Cotley Hill

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VILLAGE LIFE

Articles and snippets received from past and present villagers

Special thanks to Stephen Pearce, Great, Great, Grandson. July 2016 for getting in touch and sharing the following.

The Story of Joseph Whatley.of Knook, Wiltshire.
1824-1867.

Joseph Whatley was born in Knook, Wiltshire, on the edge of Salisbury Plain, in 1824 one of the six children born to William Whatley and Elizabeth Kitley. William was a cloth weaver most likely at the Upton Lovell Cloth Mill just a few miles away. Not much is known about Joseph's early life but he did become a labourer possibly at Upton Lovell or as an agricultural labourer. However his life took a dramatic turn when he presented himself aged 18 years and three months to a Royal Marine recruiting officer at Salisbury on the 9th August 1841. His military records show that he was 5ft 7 inches and of fair complexion with grey eyes and brown hair. He was accepted into  the 15th Company of The Royal Marine Artillery as a Private (Gunner), Number 2812. He reported to the Royal Marines just 11 days later at Forton Barracks, Gosport on 21st August 1841 to begin his basic training.

On 7th January 1842, Joseph reported to his first ship. HMS Carysfort was a 26 Gun, 6th Rate Ship of the Line. She was only launched at Pembroke Dock in 1836 so she was only 6 years old. She weighed just 925 tons,  her length was 130 feet, her beam (width) was 40 feet, and the depth of the hold was 11 feet. Her crew of 217 was made up of 152 officers and men, 40 boys and 25 Marines. Her Commander was Captain George Paulet. Many of the crew were new to the ship so after spending time in training the Carysfort finally left Portsmouth on 15th March 1842 for Spithead, the stretch of water between the Isle of Wight and the West Sussex coast. 10 days later on the 25th March the Carysfort headed out to sea. It would be quite some time before the crew saw "Blighty" again.

  On the 9th April HMS Carysfort dropped anchor at the Portuguese Island of Madeira, the voyage of 14 days was reported as being "Very Boisterous!".  Five days later the Carysfort headed back to sea for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil then on to The Falklands before taking on the challenge of rounding Cape Horn, one of the most dangerous stretches of ocean in the world. On the 2nd August 1842, ten weeks after leaving Rio de Janeiro, the Carysfort arrived in Valparaiso, Chile. How long she remained in Chile is not known but she soon headed North for the coast of California. It was at San Francisco that Robert Charlton, the British Consul to the Sandwich Islands came aboard to see Captain Paulet. He had come to complain to the Captain about some land that he allegedly owned, in the Sandwich Islands, had been denied to him by the local people and that the King of the Sandwich Islands had disregarded his claim. The Sandwich Islands are known today by another name, the Hawaiian Islands.

Captain Paulet ordered the Carysfort back to sea, however before leaving he sent a letter to Admiral Richard Thomas, the Commander of the Royal Navy Pacific Fleet, explaining his intentions. On the 10th February 1843 the Carysfort arrived at Honolulu, the Hawaiian capital on the island of Oahu. The following day Paulet went ashore possibly with another officer and a marine detachment. He arrived at the Palace of King Kamehameha III where he demanded an audience with the King. It must be noted that the Kings grandfather Kamehameha I had been responsible for the death of Captain James Cook on 14th February 1779, Paulet must have been well aware of this. However the King was on another Island and Paulet was told that the King would return in seven days.

The King did arrive a week later, however on receiving a very demanding letter from Paulet, the King replied that any communications were to go through the Chief Government Minister, an American called Gerrit P. Judd. The reply infuriated Paulet who had been told by Charlton that Judd was acting as a "Dictator" on the Islands. Many of the senior Hawaiian Government positions were held by foreigners mostly Americans. There was by chance an American warship in Honolulu Harbour, the USS Boston, commanded by Captain Long. on the 17th February 1843 Captain Paulet wrote a warning letter to Captain Long.

