Desmond Trevor Wootton – 1924 to 1941

My thoughts have been directed today towards the WWII names on the Memorial Hall and in St Michael’s Church.

From a certificate downloaded from the HMS Hood Association website in May 2021

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.

Memorial Hall Minutes 1947
Memorial Hall Minutes 1948
Aldbourne War Memorial Hall
St Michael’s Church, Aldbourne

Eleanor Maud Cheramy (nee Hawkins) 1906 – 1987

RAF Odiham – on our visit 2015
Parish News April 1976

The portrait is signed ‘M E Wilson’, and I have been wondering if the artist could be Margaret Evangeline Wilson (1890 -1977). The Art UK website has a number of paintings by this artist; including some portraits. I am also wondering if it is the same portrait of Eleanor Maud Cheramy described in the February 1974 Aldbourne Parish News:

Your readers might like to know that Madame Cheramy’s portrait, showing her wearing her war decorations, was painted by a famous artist in 1963. It was hung in the Grande Palais (Academie Royale) in Paris, where it was awarded the Gold Medal, the Top Award.

L.M. Gillingham, Dorset December 1973

Eleanor Maud Cheramy nee Hawkins was the subject of a run of articles and shared memories in the Parish News during the early 1970s. She and her husband, Eugene Charles Cheramy, are mentioned often in books and articles describing the Pat O’Leary Line and the French Resistance during the Second World War. An inspiring woman, who overcame great hardship and injury to return to Britain and live quietly by the sea in Southern England. She died in 1987 and it is believed her ashes returned to France with her son, Michel, who died in 1990. It has been my privilege to chat with Susan Hook (nee Hawkins), a third cousin twice removed of this courageous Dabchick. Sue came to visit the Aldbourne Heritage Centre in 2018 and has conducted a huge amount of research which she has been kind enough to share.

Parish News October 1973

Aldbourne Memories #BritishPieWeek 2022

A search through the Aldbourne Archive this morning, in praise of PIES in all their glory – some more palatable to modern tastes than others. I’ll start with some more modern recipes and end with two definite ‘dishes of necessity’ that sustained desperate folk in desperate times, in days of yore. The thought is never far from my mind that we are fortunate to be able to make food choices for ourselves and families.

Recipe reminiscences gathered by the Aldbourne Oral History Project (2006)

Wartime memories – the Americans gave large tins of pineapple. Mother made pineapple pie.

Mabel/Mabs Beckingham

I remember my oldest sister making a banana pie, and she had got some banana essence and some parsnips and somehow mixed them up, mixed them up together to make it seem like it was a banana pie. How that worked I don’t know, but I know she did it.

David Palmer

Delicious recipes and pie pastry hints, taken from ‘Do Me a Flavour’ published in 1986 by the Aldbourne WI

Aldbourne Parish News 1974

I have seen mention of Rook Pie, very definitely a ‘dish of necessity’ and possibly the source of the nursery rhyme’s infamous ‘four and twenty black birds’. Necessity turned to sport for the gentry during the 19th Century and Mrs Beeton’s recipe was published as late as 1936. I did some research with Mr Google, but it made me feel faintly queasy; so Dear Reader – I’ll leave you to your own devices on that one. I’m with the black bird that went in for sinus surgery, quite frankly I’m not surprised rooks took every opportunity for vengeance. Although, part of me wishes the visitation took place in the parlour or counting house, rather than the maid in the garden. (And thanks to Jenny Wren, well known plastic surgeon).

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

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

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!).

Drought Across the Wiltshire Downs 1933 – 34

From the collection of the Aldbourne Community Heritage Group

I have vivid memories of the Summer of 1976 in Wiltshire, although we weren’t in Aldbourne back then so I didn’t get to see this great carnival float in person. (Who made it, can anyone remember?). A summer of long sunny days, stand-pipes, followed by rain at the end of August on my sister’s wedding day. Then a visit to the Lake District and seeing half empty reservoirs.

Drought is a Killer, Everyone knows, but with this up the garden everything grows.

