After the Great War
After World War I the immediate plain was our playground and the empty deserted camps, once occupied by the Aussie soldiers had become the location for several war films. With the image of the bloody slaughter on the battlefields of Flanders firmly imprinted on the national conscience, November 11th had become a special day.
Yes, on Armistice Day at 11 a.m. on the 11th November every year the hooter on the top of the tall laundry chimney would signal the start of the ''two minutes silence'' this was emulated in every town and village in Britain. In school we would all stand with our heads bowed perhaps echoing in our thoughts the words of Rupert Brooke, in which we had been well drilled, ''If I should die, think only this of me. There is a corner of a foreign field that is forever England''.
The two minutes seemed endless, the silence almost unbearable. Everyone in the village, in the shops, in the houses, on the roads, in the laundry, in Allen & Lloyds, in the fields, standing with their heads bowed, hats doffed remembering - hoping, Once in the silence, a cow in a distant field was lowing and I could hear the rooks cawing in the Assac Copse behind Snoddington Manor and I wondered if it was like this when the world began. At last the laundry hooter would signal the end of the two minutes and the world came to life again.
Armistice Sunday, which soon followed was another awesome occasion when the whole village would join in a service around the memorial. The Scouts and the Guides would parade and the Ancient Order of Buffaloes with their regalia would make their annual appearance. The parson would read the names of the fallen, inscribed forever in stone and the gravelly voiced veterans and survivors would echo the words: ''They grow not old as we who are left grow old'' as if they felt guilty that their names too were not inscribed on the memorial. My particular heroes were Walter Hale and Ernest Bartholomew who were both "Lost at Sea". I never knew them but ''Lost at Sea'' conjured up images of all our island history
Another two minutes silence followed. The regiments quartered in Tidworth used to supply two trumpeters for every surrounding village on Armistice Service. I think ours came from a Cavalry Regiment, fully dressed in ceremonial uniform like the Lifeguards at Buckingham Palace, but with gleaming silver helmets. But it was from their silver trumpets, the pure crystal clear sound of the '' Last Post'' echoed over the churchyard, over the village, up to the hills and through the distant woods. The feeling it gave me I have only heard equalled by a bosons pipe, shrilling over grey hostile waters during a burial at sea.
Afterwards, when all had departed and the memorial decked with its wreaths of poppies the trumpeters would come home for tea while they awaited their transport back to camp. What splendid fellows I thought them in their grand uniforms. Why has the human race tried to make war and warriors so glamorous?
For a boy it was glamorous; now I wonder why.
To grow up in Shipton Bellinger between the wars was a unique experience. Our playground stretched from Markway Firs to the east, to the Nine Mile River on the west, from Toplis and Beacon Hill on the south, to Tidworth Park on the north.
Most of this was a rough, uncared for, military training area, known as W.D. Land and as military activity was minimal in the years after World War I, we roamed at will. To set off with two or three others to discover the source of the Nine Mile River was as good as a safari in Africa. Neither did private land escape our exploration. Of course, the farmers recognised us as local boys, as we bird nested along the hedges or crept under fences, and the odd pheasant we disturbed was as wild as us. I cannot remember any wood where pheasants had exclusive rights.
The wildest part of our domain was between the Croft Wood and the Perham ranges. Not only were there deserted farm buildings at Bedlam and the Warren (or at least the remains of their walls) but the whole area was also a network of tumbling trenches and dugouts where Kitchener's army had practised for the Western Front in World War I. With brambles almost hiding the trenches and plenty of rabbits to stalk, this provided a hunting ground fit for an Indian brave. Our standard weapon was a catapult and the rabbits were fairly safe.
Back in the village the two main targets, viewed in much the same way as big game hunters must have viewed a lion or tiger, were the school bell and the weather cock on the Church spire.
The School bell hung on the outside wall high up at the apex of the roof. To hit it and make it clang was well worth the whack you would get from the schoolmaster. The weathercock was an even more difficult target and to send it spinning round, a rare feat, some said it would condemn you to everlasting damnation. Maybe that's why our hands trembled and our aim was unsure. Are there any OAPs who can claim this bullseye? Later when some boys had airguns, we were firmly and finally warned off these targets.
