Ten Bob Notes
It was back in 1962 when Henry Moast had just won the John Leighton Stakes. Tristan, laid out all his winnings, and they stretched from John Mott’s to Brokenborough Docks. Tristan then had Brian Rivett and Julian Ponting, check the numbers in both directions, whilst Leslie Barron gave cover on his moped, accompanied by Chalkie White riding shot gun.
It was all there, down to the last ten bob note – and so, what to spend it on? Tristan decided he’d become a ‘big time’ property developer just like Dennis Pryce. He snapped up a vacant lot, just off of St Aldhelm Road, and his first stroke of genius, was to sell all the turf covering the field, back to Dennis Pryce, who then re-planted it in his field next to Brokenborough gravel pits.
Ken Haylock was given the job of digging trenches all across the vacant lot, to give the impression of progress, whilst Graham Carey came past every day and took B&W photographs. Then early one foggy morning Mr Willmore fell into one of the trenches. He later arrived at school all covered in mud from head to toe.
All the pupils had gathered in the assembly hall and in came Kenneth Willmore, a roar of smothered laughter swept across the hall. Houses! that’s what we need, Houses! So for the following year, Mr Gray marched his class to the lot each day, where the boys were taught the skills of house building.
The first house was completed on the 13th of April and so they numbered it 13. A pig was purchased from the bacon factory next door and roasted on a spit, and all the builders ate rasher sandwiches in celebration. The following week, Mrs Barron moved into the second completed house, with a hundred chickens, and all the builders had egg and bacon sandwiches.
Tristan then called in, a well know interior designer from the neighbouring village of Somerford, a Mr Viner of CND Designs. They laid out their sketches on the roof of Mr Cartmell’s car, and decided to fit full length mirrors in the living rooms, next to the fire places, and have carpets with oval designs, and a Dansette record player as an optional luxury.
The whole building lot was in complete chaos, as Mr Lockyear chased his escaped animals all over the place, and Mr White set his pigs loose to drink out of the builders water butts. Mrs Holroyd had been commissioned to compose music for the first public open day at the show house, but the Bremilham school boys, had had an accident, whilst riding on her piano down St Aldhelm Road, all ending up amongst Mr Lockyear’s chickens.
There was only one thing for it, a last moment dash to Golly Frayling’s house. Golly came and sat in the builders hut with Tristan. Golly hummed and clapped his hands, whilst Tristan threw in random lyrics. Soon enough they had their first numbers. Then Mr Hider turned up, demanding to know what all the racket was about.
Golly leapt to his feet, and banged his head on the roof and in anger, kicked over a large tub of black paint, splashing it all over Mr Hider’s best business suit. Golly decided it was time for lunch, and Peter Hider was last seen legging it through Constance’s yard, chasing after him.
It was in the Cross Hayes that I first started school, in what is now the Public Library, which at the time was the CofE Infants School. I was probably five years old and my mother would have walked me there and collected me every day, although I’m not sure if that was the case for all the time I was there, which was probably two years.
Then I went to the Junior School in Gastons Road, about 500 yards away from my house, just two streets away. I most likely walked there on my own most of the time, but my elder sister Vieve may have walked with me for the first few months, she was probably only there for one of the years I was there, as she would have moved on up to the Grammar School at the bottom of Tetbury Hill, having passed her Eleven Plus Exam. It was originally the Technical School, then renamed Malmesbury District Secondary School, then in 1952 when the new Secondary Modern School at Corn Gastons was completed, it changed again to become the Grammar School.
At the Infants school I only remember two things, the first was the enjoyment of playing with Stickle Bricks, coloured plastic tubes about one and a half inches long with a spike on one end and a hole the opposite end, and with about four spikes on one side with four holes on the other three sides, these could be stuck together in many permutations putting spikes into holes and building what ever your imagination could come up with.
The other memory was not so good, it was having to stay in for school dinners, I hated everything they served up under the pretence of edible food, I just sat and stared at it, refusing point blank to touch any of it. The dinner ladies would tell me that if I didn’t eat any of it, then my new top front tooth would not grow to be like its neighbour, having replaced its previous milk tooth, months before its partner. I really didn’t appreciate having the fact one tooth was shorter than the other, pointed out to all in the dining hall, I knew that both my teeth would soon be of the same length, and certainly without the help of the school pig swill.
David Forward, Richard Love, Sheila Irvine, Margot Chevers, Josephine Bateman, Patience Utting, Janice Blanchard, Linda Haylock, Desmond Neale, Martyn Leyfield, Richard Lancaster, Raymond Clarke, Jonathan Bailey, Andrew Exton, Robert Gaisford, Norman Tapp, Hazel Harding, Francis Talbot, Philip Jackson, Philip Hall, Charles Major, Ian Major, Stephen Roberts, Richard Barnes, Audrey Webb, Helen Butler, Christine Pike, Susan Barrow, June May, Jacqueline Liddington, Vanessa Long, Sylvia Gardner.
The Junior School was a much happier place. Here we had singing lessons with Mrs Ella Hinder and Art Lessons which I enjoyed very much. Another favourite of mine was the radio speaker in each class room controlled by the master radio in the staff room, depending on what day of the week and what lesson, we would get to listen to a BBC Radio Broadcast for Schools, probably a story of some sort.
I was probably eight years old and was already looking at all the girls and deciding which ones I liked the most. Then at break times we got to play in the school yard, we mostly played tag, whilst most of the girls played skipping although Sheila Irvine would sometimes play tag with the boys.
I had a collection of friends during the early school years, who I would see after school, visiting their homes or playing around the town in various locations such as the Station Yard. My first friend was James Lancaster, he was a new boy half way through Infants School and I would visit his house after school down in King’s Wall. At the Junior School, my friends were Richard Love, Robert Gaisford, Desmond Neale and Jonathan Bailey.
