Memories of Joyce Kelland
Mrs Joyce Kelland was the daughter of Mr A H Rolfe who farmed Ash House Farm in Great Wolford from 1920, when he bought the farm, to 1940 when he tired of government interference!! This piece was written in 1985 when the Village celebrated the 150th Anniversary of the consecration of the new Church.
A MOMENT IN TIME
My father was hoeing turnips on the hot June day when I was born in 1927. I like to think it was a happy occasion for him, for he often told me about that day I was born at Ash House Farm, Great Wolford, a small village in the North Cotswolds in the county of Warwickshire.
The most exciting regular happening in the village was the bus that came through on the first Tuesday of the month and coincided with the monthly cattle market held at Moreton-in-Marsh which was four miles from Great Wolford. It was mainly people from the village going shopping who took advantage of it for this was the only public transport available. The bus stopped on a corner in the middle of the village to pick up its passengers and all we village children would gather there to await its arrival just before 9am and then to see the passengers get on board and the bus pull away. We would watch it until it was out of sight and then hurry off to school. At 5pm. we would be waiting there for the bus to return, and the excitement of seeing the passengers alight with their baskets laden with shopping. I believe there is a weekly bus service now so there has been some progress in the last fifty years or so.
My family, father, mother and my brother Peter who was two and a half years older than me were lucky, being of the farming fraternity, we had a horse and trap which my father drove the four miles to Moreton-in-Marsh produce market which was held each Thursday. Most of my father's relatives lived in and around the Moreton-in-Marsh area and on market day my father took farm produce such as eggs, fruit. chickens, large skips of mushrooms and such like depending on the season to market for auction, and afterwards visited relatives and did some shopping for my mother. Others in the village who did not have transport were only able to visit the shops on the monthly bus or walk the four miles to town. Not many of the village folk in the 1930's owned a bicycle and so they had to rely on the only shop in the village which was Post Office and. grocery store combined. Tradesmen from Shipston-on-Stour would call weekly with supplies of bread, fish and groceries and once a week. a big red van drove into the village laden with a large selection of hardware, toiletries and other miscellaneous goods. The van also carried paraffin oil, this was the only fuel apart from solid fuel used in the village, there was no electricity or gas supply.
In my earlier school days I attended the village school where I and other children were ruled with a rod of iron by two maiden lady teachers, Miss Luckins and Miss Bull. One dare not address either teacher in anything above a whisper. To their great credit they managed to drill the three R's to a greater or lesser degree into all who attended the school. At the time I was there about fifty-two pupils were on the School roll, some of these Great Wolford children and the rest from Little Wolford and Barton-on-the-Heath which were neighbouring villages.
There were no great happenings in the village but regular features such as the annual school sports and the School Christmas party were looked forward to with great anticipation. There were toys for prizes at the sports, ones that would be treasured by the winners some of whom would not be fortunate enough to afford toys normally. This school Christmas party was looked forward to with much glee. Several weeks before it was due to take place each pupil was asked to write down what present he or she would like off the Christmas tree with a second choice, just in case the first choice was not practical. I did not give it a thought at the time, but these two dedicated ladies who taught us must have provided the gifts and prizes for the school sports and the Christmas party with some help from an occasional village Whist Drive. A few days before the party an enormous fir tree would arrive at the School. donated by a local benefactor. It took two men to carry in the tree and heave it into position and secure it. On the day of the party the tree would have been decorated by our teachers with all the fifty or so presents. After a tea of sandwiches, jelly and cake each child was given a cracker to pull, then the tables were removed to make room for party games to be played. Blind Mans Buff always seemed to be one of the favourite games, it was the noisiest anyway. After the games the moment we had been waiting for arrived. - the giving out at the presents - we all waited with baited breath for our name be called. Miss Bull would climb the step ladder and remove the presents one at a time from the tree and hand to Miss Luckins who would read out the names with great ceremony. We were always delighted with our gifts. Then the party over, we would go happily home. One other thing I must mention, at the end of each term we would be given an orange and some sweets to take home. These teachers, under their rather formidable exterior, I am sure had a deep devotion to both teaching and the children they taught.
Once a year the Warwickshire Hunt met on the village green at Great Wolford and we were allowed out 'of school to watch. The excitement and anticipation was unbounded while, we waited for Miss Luckins 6 ,the senior teacher to give the word to say that we could leave our desks and stand together outside the school which adjoined the village green where the hounds met. We were allowed to stay until the hunt moved off. To me the hounds were the greatest attraction as I have always been passionately found of dogs. I would do my best to entice some of the dogs over to where we were standing and it was quite surprising how tame and friendly they were considering that they spent all but their puppyhood in kennels. As puppies they were "walked", in other words, put out to individual families for them to be looked after and taught the basics of discipline .. Then at the age of about nine months they would be returned to the hunt kennels. Apart from the hounds, the huntsmen. resplendent in their hunting pink, were favourites with me. Too soon the time would come for the hounds to move off, the Master of the Hounds would round up the dogs and the hunt would move off. We children would reluctantly file back into school to resume our work. For most of the children that was the last of the hunt that they would see until the next year, but Peter and I would hurry home from school in the afternoon, don our wellingtons and hurry across the fields to see if we could catch sight of any huntsmen making their way homeward across our fields. As soon as we spied one we would hurry to the gate he was making for and open it before he had had time to dismount and then close it when he had passed through. If we were lucky we would be given sixpence for this service, quite a sum in those days!!
