A Badsey man from London
From Willesden to Badsey
2: Pigs, cider and Fred Wheatley
3: Darts, pubs, watches and the Vincent family
4: Building work, National Service and the Culls
5: The Cockertons
6: Masty Farm
7: Married life
8: F C Jones
9: Josephs factory and self employment
From Willesden to Badsey
name is Roy Edwin Page – I am writing this in the hope that younger
people and future generations will be interested in my experiences of
life in Badsey over the last 60 years from 1948 to present day.
was born in Willesden, London in 1931. I was the eldest of a family
of three boys and two girls. My father was a general labourer with very little
work during the 1930s which meant a very poor existence for my mother
and her children.
the Second World War my father went into the army and my mother worked
in a munitions factory. When the bombing got bad all of us children
were sent to three different parts of the country, between 1939 and
1944, as evacuees. At the beginning of the war I was 8 years old, my
sisters were 6 and 4 and my youngest brother was 3.
had two or three jobs after I left school in 1945 aged 14 and it was when
I was 17 and in between jobs that an uncle of mine asked if I would
like to have a couple of weeks picking plums for a friend of his called
Ted Wheatley. I agreed and duly arrived at Evesham station on a Saturday
in August 1948.
brother Ted was waiting for me at the station in his 1938 Standard 9
– I remember him driving down Bridge St and over the bridge, the sun
shining, and me thinking ‘this is a nice place’.
arrived in Badsey at the Poplars farmhouse which was next to Seward
House. The house had a barn, stables, pigsties and a slaughter house
(Nos 22 and 22a The Poplars now stand on the site).
was waiting outside in the yard along with granny Wheatley, Enoch, Jim
and two or three other members of the family – Fred had 12 brothers and sisters
so it was just as well that The Poplars had 8 bedrooms.
was taken into the farmhouse through the kitchen and I could not believe
my eyes. It was a very large room with a flagstone floor and in the
middle was the biggest table I had ever seen – big enough to seat all
15 of the Wheatley family. Hanging from the ceiling were about five
or six large hams, a side of bacon was hanging on the back door and
on a side table was a large dish of eggs. A few days later I saw Granny
making bread and turning a small churn making butter with the milk from
a Friesian cow that was kept in the orchard. When Fred gave me a tot
or two of home brewed cider a few days later, after living on war rations
in London, I knew that this was to me ‘paradise on Earth’.
had to sleep at the Poplars for a few nights because the room at Fred’s
house (23 Brewers Lane) was not ready. The bedroom, like all the rooms,
was big with a double bed, wardrobe and washstand. I remember thinking
to myself that after a long day travelling etc. it would be nice to
get some sleep but to my shock the mattress was filled with straw. This
not only made a crunching sound every time I moved but was quite uncomfortable
with bits of straw poking through. It would have been better if I had
worn pyjamas but I didn’t have any!
the morning (Sunday) Fred came banging on the door saying “Come on its
6 o’clock you can’t stop in bed all day there is work to be done”. So
I dressed and went downstairs for breakfast which turned out to be the
best I had ever had. Fred had cut some rashers from the side of bacon
and fried them with three or four eggs and some tomatoes. Along with homemade
bread and butter it was amazing!
breakfast Fred took me out to the orchard at the back of the house with
a ladder, a peck basket and leather belt which was put through the handle
of the basket and then fastened around my waist. He took me to a tree
full of Pershore Egg plums, showed me what to do and then left me to
it. I soon got the hang of things and really enjoyed the sunshine and
the company of the other pickers. I earned £10 in the first week which
was really good because at that the weekly wage for an agricultural
worker was about £4.50. We picked Pershore Egg plums; Victoria’s and
finished with Damsons in September. By this time I knew this was the
life for me and wrote and told my mother that I would not be going back
to London, although I found later that market gardening was not all
sunshine and big money!
was along at Claybrook, along Bretforton Road, on my own one day when
something happened which taught me that there is a right way and a wrong
way to pick plums. I was up a ladder with a full basket hanging on my
belt when I reached out for a few plums at the end of a branch – a big
mistake. I went one way and the ladder went the other. I shot into the
middle of the tree and my leg got caught in a fork in the branches.
I found myself upside down with my head about one foot from the ground.
I had wrenched my ankle and taken the skin from my shin. The basket
which was still full of plums was pressed against my face. I shouted
for help but of course there was no one else around so I waited for
a little while until I got my breath back before I could extricate myself.
I decided that that was one lesson learned and I would not be plum picking
again unless there was someone else around.
the plums season had finished I agreed to work on the ground for Fred
– bean picking, parsley cutting etc. My weekly wage dropped to £2.80
a week but I was still having good food and cider! The one job I enjoyed
and became one of my favourites was digging out asparagus beds. The
end result was always good to see and the physical effort meant that
you slept well.
owned the land where the Green Leys estate is now built and where we
have lived since it was built 51 years ago.
in the village always spoke and passed the time of day, something that
never happened in London of course. One person who always spoke was
a young lady who visited her grandparents (Lewis and Eliza Vincent)
in the house next to where I lodged. Her name was Mary Cook, her mother
was Nora Cook nee Vincent. It turned out that we were both 17 years
old, I was born on 1/07/1932 and Mary on 2/07/1931. Her father was a
sailor from Bristol – he died on 17/08/1939 when his ship, HMS Courageous
was sunk by a German U-boat in the Bristol Channel. We started going
out together and after courting for four years we got married at Badsey
church, both aged 21, on the 1st day of spring 21st March 1955.
and her mother lived at 2 Mill Cottages (now 48 High Street) and I have
fond memories of great meals and lots of TLC which, after being moved
around during the war, was very much to my liking.
back to the subject of work and Fred Wheatley – when there was no work
on his land during the winter of 1948, we went sprout picking for Fred’s
brother Charlie who had a farm at Bretforton. Charlie grew a lot of
sprouts on the Cotswolds and employed about 20 to 30 sprout pickers.
Fred’s nephew, Pat Wheatley, would go around the villages picking up
people on his flat bed lorry. It had a canvas cover on the back which
kept the wind off us but not the cold so as soon as the lorry reached
the field we soon jumped off the lorry and got to work to warm ourselves
up! Sprout picking was a cold, wet, back-breaking job but a good picker
could treble his week’s wages if he worked hard.
first day I picked 27 nets (20lb in a net) and was paid one shilling
and a penny (6d) a net - £1.50 for the day. I thought I had done well
until Pat asked each man how many he had picked. I realized I had picked
the least, most had picked 40 or more. One chap, who looked as though
he couldn’t pick a sprout from a plate let alone a plant, had picked
60 nets! To add insult to injury some of the men had declared more nets
then they had picked and when Pat counted the nets he was 20 nets short
on the lorry so he docked one net from each worker which meant that
I ended up only being paid for 26! Another fiddle some of the pickers
got up to was to put a stone in the middle of the net, Pat even found
a horseshoe in one when he did a spot check one day. It got so bad that
after a while they gave everyone personalized tickets to be put in each
net so that they could be traced back.
picked up five or six Polish chaps every morning from a displaced persons
camp at the top of Broadway Hill (Springfield). They were great workers
and top sprout pickers, coming from a country with very cold winters
helped – I suppose!
was an incident one day concerning one of the Poles that sticks in my
mind. We were sprout picking when a tremendous great thunder storm hit
us. We all dashed for the lorry, piling in on top of each other, soaking
wet. Pat shouted “Everyone on board” and after a quick head count we
replied that everyone was. Pat quickly drove the lorry from the field
before it got stuck and drove down from Rollright dropping off people
as he went. It was only when we got to the displaced persons camp at
Broadway we realized that one of the Poles was missing. Pat had to drive
all the way back to the field at Rollright where we found the chap sitting
in a chicken shed at the side of the field, shaking like a leaf and
in a terrible state evidently frightened of the thunder. We all thought
it was quite funny but sometime later we were told that, like most of
the Poles, he had had a bad time fighting the Germans in Europe during
the war and was suffering from shell shock.
Pigs, cider and Fred Wheatley
was drunk by most villagers in those days and Fred used to make it in
a mill in Aldington. The Wheatley’s owned most of the orchards in Badsey.
The land now covered by Green Leys, St James Close and The Poplars were
all fruit trees. Fred had a yard, called Jinkes (now The Drift in Old
Post Office Lane) where he had a pigeon loft, a greenhouse and some
sheds containing 120 gallon barrels full of cider. On a wet day Fred
and his mates would sit in the greenhouse playing cards and I would
have to dash out to the shed every so often to bring back a jug of cider.
remember the first time I went picking up apples for cider (Autumn 1948)
I left all the rotten ones on the ground until Fred came along and told
me that everything was used for cider making!
mill at Aldington had a press and a scratter which was a box about 6ft
long, 2ft wide and 4ft deep. Inside there were three or four rollers
covered in metal spikes. The apples were put in the top, the rollers
then turned with a handle at the side and the apple pulp came out of
the bottom. This was then put into the press which was about 3ft square.