The most vivid memory of military activity, apart from the annual Tattoo at Tidworth, was the hordes of Officer Cadets from the Public Schools, who came for their fortnight camp. One school wore dull pink uniforms and we were told that one of their number had been killed with a bayonet in some sort of affray and in disgrace they were not allowed to wear the proper 'Kings Uniform'. As patriotic little Britishers we had an inward shudder when we saw a pink uniform! The whole camp, numbering thousands, although profiting the local tradesmen, seemed like an invasion from another planet, especially on their final sports day when we saw more Bentleys and Rolls than we had ever imagined. However, when we met these "aliens", wandering the hills, we found them very similar to ourselves.
Queuing up to pay for my purchases behind five or six others at our local shop, I had time to reflect on our changing shopping habits and our changing shops. To look back to a time when shopping was part of a broader social intercourse between customer and shopkeeper and the business transaction was not allowed to dominate relations between people.
Of course there were more shops and fewer shoppers in the village and the various establishments could only have been sustained by the soldiers, still in camps around the village after World War I. (If you visited the history tent one Fete Day you would have seen the photograph of Queen Mary reviewing troops in the Camp Field below the Croft in August 1914). However, back to our shops, where shall we start?
Allen & Lloyds lemonade factory was built in 1912. One OAP started work there as a boy and was still working there recently when it was converted to a furniture making factory. For the youngsters it was a happy hunting ground for broken bottles, from which those glass marbles could be salvaged. Opposite Allen & Lloyds was H.L. King and Son, Shoe Shop which later moved to Tidworth. Adjoining it was a small hut, where Mr. Banting the cobbler worked. Mr. Banting had the misfortune to have lost a leg and some boys said it happened in France in World War I. We had no evidence of this, but fact or myth made him a hero to the gang. It was certainly no handicap to him and he was very active on his crutch. The crutch itself was a useful weapon to threaten cheeky boys.
Mr. Bartley in the garage just down the road also made light of his misfortune. He had lost a hand but he turned this into an asset. Have you seen modern motor mechanics fit a new tyre on a car wheel? The machine they use makes it look child's play. Mr. Bartley had a stout leather pad fitted on his wrist; he would put the wheel on the floor, kneel on one side of the tyre and pummel the other side into place with downward blows of his arm and pad.
I nearly forgot Billy Mist who also had a bit of a garage, and drove and hired a ten seater van; mini-bus 1925 style! It had two long wooden bench seats and a canvas top.
Salisbury Road must have been a hive of activity when you consider the Bakers and Confectioners, the Grocers, the Watchmakers and the Photographers, all within twenty yards of each other. The '' Bakers and Confectioners '' was for the kids at that end of the village, the most popular shop and commonly known as the ''Sweet Shop''. The Sweet Shop also sold pop and all our spare pennies were spent there. The bread oven was in a shed at the back and there was great rivalry as to who made the best lardy cakes, Bowdens, or Whites further up the High Street. Whatever the merits of their lardy cakes, there is no denying the superiority of their bread compared with [that so often offered nowadays].
Next door, the grocers claimed to serve 70% of the village and most of South Tidworth and Cholderton. Orders were canvassed by young ladies, whose weekly cycling in all weathers kept them very fit. The groceries packed in boxes were delivered with the bread round on Thursdays and Fridays in a horse drawn van. To some outlying cottages around Cholderton and Snoddington, the weekly visits were an excuse for a cup of tea and to catch up on local gossip. During school holidays a trip on the bread van was a journey into the unknown on unmade roads. Local orders were delivered by hand trucks by successive generations of 14 year-old errand boys, glad of the extra cash in an age when pennies were short. Later there was a trade bike with a very small wheel at the front over which fitted a huge basket. You could hardly see over the top. On the return trip from a small holder at Littlecot off the A303, across the downs towards Windy Dido, one errand boy came down Toplis Hill too fast and ended up with the bicycle round his neck and fruit and veg all over the road.
Mr. Hart, the Grocer, sang bass in the Church choir and was later Choirmaster and many church matters were discussed over the counter. I don't know if the customers divided up on religious grounds because Mr. White up the road was ''Chapel'' and a whole social history could be written about the difference between church and chapel in ''them days''.
Mr. Haddleton, the Watchmaker, whose shop adjoined the present car park where two cottages once stood, was a small frightened man who plied most of his trade amongst the military at Tidworth.
