A follow-up to David Wilson’s story:
I am a member of Ancestry.co.uk and on searching the internet to find one of my ancestors I came across BBC Gloucestershire and read “Bishops Cleeve in the 1940s (a boy’s eye view)" written by David Wilson, and also Mr. Freebrey's story. This intrigued me immensely as I could relate to everything they wrote.
I am probably one of the few people left who was born in Bishops Cleeve and love using the computer including the internet. I have researched both mine and my late husband’s family back into the 1700s with the help of Ancestry.co.uk, my daughter with whom we share our trees, and other people who are looking for their Ancestors who we contact by email. She has done most of the Monger family, and I have done the Prices.
George Griffin "clouting" Jack Leech
I was born in 1927 in Stoke Road and the Price family goes back to the 1700s (probably even further) and lived in Bishops Cleeve, in fact in the same house which is still standing and is opposite the site of Lake House which sadly now is a small housing estate, and the lake which as Mr. Freebrey mentioned used to freeze over quite often during the winter months, has been largely reduced.
I have no record as to when the old Price's house was built, but my Grandfather James Price lived there in the mid 1800s, and his ancestors lived in Bishops Cleeve, but I have no address for them. The poor quality pictures are just snapshots of George Griffin clouting Jack Leech on the frozen lake with dog Toby, and my Dad, George Price doing – well I don't really know. That must have been around 1928-30, as Jack was born about 1920. We always understood that it was 30 ft deep in the middle, so it was quite a risk getting on it. Pittville Lake also used to freeze quite often.
George Price on frozen lake
Jack Leech was a lovely likeable rebel. He lived 3 doors away from us in the row of 6 houses. He and his other brothers, Bill, Don, and Ken were brought up by their Dad and Sister Muriel who was only 12 years old when their Mother sadly died. Ken did wonderfully well by opening his own garage in Station Road which is now run by his son.
Jack was always in trouble; he spent a spell in a Borstal, but it did him no good at all. However he was called up for his war service during the War, and again he spent a lot of time in the “glasshouse”. His life was then cut short somewhere in Africa I think where he died in action. You will find his name on the Village War Memorial as John Leech.
I didn't know David Wilson but I can relate to an awful lot he has written, and even more so to Mr. Freebrey. I agree with David that it was a quiet Cotswold village clustered around the Parish Church (where I was married in 1948), but unfortunately, not for the better; it has become as most villages, a small town and to me, not Bishops Cleeve any more.
I will now give my views on David’s story as he has told it:
THE OLD VILLAGE – NEWLANDS TO MEADOWAY
I used to cycle the route from Cheltenham, and as David says, you go as fast as you can down Park Bank to get up the hill to the Newlands, and the same going in to town – down the Newlands hill to get up Park Bank, but more often than not, I couldn’t manage the last few yards. One day during the War, I cycled as usual into Town and the Newlands Public House was painted white as always, but when I came home in the evening, it had been painted a horrible greeny grey colour. I didn’t realise the reason why, but apparently a German reconnaissance plane had been hovering overhead (obviously eying up Smiths Factory), so someone had the presence of mind to realise that the Newlands Pub was a prime target for bombs on the factory.
However, that night bombers came over and dropped several incendiary bombs on Gotherington which was exactly the same distance from the Farmers Arms (which was also painted white) as the Newlands Inn was from Smiths Factory. It was very bad for the Gotherington residents, as several people lost their lives, but it saved the factory.
My sister was a great friend of Betty Drinkwater who lived at the Newlands Pub, and between them they got up to a bit of mischief one day. They pinched some eggs from somewhere and the police got involved. My Dad wasn’t at all pleased, and I remember Mr Gladwell, the village policeman, coming to the house and sitting Norah on his knee, I can’t remember what he said to her, but she didn’t do it again. It wasn’t as though we needed the eggs, we had our own chicken.
MEADOWAY TO STOKE ROAD
The Crown and Harp public house no longer stands and houses have been built in its place, nor does Redman’s farm. I was in the same class at school with John Redman and Harold Hayward. John was a bit of a rebel, he was always being sent to the headmaster Mr Boardman and getting the cane but it didn’t make any difference. He was known as ‘Donkey Redman’ as he had fairly large protruding ears.
Now Harold Hayward was a different person all together. He was very clever, and three of us passed the written examination for Grammar School, Harold Hayward, Pat Bick and myself. Harold was exceptionally clever and was awarded a place at Rendcombe College on the way to Cirencester. Pat Bick went to the Grammar School while I was awarded a special place but as it was going to cost 7s.6d. per term, Mum and Dad couldn’t afford to send me.
Along the stretch of houses where John Redman, Harold Hayward and Mr Boardman lived, there was a house (I don’t know who lived in it) where we used to take the accumulators for the radio to be recharged, and they were quite heavy. That was before we were blessed with electricity.
