Interviewer Wendy Barlow
Interview transcribed by Shirley Osbourne
WB: Would you like to tell us a little bit about your mother when she first lived in Barford?
MB: I came from Exeter with Granny and Granny lived with us until she died at 94 years. They moved into the cottage, which used to be Bill Stowe’s house. The yew tree is still there but not the shape Dad used to keep it – it used to be beautiful and shapely. It had a big garden in the front and it only had two rooms downstairs and two above and a landing which was used as a bedroom. There was Agnes, Dorothy, Norman and Granny, Mum and Dad and me – 7. We seemed to manage perfectly well.
Dad was up and out early and didn’t come back until late because he was with his father doing the carrying and they were the only people to transport in the village in those days and collected the medicines from the chemist. They got their orders in the night before or the next morning early because they went in good time to deliver at the Porridge Pot because we provided the cream and milk.
On Saturdays he worked because he took everybody into Warwick for shopping in the horse-driven van to start with, then it was mechanised. They used to be ready at 1 o’clock outside our house and Dad trotted along the road and they filled up and returned at 4 o’clock. The same thing happened on Mondays. He had to go to Stratford and do the same thing and used to come over Thelsford Bridge and we stood at the gate and listened for the horses. He always brought us a little three-cornered bag of sweets from West’s at Wellesbourne. They had names on the sweets.
In the mornings before I went to school in the village I delivered my grandmother’s milk to everybody up the Wellesbourne Road from the gas house (Oldham’s now) down as far as Sheasby’s. I remember the gas cylinder there. I used to help him throw the coke in, he used to let me stand back and he got a great shovel. He would get up at 4 in the morning. When I went he’d been up several hours. Particularly on Sunday he had to get up early because everybody was doing their cooking and they depended on the gas. We used to take milk measured into cans and I would collect all the cans and look how much they wanted and then take them round afterwards.
My mum used to bake often if she had more than us family come. She took a big joint with all the potatoes over to the bake-house and the baker, Mr Dukes, (before Chadbourne’s and before Smith’s) and my sister and I used to go to collect it. I don’t know how they allowed us to carry this hot fat but they did! I was about eleven I suppose.
We all had music lessons, my brother was not particularly good on the violin but the Hammonds taught him and the schoolmaster’s wife taught me. They were the Miller-Smiths. Before that it was Mr Pearce and he used to live at the Schoolhouse and when he retired he moved up to Wellesbourne Road next to Kath Jones. Mr JB Pearce it was and his wife wasn’t a teacher, she didn’t take me for music. She did make us all mince pies at Christmas, brought them in on these big trays to school for us and we all used to have a little packet of sweets and a mince pie. The whole school – made by the headmaster’s wife.
WB: Where did your father keep the horses?
MB: Where Bremridge’s garage used to be was my grandfather’s yard and he owned the fields up by the other side of Oldham’s, up to the river there, that where I used to go and get the cows in. My father had two boys living in, in my grandmother’s house and they used to do all the work and then the milking and then go into the allotments. Granddad had a smallholding up there beyond the allotments themselves, before Hadley’s and we used to pick the raspberries there and go into market on a Saturday to sell them. We were quite self-sufficient. He had enough fruit because all the apples were collected, we used to help do it, in big wicker skips with lids on. The men used to carry them because they were heavy when full of apples. I used to churn the butter for granny in a little wooden churn at the farm, but then it got a little bit of woodworm and I had to get rid of it. It wasn’t a big thing, it was only small.
JB: At Blackhill, where I was born, we had a big churn and if you didn’t behave yourself that was your job to turn that. I did a lot of churning!
MB: When we went down to Mrs Woebley at Alderham’s Farm, who also did a milk round, they had an enormous churn and a lovely tiled dairy, and it was a great big thing. We used to camp in the summer with a niece that used to come to her and we would churn the butter for her. She had masses of fruit down there, we did all those sort of things, we loved it. This would be around 1926-27. Agnes was my half-sister because Mum wasn’t married long before she lost her husband. He was killed that morning in the War. Agnes was only three months old and then Dad had to go, I really can’t remember any more, but granny was with us all this time, just part of the whole .Yew Tree Cottage at the time had a long front garden and a pool for the ducks .