"Sir, I have the honour to notify you that Her Britannic Majesty's ship Carysfort, under my command will be prepared to make an immediate attack upon this town at 4' o'clock P.M tomorrow (Saturday) in the event of the demands now forwarded by me to the King of these Islands not being complied with by that time.

Sir, I have the honour to be your most obedient humble servant. George Paulet, Captain.

Captain Long decided not to intervene, possibly not wanting to make what was now an International incident, even worse. The Hawaiian Government wrote to Paulet on the 18th February 1843 agreeing to the demands but only under a very strong protest. And so began a British military occupation of the Hawaiian Islands that was to last 5 months with a "Government" led by George Paulet. One of his first tasks was to remove the 156 islanders living on the land claimed by Robert Charlton. Paulet probably used the Marines on board for this very unfair task. There had been 200,000 Hawaiian's when Captain Cook found the Islands but they had by 1843 been reduced to 80,000 due to "imported" diseases from which they had no immunity. They had also already lost much of their land due to unscrupulous foreigners cheating the Islanders, who were very naive. What Joseph Whatley thought about this is not known. He was under orders as was every other man on Carysfort. Naval discipline was still very strict, a man could still be flogged for any transgression. He would have been manning the guns firing into Honolulu if events turned out badly. Paulet also ordered that every Hawaiian Flag should be destroyed.

Admiral Richard Thomas was in Valparais, Chile when he learned of Paulet's actions. He ordered his flag ship, HMS Dublin, to Honolulu where she arrived on 25th July 1843. On arrival Thomas saluted a Hawaiian Flag that had been missed by the crew of Carysfort. After meeting with King Kamehameha III, Admiral Thomas concluded that Paulet had over reacted and duly restored the King and his Government. The restoration   took place on the 31st July 1843 in a grand ceremony. The King declared before a large crowd, "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness." This today is the national motto of Hawaii and the 31st July is now a Hawaiian national holiday celebrated as "Restoration Day". The Islanders also incorporated the British Union Flag onto their own flag in respect to Admiral Thomas where there is also a park in Honolulu named in his honour. Captain Paulet on the other hand is still castigated on the Islands.  Hawaii was finally recognised as a sovereign nation in a treaty signed in London in November 1843. Sadly this treaty was ignored when in 1893 the Hawaiian Islands were annexed by the United States. The occupation of 1843 is known today as the Paulet Affair, however it did not affect Paulet's future career path.

   George Paulet (Royal Navy officer).jpg

Admiral Lord George Paulet - 1803 -1879.

The Carysfort was back in Valparaiso on the 1st May 1844, she was still there on the 30th November 1844. Possibly undergoing repairs or she was waiting to travel back around Cape Horn in December during the summer months when the seas are hopefully calmer. (It must be remembered that the seasons are reversed in the Southern hemisphere.) Joseph was signed off from the Carysfort on 27th June 1845 in Portsmouth having served 3 years 172 Days aboard. He had quite a story to tell his parents back in Knook. President William Clinton later apologised to the people of Hawaii but sadly there are only around 10,000 pure blood Hawaiians left out of a population of 1.5 Million. The apology was too little too late, Hawaii had suffered the same fate as many other indigenous peoples around the World.

Joseph spent nearly 4 years ashore, little is known of this time other than he probably spent a lot of time training punctuated by a lot of drill and parades. However he joined the crew of another ship on the 13th October 1849. HMS Firebrand  was a very different vessel, she was a 2nd Class Frigate of 1190 tons but she was also a paddle steamer. She was part of The Mediterranean Fleet commanded by Captain Thomas Owen Knox. Not much is known about the Firebrand, She had been originally called HMS Beelzebub (another name for the Devil), then renamed HMS Black Eagle before becoming HMS Firebrand. It is also known that Captain Knox who had married in Valetta in Malta in 1848 died aboard Firebrand on the 30th April 1852. Joseph left this vessel in Portsmouth on 4th December 1852 having served 3 years 53 days. He must have visited Malta and Gibraltar on a number of occasions.

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HMS Firebrand in Portsmouth Harbour.