His neighbour Mr. Inman the photographer also plied his trade mostly in the barracks, but we were subjected to his efforts for the annual portrait to send to grandparents and other relatives. He employed the same Arcadian backcloth in his studio year after year, so there were a succession of portraits in which only you had changed and altered as you grew up. It was an ordeal worse than the barbers, you had to keep absolutely still whilst he fiddled beneath the black curtain draped over the camera with his antiquated lens and shutters and counted up to five.
If there was a rival to the sweet shop as our favourite establishment, it must have been the butchers. Perhaps not the shop itself although that was attractive enough with its huge windows festooned with poultry at Christmas time. No it was the adjoining field and the activities that preceded the stocking of the shop that attracted us. In Vigors' field grazed the sheep and perhaps a bullock that would provide our Sunday joint. Old Mr. Vigor would purchase these animals on the hoof and keep them until such time as customers demands had to be met. Killing day was always on a Thursday and we would rush out from school to help round up the selected beast, to supply the weekend trade. Occasionally a pig would be killed and that was always a noisy affair because they squealed as soon as they were cornered in their sties. It all seems very bloodthirsty today when our meats are supplied bloodless, pre-packed and often pre-cooked. In our childhood we were much nearer the age old food process, from farm to larder and to take a minor part in that process, was a small part of a grown up world.
Next to Vigors shop was an ''Off Licence'' the very name a mystery to us. Early every evening an elderly man would shuffle along with an empty bottle to be filled with draught beer and taken home to be drunk by the fireside. I used to think he was the only customer.
Fifty yards up the road in a rather ramshackle, part brick, part wood, part tin building; Mr. White baked his bread and doughnuts until his business faded as old age caught up with him, in spite of the efforts of Mr. Fish his right hand man. Opposite them at Manor Farm, Charlie Perrin's still retailed milk, delivered in a pony and trap pulled by the redoubtable Tommy. Butter was also made in the dairy and the skimmed milk fed to the pigs. It seemed that every household with a large garden kept a pig and a few chickens and to win a piglet in the skittles competition at the annual Fete would help feed your family during the coming winter.
Opposite the Boot Inn was the now empty Fishmongers shop, to where it was reputed Shaw Porter started his business empire. We knew it was a Fishmongers because of the tiling on the wails, similar to the larger fishmongers we saw in Butchers Row on our annual visit to Salisbury.
The Church, The Boot and the Blacksmiths were just about the geographic centre of the village. Brawny Perrier, the blacksmith, was well named, not only for his work in the forge, but for the way he wielded his bat in the cricket team.
The tall chimney of the Hants & Wilts Laundry was as familiar a landmark as the spire of St. Peter's Church. The hooter which summoned the workers and also signalled the end of the working day echoed round the village as loudly on weekdays as the Church bells did on Sundays. But the hooter was only a time signal to us; our interest was in the ''Blanket Field''.
Imagine a five-acre field with long wire clothes lines spaced ten feet apart, which on fine days was hung with thousands of Army blankets reaching almost to the ground. An ideal place for hide and seek with the additional thrill of being chased by the foreman when it was time to collect the blankets.
Opposite the laundry lived the village carpenter, Arthur Hunt, who also doubled up as the village undertaker. The village hearse was a four-wheeled hand trolley extensively used before people started hiring big black limousines from Andover or Salisbury. A funeral then was very much a village affair, the passing of a friend or work-mate, or old school mate. We were a small community and everyone was your neighbour.
Where Astor Flats now stand [Ed: since removed and replaced by Astor Mews] was yet another Bakers and Confectioners and at one time a cafe and a Post Office, before it was destroyed by fire in the early twenties. Further up the road were the twin shops of Camp and Teals, neighbours but in deadly rivalry. How either of them paid their way remains a mystery, remembering that Hedges Close, Sarum Close, etc. were still green fields. In front of Camps and Teals was an old hollow willow tree. How a willow tree ever managed to grow in a village street we shall never know, but it was a great pity when eventually the bottleneck it caused meant the end and removal of the old tree.
Finally our newspapers came from Mrs. Hussey; a wizened little lady always dressed in black, who lived in a converted railway carriage in Bulford Road. Of the twenty or so shops and businesses I have tried to recall, only Vigors and the Laundry continue to trade. What further change shall we see?
