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!).

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

The Revival of Aldbourne Feast in 1919

Aldbourne War Memorial Hall Opening 7 July 1922

The Aldbourne Feast, one of the oldest and best known of Wiltshire village festivals, allowed to lapse during the war, was this year revived with much success … Even in the days immediately preceding the war, Aldbourne Feast was sometimes little more than a date in the calendar … For some years a flower show was held annually, but at no time in the memory of the present inhabitants has a programme of such an ambitious character been arranged as that which was carried out with great success during the early part of the present week.

North Wilts Herald 1 August 1919

‘The roundabouts, swings and sideshows arrived in the village on Saturday, and did a roaring trade on Monday’. The newspaper report went on to list the activities arranged for the purpose of raising funds to build a new Village Hall, in memory of the men of Aldbourne who gave their lives in the war. About £750 had been raised for this purpose prior to Feast in 1919.

In July 1919 there were sports in ‘Mr Wilson’s meadow’ (which did not include ‘backswording’) but did feature ‘many items of an exciting character, in which the representatives of the various hamlets within a six mile radius strove to excel each other in the performances, and displayed a real sporting spirit in the doing of it’. Tug-of-War, a hurdle race and obstacle bicycle race are listed. Plus ‘Bowling for a Pig’.

Mr A W Pembroke gets a couple of mentions in the article. Arthur Pembroke lived at Yew Tree House and as well as being in charge of Bowling for a Pig at the Feast celebrations in 1919, Arthur is listed as a member of the ‘special sports sub-committee’.

Arthur and his mother Annie (nee Penny, born Winterbourne Bassett) later gave the land upon which the Memorial Hall was built.

By the time Feast rolled round again in 1920 the village fund stood at over £1,000. In 1920 the North Wilts Herald listed a huge variety of sporting events, a baby show (judged by Dr Dill of Ramsbury – brave man!) and dancing in the evening accompanied by Aldbourne Prize Band. This time the bowling endeavours were directed to win a ‘pair of ducks’.

Feast in 1921 was ‘a much smaller affair than in previous years’ (North Wilts Herald 29 July 1921) however ‘in accordance with custom’ nearly every household had friends from a distance to visit or absent relatives home for the occasion. ‘Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the “fun of the fair”.’

In December 1921 the tender from Messrs Moulding Bros was accepted by the hall committee and building began shortly thereafter. The Aldbourne War Memorial Hall, a target determined in 1917, was opened by Lord Methuen on 7 July 1922.

See also:

A Mystery Postcard – Aldbourne Carnival?

1909 postmarked postcard Wiltshire Museum – Wiltshire Life Society AVGB GBP367

This mystery began (for me) in July 2014 in the library at the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes. One of my colleagues showed me this photograph of a young person with a decorated bicycle. The photograph is a laminated reproduction, part of the Wiltshire Life Society collection.

We spent some time trying to track down more information, to no avail.

In October 2014, the curator of the Aldbourne Heritage Centre confirmed that a similar copy photograph was part of the village collection.

The Millennium Book of Aldbourne has a note about the origin of Aldbourne Carnival and mentions a parade of decorated bicycles in 1905. So it is possible that this photo is therefore one of the earliest showing an entry for the village carnival. In fact, the image was used to promote the 100th Aldbourne Carnival in 2015. It has remained in my Aldbourne Archive as a mystery to be solved ‘one day’.

Last year an original postcard appeared on eBay and is now with local historian Graham Palmer. It was a fantastic find!

There are still mysteries to be solved. Who were Miss Annie Cox, Lizzie W and Harry?

Any and all suggestions welcome!

Aldbourne Coronation Celebrations on 2 June 1953

Once again, proof that the good people of Aldbourne knew how to throw a party! I would love to see photos of the ‘Musical Chairs on Bicycles’. Sadly, at least for the moment, I’ll have to content myself with the write-up about the ‘Ladies XI’ in the Parish Magazine. Somewhere in that photo there is a well known BBC presenter, famous for his Animal Magic. As the Vicar said, ‘it is up to the reader to identify them in the photograph’. The mention of the village pond renovation refers to the creation of the concrete basin, which caused some controversy at the time. The pond went from a natural feature to a ‘little concrete prison’ [Ida Gandy] in 1953. It was modified into a more natural form (as it is today) following the Festival in 1990.

Pillow Fights for a New King

North Wiltshire Herald 1937. Source: Wiltshire Museum

I’ve been revisiting my notes on the Coronation Celebrations for King George VI that took place in Aldbourne on 12 May 1937.

It has been fascinating to find and link together photos and newspaper reports to establish a snapshot for this HUGE village party. My friend, John Brown, has fond recollections of the day, especially the delicious tea in the Manor Barn. Other villagers have shared their child-hood memories of singing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ with the Aldbourne Band.

The chestnut tree was planted by Beryl Perrett and Kenneth Martin – see Tree Planting by the Pond 1937

‘Eatwell’s Team’ emerged victorious in the Tug-o-War – see Tug of War Tradition in Aldbourne

It is a source of great regret that I still haven’t tracked down any photographs of the Bicycle Obstacle Race, but there has been a breakthrough on the Pillow Fights.

The winner was Reg Slade (who also finished second in the Bicycle Obstacle Race), with J Bowes as runner-up. The Judges were Mr A V Jerram and T D Barnes. Sadly, photographs of the 1937 event are not (yet!) available but Lisa Barkworth has very kindly supplied photos from an earlier competition. Surely a time of laughter and fierce competition, there must have indeed been an epic battle to welcome the new monarch on this day in 1937.

Possibly late 1920s. Source: Stacey Family Album

Carnival Postcard Mystery Solved

Photograph, carnival costume including a decorated bicycle, Aldbourne, Wiltshire, 1909, an image from the Wiltshire Life Society collection.

