KINGSDOWN MEMORIES

PART FOUR

The Petty's

   

Now leaving Granny Hawkins's cottage we go around the very sharp corner of the road, and over on the left hand side with quite a space of grassland in front stood 3 cottages, standing on the top of the steep hill called Wormcliff Lane. Now these 3 cottages were owned by a Mr. and Mrs. Jack Petty. The larger cottage that was on the lower side of the other two and near a nice field. There Mr. and Mrs. Jack Petty lived. Their family were grown up and gone away, so I didn't remember ever seeing any of them, but there was in my time living with Mr. and Mrs. Jack Petty rather a lovely girl, and she was always called Queeny. She was a year or so older than me, but she never went to school like the other children. I think it was through her not being in the best of health. She always helped Mrs. Petty with the herd of goats for they really had a number of them. Queeny always called Mrs. Petty, Grandma and they were always so very happy, but these goats made hours of work, and Queeny and her gran worked more hours in the night and were always very late to bed, but never worried about getting up that early. So I suppose had just many hours sleep as everybody else. Only their hours were different. They were their own bosses. Mr. Jack Petty didn't have much to do with the goats, but he was a wonderful gardener and he really grew lovely cabbages and everything in their very large garden. And Mr. Petty also went to work for Mr. Eyles, as a gardener at Ashley Wood House. Mrs. Petty was rather a mystery lady. Her business was her own affair, and no one dared every try to interfere or you would hear swear words that perhaps you had never heard before. She was not afraid of man nor beast, and while shopping in Bath City one day in a shop in Westgate Street, a big cat that seemed to be wild cat, had frightened the man and woman owners of the shop out into the street. Customers were standing outside too frightened to move, and soon a crowd had gathered. The owners of the shop had closed the shop door, but through the shop window the people could see this big cat spitting and hissing and knocking things off the shelves. Mrs. Petty walking along the street, seeing all these people just went to see what was going on. A wild cat, they told her, that won't let anyone in, not even the owners of the shop, and the cat isn't their cat. Let me in alone, said Mrs. Petty, and people watched her though the window, in less than five minutes this wild cat was purring in her arms. It might have been the smell of the goats, but none the more Mrs. Petty was a very smartly dressed lady when going to Bath, and the most valuable jewellery did she wear. No one on Kingsdown has such lovely things and she must have been very well off. She did not run to the local shop like other people that lived on Kingsdown did. Her goats and chickens, which she had many of, must have been part of their food, and bought sacks of flour in bulk. So no doubt made her own bread. I know she made lovely scones for sometimes she gave them away to us boys that played around near her garden gate, for by that gate was an old pony cart that belonged to Mrs. Petty. It was falling to bits, but we used to play in it and have fun. I suppose Mrs. Petty once had a pony, but not that I could remember.

