By Victor Painter 1906-2000
Growing up in Kingsdown.
Oh to live on Kingsdown, the place of beauty and a wonderful view, wherever you stand on the Downs you can see for miles, across the valley to Bannerdown and Colerne and from Swan Hill across to Bath city with the trains running through the valley from London to Bath and the West Country. Everything so lovely with the hundreds of tall pine trees growing on the lower side of the hundred-acre common. Otherwise the down was open.
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Going back in thoughts to the early part of 1900, for I myself was born on Kingsdown, Box, Wilts in a small cottage on the top of Wormcliffe Lane, and I was born on February 9th 1906. And I learnt as time went by of a wonderful Doctor Martin from Box village coming on his lovely horse to bring me into the world.
This Doctor Martin was a rich gentleman and had a lovely large house built across the road from the Bear Hotel. And there were grand stables built for his many horses.
A Mr. George Hinton was the head groom for Doctor Martin and worked long hours every day, and at night time Mr George Hintonís home was at Henley Yard, so quite a long walk home, and had to be back down the stables again by 6am each morning.
Doctor Martin was not married but had a house keeper whoís name was Miss Fishlock.
Now I must explain that my Father was Harry Painter and my mother Elizabeth Patch whose home was at Felton, Winford the lower side of Bristol, before being married to my dad in the last part of the 1800ís. When I arrived in 1906 I had two brothers and two sisters many years older than me. Harry was 15years older, Fred was 14 years and Mary was 12 years and Doris 6 years. Now I was too young to know what was going on in my early life but I understand that my dad had become the nine hole green keeper of the golf course of Kingsdown, and a cottage called Hundred Acre Cottage was rented by the golf club from a lady that lived at Lower South Wraxall. This cottage was free of rent while my father worked for Kingsdown golf club which was part of his wages. Dads pay each week was 14 Shillings and that was supposed to be a fair rate of pay in those times of course.
The year our family moved into Hundred Acre Cottage was the late summer of 1906. My brother Harry was working at Monkton Farleigh learning to become a blacksmith and to be able to shoe horses. Harry was taught by a Mr George Thorn the village blacksmith who had the forge in the farm yard of Mr Edward Doles.
Brother Fred was now working at Gridiron Farm for a Mr William Ford, and at that time a Mr Jack Lane was one of the carters and also a Mr Jimmy Ford was another carter. This was Gladys and Cyril Fords grandfather. Mr Jack Lanes home was at the Prospect. Gridiron and Prospect farms were once farmed under the care of Mr William Ford. A Mr Wallace Ford was now farming the small farm built by the Fuller family and Mr Wallace had money to put in Lloyds Bank at Bath and done so in the name of W. Ford, Kingsdown Farm, but the money was paid into William Fordís account and Mr Wallace had a long wait before he ever saw his money again. After that Wallace became Wallace for life in every thing he signed for.
Now to live in Hundred Acre Cottage, a fine built stone tiled 2 bedroom house of near about one hundred years old. It was built up on a high bank just a little way away from the Swan Inn on the right hand side of the road and was hid away with lots of lovely Scotch Pine trees. It was a real lovely place to live except there was no drinking water, the nearest water spring was on the lower road of Kingsdown a quarter of a mile away, so yokes and buckets was used to fetch the drinking and cooking water up daily by someone. There were two large wooden beer barrows to catch water each side of the cottage. There was just one living room with open fire place and one oven to cook and bake cakes. One had a large iron saucepan going most of the time for the stew pot. The floors were of large flag stones and very uneven for the kitchen table would rock if not in the right place and chairs had to be just so to stop them from rocking. There was a small room by the living room to hang up coats and hats in and that had a flag stone floor. There was a passage built on from the front door to the wash house so to save one from going outside in bad weather. In the wash house was a copper boiler to boil sheets and towels etc. and the wash house was the coal house and wood and logs house and a work shop for cleaning kitchen knives in those days, and all sorts of jobs was done out there.
There were no drains in the cottage or wash house, all dirty water had to be carried outside and mostly got thrown down over the bank. Brother Fred had a wash in under the old plum tree one summer evening and went to throw the bowl of water away and just saw father in time coming around the corner of the cottage lucky for Fred.
Now came the year of 1911 and July 29th our Lot was born and that was on our Sister Maryís birthday. Again up rode good Doctor Martin on his lovely horse and that was near about 11 pm. Mr George Hinton always had Doctor Martins saddle and doctor bag on a pulley over the horse that Doctor Martin would be riding on the night of the callout.