I only knew Richard Love for a short while as I think his family moved to another Farm at Bremhill near Calne as his dad was a herdsman. I remember cycling all the way to the far end of Milbourne one day to visit Richard, possible in the summer holidays.
The majority of the Junior School years I virtually lived at Jonathan Bailey’s house, where we’d play around the old Bremilham Terrace estate where he lived, it having been converted to houses from its former days as the Work House. Jonathan’s house seemed twice the size of mine, as it had three stories and an attic. There his mother would cook my tea and after playing outside, we would come in to watch television and when it got dark his dad would walk me to the top of Bremilham Road, half way to my house, and I would then walk back the rest on my own.
After about three years at Gastons Road primary school, we all moved lock stock and barrel down to the old Grammar school at the bottom of Tetbury Hill, whilst they moved into their own new building at Filands. Some of the children may of helped at some point, as I vaguely recall meeting Richard Dickenson of Sherston, he was helping to load one of his dad’s parcel lorries of Compton & Dickenson Hauliers, who were used to move all the contents of the school from Gastons Road to Tetbury Hill.
Maybe that’s how we quickly became friends the second time we met, when we both started at the secondary modern school at Bremilham.
Many years later we had planned to go somewhere the next day and I set off three hours before we were due to meet as I was so excited to be where we were going. Having let him down, he never spoke to me again, which I understand and do not blame him for it in the slightest. He was not the first friend I had abandoned in such a way and not the last, as I seem to repeat my worse behaviour more than I’d like to admit. It appears I have never learnt the value of good friends. Repeating mistakes seems to be ingrained in my character and I continually let myself and others down.
During our time at Gastons Road, Mr Saunders who ran a little shop down in St John’s Street, still lit only by paraffin lamp, used to arrive at the school during the dinner time breaks, where he would park his black van opposite, and walk across to the gate with a very large wooden tray with strap around his shoulder, he’d then rest the tray on the school gate, and begin to serve a long queue of children waiting to buy his sweets and snacks. Allow that today and Ofsted, would immediately have the school closed down.
After only a few days in our new school at the bottom of Tetbury Hill, I got into trouble with Mr Price the headmaster, as he came out of his office door at the bottom of the staircase in the old Grammar school building, I too arrived at the same point he was stood, sliding down the very large polished wooden banisters of the staircase. It’s a good thing he dished out discipline with the very skilled use of words or I may have had difficulty sitting down for the remainder of the day.
In the last year at Junior School, I remember spending a lot of time around Desmond Neale’s house, we would play football in the old playing field in Burnham Road next to Clark’s Ironmongers Shop, which was next to the Davies’ Dairy, just around the corner from 30 Gastons Road, where Desmond used to live with his mum, brothers, sister, and dad who was a builder, that my dad used to visit, as he may have done building drawings for him, and that’s maybe how I first met Desmond.
The 1966 football World Cup was two years before we got our first black and white television, but Desmond already had TV, as did Jonathan Bailey, where I had been watching it for the previous four years, so I got to sit in Desmond’s house with his brothers and watch most of the games, we’d then go and re-enact the goals in the playing field just around the corner in Burnham Road.
Desmond learnt a lot about football at this time and put it to good use in our double PE lessons at Bremilham. His style was unique compared to all the other lads, when ever he was tackled, if he lost the ball, he’d be on the deck rolling around in agony before his tackler had even got a second touch of the ball. Every other lad wore a red jersey being Liverpool or Man Utd supporters, while Desmond wore a white jersey being a Leeds United supporter, and could have had some bearing on his diving skills. Me being of Welsh parents like Desmond, wore a Glasgow Celtic, green and white hooped shirt, as you would, bought in the Don Rogers Sports shop in Swindon, I knew nothing about football, but I liked the colours. The third odd one out during our time at Bremilham, not in a red shirt, was Viv Sherman who wore a blue and white hooped Queens Park Rangers shirt.
Desmond and I both had bicycles, Desmond’s was black with cow horn handlebars, mine was blue with a crossbar which bent down towards the saddle, we both had Sturmey-Archer Three Speed Gears, and we would spend most of the summer holidays cycling around the town, playing in the station yard and visiting Brooks Café on Abbey Row near The Triangle, where we would have a pot of tea at our usual table, our bikes parked at the kerb just outside the window.
In-between Mr Constance at Burnham House and the end of Foundry Road, Mr White of 21 Hobbes Close kept his pigs in a field, that is now the top left hand corner of Willow View Close, and with access just over his back garden fence. With the Bacon Factory also adjacent to this field, and stood on the Willow View site, it meant Mr White had a ready made short cut to his place of work at the Adye & Hinwood Bacon Factory avoiding a walk through Hobbes Close, down the steps, into Park Road and to the factory, which is one reason, we very rarely saw him in the street.
After the bacon factory closed down in 1964, it remained empty, falling into decay over the next few years, before the buildings and land were cleared to make way for Willow View Close. That also had a faulty start as the original builders went bankrupt halfway through building the houses, which then stood unfinished for a while until a new company was found to completed the project.
In 1969 David Patrick was the first owner of number 13 Willow View Close and for the next 45 years, when out digging his garden was forever turning up pigs teeth.
During the winter of 1962 and 1963, I remember we opened our back door one morning and it was completely covered-in with snow, that had drifted up between the concrete out-house building and the top of the door. The snow was about two feet deep on the out-house roof. After the neighbouring residents of the street had dug themselves out, at some point all the children all met up and we went out exploring the surrounding roads.
Along Park Road, where Mr Grimes kept his motor coaches, the drifts were right across the road and over six feet high, going right over his corrugated iron roofs of the coach garages next to the road.
I think it was the local council workers who cleared the streets and pavements using their Bedford dust cart’s to transport rock salt from the huge stock pile at the council lay-by, on the road between Backbridge and Brokenborough.