Now Mrs. Petty had lots of bits of land about. Some was both sides of the Kingsdown Chapel. It seemed that when the Chapel was built it was built on the Petty's land, but that would have been in the time of Mrs. Petty's parents, who came to Kingsdown early in 1800, and their names were Banam, and I believe their home was in the big cottage that was very tall, but being built on the low ground and one walking down the steep Swan Hill would only see the roof and the top floor bedroom windows. There were rooms in the roof of the house with one small window looking out to the road. And the saying was that the landlord of the Swan Inn had lost some half grown ducks, about 12 to 14 of them. It was a mystery to where they had gone. The landlord knew his ducks did go down to a water stream that came out at the bottom of Mr. and Mrs. Banam's garden, but always returned back to the Swan Inn at nightfall. No sign anywhere. The one and only box policeman was informed, but no feathers about to say a fox or anything had had them. Weeks went by, not a sign of any ducks. Then behold, one day the landlord of the Swan was passing the Banams' house, and looking out this side window were many ducks. Now was it the landlord's or was it the Banams' ducks? Who could really tell? Well the Box policeman came and Mr. Banam claimed the ducks were really his, but the landlord said he could tell they were his by their markings of different colours. Now, said the policeman, we will take them down by the stream of water, and if they stay they are Mr. Banams. If they go towards the Swan Inn, then they are truly the landlords, and no sooner than they were put down, the ducks just ran off up to the Swan. Now who lived in Banam's house in my boyhood days was a Mr. Seekry. And I learnt that he was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Banam and of course a brother to Mrs. Petty, but they never did agree so had nothing to do with one another ever, in fact Mr. Seekery had changed his name from Banam to Seekery by deed poll, and Mrs. Petty's name of Banam was lost when she married Mr. Jack Petty. Before leaving Mrs. Petty I would like to say that the Kingsdown Chapel gave Mrs. Petty a very warm welcome every year for some time. At the end of September or early October the Harvest Thanksgiving was held. And every one around would send fruit and vegetables, and the big houses around like Ashley House would send bunches of grapes that made all the kids mouths water. There would be two services on the Sunday 3 to 4, and again at 6 till 7. Lots of people came from Box, Bathford and Monkton Farleigh, and on the Monday evening following, everything was sold by auction by a Mr. Oatley, an auctioneer who lived at Box and who gave his services free each year, and had done so for at least 40 years. This auction sale was in the old chapel long before the new chapel was built on top. This auction sale started near about 7 o'clock and went on till 9 o'clock and after. There were a few helpers, Mr. Simion Butt, Mr. Fred Butt, Mr. Brooke, who was the baker and shopkeeper at Kingsdown, and also the postmaster of the post office. And a Mr. Ernie Wilkins, who was a baker and worked for Mr. Brooks. These four helpers were the ones that held up the plates of apples so everyone in the very packed chapel could see what they were bidding for, while Mr. Oatley was trying to get everyone excited so they would keep bidding against each other and therefore drive the price up. A plate of about 8 apples all nice eating apples would get started as low as 2 pennies, but with many people bidding from all parts of the room the price of that one plate of apples could rise to perhaps one shilling and six pennies. Then no one would bid higher because there might be 50 more plates of apples to be sold before Mr. Oatley got to selling all of the vegetables, and there was everything; bunches of carrots of all sizes, parsnips, onions and swedes, cabbages, sprouts, cauliflowers and many lots of potatoes. Someone always managed to bring a very funny shaped potato, one that perhaps looked like a cat or a dog, and this odd shaped potato was dressed up with a pretty ribbon, at the very end of the sale this potato was bid for and sold to the bidder who paid and said put it up again please and this poor old potato was bought and put up again so many times that even Mr. Oatley had to say now for the very last time who will bid for this potato to keep, and the end of the sale was declared, but that one potato really brought in quite a few shillings to help in the funds.

Now what I should have said at the beginning of the auction sale at 7pm two seats were always left clear at the very back of the chapel and that was for no other than the fine ladies, Mrs. Petty and Queeny Petty. Almost every item of the vegetables were bought by Mrs. Petty. They had brought many sacks in which to carry the vegetables home. Every cabbage she bought and all the carrots, onion, swedes, turnip and potatoes and a good many apples and of course there were a few sheafs of wheat that had been given by Mr. Fred Butt. Mrs. Petty bought the lot, and then of course, there was a very large Harvest loaf of bread baked at Mr. Brooks' bakehouse and given by Mr. Brooks and this loaf was in the shape of a sheaf of wheat 3 feet tall. Now lots of people bid for this rather lovely golden loaf, but the highest bidder got it of course, and sometimes this was Mrs. Petty herself. There was no doubt in saying Mrs. Petty had spent more money than anyone there, and without her it would have been a very poor sale for Mr. Oatley. Mrs. Petty received much praise from Mr. Oatley and the members of the chapel like the two Mr. Butts and Mr. Brooks who was one of the trustees. Mrs. Petty's Queeny had many to help them down home with the big sacks and sheafs of wheat. People that lived down the lower road always offered to help carry something or other.