Now this Andrew Charles Lot have started growing up very fast and could be taking over for he seem to know what he is doing. Ivy being three years old when Lot was born had Lot as a playmate all the way through, but when Lot was no more than two years old, Ivy often had to have a rest on the setty for half an hour to be able to keep up with Lot all the time. It must have been the sort of day that Lot was on his own and without Mother knowing Lot had got a box of matches and taken around the corner of the cottage and into a lean-to shed and by striking a match or two had caught something on fire which took hold. It was now that our Father was leaving the down to get down home for his dinner at 1 oíclock and seeing black smoke through the pine trees started him running and with an empty bucket he dipped water from one of the rain barrows and managed to put the fire out. When Father and Lot walked in for their dinner Mother knew nothing of a fire, matches from that day was in a safe place.
There was another day when Lot got hold of one of Fathers gun cartridges and took it out into the fir trees and with a stone Lot must have hammered the cap until it fired. Lot got his arm a little burnt and had to own up to Father of what he had done. So everyone was saying Lot wonít ever do that again, but Lot did take another cartridge a little later and done the same thing but this time was not hurt with a bit of luck.
Mr Frank Ford of Gridiron Farm gave Father a little light and smooth wood chump of a tree, Mr Frank thought it could be a stool for Lot to sit on, but Lot and Ivy used to sit up on the high bank by the cottage and let this chump roll down over into the road, just about the time the first small motor car came onto the roads. Some of the first people to buy these cars were farmers and it may be on Bath cattle market day when one or two farmers would come Kingsdown way, and father was near enough one day to hear Ivy and Lot saying that made that one kick. So father knew now what was to be going on with Mr Frank Fords chump, for sure it was not for sitting on.
Now we all seem so very happy with ourselves living at Hundred Acre Cottage with a lovely big garden for growing potatoes and root crops. There was apple tree of eating apples that would keep to apples came again but not at our house. We had greengage trees growing on the cottage wall at the back of the cottage and one plum tree was growing close to our gate to walk on to the downs and out side our railings we had a lovely space of green grass that we called our green. Mother had a clothes line of wire fixed to fir trees; we had lots of hens so never short of eggs we seem to have the best of two worlds, how lucky we were.
Then came August Bank Holiday Monday with everyone so happy, it was 4th August 1914 war had broken out with Germany. Us three young children at Hundred Acre Cottage didnít know the meaning of war and never knew that our father would be called to the colours, as he had been a soldier in the Forth Wilts at Devizes in his younger days. So off father had to go unknown to us children. It didnít seem so bad when we got to know that our father was only up Rudloe near Corsham, all these old soldiers were put on to guard the Box Tunnel night and day. I remember a Kingsdown boy that was three years older than me Reg Betteridge was his name and his father had been called up and was up at Rudloe camped in a field where there was a large barn. After asking our mothers if Reg and I could walk to Rudloe to visit these soldiers in this barn field. Well we got there at last and the army cook was just about to dish up dinner to the many soldiers that was there and Reg and myself was given a lovely dinner on a tin plate with knife and fork, and we sat down in the field with all these soldiers and to me it was the very best dinner that I had ever had and what big men Reg and I was to be sure. The army cook was a Mr ???????? and lived with his sister and her husband at Box near the Lamb Inn, Devizes Road, Box in peace times.
Now our brother Harry the blacksmith was now working at Bathford paper mill as a general blacksmith and brother Fred was also working in the paper mill from 6am to 6pm daily, 6am to 1pm on Saturdays. But now war had broken out and father had been called up already. Harry and Fred now had made up their minds to join the army, and Harry signed up as a shoeing smith for five shillings a day. Fred joined the Somerset Infantry for just 6 pennies a day, but after a few weeks training was paid one shilling per day and after just one leave of seven days at home, Fred got sent to the far east of the world and didnít come home until war ended four and a half years later. Harry too was sent abroad for four and a half years that really thinned our family out. Our sister Mary was now a nurse and Doris was a kitchen maid at Kingsdown House and living in. So Lot and myself took over Harry and Fredís bed, we were big men now we thought.
