cake of course!).

history@johutchings.co.uk

Aldbourne War Memorial Hall on 6 December 1921

6 December 1921 was an important day in Aldbourne history; it was the day on which the Management Committee for the proposed War Memorial Hall met and a resolution to start the build was carried.

We know from the War Memorial Hall Minutes that the people of Aldbourne began in 1917 to consider what form the War Memorial should take, and that it was ultimately decided that a Parish Hall should be built. From 1917 money was being collected from many endeavours.

At meetings through 1921, alongside such important matters as pianos, billiard tables and smoking concerts for the veterans, the minutes show an underlying concern for the cost of building and by the 27 June 1921 it was proposed by Mr Mallinson (Old Rectory) and seconded by Lady Currie (Upham) “that we do not start building until we can get an estimate within £200 of the money we have.”

At a meeting on 12 July 1921, Lady Currie had written to the General Committee suggesting that ‘tenders should be asked for on a sliding basis, ie cost of all building materials, should be reduced allowing to the fall which undoubtedly will, and is actually taking place. Labour should be on the same basis, that is, as the price of labour falls, so should the estimate be reduced.”

Meetings continued through the summer and autumn; fundraising and the administration of the temporary hut in Whitley Meadow were the topics of several meetings: including the opening of a Boys Club. “It was decided that no boy under 14 should be allowed to come to the club without he was at work”.

By 21 November 1921, the fundraising target was in reach and it was proposed “that fresh tenders be asked for inside and outside the village to build the Hall local labour be employed as much as possible and the lowest tender be accepted in or out of the village provided the sum is what we can pay.”

It was further proposed by Miss Todd [one of my favourite Aldbourne ladies] and seconded by Mr Waite, that the Building Committee should see Mr Moulding on the position as regards his tender with a view to the continuing fall in prices and the money we have at our disposal”.

And so we arrive at 6 December 1921 – one hundred years ago exactly – with a balance of £1,000 in hand. Mr T H Chandler read out Mr Mouldings revised tender for £1,200 and the following resolution was carried:

That we recommend Mr Mouldings revised tender be accepted and that he be asked to proceed with the work as soon as possible. Proposed by Mr Shephard Seconded by Miss Todd that the secretary write and ask for the promised subscriptions.

There is so much more of this story to be told and chapters along the way will illustrate how the village worked together to support a project that honoured the fallen, and also created a facility that would endure to play an important role in Aldbourne’s social life. I’ll leave the final word today to Honor Liddiard (nee Orchard), who was present at the opening of the hall in charge of Aldbourne Guides.

When war was declared in August 1914, the village boys volunteered at once, and within months were fighting overseas. In the main, only old folk, girls and women were left. The few men were either over age for service, or small farmers in reserved occupations.

When the war was over and the boys who had survived the slaughter came home, everyone was determined that a place other than the school must be built for all our activities. We had weekly dancing classes in the school, admission sixpence, where we all learned the new dances, but still enjoyed the Lancers, Waltz and Polka. Then we acquired an old Army Hut, which was put up just below Colonel Milton’s house. We held our meetings, whist drives, weekly dances and concerts there, until we had raised sufficient money to build the Memorial Hall in memory of the boys who did not return to us. There were no grants in those days and it was built by the determination, love and enthusiasm of young and old.

Honor Liddiard writing in the Parish Magazine 1967

Albert, Henry and Oscar Cook

The Whitton Team have “All Souls” services today (7 November 2021), the first Sunday after All Souls’ Day itself, which is on the 2 November each year. I visited St Michael’s Churchyard this morning, and paused to reflect on the past year, the deaths of those we hold dear and the memory of those gone before. November is a month for Remembrance. My thoughts turned to the fallen commemorated on the First and Second War Memorials in the village and the many other names that have come to mind since the memorials were created.

Back in 2018 for ‘Aldbourne Remembers’, Phil Comley shared his extensive research into the village fallen, in particular the group of families where brothers died during, or as a result of, the conflict. The parents who suffered these losses included Annette Cook (nee Bathe) and Charles Thomas Cook, who were living with their family on The Green, Aldbourne at the time of the 1911 Census. We know that they were resident in Castle Street by 1918 because that address appears on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records for the death of Albert Cook.