Granny lived in the cottage just after the pub on the Wellesbourne Road. Winstone’s lived up there and everybody was friendly towards one another, flower shows, competitions.
The rifle range was a very long building; it had a green with its show on next to West’s house, the last one next to the bridge, not there now. One was shooting towards the road always. We had all the dances there, the group was the Hammonds, three of them, Nancy Hammond also, she was a most attractive girl and my aunt was the first person to do the Charleston. Nobody had done it before but she’d been to some dances in Warwick and learned it. We would all compete and the sewing done at school was shown at the show, everything was exhibited and the children were there. We did have the Ryland Hall at that time where Lady Howard lived, but not the Memorial Hall. I remember going there once or twice, but not for long.
MB: Mrs Keyte next door used to keep the village shop before Taylor’s and I used to spend any spare time I had waiting on her hand and foot because she was an invalid. She was so miserable and cantankerous. My mum said that you must return good for evil. There’s always good in people if you watch for it!
I went with the Guides on two holidays to Cromer with Miss Shirt, a friend of ours. She would exhibit her embroidery to the WI, I’ve got it here.
JB: She was a smashing person. She never cut corners, and was on the Council. She got the sewers in, all up Wellesbourne Road. She finished up at Dunchurch in the Elms Nursing Home. We used to go and visit her there every month.
MB: I can hear her now at meetings being very domineering and everyone listed to her. Nurse Randall delivered Tim and we said we would push her in a barrow because there was so much snow and Iris was in labour several days before she had Tim.
WB: What was Miss Shirt’s job?
MB: She was companion to Nurse Randall and was always there when she got back at night. Nurse Randall was called up to Mrs Upstone’s and went on her bicycle, Hareway Lane. When she came back Nurse Randall called on Iris and she said “You’ll never guess where I’ve been – Mrs Upstone’s, she has had a baby and hadn’t the faintest idea she was pregnant. She has not a thing ready for it.” She’d been pregnant for nine months and hadn’t got anything at all. Nurse took some of our clothes for the baby to help out. It was Pete.
JB : They were two remarkable ladies. The nurse was only a titch, how she ever managed I’ll never know.
MB : She was very quiet but she only had to say a thing once and you’d listen, a lovely lady. She was a general nurse for the whole village. She did laying out also.
JB : Dr Tibbitts was our doctor, he came from Warwick. When he came to see me he would make a fuss of the dog first then he came upstairs, then we’d talk cricket then Aston Villa, then he got round to me in the finish! He was a good doctor, well loved.
MB : When he came during the War, Barford Hill was used as a hospital, his wife was nursing there and that’s where he met her? The family lived there all through that time. My mother was there for 22 years. There were over one hundred staff. She was housekeeper. Mrs Cartwright couldn’t keep her staff. My mother actually interviewed them all, fixed it all up, three or four at once arrived. They had balls up there, four nights running and had people sitting in passages, opening oysters all night long. The whole of Warwickshire would attend. They had different bands each night. The balls were glorious, I played on the piano when I went up with mother and they had the parties there and the ice house was under the hill, it was the only way they could keep the ice-cream. It was where David Hemmings house is now.
JB: She was a very good horse rider but a very bad horsewoman, she didn’t treat the horses well at all.
MB: I have pictures of the whole of that family, the children growing up, Charlie. They all went hunting and you could hear the hounds but the cubs and the foxes were playing on the terrace at Barford Hill! It was a lovely view from the terrace looking over the river.
WB: Did you know Kathleen Davies? She worked at the Red House.
MB: I only know when Mrs Ryland was there, I think Mr Harris was butler, I didn’t know much about her because she was an invalid, but then when the next people came in who were Rehead, I think, I was in the church choir and when we came down from the church, 12 o’clock on a Sunday the whole of the over the wall! Red House I believe was owned by Lord Warwick. Then also someone called Strawn lived there and later moved to Snitterfield. Mr Harris, the butler, if he saw us there he would come out and throw chestnuts over the wall to us into the Pound because he knew we wanted them. The Pound was used as a depot for the roadsman’s barrow at that time. And if animals got out they were put in there.
