Bremilham Terrace

The Family
by Delia Bailey

I have so many memories from my childhood that I thought I would put some of them down on paper.

My parents were Dennis Herbert Poole, born 6th May 1909 in London and died 25th June 1983 at Crawley Sussex, and Grace Hester Poole née Wheal, born 17th April 1908 and died 19th May 1984 at Crawley Sussex.

There is a mystery as to my mother’s name. She was registered at birth as Grace Esther Wheal, but on the marriage certificate she is known as Grace Hester Wheal.

On searching the family history I have come across a change of surname as well. I have managed to trace the family history back to 1675 and at that time they were known as Whale, but for some reason that I am unable to find out why, by the time my grandfather was born, Thomas Wheal and registered, the name had changed to Wheal.

The only explanation I can come up with is the way the name Whale was spoken. Due to the local dialect, as well as the illiteracy of the time, I think Whale became Wheal.

My eldest brother was called Anthony Brian Philip, known as Tony, and he was born on 4th November 1933 and died 28th January 2003, my second eldest brother was called David Geoffrey, Geoff for short and he was born on 11th July 1936 and died June 1995. My younger brother was called Christopher Quentin, Chris for short and he was born on 25th December 1946. I came halfway between Geoff and Chris being born on 11th November 1943.

Being the only daughter with three brothers’ I was expected to help my mother with her housework and shopping, especially at weekends.

Tony was 10 years older than me, and Geoff was 7 years older. Chris was 3 years younger than me. Mathematically it worked out that there were 3 years between Tony and Geoff, and 3 years between Chris and myself. 10 years between Tony and myself, and 10 years between Geoff and Chris.

I was named Delia Rosemary, my mother said she had chosen a name that couldn’t be shortened as had happened with my other two elder brothers, but she forgot that Delia could be shortened to Dee.

I was born at Malmesbury Maternity Hospital, and according to my mother’s sister, Aunty Mary, I was so small at birth that the babies clothes they had made for me to wear were much too large, so Aunty Mary went to a local shop that sold wool where there was a doll in the window with clothes. Aunty Mary purchased these dolls clothes so as I at least had some clothes that fitted me.

I gather, from what I have been told, that I was very small at birth, only around 2 to 3 lbs in weight, and in view of this I wonder if I was premature. I do remember being told, I am not sure who told me, it was either my mother or my Aunt Mary, that I was born during an air raid, but as I have been unable to get any medical records from this time, I cannot confirm my suspicions.

I can also recall, again it was either my mother or my aunt who told me, that as my mother was unable to care for me herself, I had trouble taking the milk that was fed to me by bottle so I was given chocolate to suck and this gave me some nourishment. As sweets were extremely rare, being on rations, I don’t know if this was prescribed medically for me. I do know it wasn’t milk chocolate as we know it today but plain chocolate and even to this day I much prefer plain chocolates.

When I was born we were living at 46 Kings Walk but we moved into number 3 Bremilham Terrace sometime during 1946 and my youngest brother Christopher was born not long after we had moved to Bremilham.

This property was at one time the old workhouse for Malmesbury, but had been turned into houses just after the Second World War around 1945 to 1946.

We lived at Bremilham Terrace right up until the early sixties when my father’s work took him to Essex and my parents moved to Southend-on-Sea.

When my parents moved sometime during 1961 I went to live with my mother’s sister Aunty Mary because at this time I was attending Swindon Technical College doing a 2-year full time secretarial course and they didn’t want to disturb my education. Also at this time I had started courting my husband to be.

Wheal Grandparents

My mothers father was Thomas Wheal and he was born in a small Wiltshire village called Hilmarton on 16th December 1867, but unfortunately he died before I was born in 1937, he was only 69 and I gather he had been in ill health for some time. He was a carpenter on the Dauntsey Estate.

My mother’s mother name was Charlotte Louisa Sargent. She originally came from Helstead in Essex and when they converted the old mill at Malmesbury into a lace-making factory, she was brought in to help train the local girls in the art of lace-making. Charlotte Louisa was born on 11th December 1871 and died on 13th January 1960. I understand from Brenda, my sister-in-law who has done a great deal in tracing the family history, that Charlotte Louisa was an illegitimate child.

Thomas and Charlotte were married in Malmesbury Abbey, that being the parish church, on 22nd June 1894. I have just inherited a beautiful twelve-piece bone china tea service that was given to them as a wedding present.

Grandfather Thomas and Grandmother Charlotte had 4 children.

A son called Edward Frederick who was born in 1897 but died aged 6 in 1903.

My Aunty Mary came next, she was named Mary Louisa and she was born 22nd April 1898 and died at Prittlewell, Southend-on-Sea in 1984. Aunty Mary had moved to Prittlewell to be near my mother when she had moved with my father to Prittlewell in 1961.

Grandfather Thomas and Grandmother Charlotte then had another daughter called Edith who was born in 1900 but died in 1913; we can find no more information about Edith.

A second son Alfred Edward was born 20th June 1904 and died in 1972. Uncle Alf as we knew him was married to Christian Elizabeth Painter who was born on 25th December 1910. They were married on 21st May 1934 at Portskewett, Monmouthshire.

Uncle Alf and Aunty Cis had 10 Children;

  1. Keith Edward – born 28th May 1935
  2. Dorothy
  3. Jennifer
  4. Mary Elizabeth – Betty
  5. Beryl
  6. Robin & Raymond (Twins)
  7. Josephine Grace
  8. Barbara
  9. Gwendoline Joy

My mother was the last child to be born to Grandfather Thomas & Grandmother Charlotte and she was Grace Esther. She was born on the 17th April 1908 at Ingram Street, Malmesbury, and died on the 19th May 1984 at Crawley in Sussex, which was where my parents had settled in their later years again due to my father’s work.

My mother married my father in Malmesbury Abbey on the 4th February 1933.

As this wedding was during the cold February weather, my mother’s bridesmaids and maid of honour wore red velvet dresses. My mother also carried a muff in red velvet that helped to keep her hands warm, instead of the usual flowers.

The Early Years

Bremilham Terrace was a short distance from the centre of Malmesbury, approximately a mile and a half, and situated on the Bristol Road. We didn’t have cars in those days to travel into town like you do today, to do the shopping, so you used what is known as Shanks’s Pony, i.e. you had to walk everywhere.

On a Saturday morning I must have been about 10 or 11 years old at the time, it was my job to take my mother’s weekly meat order to the Butcher’s as well as the weekly order for groceries to the Grocers. I also had to pay the Butcher and the Grocer for the previous weeks order. There could also have been other shopping that needed doing, such as buying stationery, or a cotton reel for sewing etc.

The Butcher’s shop was situated in what is known as The Triangle at Malmesbury and after giving the Butcher the new order and paying for the last one I then walked on to the Grocer’s shop, that was situated around the old medieval Market Cross in the town, and repeated the same as I had done at the Butcher’s, that is to pay for previous weeks groceries and hand over the list for the coming week.

I can remember on one occasion when I got to the Grocer’s shop this particular Saturday although I still had the new list of groceries my mother wanted, I had lost the big old white £5 note, which was the legal tender in those days, with which I was to pay the Grocer for the previous weeks grocery bill.

I was so upset over this and in tears that I ran to my mother’s sister Aunty Mary, who lived not far from the Grocer’s at no 67 High Street, to tell her what had happened. Aunty Mary in her usual calm way sat me down and questioned me as to what had happened and when I felt better she took me back to the Grocers and paid him what was owed then she took me home. Aunty Mary explained to my mother that I was really too young to have the responsibility of paying these tradesmen and after that day all I had to do was take the new orders into the shops.

After I got home from walking to the shops and walking home again I had to help my mother with changing the bedding on all the beds, this was done weekly, and giving the house a good clean in readiness for the weekend. We also waited for the Butcher’s and Grocer’s boys to deliver the orders on their delivery bikes, that I had taken in.

Of course the Butcher only delivered the meat that was required for that weekend but the groceries was a much larger order.

I can remember standing and watching the Grocer measuring out, the sugar and tea from the large crates and the flour from the large canvas sacks, the required amounts my mother had ordered and packaging it in the appropriate coloured bags that he used to denote the different ingredients.

Sugar was always weighed and packed in a blue bag. I am unable to remember the colour of the other bags used; just they were different colours for different products. Bacon was always cut from a large joint on the hand-slicing machine, and depending on your choice of size, it was cut either very thin or much thicker.

Biscuits, oh lovely biscuits, came in large metal containers with a glass lid that lifted up so as you could see the different types of biscuits inside, you made your choice from these tins, the tins were placed all along the front of the counter. If you had broken biscuits, they were, of course, much cheaper than whole ones, and you could also have a selection of different biscuits, if you were very lucky occasionally you would get a whole biscuit included.

Of course at this time many foods were still on rations and you had a ration book in which the grocer, or whatever tradesman you went to, cancelled the appropriate coupon that allowed you to purchase the allotted amount of the item you wanted.

There was always a lovely smell from the old-fashioned grocery shop, because as well as all the usual things you could buy they also used to grind different types of coffee beans. As we didn’t own a percolator, which used the fresh ground coffee, my mother always bought a bottle of Camp Coffee, in those days you didn’t have the choices you get today with instant coffee etc.

