Archive for August, 2012
Alresford Cub Scouts in 1939
There was a thriving Boy Scouts and Cubs brigade in Alresford prior to WW2. The Scout hut was quite a large building situated in the grounds of the Rectory in Sun Lane. There was also a swimming pool there, just a plain concrete affair about 60 feet square with a spring board and a high dive platform.
The Rector, the Rev A.J. Robertson was the scout-master, a big bearded Scot, and when he dived in the pool we boys used to say: “There goes the Titanic being launched again”. His sister, Miss Irving Robertson, was the Cub mistress and we learned all our ‘dib dib dibs and dob dob dobs’ from her. Plus how to tie reef- and grannie-knots. This was all part of my formative years.
Once a year we had a Scout Rally: for this we put on a swimming display, and after, on the rectory lawn, we staged short plays and sketches depicting Scout activities. This always brought in a good audience of Mums and Dads and other relatives anxious to see what there ‘little terrors’ got up to.
We had many Summer camps during our school holidays. Locally, we went under canvas in Avington Park, and once or twice we went to Hayling Island. There were no blow-up beds then, we slept on just a ground-sheet with a blanket for cover, under bell tents, all with our feet to the middle. We cooked our food in Billy-cans over a camp fire, mostly this was baked beans, washed down with a tin mug of smoky tea. But we survived.
The Rectory, Scout hut and pool are no longer there, they were demolished in the 1950’s to make way for housing, like many other sites around. Sad, that’s progress, but we have our memories to pass on to our Grand-children.
Memory submitted by Len Strong, August 2012
Len Strong says he was 14 at the outbreak of WW2, and sends his recollections of that time in Alresford:
“I remember the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, when he broadcast on the radio, at 11am on Sunday 3rd September 1939: “We are at war with Germany”. I was going for a walk with my mate, and Mum said ‘take your gas-mask’. So off we went with the little square cardboard boxes slung over our shoulders. At 14 years of age it all seemed a big adventure to us, not realising the terrible consequences that lay ahead.
With Dad, I joined the newly formed Home Guard, as a messenger boy. Our squad was under the command of the local solicitor, once a Captain, then he retired, and we paraded with a variety of ‘weapons’. One or two shot-guns came from local farmers, but mainly we had a mixture of pitch-forks and garden tools, plus a few home-made ‘cudgels’. We looked like a ‘right Dad’s Army’.
We mounted dusk and dawn look-outs for enemy parachutists, on top of the local water tower at the top of Jacklyns Lane, which is now demolished and has been replaced by a bungalow. Dad had a cudgel and I a garden fork – but if we had seen any enemy I would have run a mile.
After Dunkirk, the bombing started. My Mum was ill in bed and Dad and I used to stand looking out of the bedroom window at the searchlights sweeping the skies over Southampton and Portsmouth and hear the sound of the bomb bursts like distant thunder. One night a plane came low overhead and dropped a stick of incendiaries, which set fire to a bungalow in Salisbury Road, and then a high expolsive bomb – which exploded at nearby Pinglestone. The plane was obviously only ditching its load because it was in trouble, and then crashed on Bramdean Common. Next day some of my pals and I cycled over to view the wreckage, it was a Junkers 88, and the bodies of two of the crew were laid out on a tarpaulin and guarded by two soldiers. They were later given a full military funeral and buried in Alresford church-yard. I understand they were returned to their homeland after the war.
My Mum passed away in 1941, and left alone with Dad I became a bit of a tear-away, so when two of my mates, who were a bit older than me, got their calling-up papers, I said to Dad: “I’m going to join the R.A.F”. Of course he said I was too young, but I found my birth certificate and made a crude job of altering my birth date from 1925 to 1923, and then off I went to Southampton recruiting office and signed on. So at sixteen, I passed for eighteen, and became a member of H.M. forces: the rest, as they say, is history. And now in 2012, at 87, I thank God I am still around with my memories.”
Len Strong, August 2012
The house at number 45 Broad Street, opposite the Old Fire Station, was recently advertised for sale. The details published in the press around the sale of this property caused many memories of childhood days in that house to come flooding back, for Pat Young, formerly Pat Strong, who still lives in Alresford. She writes:
In the mid-thirties, my Grandparents George and Rosa Strong lived and ran a bakery shop at 45 Broad Street. The bake-house was situated at the rear of the premises next to the kitchen. My Grandfather was assisted in the bake-house by two of his sons, my father Bill and his brother Cecil.
Apart from all the different types of white and brown bread, many delicious cakes and pastries were sold. The Lardy Cakes and Doughnuts were famous! My Grandmother served in the shop, which never seemed to be without customers.
