KINGSDOWN MEMORIES

PART FIVE

The Petty's to the Chapel

Now we leave Mr. and Mrs. Jack Petty's property and move across the road to two small cottages standing on the right hand side of the road. The lower side cottage was only one room up and one down, but somewhere around 1912 into that cottage came some rather nice people, and their names were Mr. and Mrs. Moxam. They were young, probably in their early years of marriage, but they had two little boys. The older one was William and the second one was Charlie. Now before either of them were old enough to go to school the 1914 war on August the 4th broke out with the Germans. And this Mr. Jack Moxam, William's and Charlie's dad was soon in the army and sent off to France. Mr. Jack Moxam was a well-built man about 5 feet 10 inches tall. He had very broad shoulders and was so very smart in his army uniform. I remember seeing him home on leave just before being sent to France. And on a summer Sunday evening I was with my dad and mother walking towards Monkton Farleigh through Chalkleys, a footpath from Kingsdown to Monkton Farleigh, and halfway near a thick wood Mr. and Mrs. Moxam and their two baby sons were walking the other way towards Kingsdown. So everyone stopped to have a chat. My dad was also home on leave, so he too was wearing army uniform. While everyone was talking away an army officer was arm in arm with a young lady walking towards Kingsdown on the very path so my dad and Mr. Moxam stood to attention and gave this officer a smart salute. I thought Mr. Moxam was much smarter than my dad giving the salute, but his face went very red, I remember, saluting in front of his wife and us Painters. The officer didn't really look at them but lifted up a little cane he was carrying in his hand a few inches, and carried on talking to the lady he had with him.

Now after a few months had passed, we saw Mr. Moxam home on a seven-day leave from France. Not the very smart soldier we saw in Chalkleys on that summer evening saluting the young officer. But this Mr. Moxam was covered in mud from the trenches of France. His boots and putties around his legs were covered with mud, his peak cap was flopping over the side of his head. The brim wire had been removed, we learnt the wires were removed to be more comfortable when they managed ever to lay down in the trenches. Mr. Moxam carried a rifle and haversack and water bottle.

The small boys of Kingsdown just ran to see any soldier that was walking up from Bathford on their way home for such a short leave to their homes on Kingsdown. Not only were they dirty with mud, but they were really lousy with bugs and fleas. I remember seeing Mr. Moxam's uniform hanging out on the clothes line in their garden, and on one of the days out of Mr. Moxam's 7 day leave we saw a policeman stop and turn away Mr. Moxam from going into the Swan Inn. Mr. Moxam was wearing his civilian clothing, and no soldier was allowed to wear civvies. Now what harm could Mr. Moxam have done drinking a pint of beer in civvies. What a law it was of red tape. Wasn't it enough punishment for any soldier to have to be in those wet and muddy and lousy trenches of France and fighting for months. Then on seven days leave home with their wives and children was stopped from having a drink in a very lonely country inn. It even made us small boys of Kingsdown so sad to see such a lovely man like Mr. Moxam turned away from the Swan Inn. And though we didn't know it at the time of seeing the policeman turn Mr. Moxam away, but soon after Mr. Moxam was killed in France, never to return again to his wife and two sons William and Charlie. Only a few years passed and Mrs. Moxam died with a broken heart. So much for such a cruel four and a half year war that did no one any good. Goodbye now to the great and smart soldier Mr. Jack Moxam of Kingsdown and his good wife, Mrs. Moxam, a very brave lady that was hit so hard by the loss of her lovely husband Jack Moxam. Forever now together.

 

  Now to the adjoining cottage on the topside. This was a two-bedroom cottage with a kitchen and washhouse downstairs. And the people that lived in this cottage were Mr. and Mrs. Mould. They had two children, Ben their son, and Lidia their daughter. They were both married and had left home before I became very old. But Mr. Mould we became to respect very much for he was such a clever man. He was self-employed doing work for farmers like cutting hedges and thatching ricks. Also he was a master of art using a scythe. Mr. Mould who was called Harry by his friends, but his real name was Ben, always wore a bowler hat winter and summer and this hard hat had many dents in it. Mr. Mould was rather a tall man, but while working in the fields he was always bent over with his back very flat. And when it became lunchtime and Mr. Mould was not so far from home he never bothered to get up straight, but walked on across the fields to his home like a little pony.