The Harvest Festival I always looked forward to with eager anticipation. The highlight for me was the solo sung by Hr Hyatt, the brother of Mrs Hunt, a neighbouring farmer's wife,.during one of the harvest hymns. I liked to let my eyes wander round the church to enable me to admire the harvest gifts which were arranged around the altar and in all the windows. There would be large, marrows, shiny red apples, potatoes. carrots, swedes and onions as well as huge bunches of Michaelmas daisies and of course there were sheaths of corn adorning the altar. This also helped pass away the time during the rather long Sermon which was not a part of the service I particularly enjoyed.
The highlight ot the 1930s was the Silver Jubilee of King George and Queen Mary in 1935, followed in two years' time by the Coronation of King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth in 1937. For months together and agreed to provide a day to remember for the whole village. There were to. be children's sports in one of my father's fields, The Leys, which was also the local cricket pitch, and a Tug O'War for the men. At tea-time all the children were to be presented with a beaker to mark the event and be given a filled roll, a bun and a small cake in a paper bag to eat, and a drink of lemonade in our new beakers. While we were having our picnic tea in the smaller of the two school rooms the adults were to sit down to a meal of cold meats with salad and rolls at long trestle tables in the "big room". For weeks before the Coronation Great Wolford children were practising for the sports, the sack race, the potato race. the three legged race and for those who had bicycles, the slow bicycle race.
The great day arrived, the sun shone, there were flags and bunting hung out of Windows, goodness knows how long some of them had been stored in people's attics but they added to the air of festivity. Everything went perfectly as planned. At the end of the day when w had all eaten and the remains of the grown-ups meal had been cleared away, we children were allowed into the "big room" for the social entertainment.
This was taken care of by Miss Luckins at the piano with Mr Faulkner, the local postmaster, leading the community singing and a local farmer's daughter giving her rendering of Harbour Lights. The evening was rounded of with Mr Faulkner singing his party piece "Little Brown Jug". I do not recall the National Anthem being sung but I am sure that It was. We all went happily home havinq had a perfect day of celebration, the like of which Great Wolford had never seen before. With the Coronation coming only two years after the Silver Jubilee it was decided that a repeat of the Jubilee Celebrations would be the best idea, so that is what we did, the same again. I still have my Silver Jubilee and Coronation beakers, and so has my brother.
Life was simple in this rural community, there was no main drainage or electricity and the water supply was pumped by ram from a well at the bottom of one of my father's fields. The farmhouses, the vicarage and the local public house "The Fox and Hounds", had an indoor water supply. The rest of the villagers had to get their water from one of the five taps sited around the village.
The "Fox and Hounds", the only public house in the village was a source of endless fascination to me, mainly because I was not allowed to see what went on inside. I was sent by my father from time to time to get his 'baccy", but had strict instructions to knock on the kitchen door and NOT on the door to the bar. The St.Bruno rough cut was 11½d an ounce, my father would give me a shilling and there would be ½d change which he would sometimes give me. On one occasion Mrs Walker, the landlady of the pub, allowed me to go into the bar. She hadn't any of my father's favourite brand of tobacco handy and she asked me into the kitchen and to follow her into the bar. I was spell bound. I could not imagine what was to be revealed. The passage was quite dark and the bar itself was only dimly lit. To say the least I was disappointed by what I saw. There was nothing the least exciting about it. There was a strong smell of stale beer and cigarette smoke hanging in the air, and the bar itself was not much wider than the passageway with the flagstone floor and along one wall there were a few rough tables and benches. There were five or six men, local farm workers sitting at some of the tables drinking their beer. It all looked quite harmless to me, in fact I was only too pleased to get back out into the fresh air having paid for the tobacco and received the ½d change.
On the occasions when I was given the ½d to spend I would run along to the Post office cum village shop, full of the joy of anticipating whether I would buy a bar of toffee, an ounce of sweets or a lollipop. Sometimes if I took rather a long time to make up my mind Mrs Faulkner, the Post Mistress, would let me taste one or two sweets but no matter how tasty the sweets I could rarely resist the lollipops. They were brightly coloured and fruit flavoured in the summer, and aniseed, peppermint and caramel flavoured in the winter. I would chat brightly to Mrs Faulkner while I was making my choice and it was usually a yellow, green or orange lollipop in the summer and peppermint in the winter. Having made my choice I would hand over my halfpenny and skip happily home to find my father and show him what I had bought. He always declined any offer of a taste. Never since though have any sweets had quite the flavour of those lollipops.
Winter brought deep snow to this North Cotswold village. It was greeted with great excitement by my brother Peter and I. We would have snowball fights, but best of all we had a home made sledge. We would take this up to the sandpit field, which was steeply sloping, up to the brow of the hill and then take it in turns to run with the sledge, jump on and see who could travel the farthest. One year when the snow was crisper than usual Peter set off at a fair old rate down the slope, going far beyond our usual run and hit a blackthorn hedge at the bottom with some force. I was horrified, but he got away with a fair amount of scratches and a bit of a shaking up.