It had a press bed on to which a coarse hessian mat was placed and about
6 inches of the apple pulp was put onto this. The corners of the mat
were folded over and another mat was placed on top and this was filled
with the pulp in the same way. This continued until the stack was about
3ft high then the press was screwed down by three men using a 6ft handle
until the stack was about 1ft thick. The cider ran from the bottom of
the press into a stone trough set into the floor. The cider was taken
out with buckets and funnelled into barrels.
barrel of cider was always left in the corner of the mill each year
for the cider makers to drink the following year. We had our own china
mugs (tots) which were made from a sheep’s horn. Cider was never drunk
from glasses – they were for beer!
Harwood, an old land worker, sat in the corner and doled out the drink
when we wanted it. He was a grand old man who told good stories and
jokes so it was a shock one morning in 1948 to be told that he had drowned
himself in Aldington brook. He was in his seventies and it seems that
his wife had been ill for some time and he had got depressed about it.
of the land workers in the Vale drank cider and most had a couple of
small barrels in the back garden shed and took it and drank it while
at work. Fred sold cider to them for 2 shillings and 6 pence (12p) a
gallon while at the pubs it was 3p a pint! He delivered it using a 1937
Rover 14 towing a large barrel in a trailer. He used a large rubber
tube to siphon it into two buckets and as Fred got a mouthful every
time he siphoned it the old car wondered around along the road quite
a bit. It was a good job there were no breath tests in those days! I
was standing in the trailer one day when Fred had to stop halfway up
Bridge Street bank in Evesham. As he pulled away he made a hash of the
gears and everything, including me in the trailer, started rolling backwards
towards the river. Fred managed to regain control but from then on I
was always ready to ‘abandon ship’ (trailer) if the need arose.
acquired quite a taste for local scrumpy and I do believe that if I
hadn’t gone into the army in 1949 – I would have been seen staggering
around the village in a purple haze for the rest of my life!
12 months that I worked for Fred Wheatley was quite an experience. Fred
was a real character and he was either telling you what a great chap
you were or swearing at you left, right and centre, he had quite a temper.
He was always short of money and very often wouldn’t have enough money
to pay me on a Friday and I would have to wait until he sold some produce
at Evesham market. When he did have money he would get the car out of
the barn and fill it with petrol, drink beer, treat everyone in the
pub and smoke cigars. When the money ran out he would get back on his
bike, drink cider and smoke Woodbines!
remember once when I was in the car with Fred and we were going past
‘The Wheatsheaf’ when he suddenly stopped the car in the middle of the
road and jumped out saying “I’ll be back in a minute”. I was left in
the car with the driver’s door wide open and the engine still running.
Fred went round the back of the pub and in a couple of minutes came
back rubbing his knuckles saying “I’ve been waiting to catch that bugger”.
Evidently he had seen this man going into the pub but I never found
out who he was but he must have been very sorry that he had upset Fred.
time Fred fell out with his brother Bill, who was a market gardener
along the Bretforton Road and challenged him to a fight in the orchard
which is now where St James Close is. They hammered six bells out of
each other and they both must have been pretty sore afterwards. Fred
was a great lover of funerals and when someone in the village died he
would dress up in his best suit and black bowler hat and go along to
pay his respects and enjoy himself.
was also a keen horseracing fan and he was the local bookies runner
on race days. People would come to the house in Brewers Lane with their
betting slips and money and Fred would then take them into the bookie
in Evesham but before he went he would go through the slips throwing
out the ones that he thought would not win and put the money in his
pocket. On Grand National day 1948 Fred came unstuck because an outsider
won and he had to pay out on all the bets he had kept. He was not a
lived with his wife Phyllis and three daughters Josie, Margaret and
Janet at 13 Brewers lane and, while I lodged there, I had the back bedroom.
Sometime in the 1950s they moved to a cottage down Claybrook where Fred
had a plum plantation and 3 or 4 acres of land. I wasn’t there at the
time, but one day Mrs Wheatley walked across the lounge and got to the
doorway and she heard a rumbling sound behind her. She turned around
to find the carpet sagging in the middle with the heavy furniture, which
was standing on the edges, stopping it falling into a large hole which
turned out to be an old well. The well had been capped with timber and
soil which had rotted away. The well was about 20ft deep with 6 to 10ft
of water at the bottom. She was a very lucky woman that day I would
story I like to recall concerning Fred was something that happened on
New Year’s day 1949. A few of the Wheatley family, friends and also
myself had spent the evening at Granny Wheatley’s house (The Poplars).
Everyone eating, drinking and playing cards until midnight. After wishing
each other “A Happy New Year” we all set off home. When we got into
the yard Fred said “I didn’t feed my two pigs when I came here earlier”
(He had probably forgotten due to his cider intake that day!). So he
threw them a few armfuls of scrap vegetables that were down by the sty
and then we went home to 23 Brewers Lane to bed. The next morning when
we went to the yard Fred suddenly shouts “What the hell have these pigs
been doing? They’re covered in blood” but upon closer inspection it
wasn’t blood it was beetroot juice from a big old beetroot which was
among the vegetables that Fred had thrown into the sty the night before.
The pig’s snouts and forelegs were covered in beetroot juice! Fred came
in for a bit of ribbing at The Wheatsheaf when they found out he didn’t
know the difference between blood and beetroot juice!
I worked for Fred I was introduced to one job which was quite a shock
and that was pig sticking! A man named Elgar Hartwell ran the butchers
shop that was in a thatched cottage opposite The Wheatsheaf (a house
called The Rock now stands on the site). Mrs Hartwell used to make faggots
and pies for family and friends and one day the landlord from the pub
told her that the smell from her cooking was driving all his customers
crazy and was there any chance she could make some for him to sell.
This was so successful that so began the start of a full time butcher's
business. Some years later they moved to a building in the High Street
which is now converted into a house called “Greystones”.
became very adept at pig killing and when anyone in the village had
one to be turned into bacon etc then it was Elgar who was called to
the job. He would kill the pig then take it back to the shop where he
cured the sides of bacon and hams.
day Fred announced that one of his pigs was ready to be killed (they
usually weighed about 10 score, 200lb, when ready to kill) and he asked
me to give him and Elgar a hand. We went to The Poplars where a pig
bench (about 5ft long, 18 inches wide and 18 inches high) was bought
out into the yard. When Fred fetched the pig from the sty he told me
to catch it by the back legs whilst he held the front. We tipped it
onto its side on the bench and Elgar came forward with a curved blade
about 8 inches long. The knife was stuck into the pigs’ neck down into
its heart which killed it instantly. What I wasn’t prepared for was
the pigs’ reaction as Elgar started! Its back legs shot out catching
me in a very sensitive spot, the pig took off as if it was jet propelled
and I fell backwards into the muck in the yard. Fred meanwhile stood
there laughing his socks off – I swear he knew what was going to happen.
Anyway the next time I was called upon to help stick a pig I made sure
I had a good hold of the pig!
pig provided a tremendous amount of food like bacon, ham, sausages,
pork meat, brawn, trotters and chitterlings. Even the bladder was blown
up for the kids to use as a football. They say the only thing that can’t
be eaten from a pig is its squeal! Keeping animals for home consumption
was the norm when I came to Badsey in 1948. Goats were tethered along
the grass verges and geese, ducks, chickens and rabbits were kept in
back gardens. People killed the small animals themselves but relied
on people like Elgar to sort out the larger ones.
along with home grown vegetables food bills were quite small. There
were no Tesco, Morrisons etc and dining out was only for the well off.
Fred’s mother and father, Lucy and Horace Wheatley had a butchers shop
down the Bewdley in Evesham before coming to Badsey and opening a butchers
shop in the cottage next to ‘Oakley House’ in Old Post Office Lane.
They then moved to ‘The Poplars’ when the family got too big, using
one of the front rooms as a shop. Horace delivered meat etc to surrounding
villages by horse and cart and was evidently a very astute business
man who provided well for his large family. He had land and property
in Evesham as well as Badsey. ‘The Poplars’, St James Close and Green
Leys Estates were all built on land he owned. The local council presented
Mrs Wheatley with a compulsory purchase order for the Green Leys land
(then known as ‘Jinkes’) in 1953 paying her £665. What would that land
be worth today?
Wheatley died in 1934 at the relatively young age of 58. Apparently
he was away at a market with Enoch buying cattle when he had a stroke
from which he never recovered. His son Ted once told me that his father
ate large amounts of meat and at any time of the day. Whenever he came
into the house he would put the frying pan on to cook some so this must
be assumed that this was his undoing.
Darts, pubs, watches and the Vincent family
the winter of 1948 – 49 I was chosen to play darts for The Wheatsheaf.
I remember that we didn’t win much but it was great fun. Darts matches
were very important in those days and when one was being played the
marker would call for silence and everyone in the pub would keep quiet
until the game was over. I couldn’t see that happening in a pub today!
used Pat Wheatley’s lorry at times to get to the matches as not many
people had cars. Sometimes there would be as many as 6 or 7 people in
the cab of the lorry on a cold night. While at the match Pat would have
his usual half a dozen pints and on the way home when he couldn’t find
the gear lever – due either to the drink or too many bodies in the cab
– he would shout when he was going to dip the clutch and someone else
would put it into gear!
came home to Brewers Lane after one darts night to find the back door
locked. Fred had come home and assumed I was asleep so locked the door.