After spending 6 months ashore, Joseph was assigned  on 12th June 1853 to HMS Tribune, a Corvette of 1569 tons driven by screw propulsion with a crew of 300 commanded by Captain Swynfen Thomas Carnegie. Two months later on 11th August 1853 the Tribune took part in a very grand spectacle, The Naval Fleet Review at Spithead. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were aboard the flagship HMS Duke Of Wellington, as each ship passed in two lines, the crews of each vessel raised their caps in salute. However there was tension building in the Middle East over access to religious sites. A group of Russian Orthodox monks had been killed in Bethlehem by French Catholic Monks then part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Tsar Nicholas I of Russia decided the Turks were to blame and mobilised his forces. The British and French were concerned about Russian expansion in the Eastern Mediterranean area thereby threatening trade in the area. In March 1854 Britain and France declared war against Russia, the Crimean War had begun.

On 11th March 1854, HMS Tribune was part of a fleet that left Spithead heading for The Baltic Sea. They Joined a French Fleet making 49 ships in all. On the 8th April the leading ships were spotted on the horizon in Helsinki, Finland then an autonomous Grand Duchy within the Russian Empire. The fleet did little at first but began a blockade of the Gulfs of Finland and Bothnia. There was great panic in Helsinki and the surrounding area. On the 13th April HMS Tribune detained four Russian Vessels and on the 1st May she detained two more. However not long after this HMS Tribune left the Baltic possibly escorting the Russian Vessels ships back to England. The crew of Tribune were later awarded prize money by The Admiralty for two of the ships. Not long after the island fortress at Sveaborg outside Helsinki was attacked by the fleet.

There is a slight gap in the records but on 17th October 1854 HMS Tribune was now part of a another fleet in the Black Sea. At 6.30 A.M that morning the 31 guns of HMS Tribune began a bombardment in a battle known today as "The Siege of Sebastopol"  on the Crimean Peninsula. Landings were made and some men of the Royal Marine Artillery went ashore with their heavy guns. The appalling conditions in the Crimea are well documented. More men died from these conditions than were lost in battle. Florence Nightingale and her band of nurses did much to alleviate these conditions. The men of the Tribune were not immune, 110 men came down with dysentery out of a crew of 300. Dysentery if not treated correctly can be fatal. The men then had to endure a Russian winter. The men ashore had virtually no shelter.

On 12th November 1854 HMS Tribune, HMS Lynx and HMS Highflyer supported a landing at Djemetil near Anapa on the Russian mainland. Ten days later Captain Carnegie left HMS Tribune he was possibly one of the men who became ill. His replacement was Captain James Robert Drummond who joined the ship on the 11th December 1854. On 17th March 1855 Private Joseph Whatley was promoted to Corporal, he had been a Private for 13 years 219 days. On the 25th May 1855 HMS Tribune was one of 60 ships that captured the  Russian towns of Kertch and Yenikale on the Eastern side of the Crimean Peninsula . Thousands of tons of coal and supplies were captured. At one point the Tribune entered the Dnieper River which was still partly frozen. Joseph finally left the Tribune on the 19th October 1855 however other records claim that Tribune was still in the Black Sea on the 17th October. It is also possible that Joseph remained ashore in the Crimea however he did join the crew of his forth ship, HMS Vesuvius on the 23rd February 1856.   The Vesuvius was a 1st Class Sloop of 970 tons  with three Armstrong guns commanded by Captain Edward George Hore. The Vesuvius was back in the Solent  on the 23rd April 1856 where she took place in The Naval Fleet Review, Joseph's second review. He finally received the prize money for the capture of the Russian Brig Alexander and The Barque Fenix (Phoenix) which was available on application by letter from the 17th January 1856 from the Admiralty in Somerset House, London. He was  also awarded three medals, the Baltic  Medal, The Crimean War Medal with Sebastopol clasp and a Turkish medal that was awarded to all British and French servicemen. The hostilities in the Crimean War had finally ended in September 1855 and a treaty signed on the 30th March 1856,  at which the Black Sea was declared to be Neutral Territory. Joseph was to spend only 266 days on the Vesuvius leaving her on the 14th November 1856.