Now it is almost time I told you who lived in the two cottages that were built on to Mrs. Petty's own house, where her and Mr. Petty's Queeny lived. Well all of the property belonged to Mrs. Petty. I do know that the people that lived in the middle cottage in 1906 were a Mr. and Mrs. George Ball. Why do I know, well because in the top cottage by the lane I, Victor Reginald Painter, was born on the 9th of February. And Mrs. Ball that I really got to know many years later, and they then lived in the gardener's cottage right on Middle Hill Common, the property of then Colonel and Mrs. Erskin of Middle Hill House, Box. And I was an outdoor servant working in the garden and being chauffeur, handyman. And Mrs. Ball, whom I saw most days, told me that she was present at my birth and was the first to kiss me when I arrived. In those days every woman was always ready to help their neighbour in such times. Though of course every expectant woman sort of booked up a midwife and the lady that saw to most mothers when their babies were expected was a lady that lived at Totney Corner in a small cottage down over the back. And her name was Mrs. Stiles, her own family were all grown up and away from home, but Mr. Stiles was home but working each day at some job down at Box. Of course apart from the midwife, the wonderful Doctor Martin of Box attended every birth for miles around and that was Box Village, Box Hill, Wadswick, Chapel Plaster, Kingsdown, Lonsplatt, Henley, Middlehill, Shockerwick, Colerne and every outlying farm around. And every visit was made on horseback, for Doctor Martin had many lovely horses, and Mr. George Hinton was Doctor Martin's groom. And Mr. Hinton lived at Henley Yard, so quite a long way away from the stables, but then in those days grooms worked very long hours, and it may be 10 or even 11 o'clock at night before one was able to go on home, only to be back in stables again by 6 o'clock next morning. When Doctor Martin was called out in the night which was often, hung up over the horse in the stable was Doctor Martin's's saddle all fixed to a pulley block with rope, so the doctor could soon saddle up and slip the bridle on, and be away often across fields in the dark. Doctor's bag was always fixed on the saddle so everything he needed was in the bag. Doctor Martin tied his horse to the nearest gate, may not be the gate of the persons he was visiting. It mattered not to Doctor Martin.

Now back to Mrs. Petty's cottages. People that came to live in these cottages never stayed so very long, for you see the middle cottage was rather damp, for the front part of the cottage was much lower than the garden, and though there was a window on the ground floor one had no view, only to look at a wet stone garden wall that was holding the garden back from falling in through the window. So Mr. and Mrs. Ball moved out, and in came Mrs. North and her husband, who was in the fish trade. Well he had a donkey and cart, and after fetching the fish from Bath every morning he had different rounds each day, like Box one day, South Wraxall the next and some other place tomorrow, and so on. At the same time he sold oranges, collected rags in which he had two sacks hanging on the back of the cart to push the rags in. He would collect jam jars which he would pay a half penny for a sound jar. Mr. North suffered with some sort of arthritis and could not walk very much at all. So it was Mrs. North that harnessed up the donkey somewhere about 5 o'clock each morning before Mr. North could drive on to Bath to collect the fresh fish and pick up a large box of oranges ready for the daily round. And at the end of the days work, it was Mrs. North that was waiting for Mr. North to return home, and she had to unload the cart of the old fish boxes and get the rags and jam jars into their bakehouse and any oranges that were not sold. The cart was left outside all night, and the donkey was put on a long chain and pegged to an iron bar that was driven into the ground with a sledge hammer. The chain was fastened to a head collar on the donkey's head or in some cases a leather collar around the donkey's neck. On the other side of the lane from the cottages was a spring of lovely fresh water, so the donkey was well watered from a bucket before being taken up on to the Down and pegged on to lovely green grass.

Now I understand that soon after I was born at that top cottage which was a much more pleasant cottage than the middle one, but of course so very small and there were two brothers, 14 and 15 years older than me, and two sisters, one 12 years older, the other 7 years, rather a large family in a 2 room cottage, no toilets, no electricity, and the only good thing drinking water was only a few yards away, and one of the best water springs on Kingsdown and always a full supply. Hot and dry summers made no difference to the flow of water. The water ran into a stone trough that was bricked over in an arch so no soil whatever got into the water, and a wooden door on the front kept out any animals. The overflow of water fed a pond in the field nearby that belonged to Mr. Fred Butt, who had a few cows and heifers running in the field. Mr. Butt supplied most houses of Kingsdown with milk, bringing it around to each house mornings, with yokes and cans.