On Sundays, at home, we always had a large roast joint of meat. This could be Beef, Lamb or Pork depending on what my mother had ordered and I suppose what my father would have liked. This joint of meat was always large enough so as my father could have cold slices made into a sandwich with pickle for his supper.

Mondays being washing day we always had again cold sliced meat with potatoes and vegetables and providing there was enough left over, the rest of the meat from the joint was minced up to provide either shepherd’s or cottage pie on the Tuesday.

Wednesday’s, Thursday’s and Friday’s meat would be, could be a choice of either chops, liver, or even Steak & Kidney Pie or Steak & Kidney Suet Pudding. Saturday’s meals were always quick and easy and usually Fish and Chips.

Of course we also always had a pudding. This could be a lovely creamy milk rice pudding, or creamy macaroni, a jam rolly polly or even a treacle tart, and if my mother had the time it could also have been a jam or treacle suet pudding. In the summer months my mother would also make fruit tarts from the fresh fruit my father had grown in his garden.

Outside the front of our house was a small garden that ran right up to the edge of the property, and in this garden, apart from flowers and a lawn there were 2 trees. One of these trees was an apple tree and the other was a pear tree. The apples were delicious to eat but the pears were of the conference variety and these had to be stored to soften them up before you could eat them.

I learnt to do my cooking by watching and helping my mother as well as Aunty Mary so by the time I was taking domestic science, as it was then known, at school I had a good grasp of cooking skills, and could cook a basic meal.

I have tried to pass my cooking skills, although only very plain and basic meals, on to my two daughters and I have never heard a word of complaint from either of their husbands as to their cooking skills.

It was during this early period of my life that my mother had a nasty accident.

She was taking my younger brother shopping, it was a cold bright day, although there had been a frost the night before, as my mother went down the steep entrance to Bremilham Terrace, she either tripped or slipped on the frosty surface, and in consequence she broke the bones in her left elbow. This was in the 1950’s, when plastic surgery was in its infancy, and my mother was given a plastic elbow. From that time onwards she was unable to do any heavy lifting or carrying. This put a lot of pressure on my father as it meant he had to help my mother with a lot of the heavy housework, such as turning the mattresses on the beds on a regular basis.

Of course, this in turn also meant I had to help a lot more with the housework than I had done up to then.

Washing Day

Monday’s was always washing day with the large copper boiler, situated in the toilet come bathroom that was situated just inside the back door, being used to boil up all the whites prior to them having to be dunked in a solution of ‘blue bag’ which was a form of bleach that enhanced the whiteness.

During school time it was my father’s job when he came home from work at lunch time, to help my mother by putting the washing through the mangle. This was set up just outside our front door, but during school holiday times it was my job to help my mother with the washing and see to the mangle.

Washing at that time was a lot harder than it is today because you didn’t have washing machines to make it easier or the range of washing powders, tablets and clothes softeners that you have today.

I remember my mother used a very large block of green Fairy soap for washing the clothes with, but the woollens were always washed in Lux Flakes, as this was a softer form of soap. As I said the large white items such as sheets, pillowcase and tablecloths were washed and boiled in the copper boiler prior to being dunked with the ‘blue bag’.

Also any clothes and tablecloths that required it, would after being washed and rinsed, be dunked into a bowl of starch to make them nice and crisp.

After all this washing and rinsing etc. it all had to go through the mangle to get the excess water out, that is apart from the woollens and these were rung out by hand.

When we had finished all the washing, dunking, starching and rinsing it was time to put the washing on the lines to dry. As everybody did their washing on a Monday all along the terrace you would see lines and lines of washing blowing in the fresh air outside the front and back of all the houses.

Of course if it was a wet day this made no difference to getting the washing done, the only difference being that the wet washing was hung up over a long large hanging dryer that was hung from the ceiling in the kitchen, or the smaller items were put on a cloths horse around the fire. The house on these days always used to smell of dampness but a lovely cleanliness as well all at the same time.

Sundays

As I was brought up in the Church of England faith, on Sundays I would sometime attend church in Malmesbury Abbey, this was the parish church, also attending Sunday school in the afternoons.

I also used to love to wander round the graves situated in front of the Abbey. These graves went back many years prior to the large cemetery on the edge of the town being built. A lot of the graves here were very large and ornate, although there was a very plain one commemorating a child who was killed by a lion from a circus that had come to visit Malmesbury.

When I was around 11 or 12 I took lessons at the abbey so as I could be confirmed. You all had to learn the Catechism and the Lord’s Prayer by heart.

On my confirmation day I was dressed all in white, with a veil and white shoes, and I was given my own prayer book that I still have. I can remember there were quite a few of us, both girls and boys taking confirmation on this day; the Bishop of Bristol under whose Diocese we came was conducting the service.

See photograph below taken by my father of me in my confirmation dress, veil, gloves and with ivory covered Bible borrowed from my mother.

Missing Photo

Sundays was also a day of rest, apart from cooking the large roast dinner, we tried to all sit down to eat, around 1 p.m., we didn’t do much else unless we went for a walk if the weather was nice or my younger brother Chris and I would go out in the afternoon to play with our friends so as to give our parents some peace and quiet.

I can remember during the summer months riding a very old ladies bicycle, this had a curved frame so as a lady was able to climb on to the bike without having to put her leg over the top crossbar. It must have been over twenty years old but it gave me hours of pleasure.

We went as a group cycling to a small hamlet called Foxley where there was a small shop that sold bottles of pop and crisps. We always stopped at this shop to get a bottle of pop and a packet of crisp before cycling home again.

If the weather was raining this didn’t always stop us from going out to play as we used to go other peoples houses or a friend would come to ours.

On Sunday evenings my mother’s sister, Aunty Mary would call around to see us after she had been to Chapel. She belonged to the Baptist Church and they were very strict as to what could be done on a Sunday.

My parents were not always too pleased to see her, especially after we had the television moved to the kitchen, and were sat watching Sunday Night at the London Palladium which used to be on at that time of a Sunday Evening. Aunty Mary would take herself into our best living room and sit there all by herself until one of us went in to speak to her.

Uncle Ron

My father’s brother, Uncle Ron owned/ran an electrical shop that was situated on the right hand side towards the top as you went up the High Street.

This shop did carried repairs to electrical items such as Radio’s, Record Player’s etc. They also sold electrical items such as Kettles, Radiograms, and many other items.

You could also purchase music and old 12″ records of music. Around the 1950’s when pop music started to become more popular, the small 45 rpm size records began to appear, and they also stocked the most popular records of the day.

One of my fondest memories is for one of my birthdays, Uncle Ron said I could choose any 12″ records I wanted. Cliff Richard was just starting out and I can remember one of the records I chose was his song called ‘Living Doll’.

Uncle Ron was also one of the first in Malmesbury to have a television set, which he had made himself.

Uncle Ron was a bachelor and never married living with my father’s parents at 121 High Street, Malmesbury, even after these parents had died.

Of course, I wasn’t born until 1943, which was during the war, but can remember being told that Uncle Ron had built his television before the war started, and as history tells us television transmissions were stopped during the war years so never used during this period.

After the war when they started transmitting again, of course, Uncle Ron had his television all ready to receive transmissions again.

This first television had a small screen of only 6″ square and was in a beautiful walnut cabinet. Again the picture quality wasn’t very good but I can remember having to sit almost on top of the cabinet to see the flickering picture.

Uncle Ron kept this television for many years, refusing to get a new one as he said it was good enough for him.

The Coronation

In 1953 when Queen Elizabeth was crowned at her coronation on 2nd June 1953, Uncle Ron had obtained for us a modern 12″ screen television from his shop, of course it was only black & white, colour didn’t start until the mid 1960’s.

We were the only ones along the Terrace who had a television set, and I can remember our best front room being full of neighbours all sat around our television watching this coronation.

The television at this time was set up in what was known as our best living room, that was used only on special occasions, and it had a large H shaped aerial attached to the chimney stack.

As this ceremony took many hours I can remember making lots of tea and being sent to the nearest local shop, when they had an ‘interlude’ to get everybody ice creams or ice-lollies just as if we were at the cinema.

My mother had my paternal grandmother make me a special dress. This grandmother had trained as a seamstress in her youth, and after she was first married moved to London to work as a seamstress at the Court of St James. The clothes for all the Royal family were made at St. James’s.

The material used for this dress had a white background with deep border showing the coronation with its glass coach and horses as well as pages etc. printed all around the edge.

This was the first of many television sets we had over the years.

By the time that Independent television started around 1955 the television had been moved from the front best living room to the large kitchen room. That was situated just across the hall from the living room.

This room was large and cosy and big enough to have a large table and chairs that could seat all the family, as well as a large Welsh style dresser on which we kept all our crockery.

A lovely large fireplace beside which my parents sat in Windsor rocking chairs on either side, there was a home made rug in front of the fire made from old cut up pieces of material and woven onto a piece of old sacking, there was a sideboard along one wall on which the television was placed.

Of course that meant we could now watch television of an evening. Television at this time wasn’t on for as many hours as it is today, it didn’t start until around 5.30 p.m. of an evening when it broadcast the news and finished around 10.30 p.m. at night when the National Anthem was played to close the station down.