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Royal Marine Gunners having just received their Crimean War Medals in 1856. Joseph Whatley wore a uniform  similar to the man leaning against the bollard.

The prize money must have been very useful for Joseph for he was back home in Knook on 17th December 1856 for a very special ceremony. His marriage to Adelaide Miles took place at St Margaret's Church in Knook. He must have stood out from the crowd as he walked down the aisle with Adelaide who would have worn her best dress perhaps even a new one. Joseph's father, William, may even had made the cloth for Joseph's uniform, the cloth mill at Upton Lovell specialised in material for Military uniforms.  The witnesses were Mary Dyer and Thomas Poole who was the husband of Joseph's sister Mary Ann Poole née Whatley. Seven months later on 23rd July 1857, Joseph was assigned to his 5th vessel. HMS Sparrowhawk  was a  brand new gunboat of 676 tons. However he only served on this vessel for 14 days. She was possibly undergoing a sea trial and Joseph may have been helping in the training  of the crew. He then spent 4 months ashore. The next posting came on the 29th November 1857 and this was to  be his most challenging.  HMS Lyra was also a new vessel, a screw driven sloop of 488 tons with a displacement of 653 tons. However she also had a shallow draught enabling the Lyra to access  shallow rivers. Her Captain was Commander Bryce Oldfield. She was also designed for a very specific purpose, HMS Lyra was part of the Royal Navy Africa Squadron. Her mission was to take up the fight against the African slave trade.

The Lyra headed South for Simons Town at the Cape of Good Hope. This was the location of HMS Boscawen the flag ship of the Africa Squadron. On the 10th May 1858 the Lyra's crew intercepted their first vessel, the French ship Marie et Céline, at about 10 p.m. so it must have been dark. She was boarded again the next morning so Commander Oldfield must have been suspicious. However the French did complain. Ten days later on the 20th May 1858 the Arab Dhow the Flor de Mozambique was detained and 4 slaves were found and later released. The vessel was then burnt. This proved to the first of many dhows and other vessels that were chased and boarded. Some were only ordinary trading vessels, after inspection they were allowed to go on their way. However some proved to be slavers, the crew of the Lyra could tell the moment they got aboard usually by the odour coming from below. In some cases the men of the Lyra were involved in hand to hand fighting. It is believed that on one occasion  in 1858 three men from the Lyra were killed. 

The Lyra operated for the most part around the Comoros Islands, Mozambique, Madagascar, Zanzibar, the Seychelles and Mauritius. The Lyra was in Quelimane in Mozambique on 13th May 1859 when Commander Oldfield received news of one of the most famous explorers and missionaries  of the Victorian era. None other than David Livingstone who had been based in Quelimane. Nine days later on the 24th May, Joseph was promoted to Sergeant of the Royal Marine Artillery. Many of the captured vessels were taken by prize crews to Simons Town, South Africa to be adjudicated, if found guilty the vessels were burnt. However sending prize crews caused the Lyra to be undermanned so a number of the vessels were burnt immediately. Commander Oldfield still had to explain his actions, even at a later date.

At some point Joseph was transferred from the Lyra to the flagship, HMS Boscawen. It is possible this may have happened when a slave brig was detained after a 5 hour chase. It was believed the vessel was the Echo, formerly the Rubens Anvers of Antwerp. Although there no slaves on board she had been fitted out below to take 800 slaves.  This vessel was taken by a prize crew to Simons Town where she arrived on the 10th December 1859. Joseph may have been one of the prize crew because he was aboard Boscawen from the 17th January 1860.  Joseph had not served on a large ship such as HMS Boscawen, she was a sailing ship of 70 guns . She had been commissioned in 1817 and was built on similar lines to HMS Victory. Her crew was over 800 and commanded by Admiral Sir Frederick Grey. The Captain of the Marines was a Mr. Domville. Soon after HMS Boscawen made the return journey to England arriving in Portsmouth in September 1860 where Joseph signed off on the 14th September. This was to be his last ship, he never went back to sea again. But this event had a very nasty sting in it tail for Joseph. Somewhere he come in contact with Phtisis, a disease that was very common in Victorian Britain right up to the Second World War. Phtisis is an old name for Tuberculosis.