Davies’ Dairy up in Burnham Road, still managed to deliver the milk bottles to all doorsteps in the town. Our Guernsey Gold Top full milk, would freeze pushing the cream out of the top of the bottle about two inches, leaving the foil top resting above. I thoroughly enjoyed frozen, full cream milk, mashed up on my shredded wheat breakfasts for several weeks if not more.
A few years later my older sister’s husband became a milkman for Davies’ and took my younger sister with him one day, out on the round to help, whilst he was putting the bottles on the doorsteps, my sister still in the milk float, accidentally knocked against the hand break. When Eric turned to go back to the float, it was already beginning to roll down a hill, he sprinted after it, leaping in, and managed to prevent a catastrophe with the empties.
Towards the end of the big freeze and during the clear sunny days, the snow on the roofs of the houses would thaw and re-freeze at night into icicles up to two feet long, hanging off the roof tiles above the upper windows of the houses. During the day we would open the bedroom windows and knock down the icicles, run down the stairs and outside to retrieve the icicles, and bring them inside, where we would rest the pointed end on top of the Rayburn’s Hot Plate and watch the clouds of steam pouring off as they melted. I don’t remember what our mother thought about having a dining room full of steam though.
After the big thaw, as the snow began to melt, the surrounding meadows of the River Avon began to flood, then a little while later, they all froze over forming deep solid ice. The meadow at Gloucester Road behind the old cattle market, where the football pitch is now, became one great big ice rink. Children and adults from all over this half of the town, would be down there every day for several weeks on end. In those days we would walk along Park Road to the T Junction at the very end, then turn left by Athelstan Garage and cross the river by the narrow stone bridge leading to the Old Railway Inn and the Station Yard opposite. Then we would turn left again into the cattle market, and walk through to the field of ice, and we gave it the name of “The Ice Cube”.
When I was about six years old I used to go down to the station with other boys from my street to watch the steam train. It was towards the end of steam trains at Malmesbury although we didn’t know it at the time, but one of the boys asked the driver if we could have a ride on the footplate to Somerford. The driver told us we could, but not until the next day and it would cost us a tanner.
The following day we were up early and set out towards the station with a packed lunch each and a sixpenny piece to give to the driver and his mate. We climbed aboard, gave the men our shiny silver sixpences and were all given a chance to try and shovel coal into the fire box. The long shovel was almost too heavy for me and I manage a small lump. After about ten minutes in the station at the platform, the driver blew the whistle and we set off through the station yard towards the tunnel.
We approached the level crossing at the end of the yard, and the town upon the hill disappeared from view as we crossed it, entering a wooded area taking us over the river, and beyond lay the tunnel. The driver turned to me being the smallest child and lifted me up towards the roof of the open sided cab. Here was a chain hanging and he told me to reach up and give it a pull as it would sound the whistle, which had to be done before entering the tunnel.
The tunnel had little retreats built into its walls for engineers to take refuge from passing trains and we had often stood in these, when returning from expeditions into the countryside for blackberrying. As we came out the other side we were coughing on the smoke which had nowhere to escape to whilst in the tunnel, and had blown into the cab covering us in sooty smuts. It soon cleared and we could see down to the stretch of track, where the previous week we had laid down with our ears to the track to detect the approaching train and then laid copper pennies on the rail. After the train had passed we would rush back from hiding in the bushes to see our pennies now twice the size, having been hammered out by the many wheels of the train passing over. Of course we could no longer buy sweets with them but we thought it worth the while for the huge fun and excitement we felt from our naughty game.
After about twenty minutes on the foot plate we arrived at the junction to the main line in the next village of Little Somerford. We said goodbye to the driver and firemen thanking them with great enthusiasm for a hugely exciting ride and walked to the end of the platform where we sat down to eat our packed lunches. We watched a few fast passenger trains speeding through the station and waved at all the faces looking back at us and then we set out on our three mile trek back home, hopping over the ballast in-between the heavily creosoted wooden sleepers and exploring the hedgerows in the heat of the afternoon sun.
A certain number of the Hobbes Close houses were originally reserved for people who worked at the EKCO factory, many having arrived as new comers to the town to carry out secret war work at the Cowbridge Shadow Factory, the original one being at Southend-on-Sea, making a number of products, one being RADAR equipment. Much of the work force were conscripted in from far and wide, and unaware of what they actual made, due to only working on component parts, which were assembled by a chosen few for test and calibration, before despatch to the many theatres of war on land, sea and in the air.
Down on the other half of Hobbes Close, before Park Road was widened, and before Willow View Close and its bungalows opposite were built, the grass bank was much wider and had a thick hedge running its length and opposite number 32 there was a large tree with boughs reaching out over Park Road below. The street’s children from both halves would often meet down there and climb the tree. My sister Sally wrote about it for one of her lessons at school:-
There were two ways to climb our tree: the front way and the back way. When I was young I found it easier to use the front way, as some elder boys had kindly knocked some long nails into the tree. If you were new to our street you were instructed exactly how to climb our tree. The instructions were like this: “Put your right foot on the lowest nail, grasp the third nail with your left hand and put your right hand in the fork of the first branches. Now pull, and put your left foot on the second nail.” Next there was a complicated turn and you were sitting in the fork of the tree. From here it was easy; you just climbed where you wanted; but only the braver ones ventured over to the right hand side of the tree because there were fewer branches here.
It felt wonderful to climb higher and higher and look down to the road below; especially on windy days when the tree swayed from side to side. Then you could pretend you were in a ship. Brian was always the captain. But now the tree and Brian have gone; Brian to a better place. The tree, who knows where?
My father Colin wasn’t really into gardening and the previous tenant of our house apparently spent much of her time digging holes in the back garden looking for treasure. So between the two of them, Colin with his two foot deep trench in preparation for next years runner beans – never planted, they had created a moonscape back garden. It was often three foot high in grass and we children loved to explore our very own jungle.