Of course, we children, that is my younger brother and I were not allowed to watch television as much as children do today and definitely not after about 7.30 to 8 p.m. of an evening, as this was the time we had to be in bed.

On a Friday and Saturday evening, Chris and I were allowed to stay up to around 9 p.m., depending on what television show was being shown, as we didn’t have to get up early in time for school the next day.

Country Walks

As a young girl I can remember going for long walks with my parents around the beautiful countryside in North Wiltshire in which Malmesbury is situated.

I can remember picking primroses and cowslips as well as blue bells, to make into small bunches, from the hedgerows to take home to put in a vase in memory of our walks during the springtime. Blue bells didn’t last very long and by the time you got them home they were often drooping for lack of moisture.

Unfortunately children are not allowed to pick flowers from the hedgerows any more because these flowers are very scarce to find and protected by law, but I feel they miss the opportunity of learning about the different aspects of the countryside, especially those who live in large towns.

There were also many other well-known wild flowers that grew in the hedgerows that I used to know the names off, but although I can remember some of these names, such as Red Robin, Cow Parsley etc., I could not now always remember what they looked like.

I also used to be able to recognise different types of trees, such as Elm. Oak, Horse Chestnut, Silver Birch to name but a few, but again as with some of the wild flowers am unable to put a name to some of them. I can remember being allowed to pick hazelnuts from trees when they were ready to be picked and eaten.

On one of our walks, as we went towards Easton Grey, I can remember seeing a large fenced off enclosure with high watchtowers situated in a clearing in a wood, and was told this had been a prisoner of war camp during the Second World War. It was very eerie to see this derelict site and often wondered about the prisoners who had been held there.

Of course it wasn’t always spring or summertime we went on walks. We also went on walks in wintertime, especially on cold brisk days. If it had been snowing we had a great time throwing snowballs at each other, this kept us nice and warm. I have discovered an old photograph taken by my father on one of these walks in 1952. It shows my brother Geoff, my Mother, my younger brother Chris and myself having a lovely time on one of these walks. See below.

Delia Bailey Collection

Delia Bailey Collection

My Father

My father was a lovely man who I adored. He never lost his temper and loved my mother very much.

When I was a small child my father at that time used to smoke cigarettes, but gave them up sometime during the early 1950’s. Of course in those days nothing was said about smoking being bad for your health it was just something that people did.

I can remember that when he gave up smoking to compensate for the lack of a cigarette he started drinking cough linctus. In those days the base ingredient for cough linctus was alcohol so my father started to get addicted to drinking cough linctus. It took my mother quite some to break my father of this habit but she succeeded in the end and my father never smoked or drank cough linctus ever again.

I must have been only about 5 or 6 years old when I kept getting tonsillitis, my mother kept taking me to the doctors and eventually they decided to have my tonsils removed. When the doctor looked at my throat in readiness for booking me into the local hospital for the operation, he seemed to think my throat was too small, so it was decided that I would have my tonsils painted with a tarry substance that would stop the growth and cure the problem.

I can remember being sat on our wooden kitchen table with the light over my head and my father using a long thin paintbrush to paint my tonsils, he had such a steady hand that the doctor allowed my father to do this. I never suffered ever again with tonsil problems.

In our house at Bremilham Terrace we had a very large red bell just inside the front door, it was fitted just at the bottom of the stairs.

This bell was connected up to the local fire station because my father was a retained fireman, and this bell, when it rang, would notify my father a call out shout had been issued. You didn’t in those days have mobile telephones and we were never posh enough to have a telephone fitted in the house.

As my father was a retained fireman this meant that during the Second World War he was not liable for call up for service in one of the armed services because a fireman came under the category known as a reserved occupation.

I can remember many times when we had just sat down to our Sunday meal, the bell would go off and my father would have to either run or get his bicycle out of the shed and cycle the mile plus to the fire station, to get there in time to go out on the fire tender. He held a rank of Leading Fireman.

I can remember on one occasion he had got his bike out and was just starting to cycle to the Fire Station when the Fire Engine came speeding past where we lived, they had picked my father up on the way and threw his bike onto the back of the engine.

I can remember being taken down to the Fire Station when I was on my summer time school holiday. Apart from actually attending fires, the firemen also had to make so many attendance’s, at least once a week, when they did training and made sure the fire engine was in tip top condition.

I can remember seeing my father’s name above the clothes hook that held his helmet, and fire suit as well as the large Wellingtons placed underneath. My father’s helmet was White with him being a Leading Fireman.

I can also remember being allowed to sit in the driver’s seat of the fire engine and ringing the bell, this was done to make sure it was in perfect working order.

At that time, although the fire engine was completely enclosed, the bell was a large brass bell that was hung on a bracket on top of the driver’s cab, and you had a thick cable attached to the bell. This cable went right into the driver’s cab, and allowed the fireman sitting next to the driver to pull on the cable to make the bell ring, the noise of the bell notified people that the fire engine was on a call.

I can also remember on one occasion when he was called out, we didn’t see my father for nearly three days. They had been called out to a large Dutch barn on a farm, that was full of hay bales, that had caught fire and it took the firemen all that time to extinguish the fire and dampen it down enough to make it safe enough for them to leave.

Another time we were driving past an old thatch cottage and can remember my father saying that the week before they had been called out to this cottage because a chimney fire had caught the thatch alight, again he was away from home for over 48 hours.

My father never talked a great deal about his time fire fighting during the war although I can remember a couple of things he did say.

The first was when the bombing blitz was at its highest and Malmesbury’ fire engines had been sent to help with a blitz raid on Bristol. My father was up a long turntable ladder trying to put a fire out from over the roof of the buildings when a bomb exploded underneath him. By the time he had managed to get down to ground level he found a lot of his friends and comrades had been killed by the blast.

The other time mentioned, I am not sure whether it was my mother told me and it was confirmed by my father or if my father had told me himself, but this concerned a spitfire that had crashed in a small wood on the outskirts of the town. The plane had caught fire on crashing and by the time the fire brigade had got to the scene it was nothing but a charred wreck. What stuck in my memory is being told that the fire must have been so intense that there were hardly any remains of the pilot left to bury, so they loaded the coffin with stones to bring the weight up, and that is what is buried, more stones than body.

I think my father must have experienced some awful sites during his war years, but as with most people of that period they are very reluctant to speak about them.

When my parents moved to Southend-on-Sea with his job, my father had to give up being a fireman, and by this time he had been in the service for over thirty years, he was given a lamp with a red fire engine on the base.

Around this time my mother had also acquired a egg-timer which you wound up and set for the amount of time you needed, when this timer went off it sounded just like our old fire bell and I can remember my mother saying that my father was very often halfway out the front door before he realised it was only the timer going off.

When we had first moved to Bremilham Terrace my father worked at a garage next door to Bremilham, but not long after that he got a job at a company called Ekco.

Unfortunately he died of a heart attack brought on by prostate cancer in June 1984. He was such a lovely man who never uttered a cross word to anyone.

I have since discovered that just before I was born in the summer of 1943 my father saved a young child from drowning. The Royal Humane Society for saving a life awarded him a certificate, I still have that certificate.

The Tetbury Family

My mother also had a brother, apart from the sister I have already mentioned, called Alfred, or Uncle Alf as we knew him. He was married to a lovely lady called Aunty Cis.

Uncle Alf and Aunty Cis had a total of 10 children and we always went to visit them at least twice a year, once during the summer and again at Christmas time, but I can remember Christmases the most. It was always Boxing Day when we went and everybody had such a happy time.

Their kitchen was a large room at one side of the house that ran from the back of the house to the front, it contained an enormous long table where all the children sat around it with Aunty Cis at the one end and Uncle Alf at the other end for their meals.

I can remember us children playing charades or pass the parcel, or postman’s knock as well as hide and seek. In those years we didn’t have television to watch to keep us quiet, in fact Uncle Alf and Aunty Cis adored children and we were allowed to make as much noise as we wanted, within reason.

As Uncle Alf and Aunty Cis didn’t have a great deal of money to spend, their children didn’t get too many toys to play with and I was always being told how lucky I was because whenever I grew out of anything I always had new whereas, Beryl who was nearest to me in age, whenever she needed anything it was usually something handed down from one of her older sisters.

Uncle Alf and Aunty Cis loved each other greatly and both died within a couple of days of each other. They were so devoted that they couldn’t live without each other.

But as a family they have stuck together over all these years and I still go and visit them at least once each year, when Beryl holds a barbecue at her house in the summer and they have a big family get together at the village hall in Kemble just before Christmas.

Unfortunately at the beginning of December 2004 Josie, or Josephine to give her, her correct name, became the first of these siblings to die.

I know it hit them hard because as well as Josie dying, Dorothy the eldest girl has decided to go back and live in Australia so as to be near her daughter who was born out there. Dorothy went to Australia to become a matron of a hospital and married an Australian. Unfortunately the marriage didn’t last but Dorothy felt if she needed to keep in contact with her Daughter and see her grandchildren then she had to make the sacrifice and return to Australia.

I have quite a few photos of this family taken over the years, one in particular shows them sitting on a playground rocking horse with the youngest at the front to the eldest at the rear.

I also have some photographs taken of Beryl and I on a pleasure boat at Bourton-on-the-Water.