Our Hundred Acre Cottage was never the same without our older brothers and sisters. Lot and myself used to pretend that we were two game keepers having each a stick as a gun and we walked around through the lovely scotch pine trees on guard. Mother bought Lot a sailorís outfit it was a coat and hat, other boys said Lot was an admiral. We didnít know an admiral was in charge of the navy of course but though so young we always felt we would like to be soldiers like father and Harry and Fred. What we didnít know at that time that there would be another war with Germany just twenty years after the first world war ended and so Lot and myself would have the chance to become soldiers, but of course no one was thinking of a war again. 1914 to 1919 was the war to end all wars for ever. Why another war was being asked and now the sons of the brave men of the 1914 war that was 18 and 20 years old now was joining up in thousands. But who thought that this war would last six long years. It was that Lot and myself had our real chance now to be soldiers like father and brother Harry and Fred was in 1914 war. A very strange thing happened on the last day of fighting; all guns stopped on all sides we finished up in a very dusty lane in some part of Germany not sure where but in that same lane I saw Lot my brother in spite that we were not in the same regiment. We may had been looking dirty but how great it was to prove that we were alive and a good chance of getting home in time the war was now over. I am sure our thoughts went back to our childhood days on Kingsdown and Hundred Acre Cottage, cripple Bill Wilkins was the tenant of Hundred Acre Cottage after us Painters left in 1934.
It was great fun in the hot sun at Summer
time going with my father on the golf course. At each tee my father had placed 2
stone troughs; one held sand and the other water. The water was for the golfers
to wash their golf balls and the sand was for the making of a tee in which to
place their ball for driving off. The sand and water was carried around to each
of the 9 tees daily. There were no play on Sundays
Everything was so exciting on the golf
course. My father had a very long bamboo cane and carried from green to green
swishing off worm casts before mowing. The mowing was done with a one handled
mower, 12in blade with grass box. Some days my father would pull a handroller
around rolling the greens, and most exciting was a horse drawn roller. The horse
was hired from the nearby farm and hitched onto this very large roller. There
was an iron box fitted to the top of the roller just to help make weight and
also for putting all sorts of things in like big stones to add to the pressure.
My father would let me ride sitting on the stone and holding tight to the sides
of the iron box. Now, before the horse could walk onto the green, my father
would have to put some leather boots on the horse. These were very big and were
held on with leather straps. The horse seemed to like rolling greens and I
remember his name was Champion.
Now, on the Downs at that time were many
shepherds looking after flocks of sheep which were brought onto the downs daily
to graze. The flocks of sheep were kept apart by the shepherds' dogs, though the
shepherds sometimes got together for a talk. Apart from flocks of sheep there were
herds of cows being looked after by men or sometimes boys. Then one would see
goats running around. Donkeys, ponies were out feeding as well, only as a rule
they were chained to an iron bar hammered into the ground with the chain fitted
to a leather collar around the animal's neck. The grass on the down everywhere
was eaten down very close, not only by sheep, cows, donkeys and ponies, but also
by rabbits which seemed to be everywhere.
On some Saturdays there was to be a golf match. This all started by 10 am and boys that were old enough and strong perhaps got a job to caddy. The clubs were of steel with wooden handles and a bag of 10 or more were rather heavy. The pay laid down with the golf rules was 3 pence per round, except if only hired for one round, and then the caddy was paid 6 pence. Another exciting time on the down was when every year around August the soldiers came and put up hundreds of tents. There were quite a thousand men and some boy soldiers. There were sport days in which anyone could watch, so crowds of people came from miles around. There were also mock battles, soldiers laying down and shooting their rifles. Best of all were their bands, big drums and bugles. On the Sunday mornings the soldiers were on the Down, they had their church parade, led by the big band, they marched to the church at Monkton Farleigh, where the service was held. Now, the biggest treat of the year was that we had Kingsdown fair, held every year on a Wednesday, the nearest to the 17th of September. A few weeks before the fair a man was employed to put up the hurdles ready to pen the sheep. The hurdles were kept in a big barn right on the far down with 2 big doors so to get a horse and cart in and out with the hurdles. On the day of the fair there was no golf played; on the roads from all parts of the country came flocks of sheep driven along by men and their dogs. They say some had come more than 20 miles. Apart from sheep at the fair there were horses being sold and bought. These were all dressed up with straw and ribbons in their hair and tails. There was a very big tent put up for the selling of beer. There were also people selling clothes, and coconut shies, cheap jacks everywhere. And the noise what with everybody shouting and the bidding for the sheep and horses, a fine old noise it was. There were many policemen around just to see things didn't get too much out of hand, for most times somebody wanted to have a fight. Now at the nearby farm most of the farm hands were engaged on this fair day to look after the horses, carts and harness that was left by farmers for the day. The horses were stabled and fed. The harness and carts, traps, whatever, were all numbered so that the right farmer got the right horse and cart harness as well. After a day at Kingsdown fair with a beer tent at hand no one was too sure of anything. Of course at the Swan Inn many farmers left their horses to be stabled there so plenty of beer was flowing there as well. Excitement never ended on Kingsdown; always something going on. First there was the quarry where men worked to dig out the big white stone called Bath stone. The quarry was right opposite the Swan Inn and went back in underground for about one and a half miles. The stone was brought out by horse and cart. The best was taken to Bath. The rubbish, which was cartloads of stone of no use, was carted up onto the down and tipped in a big hole, which had the name of Jack's hole. These loads were going on all hours of daylight. The quarrymen worked 12 hours a day. Most of these men lived on Kingsdown.