Mrs. Mould was rather a small lady, and was never seen outside her cottage very often, for they had such a large garden, and Mr. Mould grew all the potatoes, cabbages and onions etc. And we understood they were not meat eaters. So were not needing to go shopping very much, and a baker and milkman called to their cottage most days. Mr. Mould was very fond of beer and was often at the Swan Inn. One lunchtime Mr. Mould had been for a drink to the Swan Inn and on his way down home through a rough uneven footpath Mr. Mould slipped and fell, and broke his leg. Us boys playing around near to where Mr. Mould fell. Soon got Mr. Pullen the landlord of the Swan to come to Mr. Mould. Now this was 1912, and the only persons to have a telephone was Mr. and Mrs. Eyles at Ashley Wood towards Bathford. So Mr. Pullin himself ran down the half of mile and in due course some sort of an ambulance arrived from Bath, it was more like a van. Two men got out and they, with the help of Mr. Pullin the landlord giving them a lift, they got Mr. Mould in the back. Poor Mrs. Mould stood by crying her eyes out, for in those days one had to stay in hospital with a broken leg about 12 weeks. Then you were sent home on crutches. In Mr. Mould's case no money was coming in while he was in hospital and Mr. Mould cut and laid an hedge while still on his crutches for a Mr. Lavington who had fields near Bathford Woods.

My father told me that one very bright moonlit night he was at the Swan Inn at turning out time with Mr. Harry Mould, and Mr. Mould said to my father would you like to help me thatch a corn rick at Gridiron Farm for the Farmer William Ford, and Mr. Mould fetching his thatching tools from his cottage, walked on up to the farmyard. Everyone in the farmhouse was fast asleep no doubt. Mr. Mould soon had the ladder up to the large rick. My dad's job was to carry the bundles of thatching straw up to Mr. Mould and Mr. Mould, an expert thatcher, soon placed it on the roof of the rick, and pinned the straw on with wood spurs that were cut out ready to push into the rick to stop any wind blowing the thatch off. Early next morning around 6am, Mr. Mould was by the door of the farmhouse waiting for farmer Ford so to draw the money for the job of work. Farmer Ford said I am not paying until the work is done, it is done, said Mr. Mould. Well it was not done 10 o'clock last night, and just wouldn't pay Mr. Mould until he went to the rick yard to see for himself. But Mr. Mould had done a wonderful job, no one could have made a better job of it, even in daylight. Farmer Ford was more than happy and Mr. Mould was paid, and I suppose my dad got a share of the money for helping.

Now before running away from Mr. Mould's cottage, I would like to tell you a true story that Mr. Wallace Ford told to me. In this cottage long before Mr. and Mrs. Mould came there to live, this Mr. Wallace Ford's parents lived, and when young near about 6 years old, Wallace was playing outside the cottage and a man came around the corner with a small hand cart, collecting rags and bones, jam jars etc. If anyone had a bit of rag or a jam jar this man would give you a little windmill made of wood and paper so pretty. Wallace really wanted a windmill badly, but no rag, no jam jar. Then the man went on his way and Wallace remembered there was the very old chapel in the gardens across the road that was falling down and a new chapel was being built at the bottom of the steep Swan Hill. So Wallace crossing the road and into the very old chapel, when on the platform preacher's pulpit was some green cloth getting the worse for wear, but Wallace had a pull at it and he found a nice lot had come into his hand. Now to run and catch this windmill man before it was too late. Oh yes, there was the man and his handcart by the cottage that is now called Ash Cottage. Wallace pushing the green cloth into the man's hands and the man now handed Wallace the lovely windmill. Now this young Wallace in growing up became a builder, and the last three of the houses built onto the old Kingsdown Post Office and shop called the Firs was built by Wallace Ford near about 1900 for a Mr. Maslin that lived at the post office. The last house number 6, the Firs was built at the cost of 80, and that had three bedrooms and three rooms down, with water toilet, and a very large garden. Mr. Muslin did intend building another house on to No 6 for Wallace had left some stones on the outside wall sticking out to lock in the next building when the time came, but no more was ever built. By this time Wallace was married and living in Laurel Cottage. Wallace Ford also was one of the main builders of Sunny Side House at Middlehill, Box. After that Wallace Ford went into farming and his first farm was Closes Farm near to Longsplatt. It was built by the Fuller family of Neston, Mr. and Mrs. Wallace Ford had one son victor and two daughters, Meg and Ethel. And they were a very happy family.

 

The Chapel.