The discovery of this photo is one of my happiest memories from early days of volunteering at the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes. My fellow volunteers often found items relating to Aldbourne and, knowing my interest, called me over to have a look. This laminated photo was part of the Wiltshire Life Society Collection and formerly part of a display at Avebury. No clues as to the location of the picture, or identity of the young person. Just a date: 1909.

Fast forward our village preparations for the 100th Renewal of Aldbourne Carnival in 2015. A copy of the same photo was found in the collection at Aldbourne Heritage Centre. I carried a copy of the photo with me and showed it to more or less everyone I met, trying to find out if it rang a bell from any family album. It went into the local paper, and even got a mention on BBC Wiltshire.

From memory, there’s a snippet in the Millennium Book of Aldbourne that acknowledges research that carnival in Aldbourne in its present form can be dated back to 1915; whereas, with decorated bicycles (like Pewsey) a slightly earlier date of 1905 was mentioned. If only there was some way to be sure that the note ‘postemark 1909’ was accurate.

Roll forward again to October 2020 and eBay (almost ten years to the month that I first met our young friend with the decorated bicycle). There’s the Aldbourne postmark 1909, and now all we have to do is solve the mysteries arising from the card itself: who is ‘Lizzie W’, who is ‘Harry’ and who is ‘Miss Annie Cox’?

With thanks to Graham Palmer
With thanks to Graham Palmer

Some #VJDay75 Recollections

Aldbourne Memorial Hall

VE and VJ Day 75th Anniversary commemorations have been vastly different to those originally envisaged. On 15 August 2020 there will be national events to mark the occasion, including a two-minute silence at 11am. Listen out for St Michael’s Church bells after the silence. Many of us will remember relatives or friends who died; and those who carried, or will carry, the effects of physical and mental suffering for the rest of their lives.

This is a huge and emotive subject to explore, and I hope that anyone reading this who would like to add to the stories told here, will contact me via the comments box at the end of this article. Once again I must say thank you to the folk who have helped me to tell these few stories. One of the trips I was hoping to make this summer was to the National Memorial Arboretum but instead Ive found their VJ Day activity pack, virtual guided walks and on-line exhibition really useful. These resources can be found at

I’ve taken as my guide some articles from The Dabchick magazine in 1991 and 1995. Firstly, an account by Barbara Sowerby of her experiences as a prisoner of the Japanese – please click on the small image to open the full article.

The Dabchick June 1991

Broadcast for the 70th anniversary of VJ Day

Rouse Voisey, RAF veteran, worked on the Sumatra railway as a prisoner-of-war. Barbara Sowerby was a civilian internee at Stanley prison camp. Follow the link to listen: BBC Radio 4 Today – 15 August 2015

– The DabchickOctober & December 1995
Commonwealth War Grave Record
South Wales Borderers 6th Bn
Died 15 November 1944 Age 25 years old

Thanks to Ian Warrington for posting his family photo on my Aldbourne Archive Facebook page.

‘Dad (In the middle) India 1941’

VJ Day 1945 – “A very happy day for my Mother. Dad would be coming home after 4 years in India. When Dad was called up it meant that Mum was left alone in London with a new baby (Chris) and she did not see Dad for the 4 years as there was no home leave all the way from India.”

Thanks to Ishbel and Annie for access to Andrew Sewell’s vast and fascinating collection of photos, diary notes and artefacts. In February 1940, and his 19th birthday, Andrew was in Scotland helping the Lanarkshire Yeomany ‘convert from horses to guns’. A year later the regiment travelled to India, which provided all the arms and equipment needed to move to Malaya in the late summer. Andrew was wounded in ‘a typical engagement between a battalion just landed at Singapore, a highly professional Indian Army unit and the Japanese’. In February 1942, Alexandra hospital was over-run by the Japanese, patients were killed and captured – Andrew’s diary is not comfortable reading and I can’t do justice to such a full and informative account here. Shortly after the capitulation by the Emperor, Russian forces entered Mukden. Andrew travelled first to Sian in South China, then to India in a USA bomber. Eventually arriving at Liverpool in early September 1945 in good time for his 25th birthday.

It is my privilege to bring the stories full circle, and return to the exhibition and coffee morning held in August 1995. The photos tell the story, and aren’t we fortunate to have them to help us remember the past.

Cyril Ernest Painter (1923 – 2017)

Rear Admiral Anthony Davies (1912 – 2003)

Tug of War Tradition in Aldbourne

Tug of War winners mystery 2014 – copy photo thanks to Alan Watson

Tug of war was contested as a team event in the Summer Olympics at every Olympiad from 1900 to 1920. It’s been a popular event in Aldbourne for decades. The earliest mention I’ve seen (so far) is in the North Wilts Herald 1 August 1919: that year, the competition at the Feast Sports was won by a team from Upham.

Years ago, this copy photograph of a victorious team was given to me for the Aldbourne Archive. Only very recently have the names and date been added to my file. Thanks to research by Graham Palmer.

There have been some fabulous reports on sports in the local press over the years. I would love to see photos of the pillow fights, and ‘musical chairs on cycles’ must have been a thing of beauty to behold back in 1927!

The tug of war team in the photo took part in the Coronation Celebrations on 12 May 1937 (King George VI). Graham spotted that ‘Eatwell’s team’ were the winners listed in a newspaper report after the events of the day.

Names for faces – thanks Graham
Standing: left to right: Tommy Cowles, Sid Mildenhall, ? , Percy Swash
Seated: left to right: ? , Charlie Cox, Ernest Eatwell, Harry Aldridge.
The gent holding the cup seated at the front of the group is the Judge, Mr Walter Liddiard. Is that Wilfred Jerram behind the fence (in the hat) holding a coil of rope?