It was a search for the Cook family grave that took me to the very top of the churchyard at St Michael’s on a bright autumn morning.

St Michael’s Churchyard: grave of Charles Thomas and Annette Cook, together with their daughter Hilda who died in 1936
Aldbourne Digital Record
Sarsen dedicated to the memory of Albert, Henry and Oscar Cook in situ during 2018 (thanks to Phil Comley/Aldbourne War Memorial Hall)

7625 Serjeant Albert Cook – 2nd Wiltshire Regiment. Born Eastbury and enlisted in Hungerford. Killed in action aged 28 – 8/5/1918 at La Paradis, France. No known grave and remembered on panels 119-120 at Tyne Cot Memorial. Son of Charles and Annette Cook of Castle Street, Aldbourne and the husband of Annie Stanley Cook of 32 Chickerell Road, Weymouth.

On the night of 8th May 1918, a party from the 2nd Wiltshire’s were attached to the 2nd Bedfordshire Regiment. In the resulting action, 2nd Lieutenant’s EW Plummer and ER Hatton were wounded, 7 other ranks killed (Albert was 1) 18 wounded and 37 reported missing. It was a costly night for 2/Wilts as a support regiment!

Henry Bathe Cook was a Ship’s Steward on SS Aquitania. Born 1883 Newbury. He died of a diabetic coma 10th/11th January 1916 aged 33 in the Royal South Hants Hospital, Southampton while living at Hill View, Broadlands Road, Swaythling, Southampton.

2361 Pte Oscar Cook 28th Australian Infantry, AIF (5th Reinforcements). Born Great Bedwyn 1893. Killed in action aged 23 on 29/7/1916. No known grave and remembered on the Villers-Brettoneux Memorial. Oscar had previously served for 7.5 months in the Wiltshire Regiment but bought himself out to emigrate to Australia. Arrived in Fremantle March 1912 on RMS Orama. Enlisted 28/7/1915 in Perth, a Farm Hand stating his address as Duke of York Restaurant, Perth. Embarked for WW1 in Fremantle WA on board HMAT A32 ‘Themistocles’ 13/10/15.

Phil Comley

Private H Cook (Aquitania) appears on the memorial in St Michael’s Church, Aldbourne, unveiled at the end of March 1920.

St Michael’s Church, Aldbourne – memorial unveiled March 1921

On ANZAC Day 2021, I received the following message: 2361 Private Oscar Cook unit was the 28th Australian Infantry Battalion. Oscar owned Location Ninghan 711 (1000 acres of farm land) in the then Kununoppin Ward in the Ninghan Road Board in Western Australia. This block is approximately four kilometres north of the town of Bencubbin. Oscar was featured in the address by the Deputy Shire President (Deputy Mayor) Cr Nick Gillett at today’s ANZAC Service (25th April 2021) at the New War Memorial at Bencubbin. Len Cargeeg, President Bencubbin Sub Branch, Returned and Services League.

Anzac Day 2021

Charles Edward Westall ( 1886-1917)

Aldbourne War Memorial Hall

Following a 4-year project funded by a LIBOR grant from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Army Museums Ogilby Trust (AMOT) is excited to launch The Ogilby Muster (TOM). TOM is an online platform which gives users access to First World War archives held in Regimental Museums across the UK.

With over 75 participating collections, and more set to join in 2022, TOM will eventually hold over 2 million items including some never-before-seen material. Covering the period 1900 to 1929, the platform contains documents, photographs, letters, diaries and more, all related to the British Army and the men and women who served. Launching during Remembrance month, TOM has preserved the experiences and memories of those who served in the First World War for future generations.

Army Museums, Ogilby Trust

The first thing I tend to do when something like this appears is search for ‘Aldbourne’. Three records pop up, including an entry relating to Aldbourne Road in Coventry. (One day I will research why that road carries the village name!).

