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.
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.
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.
Delicious recipes and pie pastry hints, taken from ‘Do Me a Flavour’ published in 1986 by the Aldbourne WI
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).
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)
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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 http://www.thenma.org.uk/events-at-the-arboretum/vj-day-75/
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.
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
Thanks to Ian Warrington for posting his family photo on my Aldbourne Archive Facebook page.
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.
180 years ago today (10 January 1840) the Uniform Penny Post was introduced. https://www.postalmuseum.org/…/britis…/uniform-penny-postage I will try to research Honor’s ‘four generations’ more fully. So far I’ve worked out that: Honor’s parents were John and Sarah (nee Aldridge) Orchard, who retired from keeping the Post Office on the Green in 1939. Honor’s grandmother was Elizabeth Aldridge, who ran the post office when it was in Back Lane and is described as ‘postmistress’ in the 1891 Census. William Aldridge, Honor’s grandfather, is described as ‘postmaster & smith’ in the 1881 Census. Prior to all that, Kelly’s Directory 1867 names Thomas Bacon as ‘mail receiver’ for Aldbourne.
On 1 April each year, the social media channels are packed with silly season articles and messages. A friend of mine commented that it’s the one day a year that users can almost be relied upon to digest information before accepting it as true. This year I particularly liked a story from the official Tower of London account; renaming the Raven Master ‘Pigeon Master’ in advance of a new exchange programme with the Trafalgar Square pigeons. ‘Latest News’ for Stonehenge and other archaeological sites appeared to such an extent that the Council for British Archaeology was moved to post:
Today our sympathies are with the archaeologists who uncover amazing finds and have to work really hard to convince colleagues and the public that they are genuine…
Some time ago, the late Trish Rushen and I were looking at Tony Gilligan’s Parish News and spotted this ‘Happenings of Yesteryear’ piece. I couldn’t believe the description of Pushball, and we suspected that it was Tony having a bit of fun (it was the April 1979 edition, after all!). However a few local enquiries proved otherwise. Pushball really was a thing in Aldbourne and further afield. There wasn’t a great deal of information, apart from Wiki, on the internet when we were researching the subject. However yesterday when I looked again more background to the sport in Aldbourne and further afield came to light. Here are some examples from the Aldbourne Community Heritage Group Website and MovieTone/Pathé
In 1923 a comic pushball match was held in the field behind Mt Pleasant and our [Aldbourne] band as always led the procession there, in aid of the hospital fund, this game involved the use of extremely large balls. A similar event in 1930 was well reported on and was a very humorous affair indeed. Band members dressed as ladies and village ladies dressed as men. Fred Jerram, the referee, dressed as a member of both sexes so as “to show impartiality”. Apparently the match consisted of the men frequently stopping in order to powder their noses or to issue complaints of “rough play” by the ladies as they were “clever with their handling of not only the ball but of the mens skirts as well”. Fred Barnes was advised to put a tuck into his skirt after expressing concern about his lower garments and the general consensus of opinion on both sides was that the ref should be reported to the football authorities for gross misconduct. The score? 11-5 to the ladies of course.
I believe this photograph may have been taken around 1906. I have no idea who the photographer was or his reason for setting up his camera in front of the Aldbourne village shop on that particular day. However, this copy of an old sepia photograph has a special meaning to me, as it has captured a moment in my great grandmother’s life. As she stood in the doorway of her shop, watching her children and their playmates pose for the photographer, she could not have imagined that, over a hundred years later, her great granddaughter would be writing these words in the hope that someone in Aldbourne might remember something or someone that was there on that day.
My great grandparents, Arthur and Kate Collier, only stayed in the village for eighteen months. Two of their children went to school there, and were taught by a formidable lady who went by the name of Miss Grant. No doubt Eva and Sydney made friends there and were perhaps remembered by Aldbourne families, once they moved away.
I ‘interrogated’ my father for information about this chapter in his family’s life only to be told that he couldn’t remember much. Interestingly though, as he talked to me he began to recall things that his father had told him about life in Aldbourne, namely that Arthur used to ride his bicycle, with a large basket on the front, all the way to Swindon for the shop’s provisions!
I believe that my family were happy in Aldbourne and had fond memories of the time they lived there.
As I look at the photograph on my desk I ask myself, once again, what was my great grandmother thinking, why is the boy holding the chickens and, most importantly, how did the photographer manage to keep thirteen children in order long enough to snap the photo?
Sadly I shall never know what my great grandmother’s thoughts were, although she may have been weighing up the possibility of her daughter falling off of the pump before the photographer had completed his task. However, with regard to the chickens and the identity of the brave man behind the camera I appeal to the readers of this article for enlightenment.
A century after the hurricane that ‘blew so hard at North’ this report appeared in August 1863. The article was collected into Rev E H Goddard’s scrapbooks and can be found in the library at the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes (along with many, many other fascinating snippets about the village!). I’ve seen another item about a lady who was carried some distance by a strong wind under her skirts (!). I’ll track it down again eventually …. In the meantime, I’ll leave the weather for today with a final word from Miss Foster; taken from Tony Gilligan’s Parish News December 1985. A copy of the ‘Fisherman’s Diary’ referred to can be found in the Aldbourne Heritage Centre (open Easter – September and by request); drop them a line if you’d like to know more.