Ten Bob Notes
The first person that I remember to have a car down our street was Cyril Cartmell, then I remember it was Mr Jowett an art teacher at Bremilham, followed by Mr Brastock the landlord of the Rose and Crown at Brokenborough, or it could have been his brother. I think they all had black cars, but there again I don’t think coloured paint had been invented that far back. Mr Brastock’s car was the fastest though, well it certainly flew into the square the way he drove it and I think it had suicide doors too, to go with his driving style of course. I always remember the way his tyres threw up grit as he turned very tightly in the square, and only managed to find the foot brake after he had stopped. He lived along the end at number 32 so if he had failed to make the turn, he’d have probably rolled it, over and over, all the way to his garden, by the time he’d have realized what had happened.
Many people pass through Hobbes Close, either walking their dogs, going to nearby shops, out on business or just out for a random walk. One day I was outside my house on the verge opposite, busily chopping up my car. I know it’s not something you see often but most of the cars I’ve had, I have been their last owner, and this one had also seen better days, ever since I tried driving it through a ford in full flood. There is a lot of damage that can be done to a hot vehicle on suddenly entering cold water.
So there I was with the usual tools laying around me, nail bar, lump hammer, hack saw, chisels and many spanners, and was busy taking out the windscreen when, the voice of a complete stranger came from behind to enquire, if I was scrapping the vehicle. I turned around a saw a young lad, pile of books in arm, making his way home from school to his house in the next street, although I didn’t know he lived there at the time, having never seen him before.
The lad was very friendly and had a big smile and asked why I was chopping up a perfectly good car, so I explained how I had wrecked it, and on hearing my story, he then said to me, that he’d always wanted to scrape a big gash down the side of a car with a screw driver. Now’s your chance, go ahead be my guest, to which, with great delight and enjoyment, he got his wish, and went through all the layers of paint right down to the bare steel.
That was the first day of a friendship lasting to this day. It wasn’t long afterwards that we spent many a year travelling around the area on motorcycles together, introducing each other to many of our earlier friends. I even sat by him on many occasions whilst he learnt to drive and was his qualified driver to and from his test, which he passed. I even accompanied him to several Police Stations, but we were not in any trouble, as Stephen Patrick had now become a Police Constable with the Thames Valley Police.
I think the Finney’s may have moved into number 26 after the Oliver’s left. Mr Oliver may have worked at EKCO but that’s just a guess as he knew my dad well and he too had worked there in the drawing office. Mr Finney worked for the Southern Electricity Board and I think he was a linesman. His children were Kenneth, Alan, Alistair, Christine and Elspeth. This is a long time ago but I’m sure they all had really strong Scottish accents, so I’m assuming they had moved directly down here from Scotland.
Kenneth I think was at the Grammar School along with Christine while Alan and Alistair were at Bremilham. Alan was soon old enough to have a motor cycle. I think before he actually got his own, he used to ride my father’s BSA 250. Colin had purchased this pale green bike which had a C15 motor in a Bantam frame, so I’m told.
Colin would see Alan passing by the house and say, hoy Alan would you like to take my bike for a spin, I think he thought Alan would blow out the cobwebs or something as Colin only rode it slowly, although he had been a despatch rider out in Persia during WWII.
Colin used to travel up to Swindon and back on it each day to work at Plessey’s on the Cheney Manor Industrial Estate. He wore ex-government hob nailed army boots, army spats from his time in the Territorial Army and he wore a fertiliser bag on top, yes that’s right a big blue plastic bag from a farm used for fertiliser packaging. He had cut three holes in one end and the other end was already open. He’d wear this under a trench coat, he said it kept the wind out.
Colin was servicing his motorcycle one day, not the worlds greatest mechanic, and he dropped a bolt which bounced and went into the open oil filler cap on the gear box. He tried to retrieve it with a piece of wire, then tried a magnet on a piece of string, finally giving up, he abandoned the bike and took to using the bus.
This is when Alan came along and offered to buy it from Colin. I think he had it repaired within the hour. A few months later June Saunders was stood in the square talking with another woman, when Alan came into the street on the BSA, flew down the road, braked and nothing happened, so he quickly dropped the bike, leaping off to see it flying down the road on its side, where it slid in a cloud of sparks and came to a standstill a couple of inches from Mrs Saunders who was frozen to the spot in horror.