My eldest brother at this time was in the Royal Navy and had befriended a young South African sailor on secondment to the Royal Navy, unfortunately this young man had had to have a operation for Appendicitis and was on leave to help him recuperate so he came to stay with us. We had gone out for the day hence these photos.

Our summer visits always coincided with the annual Tetbury Fete that we attended with the whole family. As usual each year I went in fancy dress and was entered in the fancy dress competition that was relevant to what I was dressed as. It could have been a special class or just a class for my age group. Aunty Cis would also dress Beryl up as well in fancy dress and we were both entered at the same time.

Aunty Mary

I was always made to feel extra special by my mother’s sister, my Aunty Mary, and I always spent a lot of time with her. I am told this bond stemmed from the time of my birth. For some unknown reason my mother was unable to look after me herself, so Aunty Mary took over the care of me.

As Aunty Mary was a spinster, and had never married, she always insisted the man she was to marry was killed in the First World War, but I have heard since it was because this young man jilted her after they were engaged to be married.

Anyway because Aunty Mary was a spinster, she didn’t have much of a clue how to look after a new-born baby, especially one as small as I was and needing careful nursing. A washing up bowl was used to bath me in, but as I have survived to my present age with no ill effects I think Aunty Mary did quite a good job with me.

When my younger brother Chris was born, Aunty Mary couldn’t take to him at all, even going as far as to say to my mother, “what did she need to lumber herself with another child for”. By this time my mother had given birth to four children.

Aunty Mary had her own business, she was an upholstress and did soft furnishing for many of the well off in the Malmesbury area. As I grew older Aunty Mary offered to have me trained as an upholstress so as to be able to take over her business. At that time I thought it was more glamorous to become a secretary so declined. It is a decision I regret now.

I can remember her telling me that we were better off than some people, because during the war years when nearly all food was on rations, many of her clients would bring her fresh churned butter, eggs, bacon and occasionally a joint of meat, this was in exchange for Aunty Mary doing some small upholstery jobs that were required so as these clients could keep their upholstery in a reasonable state. At this time fabric to upholster furniture was very hard to get and was strictly on ration, so as with most things during the war, it was a case of make do and mend.

After the war when I was old enough to be taken out, I must have been around 8 or 9 years of age, Aunty Mary would take me with her when she visited these clients.

On one occasion I can remember being taken to this very large house on a private estate, and while Aunty Mary measured the pieces of furniture that required re-furnishing, I was given a drink of home made lemonade with cake and biscuits.

I discovered a few years later that this was the home of the very well known celebrity called Lady Docker. All I can remember is being sat in this luxurious room and I presume it was Lady Docker herself serving me with lemonade and eats. She was a lovely person and seemed like a film star to me.

Malmesbury is situated in an area of North Wiltshire and only 5 miles from the border with Gloucestershire. Tetbury being only about 5 miles away, and in this area were very many of the aristocratic estates.

The owners of Badminton House were regular clients of Aunty Mary, and I can remember Aunty Mary telling me they took her to Paris to choose the fabrics they required.

I can still remember the amount of fabric required in those days to make a set of loose covers for a three-piece suite. 10 yards per chair and 20 yards per 2-seater sofa.

I think the biggest project Aunty Mary took on was to make the furnishings for a 4-poster tester bed. She had to liaise with the carpenter on the estate, and she had to make the overhead canopy, as well as the drapes for each of the four posts. Aunty Mary did at one time have a photograph of the finished bed that she proudly displayed but unfortunately this has been lost with time.

I can remember sitting in her large workroom that was at the font of her house, and opened straight onto the road, and looking out of the large window onto this road that was the High Street.

In this workroom were her large treadle sewing machine and a very large table that was used to spread the material out on. This table needed to be large enough to take a double size eiderdown; I can remember Aunty Mary drawing the design onto an eiderdown in French chalk, prior to tacking and stitching on the sewing machine.

Aunty Mary employed a lady to help with the fine finishes that needed to be done by hand, and I was allowed occasionally to help make the piping that edged a lot of the arms of the chairs. I can still do this and I don’t think I will ever forget how.

I used to stay at Aunty Mary’s every Wednesday evening because I went to Brownies after which I would be allowed to have a fish and chip supper.

I can remember calling at the fish and chip shop situated in the Cross Hayes, it is still in the same position in Cross Hayes car park, although now under totally different management and is like all fast food outlets, serving a larger choice of menu rather than just the fish and chips we had in my childhood days.

I remember getting 6 pennies worth of chips with crackling, they are the little pieces of batter that breaks off in cooking fish, and if you were lucky you might get a big piece with fish still inside.

When I got back to Aunty Mary’s I was introduced to the habit of having Salad Cream with my chips rather than plain tomato ketchup. I still have even today either Salad Cream or Mayonnaise on my chips.

As Aunty Mary was of a religion called a Baptist, and it was part of their religion that you never did any work on a Sunday, so Aunty Mary always had her Sunday roast dinner on the Saturday.

After Aunty Mary returned from Chapel on the Sunday morning we would have Bubble and Squeak for our lunch. For those people who don’t know what real Bubble and Squeak is, it was made up from any leftovers.

Aunty Mary used anything that we had leftover from the previous day’s meal for this Bubble and Squeak, boiled or roast potatoes, any vegetables left over, Yorkshire pudding, left over meat pieces etc. This was all fried up in a large frying pan and if you left it cooking without turning it to often it would get very crispy. I think I enjoyed the Sunday’s Bubble and Squeak better than the main roast itself, especially with home made pickle.

At teatime on Sunday’s Aunty Mary would have sandwiches made from Salmon & Cucumber, if it was summer time, and these sandwiches would have the crusts cut off, they would also be cut up into very dainty triangles. If it had been a poor week financially then it would be bread, butter & jam.

In wintertime we would have toast made over the open fire and with loads of butter on the toast.

Aunty Mary would never allow the wireless to be played on a Sunday, apart from a half hour programme in the early evening’s that was called the Sunday Service and played hymns.

We had to make our own entertainment and the day was spent very quietly, either making presents for someone, whose birthday was due, or cutting out pieces from newspapers or magazines, especially those relating to the royal family, Aunty Mary was what is considered a Royalist, and sticking these items in a scrapbook. Grandma Charlotte also taught me how to make baskets from Raffia. The Raffia came in different colours, but mainly a plain buff colour, you used a large eyed needle through which the raffia strand and basically you would attach one row to another in a flat roundel until you have made the base and then start to build up the sides, easy.

We always had some sort of cake though and as Aunty Mary was very fond of seed cake we had this quite a lot. I haven’t seen these cakes for many years and I don’t think anybody makes them anymore.

Aunty Mary was very good at baking cakes. I can remember having to go into a large store cupboard that was situated up the stairs by the back bedroom, and getting the eggs that was needed from a very large crockery container in which these eggs were stored. They were stored in a solution of Isinglass to help keep them fresh longer.

Aunty Mary also had a store larder full on home made jams and pickles.

I can remember helping her make jam.

You had to wash the fruit fully to make sure they were perfectly clean and depending on the amount of fruit you would add the required amount of sugar. All this was put into a special large preserving metal saucepan, and put on the cooker to bring the fruit and sugar to boiling point; you had to keep stirring it so as it didn’t burn or stick.

When it started to boil you used a wooded spoon to spoon out a little bit of the jam on to a saucer, to test it’s consistency and setting properties.

When it was ready this was taken off the cooker and you started to fill the glass jam jars to the very top, to allow for settling as it started to cool, and these jars were then allowed to cool down.

After all the jars had cooled sufficiently enough you put a small piece of grease proof paper cut to shape over the jam and then covered/sealed the top of the jam jar with a larger piece of grease proof paper and an elastic band kept it in place. You stuck a sticker on the front of the jar to indicate what was in the jar.

Aunty Mary’s garden provided a lot of the fruit she used for her baking; she had blackcurrants, redcurrants, raspberries, gooseberries, apples, pears and strawberries.

Apart from the home-made jams, Aunty Mary also made lovely fruit tarts. I still love gooseberry tarts. I can remember having to top and tail the gooseberries in readiness for cooking.

As I said Aunty Mary also made her own pickles and chutney. I can remember her making piccalilli and green tomato chutney.

She made Green Tomato Chutney by using the tomatoes left over on the vines at the end of the then growing season and wouldn’t have ripened enough for salads. You don’t seem to be able to get green tomato chutney anymore and shop bought pickles, chutney’s and jams just don’t taste the same.

My cousin Beryl was taught her cooking skills from her mother Aunty Cis, and whenever I visit Beryl, especially around September time each year she always gives me two or three jars of home made jams or chutney.

I can remember when I was around 12 or 13 Aunty Mary taking me to visit, I can’t remember if it was a relation or friend, anyway this person lived on the outskirts of London, I believe it was somewhere around Watford on the Metropolitan Line.

Aunty Mary and I visited many of the sites all over London. I can remember being taken to The Tower of London to see the Beefeaters and to look at the Crown Jewels. Buckingham Palace wasn’t open to visitors in those days, but I can remember travelling on a bus that took us pass it and looking to see it the flag was flying from the flagpole, this denoted that The Queen was living there.

