Dicky Brown remembers:
The horse and trap in the top picture is almost certainly that of Frank Johnston (Ernie Bull‘s uncle), who took the milk from the farm to St George railway station to catch the 5.10pm train. The local children used him as a clock – “Has Frank gone yet?” meant that teatime was close. Note the shadows of the trees – indicating late afternoon, probably about 4.45pm.
A John Bower lived in Lawton’s house (the cart is just opposite it) and they used to draw their water from a pipe on other side of road. At some time it was a bakery. Grace Simpson, who now lives up by the Church, - her parents lived there and her father was the village carpenter he had a big workshop and employed several men. He was a coffin maker as well!
Dicky’s grandfather owned the two cottages on either side of the Zion Chapel entrance, having bought them together with Crowlynch and the Chapel in 1898 (? - listed as being up for sale in 1905 – Endowed Charities Inquiry) for £208 when a farm labourer’s wage was 28 – 30s per week. The cottage to the right of the entrance was very wet, often with 2 to 3 inches of water from the springs - a very wet house, which Dicky had pulled down (in the late 1960’s).
[The 1905 Inquiry details that an Indenture to set up a trust was drawn up on 28th December 1860 to transfer for 10/- a cottage and garden known as “Popes” which was used as a chapel, vestry, schoolroom and cottage to enable its permanent use by the “Particular Baptists”. The use of the well (in what is now Southview) was included. In 1903 the chapel, which had been registered as a place of religious worship, was closed owing to there being no congregation.
The property was offered for sale by auction in March 1904, but no bid was made. The chapel premises were in a bad state of repair, and the two cottages, which were very small, had no gardens. Mr. W. Gale, of High Street, MarIborough, had for some years looked after the cottages and let them, for the best rents obtainable. Mr. Gale was requested to look after the property by Mr. Edmund Pocock, who was the surviving trustee of the deed of 1860, and was still a trustee of the Charity. The cottages were let at weekly rents of 6d. and 11d. respectively. The amount received being applied in keeping the cottages in repair. The trustees hoped to effect a sale at the price of 150 guineas, and if an offer at or near that sum is obtained, an application would be made to the Commissioners for their authority to the sale. The proceeds would go to the Particular Baptists at Melksham.]
At some stage, two old ladies lived in Crowlynch, the garden of which went back to the school. Since the garden was so big, the old ladies allowed the occupier of The Forge to use some of it as a vegetable garden, which is why The Forge now has such extensive grounds.
Up Church lane, on the right hand side, just before Graham Parson’s current house were 2 or 3 cottages, and allotments.
Nan Simmons remembers:
In the 1930’s, a Miss Gee, who played the organ in the Church (there is a brass plaque memorial in the church to her), lived in the cottage to the right of the Zion gate. In the other cottage lived the Witts, a brother and two sisters. Nan’s grandmother used to “order” one of her children to go to Marlborough and back in the school lunch hour to fetch a reel of cotton on behalf of a neighbour. Also at some stage the Amors lived in The Forge – (they were grandparents to the current Amor of Amor & Ellis) and his father, Arch, lived in the end cottage to Sunrise. Dicky Brown’s mother recounted that three cottages were burnt down at about the turn of the last century and were replaced by two – these would seem to be the “Downsway” properties.
[The Marlborough Times reported on 18 / 4 / 1903, that a fire at Ogbourne St. Andrew.burnt down 3 cottages on Good Friday. They were 300 years old, thatched and owned by Colonel Ward. The occupiers were: Henry Hawkins, Alfred Caswell, Charles Cook and Charles May – a lodger. After the fire a committee was set up to co-ordinate help for those left homeless and with no belongings. This consisted of a Chairman: Rev Carwardine*, George Edwardes, Major Edwards, George Long, J.Eggleton, F.Caswell, J.C.Brangwyn.]
Reminiscences of Dicky Brown 2003 and Nan Simmons 2005
The date of the photograph is unknown, although certainly post 1922, since the War Memorial is in place. It is just conceivable that the motor vehicle is a GWR bus, which would place the picture between 1928 and 1930.
The house on the near left, now known as “Field Cottage”.was a shop and the original post office owned and run by Jimmy Brangwyn, who is the man nearest the camera. The bakery was up the side of Field Cottage, and the living accommodation was accessed at the left hand side, as it is now. Note the thatched cottage, where present Post Office is sited. The road was obviously quiet, with the local children playing football and cricket in it! Locals used to turn out, just to watch the traffic going by.
In the distance, by the motor vehicle, is the Village’s second pub, the Axe and Compass which was pulled down to create the existing car park. It was owned by two sisters, Miriam & Kate Smith (who are buried in the churchyard). Miriam was a docile little woman who “wouldn’t say boo to a goose“ character, but Kitty was twice the size, with a big red face. If the children played around the sisters‘ front door, Kitty didn’t say clear off – she was straight out with a horse whip, which to boys in short trousers was a shock – you certainly knew it!. But Kitty had a heart of gold and next day in the shop she would say: “Was it you that last night, got the whip?” “Yes Kitty.” “Well you shouldn’t have been there should you?” But then out came a handful of sweets - there was no malice there.