Spring saw the cultivating and sowing of crops in full swing, then as the days got warmer the sheep would be brought into the yard for shearing. My earliest memories are of the sheep being clipped by hand but in the late 1930's we acquired a semi-mechanised sheep shearer. It required two men to operate it, one to turn the handle, this operated the shears, and the other to hold down and shear the sheep. This new method speeded up the shearing and also made a neater job.
Early to mid-June haymaking would start. Two of our shire horses would be harnessed in readiness for pulling the reaper which had already been oiled and the cutting blade sharpened ready for use. Caleb would change the blade as necessary during the cutting of the grass and then re-sharpen the one he had removed. The cutting edge of the blade, which was about 3ins long, was made up of V shaped cutting edges which had to be sharpened individually with a sharpening stone, which must have been a tedious and exacting job. Three rows or swathes of hay were drawn into one and turned with a swathe turner to speed the drying process and then turned to dry on the other side when it would be raked up into rows about 12ft apart, ready for carrying. The hay was then loaded onto the horse-drawn wagons, two pronged forks were used for this operation with two or three men loading and one standing on the wagon to make sure the hay was evenly distributed and would not slip off on the way to the rick yard. In the rick yard the hay was off-loaded, again with two pronged forks, and built into a rick by two men standing in the rick and building it to stand safely through all weathers. When the time came to use it, it would be set out in sections with a hay knife. When hay making was finished the corn would be beginning to ripen. It was then the horse-drum binder would be brought out and prepared for use.
The binder was an ungainly looking piece of machinery with large wooden sails, which pushed the tied sheaves off the platform ready for stooking. My father grew mostly wheat with some oats and barley and there was great excitement when the corn was cut. The villagers would gather with sticks at the ready to chase any rabbits that made a bolt for it as the square of corn got smaller. This was considered a great sport and the rabbits caught were shared out among those who had caught them. It wasn't until years later that it occurred to me that this was rather a cruel way of getting rid of these vermin which over-ran the farm and destroyed many crops. I was glad then that the rabbits had been too quick for me.
The sheaves of corn were arranged in stooks and left to dry. My father said that the church bells would need to have rung three times, in other words, three weeks before the corn was dry enough to carry and be taken by wagon to the rick-yard and built into ricks to await the arrival of the threshing machine in the late autumn or winter, everyone had to wait their turn. The threshing machine travelled round from farm to farm carrying its own gang of workers. We only had to provide the labour to carry the water for the steam engine that ran the thresher, one to rebuild the rick on another site with the straw that came out from the back of the thresher and one more to handle the full sacks of corn. It was a rare sight indeed to see the ripe golden grains of wheat pouring out of the side of the thresher.into large sacks. It came out so fast that it was as much as one man could do to have a full bag tied up securely and an empty one hooked on before the next bag was full.
The autumn also saw the arrival of the cider makers who, as did the threshers, travelled round with their cider press from farm to farm. Large barrels were filled with juice from the cider apples and it was left in the barn to ferment. This made a very rough cider which was tapped the following summer to be given to the farm workers at hay-making and harvest time. My father had none himself, he was a teetotaller and quenched his thirst in the hay and harvest fields with cold tea. My brother, Peter and I were not allowed to drink cider. We did once smuggle a mug out of the house and sample some. It was so rough we could hardly drink it, and I don't remember wanting to try again.
My mother made country wine. The first part of the year was dandelion. Peter and I were sent to our "top field" to pick the dandelion heads which grew in the field in profusion. My mother would lay the flower heads out on the lawn on newspapers in the spring sunshine to dry before measuring them and making them into wine. Elderflower and parsnip wine were also made. Again this was not for consumption by the family, only for visitors, especially at Christmastime when the bell-ringers came to call. They would sit round with their glasses of wine, praising my mother on the clearness of her parsnip wine and enjoying freshly baked mince pies.
Caleb worked for my father full-time for 30 shillings (£1.50) a week. He never had a full day off. Farm workers didn't in pre-war days. Sunday though was different. Caleb only came over at milking time. On Sunday afternoons he would arrive in his bowler hat, then change it in the tack room, which adjoined the stable, for the beret he normally wore. When the milking was done he would change back into his bowler to return home.
My father bought an old laundry van to use in place of the wagon. He cut off the top to halfway down the side. Caleb understood horses and had a working knowledge of farm machinery but the lorry was a bit of a mystery to him. One day when it had to be pushed to get it to start Caleb stood up in the back of the van and pushed with all his strength. When the van didn't move he shouted down to my father "isn't anyone but me pushing boss, I be doing all the pushing up here".
Peter and I teased Caleb unmercifully and. he struggled hard to keep his temper on many occasions. Sometimes we went a bit too far and he would chase us and threaten to give us a hiding. He never ,did catch us. I'm not sure if he ever intended to.
My father had a cream coloured cob, Tommy. He used to ride Tommy across the fields to attend toL the sheep and cattle or if he was working in a field away from the farm. Tommy had a wonderful temperament. When Peter and l were small we would run across the fields to meet my father on his way home for lunch. He would help Peter onto Tommy's back behind the saddle in front of him, and then haul me up by the arms and lift me into the saddle in front of him and that is how we would all ride home. Peter would get off to open and close the field gates as we went. Tommy also pulled the float that took the produce to market and the governess cart or "tub" that was used to take us to Moreton on special occasions such as visiting my grand-parents on a Sunday evening. One morning when I was about eleven years old my father came into breakfast looking very upset. He found it hard to tell us that during the night Tommy had fallen into a well in a nearby field and had drowned. We were all stunned. The well had been fenced off to prevent the livestock coming to any harm, but there must have been an undetected weak spot. It was a very sad day and we all missed Tommy very much.