Westall, Charles Edward b. Aldbourne, Wilts e. Bradford-on-Avon, Wilts 198546 Gnr. k. in a. F. & F., 22/10/17

CASUALTY LISTS. Official roll of RHA, RFA, Regulars and Territorial Force (including HAC Batteries) killed during the Great War entitled “Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-19”
This media belongs to: Royal Artillery Museum
Wiltshire Times 1917 – POR4605 Wiltshire Museum (photo January 2019)

See also: https://aldbournearchive.wordpress.com/2021/11/04/john-beresford-powell-1897-1976/ Another Aldbourne connection found in The Ogilby Muster (TOM).

John Beresford Powell ( 1897-1976)

Royal Artillery Journal vol LIV Royal Artillery Institution 1927-1928
This media belongs to: Royal Artillery Museum

Following a 4-year project funded by a LIBOR grant from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Army Museums Ogilby Trust (AMOT) is excited to launch The Ogilby Muster (TOM). TOM is an online platform which gives users access to First World War archives held in Regimental Museums across the UK.

With over 75 participating collections, and more set to join in 2022, TOM will eventually hold over 2 million items including some never-before-seen material. Covering the period 1900 to 1929, the platform contains documents, photographs, letters, diaries and more, all related to the British Army and the men and women who served. Launching during Remembrance month, TOM has preserved the experiences and memories of those who served in the First World War for future generations.

Army Museums, Ogilby Trust

The first thing I tend to do when something like this appears is search for ‘Aldbourne’. Three records pop up, including an entry relating to Aldbourne Road in Coventry. (One day I will research why that road carries the village name!).

Photo courtesy of Meg Duckworth – John Beresford Powell fourth from left (holding crop)

See also https://aldbournearchive.wordpress.com/2021/11/04/charles-edward-westall-1886-1917/ Another Aldbourne connection discovered in The Ogilby Muster (TOM).

See also – Aldbourne Heritage Centre past displays (2015):

I’d just like to add an acknowledgement in fond recollection of the late Willie Lawson, a fount of racing knowledge and all round good bloke!

Charles Stacey (1884 – 1965)

It was nearly 80 years ago that I, the writer, was brought into this world. 5 ½ years later I was to find out there were hard times for me and my family. My father was one of the village builders at the time my memories start.

Charles Stacey

Lisa Barkworth posted about her great-grandfather on Facebook, and with Lisa’s very kind permission I’ve pulled all that Charles wrote about his remarkable life into one story.

Written by Charles Stacey (Born 1884) – Part 1
It was nearly 80 years ago that I, the writer, was brought into this world. 5 ½ years later I was to find out there were hard times for me and my family. My father was one of the village builders at the time my memories start.

At the end of January in 1890, I was a lad of 5 years and 9 months. It was a cold wintry morning when my father took my brother and a young workman to a lone barn in the fields some two miles from home. He had taken a job to remove some debris from a 130ft well at Greenhill, Baydon. The well had been closed down for a long time and the air must have become foul for I understand my father descended the well and then shouted to be pulled up, but when he reached halfway up he could not breathe and fell back to the bottom. Had he been properly tied on; he would have come up dead or alive. The young men with him became frightened; one ran into the field where shepherds were tending their sheep. Having learnt what had happened, a young shepherd named Herring volunteered to go down and try and help my father. He too was overcome and died. The young men returned to bring news to the village and soon everyone seemed to be running over the hills to try and help. Police and doctor were there but no one was able to go down and grabbers had to do the work.

I well remember that dark winter evening when a farm wagon drew up at our door, seeing the lifeless bodies of two men – my father aged about 40 and the shepherd aged about 20 or 21 – carried into my home. Although this happened many years ago I can still see my mother with my two-year old brother run into the back room of the house. The family was then split up for a few days until we all united that Sunday.
For a lad less than 6 years old this did not mean much but was very hard for my mother, left with a family when there was no such thing as compensation, widows pensions or children’s allowance. With four children aged from 2 to 12 and two other old enough to earn their own living, I think the going must have been hard for a woman to feed and clothe a family on nothing, so with starvation facing us, application had to be made for bread; 6 half gallon loaves were provided every Thursday, so we had new bread once a week. One gallon of bread per child per week was allowed as only the 3 children under 12 were allowed help. There was no grumbling as in those days, people had to be thankful if they could eat and, with a large garden and plenty of hard work, we managed to get plenty of potatoes. Sometimes a few coppers extra could be earnt taking round the milk before school and pushing out the coal in the evenings. You see, my grandad was the village milk vendor and coal merchant carriers to the towns so there was always plenty of work overtime. When working overtime, we did not get wages but when we returned the empties, two slices of bread and butter would be provided which had to be shared with my bothers. My mother had a very great job to make ends meet and I have seen her take off the old pair of elastic sided boots (given to her by a relative) to send me to school. The old boots were large enough to make me two pairs. It was that or stay away from school.
The price of a sheep’s head was 6d, sometimes a pig’s backbone for Sunday was an extra. No waste in those days as we were hungry. I remember the times when it was a race to see who would get the job to take the neighbours tea.