I didn’t fancy sleeping in the shed so I climbed up the drainpipe into
my bedroom window. The next morning I looked at the pipe and wondered
how on earth I had managed it! Without the drink I don’t think I would
time I went out to the shed to get my bike to go to work and I found
that it was missing. I went around all the neighbours asking if they
had heard anything during the night but no luck. I was not happy when
I had to walk to Claybrook to work and I spent the day cussing the thief
who had stolen my bike and wondering how I was going to replace it.
That evening I went down to The Wheatsheaf to find my bike there propped
up against the back wall. I probably couldn’t get on it to ride it home
the night before!
were three pubs in Badsey in 1948. The Wheatsheaf, where Connie Wixey
was the landlady, was said to be the bosses' pub because it had a spirit
license. The Bell was around the corner from The Wheatsheaf, where Mrs
Wormington was landlady, was the workers' pub because it only served
beer and cider. The third pub was The Royal Oak, now The Round of Gras,
along the Bretforton Road. It was run by the Mustoe family and they
brewed their own cider in a mill opposite the pub.
understand that the Badsey, Wickhamford and Aldington branch of the
Royal British Legion was started in the big room at The Bell. All the
pubs had darts, cribbage, shove halfpenny and quoit teams and they travelled
all over The Vale to play in different leagues. Rivalry was intense
and things were taken very seriously, the same as the village football.
The local Derby’s between Badsey and Bretforton were quite violent at
times but not the teams, the spectators! The women were the worst and
umbrellas were their favourite weapons!
back to more serious things – I remember when I had a few pounds in
my pocket one week and I decided to buy myself a watch. I went to Evesham
and bought one from Nash’s a jeweller by the traffic lights. It cost
me £5 which was a lot of money. I was very proud of it as it was the
first wrist watch I had ever owned. I used to take it off and put it
in my jacket pocket when I was at work because it wasn’t dustproof.
One day I was doing some ploughing at Claybrook and turned to take the
watch out of my jacket pocket, which was hung on the handle of the plough
and found it had fallen out and I had ploughed it into the ground. From
that day on I bought Smith’s pocket watches that only cost £1.25 each.
They lasted a couple of years and could be hung on a chain so didn’t
I came to Badsey I met a lot of friendly people and characters but one
I was extremely pleased to have met was Mary’s Grandfather Lewis Vincent.
He was a real country man who was born in Broadway in 1876. He was associated
with the land all his life – he had four and a half acres of land of
market garden land at Calli bank along the Willersey Road for 40 years,
which was until he retired in 1956 aged 80!). He cycled the approximate
2 miles there every day, Sundays included. People said they could set
their clocks as he went by because he was so punctual. He never had
tractors on his land and dug every inch each year with a fork. Half
the land was planted with plum trees and currants etc, the other half
with asparagus and other vegetables. He was a very gentle and quiet
man and never rushed around. He worked at the same steady pace but still
managed to make a living and bought his own house while providing for
his wife and three children.
of the time he wore riding breeches, gaiters and a waistcoat with a
watch chain across the front and he was rarely seen without a hat. During
the week he wore black boots and gaiters but changed them for brown
ones on Sundays. He smoked a pipe and smoked tobacco that he grew himself
on the land. He put something on the leaves (rum and molasses I believe!)
then rolled it up very tightly in a cloth. He then just cut a piece
off and mixed it with Black Russian tobacco that he bought from Preedy’s
in Evesham whenever he wanted a smoke. The result was pretty strong,
the stuff that came out of the end of his pipe would have been ideal
for tarring a fence!
most of the market gardeners he drank two or three pints of scrumpy
cider every day, this was kept in the garden shed. He also liked fat
bacon and kept two pigs in the back garden at Brewers Lane – one was
killed in June and the other at Christmas. Pigs were fed on scrap vegetables
from the land so the pork and bacon was virtually free. Today Grandad
Vincent would be condemned for eating, drinking and smoking the way
that he did but he lived to be 84 so it couldn’t have been all bad!
the Great War was declared in 1914 Grandad tried two or three times to volunteer
for the army but was turned down because he had flat feet and was doing
important work providing food by working the land.
Eliza Vincent was different to Grandad. She was the boss and made all
the decisions especially money wise. When granddad went down to The
Wheatsheaf once a week on Friday she would give him 2 shillings and
6 pence (12p) which was enough for two pints. Although they were two
opposites they seemed to get on very well. Granny could be a bit of
a devil at times but she always looked after her husband well. They
had been married for 57 years when Grandad died in 1960 so they had
plenty of time to get used to each other!
used to help Grandad on the land occasionally and I remember the very
first time. We were hoeing together for about an hour when he said “Right,
time for blowings”. He walked over to a bushel box, one of about six dotted
around the ground, sat down pulled out his pipe and tobacco, lit up
and sat there just taking in the view and organising his thoughts. After
a few minutes he would get up and carry on working. Evidently he would
do this quite often during the day – he also had a sup of his cider
bottle every now and then. I remember thinking to myself – there’s a
man who appreciates everything and knows what life is all about.
arrived at the ground one morning and just as we were about to get off
our bikes a hare shot out of the grass and started running up one of
the footpaths that led up to the ground. I went to dash into the hovel
(shed) to fetch the shot gun when Grandad said “don’t bother, just stand
still.” As we watched the hare got about half way up the path when it
suddenly did a couple of somersaults in the air and stopped. Grandad
knew a hare was about because it had been eating the tops out of the
sprout plants so he had put a wire snare across each of the two footpaths
that led to the ground. So thereby that day he caught his hare and caught
himself an easy dinner!
time I remember is when I got to the ground one day and as I got to
within about 200 yards of the hovel I could hear something making a
terrible screaming noise. When I went into the hovel and found out where
the noise was coming from it turned out to be the biggest water rat
I had ever seen. It was under the bench caught in a gin trap that Grandad
had set the night before. It had got into trap from the side instead
of the front and instead of being caught by the head and being killed
instantly it was doubled up sideways with its head by its tail. It was
uninjured but very uncomfortable but I didn’t fancy releasing it from
the trap in case it ran up my trouser leg so I had to drop it, still
in the trap, into the brook and drown it.
became ill and had to have an operation for stomach cancer in 1946.
It was a very major operation in those days but he came through it OK
but, because his stomach muscles had been damaged so much, he had to
wear a canvas corset which he had to put on every morning because he
couldn’t get out of bed without it. This didn’t stop him working on
the land full time for a few years afterwards.
also had to have an operation for cataracts in the 1950s at Cheltenham.
I remember visiting him and seeing him with small sandbags either side
of his head. He was in hospital for a week or more. A bit different
to today it is in and out within 24 hours. He told us that he remembered
them taking his eye out and putting it on his cheek!
had his first heart attack aged 84 and he was lying in bed a few days
after this when he asked me to give him a shave. He produced a cut throat
razor which I refused to use and said I would use a safety razor. He
said “a cut throat razor gives a better shave” but afterwards he did
agree that the safety razor shave ‘wasn’t too bad’!
seemed to get better for a couple of weeks but one morning he got out
of bed. Decided he didn’t feel too good and got back into bed and died
with no fuss, exactly as he had lived his life.
Vincent died in 1964 four years after her husband in the same bed and
room at 23 Brewers Lane (6 South View) She was 85.
only regret I have regarding Grandad Vincent was that he would never
talk about his family in Broadway. Apparently there had been a bad disagreement
within the family and he disowned them completely.
Vincents had three children – Nora Emily 1904 -1989, Ann Mary 1905 –
1996 and Lewis Thomas 1912 – 1931.
married Walter Lewis Cook, a sailor from Bristol and went on to have
one child – Mary Janet. Ann married Cyril Porter a market gardener from
Bretforton and they had one child Maurice Vincent. Lewis Thomas was
born in 1912 with what was then known as Blue baby syndrome and was
poorly for most of his short life (18 years). A blood transfusion would
have cured him today. They say he died from chest injuries after falling
onto railings down The Green path in 1931 (no penicillin in those days!)
As an only son he was obviously thought a great deal of because of the
number of photos taken of him during his lifetime.
Building work, National Service and the Culls
was working for Fred Wheatley in 1949 and because I was an agricultural
worker he said he would sign a deferment form so that I could go into
the army to do my National Service when I was 20 instead of 18. I was
courting Mary at the time so I thought it was a good idea. Then he refused
to sign it when we had a slight disagreement one day. In fact he chased
me down Badsey High Street threatening to kill me! Luckily as I was
on my bike and he was on foot I managed to get away!
was now jobless and had no lodgings but a family called Chamberlain
took me in at No. 2 Horsebridge Avenue. I got a job with Cornes Construction
who was starting to build the first houses on the Fairfield estate.
building trade was totally different to what it is today. No JCB’s so
all the digging was done by hand. The largest machine on site was a
big cement mixer which had to be loaded by hand with cement and sand.