Later on I too discovered digging holes was great fun. Eventually I dug a hole big enough to take six refrigerators, and built a den over the top of it with scrap wood rescued from the old bacon factory, which had stood on the Willow View site at the end of our street. Myself and James Rivett would climb onto the roof of the den, through its trap door and down the ladder into the large hole in the clay, with its escape tunnel under the fence into Burnham House gardens, we would then put on old WWII Tommy Steel helmets and hunker down whilst Tony Rickatson from number 17 would throw half bricks at the den from 10 feet away for several minutes until we surrendered.
I also dug a hole, with Jonathan Bailey in his front garden at Bremilham Terrace, the size of a Mini car and we covered it with several large sheets of plywood. It was probably filled in by his father and that maybe was when we decided to built another den in Willow View field opposite the old bacon factory in Park Road. This den was made from several hundred used bricks built into a circular wall with slit windows and topped off with plywood held down with more bricks.
Builders had recently bulldozed the bacon factory across the road and into the pigs field as hardcore, raising the ground level six feet from the river to the road, ready to build the Willow View bungalows on top. However Norman Clark who lived opposite me at number 24, decided one night after Jon and I had gone home from our den, that he would have to go down there and demolish it. He thought it too dangerous and worried we might get buried in any sudden collapse.
While I was around at Jonathan’s house, he was often sent on errands, such as to the shops or to take things to his grandparents in the bungalow at number 4 Hobbes Close where Mr and Mrs Sivell lived, and I went along with Jonathan several times. Mr Sivell had fought in the Boer Wars in South Africa and seemed to us children to be far older than he actually was.
Before the Open Air Swimming Pool was opened at the end of Old Alexander Road, along a dirt track leading to nothing but fields, we would spend many hot sunny days of the summer holidays, playing in the river at what we would call Backbridge, to us Backbridge started at Newman’s Abattoir and ran the length of the road up to the T-junction that led over the bridge to Brokenborough. The area of grass between the white steel pipe railings and the river, was an area frequented by many local children from Athelstan Road, Corn Gastons and Parklands. Here we’d all work together to dam up the river with stones from the bottom to create a pool to learn to swim in.
Children would also bring fishing rods and nets too, and Brian Rivett would bring, home made Cray Fishing Nets.
When we went Cray fishing we’d first spend time at Brian’s house constructing the nets from chicken wire and baler twine, then Brian would sneak in doors and pinch a few rashers of bacon from his mother’s fridge for bait, before we’d set off to the river at Backbridge. Only for this event, we had to go right along to the bridge to get to the other side of the river, and walk back along the bank to get to the deep ox-bow pool across the meadow.
After the nets had been cast at various intervals along the river we would go else where for several hours before returning to examine the nets. They were usually crawling with many Cray fish and we’d haul them in and place then into a large sack. With all the nets retrieved we would then set off back home.
Brian would then build a bomb fire at the top of our garden. On top of it was placed an old galvanised washing container full of water, which was brought to the boil and when ready, the sack of live Cray fish was tipped into the boiling water. They would quickly turn from their original dark brown to bright red. Then we would all enjoy a lovely meal of burnt sausages, smoked slices of white bread and boiled crayfish, yum yum!
On our walk along the bank one day some of the boys whispered to me that I had been chosen to jump on Tony Rickatson from behind, surprise him and push him into the stream opposite the road where it was only about a foot deep, after about five minutes of Tony and I rolling around mud wrestling, the boys finally gave up on their dastardly plan and broke up the fight, needless to say Tony was not amused.
It may have been something to do with Tony’s size as he was never called Tony by anyone except his five older sisters, but went by the nick name of “Titch” which has stuck until this day. At about this time, the very early sixties, we still had ‘town gas’ street lighting in our street and much of the rest of the town also, fed from the old gas works in St John’s Street and lit every night by Cecil Exton who lived in Abbey Row opposite Brooks Café, and later was a Fireman at the Town Hall Fire Station.
The old cast iron lamp post on the corner of the square opposite number 15, was site of another naughty plan by the other boys of the street, they had grabbed poor Titch, telling him they were playing their cowboy heroes from the western films they watched on television, and had tied his hands behind his back around the lamp standard, then they all disappeared into their separate houses for their tea, leaving Titch wondering when he’d be rescued.
I watched all this from the bedroom window, on hearing voices about half an hour later, and looking out again, I saw two of Titch’s sisters come rushing to his rescue, they were shouting something at the top of their voices, about getting the little brats, who had done this awful thing to their poor little Tony.
Another fun day was when The Cartmell’s arrived back home from a two week holiday. All the children of the street were stood on the grass opposite number 7 all looking innocent and quiet. Mrs Cartmell carried some bags up to the side door, then called out, Cyril! Mr Cartmell grabbed a few more bags and went to see what his wife wanted. He got to the side door, looked down, looked around in the direction of all the children, who had now started laughing and quickly walking away. Mr Cartmell then came back down the steps to the street and called out in the direction of the fleeing children, Did you do this?
Earlier that morning we had what was a regular occurrence, and escapee from Newman’s abattoir at the bottom of the hill. A bullock was on the loose and grazing the verge opposite the Cartmell’s when Mr Lockyear came creeping up behind to try and re-capture it. It spotted him at the last moment, shot across the road, leapt the fence, ran up the bank, across the garden, hesitated which way to go, and at the side door it left a large pile of smelly stuff on the doorstep, then ran off again with slaughterhouse men in hot pursuit. Afterwards, all was explained by Andrew Douglas, and on seeing all the hoof marks in his front lawn, Mr Cartmell did eventually calm down.
I was born in Malmesbury Cottage Hospital the same day as Diane Mills was born, her parents lived two streets away in Avon Road. I can’t really remember anything about Diane, except when she was about, five years old, she was quietly making her way down the footpath on our road, to visit her uncle and aunty, Jim and Vera Mills who lived opposite me at number 22, when she was opposite to Cyril Cartmell’s house, his big black dog rushed across the road and leapt onto her dragging her down and began to maul her, I was watching this from about 25 yards away where I was playing outside my house, several adults quickly appeared and tore the dog off of her, ever since that I have been very wary of all dogs.