Elspeth was only 2 when she came to the street but having walked with other children across the other side of town to the St Aldhelm’s Mead recreation ground, with its swings, roundabout, slide and rocking horse, she decide one day when she was still only 3 years old, to go off on her own to the Rec, as she like the swings. On another occasion a neighbour passing going down the steps next to Elspeth’s house, heard a knocking on the window, looking up they saw Elspeth aged 3 waving back with a big smile. She was stood up on the window sill in the upstairs window. Only it wasn’t the bedroom window but the window on the side of the house above the staircase, so behind her was a 10 foot drop down 14 wooden stairs.
My first introduction to trolleys was probably watching Brian Rivett building one. Naturally having watched it flying down our hill I wanted one too. I think the first one I had was built by Colin and having seen how it was done I soon took to building my own.
Our road is about 100 yards long and at the end it enters St Aldhelm Road, known simply as the hill. Here we had a run of about 100 yards dropping down about 10 feet, enough to be doing about 25-30 mph at the bottom.
Turning left out of the top half of Hobbes Close and going up to the entrance of Athelstan Road would be the starting point for a fast run. When drawing near the lower half of Hobbes Close, we would have already crossed from the left side at the top to the right side at the bottom, sweeping across the entrance to lower even number Hobbes Close and shooting onto The Green which had no kerb.
On The Green, depending on how long the grass was, determined how quickly you were brought to a sand still. When the council had cut the grass, it was possible to fly right across The Green and drop off the bank on its far side adjacent to Park Road and end up in Mr Lockyer’s gateway across the main road.
In those days there was very little traffic at all, today you would almost certainly end up dead under a moving car. If you were brave enough to attempt the bend into lower Hobbes Close, you could roll right along to number 12 where the road bends to the right and starts to rise.
It was quite dangerous to attempt the curve in a trolley built with ordinary pram axles at any speed, as you were likely to turn over and end up sliding across the gravel upon the road, which was quite deep and loose. Stinging nettle injuries of The Green’s bank were preferred to the gravel rash injuries that could be sustained on the fast curve bend, in an attempt to reach as far as Andrew Douglas’ house at number 18.
Trolleys evolved very quickly due to their rapid destruction on the slope. We soon progressed from the round steel pram axles, attached to 2×2 timbers with 3 inch nails bent over in alternate directions every inch along their length, to drilled square axles and using small bolts.
I soon found that if I took a pair of pram axles down to Ratcliffe’s agricultural engineering at the end of Foundry Road two streets away, they would willingly cut and weld them together to make a wide wheel base axle for a very small fee of maybe 2 bob, or a Florin, or 24 old pennies. They would also improve the design by adding plates so as the axle could be bolted to the timbers instead of using nails.
Steering was always by a combination of feet on the front axles and rope attached near each wheel at the front and held in the hands, using both together gave a steady control over the speed wobbles and the rough ride across The Green.
The basic trolley had just two axles and four wheels but we did build some multi wheeled versions for carrying up to four people at once, rather than just the solo versions, as not everyone had the skills or materials to make a trolley, so instead they rode the monster trolleys like four man bob-sleighs.
I don’t remember anyone ever being in collision with any motor vehicles or pedestrians or getting any serious injuries from tumbling off onto the gravel areas, apart from my sister who suffered quite a nasty gravel rash injury to the face taking many weeks to recover, having fallen off her bicycle on the gravel curve at speed.
Brian was a true country lad and new all there was to know for someone who didn’t actually live on a farm. He would take me out very early in the mornings to the only farm actually within Malmesbury. It was Mr Webb’s Farm at the foot of the Worthies next to the old railway station in what is now Reeds Farm for that is what it was.
We were off to check Brian’s snares. Brian had the permission of Mr Webb to wander all the fields and set snares in the hedgerows for rabbits. I was only about six years old at the time and so it was a huge adventure to be walking, what I thought was a great distance out into the wilds.
The best days were when Brian would take several of us to his other Farm up at Filands, which in those days was still a twisting, undulating, narrow country road. It’s here the contrast between our world of town and that of a farm in the country, was at its greatest. What stuck in the mind were all the smells, hay, straw, cow dung, chickens, diesel for the tractors and many others, all unique from our usual every day life, only to be experienced at this young age on a day out with Brian.
We’d often walk the railway line collecting blackberries, but a trip to Filands would have been twice the distance. Going up Tetbury Hill, it was narrower, fewer houses, no Dyson’s, no new Grammar School at the top and no large new road junction, we were out in the wilds of country with its many Dutch Elms as soon as we neared the top of Tetbury Hill. There was no pavement along Filands, only large hedge rows and deep ditches.
Brian was the one who taught every one in our street that there was far more to this world than our own back yards and the rough grit of the narrow road outside our houses. Brian was a true Explorer.
and many more photographs to be added too, or maybe I’ll just trash the lot – Only Joking!