In those days, if my mother could not find the 2d on a Monday morning we could stay at home from school, although I was working much of my school time in the summers of my 10th and 11th years; I managed to get through my exams and at 12 years old I was allowed to leave school for good. I was taken to a very wealthy farmer and landowner who offered me the noble sum of 2/6 per week, winter months, and 3/- in summer. The hours were 5.30am until 5pm. On the hay and corn harvest we kept going till 7 or 8pm. Bread and rancid margarine with plenty of boiled potatoes was the main diet.

Part 2
The village in those days had no amenities of any kind. The roads (if one can call them roads) were made from flint stones picked off the fields by the very poor women (mostly widows) for a few pence a load in appalling weather conditions. The stones were then hauled to the roadsides where they would be required. The aged and crippled men would sit and break them for very low prices and, as a boy, I used to see these poor, cold and wet old men trying to earn a few shillings per week to prolong their stay at home because their next move was the workhouse. In those days that’s what the aged had to look forward to. The stones would be laid on the roads and left for the horse drawn vehicles to wear in.

There were always plenty of vacant cottages and a freehold cottage and garden could be purchased for £10 or £12. The rents in those days were 1/- to 1/3 per week. People were born and lived all their lives up to the age of 80 and had not been 2 miles away from their homes.

As stated earlier, there was nothing for those who lived here. The nearest doctor lived 3 miles away. He was known as the walking doctor as, in those days, one could not send a wire however serious the illness. There was not a wire in the village at that time and there was no transport, so it meant someone walking the 3 miles and, if it was in the night, the doctor had to be rattled up, then 3 more miles walking before he was able to get to the patient. If the patient happened to be a maternity case, it has been said that the new baby would have been born and, if a girl, almost ready to give the doctor the ‘glad eye’.
My (3rd year at work?) I walked 2 miles each way for 4/- per week. I remember taking out my bread and cheese that mother had put for lunch but, knowing that there was such a difficulty with 4/- to buy anything but bread, so after showing the cheese, it was bread I ate; the cheese went back into the lunch bag and was used again the next day. Sometimes it was bread and lard with a sprinkling of sugar. It was difficult to keep this until lunchtime. My mother would rather have starved than plead or let others know our position

I was very fortunate later as one of the village builders wanted a strong lad. This was my chance. I was determined to learn everything I could about building and at the end of two and a half years I left and the builder who took me on trial put me on top wages. Within a week as a bricklayer, I had learnt to build and slate a new house roof or to tile a roof. In another 3 years there was not much I could not do in the erecting of a house.

Part 3
Aldbourne at this time was a fast-dwindling village. Farmers laid their land to pasture; complete farms in the parish went down to sheep farming. Farmhouses, cottages and buildings went down; in about 20 years there were 60 to 70 dwelling houses that fell or were pulled down, and another 20 lost by converting two into one. There was no waiting list for a house. If a couple got married, there would be two or three vacant cottages to choose from. There were about 230 dwelling houses in the village when I was a boy and there were 130 owners. Many of these were labouring people with not much to spare for repairs for soon my services were sought and very soon I was able to take on where my father had so tragically given up some 19 or 20 years earlier.

By the time I was of the age of 26, I had a one-man builder business, plenty of work and a few employees.