In the 1920s, the Shipton Girl Guides was a very enthusiastic Company, with Mrs. Vesey Ross, the wife of the Vicar of the time, as Captain and Mrs. Hood as Lieutenant. As I remember, we had 3 patrols; Robin, Skylark and Canary. We held our meetings in the Church Hall, which sadly has been demolished (it was sited opposite the Boot). We attended rallies held in the Weyhill Fairground (now taken over by Dunnings, the building contractors). One memorable day was when we attended a rally at Portsmouth. Although it poured with rain all day and we came home very wet, we had a marvellous time, with races and competitions. Later, when Mrs. Ross left the village, Miss Hood took over as Captain and the Company continued for several years.
As far as I can remember, the Wilts and Dorset Bus Company at Salisbury started operating a service through Shipton about 1930/31. It was a two hourly service. The first one was the 9.10 am to Tidworth; thus children attending Andover Grammar School still had to cycle to Tidworth and catch the train to Andover. Those children not attending Grammar School stayed on in the village school until they were 14 years old, the official school leaving age. If anyone wanted a whole day out by bus it was still necessary to walk up the Drove and catch an earlier bus that went to Salisbury from Tidworth via Bulford. It was the outbreak of the Second World War that brought in the innovation of the ''Workmen's Bus'' (sex discrimination not having been invented then). These buses were eventually incorporated into the timetable and, unless otherwise stated, could be used by the general public. There were four bus stops in the High Street, plus others in Salisbury Road and Bulford Road.
|Click on the thumbnail to see a photo of the brownies in the 1920's/1930's with Zoe Formby|
The Vicar had a car when we came to the village in 1925 and the Blacksmith also had one, and he could be hired to meet trains at Tidworth, which did not coincide with the bus timetable. Mr. White, who owned the bakery in the High Street, still delivered his bread by horse and cart. Mr. Whites roundsman was a Mr. Fish and it was a common way to catch out newcomers to the village with the cry ''There's a fish in the river'' only for them to discover it was Mr. Fish wading through to deliver bread to the people living on the other side. My father replaced his horses with a coal lorry in the early 1930s.
The milk was also delivered by pony and trap from Mr. Perrin's farm in the High Street. There would be two or three churns on the shelf across the trap and metal two pint and one pint measures hung on the side; these set up quite a rattle as the pony jogged along, so housewives could hear the milkman coming and be out ready with their jugs. These were filled by means of the appropriate measure being dipped into the churn and the milk then poured into the proffered container. When the Government brought in the ''Anti TB'' regulations, Mr. Perrin decided not to install the machinery required to sterilize the milk and his churns could then be seen standing at the side of the road for collection by bulk containers. The rounds were taken over by other dairies and for a while we had a choice of which one to use. Thus milk then came in bottles and these had quite wide tops with cardboard seals, which were broken by pushing a finger through the perforated centre and lifting out the top. It became quite a fashionable hobby to cover these tops with coloured raffia and then to sew them together to make baskets. They were also ideal for knitters to make pom-poms and many a scarf was trimmed at each end in this manner.
The village Policeman then lived in Salisbury Road next to the ''Pop'' factory. He pounded the beat on foot and meted out instant punishment with his belt to any boys caught poaching or scrimping. Vandalism of property was then an unknown thing and no one needed to lock their doors by day. Even the Headmistress imposed an 8.30 p.m. ''curfew'' and any child seen on the street after this time had to take a note to the school the next day giving the reasons why.
Ferreting was a regular Saturday sport in the fields between what is now the playing fields and Watery Lane. Cows used to be driven up the High Street to these fields and it was a ''dare'' for the children to ride through them on a bike, or perhaps ''hitch a tow'' by hanging on to one of them.
After World War I there were still more horses than cars in Shipton. Bread was delivered from Bowdens by two vans pulled by Molly and Ginger who also travelled the Tidworth and Cholderton circuit visiting many outlying cottages. Mr. White, a real old patriarch, drove a kind of buggy on his delivery rounds. Sitting up there with his hat and full white beard, he looked all the world like an evangelist of old crossing the prairies. Then there was Tommy a fat little pony who pulled the milk float, who knew every house to stop at, and who used to gallop back to Perrins farm like mad when his round was over.