My father attended a great many farm sales in our locality and liked nothing better than a good bargain. He usually bought implements and farm tools and sometimes an ornament or piece of furniture for the house. One of his more unusual purchases was a bellow operated vacuum cleaner, it was very old then and must have been one of the fore-runners of the vacuum cleaner as we know it today. It was a very heavy contraption and needed two people to operate it, one to push a handle up and work the bellows and the other to use the suction pipe. The trouble was it never seemed to successfully pick up anything and my mother decided the tried and tested dustpan and brush made a better job of cleaning the carpets than this so-called. labour saving device.
Another sale bargain was an antiquated ice cream maker. It looked like a large wooden box with paddles fixed to the underside of the lid which were attached to a handle on top of the lid. When the lid was in place the handle was pushed to the left and right to work the paddles and Peter and I hopefully thought that this would produce limitless ice cream, but we had no freezing cabinet and so all we ever produced was an unappetizing runny concoction, not at all we had imagined so this bargain was also abandoned.
Some of my father's purchases really did find a place in the home, a rather fine grandfather clock which Peter still has today, an oak chest, a very nice polished rosewood butler's tray and something that gave my father a lot of pleasure was a 3/4 size billiard and snooker table. It stood on the dining room table and my father spent many happy evenings playing billiards or snooker with his friends. Peter and I learned to play too and I loved nothing better than to be allowed to mark up the scores when I understood the game well enough.
My father bought a donkey, too, at a local farm sale. The donkey's name was Jenny and she came complete with cart and harness. Peter and I were delighted. When we first had her my cousins from Moreton, Jessie and John, came over to see us and we harnessed up the donkey and climbed in the cart. It was no trouble to get Jenny to go, she went at quite a fair speed up the road, the trouble came when we wanted her to stop. No amount of persuasion made any difference, she just kept going at a goodly pace. In the end my brother had to get out of the cart and run on in front and catch hold of Jenny's bridle to stop her and turn her round to head for home. What we hadn't realised was that the way we were going led to Jenny's old home two or three miles away and she must have remembered coming down that road, so not all donkeys are stupid it would seem, in fact, far from it, Jenny didn't take kindly to being ridden either, she would just kick her back legs in the air when she had had enough which would have the desired effect of unseating her rider. Perhaps she thought it was time she retired. She did seem happier just lying out with the cows so we let her do just that. It was said that if a herd of cows had a donkey lying out, or grazing out in the field with them, they gave more milk. I don't know if that is a fact but we believed it to be true.
I had a pony, Jubilee, which my father bought for me in 1935. Jubilee didn't prove a very good mount either. When she was tired of carrying me she would just turn round and bite my leg. Very unsociable behaviour! The strange thing is that when a second cousin of mine, Wally from London and unused to country ways, came to stay Jubilee took an immediate liking to him and would let him ride her anywhere. He would even stand on her back to pick black-berries from high places in the hedgerow. He did over-step the mark once with her though on one occasion when Jubilee was disinclined to go, Wally rang a bell in her ear to encourage her to get moving. The pony was so startled that she sprang forward depositing Wally in a bunch of stinging nettles. He didn't try that method again!
Because I didn't ride Jubilee very much it was decided that Jubilee would have to go. My father took her to the horse fair at Stow on the Wold. I was anxious to know who had bought her and that she had a good home but I was distressed to learn that a pit owner had bought her and that she was to go down the coal mine as a pit pony. My father did not realise this until after the auction when it was too late to do anything about it. I often wondered how Jubilee fared and if she was being well treated.
It was about 1934, when I was seven, that my father thought he would like to have a car. He would then be able to go farther afield to Stratford-on-Avon market, 12 miles away, and to farm sales over a wider area, so one day he took me over to Todenham, two miles away, to see a farmer friend who did a bit of dealing in second hand cars. He had just the thing, a bull-nosed Morris Cowley with a dicky seat.
The car was duly delivered. The only snag was that my father did not know how to drive, so he contacted an uncle of mine who promised. to come over the next Sunday afternoon to teach my father the rudiments of driving. The two of them set off up the road towards the Four Shires Stone some two miles up the road where the counties of Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Oxfordshire met. We didn't see them for a couple of hours. Peter and I could hardly contain ourselves, then we heard the car slowly approaching from the direction of the Four Shires Stone and as it swung into the yard Peter and I noted with great glee that my father was at the wheel. That was all the driving tuition my father had and he drove many thousands of miles for the next twenty years or so with only one small accident which I will recount a little later on. My brother and I were the first ones to ride with my father after his two hours tuition. My mother declined the offer of a ride on the first trip out. We drove over to Todenham and all went well until we reached the quite steep hill leading into the village. About half way up the car stalled. Having got the engine started again my father couldn't pull away, the car just ran backwards. The only thing to do was to let the car run back down to the bottom of the hill and onto the flat and have another shot at it. That did the trick, we sailed right up to the top - no trouble this time. It had been a bit unfortunate that there weren't any hills between the farm and the Four Shires Stone and so my father had not received any instructions on how to pull away on a hill. He only had trouble ascending a hill on one other occasion and that was about two cars later. My mother's father, Grandpa Martin, was staying with us and so my father thought it a good idea to take a Sunday evening drive to Bourton-on-the-Water. We had quite a load up, Mother, Father, Grandpa, Peter and myself. Halfway up Stow Hill on the way back the car stalled. and nothing would encourage the engine to start again. There was nothing for it but for all of us, dressed in Sunday best, to pile out and push until we got to the top of the hill and the engine had cooled off a bit. Local families taking a Sunday evening stroll ware highly amused at this unusual sight. My father was not amused at the time at the indignity of the situation but I noted. how he laughed whenever he related the story afterwards.