But there was another setback waiting; the 1914 war had come, and I had to close down my business and join His Majesty’s Forces. Again, I was lucky, and I managed to get in the Engineers; for the next 2 or 3 years most of this time was spent in France and Belgium.

When I returned, I had to make a new start; this didn’t take long. I arrived home on Sunday, the last day of January 1919, started Monday and by Thursday had two employees: from then on, never without plenty of work. Before the 1914 war, we could purchase a cottage for a few pounds.

I remember buying my first cottage*. It was a detached cottage and garden. The owner asked £15, I offered £12, and I finally paid £13 for it. After making alterations and doing lots of repairs, I sold it. When it was finished, a Miss Cox from London came to the village and wanted it for a weekend cottage and paid what I asked, £48.

(*This was South Cottage, 16 The Butts, in 1912. Currently owned by Charles’ granddaughter who did not realise the connection until studying the deeds sometime after purchase! The Miss Cox who bought it originally was Ka Laird Cox, a member of the Bloomsbury Group).

Part 4
My next pair of cottages, vacant with qt of an acre, cost me £40- and it was these that caused me so much worry and concern. After spending some £60 or £70 on repairs, they caught fire.

Before going on, I must tell you what happened at that fire. It was just 11 o’clock on Saturday evening when I was awakened by someone shouting my houses were on fire. I went to the fire as fast as possible. I was accosted with ‘Mr Stacey, the fireman wants some beer’! I said this is no time for beer, but for water to put the fire out. People were carrying water from wells that had to be pulled up some 90 to 100ft. I and a friend got his horse harnessed and got a water barrel filled and hauled to the fire. This was about 200 gallons, but Captain Loveday wanted to know who gave me the order fetch it.

In the meantime, a barrel of beer had been fetched from the nearest local and the pumps were stopped; the Capt shouted ‘all beer drinkers this way’. You see, in those days many men used to spend the Saturday evening in the local. Beer was cheap and stronger, and it appeared to me that many of the leading firemen were finding the effects of what they had had.

I ought to have mentioned, there seemed little fire when I arrived. But fireman Braxton was on top of a long ladder (that had been left by the thatcher who had that day finished thatching the cottages). He seemed to be poking up the thatch around the fire to catch it alight better. He finally had to be fetched down as the ladder had caught fire and he may himself have caught alight. When we arrived with the water, fireman Jimmy Brown poured buckets of water down the well with the remark that ‘we will save this till later’.

The pumping stopped; the fire burnt on. It is true, the fire fighters only had manuals that had to be worked by hand pumps and by feet.

I feel to this day that if someone had been on the ladder with the hosepipe or a bucket of water, the cottages would still be here. Very soon the walls only were left and we went home. Not all, for a few firemen stayed on guard; it was 3 o’clock on Sunday morning when I returned to the site; you see I had lost my cottages and could not sleep. When I arrived, I found the guard firemen in the only building that had been saved – a woodshed – and this was on fire!

You will agree that the effect of the beer lasted a long time for I had to rouse them to put out the fire of the shed they were protecting.

I still had the will to get going so, with the best of the material left and what new was required, I erected a new house. This was a double fronted four- bedroom cottage, but when completed no one wanted it. One can understand that when we only had stone roads; the stones cut like knives. As stated earlier, the stones were picked from the fields, broken, and laid for the traffic of those days to wear in. There was no lighting and no water, except that drawn from wells. Nothing in those days, then the roads started to be made usable. Very soon followed the buses and electric lighted streets. Water mains were laid and then gas. Only one thing missing – sewerage.

When roads improved, people found the village. More old cottages were pulled down or were made attractive by outsiders who settled. Cottages were wanted by the people and very soon I had erected about 50 bungalows and cottages, with a further 26 council houses. Other builders have since erected another 30 council houses (I understand there are about 50 on the waiting list and it is getting quite a noted place now). I have built houses and bungalows in many different districts and gone as far as Folkestone, Kent.

Part 5
Since WW1 some 140 cottages have been built and this is now the best village that could be found for many miles around. It must have been one of the worst in England 70 years ago, that’s about as long as I remember clearly. I know of a square of 12 cottages with only one communal toilet. There were 4 groups of 4 cottages with one toilet for 4 cottages and 1 set of 5 cottages with one toilet. No wonder cottages were cheap. Most people worked on the land for wages at 9/- per week. There was no half day on Sat.