“Let the Flowers Die” – says Denis Howell (Minister for Drought August 1976)

Parish News October 1976 – Aldbourne Community Heritage Group

During research into the village during WW2 I’ve run across the sterling work by the Red Cross hospital supplies depot in Aldbourne. According to the North Wilts Herald (16 August 1940) ‘the credit for its origin must be given to Mrs Ruth Rogers, its energetic secretary, assisted by many ladies interested in Red Cross work, and to Mrs Varvill, who kindly placed her house at the disposal of the organisers’. So I looked up Mrs Maude Varvill on the 1939 Register to see where she lived (Castle Barn, Castle Street), and then noticed that Ruth Rogers was her neighbour at Half Moon – personal occupation given as ‘Literary Agent, Writer’. Several cups of tea later I’d Googled Ruth Rogers and used the online newspapers via Find My Past (beware, very addictive!) to find out a little more about that lady.

Ruth Rogers wrote a long letter to the Ramsbury Rural District Council in March 1934, stating that she was unable to use her cottage at Aldbourne, because the well had gone dry and there was no other means of obtaining water in the village. Reference was made to ‘Medieval Conditions’ . Another letter, from a Mr W Durham of Aldbourne, indicated that he had to rely on the kindness of his neighbours. It was moved by Mr Hawkins (not sure if that would have been Oliver or Christopher?) ‘that the letters should be sent to Aldbourne Parish Council. There was a shortage of water there, and great inconvenience was being caused and he did not know what would happen if the dry weather continued for another fortnight. There were more than 200 wells in Aldbourne and every other one was dry at present.’ Reported in the North Wilts Herald 2 March 1934.

It’s raining again in Aldbourne this morning, after one beautiful sunny day yesterday – a (false?) harbinger of spring – with the Thames Water filtration unit on standby outside the library, muddy puddles everywhere and all eyes to the water table. (Not to mention will there be enough for a Duck Race this year as part of the Easter Extravaganza?).

But back in February 1934 it was a very different story. Mrs Phyllis Tobias (nee Bull) gave us a glimpse of the past in her letter to the Parish News in 1989.

Parish News December 1989 – Aldbourne Community Heritage Group

Mr Cyril Barrett (Aldbourne Oral History Project 2006) shared his memories of Aldbourne when all the water came from wells, with no mains water in the villages at all. Cyril also recalled a visit by Oswald Mosely’s men, when the tanks arrived on a lorry, were filled up and taken up to Baydon – ‘they were in a sorry state up there for water’.

North Wilts Herald Friday 23 February 1934

The local newspapers from the time are full of stories about Baydon, and the extent to which the villagers suffered during times of drought. I have found a fabulous resource in the back copies online of ‘Scene in Baydon’, the serialised history as told by the late R J Naish, JP.

The folk down at Aldbourne were willing helpers to their Baydon neighbours in times of drought. Water carts went to and fro in an arduous routine during such times, despite the fact that the ‘Dabchicks’ had, themselves, to husband their supplies. In times of extreme shortage both villages had to look to the kindly help of Chilton Foliat, which was always, mercifully, enriched by the clear
waters of the Kennet.

A Baydon resident still recalls how he had been sent down to Aldbourne by his boss to fill a farm water cart with about 200 gallons. Having done this, with the kind permission of an Aldbourne farmer, he was preparing to leave when the fire alarm went. His load was quickly commandeered to put out a thatch fire in a Castle Street cottage, so he returned to Baydon empty.

Scene in Baydon April 2011

That brings me full circle to Castle Street again, and I’ll end with a link to the Action for the River Kennet Projects at Aldbourne and Baydon Schools which are a far cry from the press coverage in 1933, where the rainwater tanks for Baydon school and the village as a whole were reduced to a few inches of stinking sludge.

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 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!

Memories of Carnival from Mrs Nancy Barrett (1986)

Nancy Barrett (nee Hawkins) Aldbourne’s first Carnival Queen in 1934

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

Flagging the Future, Remembering the Past

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.

Marianne Adey

Brind & Wakefield #RememberedHere

Three gravestones in St Michael's Churchyard, in the village of Aldbourne.  Family names are Brind and Wakefield
Family headstones in St Michael’s churchyard, Aldbourne

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 [1927]/[ ] /[ ] / [inscription should also refer to Sergt Colin Brind, died in France 1914]

1st Bn Wiltshire RegimentDied 26 October 1914LE TOURET MEMORIAL
Panel 33 and 34

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.

2nd Bn Wiltshire RegimentDied 21 March 1918SAVY BRITISH CEMETERY
I. E. 7.France

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.

Royal EngineersDied 24 August 1944 BAYEUX WAR CEMETERY
VIII. F. 20.France