There were at that time about 78 cottages with one very large house called Kingsdown House. The one pub Swan Inn, one chapel, two large farms, one at the top of the hill from the Swan Inn that was called Gridiron, and the other large farm was the Prospect, quite near to Kingsdown House, on the other side of the down. There were a few smallholdings. And in about 1912 there was a farmhouse and buildings built on the corner of the fair down that got the name of Closes Farm. There was a private house built around 1911 to 1912 called Ashley Wood. That is the nearest house to Bathford, I remember that being built. Most of the people living on Kingsdown either worked on the farms or in the quarry. Some on the railway and a few in the woods cutting timber for pit props and making bundles of wood called faggots.
Now as well as all this we had a grocer's shop, a bake house and post office all in the same building. It was good fun seeing the postman. He wore a hat with a peak in front and behind to shoot the rain off. He wore a cape to keep letters dry in his bag. I think he had walked 20 miles before he reached Kingsdown Post Office. He was running most of the time and blowing a whistle to fetch folk out into the road to get their letters if he should ever have one for you. Only a few people could read anyway. Oh, along the road from the post office was built a mission hall that was run by the Church of England and there was a Service every two weeks, but most people went to the Chapel. Two services each Sunday at the Chapel 3pm to 4pm and 6pm to 7pm. And then there was Sunday school 11am to 12pm and in the afternoon from 2pm to 3pm. I think most children liked going to Sunday school. In the winter time there was a nice big hot stove going and that is what we sat around. One day every summer we had our Sunday school treat up on the down - a tea party with nice cake, and racing in a sack. Everybody got a prize; you didn't have to win. They had swings tied up in the pine trees. I didn't like them.
Everyday there was always something going on at Kingsdown. When the flour and barley meal corn for poultry came to the shop and bakehouse from the Mill at Box, a man drove two large horses in a double shaft wagon. The poor driver had to carry every sack on his back down some steps to the back of the shop where the bake house was and a storeroom for the flour and barley meal corn etc. Each sack weighed 2.25 cwt. The man had a little iron hook with a wooden handle to hitch in the sack to enable him to get each sack on his back. It was very hard work. If the driver came from Box by the top road he had to get down Swan Hill with the load. So he stopped the horses at the top of the hill and then fixed a chain around one of the rear wheels. Also in under the chained wheel he slipped what they called a drag shoe. This stopped the iron band of the wheel from wearing out by being dragged on the road. The drug shoe became almost red hot by the time the wagon was at the bottom of the short hill. There were other horses and wagons around the Down bringing coal to the cottages; this was bagged up in 1 cwt sacks. Another man was around with horse and cart selling paraffin every week. Then a chap from Bath selling fish from his cart. Every morning a man came around with milk, he had two very nice cans that he carried with the aid of yokes on his shoulder. These cans hold about 3 gallons each. The cans had hinges on lids and on a bracket inside of the cans were his measure, one a pint, the other a half pint. People came to their doors with a jug or basin, or whatever. Then whenever there was an election for a new government a horse drawn van came around in the evening time to pick up men to take to Box for voting. My father took me with him in the van with all the men. After voting they all went into a public house for a few drinks before getting back up on the van for home.
