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North Waltham WI - April

At our last meeting on 14th April 2016 John Pitman gave us a comprehensive talk on village life in the 1940s and 1950s.  John lives in Bordon but spent his childhood living with his father and mother and two elder brothers at Headbourne Worthy in a cottage with Alexander roses round the front door.  John proceeded to take most of us on a nostalgic trip down memory lane and there were many nods and agreements all the way through.  For the younger members and guests this was a trip they had not experienced but everyone appreciated the humorous and interesting facts and reminiscences described. A few examples John gave us were front rooms used only for Christmas and Easter and when the vicar came to tea, Sunday School stamps,  a set work routine for each day of the week for housewives, open fires even in the bedrooms, black kitchen range, ashes for paths, a tin bath in front of the fire with the whole family using the same water – father first and baby last, hence the expression, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water” which would have been very dirty at the end of the bath session.

In those days there was no mains drainage to the cottage and the toilet room was outside with a ‘bucket and chuck it’ method of disposing the waste.  Luckily they had a big garden and grew the largest marrows and runner beans!  They had a well for their water supply which was 30-40 feet deep, a brick outhouse for clothes washing done by hand with a copper, a posser and a mangle.  They kept apples in the unused bread oven and carrots and beetroot were kept in a mixture of sand and fire ashes.  They were self- sufficient in potatoes.  Rabbits were cooked in a paraffin oil stove and the meat was used to feed the dogs and cats.  When John was 9 years old their well water became contaminated and they were put on mains water.  This was to transform their lives, resulting in flush toilets and a new bathroom being added on to their cottage. 

John’s father worked for the local farmer, Mr. Brown, who owned a 2000 acre estate.  It was a mixed farm run by a tenant farmer.  Sheep went to Arlesford Fair held where the lavender fields are now, young bull calves were sold for veal at Winchester Market and hens were kept for meat and eggs. John reminded us that chicken used to be a luxury and eaten at Christmastime.  John used to be very excited at harvest time when the thresher man arrived with his steam engine.  The 1950s brought the combine harvester to the farm.  The corn produced needed to be dried and John’s father worked in a dryer, with only a hanky over his nose for protection.  A gypsy came to help on the farm before the war but during the war the help came from German prisoners of war. Rats, rabbits, hares, pigeons and poachers were all problems that had to be dealt with.  Pheasant shoots were organised and when John was old enough he worked as a beater and he was very well paid. 

Headbourne Worthy had a renowned race horse stables.  In 1946 Tommy Rayson trained the Grand National winner, ‘Lovely Cottage’, ridden by Captain Robert Petre and owned by John Morrant.   The horse was paraded next day through the village, and when it passed his cottage John was put upon the horse’s back.  During the war John’s cottage was lucky to escape with little damage when a doodlebug blasted into a railway bank nearby.  In preparation for D-Day troups were all around Winchester ready to cross the Channel.  Another proud memory for John was when Winston Churchill and General Eisenhower motored passed his cottage on the way to the coast.

John worked for a while as a packer and deliverer for the new watercress business in Springvale Road.  He remembers the picturesque natural spring bubbling up in the field before the watercress beds were built.  John shared many more memories with us and we were delighted to hear them all.   His family may have been poor but he felt that his life in the countryside with all its riches was something that money could not buy.  Helen thanked John for giving us much laughter and for bringing back a lost world.

Why not come and join us as a guest, a potential new member, or as someone who is interested in listening to a particular speaker?  You will always be very welcome.  If anyone would like to come along or would like more details please contact Carolyn Brown. – Email: carolynbrown50@googlemail.com

Next meetings:

Thursday12th May 2016 :- Annual Meeting and Election of New Committee.  Presentation of the resolution.  A chance to see what the WI Trading Post has to offer.

Wednesday 8th June 2016 :-  a visit to Wild Flower Turf at Ash Warren when we will have a walk and talk around the fields looking at the wild flowers and hearing about the turf and where it goes.  Sensible shoes will be required but fingers crossed the weather will be sunny so we don’t need wet weather gear!


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