I only went on about five holidays up until I was 16 years old. The first was to White Sands Bay in Pembrokeshire with all my family, there we all slept in a very large orange tent with separate compartments, and were driven there in Graham Carey’s van. He was Art Teacher at Bremilham school and shared our holiday, having been a friend of Colin for some time, as he had been the Art Teacher at the Grammar school.
Before the second holiday, Graham Carey came to our house and lent moral support to Colin who was busy preparing to take my sister Vieve, my brother Greg, and me, on a cycling holiday to Studland in Dorset.
Colin had very little money, so he made a wooden trailer with pram wheels to be pulled behind his bicycle, on which he would carry a tent and all the camping equipment for the four of us, and we were to follow on our second hand bicycles.
Colin made the trailer using old pennies as washers drilling holes through them as it was cheaper than buying steel washers. The construction was done on the front grass over several days, while we practised putting up and taking down the tent we had borrowed from the local Boy Scouts with the help of Andrew Douglas from number 18 who was a member.
The journey from Hobbes Close to Studland took five days. We set off towards Foxley as we were to take the back roads to avoid the traffic. At the end of the first day we had reached the edge of Salisbury Plain.
Here we set up camp on the edge of a ‘Danger Area’ used by the army for a firing zone, about three miles from a small village called Upton Scudamore.
The next day we awoke to find the beautiful warm sunshine of the day before had been replaced with very heavy rain. Too heavy for cycling so we spent the next three days in the tent waiting for it to stop.
I can’t remember what we did all day long but I do remember we lived on white sliced bread with bramble jelly jam and bacon sandwiches cooked on a GAZ stove.
Each day we would wait for a brief break in the weather and dash into Upton Scudamore to buy more bread, jam, bacon and I think the others also ate baked beans.
On the fifth day the summer sun returned and we set off across the Plain towards a village called Hammoon. We had to wade through waist deep flooded roads with strong currents trying to wash us into the fields, as the previous days it had rained so heavily and continuously it had caused all the local streams and rivers to break their banks.
Late afternoon we were close to Studland and got very excited as we could see the sea in the distance. So we put on extra speed and soon left Colin behind, as with his heavy trailer to pull, he could not go as fast. We got to the beach dropped every thing and with our trousers still on rushed into the sea up to our waists. It was now beginning to get dark and we looked around to see if Colin had arrived.
Soaking wet we decided to cycle back the way we had come, looking for Colin. Three miles up the hill we found the trailer and all of our equipment in a lay-by with a large area of grass but no sign of Colin. Not at all worried we set up the tent and waited.
Mean while Colin was at the local police station setting up a search party as he couldn’t believe we could have gone so fast as to have reached the sea. Shortly a Police car arrived and out stepped a Policeman who said, “Is this the Forward family all but father”. After a call to base on his radio the Policeman soon had Colin joining us for our first night in the “one tent” lay-by camp site.
The next day we spent on the beach and Colin returned to the tent to cook dinner and wash our clothes in a plastic bowl by the road side. A piece of string from a pole stuck in the ground to the tent became a washing line. The sides of the tent were tied up so it looked more like a giant umbrella. This was to air it out, said Colin.
The days were very hot and sunny and many flies gathered in our tent for shade. This was so intolerable we moved half a mile down hill but returned the next day as the flies in that field were even more in number.
Colin would write letters home and we would receive replies addressed to The Tent, Grass Verge, Nr. Agglestone Cottage, B3351 Road, Nr. Studland, Dorset. The novelty of the beach was wearing off so Colin took us into Swanage for a sight seeing visit of the town, and to see the Steam Engines at the station afterwards.
The train driver and fireman on one train soon got to know us as we kept coming back. The driver had two silver stars on his hat so he became known to us as “Two Star Fred”. We soon progressed to being invited onto the foot plate and towards the end of our visits, Two Star Fred and his fireman, known as “Pug”, would let us pull a very large lever up and down to make the engine move. So we had all become train drivers.
The thought of cycling about a hundred miles around the back roads home was not looked forward to by any of us so Colin went to the bank and managed to borrow just enough money to stay an extra couple of days and get the train back to Chippenham instead.
From Chippenham we again took to the back roads and when we got to Foxley, we again made a last minute dash for home leaving Colin to his struggle with the trailer arriving home fifteen minutes later, this time without the local police looking for us.
Our third holiday was just Colin, Greg and Me, and I think we must have travelled by train from Chippenham to Swansea, then by bus to a Youth Hostel at Port Eynon on the Gower Peninsular in South Wales.
Our fourth holiday, Colin, Greg and Me again, at another Youth Hostel in Trefin in Pembrokeshire.
My fifth holiday was with Desmond Neale, the two of us went when we were 15 years old, I think by bus, to Scarborough and then onto Whitby in Yorkshire and stayed in the Youth Hostel, exploring the surrounding towns and staying in other surrounding Youth Hostels of Robin Hood Bay, Saltburn By Sea and Malton.
In various combinations, mainly in the school summer holidays, children from the street would go out on expeditions into the local countryside, blackberrying or just for the fun of exploring. One early trek, we all dressed up as Red Indians, with home made bows and arrows and just cloth around our loins, boys and girls all very young, we hiked to the far end of Corn Gastons and set out on the trail. The trail being a child’s foot path along the top of the bank that ran along the length of the bottom of the school field down the Bristol Road and past some of Bremilham Terrace, then we made our way back through Pool Gastons Road home in time for dinner.
A few years later I went with about four other boys for a walk along the station yard, through the tunnel, across Long meadow, over the road at The Duke of York Pub and up the path to its right leading to the Worthies. At the top of the path and in the field stood a large tree with a hornets nest dangling from a bough. Brian Rivett had with him his catapult and so he took aim, the we all ran as fast as we could. I got stung right on the top of my right ear. I think I cried all the way home as the swelling was so painful.