It was then tipped into the wheelbarrows of a dozen or so labourers
who took it along planks to tip it into the footings. All the carpentry
etc was done by hand and building sites were like ant hills with so
many people around.
had to be unloaded from the lorries by hand because fork lift trucks
hadn’t been invented then. Cement and bricks were the worst to handle
because they were often hot when they arrived and they were thrown from
the lorries at great speed. Catching bricks four at a time and stacking
them properly was quite an art!
could get a job on the building in the 1940s and 50s and all sort of
characters were taken on. The gang I was with was quite a mixture, the
foreman was Polish and spoke very poor English there was also German
and Italian ex-prisoners of war who had decided to stay in this country
after the war. There were four lads from Newcastle who it turns out
were in trouble with the police and were on the run!
gypsy father and son were very interesting - they had a side line for
making money. They used to pick up cigarette butts from the streets
empty ash trays from the pubs. Then during the day they would hide in
a trench and take the butts apart mixing all the tobacco together. They
then sold it to the lads on the site, it was amazing how many bought
it but I never fancied it after seeing the lipstick, beer and saliva
stains on the fag ends!
had to take you own food to work as there were no mobile canteens. Tea
used to be bought round in big urns on the back of a lorry but it was
often cold. If it rained too hard to work you could either go home or
sit in the shed on half pay which was one shilling (5p) an hour.
about August 1949, because I could no longer be deferred from National
Service due to being employed on building instead of agriculture, I
had to go to Worcester to be checked out for the army. I went through
the tests for hearing, sight, chest etc and then about 30 of us were
told to get in a line, bend down and touch our toes (bear in mind we
had no clothes on!). Then a medical officer went along behind us making
notes on his clipboard as he viewed out rear ends! When he got to me
he spent rather a long time looking then called another officer over
to have a look then I heard one of them say “You’re right. It is”. I
was a little worried by then but when I stood up the M.O said “Do you
know that you have one leg longer than the other?” It later turned out
that this was caused by one of my hips being bigger than the other.
away I thought “Great I’m not fit to go in the army” but the M.O soon
put me right by saying “It’s only about an inch longer and we can wear
that off in the parade ground”. He then passed me as Grade A. The irony
of it was I became a weapons and drill instructor and spent a large
part of my army service crunching gravel on the square!
went into The Royal Army Ordinance Corps on 20/10/1949 and was demobbed
on 10/10/1951. I served the whole two years in Aldershot training a new
squad of recruits every 8 weeks – a great experience which I wouldn’t
have missed for anything.
I came home I went into lodgings with Bass and Lucy Cull's house, “The
Sumachs”, in the High Street, a stone house to the left of the shop.
At the back of the house was a bakery where they baked cakes and pies.
Bread was made by Lawrences in a bakery opposite 23 Brewers Lane.
and Aunt Lucy, as she was known, were a nice couple if rather odd! Lucy
loved cats and had as many as a dozen in the house. This was OK except
for the fact that she insisted on feeding them on the end of the same
table (a large one I admit) as us. I have to say that looking at a row
of cats bottoms while you are eating is not nice and not only that but
you would occasionally find a long tabby, black or grey hair in your
meat pie or cake!
were three or four lads lodging at the Culls and I shared a bedroom with a
chap called Granville, a posh name but posh Granville was not! He was
a bailiff on a local farm and of all things he had a strong dislike
of washing and bathing or even changing his clothes! He wore long johns
and boilersuits at work and would come home in the evening covered in
the usual farmyard deposits. He would kick off his wellingtons and sit
in a chair next to the fire and put his feet about 6 inches from the
open fire. In a few minutes the rest of us were telling him to put something
on his feet or leave the room! He didn’t take much notice it has to
be said. Lucy would put his clean underclothes on his bed and a week
later they would still be there!
Cull had a club foot and a withered hand but still managed to drive
an old van around the local villages delivering bread and cakes. The
trouble with Bass was he had strong political views – he was a fascist
(Blackshirt) like one or two others in the village and was very often
still delivering at 10 o’clock at night. This was said to be one of
the reasons why the business failed along with the fact that Lucy was
too soft hearted to demand money from people who owed them.
Cull had a nephew called Jack who lived at Bowers Hill but spent a lot
of time at Lucy’s. Jack was a bit simple and was unable to hold down
a job. The lads who lodged with Lucy were always pulling his leg but
Jack was not as simple as they thought. One day he asked me how much
five Woodbine cigarettes cost. He knew of course but I told him 6d (2p).
He then held out his hand with 4d in it and said “so if you give me
2d Roy I can buy a packet can’t I”. Jack got his 2d of course!
story which was all too common when people kept poultry etc in their
back gardens concerns Lucy one morning when she went to feed her 10
geese in the orchard. She found all of them on the ground minus their
heads! A fox had killed all 10 then taken only one away to eat. This
was the trouble with foxes, they kill for the fun of it not just to
eat so they had very few friends among country people. Anyway Lucy was
not going to be defeated by this so she dressed all the geese and put
them into a large chest freezer in the bakery. We had goose to eat nearly
every day for months!
lodger at Lucy’s was Fred Taylor who came from Birmingham to do agricultural
work instead of National Service. Fred was one of Lucy’s favourite lodgers
but would not have been if she had known what we knew concerning her
cats. Fred was a cowman in Broadway and had to be at work at 4.30am
so was always the first person to get up in the morning. What Lucy didn’t
know was that Fred hated cats! The first thing he did was open the back
door and boot all 10 or 12 cats out into the back yard. So when Lucy
came down after we had all gone to work there wasn’t a cat to be seen!
Lucy did ask us all once if we knew any reason why this should be but
we all denied anything. I’m sure she must have suspected something but
Fred got away with it.
was walking down the orchard one Sunday afternoon when I saw a couple
of heads and legs bobbing up and down in the long grass. Being a gentleman
I went back to the house and a short while later a red faced Fred and
his girlfriend Jean came in for tea. The next day I asked Fred if he
had enjoyed his walk, he made me laugh when he said “ Yes but never
try to make love in a deckchair Roy, it’s not possible”!
first job after leaving the army was with Vic Cockerton a market gardener
who lived in a house to the right of the church. There was a yard at
the back of the house with a barn and three or four big greenhouses.
He also had land at the back of Badsey School called “The Stocky”, part
of which is now the school playing field and a few acres (including
plum plantations) down Willersey Rd (Bullybrook). Vic was probably one
of the best gardeners in Badsey and grew really good early cauliflowers,
runner beans etc on The Stocky which was really rich soil. He was a
great believer in feeding the ground with things like ‘shoddy’, which
was a sack of leather dust from the tanning industry. He also used Peruvian
Guano (bird droppings) which it was said was given away free to persuade
growers to buy artificial fertilizers when they were first introduced.
Vic grew all his own plants, besides tomatoes, lettuce etc in his greenhouses
and these were also first class.
were three other chaps working for him while I was there - Jim Sadler,
John Sadler and Ron Keen (known as Dixie Dean after a famous footballer).
Both Jim and Ron played for Badsey Rangers at one time. There was also
a woman who worked for Vic called Lottie Hartwell. She also had another
job which was laying out local people when they died (a lot of people
died in their own beds in those days). She would hear the church bell
tolling and would take her little black bag on the back of her bike
to go and ‘sort out’ whoever had died. It was said that she enjoyed
that job more than tomato picking.
drove around in a pre-war long nose Bedford 10cwt flat bed truck and
I have to say that he was one of the worst drivers I have ever sat next
to. He started driving before tests were introduced and I am sure he
would never have passed if he had taken one. He would try to pull away
in any gear and when he finally got away he would change from 1st gear
to top in one go. I think he thought kerbs were there to run into every
few yards and he never did much above 30 to 35 mph but still managed
to frighten the life out of his passengers.
took delivery of a Daimler saloon while I worked for him but he never
liked driving it. He took his wife to Evesham once a week on market
day in it then put it straight back into the barn.
Vic was known as a good gardener he was also known for being a very
careful (mean) man. It was said that when he had a horse and dray he
would offer the local children a lift from school to the top of the
village providing they paid him ha’ penny – no ha ‘penny, no lift!
remember once when we were all doing some hoeing down Bullybrook when
Vic arrived in the old pick-up, went into the shed and after a while
came out, got back into the truck and drove off. Jim Sadler had noticed
something the rest of us hadn’t. Evidently Vic had gone through our
old wellingtons – which we had discarded because they were full of holes
or split – picked the best two and was wearing them when he came out
of the shed. Jim noticed that one had a black sole and the other a yellow
sole. Vic wore them for months with cardboard stuffed in the soles!
also saved money on matches by lighting his first woodbine in the morning
then chain smoking all day lighting each cigarette off the previous
one, he got through as many as 60 a day!
was said that on the day he died in 1953 aged 71 he told his wife that
as he couldn’t read she was to turn off the electric light and light
a candle instead to save money. He left £50.000 in his will, a lot of
money in the 1950s, Mrs Cockerton died a few years later so the tax
man must have had a field day.
recall an amusing incident one day when we were working on The Stocky,
behind the school. We heard someone shouting from the Willersey Road
and it turned out to be a chap called Walt Buggins who lived in Sands
Lane. He was standing in the middle of the road by his old pre-war van,
waving his arms about and shouting. When we finally got to him we found
out why! Inside the van was a large pig (about 10 score lbs) with her
feet and legs poking through the wooden floor of the van which was rotten
and had collapsed with the weight. We thought it was very funny but
Walt was not amused. The problem was getting the pig out of the van!