I was talking earlier about the village doctors. We, the villagers, had a second doctor, but he lived about 5 miles away. He was known as the hunting doctor and used to visit the village two or three times per week on his hunter.

I remember when he was called in to see my baby brother, then about 2 years old. The doctor sent over a bottle of medicine, but the Dr had got the labels mixed up. Mother poured a little onto a teaspoon and gave to the baby; he at once started fighting for breath, so Mother and Father ran out into the air where the baby recovered. When this Dr called again and was told the story of what happened, the Dr just casually said he put up this to rub into some poor old man’s back and took the medicine to the old man and brought back the baby’s medicine without so much as an ‘I am sorry’!

By the time the 1939 war started, my employees numbered 45 but I had much to learn for I lost 5 young men in the first day of war. Then D.O.R.A. meant so much then. I repeatedly had to give up men for war work officers in the lab exchanges. First (they) wanted several men for defence work, then the American camps had to be built and again a call for men. Then the London Blitz or Hitler’s rockets on London lost more. I was left with 12 men, and they were over 60 or under the doctor. £10 worth of work only allowed without a licence, little or no materials allowed, everything had to be rationed so the law had to be continually broken to keep going and by the end it got me down and I had to sell up, but as I sit and think over the past there is much to cause a smile.

There is a funny side to everything which brings me back to one old farm carter that worked on one of the lone farms about 2 miles out. He saw (or imagined he saw) a well-dressed gentleman in various places around this lonely dark farm. As his cottage was across a meadow with no road, he used to take the lonely path which led through a plantation of trees. He used to speak to the gentlemen with a ‘good night, sir’ but never got an answer. His job was to feed the horses very early in the morning and very late at night. One night, it was after 8 o’clock, he made up his mind the next time he met him and said goodnight, if he did not reply he would strike him with his stick; this he did, and the stick went right through him! He at once turned into a ball of fire, rolled along the meadow and into the pond. This finished both the ghost and the old carter for the fright was more than he could stand. He was under the doctor for the next 3 months and had to lose his job. I asked the shepherd who lived next door what he saw when he was up and about at all hours of the night in the lambing season, but he still says nothing, so I think people imagine things.

My grandfather, as I think I said earlier, was the village carrier and used to drive with his horse and van. One night the vicar of Baydon walked over to Marlborough. By the time he got back to this village it was getting dark, but he went on to do the other two miles (as that was the distance from Aldbourne to Baydon, but only 1 ½ miles back so the old folks say). When the vicar got halfway, he saw, at Dore’s Grave, a ghost, so he ran back to this village and hired my grandfather to drive him home. When he got too the place known as Dore’s Grave (where the man Dore hanged himself in one of the trees and it is said his ghost can be seen ever since), the vicar laid flat on the bed; when asked why he did this, the vicar said he saw the man with his arms stretched wide but he had no head and he couldn’t face him.

Part 6
Now I am getting up to Baydon, a village I have always been interested in as my mother was born and lived there as a girl, where my father lost his life before I was six years old, and when my earliest memories start. You will understand why I am interested. Baydon is one of the healthiest villages there is. My memories are that it was a village of 50 dwelling houses, one church, one school, 2 locals, 2 chapels, one Wesleyan, one Baptist. Now the Baptist has gone to make a farm building so there is one nearly new Methodist and only one local. There are many new houses and bungalows, at the time of writing between 20 – 30, and lots more to go up.

The first stories were when they built the church and tower, a portion of the land was left around the church for a burial ground or churchyard. Those in charge wanted to open the graveyard officially but, in such a healthy place, no one died. After years of waiting, the church official decided to kill the oldest man.

They only had water from the village pond, the cattle drank the same water, but it was health giving water. After the farm workers had been working until dark in the harvest field, they had to go to the village pond, fetch the water, boil some and make the drink for the next day. There was only one very deep well, this was at the manor, but as time went by, people started to dig and build underground storage tanks, then put up gutters and catch the water from their roofs. It made very nice tea, but one always thought of the washing of the roof. Everything has changed and water is taken in pipes from a pumping station many miles away. The village now has lighted streets.