The most amazing trip of all was just me and Brian together. Brian was about five years older than me and a member of Cyril Cartmell’s Youth Club in Ingram Street. There they used to go sailing and had built a sailing boat inside the youth club and when it was finished they had to take down the exterior wall to get it out onto the street. I think it was here that Brian purchased a second hand canoe made of timber and canvas with open top. It may have originally be made at Bremilham School but it was now Brian’s very own and he kept it in a large shed half way down Betty Geezer’s Steps between Abbey Row and Burnivale at his sisters house, just under the Old Bell Hotel’s Green House.
Brian used to take me there where we’d varnished the wood work and mend rips in the canvas, with that light brown treacle like glue that stinks of petrol fumes, by sticking on patches inside. After several trips down the steps and along Burnivale to the river at Linolite, we had mastered the removable seats, back rest and double bladed paddles. I was probably about nine years old. Anyhow it was now time to go a little further down stream, so Brian must have arranged with his mother and mine that we would be going out of town, down the Avon as far as we could, until evening when we would put his two man tent for the night, before we set back the next morning.
Brian, not one to miss a chance on anything, took his fishing gear with him and he set up bait on the line and trailed it behind our canoe, so I think I must have been sat in the front, which would make sense. He actually caught a trout big enough for the two of us and he stopped along the river near reed beds to collect moorhen eggs. That night at Seagry Weir we spent our time fishing from the bank under the weir and later whilst I unpacked every thing from the canoe into the tent, Brian walked to the nearest Farm and asked for some milk, when he got back he cooked me trout, moorhen egg omelettes and made tea with fresh milk straight from the milking parlour. The only worrying bit of the journey there and back was when we had to pass a large swan, Brian told me to bend forward with my head in the canoe while he paddled past the swan which was hissing loudly at us. As we went past it flapped its wings and paddled furiously towards us slapping the canoe with its wings.
Later I bought the canoe from Brian and a few years later made a return journey down stream as far as Dauntsey where my brother Greg and I had arranged for our dad to come and collect us with his old van and roof rack later that day.
My father Colin had a friend called Cecil Harrison who lived in Ingram Street who had been shot whilst flying over enemy lines in World War One. Cecil would come down to Hobbes Close to visit us on many occasions and one I particularly remember was when a neighbour knocked at the door to notify us that Cecil was lying on the grass verge at the end of the street having fallen off his bicycle, he had come down St Aldhelm Road, quite a steep hill, and his brakes had failed leaving him unable to make the turn into our street at speed and he had run straight ahead into the kerb somersaulting over his handlebars and striking his head on the tarmac path knocking himself out.
Cecil was taken to the cottage hospital up at Burton Hill in the ambulance, and later that day our neighbour from number 19, Mr Aylward, who kept the ambulance out in the square when he was at home on breaks, offered to run Colin up to the hospital to visit Cecil, he was kind enough to do this for several days and I remember going along with Colin and several brothers and sisters to visit Cecil, all of us in the back of Mr Aylward’s ambulance which was based at the ambulance station in the Cross Hayes, next to Roper’s Fish Bar, in what is now part of the George Veterinary Service and it was also driven by Mr Thompson from number 23 Hobbes Close.
These included, skipping, hop scotch, tennis, football and cricket. Brian painted a crease and location for the stumps and location to bowl from on the tarmac road with a tin of pale green gloss paint, which remained visible for quite a few years. The batsman would stand in the middle of the street next to the shared entrance to my house and Brian’s house, while the bowler would bowl from the other shared entrance just up the road between Brian’s house and Michael Bentley’s house. Rules were simple, they were Brian’s rules and changed as and when to his advantage, basically it was out if you hit it into Mrs Barron’s at number 20 or Mrs Douglas’ at number 18 opposite to Brian’s house at number 11. Clean over Brian’s house into his back garden, six and not out, into his front garden which sloped back into the road, so most balls rolled back out again, not out. Now everyone except me made runs as they were right handed batsmen and would mainly block the ball into Brian’s garden bank keeping it in the road, but I for some strange reason, also being right handed, could only play the bat left handed and therefore, I would knock it to my right, where the lay of the grass verge, meant the ball usually ended up in Mrs Barron’s garden, I was always out for a duck, she kept chickens actually. However Brian wasn’t too lucky on some occasions either, I’m sure he put our shed window through at least once along with his own kitchen window and Mrs Bentley’s kitchen window. By the time the broken glass had reached the floor, no one was left around to be seen.
When the houses were built about 5-10 years previously in about 1950 there had obviously been a large pile of sand on the area between numbers 11 and 20 and afterwards had been landscaped as the grass verge to the road, the road being barely wide enough for two cars to scrape past each other and long before the lay-by was constructed. So we spent many summer holidays digging holes through the turf and clay to reach what remained of the sand and that became our quarry for all out toy diggers to fill our toy lorries with. We also buried many a Dinky Toy in the sand to be discovered at a later date.
The same area was also used to play games of Marbles, everyone had a collection of glass marbles of several sizes and many colours which we spent many hours swapping and trading for other toys. Stephen Roberts even cycled all the way in from Corston one weekend to trade a car transporter for a dump truck while we were at Gastons Road Junior School.
For most of my childhood Brian’s dad was a civil engineer working away from home in the Gulf States on big concrete form-work projects and it meant he only got to come home a couple of times a year. Although he would send back regular presents for the family. One year Brian received amongst his gifts a genuine Arab head dress complete with black rope and other accessories.
We all loved to dress up and act out scenes on all sorts of subjects and now Brian decided he’d create a Bedouin desert encampment down on The Green. In those days of the early sixties with very little traffic to worry about on neighbouring roads The Green was a large grass area for playing football and all sorts of other activities suitable for small children.
Now, the Green was Steve McColl’s territory, as he lived in number 10 right along side, so some serious trading of toys must have taken place by Brian for all the upper Hobbes Close children to be able to descend upon The Green.