One of the lads suggested letting the air out of the tyres so that the
pig could walk along the road. Another said to shoot it and cut it up
in the van! I think they had to dismantle a fair part of the van before
all was well and the pig was released.
worked for Vic Cockerton for about 18 months and when I left I went
to work for Joe Albutt at Masty Farm in Broadway. I bought a BSA Bantam
motorbike to get there and back – it cost me £65, a lot of money!
not really a part of Badsey life I feel that this job is worth telling
about because not only was it the most enjoyable job I ever had it also
tells of a lifestyle which no longer exists.
was a very hard working man, very forward thinking and ambitious. He
worked on the family farm with his brothers but became very disillusioned
when his father refused to modernise by replacing the horses with tractors
etc and he was still using them in the 1950s. So Joe started out on
his own with four fields on the Evesham side of Broadway, opposite the
Childswickham turning. Through sheer hard work he gradually increased
his acreage until he not only had Masty Farm but land in Childswickham
(moko) and Broad Campden. When I went to work for him in 1952 he had
20 or 30 people working for him.
bought all sorts of farm machinery tractors, combines, ploughs etc and
did contract ploughing, harvesting etc for other farmers. He bought
unwanted calves from local dairy farmers and raised them for beef – three years old and weighing half a ton. Most of his farm buildings were
built by himself and his workers, they were well built too! What he
didn’t know he found out from those who did. He bought tickets for the
Three Counties Show every year for all his workers. When the day came
he gave us all a notepad and pencil so that we could draw plans of anything
he could make on the farm, things like chicken pens, bale sledges, tools
was always looking for ways of making life easier on the farm. He once
decided to put electric motors on anything that had to be turned by
hand, chaff cutters, beet cutters etc. The first thing he tried was
a chaff cutter, they assembled it and Joe turned on the power but when
it got to full speed it vibrated so much that (because it was made of
cast iron) it flew into pieces. Joe knew nothing about pulley sizes
and gearing but he got it right eventually.
year we had to carry 250lb sacks of corn upstairs to the granary – a
terrible weight to have on your shoulders. The next year Joe devised
an electric hoist which made life much easier. The following year 250lb
sacks were banned from use.
went into all aspects of farming, a large dairy herd, raising calves
for beef( as many as 60 to 70 at a time), hundreds of sheep and a very
big incubator which produced a large number of turkeys and chickens
each year and a vast number of eggs being sent to market. He grew large
acreages of wheat, barley, hay etc and on top of this he had 6 acres
of market gardening land producing asparagus, lettuce, onions and the
60 or 70 acres of sprouts he grew each year was where I came in because
they were planted, hoed and picked on piecework. The harder you worked
the more you earned, maybe £10 or £11 a week which was twice the normal
wage. When there was nothing to do with the sprouts we did other work
and because the farm was so diverse there was always something different
to do. This made it a very interesting job.
did things like ploughing, scuffling and drilling seed driving all sorts
of tractors including Caterpillars. There was hedge laying, putting
in land drains, feeding cattle or poultry, mowing and hay making. I
even helped Joe take the bull to service the cows when they were on
heat. Dehorning calves with a hot iron was not easy because they objected
very strongly and took some holding on to. The smell of burning horn
also stayed in your nostrils for ages.
laying was one job I really enjoyed and I learned a lot from a chap
called Sid Tustin. He was one of the old types of farm workers and was
about 50 years old when I first knew him. He had never married and lived
with his mother in a cottage in Childswickham with no electricity or
sewer. He was never late for work and worked at the same steady pace
always doing a good job. He never went anywhere without his hat on,
he probably wore it in the house too! He always wore a waistcoat with
a watch and chain and a box of snuff in one pocket. Sid took three bottles
of cider to work every day and his food was a lump of bread with cheese
or meat, onion and an apple. He cut it with a bone handled penknife
and wouldn’t be seen dead with sandwiches. He couldn’t – or wouldn’t
– drive and farm machines so hedging and ditch digging were his main
jobs but the end results were always perfection.
remember one Saturday morning Sid, myself and a couple of others were
sent to trim a hedge close to the farm with hedging hooks. The night
before I had played a darts match at The Wheatsheaf and was feeling
a little worse for wear. The hedging hook wasn’t getting much use when
all of a sudden someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was Joe Albutt,
he had been watching us while he had his breakfast in the farmhouse.
He said to me “ Have a good night out last night then Roy?” I thought
he was just being polite but when I said yes I had Joe said “ Well in
that case you had better put your tools back in the shed, go home and
go back to bed. Then on Monday morning you can come to work fit enough
to earn you money!” He was definitely not going to pay me for standing
around doing nothing. Joe worked as many as 16 hours a day and could
do any job on the farm so there was no fooling him!
remember one job when Joe took me in the cattle truck, an old WW2 RAF
ambulance, down to Childswickham to bring a cow which was close to calving
back to the farm. We got her into the truck and Joe drove up to the
Evesham-Broadway road where he had to stop at the junction which had
a very steep slope. He made a mess of pulling away and the wagon jumped
up and down like a kangaroo before he got it onto the main road. We
went a couple of hundred yards to the farmyard and we got out to find
the ramp at the back was down and the cow was missing! We realised that
she must have staggered back against the ramp when Joe made a mess of
pulling out of the junction, the ramp had fallen down and she had fallen
out. We ran back along the road, Joe muttering a lot of naughty words,
expecting to find the cow dead or at least with a broken leg but there
she was on the side of the road happily munching grass. Joe sat up with
her all night and next morning she had her calf, none the worst for
had a narrow escape himself once when we were combining a field of wheat.
One of Joe’s sons was driving the combine when he spotted a rabbit making
a dash for the open ground. He stopped the combine, picked up his shotgun
and took aim on the rabbit. What he didn’t realise is that Joe had pulled
up alongside the combine with a tractor and trailer and Joe came into
his line of fire just as he pulled the trigger. Joe took some of the
shot in his arm and leg but was not seriously injured although the shotgun
was confiscated and we all had a lecture on how to use them.
incident I remember which could have been serious was when about 6 or
7 of us were sat around a stove in the barn having our lunch. A young
lad called Cox from Wickhamford decided that it wasn’t warm enough so
he picked up a bucket of old engine oil and proceeded to pour it into
the top of the stove. What he didn’t realise was that there was petrol
mixed in with the oil and flames shot back into the bucket. He dropped
the bucket and flaming oil and petrol ran all over the floor. We all
shot off our seats and crashed through the door in one big heap. Luckily
the fire was soon put out and no one was hurt but it was a close thing.
was a chap called Michael (Shammy) Foulkes from Bibsworth Avenue in
Broadway working on the farm. He was the main tractor driver and did
some excellent ploughing with an old American caterpillar tractor. One
day he was driving an old pre-war Fordson Major tractor and trailer
down Snowshill loaded with Larch poles (to be used to carry electricity
cables across the farm). He was in bottom gear coming down the hill
but soon realised that the brakes, which were on the rear wheels of
the tractor, were not going to stop the lot from gathering speed with
the trailer intent on overtaking the tractor. In a split second Shammy
made one of the most important decisions of his life! He stood up on
the tractor and threw himself off into the hedge. The trailer jack-knifed
into the tractor, over turned and the load of poles careered down Snowshill
on their own. Shammy was unhurt but a few days later he said to me ‘
I was bloody lucky not to get hurt the other day’. I thought that this
was rather an understatement, killed would have been a better word!
are of course places where accidents happen on a regular basis. One
involved my brother Eddie when he was about 15 years old and had come
to stay with us at Mill Cottages for a few days. I took him to work
with me on the back of my BSA bantam and he enjoyed doing all sorts
of jobs. He came with us one day to pick up some hay bales on a tractor
and trailer and he was very pleased when we let him drive the tractor
across the field in bottom gear – he wasn’t strong enough to pick up
the bales so he got the easy job! The field had been strip ploughed
for years so it looked like corrugated paper. Eddie was told to drive
along the top of the lands, as they were called, to keep the trailer
level but he forgot and drove to the bottom of one before we could stop
him. The trailer tilted as though in slow motion and tipped over spreading
bales all over the place. Luckily the trailer came unhitched and the
tractor stayed upright. Eddie was, to say the least, a little bit embarrassed
but we were just pleased that no one was hurt.
of the farm's sprouts were grown on the hills. One field at Broad Campden
was over 30 acres and very uneven. You couldn’t see across from one
hedge to the other. One day four or five of us were picking sprouts
in the middle of this field when Sid Tustin came over the brow carrying
four or five nets saying ‘ If you don’t want to get wet you had better
make for cover now’. We looked at each other wondering what he was on
about because there was hardly a cloud in the sky. All of a sudden,
just as Sid got to the lorry, a gust of wind hit us and a second later
we were drenched by a flash storm. Sid thought it was funny and when
we asked him how he knew it was going to rain he said he heard it coming
over the other side of the hill. One time when we should had listened
to a real country man!
we had our lunch breaks we used to walk round with the guns or set wires
in the hedges to try and keep the rabbit population from eating the
sprouts. One morning we got out of the lorry and we could hear a terrible
screaming noise coming from along the hedge. One of the lads suggested
we had caught a fox or badger in one of the wires but as we got there
it turned out to be a large half-wild ginger tom farm cat which was
throwing itself all over the place trying to release itself from the
wire. One of the lads fetched a couple of sacks from the lorry but it
took quite a while before we managed to get hold of the cat so that
someone could remove the wire. After we did the cat went across the
field as though its tail was on fire – with one of its 9 lives used
up I guess!