Every farm still had cart horses and Mr. Penny's string, stabled where Hillside Garage is now sited, made a daily trip to Tidworth where they earned their keep clearing the manure heaps in the horse lanes. It was various waggons that got the children to school during the winter floods.
|Click on the thumbnail for the photograph of horse and carts carrying village children in a flood|
Living on the edge of the Plain the military presence was much in evidence. The annual manoeuvres were always held after the harvest. Huge ''cannons'' pulled by teams of six or eight gigantic shire horses would be positioned between the corn ricks and camouflaged. Dragoon men with their rifles in big leather scabbards, mule trains, top heavy with light portable field guns, the Lancers and Hussars and the timber waggons of the Royal Corp of Transport, all passed through the village. When the 9th Lancers and Queens Bays had a long spell in Tidworth, twenty or thirty polo ponies were stabled in the village.
Right on our doorstep was the Point to Point steeplechase over Mr. Perrin's fields. Starting from the Cross Belt and heading towards the Beech Tree the horsemen then raced inside the hedge bordering Parkhouse Road across the Drove and the football field and on to Watery Lane where they jumped the Bourne before turning left for the Tidworth Sewerage Farm and left again over the Bourne to complete the circuit to the Cross Belt. We used to rush out of school to see the last two or three races, especially if Charlie Perrin or Tom Baker frown Tidworth were riding.
At Parkhouse Crossroads, Percy Woodland had his racing stables. His string was walked up through Shipton to Tidworth Station where it entrained to various racecourses and were away for several days.
|Click on the thumbnail to see a photo of the Park House Stables at Cholderton|
And finally clip-clop, clip-clop, at dead of night came old Reuban, the dunikan man to empty the night-soil. He was a tall sinister looking man, dressed in filthy rags and carrying a lantern and frightening the living daylights out of any poor mortal who found himself in the privy at the wrong time of night and had not heard the clip-clop of Reuban's horse
I do not remember any village pump ever being in existence, although there were a number of wells, which were eventually replaced by stand-pipes, some inside the dwellings, but others outside, often shared by a group of families. The shared outside standpipes meant that the first household in the group to require water in the winter months had to leave enough water in the kettle overnight to thaw out the tap in the morning!
How we missed our own wells though, for until electricity came to the village in 1931 the well was also the ''refrigerator'' for as soon as the weekend joint was purchased on the Saturday, it was sent down the well to just about the water line, to be kept cool until required for use on Sunday. It was even possible to keep ice creams down the well for several hours!
The buckets used to draw the water up were of a special shape and were let down on a hook attached to the end of a rope, wound round a wooden roller with a wheel and handle on the end to wind it up. There was also a braking system on the wheel to control the speed of the bucket when it was let down, and woe betide anyone who tried to gain a few minutes by paying out the rope too quickly and by doing so lost the bucket. It often took many a long hour fishing for a dropped bucket (plus belting from Dad!).
|Click on the thumbnail for the 1920 photograph of floods in the High Street|
The Village suffered severe floods from time to time when the springs, which fed the River Bourne rose. Flooding was aggravated by the tarmacadaming of the parade grounds in Tidworth, which increased the quantity of storm water entering the river. Also there was (and still is) an endless battle to keep the riverbed free of weeds and rubbish.
The flooding was finally stopped when the water course was dug out by the Avon and Dorset River Board in October 1959 and adjustments were made to the flow of water higher up the valley.
In the Second World War, many Commonwealth Troops fought for Britain, and amongst those there were many from Australia. On 26th June 1940, the 72nd Australian Infantry Battalion (later to be renamed the 2/33rd Battalion, Australian Imperial Forces) was formed at Tidworth, where it stayed for four months, before moving to Winter quarters at Colchester.
During that time, local leave to Shipton Bellinger was available to the troops, who were warmly welcomed by the villagers, being invited to participate in local activities, such as church services, and honorary membership of the Working Men's Club, etc.
Those who may remember the troops might like to know that they afterwards served with distinction in the Middle East and Australasia, losing 107 men in action, or as a result of wounds, with a further 334 wounded in action. Decorations included: 2 DSOs, 8 Military Crosses, 11 Military Medals, 30 Mentions in Despatches, and 1 Russian Order of Patriotic Warfare, 1st Class!
(This information has been kindly supplied by Major Gordon Bennett).
In 1946 most of the lads serving in the Forces returned home but sadly a few more names were added to the Village War Memorial:
1939 - 1945
There was a grand party in the old Church Hall for the returning servicemen and their relations. Each ex-serviceman received a cheque for £12 and an illuminated scroll.
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