Brian set up a large white tent and inside dressed as an Arab nomadic tribal leader, where he told fortunes to all who entered on the payment of thruppence. Around the tent outside all the other girls and boys dressed as his tribe’s people set up stalls, where just about anything removable from their houses would be up for sale to the visiting children from other nearby streets.
While we were all living in our imaginary 18th Century world, there came a shout from Steve’s mother, Mrs McColl. Suddenly I found myself rushing along with James, Brian and Steve into his front living room, where we were seated by Mrs McColl in orderly fashion in front of their television. With great excitement and awe we sat completely still in silence and watched the Sixteen Hawker Hunters of the Black Arrows Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team performing at the 1960 Farnborough Air Show.
I’d also have been just as happy just watching the test card, as we didn’t get a television in our house until eight years later when colour television arrived, and all the great big X and H aerials came down off the chimneys to be replaced by the far smaller horizontal types. There was also another bonus though, Mrs McColl gave us cups of tea and got the biscuit tin out.
On another occasion my younger brother Greg who was about six years old at the time, was busy pushing an empty 50 gallon oil drum along the path outside the Barron’s, as you may know these drums have a tendency to unexpectedly stop when rolling and spin ninety degrees either way, and this happened, as Greg was catching up with it, but before he got to it, the drum just had enough energy to roll to the right and over the bottom of the three strands of wire that formed the fence, it then took on a more rapid pace across the steepening slope of their garden and soon crashed against the wall of the house thirty feet away. It’s not remembered exactly what Mrs Barron said when she came rushing out to see what had happened but Greg rapidly lost all interest in oil drums.
The oil drum may well have belonged to our dad as he had a tenancy to fill containers with clay and leaving them soaking in preparation for making his sculptures and pots.
I know I watched how to make a musical steel band drum on some children’s program on the television once, and immediately set to, carrying out the instructions in our shed. First I had to chop two thirds of the 50 gallon drum off with a 4lb lump hammer and 4 inch wide chisel. It was only ten feet away from Mrs Rivett’s back door but the concrete block wall between our sheds cut out a little of the noise, then there was the hammering into the top with a centre punch, the curved patterns of differing sizes that give the drum its different notes, this took far longer, still no complaints about noise yet from anywhere.
So having bashed out the dish shapes in-between the dot punch marks, I had completed my Caribbean steel drum. Now all I had to do was hang it from three points of the roof with baler twine and start playing wonderful calypso rhythms. Well after about half an hour of what must have sounded like rocks in a tumble drier amplified 10 fold, patients must have finally snapped next door and there came a loud banging on our shed door, closely followed by Police Constable Varker, Mrs Rivett’s lodger! David, he shouted, and lots of other words I can’t quite remember. I too rapidly lost all interest in oil drums.
While at Bremilham Secondary Modern School in our first year, Clive Rogers and I started dating two girls from Luckington. We would go to the phone box in Pool Gastons Road each evening, with all our pennies, and call up the phone box in Luckington to talk with the girls. We often noticed the line was not a very good one and sometimes would hear other people on the same line too. It came to our attention when back in school the following day, in front of all the class, that Mrs Holroyd, our music teacher, who just happened to live opposite the phone box, seemed to have the ability to listen in on us.
One Saturday Clive and I caught the green 419 Bristol Omnibus to Luckington to visit the girls. We were only 11 years old, and we all decided to go for a walk around the village, where we walked past a group of new build houses, not yet finished and wide open to the public. In those quiet days and with no builders on site during the weekend, we just wandered in for some privacy from local curtain twitchers, Clive was chatting to Marilyn in the show-house’s living room and I was stood in the kitchen with Jane, when suddenly we heard the front door open and voices, Clive and Marilyn leaped into a cupboard, Jane and I did the same. The salesman opened the kitchen door and began showing around the couple giving his sales speech, Jane and I cowered in complete darkness in the cupboard under the stairs, the salesman finished explaining most of the kitchen and came to the cupboard, “And here we have the utility cupboard”, he then opened the door and to the astonishment of the prospective buyers, the cupboard came complete with two pre-teenage lovers!
My earliest memories started at the beginning of its construction. In the area beyond Corn Gastons and in-between Old Alexander Road, Park Road and Parklands, it was just green fields and allotments.
Old Alexander Road only ran from Park Road before turning left and becoming Alexander Road. A gravel track had been cut beyond this joining of the two roads, outside Wendy Mitchell’s house at number 1 Alexander Road, and ran straight ahead for a hundred yards. Along this track my father used to walk us as children to the big hole in the ground at the end of the track on its right, which they had just begun to dig.
His reason was there was very good blue-grey clay coming out and Colin thought it would be ideal for his pottery and sculptures he was making in his studio, rented from Dr Pym, in one of the out buildings to Tower House at the end of Oxford Street.
Colin also dabbled in chiselling large lumps of stone. So many a trip was made to the swimming pool hole and the council lay-by on the Brokenborough Road, with one child in the pram and two more at hand, Colin would load a large piece of stone under the pram into its shopping rack or large lump of clay, depending where he was. That’s how I learned they were going to construct a swimming pool and damming up the river at Backbridge would no longer be necessary.
When the swimming pool eventually opened for customers, my father Colin was one of the first in with all his children and we would spend nearly every day there all day long whilst he taught us to swim.
The best thing in the world about Malmesbury Open Air Swimming Pool was it was open from about 10 in the morning to 8 at night throughout the season. So where ever you were on any day, if you were with friends and the sun was shining and you were wondering what to do, at a moments notice you could all just go along to the pool, buy a ticket and stay in for the whole day if you pleased. There were many a day we actually did stay all day and came back completely wrinkled having been soaking all day. The only times I think you may not have got in were, possible a Monday evening 6-8 and a Sunday morning 10-12, when it was for swimming club only.