Now at that time there was only one doctor for the whole of Box, Box Hill, Quarry Hill, Washwells, Henley, Kingsdown, Askley, Middlehill, Shockerwich, Alcomb, Sidderidge, also Colerne and every house and farm in between. Now this wonderful doctor brought every baby into the world that was born in these places including myself. Very few people ever went to a hospital because whatever trouble one had this wonderful doctor could put right. You could break your leg, arm or whatever and he would set whatever limb it was and you stayed home until it was all well. He would also pull out anybody's teeth if you let him. He gave nothing for the pain. Very few children would ever let him know they had toothache, rather put up with it. Anyway he was wonderful, and turned out night and day on his horse. This doctor had several horses in his stables and a groom to look after them, and before the groom went home at night he would fix the doctor's saddle up over the horse that was being used that night on a pulley. The doctor's bags were always strapped to the saddle. So in the night when the doctor was called out he only had to pull a rope and the saddle came down on the horse's back. He just had to girth up and put the bridle on and he was away crossing over fields, the nearest cut to wherever he was going. He always tied his horse up to someone's gate, the nearest one, it didn't matter whose it was. They say anyone that was really poor and most of the folk around were, then he never sent them a bill. I think he was rather rich himself, for when he went to Box first, long before my time, he had rather a large house built with a long drive, and big garden and lovely stables for his horses. He was not married. There was a housekeeper one saw when you were sent for medicine which the doctor made up for the folk that needed it. The saying goes that while he was waiting for his house to be built he took a room at the Bear Hotel across the road from where he was having his house built. And it was when he went into the bedroom he found the window would not open. He called for someone to open it, but the landlady said, "Oh the window, don't open it Sir!" The next thing was the noise of breaking glass and the doctor calling to the landlady to fetch his jackboot in from the road.
Now lots more exciting things were when the steamroller was being used to mend the roads. There would be lots of men with picks, picking up the road and then horses and carts coming with loads of new stone to tip on top of the picked up part. Men then with shovels and wheelbarrows would level the stone. And then came a horse drawn water tank with a bar at the back with many holes for the water to run through and make a spray over the stone. Then behind came this big steamroller making black smoke and steam coming from its sides. The water was fetched up in the tanks from Devizes Road, Box. There were no places on Kingsdown where a horse and tank could fill up with water. There was water of course, at Kingsdown, but in places not suitable for horse drawn tanks. The stone that was used for the roads around Kingsdown came from Atworth. This was brought by horse and cart and tipped up in big heaps on the side of the road. Now, before this stone could be used it has to be cracked up. So men were employed to hammer the stone to the right size of about two inches thick. They did this with special pear shaped hammers of different sizes. I think the men that did this work got paid by a square yard. Wages at that time were around 12 shillings per week. Head carters on the farms got 12 shillings and six pence. My father, who was supposed to be highly paid, got 14 shillings and a free cottage for looking after the golf course. After all the work that was done on the road they soon became rough again and rolling stones everywhere. In the summer time when the road was dry they became white with dust, and in a wet time it was mud. You only had to fall down running to school and you were covered in mud, besides having a lump off your knee as big as a half crown. The children living the Swan Inn side of the down went to Bathford School. The children living Kingsdown House side went to Box School, about two miles to run no matter which school you went to. I myself ran to Bathford. Sometimes there was a horse and cart going that way, so we hung onto the tailboard and got pulled along. The driver of the horse didn't always know you were there. Every boy in those days wore hobnail boots. The girls had strong button up boots and had to have a buttonhook to do them up mornings. They did wear two colours, brown and black, but that didn't matter, all boots looked alike by the time you got to school, either white mud or white dust.
In the wintertime the girls had muffs to put their hands in, held with a cord around the neck. Every boy and girl carried a dinner bag, a shoulder strap satchel it was, but we called them dinner bags. One took to school some bread and butter, sometimes jam made up in sandwiches. Also a drink of some sort, like cold tea put in a coffee bottle. If you should fall down on the way and broke the bottle, well then your sandwiches were well and truly wet. We had two hours at dinner time, 12pm to 2pm. In the wintertime they had big black stoves going, one in each classroom. So we sat around them, burning our bit of bread trying to make toast. Sometimes it fell in the fire, which was a dead loss. Of course in summer time having two hours, we went across fields taking our dinner bag with us. Other days we would go down by the river, and perhaps fall in. I did once have to stay in wet clothes until they dried out. In those days most boys and girls had hoops to run to school with; the boys had iron ones with an iron crook. The girls' hoops were wooden and they used a short stick to hit them along. Lots of games went in the play yard, like playing marbles. One could buy 25 marbles for one penny, but it was not often you ever had a penny. And if you ever did, then the sweet jars took your eye. The sweets looked twice the size in the jar that seemed to magnify them. All the rows of jars were of glass. One could have a bottle of ginger beer for one penny. A bottle with a glass marble that you had to force down into the neck of the bottle before getting a drink. Other things one could buy were whip tops. Boys and girls played that game. All you wanted was a short stick with some string tied on to make a whip. Then winding the string around the top and giving a pull made the top spin. After that you just kept whipping. There were two kinds of tops, one that was fat, called a granny, the other was thin and called a flyer. Each top had a hobnail driven in the bottom to make it spin. Playing around on Kingsdown on Saturdays another boy and myself used to make bows and arrows from nut sticks, also pop guns out of Elder wood, but most Saturdays every boy and girl were out getting firewood for the homes, also picking up the fir cones, or fir apples as we called them.