I remember the stile just past the Tithe Barn very well, and the footpath went right up to Cleeve Hill, over the railway line, passing the Apple Tree in Woodmancote. We used to walk it as children on Sunday summer evenings with Mum and Dad and call in at the Apple Tree on the way back and have a bottle of pop and a packet of crisps or biscuits.
Close to the stile there was a Cider Mill and Dad used to pick the left over apples from his orchard and take them to the cider mill where my brother, sister and I used to push the press round, which I imagine horses used to do. It was absolutely revolting cider, but Dad and his friends used to drink it. I especially remember Mr. Washbourne coming over with several rabbits tied on the handlebars of his bike and he used to exchange one for some cider (yuk!!).
Alan Roberts used to carry two large cans of milk on his bicycle handlebars and walk round selling the milk. I remember him coming to the house – Mum would have her jug ready and he would measure the milk out with a measuring can which hooked over the large cans. It must have been very hard work. I can always remember his hands, they were very arthritic. I can relate to that now, as mine are beginning to get that way.
That family also lived in Stoke Road opposite what was the football field. That obviously doesn’t exist any more and is full of houses backing on to what was the Rectory Pond, now filled in and covered with houses. Our walk to school often took the route through a field and over a couple of stiles at the back of the Rectory Pond and down the Skilly Alley. I would like to know the purpose of what we knew as the Skilly Alley, maybe people used to play skittles there.
I must admit that I remember the Americans throwing chewing gum and sweets to the children, but I can’t recall the tanks going through. I am 7 years older then David, so maybe I was away all day and didn’t ever see them.
Harold Price in his truck
Bishops Park as David called it was known to us as ‘The Hostel’. There was a cinema and dances held every week which gave us teenagers something to do. It was a godsend for my Dad, as he was a Market Gardener and he set up a little shop and sold his vegetables to the people living there, giving him more money than he would have had from the market. My brother Harold bought an old army truck and took the vegetables all round the village – I think he did quite a trade – that must have been after the War because he had to join the Army in 1942 and was posted to Germany.
I remember the nurses Moorhen and Slade, and the Doctor was Dr. Lidderdale, but there was no surgery while I was living there. His surgery was at Prestbury. Our parents didn’t call the doctor if you were unwell, it was the Nurse instead, and then if she was at all worried she would call the doctor. I think Mum used to pay so much a week for this service.
David mentioned “Willow Cottage” at the top of Stoke Road. I can remember it being very derelict until Mr Eager bought it and completely renovated it. I think maybe he was a builder and did it himself, and it looked absolutely fantastic. I doubt whether the stream still runs through the garden, as the pond was filled in and so was the brook which ran right down the Rectory side of the road to the lane at the end of “Dog Kennel Row” and then it seemed to go underground.
My Mother worked very hard. George Roberts who lived next door to the old house was a Jockey’s valet. He used to go to the race meetings (not only Cheltenham) and in the evening he would bring the dirty jockey’s clothes for Mum to wash and he would collect them the next morning to take to the next meeting.
We lived in “Dog Kennel Row” at the time which is on the other side of Stoke Road to the Old House, at the end of the Lake. When Mr Roberts brought the washing, one of us used to run down to the road and collect it for Mum. Just think! She had to fill the wash boiler to get the water hot which was collected from outside. Light the fire which heated it and then fill large baths which she had on the table and scrub the white grassy breeches. All the water then had to be carried outside to be emptied. The washing consisted of breeches and long lisle stockings, I don’t remember there being any silks. She only had a wringer to help with the drying and then it was put round the fire on a fireguard to dry ready to be collected the next morning. Now to me that was jolly hard work, for “peanuts” probably. I don’t know who transported George Roberts about because he didn’t drive.
The Tithe Barn held the annual flower show, and Dad used to show his vegetables and my sister Norah used to do a flower decoration and usually won a prize. It has been renovated now and I think it is used for many different functions.
Dad George and Uncle Percy
The War Memorial I suppose had to be moved for progress, but apparently it was broken whilst being moved and is now only half the height it was originally. My Uncle Percy’s name is on it, as he was killed during World War I. (The picture is my Dad, George Price, and Albert Percy Price).
The Butcher’s shop was placed almost in the middle of the farm. Molly Gilder was one of my best friends, and I saw her a year ago at my Brother Harold’s funeral. Her brother Donald’s life was rather tragic. He always wore big pads on his ears because he had mastoids, and then just as he was getting over this dreadful complaint, he stood on the butcher’s bench one day, I think to change a light bulb, and was killed instantly by the electricity charge. Very very sad, he was only a teenager.