At Horse Guards Parade we watched the changing of the guards, and at Trafalgar Square we fed the pigeons, I still have a photograph of me with pigeons all around me. See end of chapter for photograph.

The highlight of that day was being taken to Lyons Corner House and having tea. I cannot remember what we had to start with, probably poached egg on toast, but I can remember the Nippy bringing round a portable trolley filled with loads of gorgeous cream cakes and I was allowed to choose which one I would like. I know things change but there was something about Lyons Corner Houses that cannot be repeated.

On another occasion I can remember Aunty Mary taking me into Grimleys’ the toy shop and being allowed to choose which doll I would like.

I chose a large doll that could close its eyes and had moveable arms and legs. She had dark brown hair and was dressed in a green tartan outfit with real leather shoes and a very pretty bonnet. I can remember playing with this doll for many years but unfortunately she got forgotten and lost as I grew into a teenager and gave up playing with dolls. I think she may have ended up with the ‘Tetbury’ family.

Another memory I have is being taken by Aunty Mary this time to a part of London called Hampstead Heath.

I know we always caught the bus to the house where we were staying and this was a large Victorian/Edwardian house on four levels. The bus trip went past one of the BBC theatres.

You entered this imposing house by the front door by going up some steps to it and this entrance was covered in black and white ceramic floor tiles. These tiles carried on into the front entrance and I seem to remember that this property must have been turned into flats, as we had to go up the stairs to the first floor. I can remember the kitchen being at the back of the property and looked out over a railway line at the end of the garden. Of course in those days it was still steam trains and I loved to watch the trains going past the window.

Delia Bailey Collection

Delia Bailey Collection

The Miss Hanks’s

Aunty Mary was very friendly with three sisters called the Miss Hanks’s. These sisters were spinsters who also attended the Baptist Chapel like Aunty Mary.

Two of these sisters went out to work and the third stayed at home to keep house.

Aunty Mabel Hanks, as I knew her, was my Aunty Mary’s particular friend and she worked from home as a dressmaker, with her workroom being upstairs to the rear overlooking the garden.

I can remember spending many hours at the Miss Hanks’s house; this house was on the opposite side of the street to Aunty Mary’s and about ten doors further down the hill.

In the front living room of the Miss Hanks’s house was a Grandfather clock. This clock was wound up by pulling the large brass weights on chains situated at the front of the clock in a cupboard. It also had a lovely large pendulum that I could sit and watch going back and forth.

I can also remember of a winter evening sitting in this lovely front room at teatime and listening to the wireless when Children’s Hour was on. I can remember listening to Larry the Lamb and stories from Toy Town. There was always a lovely open fire and I was allowed to use the toasting fork to toast myself crumpets for tea.

I can remember one particular day visiting Aunty Mabel to wait for Aunty Mary, who would be calling to collect me, it was summer time, unfortunately at that time I had a nasty infection on my left arm. We thought it was a boil, but it was a carbuncle.

I can remember Aunty Mabel looking at my arm and saying it didn’t look to good, it was very red and inflamed, Aunty Mabel seemed to think it was ready for lancing, so she got some boiling water and clean cloths as well as a sharp knife, then she set about lancing this carbuncle. As soon as she put the knife to it, it burst; spreading all the putrid yellow/green gunge it had accumulated all over the room. I have never seen anything like it since and it left a scar on my left arm that I still have to this day.

Every year Aunty Mary and the Miss Hanks’s went on holiday together. One of their favourite places was Tenby in Wales although they did go quite a lot to Hastings. I have a photograph of them all at Hastings in 1952, see below. Aunty Mary second from right.

Delia Bailey Collection

Delia Bailey Collection

Bremilham Terrace

Our house at Bremilham Terrace, was as I have said, number 3. You entered this house by the front door, which had a window either side of the door.

When you went through this front door you had the stairs to the upper levels straight in front of you and a door either side that led on the left to what was known as the best front room and to the right the kitchen come living room. A door at the other end of the hall where the entrance door was situated led to the back passage. A door in this passageway led to a cupboard under the stairs where we kept sweeping brushes and other cleaning items as well as our Wellingtons. As you went down the passageway to the rear of the house and the back door, on the left was a door that gave entrance to the toilet and bathroom (all one room) and big copper boiler, on the right was a door that led to the large larder in which we kept all our food. There was a small window in this larder that was kept slightly ajar and on the shelf by this window was a small meshed cupboard in which we kept any meat. We didn’t have refrigerators in those days, it was the cool air coming through the window that kept the meat fresh for a couple of days.

It will seem as though I spent a great deal of my time at Aunty Mary’s and indeed I did, but I also spent a lot of time at home as well.

I am not sure if it is just nostalgia but it seemed the weather just after the Second World War and during my childhood was more in keeping with the seasons than it is today. Winters were always cold with frosts and snow, the spring days were always just nicely warm and pleasant, and the summers with their long hot days seemed to go on forever, whilst the autumns were again pleasantly nice with just enough of a nip in the air to warn us that winter was on its way.

I think that in my early years up to the age of about 8 or 9 we still must have been having double summer time, as it did not start to get dark during the summer months until around 10.30 or 11 p.m. of an evening. I can remember being sent to bed at the appropriate time and hearing my parents talking to neighbours outside our house well after 10 p.m. and it was still light.

As I said we lived at Bremilham Terrace, which used to be the old workhouse for the district.

Delia Bailey Collection

Delia Bailey Collection

You entered the Terrace where these houses were situated, by going up a steep side entrance adjacent to Adye’s Garage. Along the fronts of the houses was a long wide path.

There were parking spaces behind the houses but in my young days not many people had cars and this space was used as a large drying area for clothes on washdays, or for all of us children to play in.

I can remember each Thursday a big open sided lorry coming round the back of our houses, and he was known at the Pop Man and supplied us with our fizzy bottled drinks. The company that owned this lorry was called Corona, and all the bottle tops had a small golden crown on them. If you collected a certain amount of tops you were given a Golden Corona Broach or Badge in the shape of a crown.

At the far end of the houses and just set back to the side was another part of the workhouse, this had again been turned into four houses, and this separate property used to be the hospital section of the workhouse.

My mother was very friendly with one of the residents called Mrs Westmacott, and she spent a lot of time at Mrs Westmacott’s.

My brother Chris and I played with Mrs Westmacott’s children as well as a lot of other children from the other houses.

Overlooking the main road at the front of the Terrace was again two separate houses or bungalows, these used to be the superintendent’s house when it was the workhouse. I was very friendly with a girl who lived in one of these houses and we spent many happy hours playing with our dolls etc.

At the very far end of the houses and going right down to the main road was the allotment garden area in which each tenant had a length allotted to them.

I can remember my father being very proud of the vegetables he grew on his patch, he had a double size piece of ground, although I can remember at one time he planted onion seeds and lovely multi coloured flower’s called Petunia’s came up instead. My mother was not best pleased about this as we couldn’t eat Petunias, but we all saw the funny side of it. It was about this time there was a very popular song that we used to sing “I am a lonely little Petunia in an onion patch”.

My father at this time worked next door to our houses for Adye’s garage as an engine mechanic and this firm also did some taxi work for which my father was a driver.

In view of this whenever we needed a car to go out in, the owner would always let my father borrow one of the cars so we always felt we were one up on the other residents, although it was never pushed in anyone’s face like it would be today.

I can remember us all going on holiday to Brixham in Devon, in one of these cars because my parents had hired a caravan for two weeks holiday.

I must have been about 10 or 11 or even a little bit older, although by not much, because it was at the time when the songs from the stage show musical ‘My Fair Lady’, not the film that was much later, was very popular. One of my favourites was “On the Street where you Live” sung by David Whitfield.

It was also around this time that Bill Maynard, now of Heartbeat fame, was a pop idol and very famous for his baggy sweaters and psychedelic coloured socks and other accessories. I thought I was the bee’s knees in my pink psychedelic socks.

My father was an extremely good driver because in those days you didn’t have synchronised gears, if you needed to get back down into first gear you had to double de-clutch.

On our trip to Devon you had to negotiate a steep hill called Telegraph Hill and you were always nervous as to whether the car would make it or not.

I believe it was for either my 12th or 13th birthday that my parents took me to Swindon to a theatre to see a ballet as I was very much into ballet at this time with my friend Claire. When we came out of the theatre the weather had turned extremely bad, into what is known as a pea-soup fog.

You couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of you and we had to drive the 16 miles from Swindon to Malmesbury. I can remember my father having to lean out of the driver’s open window; and it was extremely cold with this open inside the car, to be able to see where he was driving and hopefully kept to the road. A drive of 15 miles should have taken at that time around 30 to 45 minutes, but in that weather took us over 3 hours, we were all very cold and tired by the time we got home. I can’t remember the ballet now but I do remember the journey home.

I can also remember being taken up to London to visit family on my father’s side although I have lost touch completely since my parents death and have no idea of their names or where they live now. All I can remember is that an Uncle Bill, as he was called, worked as a porter at Paddington Railway station, and when we were at Paddington we always looked out to see if we could see Uncle Bill.