Then, of course when you were big enough to use the yokes on your shoulder you had to fetch the water from the springs that lay on the lower road of Kingsdown. There were three water troughs, always plenty of water in them. At the bakehouse they had a water pump for their use, but the other five houses in the row also had a right of way to fetch their water from the same pump. The Swan Inn had their own pump which was at the bottom of their orchard. In their case there was a pipe leading up to a big tank in a back house on the side of the pub. So every Sunday morning there was a man that pumped the water up until the tank was full. That took about two hours. By that time it was 12 o'clock and the pub opened then until 2pm. I think the man that had pumped the water got free beer. In those days the grass verges on the side of the roads were cut back by six men working as a gang. And what a tidy job they made of it. They cleaned out the ditches as they went. They had many miles of roads to get done, and they all took an interest in their work. They worked on wet or fine. These men carried their dinner in what was called flask baskets with a rope to go over their shoulder. They all seemed to have a quart tea can as well as their food. It was a flat bottle shaped can with a cork, mostly painted blue. The tea in the can was cold, so sometimes one saw then light a small wood fire and stand their cans as near as possible without burning the blue paint off. It was not good for the men when it was raining.
Well, time goes on and soon the time came when you left school and had to work yourself. And in my case that came early. I was not 12 years old. I was sent to Bathford School at the age of four, but my age on the register was put down as five years. That was 1910. Early in 1917 I had left school for good. That was a happy day, for I didn't like school so very much.
Well, at that time the 1914 to 1918 war was
on. My dad was called upon the first day of the war breaking out, and had to
leave the job of looking after the golf course, and in 1917 he was invalided out
of the army. Though he was not so very fit, he spent lots of time catching
rabbits. He rented the rights to shoot and ferret out these wild rabbits from
different farmers around. So I got the job of going with him, and at that time
he had bought a donkey and cart. At that time people would pay two shillings for
one rabbit, and one could get 9 pence for a rabbit skin. So twice each week we
went to the city of Bath with perhaps a hundred rabbits. They were sold in no
time at all. People came running out of their houses to buy them butchers meat
ration was on, with the war still going.
Well, after doing this job with my dad for one winter, and one didn't catch rabbits in the summer because of the rabbits breeding season, there was a job going at that time to work for the local baker, taking bread and groceries around in a horse and cart for a six day week with half a day on Wednesdays, for 6 shillings per week. I was given this job and did it for nine months. By that time the baker's men were returning home from the war. By the time I had to leave, the baker was paying me 12 shillings per week. Once one of the baker's boys was home on school holidays and he came on the bread round with me. He often did just for the fun of helping. Well we were up Bannerdown and around one sharp corner he must have pulled the wrong rein and the horse went up onto the bank and the cart tipped over. A few loaves fell out, but we had no grocery at that time. The horse was all right but the cart was damaged and the repair cost the baker £7 to have put right. Neither the baker's son nor myself was very popular at that time. I know we were both thrown out of the cart and I hurt my knee, but the baker's own son was none the worse. The worse job was trying to explain to the baker how it all happened, and he was not happy by any means.
Well, after that for a few weeks I was out of a job. Then out of the blue there was a boy wanted at Ashley Wood, a gentleman's private house, where they kept two or three servants in the house, my own sister was one of them, perhaps that is how I got the job. I had to go to see the gentleman about the job, and my mother saw that I washed my face and had clean boots before going to meet him. She also told me to say sir to him. I remember overdoing that quite a bit. Well, never mind, he gave me the job for 6 shillings per week. The job I soon found out to be quite a few jobs. On the Monday morning I had to be there at 7 o'clock. A rather nice man was there in the yard waiting for me. He said I am to show you the way to milk, and after picking up two milk pails I followed him to the cowshed, which was in a nearby field. There were three cows tied up ready for to be milked. The man gave me a 3-leg stool and told me to sit in under the cow with the milk pail between my knees, which was all very strange to me. Then he showed me how to pull and squeeze at the same time and out came the milk into the milk pail. This was a very quiet cow that the man put me under to milk. She didn't even move. The man said her name was Richard but they called her Dick. I didn't think that was a lady's name. The other 2 cows had the name of Gipsy and Daisy. The man had milked Daisy and Gipsy while I was milking Dick. In the afternoon about 3-30pm we went to milk these 3 cows again. So twice each day they had to be milked. Well on the 3rd day after I had milked all the 3 cows in turn, the man thought I was a good enough milker to milk them every day on my own. And he did not come to the house again. His job was looking after a 200 acre farm growing corn etc, also looking after lots of young cattle that ran in the fields that belonged to the gentleman that didn't seem to get up too early in the morning.