No other car we had provided us with so much enjoyment as the bull-nosed Morris Cowley, our first car. My father cleaned and polished it until it shone like new, it was his pride and joy. The tyres were not in very good condition, there was rather a lot of canvas showing on them but this did not cause us any concern that is until one day when my father was taking Peter and I out for a joy-ride. We came to a long straight stretch of road. "Let her out daddy" we cried. My father, as excited as we were, pushed the accelerator down harder as we flew along at top speed of about 45 m.p.h. All of a sudden there was a loud bang which startled all three of us. My father struggled to control the car and after a few hair raising moments he pulled in safely to the side of the road, stopped, and got out to investigate the cause. It transpired that one of the front tyres with perhaps more exposed canvas than the others had burst. There was a spare wheel with the car but no jack. Luckily where we had pulled in, some three miles from Great Wolford, happened to be only a few hundred. yards from the farm of a friend of my father.' We walked along to the farm but there was only one of the farm workers there who did not know where the jack was kept but with the help of the farmer's wife a jack was finally found. My father removed the spare wheel from its place on the running board and replaced the burst tyre . The one he put on wasn't much better than the one he replaced but we went happily on our way, only at a much more leisurely pace.
My mother's parents lived in Shirley, a Birmingham suburb and we visited them frequently, particularly in 1934/35 when my grandmother was gravely ill. One winter evening in early 1935 we were driving back from Birmingham when it started. to snow heavily. Peter and I were in the dicky seat, huddled under travelling rugs for warmth. My mother became concerned after a while as the weather worsened and she asked my father to stop the car to enable Peter and I to get in the front of the car in the dry. This was no mean feat. Peter was ten years old and I was seven and a half. Peter sat between the two seats and I sat on my mother's lap. It was rather a squash and must have made driving very difficult for my father. The snow was falling heavily by now and blowing against the windscreen. The car had no windscreen wipers and after stopping several times to push the snow off the windscreen my father said there was nothing for it but to open up the windscreen to enable him to see where he was going. The Windscreen opened upwards and outwards and to have enough vision the window bad to be opened to its maximum. After a few miles we were numb with cold. From Shirley to Wolford was 30 miles and that night the journey took several hours. I was more than relieved when we arrived home. I am sure the rest of the family were too. Although frozen stiff none of us were any the worse for our experience.
Peter and I were frequently very cold in the dicky seat, particularly on our many journeys to and from Birmingham and my mother asked my father if it would not be possible to get a saloon car so that Peter and I could travel in comfort inside. My father agreed that this was preferable, particularly in winter time even though it meant getting rid of his cherished first car. The welfare of "the kids" always came first in my father's book. He got his first saloon from a garage on the Stratford Road. It cost £7/10s. It was a fawn coloured Morris with large brass headlights which dad said were themselves worth £7/10s so he realised he'd got himself a bargain. The bull-nosed Morris had its final polish then Dad took it back up to Mr Forges at Todenham who was so taken with its appearance that he gave my father £5 for it. This was 10/- more than he had given for it so he came home mighty pleased that the loving care he had lavished on the car had paid off so handsomely.
The fawn Morris served us well. the headlights were much admired by friends and acquaintances. One admirer made my father a good offer for the car which my father felt he couldn't refuse and so the fawn Morris was sold and replaced by a maroon Morris saloon. This car too was reliable although second or third hand. Unfortunately this car met its Waterloo when my father tried to tow a trailer and calves from market. Something at the back of the car gave - there were no towing brackets in those days - and so that car had to go for scrap. The next car was an Austin and quite a 'goer' as my father would say, it was comfortable and softly sprung. The soft springing proved not to be an asset. However, on one particular occasion my father wanted to go to Birmingham to see his favourite team, Aston Vilia, play at home. He took Uncle Ern from Moreton as well as my mother, Peter and myself. Uncle Ern and Dad would go to the football match while my mother, Peter and I stayed with my grandfather at Shirley for the day. We set off at a fairish speed as there wasn't too much time, leaving after lunch for my father and Uncle Ern to get to the football match in time for the kick-off, Somewhere north of Stratford- on-Avon on a straight stretch of road my father pulled out to pass a group of cyclists, when he tried to pull over to the left again and the car suddenly started to bounce from one side of the road to the other. Finally it jumped into reverse and we suddenly shot backwards, narrowly missing a telegraph pole and came to rest in a ditch. We all climbed out, miraculously unhurt except that I was suffering a little from shock. My mother thought that I should have some brandy but there was nowhere nearby to obtain any. I recovered anyway without assistance. The problem now was to get the car out of the ditch. There was a farm a few hundred yards back along the road so father and Uncle Ern walked back there to ask if we could have the use of a tractor to pull the car out of the ditch. This the farmer agreed to do and shortly arrived with tractor and rope and towed the oar back onto the road. We all got back in the car didn't seem any the worse for wear - and we drove on again. Mother, Peter and I were duly dropped off at my