Now we climb on up the hill towards the chapel where nearest to the chapel was Mr. Seekree's house The tall building with a loft and a small window from this loft faced out towards Swan Hill, where in early years the missing ducks from the Swan Inn were spotted by the landlord one day while he was passing on his way to the little Post Office and shop. It was sorted out the by box policeman who demanded the ducks to be taken outside and let free. If they ran towards the Swan Inn that would prove they was the landlord's. If they stayed, they were truly Mr. Seekree's father's. But the ducks ran back to the Swan Inn, so that was settled once and for all.

Mr. and Mrs. Seekree had three children, a son and two daughters, Dolly Seekree was the eldest child. A very smart girl, I remember, though Dolly was 12 years older than me and went to Bathford School with my sister Mary, they were of the same age. Then William Seekree was the next in their family and he too was a very well built young man, and he was nice to us smaller boys, and we thought him just great. Now the third child was Edith Seekree and she was 6 years older than I was, for I had a sister Doris of the same age as Edith, and they were great friends, both of course going to Bathford School. And it was Edith and my sister Dora that took me to school when I was 4 years old. If they were late leaving Kingsdown for school and it was 2 miles to run, they held my hands and ran, and my feet never touched the ground. I only had a few weeks of their behavior. When I felt I could make the journey on my own, which I did. And sometimes there was a horse and milk float going Bathford way and if one could hang on the tailboard it was a quick way of getting to school. We understood Mrs. Seekree had died and Mr. Seekree and the three children were left. So dolly became mother to William and Edith. Mr. Seekree was a very strict man and the three children were brought up to work very hard. William that most people called Bill, left home in about 1915, and joined the army but putting his age on to 18, and I remember though he wasn't yet 17. His papers came and railway warrant and he had to report to London. On the day he was leaving he called on a Violet Joyce that was then living at Laurel Cottage with her father and brother, John Joyce, who was my playmate, and we were both then about 10 years old.

Violet Joyce and Bill Seekree were wonderful friends, and Violet was very sad to think Bill was leaving Kingsdown. She asked Bill if he had any money. He said he had 2 pennies which would no more than buy him a cup of tea. Violet had no money herself, so could not give Bill any to help him on his way. Bill made off for Box Railway Station, never to return again, for only a few months passed and the news came that Bill had died. And Mr. Seekree was called to London. It was so very sad. We never got to know why Bill had died. Mr. Seekree that often talked to my mother, told her how he went to see Bill laying dead, and he said how he had tried to get Bill to look after his teeth when he was young, but it seems that Bill had neglected his after leaving home. Mr. Seekree said his own teeth were so good that he could pull nails out of the wall with his teeth.

More sadness came to the family. Dolly was killed by a train near to the Bathford to box Road, called the Black Steps. This was a short cut for anyone wanting to get on the main road. There was a notice to say look and listen for any trains approaching. Now only Edith left to look after her father, and Edith became a servant at Kingsdown House, and my sister Doris was also in service with Edith. Late part of the war 1918 time Edith became married to a George Berry that lost a leg in France, and George had crutches to walk with. They became very happy and had many children, and lived a long life together at South Wraxal, and were well respected in the neighbourhood of Lower Wraxal and South Wraxal Village

Before leaving Mr. Seekree I must tell you he was a wonderful cycle mechanic and did lots of repairs to peoples bikes. And Mr. Seekree himself had a lovely racing bike. No one around Kingsdown had such a bike, and Mr. Seekree often rode this racing bike to Bath from Kingsdown and he would do the five miles in 15 minutes. One other thing Mr. Seekree owned a lovely pony, rather small but very fast in trotting. And sometimes Mr. Seekree would drive to Bath, the pony pulling a small 2-wheel cart. The pony's name was Spider, and Spider's stable was a building in the garden. Mr. Seekree kept lots of hens and they ran out on the downs, no one else had such a breed of hens and they were rather pretty and extra big. There were lovely apple trees, and some trees were close to the wall by the road, but not one boy on Kingsdown would dare to try to get one of these apples, but Mr. Seekree was very frightening when he started to swear, if a boy ever looked over the garden wall. Anyway he cut all branches that overhung towards the road.