As the years passed, the writer became an undertaker and being such a healthy village, there was little to do. So little that no grave digger could be found, I had to send my own man. I told him the story how they first opened the graveyard. I went to see how he was getting on and he said he’d just found the remains of the old man they had to kill.

As I have already said, there’s a funny side to nearly everything in this life even undertaking. For the cottages were built with small bent staircases that, if it was impossible to take a coffin up the stairs, then the body had to be brought down and put into the coffin in on the ground floor. On one such occasion the man helping was very nervous. When the breath that was left in the body made an uncanny(?) noise, the man said, ‘I’m off, if he can make noises like that then he can get down the stairs himself!’.

During the last war when Hitler was killing people with his bombs and the churchyard was filling up, the parish council got frightened and looked for another burying place. The chairman of the parish council asked me to come and help decide the best piece of land for this new cemetery. They had three sites to choose from. In the village, news spread, and one old man took home the news to his wife. The wife replied, ‘they can make their new cemetery but they won’t put me there so long as I am alive and well; the old man took a different view and said ‘well I hope please God they will put me there if I am live and well’. It is interesting to note that after nearly 20 years they are still burying in the same churchyard so they must have come across the first man killed in ever the story was true.

Part 7 (last one!)
(Back to Aldbourne) I made mention earlier that the village consisted of 240 dwelling houses. There was one parish church, 3 chapels and the salvation army. There were 5 locals. This is where people went for their entertainment. The salvation army has been nearly forgotten, the church and two remaining chapels are trying to carry on but with plenty of empty seating. In fact, part of the church is now the Aldbourne Museum, for the old fire engines are housed there. I think this is a very bad thing for any town or village, when places go where one can learn the best way of life.

Some 4 years ago I gave up what had been a very interesting, very worrying business. Why worrying, did you say? Well, there are many people who seem to think that a businessman can just send his men, pay them, carry out the customers’ requirements, then send in his accounts for many months, sometimes years and in plenty of cases, they never pay. There have been many headaches for me through these thoughtless people. Many a large overdraft, which never should have been. Although my business would be considered big for a village, with sometimes nearly 50 employees, I never made money, but I did make friends and always had plenty of work waiting.

Sometimes I think if we attended church and chapel and took our children as our parents did, we would not have our newspapers filled with the doings of the bad boys and girls and men and women, there would be more room to write about the good ones. It doesn’t cost ratepayers anything to keep these above-mentioned places going but the prisons are very costly. I have been rambling away from what you came for, that is something about myself. Well, I must tell you, I am one of the happiest persons in this village although I am now unable to work. I had planned several improvements such as putting up miniature buildings and I have here a plan of one, and this is the church*. I may get a start again someday.

(*Charles did build several miniature buildings, including a replica of Aldbourne church, in the garden of Inglenook, 14 Lottage Road).

Pillow Fights Aldbourne (late 1920s)

Second Wedding Photo Mystery Solved

The wedding in Aldbourne of Mabel Hedges and John Bellingham February 1915 – with thanks to Graham Palmer for identifying the bride, groom and other members of the wedding party

This photo was tucked into the back of the broken glass frame containing the wedding picture for William and Jessie Deacon 1917. Why? I have no idea, and we’ll probably never know but it has been really special to have both the photographs identified and the names added to my Aldbourne Archive.

The faces in the 1915 photo seem solemn, very few families escaped loss during those difficult days. The bride’s brother Corporal Herbert Hedges (5th Wilts) was killed in action at Gallipoli on 21 September 1915. From studying Ancestry records, and I’m totally willing to be corrected on this, it looks as though tragedy hit the family again before the Great War ended.

Lieutenant William Hedges MC (10th Canadians), Mabel’s brother, died on the 27 September 1918.

John Bellingham served with the Royal West Surrey Regiment, and was discharged due to disability in 1917. John (publican) and Mabel were listed on the 1939 register, with their children, at the White Horse, Shophouse Road, Twerton, Bath.