Nan Simmons comments that the Wheatsheaf was originally a farmhouse. Her recollection of the Main Road houses occupants were:
Tresco Revd. Eaton (Vicarage)
Field Cottage Brangwyn (shop and bakery)
Thatched cottage Joe Mabbut
Long black painted clapboard building (wheelwrights)
Axe and Compass Miriam & Kate Smith sweet shop and private dwelling (originally a beer house)
Wheatsheaf John Brown / Ellis and Harris (pub)
George Blanchard was the village cobbler / boot maker. His hut (just to the north of Marphet) was the hub of village. He had a gammy leg, and walked on crutches. There was a pot bellied. Stove, which made it very comfortable in the winter. The village children spent hours there in the winter with George – he made little puzzles for them and was a storyteller. He knew all the village business and between George and the village policeman they kept the kids in control. He had two daughters (Norah & Winifred), who are still living, one in Reading, one in Bristol.
In the field behind Marphet was the “Picnic tree” on the far side of field. The women and children often had a summer picnic, often up to 12 families would meet there.
Life in Wiltshire: (Bob Curnick)
Electricity, sewage and mains water had not arrived in any of the villages, the best illumination in those days was from an Aladdin lamp which had a very fragile mantle. Care had to be taken not to jog it or put it down hard and draughts when a door was opened caused the mantle to flare up. The church, school, shops, pubs etc. all had hanging oil lamps. The next best was a candle in a candlestick. This family that I visited did not even have many candlesticks there were about six children sitting around the table, many of them attended the village school with me. There was one candle stuck in a packet of Stork margarine with the candle fat dripping into the margarine and several hands reaching out to spread mixture of candle fat and margarine on to their bread!
Visiting my parents in Chiseldon one evening, when the evacuation of our troops from Dunkirk was taking place in May 1940, 1 was just about to go back to our farm at around 10pm when there was a loud bang on the door. Upon opening it, we found several soldiers on the doorstep looking very dishevelled and needing a shave. They said that the army had got them back to Chiseldon Camp but there was no food for them there. They noticed father was a baker and wondered if he had some food to give them. Mother and Father quickly fed them and gave them some bread to take back to the camp.
Shortly after Anthony Eden, the Minister for War, announced they were forming the LDV "THE LOCAL DEFENCE VOLUNTEER ARMY” and wanted all able bodied men to resist an imminent invasion, for which Frank and I had volunteered. we were quickly dubbed "THE LOOK, DUCK AND VANISH BOYS". We turned up at a meeting place with our 12 bore shot guns. Most of the army equipment was left in France. After a few weeks, rifles and uniforms were supplied and stout boots, which most of the local farm workers promptly used for work. one day an officer addressed us wanting to know if any of us had attended a Public School and had OCTU army training. Since there was no response to his question he then enquired if any of us had been to a Grammar School. Frank and I replied in the affirmative. This revelation meant that we received instruction on the care and use of a machine gun. This was a World War 1 Lewis machine gun, rather heavy and needed two men to carry it.
The army had taken over our village hut, which in those days stood next to the halt sign at the junction of the Rockley Road and the Swindon road. The village school was used Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings to instruct other members of the "Look Duck and Vanish Boys". They were now named "THE HOME GUARD" and they were taught such things as rifle care, map reading, throwing hand grenades, etc. Due to the shortage of facilities, it was arranged that Frank and I would be instructed for at least seven lessons in the village pub at loam on a Sunday morning. After milking, washing up, sterilising, and feeding livestock and having our breakfast, it was difficult to get there by 10am.
Saturday night was by far the busiest night of the week for the local pub. After serving beer and cigarettes, right up to 10.30pm, the landlord and his wife were far too tired to do any cleaning up. I cannot begin to describe how revolting the saloon bar was at l0am on a Sunday morning. The floor, tables and chairs awash with state beer and cigarette stubs, no doors or windows open, curtains and blackout curtains still in place and reeking of stale tobacco smoke. We had to lie down on the floor and were instructed on how to cope with the machine gun when it jammed. Although the danger of cancer from smoking was not known then, it really put me off smoking and beer drinking. I can fully recommend two hours work in a state saloon bar to put one off smoking and excessive drinking for life.
Four miles north of Marlborough stands a plantation of trees called FOUR MILE CLUMP. It was adjacent to here that in the spring and autumn we did our Home Guard duty: looking out for any signs of invasion such as gliders or airborne German troops. We did shifts of four hours on and four hours off. There was an old shepherd's hut equipped with two palliasses for the two off duty watchmen, but the palliasses were soon infected with fleas so I preferred to sleep in my car or on a nice summer night on the grass. It was fascinating to see and hear the owls and the dim light of the glow worms. In the winter, we were in a saddle room of the shutdown stables adjacent to our bungalow. I remember one night, towards the end of winter, Jack Caplin our shepherd, who was lambing quite close by, and was also a member of the Home Guard, came over saying that he needed my help quickly. He had several ewes lambing all at the same time and couldn't cope. I deserted my post and went to help. I hope I wouldn't have been shot for that!