In about 1913 Mr. Seekree had a stock of bundles of pea and bean sticks built up into a large pile out on the grassland, very near to the Swan Hill. The value of these bundles was said to be twelve pounds, and one night a mystery fire started and before anyone could even try to put the fire out the whole lot was burnt out. Mr. Seekree was very cross and he reported this sabotage to the police, and every young man of Kingsdown was questioned by detectives from Chippenham. My brother Fred who was there working at Bathford paper mill was questioned many times at home and at the paper mill by the police, but no-one owned up to say they did it. And less than a year and the 1914 war broke out with Germany and the young lads of Kingsdown all joined up into Army and Navy, My brother Fred joined the Somerset Light Infantry but was soon transferred to the 6th Devons and was sent overseas to the Far East and was abroad for four and a half years.

Now many years had passed and my brother Fred came back to work and live on Kingsdown. And Mr. Seekree was still going strong, living in his house by the chapel. And what was more, Mr. Seekree had remarried and was living a happy life with his new wife. And I suppose the wood fire back in 1913 was forgotten all about by him. Then to the surprise of Mr. Seekree, a knock came on his door, and when Mr. Seekree answered the knock this very evening in about 1929 there stood my brother Fred with a hand full of pound notes holding out towards Mr. Seekree. It was then my brother confessed that it was him that foolishly set fire to this large pile of wood and would not be happy until he had paid Mr. Seekree for the damage he had caused 16 or 17 years earlier. So a very happy ending and lots of hand shakes by Fred and Mr. Seekree.

Now the cottage on the lower side of Mr. Seekree's with only a footpath between the two cottages and a public right of way for anyone taking a short cut on their way towards Bathford. There were rather high stonewalls on both the cottage's gardens, so that made the gardens more private. Now in this cottage next to Mr. Seekree's lived a Mr. Harry Gane and his wife and six children, Beatrice, Flo, Dora, Reg, Vera and Teresa, all of these children went to Bathford School. Mr. Gane did a daily newspaper round, delivering these daily papers to all the outlying places like Box and Quarry Hill, Wadswick, South Wraxal, Lower Wraxal, Monkton Farleigh, some parts of Bathford and of course Kingsdown, Ashley etc. The agents were the Fudges of Box Post Office that Mr. Harry Gane worked for. Mr. Gane in his younger days had been a soldier, he was a man of the world and could swear like a trooper, and had not been on good terms with Mr. Seekree ever. There was often a battle of swear words over their garden walls, and this could be heard by everybody passing, and sometimes when people were walking up the path between the two cottages on their way to the chapel service. For before the chapel had the new part built on the top in 1928 or 29, the entrance to the lower part was from this public footpath, 10 steps about to climb, but a few years before anyone though of building a new chapel on top of the old part a lovely lady from London came down to live at Box Hazlebury Hill and this lady, a Sister Lillian, was a chapel minister and took the Sunday services after at Kingsdown Chapel.

And she was loved by everyone. This sister Lillian did not like these 10 steps that were the only way to enter the chapel. Outside them was a three corner piece of ground that belonged to Mr. Jack Petty, that lived on the top of Wormclift Lane, and Mrs. Petty kept chickens on this three quarter corner bit of ground with rather old rusty netting wire to keep the chickens from getting out on to the road. An old wooden gate on the corner to enable one to enter the chicken pen with food and water for these chickens. Now Sister Lillian held a meeting to see if there was any way of buying this land from Mr. Jack Petty, but everyone said how this Mr. Petty could swear and frighten most people that no one would take on the job of going to see Mrs. Petty about her bit of land, for Mrs. Petty in early life had lived in London and never lost her London talk. Well this lovely Sister Lillian was not going to let anyone stop her, so off down to Mrs. Petty she went. No one knows if it was because Sister Lillian was a real Londoner herself, or whether it was her charm, but Sister got that ground, and we understand it was a gift to Sister Lillian from Mrs. Petty to do just what the chapel wished to do. Mr. Aust, a builder of Kingsdown soon built a wall and put iron railings around with an iron gate at the corner. Rose trees were planted by Mr. Migan, a railway signalman that lived in 6 The Firs, near to the chapel. Grass seed was sown to make the whole place look nice, and Mr. Aust put in a new doorway to the chapel, and the old way in by the steps was filled in and steps taken away. So all thanks to two great London ladies, Sister Lillian and Mrs. Jack Petty. A lucky day for Kingsdown.

Growing up in Kingsdown.

The Down to Maisie Gay's

The Fletcher's to Granny Hawkins's

The Petty's

The Chapel to the Salmon's

The Salmon's to Totney Corner

Totney Corner to Kingsdown House