On bonfire night all the residents used to put their money into a kitty to purchase fire works for us children. For weeks and weeks before hand all of us children would collect pieces of wood and rubbish for the large bonfire that was built by the father’s. After all the father’s had got home from work and had their tea’s it would be time to go outside and wait for the bonfire to be lit and for the fireworks to be let off.

The preceding weeks before bonfire night all of us children would see who could outdo his friends by building a guy, that we put into an old pram or pushchair, with a sign around it’s neck asking for a ‘Penny for the Guy’. I haven’t seen children do this now for a long time.

The residents with children at Bremilham would also each May Day arrange to have a May Day parade. A Queen of the May would be chosen with 4 handmaidens and 2 pages. Of course, the boys hated to be chosen as a page and having to dress up. We would have a big party to celebrate May Day and everybody would enjoy themselves.

Unfortunately a lot of these traditions have been lost.

Ballet & Piano Lessons

Due to my size and being so small when I was born the doctor seemed to think I needed strengthening up in the legs so I was enrolled in ballet lessons.

I can remember clearly going to these ballet lessons for many years from the age of about 4 or 5 until I was about 14 when I discovered other things I wanted to do.

These ballet lessons were held at the teacher’s house, situated just off the Cross Hayes car park. It was a very old rambling house, more of what you would now call a cottage, and when you entered the front door the training rooms were upstairs.

This room had a large mirror along one wall with a long bar going the full length. You used this bar to practice your basic steps with. As I progressed I was allowed to wear ballet shoes that are known as points, these ballet shoes have a wooden block in the tow section that allow you to stand up on your toes.

Every year we were asked to put on a show at the Town Hall theatre which had a stage, and the curtains for this theatre were made from very heavy maroon velvet and could be drawn back to reveal the stage. I was very proud to know that my Aunty Mary had made these curtains.

We did many shows in this theatre of which I can remember a few snippets.

One of my few memories is that one of the pieces we did at a show was a skating scene where we all attempted to be skaters and danced to the music called “Skater’s Waltz”.

Another piece must have been something to do with gardens, I think it was called ‘In an English Garden’, because I was dressed up as one of the bees and danced around others dressed as flowers, I cannot recall now what music was used for that dance.

On another occasion I can remember when all the girls of about my age were stood in a row on the stage with our dolls, I seem to think it must have been something to do with Brahms Lullaby because we were all pretending to rock our dolls/babies to sleep. I remember this well because not only do I have a photograph of this but also one of the girls was the daughter of the Mayor of Malmesbury at the time and, of course, she had to have a much larger doll than anybody else just for show.

Delia Bailey Collection

Delia Bailey Collection

Summer Fetes & Carnivals

My mother was extremely good at designing and making fancy dress costumes for me and my younger brother, so we could enter the fancy dress competitions held at the various fetes and shows held during the summer months around Malmesbury. Of course my father had to drive us to those places that were to far to walk too.

I can remember winning quite a few of the fancy dress competitions and I think one of the best ones, of which again I have a photograph, is me dressed up as a Spanish Lady, supposedly the Queen of Spain’s daughter, to represent the nursery rhyme, “I had a little nut tree”, nothing would it bear, but a silver nutmeg and a golden pear, the Queen of Spain’s daughter came to visit me, all for the sake of the little nut tree. This was in 1949 when I was six, see end of chapter for photographs.

Another time I was dressed as a Powder Puff, again photographic evidence as proof, and this costume was in very pale pink satin with the dress edged in fluffy pink wispy fur, I also had fur cuffs around my wrists and a small hat fitted at an angle on my head again in fluffy material and all together this denoted a powder puff. I believe I got first prize for that.

Another time I was dressed up as Bubbles, from the song ‘ I’m forever blowing bubbles’. This was in 1952, I had a frilly blue silk costume and an old pram filled with balloons to represent the bubbles. Photograph at end of chapter in costume with my brother.

My younger brother hated being dressed up and one year rebelled to such an extent that he was standing next to a friend when they were judging the entrants. The judge spoke to my brother asking him what he was supposed to be and he said himself, he won first prize.

Another time my mother dressed him as an American Indian in a white costume with feathered head-dress and tomahawk etc. He was supposed to be the “Little White Cloud that Cried”, that again was a popular song at the time. See photograph below.

Delia Bailey Collection

Delia Bailey Collection

Christopher dressed as ‘A Little White Cloud that Cried’

Delia Bailey Collection

Delia Bailey Collection

Me dressed as ‘Queen of Spain’s Daughter’

Delia Bailey Collection

Delia Bailey Collection

Christopher and I dressed in fancy dress as ‘Bubbles’

and the ‘Little White Cloud that Cried’

My Brothers

I didn’t have a great deal to do with my older brother’s because by the time I was about 3 years old my eldest brother, Tony, had left home to join the training ship ‘Arethusa’ as a boy cadet that was moored at Rochester in Kent. I only saw him when he was allowed home on leave and when Tony became 17 he was enrolled in the Royal Navy proper and took his final examinations while his ship was in action somewhere off the Korean coast, The Korean War was raging at this time.

Tony travelled around the world three times with the Royal Navy as a gunner and attained the rank of Petty Officer, but unfortunately Tony had the Poole short temper, he took after my Grandfather on my father’s side, and one day he struck a senior officer and was reduced in rank to Able Seaman. Tony stayed in the Royal Navy for at least twenty years, by this time I was about seventeen years old and had just got married.

He eventually settled down and met a young lady called Brenda, they actually met in a hole in the ground while Brenda was involved in an archaeological dig in Priory Park, Prittlewell a suburb of Southend-on-Sea, and eventually married and had one son called Richard. Tony and Brenda settled down to married life and bought a house in Rochford.

Unfortunately Tony died in January 2002 but has been buried back in his beloved Malmesbury at the cemetery where all the family from both sides are interred.

I must have been only about 7 or 8 at the most when my second eldest brother, Geoffrey, enrolled in the RAF, unfortunately he failed the eye test to train as a pilot because he was found to be colour blind. I am not sure what he did train for in the end; it could have been navigation or traffic control.

Geoffrey spent many happy years in the RAF and he also travelled the world being stationed in Nairobi, Kenya, South Africa, at Aden in North Africa, a very tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean on which there was a small base, he sent my eldest daughter at this time a beautiful red satin oriental outfit. Geoffrey also spent a lot of years based around Cologne in Germany.

It was while he was in Germany that he met his wife Anna. My mother just couldn’t get along with Anna and always insisted she only married him to get a British passport. I must admit there is something of a mystery surrounding Anna, she claimed her parents were titled, her father being Baron Puch, and she liked to listen to the BBC Foreign Service news. She claimed at one time that she had heard on the news that her parents had been killed in a car crash, but at other times she talked about visiting them and other family members.

I don’t think Geoff had a happy marriage because not long after they were first married a ‘lady’ friend of my Aunty Mary who we used to call Aunty Katy went to visit them and never moved away. I understand this ‘lady friend’ was what is now known as Gay and Geoff was barred from the marriage bed because Aunty Katy had moved into his place. At this time he was still in the RAF so only came home when he had any leave.

It was not long after this that he retired from the RAF and entered the Prison Service as a warder. He was stationed around Send near Guildford at a prison for young offenders. The house Geoff, Anna and Katy lived in belonged to the prison service but Geoff was allowed to purchase it.

Unfortunately Geoff died in 1995, he had a massive heart attack and because of the severity of it he also suffered a stroke and memory loss. I used to telephone Geoff to speak to him and he still thought of me as a young teenager, he could not remember that I was married with 2 children of my own, in fact, it was Geoff who gave me away when I got married.

There was a big piece in the paper about Geoff flying home from Nairobi so as to give me away at my wedding, in fact, it was touch and go as to whether he would be with us in time, although of course my father could have done it but my mother thought it would be a nice thing for my brother to do this.

I do not have many memories of much to do with my older brothers because as I said they left home when I was very young.

One of the few memories I do have relates to me being taken by them both to the a cinema in Chippenham on my mother’s orders, to see the Disney film, Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs, that came out in 1947. I was only about 3 years old at the time but because my brothers didn’t want to be seen with a little girl they palmed me off with a lady in the queue who had children of her own while they went exploring. I can remember being taken to this lady’s house after the film to wait for my brother’s to collect me but not a lot more.

I have also been informed reliably that on another occasion Tony and Geoff went off together to do some fishing from a small pond that wasn’t far from where we lived at the time, 46 Kings Walk, I tried to run after them and as they had gone over some stepping stones to the other bank of this pond I tried to follow suit, unfortunately I slipped and fell in and was nearly drowned. Tony and Geoff got into a lot of trouble over the state I was in when they got me home; I was covered in green algae and wet through.

It was always exciting when either Tony or Geoff came home on leave, as the usually brought home items they had bought while they were abroad.

I can remember on one occasion, I believe it was Tony, bringing home a Japanese Porcelain tea service that was so thin, that if you held the cup up to the light you could see the head of a Japanese lady in the base.

I believe it was Geoff who brought this item home, from the time when he was stationed in Nairobi. It was a stuffed baby crocodile about 2 to 3 feet in length. I thought it very ugly.

It wasn’t often that they managed to get leave at the same time as each other, but one Christmas this did happen and we had a big party in our best front room. I can remember Tony strumming his guitar and Geoff thumping away on his skiffle box he had made.