 

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HMS Lyra in the Seychelles 1860.

Joseph went before a medical board in Portsmouth on the 8th May 1861 and was given a medical discharge from the Royal Marines. He had served 19 years and 272 days but because of his being under 20 when he joined up this period was discounted. According to his records his recognised service was only 17 years 364 days, just one day short of 18 years. Although it was recognised by the Admiralty that he had developed this awful disease, "In and by the Service" he was denied a pension as the Queens Regulations dictated that a full 21 years had to be served. He received his full discharge on the 6th August 1861.

Joseph set up home with Adelaide at No 6 Hobbs Court, Portsea,  Portsmouth. He had managed to find work at Portsmouth Gun Wharf, now the site of The Spinnaker Tower, as a labourer. It was here that their daughter, Martha Rosina Whatley was born in July 1863. They did not stay long as 2 years later Joseph and Adelaide set up home in a workers cottage at the Marchwood Gunpowder Magazines near Eling, Hampshire. It was here that their son,  William James Whatley, was born in November 1865.  The Marchwood Magazines were a series of 7 buildings containing 50,000 tons of gunpowder. It was the most dangerous place in the United Kingdom that one could be. It was Joseph's experience as a gunner in the Royal Marines that enabled him to obtain work there as a Labourer. In late 1864 the site was inspected in response to a request from the Aldermen of Southampton regarding the safety of the site. An explosion at Marchwood would have destroyed Southampton on the opposite shore of Southampton water. The Inspector was Colonel Gordon of the Royal Engineers. He later went down in history as Gordon of Khartoum.

Just 2 years after their son was born,  Joseph succumbed on 15th May 1867, at the Marchwood Magazines, to the Phtisis he had contracted  in 1860. It was a very sad end for a very brave man who had fought so hard for his country. But the story did not end. His widow Adelaide remarried on 5th April 1869 at St John the Apostle, Marchwood to William Waller, a chair maker from Shoreditch, London. He moved the family to Shoreditch where they had three more children. Albert, John and Adelaide Jnr. Adelaide Snr also succumbed to Phtisis on 1st November 1874 at the City of London Chest Hospital, Bethnal Green. She may have caught this terrible disease from Joseph. William Waller in response kept his 2 surviving children Albert and Adelaide Jnr but sent his 2 stepchildren Martha Rosina and William James Whatley to Bethnal Green Workhouse were they both marked as "Destitute".  Martha Rosina was 12 and William James just 9 years old. Being orphaned at such a young age led to identity problems for William James Whatley. He grew up thinking his name was William John Whatley and he believed that his father was called John Whatley, a sailor. This was his declaration in 1891 when he married as John Watley (no "h") to Mary Louisa Vyze in Mynyddislwyn Parish Church in Risca, Monmouthshire. It was my researching the family history of Adelaide Waller Jnr, who I knew when I was a child, as Great, Great, Aunt Adelaide Smith who finally led me to the story of Joseph Whatley. Adelaide Waller's husband Benjamin Frederick Smith was also known to me.  His first wife was also a surprise to me for she was Martha Rosina Whatley, Adelaide Waller's  half sister, who sadly died in 1904 .

    It was terribly sad that William James Whatley knew nothing of this story, he was just 2 years old when his father died in Marchwood and therefore had no memories of him . Nor did his 3 daughters, Rose Ellen, Ada and May Whatley.  Nor did my father Melvyn Pearce, the son of May Whatley. Hopefully I have put this right for future generations.

 Dedicated to Sergeant Joseph Whatley. Royal Marine Artillery.
"The Sea-Soldier"

 Stephen Pearce, Great, Great, Grandson. July 2016.

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DR ROBERT D HILL  remembers 

Special thanks to Dr Robert D Hill  for getting in touch and sharing the following.