The Home Guard continued from 1940 ~ 1945. We were not disbanded straight away, as the Americans had petrol stored in jerry cans all along the side of a farm road near Ogbourne St George. We had to try and stop them being stolen for another month or so.
I did so enjoy the television programme 'Dad's Army' and often felt I could have contributed to the scripts when I recalled some of the antics we got up to. For instance, one day an officer told Frank to take his platoon and march in an orderly manner. Upon the command "Halt”, Frank had to halt his platoon and quickly disperse as if evading a surprise enemy attack. With the noise of our nailed boots on the road, Frank leading his platoon from the front, didn't hear the officer shout Halt. Jack, our shepherd, who was at the rear of the platoon, did hear the order and shouted out to Frank 'Whoa Boss we've got to whoa" Frank shouted "Platoon whoa". We all collapsed laughing loudly. At the end of the exercise Frank, very red faced, asked if he could hand his stripes back, as he no longer wished to be a non commissioned officer.
Sunday mornings was rifle and machine gun inspection "Platoon, fall in, attention, present arms". The officer then came and inspected rifles and the machine gun. When he saw the dust on the machine gun he told us that if we didn't keep the gun cleaner, it would be taken from us. The light dawned I made sure we didn't clean it before the next inspection and were promptly relieved of it. By then smaller Sten machine guns had arrived and were much lighter to carry.
One night, German bombers, flying overhead towards Bristol, were caught in our searchlights, one battery near my wife's home in Mildenhall and another searchlight near Manton Down stables. I presume the German pilot got fed up with these searchlights handing him on from one to another and decided to drop two bombs. one landed at an isolated farm near Mildenhall, woodland and another in the middle of the Martborough/Rockley road, about 200 yards from the Old Eagle Cottages in Rockley on the Marlborough side. Most of the rubble from the bomb crater went out into the field. At the same time, a man from Wootton Bassett was driving home in his small Austin Ruby car and being unable to stop, drove straight into this crater which was about 10 ft. deep. The driver survived , but required a day or two in hospital to. recover.
In the summer of 1942 American Army and Air force personnel arrived in Wiltshire. Many were stationed in Ogbourne St. George military camp, some on Marlborough Common, Dakota aircraft and gliders at Ramsbury Airfield. The Marlborough Golf Course closed down during the war but the Ogbourne St George Club stayed open. We were all asked to make the Americans welcome. One day some Americans were playing golf at Ogbourne, one was a coloured sergeant who kept going into the club house kitchen. The lady in charge of the catering, Edith Copplestone, told him to get out of her kitchen and that she would take the food to him. The man was slow moving, so Edith helped him on his way. The other Americans smiled and asked her if she knew who he was. Edith replied that she neither knew nor cared, whoever he was, he was not allowed in her kitchen. 'He', was Joe Louis, the Heavy Weight Boxing Champion of the World.
We helped to make the American forces as welcome as possible in our own small way and with our limited facilities. Some GI's enjoyed ferreting the wild rabbits and shooting rabbits and pigeons, and in return gave us chocolate and candy, which was in very short supply.
When the American Forces left for France and the D.Day landings in 1944, they told me that if I wanted any timber, to help myself since many of the Nissen huts were being demolished. By 1944 there was nothing left in builder's yards. I needed planking to repair the old Drove Road Barn, so I duly arrived with tractor and trailer at the American campsite on the Rockley / Broad Hinton Road to find dozens of people with tractors and trailers, horses and carts, cars and trailers, even prams. Everyone, it seems had heard of the American Forces departure.
By the following day the British Army had arrived and tried to stop this appropriation, but by then it was too late and quite a lot of lumber had gone. I quickly started to repair the side of the barn and was very amused to read on one plank 'I was 16 years old before I realised there were other States in the Union besides Pennsylvania: I thought everywhere else was occupied by coloureds and Indians". In different hand writing on the plank underneath, the reply 'Very intelligent, most Pennsylvanians are usually much older before they can even name the days of the week".
Marlborough Cinema used to stand on the site where Waitrose is today. The programmes were changed twice weekly, on Monday and Thursday. I often took the shotgun when we went to the cinema, in case there was a chance of a rabbit on our farm road on the way in. Very appropriate if there was a cowboy film showing! There was free car parking and many empty places in the High Street. I know people flinch if you slam a car door nowadays, but doors on pre-war cars had to be slammed. When we came out of the Cinema I would always look behind to see if there were four dollops of mud in the road where the wheels had been standing.
About this time (1960’s) the village shop in Ogbourne St George converted an old single decked bus into a mobile shop. This used to trundle round the villages twice a week. This was quite a treat for Sue and jill since they were allowed one bottle of fizzy drink, usually Tizer, each week.
In the 1920's Mother had a solid tyre Trojan car and it was the usual thing to take relatives and friends to Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral. Mother said I took my first unaided steps in the Cathedral Close in 1921.