What we had to do with the milk was to carry it back to the house and down some steps to an underground very cool room where on some slate slabs stood many metal pans not too deep but very wide. The man told me they were called spreaders. So after the milk was strained through sieves and muslin cloth, there was a jug filled up for the household and the rest of the milk was poured into the pans. The milk pails were then washed ready for the afternoon milking. That part done, I followed the man up into the back kitchen. There on the floor in one corner was a heap of boots and shoes belonging to the gentleman and lady. The man said we take them over to the saddle room that was across a big yard where the stable and coach house was, and in the saddle room were lots of harness hung up, also saddles and griddles. It was a lovely big room with a table at one end near a window. On the table there was a wooden box; it held the shoe and boot blacking in the 2 colours black and brown, and many brushes. The first job the man said was get the mud off the boots and shoes first with a sponge made wet by first getting some water in a bucket from a tap fixed just outside the stable door not far away. After getting the mud off, the boots and shoes were having their coat of blacking, only this was brown, but both tins said Day and Martin's Blacking. I thought I was going to have a lot to remember, what with the cow called Richard and the brown blacking called black. Well, true enough what the man said. Once this blacking dried on the boots and shoes and the shining brush was used with quite a bit of pressure from your hands and arms they really did shine. The job done, so we carry them back to the kitchen. It was a dry and fine morning that day. But the man told me if it was every raining there was a sheet kept in the saddle room to use over the boots and shoes while you ran across the yard with them, even if you had to go twice. I thought there were enough boots and shoes to even make 3 journeys. Well putting down the boots and shoes a servant came and took them off to the gentry's side of the house, and the man said the next job was to pick up this box of knives. There were about 40 knives in the box. Away again to the saddle room, where fixed to one side of this big table was what the man said was a knife machine. And true enough there were places to put in two table knives at the same time and by turning an handle for about 10 times you could pull them two out and put in 2 more. And other than dusting the knives off before putting them back into the knife box, they were very clean. The carving knife had to be put in a separate slot on the machine. Well now, on returning the knives back to the kitchen, there were then the big coalscuttles to be filled up. In a back garden was the coal sheds. So off to go with 2 of the scuttles, one in each hand, to the coal shed and after cracking some big lumps of coal into smaller lumps, one then filled up the scuttles and carried them back to the kitchen. Next was to carry away the ashes that had been by then cleaned out from the house fire grates by one of the servants. These small jobs done, one then had to go to the laundry which was a very large wooden building right on the side of the stable yard. Inside there was standing in the middle of the room a large copper boiler. It held about 30 gallons of water. So from the water tap in the stable yard with the aid of a bucket one ran backwards and forwards until the boiler was almost full. Then the next job was to go to a wood shed and find some nice dry wood and get a fire going with a bucket of coal from the coal shed to feed the fire because the water in the boiler had to be on the boil by 9am; that was when the laundress came to start work. The laundress was my mother's sister, Aunt Sarah to me. But that made no difference about being a relation. The water just had to boil and be ready every Monday morning sharp on 9 o'clock.