Extracts of Dr Hill's emails.  Look forward to further contributions

I am responding to your general request for contributions to your website.  My parents owned the Coach House Cafe from 1950 to about 1972 and I could relate much that went on in the village during that period.

My father was Commander Robert C.J.Hill R.N.V.R. and was for a number of years up to his death the Commandant of the Warminster branch of the Red Cross where the Memorial Hall  in Warminster bears a wall tablet to his memory.

I am familiar with several of the people living in Heytesbury during that period including Siegfried Sassoon, The Rev. Hedley Ballance (vicar of Heytesbury church), and I have a mantle clock (purchased from Lord Heytesbury by my mother) which is still going strong and has a place on my lounge mantlepiece. My family was also friends of Eric Lord and his wife. Eric was headmaster of the Avenue School in Warminster and who was educated at Manchester Grammar School like myself. Eric Lord later went on to become the Head Inspector of Schools. I also recall the actress Caroline Blakiston dining at my parents' cafe along with her friends from the army camp at Knook. Her father was the fox hunt master of the hounds based opposite the Saxon church in Tytherington.

The foregoing is just a small example of my memories of Heytesbury during the years  my parents were residents in the village. I shall be aged 83 next month but still have a good memory. If there is anyway I can contribute usefully to your website please let me know.

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 I'm afraid I left Heytesbury long before the by-pass was built. I spent the years 1952-58 at Manchester University where I graduated and then got my doctorate in chemistry & physics. In 1958 I got married and so that was the end of my association with Heytesbury except for those occasions when my family and I made visits to my parents there. There was an occasion, after my widowed mother had left Heytesbury and moved to Warminster, when I was Divisional Director of the Chemical Plant Division of Sutcliffe and Speakman Ltd.  When I visited Warminster to advise Mr. Butcher (Builder in Warminster) on bacterial chemical and radioactive filtration for his nuclear bunker that he had built in his garden

I will give your suggestion of writing a piece for your village website some thought. There are many facets that I can think of covering the people and events there.

The photographs I have of Heytesbury are mostly ones of the family rather than of the village. However I do have a very good watercolor painting of Heytesbury church done by Tom Baragwanath (an old resident of the village) who I believe was related to the vicar, Hedley Ballance.

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HEYTESBURY POST 1970

Further to my last email and with reference to your kind offer to update me on some of the changes that have occurred since leaving Heytesbury  I should have mentioned that I have been able to observe some of the changes that have been made by using the Google Earth facility .

For example the small shop opposite the Angel Inn that my parents used to run has been demolished and the wall built up where it used to be.

The Coach House cafe that was next door to the Angel Inn no longer exists and now seems to be part of the Angel.  The passage between the kitchen of the bungalow and the original old coach house appears to have been built over and the wall between the Angel and the bungalow demolished and the area now used as a car park for the Angel.

My parents' property had an extensive garden part of which was used for an enclosure for hens, ducks, guinea fowl and geese. One winter a spring appeared in the enclosure and a fairly copious flow of water ensued for several years which the ducks used to enjoy where a small pool had formed and one could see the water bubbling up from the ground.

My widowed mother sold off this garden area of ground and a detached house (Brindle House accessed from Mandles Lane) was built on it.

Thinking of photos of Heytesbury I can remember one that I have somewhere that is the view of the river Wylie looking upstream that shows the lovely garden with the wooden pedestrian bridge over the river.  The house used to belong to a retired naval captain called Thring.

Another major change I have observed was the demolishing of the garage & petrol station on the corner of Mandles  lane and East street that belonged to the garage owner who built the house on the corner next to the Coach House.