Taylor, who lodged with me at Lucy Culls, was the cowman at Joes and
was quite a character. Good looking and quite a ladies’ man as more
than one of the girls on the farm found out! Joe called us into the
barn one day and told us that he had had to sack Fred for stealing.
It seems he had been helping himself to petrol, corn etc. (Fred had
married and was living in a cottage at the end of Badsey Fields Lane
where he had a few chickens and ducks). Joe was very upset at losing
Fred but wouldn’t accept any sort of dishonesty at all. In fact I am
sure that if Fred had asked Joe for the stuff he would have given it
Fred left Joe’s he went lorry driving for Marshall’s Transport and lost
his life when he ran into a roundabout somewhere in Wales and the load
of steel he was carrying went through the cab. This was some time during
the 1960s but I am sure there are still a lot of people around (especially
girls) who remember Fred, one of life’s lovable rogues!
took a special interest in me when he learned that I was a Londoner.
He couldn’t get over the fact that I could do any of the jobs on the
farm. He was always testing me with things like de-horning calves and
de-maggotting the sheep! There was a real mixture of staff at Joes from
old type farm hands to young boys and girls. Providing we did our jobs
properly he treated us well and it was a great place to work.
married Mary whilst I was working at Joe’s (21/03/1953) and we received
a lot of presents from staff including £10 from Joe, nearly two weeks
wages, which was very generous but typical of him. Mary was working
at Littleton and Badsey Growers in Blackminster as secretary to the
manager, Vic Smith. She was there until Christmas 1953 when she left
six months pregnant with our eldest son Simon.
lived at Mill Cottages with Mary’s mother until January 1956 when we
moved to the newly built 28 Green Leys. (The rent there was £1-1s-4d,
108p a week). Mill Cottages was only two rooms upstairs and two downstairs
and got a bit crowded when Timothy was born in 1955. There was only
a cold water tap in the cottage and hot water came from two big enamel
kettles on the hobs in front of the black range in the front room. There
was a gas cooker and a gas boiler for boiling the weekly wash in the
kitchen. A big tin bath which hung on the outside wall in the yard was
put in front of the range and was filled with water from the gas boiler
so we could have a bath once a week. Dragging the bath out through the
kitchen, without slopping the water everywhere, to empty it down the
drain in the yard was not an easy job. There was no flush toilet in
the cottage but 10 yards down the garden was a row of four bucket loos,
one for each cottage. This was OKif you went down there on your own
but if one of the neighbours was paying a visit it could be a little
disconcerting because they were definitely not sound proof!
bucket loo was emptied into a hole dug in the back garden – usually
once a week early on a Sunday morning! After 300 years of this the soil
was 3 foot deep black loam and grew amazing vegetables and flowers!
door to us, at 3 Mill Cottages, lived a man called Charlie Roberts.
He was one of five or six volunteer firemen who lived and worked in
the village. If the fire alarm (church bell) was sounded while they
were at work they had to down tools and run or cycle to the back of
the churchyard where there was a shed by the Lytch gate in which was
housed a fire pump. The pump was pulled by hand to the scene of the
fire – two men on either side of the pump – they raised water from a
well or the brook on way to the fire. Although there were still a few
thatched cottages in Badsey, I don’t remember it being used in earnest.
living at 2 Mill Cottages the man who owned them asked me if I was interested
in buying numbers 1 and 2. The price being £1000 for number 1, which
was empty and £200 for the one we were living in. I tried hard to raise
the money from different sources but could only manage raise £600. 100%
mortgages were not available in those days so we carried on paying 25p
a week rent. My wages in those days was around £6 a week.
once asked the local builder to give us a price for building a bungalow
in Badsey Fields Lane. He came back with a price of £2500 and a mortgage
of £20 a month, an impossibility on £5 a week! So we had to forget about
owning our own place for a while.
the 1950s, because I was finding it difficult to keep my growing family
on the agricultural wage, I took on 2 acres of land along the Willersey
Road – called Frances grave – this land was owned by the church and
the rent was £4-12s-6d (£4.62p) a year. It was clay soil which is not
the best for market gardening but if it is ploughed or dug at the right
times it would grow some good crops. I worked on it at weekends and
after work in the evenings which meant I didn’t spend a lot of time
at home but we were able to pay the bills – just!
grew crops like sprouts, leeks, onions, lettuce, broad beans, runner
beans, cauliflowers, cabbage, beetroot etc. Also a couple of tons of
potatoes which I kept in the garage at 23 Brewers Lane, these lasted
us most of the year. I was complimented a few times by the neighbouring
professional market gardeners on some of my crops, things like sprouts
and leeks. This made me feel good considering I was an amateur and a
‘bloke from the Smoke’ (London)!
was upsetting is when you grew a good crop and then you couldn’t sell
it. Usually when the weather had been good and everyone had 100% turnout.
Gardeners always said ‘Half a crop will sell better than a full one’.
cultivated the ground with a small one and a half horse power tractor
called an Auto Culto, otherwise known as the iron horse, push hoes and
the usual hand tools such as forks, spades, hoes, hedging hooks etc.
It was hard work but I enjoyed the wildlife, the rabbits, hares, pigeons
etc. I once shot a pigeon and her family out of a tree, much to the
disgust of my wife Mary, but if I was to have any lettuce left then
the birds had to go.
also enjoyed the company of other gardeners. People like Harry and Reg
Welch, Tom Harris, Ray Ballard and the Stewarts, Frank, Maurice and
Malcolm. We all sat in each other’s hovels having our bait (lunch) and
chatting. Harry Welch had one with a concrete floor, a pot bellied stove
and armchairs. It certainly took a lot of getting away from on a cold
produce we grew was put on the side of the road in boxes, crates and
nets. These were then picked up by lorries from either Evesham market
or Littleton and Badsey Growers who sold it by auction. After taking
out the cost of packaging, transport, commission etc they would send
you a cheque for the balance. Sometimes it wasn’t sold for enough to
cover the costs so the grower got nothing.
remember once spending a whole day cutting a large amount of parsley
for Fred Wheatley. This didn’t make enough money to cover costs and
Fred owed them 6d (2p). So along with paying my wages for the day –
Fred was not too happy!
remember Ray Ballard asking me one day if he would help him catch a
family of feral (half wild) cats that normally kept the mice and rats
down around the sheds. They had got mange, a complaint that makes them
very uncomfortable and would eventually kill them, so Ray wanted to
put them down (not a job for a vet in those days!). I decided that as
they were his cats I would let him catch them (about eight all together)
while I held the sack open for him to put them in. Well easier said
than done! It probably took us the best part of an hour to catch them
with Ray cussing every time they dug their claws into his arms or legs.
These were semi wild cats and objected to being handled, especially
when they were in pain. We finally got them into a couple of sacks with
a house brick in the bottom of each and then dropped them down the well.
Drowning was in those days considered to be the best way to deal with
unwanted small animals!
F C Jones
the spring of 1957 I heard of a job going at F.C Jones who had a yard
in Badsey Fields Lane. I found out that they paid £7-10s a week (plus
piece work sprout picking) this was £1-10s more than Joe. I could also
go back after tea on overtime because it was local. Another plus was
that I wouldn’t have to slide all the way to Broadway on the Bantam,
on unsalted roads in the winter.
Jones was a small family firm of market gardeners and wholesalers. Fred
Charles Jones started the business before the war buying produce in
the markets and then taking it round greengrocers' shops in Tewkesbury,
Cheltenham and Gloucester. Fred retired just before I joined them in
1957 and his sons Fred, Cecil and Ron carried on the business. They
took on 30 acres of land around Badsey and another 30 acres in Hampton
growing their own produce and selling to about 25 shops and market stalls
in the three towns. It was a very nice profitable business although
Ron, who didn’t get on well with his older brother Fred, decided to
come out of the business after a few years. They employed three or four
of us and while I was there, there was a chap called Arthur Thompson
from Fairfield in Evesham. Who was one of those people who hated anything
mechanical. So he did a lot of hand work like hoeing, cabbage cutting
etc. While another chap called Dave Bowley (who later went into the
roofing trade and along with his son had a successful building business)
and myself did some tractor and lorry driving. I passed the driving
test in a lorry while I worked for Jones’s and Cecil and myself would
take two lorries around the shops every Tuesday and Friday loaded with
fruit and vegetables. We started out at 3 am and got back some 12 hours
later. The maximum speed limit for lorries was 30mph in those days so
a journey that would take one hour now days would take two then. Also
the roads were not salted in the winter so we had some pretty dodgy
trips when there was snow and ice about. The lorries were Austin and
Bedford 4 tonners with no side racks so the boxes and crates were stacked
on the flat bed and tied on with ropes (roping was quite an art). If
a box or crate collapsed in the bottom of the load and the ropes didn’t
hold then it was goodbye load! I remember once when I was on the road
between Cheltenham and Gloucester when I heard a loud bang. I watched
in the mirror as the load moved out to one side, luckily the ropes held
and I decided not to stop and reload everything, which would have taken
a couple of hours, but to carry on to Gloucester a few miles away. This
seemed to take hours but the ropes held and I got there without spreading
the load all over the road!
time I was not so lucky – myself and Cecil Jones cut a full load of
cabbages, 7 crates high, from a field along the Broadway Road and when
we had loaded it we realised that we hadn’t got enough rope. Cecil said
‘ we’ll rope every other stack and as we only have 2 or 3 miles to go
things will be alright’. I was not happy and wanted to borrow a rope
from the next farm but Cecil said no. So I made sure that Cecil got
into the driver’s seat to drive back! Just as well because as we turned
the corner by the Sandys Arms in Wickhamford all the stacks that were
not roped shot out of the load into the garden of the cottage opposite.