Delia Bailey Collection

Delia Bailey Collection

The Four of Us, Tony behind me, Geoff behind Chris.

One of my brothers also brought home a Hawaiian Guitar and neither Chris nor I was allowed to touch it.

I am afraid I didn’t get along to well with my younger brother; I think this was because my mother always thought of him as the baby of the family and he couldn’t do any wrong.

Also as I was the only girl I had to help my mother around the house.

At first I used to have to share my bedroom with Chris and he used to make a mess of his things. I was always being told to go and clean this room up, but when I remonstrated saying that it wasn’t my mess but Chris’s I was told it was my job to keep it clean.

I was very pleased when my father converted the attic into another bedroom and Chris moved up into the attic.

Chris was something of a tomboy and always hurting himself. On this occasion he was off school because he had broken his arm, I can’t remember how, but it was around April time and my mother needed to go up to a local farm where Aunty Mary stored a caravan she owned. This caravan was always taken to Portishead for the summer months for holidays.

While my mother was inside the caravan giving it a spring clean in readiness for moving she left Chris outside playing.

She had refused to leave him home because she said she couldn’t trust him to behave himself on his own if left at home.

Anyway, my mother was inside the caravan when she heard a cry and went outside to see what had happened. Chris had decided that it would be fun to climb up to the top of a large hayrick and slide back down, only at the bottom hidden among some weeds was a barbwire fence. Chris had slid down this hayrick right onto the barbwire fence, badly cutting his face just above one of his eyes. The doctor said if the barb itself had been at the point he could have lost his eye, Chris was left with a nasty scar on his face.

On another occasion it was the start of the new school year, so my mother had bought both my brother and I new school uniforms. The cost of these wasn’t cheap, anyway, when we came home from school we always had to change into our old clothes to play in.

This day Chris didn’t bother changing when he got home from school but went straight out to play. At the back of Bremilham Terrace was a large open field and the local authority had just started building a new school in this field, it was to be the new Secondary Modern School, but as I said, Chris went out to play in this field with all the wet mud and earth that had been removed to dig the foundation with.

When he came home he was covered from head to toe in mud and dirt, as well as being minus one shoe. My mother was so angry because as I had said all these items were brand new. We never did find the shoe and my mother had to buy Chris another new pair.

School Years

Both Tony and Geoff were the brain boxes of the family, as they passed the examination that allowed them to go to the local Grammar School.

I also passed the entrance examination but there were not enough places to cover all the entrants, so I stayed at the school I was at.

I went to St Joseph’s RC School that was situated at the top of the hill known as Holloway. I went to this school because my mother said they gave the better education than the local infant school.

I started school at the start of the school year in September 1948 and I loved my years at St Joseph’s because the majority of the teachers were Nuns from the local Nunnery. Sister Scholatisca was the Head Mistress of the school, and she was what you would call on the ‘large’ size, and I can still visualise her sweeping into the classrooms with her black habit flowing around her.

Of course in 1948 people did not drive their children to school as they do now, so we all walked to school. We didn’t think anything about the distance and we did this in all types of weather. It used to take me about 20 minutes to walk the mile and a half to school.

This walk took us along the Bristol Road towards Malmesbury, down a large hill, passing Westhill House in its grounds on our right, with the Gaston’s turning on the left. At the bottom on the hill we then had to walk up another steep hill towards what was known as The Triangle. Along this section of the walk we passed a small factory on our left, this belonged to Triumph, they made ladies underwear.

At The Triangle we took the road called Abbey Row and this took us pass a large posh 3 star hotel called The Old Bell Hotel, we then had a choice of ways to go. Malmesbury Abbey was next to the Bell Hotel and we could follow a back path around the back of the Abbey and this would bring us out at a small square, to get to school we would turn left here and follow this path which led between some house and this would bring us out onto a main road, we then only had to cross this road, of course this road didn’t have as much traffic as it would today, when we got across this road we turned followed the pavement to our left and the school was just around the corner.

As I said if we didn’t go around the back of the Abbey we followed the pavement to our right and then cut through what is known as Bird Cage Walk. This path cut between to Abbey grounds in the front and a large Steeple, which is the only part, left of the original parish church adjacent to the Abbey. This walk brought us out onto the Market Cross; you then went across the Market Cross and followed the road that led round to the School.

I believe my love of learning stems from my years at St Joseph’s, because all of the teacher’s had such enthusiasm and dedication for their subjects that it was passed down to us. I was never too keen on physical exercise, although I did attain the honour of being included in the Netball Team.

St Joseph’s covered all the basic subjects that were needed to give us a good education and their methods were such that I don’t think they had many failures.

The only downside, as far as I was concerned, was we had to attend the local RC Church for special services. This church was connected to our school by way of a path that went behind all the houses until you got to the church.

When I became 13 I was moved from the main school building itself, to an annex, this annex was situated in an old house in a small road just off the Cross Hayes car park. The rooms where the classes were held had very high ceilings with rafters. In those years, we didn’t have biro’s, we used ink pens. Our desks had glass inkwells sunk into the tops of the desks. It was the monitor’s job to ensure these inkwells were filled every day.

The ink pens we used were very basic, just a wooden handle like a pencil with a metal nib at the end. They made great darts, and we used them to good effect throwing them up into the rafters. Because we were grown up enough to be allowed to use ink pens, this meant that we were issued with blotting paper. If you tore a corner of the blotting paper off and dunked this into the inkwell, it could be rolled up and thrown at a child or person whose attention you wanted to get. It was splodgy and wet and made an awful mess of your clothes.

I stayed at St Joseph’s until the summer after my 14th birthday.

I had decided on a career as a secretary so was enrolled at Swindon Technical College, and started there in the September of 1958. I did what was known as a 2-year full time secretarial course, leaving Swindon Technical College in the 1960 with all the relevant qualifications needed.

In my time at St Joseph’s during the 1950’s there was an eclipse of the sun. I can remember we all went out into the playground and were given a piece of Mica. Mica is a piece of tinted rock formed mineral material that was used as an insulator in electric’s and a substitute for glass.

We held this Mica up to our eyes so as we could observe the moon eclipsing the sun.

Apart from the usual lessons we had, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, we also did History, Geography and Religious Studies. We were also encouraged to do Physical Exercises as well as Country Dancing. Our own classroom teacher gave these Country Dancing lessons with the assistance of a special education programme for country dancing on the wireless.

The wireless was also used to give us singing lessons. These singing lessons were of old sea shanties and country songs etc. One of the ones I remember was called ‘Who is Sylvia’ as well as ‘Blow The Wind Southerly’ One of the most popular radio-singing teachers at the time was a famous Operatic Contralto singer Kathleen Ferrier. She had a beautiful deep voice and I can still hear her singing these lovely old time songs.

We had many lessons via the wireless on different subjects.

Friends

I made many friends in my young days, but my best friend was called Claire Collingbourn.

Claire was in the same class as I was at school and we went everywhere together and did everything together as well.

We always sat next to each other in class and played together during the playtimes.

Claire came from a catholic family and lived just across from the school in a large Victorian detached house.

Claire had I believe two older brothers, one of these brothers was a priest and the other, called David, was also training to become a priest.

I spent many happy hours at Claire’s house, playing an old wind up record player on which we played classical/ballet music. We used to dance around the room to this music. We also used to swap books on ballet. On my birthday I was given a book about Margot Fonteyn. This book had beautiful photographs of Margot Fonteyn. in her ballet costumes and we loved looking through this book.

I can also remember sitting in Claire’s large kitchen of a Sunday afternoon, listening to the wireless. Our favourite shows to listen too were The Goons, The Navy Lark, Round the Horn, and Much Binding in the Marsh.

You don’t seem to get shows like this anymore, especially now we have television. These shows were light-hearted and left you feeling good.

I lost touch with Claire many years ago only to meet her brother David when he attended my eldest brother’s funeral. He told me Claire had become a missionary spending many years in Africa. Unfortunately she had died a few years earlier.

As I became a teenager, one of the other friends I had at that time was called Diana Bailey. Diana lived on an estate situated not far from Bremilham Terrace. I remember calling for Diana in the mornings so as we could go to school together. Diana’s parents always had the wireless on in the mornings to listen to the news and this was tuned to BBC Radio 4.

Diana was very pretty and had gorgeous long red hair. When she left school she went to work in Swindon at a large store called Morse’s. Diana I believe worked in the shoe department, and it was Diana who told me about this gorgeous boy who worked in Menswear. He was called Francis Bailey and had asked Diana for a date but she wasn’t interested.

I was attending Swindon Technical College at this time and used to go and wait for Diana to finish work so as we could travel home to Malmesbury together on the bus. I used to sit on a small wall outside the staff entrance, and Diana pointed out this boy to me and said she would get me a date with him if I wanted it.

I said OK, not realising at that time that Francis and I would eventually get married. We have been happily married now for nearly 44 years.

Poole Grandparents

I haven’t as mentioned a great deal of information about my Grandparents on my father’s side.

I believe I did mention that they lived at the bottom of the High Street, Malmesbury at number 121, it was an old terrace cottage that was basically a two up and two down. When you went through the front door you stepped down into the front living room. I can always remember my grandfather asking in a grumpy voice what we wanted when we went to visit.