Across Broad Street there was Honeybourne Stores, and my Grandfather often cooked hams in the bake-house oven, which the store then sold. This shop was eventually Mr Wilkinson’s “Broadway Garage”.
Grandad also possessed a large lidded wooden hand cart, which my father used to push around the locality delivering the bread and cakes. I was often allowed to accompany him, sitting on the lid.
When fair day arrived each year, delicious brandy snaps were always made, some of them being filled with cream.
My Grandparents had four sons, and each Christmas all four families spent Christmas day at the shop. The large sitting room upstairs which ran the whole length of the front of the property was used. There was always a large Christmas tree from which we all received a present. My Uncle Bert always let off indoor fireworks. Some of them looked like snakes which used to jump about and we younger children used to hide behind the settee.
After the festivities we all went downstairs to have supper, which was cold turkey and ham. I remember well the dishes of lovely home-made pickle, my Gran’s pickled red cabbage was always my favourite.
Following my mother’s death during the War, I lived at the shop for a while, and one Sunday morning, whilst taking a bath (which was a free-standing affair with wooden lid, which had to be filled with hot water from a large cooking pot) a German aeroplane machine-gunned the Avenue. I remember getting quickly out of the bath and running along the hall to get my gas-mask! When I eventually got dressed I joined many other children along the Avenue picking up the spent bullets.
At the rear of the house there was a large garden. There was a lawn where Croquet was played on a Sunday afternoon, a Summer-house where the deckchairs were kept, plus many lovely apple trees and a large vegetable garden.
Right at the top of the garden was a flint wall with a twelve foot drop into the field below: this, with other fields, now forms Valdean Caravan Park.
I was recently invited to view the property (it having reverted to being a private house in about 1946, following my Grandparents’ retirement).
The shop portion is now the drawing room, while the walls separating it from the adjoining room and the long hall have been removed to make it much larger. Upstairs there was the long sitting-room, which is now being used as the main bedroom. This seemed so much smaller than I remembered.
The bake-house is long gone, replaced by a patio with table and chairs. The large garden no longer exists: part of one side and a large portion of the rear have been sold off to the neighbours. There are no apple trees any more, and the vegetable garden has gone.
It was lovely to go back, but sad to see how things have changed from what I remembered: one thing is for sure, nothing can remove all my happy memories!
Pat Young, August 2012.
A memory from Len Strong, now resident in Derbyshire:
“The fire brigade in Alresford was manned by a part time crew in the 1930s. The method of summoning them in an emergency was to telephone the police station in Station Road and notify the duty constable of the whereabouts of the incident. He would then fire off two rockets, (maroons), which exploded in the sky with loud bangs and these would alert the crew who would be going about their normal daily employment. They would then race to the fire station on foot or by whatever means of transport was available.
The fire station was at the bottom of Broad Street and at the side of the big red doors was a glass panel let into the wall and behind this was housed the key to the doors. Any member of the public who happened to be passing when the maroons went off was expected to break the glass, remove the key and open the doors in readiness for the fire crew.
My Grandad, whose bakery was just across the street, made this his unofficial duty, and he would run across the street, often with hands covered in flour or dough, and open up the doors. Most of the fires turned out to be haystacks or barns on outlying farms and if we boys were off school we would race after the fire-engine on our bikes to the location of the fire. But one Sunday after going to morning service at church, (I sang in the choir at that time), I and two of my pals went for a walk in the afternoon. We were strolling by the river about a mile out of town when we heard the maroons go off. Curiosity made us hurry back and to our dismay we found that the church vestry was on fire.
It was quite a blaze but fortunately it was brought under control before spreading to the main body of the church, but not before it had destroyed all our choirboy gowns, surplices and numerous hymn and prayer books. So that evening at Evensong we had to sing in the choir in our Sunday suits and with the smell of burnt timber in our nostrils.
It was suggested, but never proved that someone was smoking a crafty fag and had discarded the end without putting it out, but I guess that is another story.!
The fire station in Broad Street served the town from the 1800s till 1940, when a new modern building was built at the bottom of Pound Hill.
[And in 2012 there are plans to move the Police Station in Station Road into the Fire Station itself!]
The old station still stands in all it’s red painted glory as a listed building and is a ‘must’ to the many visitors who visit this beautiful little Hampshire town of Alresford.
Len Strong sends another story:
“Growing up in Alresford, a small Hampshire town in the 1930s, life was placid and easy going, but one of the highlights for us school-children was the annual pleasure fair. The nearest Thursday to Oct 11th was fair day [Editor’s note: this still goes on every year at this time] and we looked forward with eager anticipation to the arrival of the big steam engines and Foden lorries towing a variety of gaily painted caravans and wagons.