grandfathers at Shirley while uncle Ern and my father went on to the match. They were, of course, rather late and to their dismay the gates were closed when they finally arrived at the Villa's ground. Not to be outdone they shinned up a tree so that they could see over the fence and watched the match from there! When they got back to Shirley uncle Ern took me up to some nearby shops. One was a toyshop. He said I could choose any toy I liked. In the window was a lovely doll's treasure cot, metal. framed, painted blue and trimmed in blue cotton material decorated with pink roses. I asked if I could have the cot, not really expecting Uncle Ern to say yes, but he did, and I was delighted. Uncle Ern said it would make up for the fright I had had earlier in the day. I still have that treasure cot. The trimming was renewed when my daughter was small as the cotton material had rotted, otherwise it was the same as the day I had it. We didn't keep the Austin car much longer. Father thought I was nervous to ride in it and so he sold it and bought a lovely solid Morris 16 h.p. car, beautifully upholstered in leather and very comfortable. This, I think was our finest car yet, not new of course but that did not worry us in the least. I know I felt completely safe in this car it was so solid and dependable and each outing was a joy. Alas this happy state of affairs was only short-lived. We were driving home from Stratford Market one Friday when. there was a report like a pistol-shot. Dad pulled into the side, got out and had a look under the bonnet. It seemed the piston had blown out of the side of the cylinder. Our lovely car had to be abandoned and we walked the last half mile home. The Morris was towed home the next day and stood in the farmyard d from then until it was sold in the farm sale some two years later.
Our next car was a black Morris saloon, fabric covered with red piping and complete with a glass vent in the roof. This I couldn't wait to demonstrate to my cousin Jessie when she had her first ride in our "new" car. I undid the catch as we were going along and pushed it upwards and was trying to fix it in position when vent and hinges came away from the roof of the car and fell into the road. My father was not amused when I told him what had happened. He stopped the car and made me walk back to pick it up - quite some considerable distance. When we got home the vent was put back on and secured with binder twine. It would no longer open and close and I was told in no uncertain terms not to touch it again. This was the last of the cars we had during the pre-war years, but we had much pleasure from all of them.
Before we had a car we just travelled locally in pony and trap. As I have previously mentioned my mother's parents lived in Birmingham and in our pre-car days Uncle Bill who taught my father to drive used to take my mother, Peter and I to visit them in his motor-bike and sidecar, my mother and I in the small side car, and Peter riding pillion. Peter and I were quite young at the time. I remember dreading these trips. Uncle Bill would arrive complete with leather helmet and goggles. The side car would be loaded up with our luggage and my mother and I wedged in where there was room. Peter was exposed. to the elements perched on the pillion seat. At least my mother and I were warm. The 30 miles to Birmingham seemed like an eternity. We can't have gone many miles before I was complaining of pins and needles and after much wailing my mother would attempt to make my Uncle hear above the noise of the engine that we would have to stop to let me get out to stretch my legs. This wasn't the worst either. the motorbike had a carbide lamp and before we reached Birmingham the carbide had to be replenished. Carbide has an obnoxious smell and the awful aroma made me feel quite sick. To prevent the worst happening my mother used to hold a handkerchief sprinkled with eau-de-cologne in front of my nose. I couldn't have been more than three or four years old but I remember the smell of that carbide still, albeit fifty years on.
Ash House Farm was opposite the vicarage. Although only four or five years of age, I remember the excitement when a new vicar arrived from somewhere in the London area. It was noted with awe that he had several staff, a cook, a gardener and housemaid. There was also Kathleen, a girl of eight or so who called the cook and her husband, the gardener, Aunty and Uncle. There was much speculation as to her parentage but I caught only the odd whispered word between my mother and Mrs Hemming who came to help my mother in the house. I wasn't really concerned, just pleased to have someone to play with occasionally.
Mrs Corlett, the vicar's wife, was said to be "not very strong" hence the need for the domestic help. Hardly any of the villagers saw her but I used to visit her and chat about the various people in the village. Sometimes she would let me help her feed her many cats. To me she seemed very lady-like and kind but I always thought she looked rather sad as though she had been used to something better than this rather run down rambling old vicarage in this small remote village. After a few years the staff, perhaps finding it rather quiet, drifted back to the London area, leaving Mr & Mrs Corlett to cope as best they could on their own. Mr Corlett fetched the milk daily from our farm. Sometimes he wouldn't have been over long past his usual time and then I would be asked to take the can of milk across to the vicarage. Mr Corlett was nearly always in his study to the left of the front door on these occasions writing his sermon for the next Sunday. I had been told to just knock and leave the milk by the front door but if Mr Corbett caught sight of me he would beckon me to wait and my reward was two Barker and Dobsons Butterscotch from a large round tin. I would skip home with one in my mouth and one getting a little sticky in my hand. The taste even outshone that of the lollipops I was so fond of. I must admit that if Mr Corbett was in his study when I took the milk across that lingered a little in front of the window until he looked up from his desk and spotted me there.