Enough of the reminiscing of an old man, Sincerely, Robert Hill

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BERT SPAREY, HEYTESBURY'S LAST STATIONMASTER

June Green, nee Sparey  - February 2015

pdf version

BERT (Albert Edward) Sparey was born in Knook in 1889, possibly the youngest of at least nine children (seven boys, two girls) born to Tom Sparey, a master thatcher, and Charlotte, née Whatley. The family lived variously in Codford, Upton Lovell, Knook and Heytesbury. Bert was stationmaster at Heytesbury when the station closed in 1955, after which he and his wife May went to live in the St John’s almshouses in Heytesbury. Bert died in October 1967 and is buried in an unmarked plot immediately behind Heytesbury Church. May was moved to Trowbridge and died there in 1975 at the estimated age of 89. All that is known about her is that she was born in Bodmin, Cornwall; her name was originally Mary Anne but she was always known as May.

Bert and May lived at No.2 and then No.3 Station Cottages. Living with them was Jim, whose name was actually Albert Edward Polden, born 1899. He was Bert’s cousin, the illegitimate son of Charlotte Whatley’s sister Ellen. He worked with Bert at the station and died of cancer in 1953. Bert and May were childless.

June Green, née Sparey, born 1942, whose grandfather Charles Thomas Sparey was one of Bert’s brothers, used to spend holidays with Bert and May from c.1948-51 with her family. They first stayed in No.2, which she recalls had no gas, electricity or running water. Each evening she and Jim would fill two galvanised buckets from the water pump at the station for use in the morning. On the way back they looked for glow-worms on the triangle of grass which then fronted the cottages from the lane.

Top, Bert in his Army uniform. He may have served in WW1 probably in the Wiltshire Regiment (I can’t read the shoulder flash—could be “H&W” something) or because of his occupation on the railways may have been a reservist.

Above, his wife May, who always washed her hair in rainwater. When June knew her she had her hair bobbed and it fell in beautiful natural “Marcel” waves

 

 

 

 

 Jim, she says, was a lovely man, perhaps slightly slow witted but very quiet and gentle. Bert was ruddy cheeked and smiling and always called June “little maid.” After work each day he and Jim would have a wash, get on their bikes, and make what Bert called their biggest decision of the day: whether to turn left and go to the Red Lion or right and head for the Angel when they had cycled down the lane into the village.  

The house was lit with paraffin lamps, and the toilet was an earth closet in the garden. Bert kept hens in a large coop at the side of No.2 and had another flock on a bit of land on the opposite side of the tracks to the station. June recalls May up to her elbows in a bucket mixing bran with vegetable peelings and other leftovers for the hens. She thinks they sold surplus eggs in the village. A path led from the garden up to a gate next to the bridge on the Tytherington Road, and June spent many happy hours sitting on the gate daydreaming and admiring the view and wide Wiltshire skies.  

She thinks No.3 did have running water (via a pump in the kitchen) and probably gas lighting was installed, but cannot recall what the toilet arrangements there were.

RIGHT, Bert’s cousin Jim, aka Albert Edward Polden

 

 

Bert, May and a visiting family member. Between Bert’s feet is Dinah the dog. May is holding a kitten

June recalls typical country suppers when they stayed with May and Bert: We would have a cooked lunch, done on a range in the kitchen, then at supper time, or when Bert and Jim got back from the pub, the table would be laden with great slabs of cheese, ham, pork pies, hard boiled eggs, salad, pickled onions, celery, home made chutney, bread, butter—and we would eat and eat. How we slept after that I don’t know.  

The meal was eaten by the light of paraffin lamps, and there was always talk around the table of local tales, some of them quite scary, or weird things that happened during the war. If I had nightmares I don’t know whether it was down to these stories or the feast we had before I went to bed.

My sister was born in 1950 and the following year when we stayed with them she was teething.  After keeping the whole house awake for two nights in a row with her crying, May suggested to my mother that she should give my sister her bedtime bottle that night.  She did, and my sister slept for almost 20 hours.

My mother was frantic but May just told her to let her be, she was quite all right.  Eventually my sister woke up with two new teeth.

May eventually confessed she had put “a little drop” of brandy into her bedtime bottle.

Between Bert’s feet in the picture of him, May and another family member is a black and tan terrier whose name was Dinah. Bert and May had a succession of black and tan terrier-type mongrels—and every one was called Dinah.

 June Green, nee Sparey

February 2015