Now for more fun. Unknown to me then there were around 150 hens in the big field called 30 Acres. These hens were in near about lots of 50 spread out in 3 houses at rather long distance apart. Now these 3 lots of hens had to be fed and watered. So in the kitchen on the stove the cook had cooked potato rines etc. So into a big bucket was tipped the contents all hot after chopping up and mixing meal into the bucket making a lovely food. We set off to part up the big bucket of the mixture in equal parts to each of the 3 lots, carrying a 3 gallon can of water at the same time to fill up the troughs. In the afternoon these hens were fed again, this time with corn. So that was not such a hard job. The only thing was that every night I had to go back to this field and pen up these hens in their 3 houses so they were safe from the foxes. In the summer time it was 10 o'clock before the hens thought of going to bed. And I lived a half a mile away. But the man said this was part of the job for six shilling per week that I had taken on. Now, on returning to the house after feeding the hens I was taken to the stable. Inside was a lovely horse and the man said his name was Squire. The horse was very quiet. After the man fed the horse with some oats and chaff I had to clean out the stable putting the manure into a wheel barrow and taking it to a heap in the back garden. After that I had to give the horse a good brush down. Then putting down new straw for the bedding and giving the horse some hay that was kept in the loft above the stable. One got up there by climbing a straight ladder that was fixed to the wall. The man said the gentleman rode the horse hunting. And the horse was also used in harness pulling a small carriage called a wagonette, a four wheeled vehicle. There were two brass carriage lamps on the wagonette, which had to be polished, and a brass handle whip. And the 4 wheel hubs were of brass. Each time the carriage was used the brasses had to be cleaned. The lamps had largish candles inside that worked on a spring as the candles burnt down, so it was pushed up by the spring. Well do you know by the time these few jobs were done it was 10am. And the man took me to the back kitchen, called the scullery, the under servants' part of the house, whereby the kitchen maid made us two lovely cups of cocoa made from hot milk, not water like I was used to at home. We both got a slice of cake as well. Perhaps we did very well because it was my own sister that made the cocoa. She was the kitchen maid. Though I didn't have to talk to her, that was one of the rules. Well it was then that the man was about to leave me and go back to his jobs on the farm. At the same time the gentleman came out from the front door. And it was then that he took me to the wood shed and pointing to 10 or 12 bundles of wood, what people in those days called faggots, told me to chop them up into small pieces, ready for kindle wood. He shut the door of the shed. He said to keep me warm. It was not long before I was so hot chopping that first I pulled off my coat. A little later my waistcoat, then my collar and tie. When I had almost finished the chopping of all the bundles of wood, I was really very hot and at that time the door came open and it was the gentlemen himself. On seeing the big heap of wood all cut up nice and small he was delighted. He said, "You are the best boy I have ever had and I am going to give you six pence every week for yourself," which he did, so I can claim that I had a rise the first day at work.
The gentleman then showed me around the garden; on the front of the house were two lawns in which he said I would mow each week with a hand mower. And the paths everywhere in front of house and all through kitchen garden were of gravel and weeds grew, so they had to be hoed off and cleaned up. In the back yard were two big dog kennels, these he said were to be cleaned out each Saturday morning and new clean straw had to be put in. The whole yard had to be brushed up, and the gravel drive that was from the road to the front door and away to the stable and coach house. This I had to rake with an iron rake and pick up any bit of straw or hay that might have blown about.
Now, the other thing he told me, that on every Wednesday morning there was a stove to light, this was in the laundry room near to the big copper boiler that was already being used by the laundress, steam was everywhere. Now this stove the gentleman was showing me was what was called an ironing stove, It had a ledge all the way around it and these flat irons were placed on the ledge, about 8 of them. And on a very long table the laundress pressed big sheets, towels and shirts and all kinds of clothes with the flat iron. Once one iron had lost its heat she changed it for a hot one, this went on all day. Well now what a surprise, the gentleman took me into the big saddle room and first showing me the harness that was used on the horse when pulling the wagonette, that he said had to be cleaned and the brasses polished each time it was used. Also the saddle and bridle were cleaned each time and that was every day except Sundays.
Now right at the very back of this saddle room was a lovely bike, a B.S.A., the make, and it had 3 speeds and the chain was all cased in. It was the best money would buy, he said I was to ride this bike when they needed me to go on errands to the village, sometimes to Bath City. The law was laid down that I didn't have to let any other boy have a ride, or was ever to ride it home to dinner or anything like that. Anyway I felt a very big man to think I was going to ride this lovely bike. We had had a few very old bikes at home in our time, that is how I learnt to ride of course, but there was no bike on the whole of Kingsdown that came up to this B.S.A.
Well now it was 1 o'clock, I could go home
and tell my mother of my life the first day at Ashley Wood. I had to be back by
2 o'clock, a few jobs like brushing up I had to do, then it was gone 3 o'clock
and the nice man came again and off to milk the 3 cows once more, and to feed
the hens with corn. The gentleman had been out riding the horse, so the horse
had to be brushed down and given food and his straw bed shook up, the saddle and
bridle cleaned. By then 5 o'clock, so one went home, finished work for the first
day, other than going back before it got too dark to shut up the 3 lots of hens
in their houses. That was in the late part of the year of 1918. War had almost
ended. Peace had been already declared.
The Down to Maisie Gay's
The Fletcher's to Granny Hawkins's
The Petty's to the Chapel
The Chapel to the Salmon's
The Salmon's to Totney Corner
Totney Corner to Kingsdown House