There was great excitement when the circus came to the village. This was only on two occasions but to my delight my father agreed to them having the use of The Leys, a large flatish field next to our rick-yard. The large circus tent was erected with smaller tents and cages to house the animals. I watched fascinated while the preparations and rehearsals for the circus took place. I spent every spare minute asking countless questions and watching spellbound as the acrobats practised their daring feats and the bare-back riders went through their paces. I made up my mind there and then that I wanted to be in the circus when I grew up. The thing I wanted to be most of all was a trapeze artiste swinging high above the audience, performing breathtaking feats. The day came for the circus to take place. Our family had free tickets. I enjoyed every minute. My pleasure was tinged with a little sadness because the next day the circus would be leaving. But I never forgot that first circus and my aspirations of becoming a circus artiste. As it transpired life turned out very differently but we can all have our dreams.
The other circus that came to the village and spent their short stay in The Leys wasn't nearly as impressive as the first although there were trapeze artistes, bare-back riders and clowns they did not have the animals of the other circus and even to my childish mind it was obvious they were a bit down at the heel. I overheard my father saying that he thought they were in some sort of financial trouble. Anyway they put on a performance and, although exciting, it didn't hold the magic of the previous circus. They left without paying my father for the use of his field. I think he felt sorry for them and didn't pursue the issue. No more circuses came to Wolford but I never cease to recall those happy days when I see a circus performance, perhaps with more glittering acts than those put on in our Leys and I pay special attention to the trapeze artistes admired by me so many years ago, and recall my ambition to be one when I grew up.
We had a young man who lodged with as for a few years, Mr Slade, a young school teacher who taught at a Moreton school. He cycled the four miles each way every day carrying his school books in the basket on the front of his bike. Although I was only very young when he first stayed with us I can still remember his sympathetic understanding of children which must have stood him in good stead as a schoolmaster. I think that it might have been mainly due to the impression Mr Slade made on Peter that he resolved from a very young age to become a school teacher and indeed went on to even higher things. Mr Slade acquired a car after a time and I remember sitting between his knees on the front seat helping him to steer. After he left Moreton school for another post he came to the farm from time to time on holiday but we lost touch during the war.
One day out of the blue a family arrived at the farm complete with gypsy-type caravan. They asked my father if they could stay for a while; it appeared they were stage artists. There were Mr & Mrs Baynon, Doris in her early teens, Mavis a lovely child of 9 or 10 years with very dark tight curls and the youngest, Doreen, a little fair haired girl of about 7 years. They stayed some weeks in our orchard and we got to know them quite well. My mother and father were to hear tales of their life in the theatre and Peter and I welcomed three new playmates. They were New Zealanders and performed their variety act in London and the provinces. In the summer it would be a seaside show at the end of the pier. We heard a lot of the secrets of the magical tricks they performed. My mother and father were asked by Mr & Mrs Baynon to go and see them perform at a theatre not too far distant. It was quite an occasion. An Uncle and Aunt from Moreton took them and the show was talked about long after. During the times they stayed at the farm the three girls would put on impromptu concerts in the farmyard, just for the family. They came and went several times between engagements. It was during one of the periods away that we had a letter from Mrs Baynon telling us the sad news that their lovely little daughter Mavis had died in an accident. It seemed that she was trying on a new voil dress and in trying to look in the mirror above the fire the full skirt of the dress brushed against the fire and in a moment was a sheet of flame. Doris who was looking after her two younger sisters made a valiant effort to save Mavis by rolling her in a blanket but there was no hope. This lovely talented. little girl died. We all grieved at the tragedy that took this little girl with such a bright future in front of her. The Baynons still came at intervals to the farm but Mrs Baynon never seemed to recover from the loss of Mavis and she never spoke of her, she found it too painful a subject to broaoh. Peter and I were invited to spend part of the summer season with them at Southsea in 1935. My mother and father agreed and Peter and I were to find out that life on stage was not all glamour. We shared digs with other artistes and during the day together with Doris and Doreen we were free to do as we pleased. we had a free run of the theatre at the end of the pier both back stage and free seats if we wanted to watch the show. The weeks flashed by but our holiday was cut short by the imminent outbreak of war. On the day before the outbreak of war we were put on the train for home, the Baynons were to follow us down by car the next day. the show had to close down early. The station at Portsmouth was milling with evacuees with their gas masks hanging round their necks and their names and addresses a on luggage labels attached to their coat buttonholes. Poor little souls looked quite bewildered. At least we were going home. They had no idea where they were going. When we eventually arrived home it was to discover that we had three evacuees from Birmingham billeted on us. girls aged 4, 8 and 10. Next day war was declared. The Baynons arrived with all their baggage. They stayed a few days then when they had sorted themselves out they set off home to New Zealand. It was very many years before we had news of them, long after the war was over.