Now running away from moving out of Mrs. Petty's cottage I don't know how many months old I was when we did move out. We were due to go into the cottage up on the bank above the Swan Inn on the right hand side of the road, which was called Hundred Acre Cottage, and it was being rented by the Golf Club for my father to live, because he was now their Green Keeper of the nine hole golf course. But there was some delay owing to the rather old gentleman not wanting to get out of the cottage in a hurry. He was a Mr. Fletcher, and had lived in this Hundred Acre Cottage for many years with his wife and brought up their family. Mr. Fletcher was going to live with his married son who then lived in the lower road in one of Mr. Simion Butt's two cottages. The cottage with the water well by the side of the cottage. Anyway, while waiting for old Mr. Fletcher to make up his mind, my parents found a little cottage down at Bathford in Brewery Lane. Now called Ashley Road, I don't think we lived there many weeks. They say I cried night and day the whole time, but the moment we moved into Hundred Acre Cottage my crying stopped and everyone else became very happy. Old Mr. Fletcher had settled down at his son's home but very often he paid a visit to the old cottage. No one took any notice of him, walking in at any odd time, he never said anything. He might sit down by the fire for a few minutes and then get up and just walk out, he had a long white beard and lots of white hair on his head, he didn't seem to wear a hat much. Mrs. Fletcher, we understood, had died a few years before.

Our family soon settled down at Hundred Acre Cottage. My brother Harry became a Shoeing Smith by being an apprentice under a Mr. George Thorne of Monkton Farleigh on Mr. Edward Dole's large farm where there were many farm horses. And other farmers around Monkton Farleigh brought their horses to the forge to be shod, so it was a very busy business. My brother Harry was paid two shillings and six pence per week, but a rise of pay came after the 3rd year's service.

Now brother Fred that wasn't very strong and no more than 4 feet tall at 14 years of age, managed to get himself a job up at Gridiron Farm only a few yards from home. The farm was then run by a Mr. William Ford. Now Mr. William Ford had four sons, Mr. Frank, Mr. Harry, Mr. Oliver and Mr. Arthur, and there were daughters. One became a Mrs. Summers and was farming with her husband in Somerset some place. Later Mr. Arthur was killed in France early in the 1914 war, which was all so very sad for everyone that knew him, for he was a lovely man.

When Mr. William Ford became a bit too old to run the farm, the senior son which was Mr. Frank Ford, was put in charge. Of course it wasn't only Gridiron Farm. There was the Prospect Farm on the other side of the down near Kingsdown House. So the three brothers were running the both farms, under the management of Mr. Frank. The milking cows were kept at the Prospect Farm and all the sheep over at Gridiron Farm. There were a few men employed on both farms.

A Mr. Jack Gane was the carter, also a Mr. Tommy Hancock and a Mr. Watts was more or less with the cows. A Mr. Jimmy Ford of no relation to the farmers but was a wonderful man of great strength and had worked on Gridiron Farm for many years doing the ploughing with horses. This Mr. Jimmy Ford being so strong did most of the pitching of the hay to the men making the hayricks, for in those days hayricks were built in the field where the hay was made. And in the wintertime there may be young heifers running in these fields. So the hay was near at hand to feed these heifers when bad weather came, like snow and frost.

They say this Mr. Jimmy Ford never did shave his face, yet he never grew a beard, only side whiskers, and they say every Sunday morning which was mostly a day free from farm work, Jimmy lit a candle and put the flame around his face very quickly, and that just singed off any hair that might have been on his face. This Jimmy Ford for many years every Sunday morning went to the bottom of the Swan Inn Orchard where there was a well of water and a very large pump with a long sort of an handle fixed to rather a high post. Now Jimmy worked this pump up and down for at least two hours, and that pumped water up through a pipe in under the ground right up to a six hundred gallon tank that was fixed in a side shed of the Swan Inn.

Growing up in Kingsdown.

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