Otherwise adults and children would arrive from all the surrounding villages and the town at any time they chose. There were actually a few days during heat waves when they couldn’t let any more people in because it was so packed out. I probably spent the majority of my school summer holidays down at the pool for 10 years, and for the ten years following was a frequent visitor with other courting couples.
If you wanted to go swimming today at the drop of a hat, you’d probably need a team of researchers to let you know if it was possible anywhere, without first having to be a member or pre-booking a slot if it happened to be the right day of the week or if any lanes were being used for the general public. Then you would be under a roof and the whole point of the nice sunny day outside would be completely lost.
Only one regret about our brilliant swimming pool and that was chipping off the corner of my front top tooth by hitting the bottom of the three foot area. It was my own fault. We used to play all sorts of games in the water and one obvious one was ducking each other. I had a girlfriend at the time called Linda from Minety Lower Moor and she had a friend also called Linda Smith from Brinkworth. Her friend was in the middle of the three foot, and I has swum under the water from half way down the pool to come up behind her, I then ducked her and dived back under to swim away so as she wouldn’t know who it was when she emerged. In the excitement I struck the bottom. I borrowed someone’s face mask, dived back in a found my piece of tooth and still have it to this day. The dentist couldn’t glue it back on though!
Colin used to take my brother Greg and I to the Abbey where he’d just say to someone, “Al-right to go up top”, and up the steps in the west end we’d go until we were stood right on the top looking out over the countryside surrounding Malmesbury. We even took up a telescope, binoculars and camera. We went up on several occasions, anyone could. Today you’d probably have to seek permission a year in advance, have a 50 page health and safety assessment, your own personal insurance policy for the day, written permission in triplicate from the Bishop of Antarctica and a pass certificate of training for climbing tall buildings, just to be considered.
When I was about 10 years old I had already found my way to the top of Swindon’s tallest building at the time, apart from Old Town of course, where I was busy photographing the town laid out below, from the top office window of the new, yet unoccupied office building above the roof top car park of the Bon Marché building in the newly constructed Parade Shopping Centre. The security guard was a little surprised to find me there but all was okay when I showed him where the unlocked door was that I had entered the building from.
One early morning during severe winter gales, Mr Mills was shaken out of his bed by the noise of the chimney stack crashing through his roof. No one was hurt but many tiles were smashed and bricks left strewn in the loft with holes in the ceiling. It took council workmen a few weeks to rebuild the chimney and repair the roof and the house. After this in the following summer months, just to be on the safe side, they returned again and set to re-building all the chimneys in the street one by one. All TV Ariel’s were removed and replaced with new fittings paid for by the council who at the time still owned all the houses in the street.
It was around this time roughly that the council also built the first lay-by running about a third the length of the road, the width of the front of just three houses, so only suitable for about six cars. Jock Mearns from Athelstan Road did most of the work. It was maybe 10 years later that Kenny Mitchell, working for Prangle and Carey, came and extended the lay-by another three house lengths. Kenny was originally a Milk Man for Davies’ Dairy in Gastons Road before they closed due to retirement.
The Great Storm of 1987 also saw two casualties in the street, these being two trees out of six that were central to the grass verge running along the ‘odd number’ Hobbes Close at the top. The tree which stood at the top of number 20, I claimed its trunk and boughs in one piece, moving it into the garden of number 20 and turning it into a large dinosaur climbing frame for my children, who were now lived there.
My first musical memories were heard through the wall of the sitting room, they were the sound of Marilyn Blanchard next door at number 15, who at the age of 11 had been given her first piano, she later joined the Malmesbury Town Band, where I think she played trumpet. She soon became a very good player of both instruments.
Soon afterwards John Mills, known to everyone as Gus, who was the same age as Marilyn, also joined the town band where he played Euphonium, he too was also a talented musician, and he went on to join the Royal Marine Band after leaving school. They also both played in the school orchestra along with Marilyn’s younger sister Janice Blanchard who played cornet, she also became a very good player with the town band. I think the town band was also a full marching band as well at the time.
Not to be left out John Mills’ dad decide he would join in and play tuba for the town band, this meant as with the others, a lot of time practising. However, the tuba is not so great an instrument, to be heard on its own, going over and over the same short pieces, as Norman Clarke next door to Jim Mills, soon found out. So he bought himself some base drums which he would play when ever he heard Jim.
I’m not sure if Tony Rickatson, living opposite Norman, was influenced by this, but by 1973, Tony had his own full drum kit and could be heard well down the street playing over and over, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” by Tony Orlando and Dawn, a very popular group in the charts at the time.
Sadly no one else in the street went on to become a famous pop musician, although Michael Bentley was often heard through the open bathroom window, singing out aloud to Genesis, who at the time were selling England by the pound.
Not to be forgotten of course, is the radio, the most prominent radio on our street being Mrs Rivett’s, Now Joan Rivett was a great fan of Jimmy Young and Radio Two and her kitchen looked out onto the street, and the area where most of us played, so all through any fine weather her windows were wide open and I heard all the music of the time, one song I remember particularly in 1962 was called “James (Hold The Ladder Steady)” by Sue Thompson. Jim Reeves was probably one of Joan’s most favourites.
Before Hobbes Close was built, the whole area was just rough pasture on a sloping field below Burnham House. It was probably chosen for a housing site during the war years to accommodate the large influx of workers, down at the EKCO factory on the other side of town. Maybe as early as 1949 work commenced with the marking-out of plots and the digging of their foundations. Ken Haylock from the neighbouring street of Athelstan Road, worked for Hider a local builder based in Lower High Street. Ken says, he and the lads dug out all the footings by hand, as this was long before modern mechanical diggers were abundant in this country.
It is also said that when marking out the estate, several errors in location were made, but by the time the mistakes were realised, the foundations had already been dug, so it was decided to just carry on as it would have taken far to long to dig all the footings yet again by hand.
and many more photographs to be added too, or maybe I’ll just trash the lot – Only Joking!