- Contributed by
- People in story:
- June Pyke nee Bibby, Margaret and William Brown
- Location of story:
- Staines and Cowbridge, Glamorgan
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 04 November 2005
A Child’s Impression
The author of this story has agreed that it can be entered on this BBC site
I was born in Staines, Middlesex in June 1937, an only child. At five years old I attended Wyatt Road School, Staines.
My maternal grandmother was deceased, but when young she had been in service with Margaret Arnott from South Wales.
When Margaret Arnott returned to South Wales to marry William Brown, my grandmother corresponded with her. After my grandmother’s death, my mother continued the correspondence.
When I was seven, flying bombs were a regular occurrence, so my parents evacuated me to Aunt Margaret and Uncle Bill in Cowbridge, Glamorganshire.
Aunt Margaret was very Victorian and had no children. They lived in the Town Hall where Aunt Margaret was caretaker and Uncle Bill worked at the local brewery.
My mother and I travelled on an overflowing steam train to Cardiff, then by bus to Cowbridge. My mother went home next day leaving me knowing no one.
The Town Hall was my new home, was very old, built as a prison about 1640. Our living accommodation was part of the original building and would have been the warders quarters. The kitchen had a flagstone floor, a high window with a stone shelf about three feet below it. No running water only a sink and tap from an outside rainwater butt. Drinking water had to be collected in big urns from the newer part of the building.
There was electricity for lighting but heating the flat iron and cooking was done on a black leaded cooking range where the fire burned every day. The walls, including the bedrooms were eighteen inches thick.
The kitchen had two iron studded doors four inches thick, one leading to a corridor just beyond the kitchen which went to a store passage and old stone cells. This passage was access to the newer part of the building and the route to the toilet. It had five cells along one side, the first of which my aunt used as a pantry, the others for various storage purposes. This passage terrified me, especially when I left the light on to come back, but my aunt switched it off to economise, which meant returning at a run, heart pounding, in the dark.
The newer part of the building, probably early Victorian, consisted of a hall upstairs with a stage. Downstairs the council chambers, mayors parlour and robe room, toilets and an under floor well. Saturday night there would be a dance packed with service men and women, land girls and locals. Saturday morning my aunt would walk round the dance floor dropping wax shavings on the old boards. In the evening she took charge of the cloakroom, I was allowed to hand out the tickets for coat collection and then sit at the side of the stage to listen to the band, watching the dancers twirling under a glittering ball.
School and life was difficult, but gradually I re-adjusted and made friends. I returned home after VE Day, but have been back many times since.
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