It took us longer to sort them out than it did to cut and pack them
in the first place!
30 acres of land Jones’s had alongside the brook down in Hampton was
very productive but was plagued with rabbits. Even when Myxomatosis
nearly wiped out the rabbit population countrywide there was still plenty
at Hampton. I spent a lot of time with the gun trying to keep the numbers
down. I recall one day I was walking along a steep 25ft bank which went
up to the main road and seeing something move at the top I lifted my
gun and a rabbit jumped off the bank about 10ft up (I was about 20ft
away). I fired and hit the rabbit which was still in midair. A chap
from the Ministry of Agriculture, who had come to see what could be
done about getting rid of the rabbits, came running over caught hold
of my hand and pumped it up and down saying ‘I have never seen a snap
shot like that before!’ He had seen pheasants, partridges etc shot in
the air but never a rabbit! Despite my fancy shooting we didn’t get
a meal out of it because it was an old doe covered in fleas!
Jones bought an old pre-war Midland Red single deck bus and parked it
at Hampton for storage, leaving a few seats at one end for us to sit
at one end for us to sit and have our sandwiches in comfort. One winter’s
day Arthur Thompson and myself were having our midday break in the bus
when I noticed some pigeons settling on the sprouts. They made a terrible
mess of a sprout plant in no time so I picked up my gun and poked it
out through one of the little windows at the side of the bus and fired.
What I didn’t realise was the noise a shot gun would make when fired
inside a ‘big tin box’. I thought my ear drums had exploded but worst
of all was I hadn’t realised that Arthur had dropped off to sleep on
some old sacks at the other end of the bus. He must have shot 3ft into
the air and when I looked at him he was as white as a sheet and shaking
like a leaf. He was trying his hardest to tell me what he thought of
me but couldn’t get the words out! He found it hard to talk to me for
a long time afterwards and if he saw me coming with the gun he went
the other way. After all this, I found that I had missed the pigeons
that I had been aiming at!
time when Arthur wished he wasn’t with me was one morning when I picked
him up in the Austin lorry from his house in Fairfield. We came down
Cheltenham Road over the new bridge traffic lights where an old lorry
was struggling to pull away from the lights. I moved over to overtake
it when I saw a van coming the other way so I touched the brakes to
pull back behind the lorry not knowing that the road was covered in
black ice! My lorry skidded past the old lorry, broadside, the oncoming
10cwt co-op van hit me just behind my cab which turned my lorry round
so that I hit a Morris van pinning it against the railings. When I got
out of the lorry, slipping over in the process, I could not believe
the mess! The co-op van, which was made of ply wood had almost disappeared,
the windscreen, roof and headlamps were on the back of my lorry and
the chassis with the driver sat in his seat with only the steering wheel
in front of him was 60 or 70 yards away! I thought he was sure to be
dead but as I went towards him he stepped down, banging his knee on
the steering column as he did so which turned out to be his only injury.
When I looked at him I realised it was a chap called Westmacott who
lived in St James Close in Badsey. The driver of the Morris van, a butcher
from Pershore, was trapped inside for a while but was OK and was only
concerned about his staff waiting outside the shop waiting for him to
old lorry we had skidded past had hit the back of my lorry and smashed
its radiator. The driver was somewhat upset because he didn’t want the
police involved because well overloaded and had been at the wheel all
night driving up from Plymouth. He called me a few choice names and
would have tried to punch me if he could have kept his feet on the icy
road. A police patrol car duly came over the bridge with bell clanging
and skidded straight past stopping 50 yards up the road. The driver
got out and said ‘This must be the only black ice in Worcestershire’.
They had evidently been out on the road all night and had not come across
any more. We were all taken up Abbey Road to the Police Station where
we all gave statements. Arthur Thompson said he hadn’t seen anything
because he had fallen asleep. The butcher finally left for Pershore
at 11am and the driver from Plymouth was OK when he realised that the
police were not going to check his lorry. Of all the four vehicles involved,
mine was the only one that could be driven away - minus a fog lamp and
a few scratches down the side. The police didn’t charge anyone because
of the road conditions and the fact that no one was hurt. They told
us to get our insurance companies to sort it out between them! Our luck
didn’t improve much that day because we went sprout picking and it poured
with rain for the rest of the day.
Jones had land in Badsey up Badsey Fields Lane and one of their neighbours
was Frank Caswell who had taken on 2 acres when he had retired from
being the local blacksmith (his grandson David now does the job). I
would sit and have my bait (lunch) with Frank whenever I could because
he knew a lot about the locality and told good stories. A tale that
he told was that during the war the government needed to know how many
houses there were in the villages and Frank and Dick were given the
job of counting and listing all the houses in Badsey and Aldington.
Frank told me one day when we were having bait that the number they
arrived at was 365 (the same as the days in a year). A couple of years
ago I was told that close to 850 Parish magazines were delivered to
both villages which suggests that there are over double the number of
houses today if their count was right.
getting back to F C Jones and the time I worked there. One day Old Fred
told me that he had had a phone call from someone calling himself ‘
The secretary to the Duke of York’ asking if he would be interested
in a special order of strawberries to be supplied to the Duke on a daily
basis. Fred was pleased of course knowing that he could get a good price
because the fruit would have to be of excellent quality. What he wasn’t
prepared for was a special condition laid down by the Duke which was
that the fruit had to be guaranteed to have been picked by people wearing
white cotton gloves! Fred agreed to this condition but whether it was
carried out is a different matter! This all happened in the 1930s and
I cannot see this happening today.
Josephs factory and self employment
left F C Jones when our family got bigger and I couldn’t earn enough
to pay the bills (a coal bill arrived before I had paid the previous
one) so I went round trying to get a job lorry driving but had no luck.
One day someone told me that a coach came through Badsey everyday taking
people to work at N C Josephs aluminium factory in Stratford-on-Avon.
They made kettles, saucepans etc, body parts for cars and washing machine
parts. Evidently good money could be earned because there was a lot
of piece work. So I caught the bus to Stratford one Saturday morning
and went to the gate house at Josephs where a nasty ex-military type
informed me that they had no jobs and the personnel manager only called
in for a few minutes around 11am on Saturdays. I left and went down
to the island cafe for a cup of tea and sitting there I decided that
as I had spent 2s 6d (12p) on bus fare I was not going to give up that
easily. So I went back at 11 o clock just as the personnel manager,
called Bill Evans, was going inside. He took me to his office and when
I told him I was keen to earn good money he told me the best jobs were
in the polishing shop. I knew that working as a metal polisher was a
dirty, noisy and dangerous job but decided to give it a go.
starting wage was £11 a week, the coach was free and there was a canteen
with cheap meals so I was happy. Even though it meant I was away from
home for eleven and a half hours a day, catching the coach at 7am and
not getting back until 6.30pm. I was put in the stainless steel shop
polishing coffee percolators which was cleaner than aluminium. After
a few weeks I went on to piece work and earned £17 the first week, I
didn’t look back after that. After six months I was made charge hand
(6d an hour more) and I was earning twice the national wage for the
first 20 years I was at Josephs. When I finished in 1980 I was on £150
had to work flat out for eight and a half hours a day falling asleep
on the bus on the way home! But it was worth it because the bills got
paid on time, we could afford to run a car (banger!) and we could also
take the kids to Pontins for two weeks. I was the top earner in the
polishing shop although there were a few ex sprout pickers who came
close. One foreman, Jim Boyce, said that his best workers were all off
the land and providing he could keep us supplied with work then we didn’t
complain a lot.
are quite a few stories I could tell about my 20 years at Josephs but
basically it was a very boring, dirty existence and as it is not directly
connected with Badsey I will move on!
G.E.C of Canada bought Josephs in 1980 I took the redundancy that I
was offered and at the age of 51 started my own business doing gardening
and general property maintenance until I retired 14 years later in 1996.
It was interesting work because I met so many different people doing
jobs in the Evesham area, mainly Badsey but also in Cheltenham, Worcester
and Stratford. One of the most rewarding houses I worked on in Badsey
was Badsey Manor. I converted the roof space into accommodation, re-vamped
the kitchen, maintenance work on the roof etc. I also redesigned the
garden and drive. In fact it became almost a second home with lots of
happy memories of the hours spent working there.