I remember Joseph Arch coming to church. We used to go to Sunday School and church, morning and evening, and I used to play the organ for the children’s services in the afternoon. They had an organ in front of the first pews, a smallish one.
WB: Who do you remember from the village – characters, people?
JB: Bob Hammond and his wife lived in the Brownie House when they got married. In the Villas there was the chauffeur, Harry Miller.
MB : The Brownie House was used as a Brownie House. It did have a thatched roof. The eaves came down and you more or less had to bend down to get to the door. It was a lovely little place and was still there when Bunty Burnt used to go to the Nativity practice with me, I used to call for her and we would walk down.
WB: Just below that there was a row of cottages, which are no longer there, that went off to the right?
JB: Three all together; Harry Field lived in the first one, Phil Sarsfield, Charlie Clifton.
MB: Kay Harley-Smith had her house there at the front then built the house at the back afterwards and moved there.
JB : There used to be a separate house at the back of the Blacksmith’s shop, it was Wiltshire’s. He worked for the estate. He had an interesting life, he was a guardsman, a prison warder, and finished up as the village postman. I was 15 years when I came to Barford from Blackhill.
MB : My aunt was married to the son. My dad had three sisters and they all lived in the area. Auntie Mabel was an officer in the Salvation Army. Gladys went to Canada.
WB : What was on the farm then when you were fifteen?
JB: It was just a mixed farm. Gooseberry Hall was next to us, Upstone’s.
MB : Before we went up there, temporarily, they had to live in Heath’s house down by the ? , big 3 storey one. Mr Maudsley lived in the farm, he was an invalid, he couldn’t immediately move out so they moved into there but still ran the farm from Barford. I was delivering milk up the Wellesbourne Road and I took good care every morning to be in the right spot for when JB push-biked to Stratford Grammar School. He and his brother came down from the farm, separated, so that Harry went Snitterfield way so that he could see Iris and JB used to go the other way, eight miles apart!! To see me. He wore a cap and a stiff white collar. We went together for six years before we were married, I was 22.
After the village school my sister went to the typing bureau at Leamington and she worked in Oldham’s office, and then Lockheed. She was secretary to Lord Burston at Upton House. She used to ride and kept her horse down at Westham House. Agnes was mad on animals, she had dogs, she had doves. She had a goat, a lamb. She used to tether the goat along the Wellesbourne Road where the houses are now and Mr Boot used to come along from Bridge Farm there, walking with his one hand behind him, and he used to say “How long are you going to keep that goat there?” And she would reply “Until there is no grass for him”. He was very severe but very smart. He kept the ground right down past Rod Deeley’s and he had his market garden down there.
We went to all the big houses carol singing. We walked up to Watchbury, Watson’s. Behind the church was the coalman whose name was Langston and when we went to the station to go to camp we all loaded into the back of his coal lorry and he saw us to the station and picked us up when we came back. Vera was the only pupil at the village school who never missed a day from when she started to when she left and got a certificate.
WB: So the thatched on the very end before Duck Cottage, who lived there?
MB: It was Hunt’s, but he was an old man on his own, related to the people who used to keep the old post office.Ann Wood lived in South of Saint Peter’s after the Lawrences.
WB: Who’s the lady who lived, as you go down Debden Hollow, back up as though you are going on to the Banbury Road, there’s a house set right back?
JB: Bet Short. She’s not well, she will not move from where she is. Her son Roy visits her every day.
MB : The cottage on the road was built by ? Canning, and she built Bet and Joe’s for them. Bet used to work for the Cannings and when we had the babies Bet came over and helped us on the farm.
The geese’s names were Ron and John, little devils, better than any farm dogs. They would draw blood through overalls and trousers. They were as bad as the rams. I used to feed the ox down the field and they got moved every day and one day they let the ram in with the ewes and he kept moving round me and I got terribly nervous. He started gently bunting me and I know I went back and said to granddad if you don’t move that ram I’m not doing poultry any more. And he said “Take no notice of him, he’ll do no harm whatsoever”. They moved them onto the roadside as you come down the drive. Then they moved the arcs one day for me and said that they were handier now and he came for me like nobody’s business and someone along the road had to come and rescue me, I was on top of the pen!! I came in frightened to death and granddad didn’t say anything to me he simply said to JB “Ring Oldham’s up and get that ram moved”. Much laughter.