My grandmother was usually to be found in the kitchen that was situated at the rear of the house overlooking a garden that went down to a stream at the end. In this kitchen there was a large well-scrubbed table that was used to prepare the food in readiness for cooking.

I can still remember her making her lovely apple pies with cinnamon and cloves, and the aroma from one of these pies is something I shall never forget.

It was this grandmother who taught me my dressmaking skills, in fact, I can remember being asked to teach some of the other children in my class at school how to sew because the teacher had too many of us for her to teach us all. As a professional had taught me she was quite happy for me to act as her assistant.

I can remember one of the dresses my grandmother made for me was from small remnants of royal blue velvet. My grandmother had to make sure that all the weave went the correct way otherwise it would have looked like a patchwork quilt. She also very carefully cut the nap of the velvet away from each edge of all the pieces that needed joining, so as when they were stitched together the material would look as though it had been cut from one whole piece of fabric.

She was an extremely clever seamstress and I have found the skills she taught me to be very useful. When my two children, both girls, were small I don’t think I bought them any dresses because I made them all myself.

On the mantelpiece over the fireplace in the front room of my grandparent’s house they had a pair of Staffordshire dogs as well as a couple of Staffordshire flatback pieces. If I remember correctly one of these flatbacks was of a man dressed in a kilt.

I can also remember that on special occasions a dinner service was used and this was a beautiful service in yellow and blue and decorated with palm trees and camels.

I have spoken to my younger brother but he cannot remember it at all. My grandparents also had a cut glass sugar shaker with a silver top.

Unfortunately I didn’t live close enough when they died and a family member on my grandmother’s side removed the contents. These contents have been lost to our family and it is such a shame because so many memories are held in these items.

It was the same people who saw to the removal of my own parent’s belongings when my mother died. She had put this Aunty Vera down as an executor of the will and we had the same problem over these contents.

I have been told that a lot of the items were sold at a car boot sale. My sister in law has managed to recover a few of the items, such as a wall plate in remembrance of my parents golden wedding anniversary and a few other items. My sister in law has now given me these items and I cherish them for the lovely memories that they hold.

Aunty Mary’s Caravan

We had very many happy holidays in Aunty Mary’s caravan at Portishead when I was a small child. Of course, this caravan was nowhere as luxurious as the caravans you get today.

For one thing you didn’t have electric light but gas light mantles with glass covers. These mantles were made from fine cotton gauze and when you switched the gas on and put a flame to the mantle it would light up just like an electric bulb, although you always had a gassy smell.

The facilities were very basic also, no running water or indoor toilets. You had to collect the water from a standpipe and for washing or going to the loo you had to use the sites facilities.

The sleeping arrangements were also very basic, you had to dismantle the table and lay this between to two seats either side, bringing down the cushions from these seats to cover the base to make up a double bed.

Of course, like today, you still had to provide your own bed linen. Above the seating area was a ledge with a mattress on and this is where we children slept. We didn’t mind how rough it was because we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Delia Bailey Collection

Delia Bailey Collection

This photograph was taken outside the caravan and shows my

brother Geoff, his girlfriend, Grandma Charlotte Wheal and myself.

Pocket Money

In my very early years, come to that all though my time at home until I started work, I didn’t get much pocket money. What pocket I did get I had to earn by doing chores for my mother.

I believe at first it was only about 3 old pence, going up to 6 old pence and reaching the priestly sum of 1 whole shilling by the time I was ten. Of course in those days prices were a lot lower than they are today and you could get quite a lot for your money if you were careful.

There was a sweet shop just up the High Street from Aunty Mary’s house and you could buy chews at 1 farthing each. So you could get 8 sweets for just 2 old pennies.

When I started to get 6 pence I thought I was rich indeed, because for this 6 pence I was able to purchase the girls comic I used to get, I believe it was called Girls Own, as well as treat myself to a selection of sweets. I would still get the farthing chews but I could now afford to get a couple of ounces of grown up sweets for 3 pence.

Across the road from Aunty Mary’s house was a lady by the name of Mrs Freeman and she ran a café, which also sold sweets and ice creams. The day sweets came off ration was the highlight of my life. It meant you could buy whatever you wanted without having to have coupons. I believe I made myself sick by eating too many chocolates.

Mrs Freeman’s daughter married an American soldier, and because we were good friends we were invited to their wedding. It was not long after this that Mrs Freeman sold up and followed her daughter to America.

In 1955 when I was 12, I was given a brand new Triumph make bicycle in red. Up until now I had always used the old bone shaker ladies bike. I loved that bicycle and kept it clean and shining until I outgrew it and it was passed on to somebody else.

Aunty Mary was a great reader and I think I got my love of reading from her. There was always a selection of books to be read at her house, and when I had progressed from children’s books, the first adult books I read were whodunits by Agatha Christie and printed in paperback by Penguin.

I got my love of history from a teacher I had at school when I was around 12 to 13 years old. This teacher had such a love of the subject that his enthusiasm came across leaving you wanting more.

I have read anything I can get my hands on to do with history from early English history to modern times, the Russian history of the Tsars, Roman history to do with all aspects of roman life and even Egyptian history, in fact, I love all aspects of history but I suppose I like to read about the social aspect and how it affected different people.

I also used to love Christmas time because I spent many hours painstakingly making everybody his or her Christmas present. For the ladies I used to sit and embroider their initial in the corner of each set of hankies I was giving them, the same with the gentlemen.

I also used to make up sachets of lavender for gifts to ladies to hang on the clothes hanger to keep the clothes smelling nice, or to go into dresser draws.

For those people who I didn’t make presents for it was always exciting going Christmas shopping with my little bit of pocket money.

The shops didn’t start so early as they do now; it was usually after bonfire night before the shop windows would be dressed out in readiness for Christmas.

There seemed to be a special feeling then when you went Christmas shopping, all the shop assistance would take the time to ensure you were satisfied with your purchases, and would spend time helping you make the right choice. We had a couple of chemist shops, one called Morse’s who was an independent owned shop, and the other was Boots, the big national company.

There was always a lovely smell associated with these chemist shops when they stocked the different gift packages of soaps, talc’s and perfumes. I loved going shopping in these stores, and choosing my gifts, because as well as taking the time to serve me, these purchases were always gift-wrapped.

Holidays in Wales

When I was around 12 to 14 years old I usually spent my summer holidays in South Wales.

Aunty Mary, through her Chapel, were friends with a family from Morriston, Nr. Swansea in South Wales, and they were called Mr & Mrs Johns, and lived at 24 Lan Street, Morriston.

The first time I went to stay with this family, I went with Aunty Mary and we only stayed a couple of weeks, but after that each time I went I was allowed to travel by myself.

I used to catch a Royal Blue coach from the Cross Hayes, car park and this would go to Gloucester, where I changed to another coach that took me right through to Morriston where Mr Johns met me.

In those days it seemed much safer for a child to travel by itself than it is today.

I used to spend nearly all the summer holidays with the Johns family. They had a younger daughter than I was, as well as an older brother. I believe this brother went on to become a well-known Rugby player.

I can remember many happy times and singing along with the daughter Andrea, ‘Green Grow the Rushes Oh’.

We were taken to Mumble’s beach to play and visited a lot of different places.

Below a photograph I took of the Johns family in 1955.

Delia Bailey Collection

Delia Bailey Collection

The Johns Family – Mr & Mrs Johns, Grandparents,

Andrea and baby brother.

Growing Up

As I started to develop and grow up into my teen years, although I kept up my friendship with the many friends I had, I stopped being such a tomboy and became, in my eyes at least, more ladylike.

I joined the tennis club in the summer and used to love going there to play tennis, I also joined the local youth club. At this youth club we would hold impromptu dances, dancing to the pop music of the day, but it was generally somewhere to go and meet friends rather than hang around street corners.

Each year around the middle of September, this youth club used to take part in the annual Malmesbury Carnival, by decorating a float. Of course this was another occasion to get dressed up in fancy dress, depending on the theme that was chosen. We would also be encouraged to walk along side of the float with buckets to collect donations for different charities.

By this time I had also taken an interest in first aid and joined the local junior section of the Red Cross. Every week we were given first aid lessons on how to bandage a particular limb or part of the body, as well as being taught how to give basic first aid to somebody who had injured themselves or been taken ill.

When I was fourteen I spent my summer holiday as a ward assistant at the local cottage Hospital, see photograph.

Delia Bailey Collection

Delia Bailey Collection

Me in my Nurses Outfit taken outside home

At 3 Bremilham Terrace, Malmesbury

I can remember being taught how to give a blanket bath, take temperatures, as well as the usual dog’s body jobs such as emptying bedpans etc. I must say I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Malmesbury Hospital and was upset when it became time to carry on with my education.

I continued working at Malmesbury Hospital during college vacations until I was 17 and left Swindon Technical College to take up full time employment.

I started work as a clerical assistant in the personnel department of a local company called Ekco, my father already worked at Ekco as an Instrument Technician and his work involved helping convert radar from military to civil use in commercial airlines. I can remember having to assist on pay-days by taking the wages around the factory to each of the different departments. This meant going to the different workshops. Ekco also had a staff shop where you could purchase Ekco products at a discount.

Delia Bailey

03/09/2020

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