1967 I was offered a Littlewoods pools round covering Blackminster,
the Littletons and parts of Badsey. It took two evenings a week and became
very interesting, the extra money was handy of course. I am still collecting
the pools 41 years later (2008). The football round became a handy source
of work – decorating etc. when I went started my own business. I just
mentioned to the people on the round what I was doing and within a short
while I had more work than I could cope with. A lot of houses and gardens
in the Littletons have benefitted from my efforts and a lot of the work
I did in the Vale can be traced back to recommendations from people
in Littleton. For some time after I retired (1996) I was still being
have met all sorts of people in the 40+ years that I have been doing
the pools round, from millionaires through the whole social spectrum
to gypsies and travellers. I have thoroughly enjoyed talking to people
whose views on life have been so varied.
family which were very interesting were a family of gypsies called Metrovitch
who originated from Hungary but had travelled around France most of
their lives. They came to England and decided to settle and bought a
bungalow in Middle Littleton (next to Kane’s Produce) in the 1960s.
In 1968, when I first called on them to see if they did a pools coupon,
there was Jim Metrovitch and his Italian wife and children living in
the bungalow and Jim’s mother living in an old gypsy caravan in the
garden as she didn’t like living in a house. Evidently Jim’s father
had died a couple of years after moving in but he never got used to
being indoors and spent his time sat on the grass verge in front of
the bungalow, very bored I would think.
I first asked Jim if he wanted to do a coupon he said ‘Sorry Mister
(they always called me Mister) I don’t know how to do it’. I told him
I was willing to show him, I think Jim was a little surprised that I
was willing to enter his rather untidy and smelly house and help him.
Anyway I had to help him fill in the coupon every week because he never
quite managed it himself ( I think he liked the chats we had!). One
week he asked me to have a drink with him and produced a glass of sherry
but after a while he said he couldn’t find a glass and would I mind
having it in a china eggcup!. The next week when I was offered a drink
I expected to have it in a glass but no, Jim took the egg cup down from
the shelf where he had put it, unwashed, the week before and every week
after that it was ready on the table when I walked in.
had some very interesting chats with Jim and his family but the most
interesting person was his mother. She was a real old gypsy and dressed
in two or three long skirts, a headscarf and big gold earrings. She
smoked a clay pipe or rolled her own cigarettes. The caravan that she
lived in had a small stove in which she burned logs so it was always
full of smoke. She would stand at the half door and would have a chat,
if the weather was bad she would invite me inside (an honour for a non
gypsy). One story I well remember her telling me was that when her family
were parked in France on the side of a long straight road with trees
either side. This was around 1900 and she and her sister were playing
when they heard a noise which turned out to be a car approaching about
a mile down the road. Now cars travelled at about 4 or 5 miles an hour
in those days so they stood at the side of the road and watched it coming.
As it got level with them her sister stepped out in front to get a better
look and was knocked down, run over and killed. Amazing when you think
that they knew the car was coming for at least 9 or 10 minutes! Another
time Mrs Metrovitch reached inside the neck of her dress and pulled
out a string with two massive solid silver coins attached. They were
Hungarian and were worn almost smooth because she had worn them for
years, day and night. She told me that none of her family knew she had
them and they were for the family to raise money for her funeral when
she died. This happened in the 1970s and she is buried in Bengeworth
found the children that I met on the round were as interesting as the
adults. I would be invited into the garden to see their rabbits and
guinea pigs and some I have watched grow up and even get married. One
day a small lad of about six stood looking at me as I collected in Station
Road, South Littleton. He said to me ‘Are you Bruce Forsyth?’ so I decided
to pull his leg and said ‘Yes I am’. He ran down his garden path shouting
‘Mum, mum Bruce Forsyth is outside’. His mother came out and said ‘
That’s not Bruce Forsyth. That’s Mr Page the pools man’. I don’t think
he ever forgave me for deceiving him!
time I called in on Mrs Wells in Blacksmiths Lane. It took quite a while
for her to come to the door and when she did I could see that she was
not well. The side of her face was covered in blood and she had a job
to speak. It was obvious that she had had a stroke and had fallen. I
took her back inside the house and put her on the sofa then ran a few
hundred yards along the road to her son’s house. He called the medics
but it was all in vain, she passed away a few days later.
I used to collect on Friday evenings there were always a lot of children
making their way to Blackminster School where they held a disco. One
evening I went over the railway crossing and it was obvious that something
was wrong because there was a coach, van and other vehicles blocking
the road. Apparently the coach had come from Cleeve Prior direction
and pulled up on the road on the opposite side of the school to let
the children get off. This meant that the children who got off the coach
had to cross the road to the school. Five or six of the dashed across
in front of a car but the next group went over after the car had passed
not realising that a van was following. Two of them were hit and when
I pulled up one of the girls had been thrown onto a hedge. She was hanging
upside down screaming like mad – it turned out she had a broken leg.
The other was lying about 20ft along the road in the gutter and as it
was dusk and poor visibility it was difficult to see how she was positioned.
In the middle of the road was a round black object which a few of the
other children were suggesting could well be her head!. No one was willing
to go and have a look so I went over to her and found her head still
intact but hidden by the way she was lay in the gutter, the ‘head’ in
the road was in fact her handbag! Her head and face were badly knocked
about but her worst injury turned out to be a badly shattered ankle
which evidently took a while to heal but she finally made a complete
recovery. After this accident a pull-in was built in front of the school
to allow coaches and buses to park off the road to drop off children.
The school discos were never allowed again!
thing happened along the road outside the school one night when I was
coming home at about 10.30pm. A fox dashed out of the garden of the
house opposite and I ran straight over it, killing it. The next day
Lisa came home from school and told me that her friend who lived in
the house opposite was very upset because someone had run over her pet
fox that she fed every night. Oops!
the 1970s I had to take the coupons I had collected and money to an
area collector who lived in Bidford on Friday evenings at about 10pm.
On one of these occasions the car broke down at the end of Shinehill
Lane and the Honeybourne Road and within a few minutes three or four
police cars came dashing along and fenced me in. They asked me all sorts
of questions before letting me go – it seems I was too close to the
new prison acting suspiciously!
the early years (1970s) when doing the football pools round I would
call in at the King Edward pub on a Thursday evening where I would pick
up 8 or 9 coupons. Usually a drink was bought for me by one of my pools
customers, luckily drink drive laws hadn’t been toughened up then. I
have worked out that during the 20+ years I called at the pub it had
17 different landlords. The brewers made it harder and harder to make
a profit because they demanded higher and higher rents and the pub finally
a Thursday evening I called in at the Ivy Inn in North Littleton where
Jim Cox was landlord and a very good one it has to be said. Jim was
a great organiser and ran darts, quoits, cribbage and dominoes teams
and the pub was always full and had a great atmosphere. Football was
his life – he had been a player and a referee. He supported Aston Villa
and he managed Littleton football club for quite a few years during
which time they did very well. I would walk into the pub and within
a few minutes Jim would have put a cheese and onion sandwich in the
toaster which I would wash down with a whiskey and half a pint of draught
Guiness – lovely grub!
no longer do the round in North Littleton and the King Edward pub has
been turned into a luxury house. A great pity I feel because like the
village shop during the day, the pub was the live pert of the village.
There was always someone coming or going (slightly tiddly at times!)
and of course during the good weather there were people sitting outside
having a drink. Now I can walk virtually the whole of South Littleton
without seeing a soul that is except the occasional dog walker!
were of course quite a few characters around in the early days of doing
the round. One I remember well was Adam Howley who was getting on in
age but used to sit in the same corner of the King Edward every night.
He was the local entrepreneur who had the ability to make money by spotting
a bargain in almost anything. One of his favourite transactions which
I think is worth mentioning concerns a thatched cottage which Adam Howley
owned. The cottage was unusual because it was built around 1900 when
thatch was no longer used for roofing. The house was erected by the
Lord of the Manor for his chauffeur to live in. (People who could drive
were few and far between so a good chauffeur was well looked after!)
The story goes that the man who owns the house was in the diplomatic
Corps and was abroad a lot. His wife wrote to him sometime in the 1960s
saying that she had seen a house that she really liked and could she
go ahead and buy it. She was apparently very good at business so he
agreed. She went to Adam Howley who wanted £6000 for the cottage (you
could buy a house for £2000 - £3000 in those days). She failed to get
him to drop the price but the next day Adam told her that if she agreed
to the £6000 he would let her have a 2 acre orchard at the side of the
house, to which she agreed, Her husband was absolutely delighted when
he saw what she had bought. Adam called on her a short while after the
deal and said that he now felt that he hadn’t done too well out of the
the 1980’s I carried out some work to the house and the cottage, although
thatched, had none of the problems associated with old cottages i.e.
no damp or wood worm. I did some interior and exterior decorating along
with fitting new doors and windows to a coach house which was separate
to the main house.
was in the cottage during a thunderstorm one day which was quite an
experience. Because thatched houses have no guttering the rain runs
straight off the roof. Looking through a window the effect was like
a sheet of frosted glass two feet away from the cottage stretching from
the roof to the ground, the noise was quite deafening!
new owners landscaped part of the orchard and put in a swimming pool
and I would imagine the whole lot is probably now (2008) worth at least
£600,000 to £700,000 if not more.
seem to be getting away from my original Badsey theme so I am finishing
this, my first attempt at local history, and hope that you have found
it interesting and not too boring.
Updated 24 February
2008. Contact email: Editor@Badsey.net