JB : The avenue of trees was lime and chestnut, beautiful at their peak. I had to cut them down one year because the electricity supply cable was going right through the branches. The wild white cherry tree at the end of the drive was very beautiful too. There was an 80 foot well at the end of the front garden there was a little patch of green where there was a spring, our water supply. The water comes up from the cricket field direction, turns round and goes down to the bottom near a little steel bungalow and comes up there, 4ft deep. It then trickled down to what we call the pig aviary and there was some lovely watercress there and now it’s all altered – Pheasantry’s built. There’s another supply from that water down the second field of ours down the bottom. It goes down to that pool and that comes from just beyond the farm used to be an old barn and in there there’s a spring. Somebody fell down the well didn’t they once? The cricket pitch was on the top in our day, behind Clock Cottages.
MB: The two pools at the bottom of Debden Hollow there were some beautiful sweet briars but they’ve been cut down now.
Mr Maudsley built the big windows in the dining room of Hareway farmhouse when he was there and upstairs as well the bathroom was like that, because he was a big painter. The farm belong to the Smith-Rylands before this, it was their home farm.
JB: The gravel drive goes right down to Alderham Farm and it was swept up every Saturday. Whether that’s right, I don’t know. The dairy and everything was all white glazed tiles. It was the Home Farm and some of the pens were specially made, what we called the short range for breeding cattle, and they were copied from Lord Portman’s farm, wherever that is. There used to be used to be one range of buildings twelve long up there for the cattle. All the names were there when we went there first.
MB : Well everything had to go sealed my mum used to say.
JB : The two Miss Brinkley’s lived at the farm before Mr Maudsley. She moved to Honiton. She let her house to the Guides.
MB: My sister was a Guider with Kath Jones and she used to visit ? The Miss Riley s were very popular, they were milk people and had a horse and cart and it always drove down Church Street. They were at Watchbury by the Blacksmith’s, near where Bill Worrall lives now. The pony just moved from door to door without being told! It was ever so funny.
WB: Any mysteries?
MB : The only mysterious thing when I was a child was a Miss More that lived next door Ivy House and we children thought she was peculiar and they used to tell us that every full moon she used to go off her rocker and she used to come in the street and sing at the top of her voice, I can hear her now. We children used to be flabbergasted and we thought she was a witch. She used to go to the church and sing, but not the hymns others were singing. She would wear a big hat and act most peculiar.
You remember Jim Wembridge putting his head through that cottage window don’t you. He had been in the desert, a prisoner of war. He came home and saw someone outside he knew so he forgot to open the window and put his head through the window to say hello. He wasn’t used to glass! It was where Mary Thompson used to live, next door to two cottages before you go where Piersons lived, where Kath Rouse lived.
JB : Church Street, at the beginning where the new row of houses, set back from the road, is built used to be Higgitts, the Saddler, Harry Castle used to live there, Perc Castle, tiny cottages. Since knocked down.
MB: None of the other children used to go in but I used to run the errands for Mrs Higgitts, to Mrs Kyte who lived next door to my mum. People used to say “Could you take this to Higgitt’s for me” and whoever was handy would go, I did it lost of times. Mr Higgitts was always singing, as you passed the shop you could hear him. Very clever Saddler.
JB : There were two blacksmiths, the other one was down by the bridge, his name was Courts, Bill Courts.
MB : He’s got a little yard there actually, but he got so damaged with horses that he was very bad on his feet and he used to push a cart to support him and he pottered about but he didn’t do any big jobs then. Thompson’s had their building sheds next to him until they were pulled down and bungalows put up. And of course at the back of the hall and the back of Carter’s was where we used to play in the bowling green. We used to pick up the apples and play. Men were bowling and Dad used to go there. You’d see Mr Hemmings and Mr Whitehead and Uncle Ben Winston going down with their bowls at half past six in summer, and going back again at night it was lovely.
WB : How many pubs can you remember?
MB: One up by the blacksmith’s, Hadley’s was a pub, the George. The Red Lion and the Granville Arms.