Our nearest farming neighbours were the Hunts. Mr & Mrs Hunt, Mary, Margaret and Joseph. Their mode of farming hadn't changed over many generations. Buckets were carried an wooden yokes. Butter was made in a large barrel which was rotated by hand. There was no indoor water supply. All domestic water was piped from a well outside the back door adjoining a well that separated the yard from the area outside the back door so that all that had to be done to transfer the water from the pump to the trough in the yard was to hook up a galvanised sheet to the pump. The chute went out through a hole in the wall and, hey presto, the water that was pumped up simply ran down the chute into the trough. It was a simple idea but quite ingenious. It was in about 1936 that Mr Hunt was taken ill. He lay tor several weeks on the sofa in their sitting room. I visited him regularly but he didn't seem to be able to take in my childish chatter. I hadn't realised how seriously ill he was until the single toll of the church bell one day indicated to the village that he had died. The tolling of the church bell was always the custom in the village to indicate the passing of a villager. In such a small village of 32 houses it was always known if someone was ill. The coffins were born to the church on a wooden bier with large wooden-spoked. wheels with steel rims. The sound of those wheels could be heard from most parts of the village.. That bier still stands in Wolford Church today, as does the organ which was pumped by Caleb and played by Miss Luckins the schoolmistress. The pump is still there for emergencies but the organ is now electronically powered.
Mrs Hunt ran the farm for a couple of years or so after Mr Hunt died with the help of her brother George Hyatt. She re-married in about 1937 and went to live in Coventry. I missed her and my friends, Mary, Margaret and Jo very much. The family seemed very happy in their new home with all modern conveniences. My mother, Peter and I visited them once. Mrs Hunt must have found it very different from her former home with the water pump by the back door. Alas their new found happiness in Coventry was not to last long, they were forced to return to Moreton a year or so after the war started to escape from the bombing there.
Church Farm was sold by Mrs Hunt to Mrs Douthwaite, who had previously farmed in Oxfordshire. I went down and introduced myself after they arrived and was a frequent visitor thereafter. There was just Mr & Mrs Douthwaite and their little terrier dog, Wendy. There were alterations carried out in the house, water was taken indoors and a bathroom was installed. Mrs Douthtwaite listened patiently as I told how the Hunts had done things when they were at Church Farm, taking no offence when I inferred that she should run her house in the same manner. I gradually accepted the changes at Church Farm and spent many happy hours talking to Mrs Douthwaite. She became a very dear friend who taught me to ride and play the piano all with the greatest of patience. I wasn't terribly good at either but I enjoyed having a try, she even came toboganning with me when Peter was at school at Stratford or busy with homework. There were lovely paintings on the Sitting room wall which Mrs Douthwaite had painted herself. There seemed to be no end to her talents. She was widely read. and imparted her knowledge unstintingly to me. In fact she told me once that she had read the whole of the Bible, not because she was particularly religious but as a challenge to herself. She made a deep impression on me and her influence which taught me patience and loyalty among other things, has stood me in good stead all my life.
A great treat for me was to visit Moreton cinema. They had two main films a week changing on Thursday with a supporting film for each. Peter had a free pass for the cinema because he displayed the programme each week in a specially provided glass case on our barn door which faced onto the road. My favourite films were those starring Shirley Temple and I was allowed to go to those when they were on and an occasional Laurel & Hardy film. It was 6d for children on Saturday afternoon. I could never wait for Peter to open the new poster each week to see if it was a Shirley Temple film. All the films shown at Moreton were at least two years old but I didn't mind that. I savoured every minute.
For several years I attended dancing classes at Moreton, there was a merry little band of us, about twelve or so in all, including two boys. one of them my cousin John. We attended on Saturday morning 10.00 am until 12 noon. I cycled the 4 miles into Moreton. We would start with music and movement for half an hour or so and then go on to ballet and tap. We would put on a display once a year in a local hall. On one occasion all the girls were to wear Grecian dresses tor the concert, all to be in different pastel shades - our mothers were busy sewing for weeks before as they were mostly made by hand. There was elastic round the waist which was pulled up slightly giving a rather baggy effect which wasn't very flattering to the better built of us but it was all exciting stuff. I was to do a solo tambourine dance at this concert and I was very excited that I had been chosen. I practised hard at home. I wanted to do my best because my mother and Mrs Douthwaite were to be at the display. The night before the display my mother put my very straight hair into curlers, the result was a frizzy mop which I rather hoped looked like my idol Shirley Temple's hair, in reality it bore no resemblance to it at all. We all assembled for the concert and were milling about on the stage before the curtain went up when suddenly our dancing mistress grabbed me by the hair jerking my head back, it wasn't until I noticed the smell of singeing that I realised my frizzy mop of hair to which I was unaccustomed had brushed against one of the two candles which were in holders either end of the piano and caught alight. It was only the quick action of my dancing teacher that had prevented a nasty accident. The concert went on without further incident and was much enjoyed by all. Even my tambourine dance went without a hitch despite the "backstage" drama.
I loved everything about farm and village life and really thought that things would go on forever as they always had with the seasons and quiet happenings in that small village but sadly the war changed our lives. It didn't seem too bad at first, we had three evacuees and the younger members of the Kunzle chocolate family, complete with nanny, came out from Birmingham and were billeted at the Vicarage. We were all given identity cards and gas masks and my father and Mr Douthwaite joined the Special Constables, but it was when the War Agricultural Committee thought they knew better than my father what he should plant in his fields that we realised that things were going to be very different. Father, after much thought, decided that he could not tolerate being told what to do with his own land and so in 1940 he decided to sell up the farm. I was heartbroken but I could see my father's point of view, and so one year after war was declared the farm was sold and then just before the end of September we had our farm sale. I was attending Chipping Campden Grammar School by then and was glad that I was at school that day and not there to see all the farm stock auctioned. This was the end of my carefree childhood. We went to live on the outskirts of Moreton, not far from the aerodrome, but that is another story.