Joe Powers shop was a legend. Thelma his only daughter was another of my best friends. She used to have loads of children playing in the garden and hide and seek in the very large house, which has now been demolished. I don’t consider that was progress because that was a beautiful big stone house which was directly at the bottom of the road before turning the sharp corner in the Evesham Road. Joe made me up a bicycle so that I could cycle to Greet with Thelma to see her Grandad – we were only about 9 or 10 – I don’t think you would do that today. He was also one of the very few people in the village who had a car in the forties, as David said, an old black saloon, a Wolsey I think.
He used to take Dad’s produce to market in it after Dad got rid of the horse and cart which he had for many years. Polly his horse led him “many a dance” on the way to market. She was very temperamental. He would normally go through Swindon Village, but quite often if there was something Polly didn’t like on the main road, he would have to turn her round and go through Stoke Orchard, which was much further. Eventually, poor Polly got too old and Dad bought Charlie who would not stay in the field, so he had to go.
Gladys and friends
After that Dad used to put all his produce outside the gate over night for Joe Powers to collect first thing the next morning – another thing you wouldn’t dare do today. The picture is, I think, in Thelma’s garden and the children are (left – right): back row: I don’t remember the first one; the second one is a lad (Ron Marshall) I think, who lived in the next house which was on the next corner of the Evesham road, and probably now demolished also; the third is Dinah Ballinger and in the front row: Chris Conn, my sister Norah, and me on Violet Pearson’s back. Goodness knows what we were doing.
My Uncle Ern (Richens) lived in the middle thatched cottage in Church road, the one shown immediately to the right of the War Memorial. He was a coalman for Oldacres I think, with 2 huge shire horses and a cart. It was not unusual for the horses to be frightened and bolt down the road without Uncle Ern. I am still scared of horses to this day.
Church Road cottages
The Elm Tree Public House was demolished years ago, and where it was a little lane, it is now the entrance to Tesco’s car park. I don’t remember who lived in the first of the houses immediately next to this entrance, or in fact if it is still standing, but we used to take a metal can and get hot faggots and peas once a week, and in that row before the Royal Oak, lived Miss Edgington, one of the teachers David mentioned.
I remember her well and she always kept her ruler very active and you were never very sure if she would use it or not (across the back of the hand mostly), also Mr Carver, (and I went to his Sunday School in Priory Lane as well); Miss Lane who lived in a pretty little thatched cottage in Southam, and Miss Twinberrow who David didn’t mention; she taught 7 year olds. It is great to think that the Old School is a listed building, as it would be criminal to demolish that. I think the conker tree still stands at the end of the road opposite the Manor House.
David is right about the Denleys pleasure gardens. Children did used to come from all over the country to visit this wonderful place. I don’t imagine many villages would have had such a place. A good write-up is told in the story by Mr. Freebrey. Also at the Eversfield Hall in the grounds, Mr Wright used to put on a pantomime once a year. Once I played “Little Red Riding Hood”, I was only 6 years old, and another time I was one of the “Babes in the Wood” and Chris Conn was the other one - she lived in Station Road opposite Denleys.
Gladys and her big sister
I can remember singing and reciting stupid poems on that stage – one of them being “dashing away with the smoothing iron” – I had an iron and something to iron on a table, so I did all the actions. Harold, my brother also sang on the stage “When the poppies bloom again”. It was just as his voice was breaking, so he would probably have been about 13 years old. In later years, he sang with the Cotswold Male Voice Choir. I can’t remember what stopped the Pantomimes, it wasn’t the war, and maybe Mr Wright left the village or became ill.
I left the village when I got married in 1948 and came to live in a little village near Reading where I still live, but like Bishops Cleeve, it is now a town. I always made very frequent visits with Frank to see Mum and Dad, and then my Sister and brother, but now sadly they have all gone. My sister Norah’s husband still lives in the old house which has now been extended, with his son Nigel, wife Anne and four grandchildren who we try to visit once a year. I lost my husband Frank 6 years ago, so my computer keeps me well occupied. It would be nice to think the old house will stay in the family, but it will never be the “Prices” again after almost 2 centuries as their name is Hawkes.
Gladys Monger as she is now
I saw Bob Price one of my cousins at my Brother Harold’s funeral last year, and he is the spitting image of his and my grandfather James Price. I also saw Molly Gilder, Donald and Ken Leech that day, but I didn’t know anyone else. I have been away too long – 60 years – the picture was taken on my 80th birthday, just a year ago.
Finally, I hope whoever reads this can remember the beautiful Village as it was before World War II, and if not able to remember, can imagine what it was like before so-called progress took over. The memories I have of my childhood are so much different than those of today.
We were a very happy little family, despite the war years. Maybe we didn’t have the luxuries of today but we made do with what we had and were made to share everything. Discipline is unfortunately what is missing today, in schools as well as in the home. It did us no harm so why should it be so different today.
Gladys M Monger (nee Price) 25th July 2008.