By a charter granted by the Bishop of Winchester in 1573 to the Bailiff and Burgesses of Alresford, he gave them the right to hold a yearly pleasure fair. We learned this in school, but our only interest was to see the various rides and sideshows erected and opened for our pleasure. It was always in Broad Street and pride of place at the top, by the Horse & Groom pub was the big steam roundabout with its galloping horses and cockerels whirled round and round and up and down to the strident music of the steam organ. Also at times there were the chair-o-planes, similar to the roundabout but the chairs were suspended from chains and seemed to swing out farther and higher, which brought screams and shouts from the people brave enough to go on it.
Then there were the swing-boats in which you manipulated yourselves by pulling on the thick plaited ropes. Coconut shies where Dad usually managed to knock one off for me, unless the man in charge had seated them a bit deeper down in the cup in a bed of sawdust, then he would buy me one for sixpence.
Other sideshows were for darts, ring the teddy bear, roll-a-penny, and the ‘prize every time’ stall where you paid sixpence and picked a number from a basketful of rolled up numbers and you got the corresponding numbered prize from the shelf. It was usually a small cheap toy from the front row or maybe a goldfish, but never one of the big dolls or teddy-bears from the back. There were various sideshows where you could see the ‘bearded lady’ or ‘the cow with five legs’ and other dubious phenomena, and the boxing booth where some brawny farm lad with a few pints of beer inside him would take on the shows prize-fighter and finish up with a bloodied nose, and a pat on the back from the promoter and the parting words, “Better luck next time , son!”
Also, in later years, the Wall of Death came, which was a tall wooden circular construction in which motor-cyclists roared around the inside, defying the law of gravity and climbing higher and higher up the wall. The public had to climb up the outside to a viewing platform and look down at the performers. It always amazed me that they didn’t come over the top. We boys would try a similar feat on our bikes on the vertical grassy banks of local Fobdown, but we always came off and suffered many a grazed knee and bruised elbows.
The fair was only on for one afternoon and evening, but it was eagerly enjoyed by us all and the amazing thing was, that when we went to school the following morning it had all been taken down , loaded up and taken away and the streets were left clean and quiet as before.
As I sit here noticing that it is ‘Fair time again’, I wonder if the kids of today get as much pleasure from it as we did in those far off days before the war.”
What did you do at the Fair last time? What do yopu want to do this year? Let us know: send to email@example.com.
Len Strong from Derbyshire sends this story from his early days in Alresford, where he was born in 1925.
Len writes: “Gran & Grandad White, my Mums parents, lived in one of the oldest houses in Alresford. The middle one of a row of flintstone and brick cottages on Tanyard Hill, now called Mill Hill. [Editor’s note: This is the second cottage on the left, just after the open garden space and fireplace down Mill Hill, on the left, having entered from the bottom of Broad Street]. It had no bathroom or toilet facilities. In the back place was a well from which they had to draw water, and the ‘privey’ as Granddad called it, was a bucket lavatory half-way up the garden.
What it did have was a big cellar under the front room which was reputedly used to house French prisoners during the Napoleonic wars, but as I remember, I was always scared to go down there as it was a haven for spiders and their webs hung down from the ceiling. However, granddad kept pigs up the garden and there was always a side of bacon hanging in the cellar, and a supply of coal and firewood which the merchants used to tip into the cellar from a chute protected by an iron grill at street level.
My earliest memories are of sitting on granddad’s knee and eating ‘soldiers’ of toast dipped in a boiled egg, and of Gran in her long black dress protected by a starched white apron, busy preparing a meal at the scrubbed bare wooden table in the kitchen.
Grandad worked as a dray-man for Amey’s brewery situated in Broad Street. He had two big Shire mares which, when harnessed to the dray, he delivered barrels of beer to the outlying village pubs. And now and then he would take me with him. I used to love sitting beside him and listening to the clip-clop of the horses hooves as they trotted along the country roads.
At each pub Grandad would roll the required number of barrels off and trundle them into the bar. His reward was always a glass of ale from the landlords so by the end of the day he would be feeling quite ‘mellow’.
He would say to me,” Get in the back “, then he would join me, lie down and cover us over with a blanket, and give the horses the order, “Home girls”, and they would do just that. Trot back the four or five miles to the stable yard, while grandad had forty winks during the journey. He would feed and water them and then say, “Come on, we’ll go and have our tea, then I’ll come back and take off their nose-bags and put them to bed, and then it will be your bed-time too young feller!!”
Those were “Happy days”, as seen by Len.