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Margaret Pearce née Bassett memories of village life in the 1940s - 2

Margaret Pearce née Bassett memories of village life in the 1940s - 2 Crease

The Crease was an equilateral triangle with a tree in the middle. On this tree were nailed notices advertising dances, elections etc. The houses at the crease were varied. On the one side was Gran’s cottage, with a garden either side of it going up the hillside. At the back of her garden was a wall. Behind which was the local tenant farmer, Mr Wilcox, and later after the War was used by Dr. Lougee as a home and a surgery. (Manor Farm House)

69 - 72 Church Street

On the opposite side to Gran’s cottage was a row of houses, probably Victorian, each with a slate roof. The end house opposite Gran’s cottage was the home of Mrs. Waite; she was a little woman always working hard scrubbing her steps, brushing down the front, having a gossip; she always wore a pull-down hat and a sacking apron. During the general elections she put a up a poster which shouted in red to vote Labour – Gran always puts blue one in her window to say vote Conservative. Mr Waite cultivated the garden at the side, it was always very neat and tidy. But often was home to a variety of odd pieces of clothing, shoes etc. where local men wended their drunken way home at night after spending the evening in the Half Moon and Spread Eagle and deposited their bottles , clothes and so forth over the wall at the corner, or put jackets there for safe-keeping while they had little bouts of fisticuffs with each other.

Next to Mrs. Waite lived Mrs Winter, a well-built matronly soul who made the most marvellous cakes for weddings and christenings, and who was asked by my mother if she would attend her lying-in during September 1948 but had to decline because her child was due at that time! One had to be careful what one said to Mrs winter as it usually got back to mother!

Going further down the line of terraced houses lived the Pumphreys with their child Gordon, who was around my age. He was a fat child but quite friendly, apart from that I cannot remember much about him!! However next to the Pumphreys lived Bill Brazier, his wife, and his brother. Bill was always working in the garden and was very quiet, his wife I hardly saw, but his brother … he had a motorcycle and many a time I had a ride to the main road and back or if I was walking home and he passed he would always stop and give me a lift home. I thought motorcycles were THE best.

Shillingbury, 87 & 89

The third side of the triangle was made up of half-timbered houses with overhanging top storeys. In the end house by Gran’s cottage lived Ethel Hobbs and her two brothers who were farm labourers. She was known as the village gossip and was everywhere at once and knew everybody’s business, but she did have a heart of gold. Her house was a reversed ‘L’ shape with her in the corner and the short line along the front by the road. The house behind her also belonged to the farm and was let out to the Harris family; another very poor household belonging to a farm labourer with hordes of kids – the one I played with had adenoids and I used to go and see if I could help the family at all. Mother hated me going there as well!

Along the front from Ethel was a retired couple whose name escapes me at the present. However, their grandson used to come up from, I think Bournemouth, his name was Baden Powell (no not the chief scout or one of his family!) and we played together. One long hot summer’s day I was sent round to Harding’s shop to buy something for mother, on my return home I met Baden at the crease. He was just off on the farm wagon to go and help with the harvest, and would I like to come? Would I like it? Of course, I would like this, off I went with Baden in the back of the hay wagon over the hills to just beyond the arch on the Stoke Charity road. We had a smashing time, chasing rabbits as they ran out from cover when the reaper reached the middle of the field, helping stack up the hayrick and just generally enjoying ourselves. When we returned home that night it was to find mother there, arms akimbo waiting by The Crease. Oh dear, I saw her face I knew trouble was coming and got ready to dodge her hand, but she ignored me and beat the living daylights out of Baden! For the life of me I couldn’t think why she did that at the time.

The Forge

Next to Baden’s grandparents was the Symes' place. They had a smallholding/farm and kept cows in the top field. They had a blacksmiths’ business as well as the dairy, and the family consisted of Mrs Symes (always dressed in black) who ran the dairy, George and Harry Symes (who were blacksmiths) and Mrs Symes Junior, who was George’s wife and mother to Keith and his brother. I used to haunt their place at times, and often played in the top field with the cows so it was not surprising that I managed to get ringworm from the cows. Dr Edelsten prescribed painting with some mauve concoction. The same kind that I had to have painted on my throat when I had measles and any other infection! The measles were only proved by a throat swab as I had no spots at all, only a malaise which worried the family (and the doctor).

After this escapade, and before I was ten, I had been taught the facts of life by mother. Being a very avant-garde, modern Londoner she had decided that I should learn the correct names for each part of the body and had explained in detail the procreation process. Being a person who liked to share knowledge I had, when the occasion arose, given instruction to Keith and his brother (Hughie) and had used a pencil and paper to make explicit drawings of the human body and the functions thereof. The boys were rather pleased with all of this and felt very grown-up – or so I thought in my innocence. That evening I had gone to use the indoor toilet (an Elsan, chemical toilet housed during the winter in the corner of the pantry behind the door to save us going out in the dark and cold) when George Symes came down to see my parents with this piece of paper. Hearing his voice and mother calling for me I knew something was up and called out that I couldn’t go out because I had an awful runny tummy! I think I must have stopped there all evening because I didn’t hear George go home, and my mother came and fetched me to lecture me on pornography!! 

Harry Symes was one of the church bellringers, never married, and indeed was instrumental in arranging a peal of bells for Gran’s 100th birthday, which we heard from the village hall during the afternoon.

Read further memories from Margaret about The Almshouse

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