Memories of a Guarlford Childhood (1918 - 1940)
Amy Georgina Neal was born in 1918 at Gordon Cottage, Thornbury, Gloucester. She recalled these memories in 2008.
Her father was James Thomas Neal, born 1879 at Oldbury on the Hill near Didmarton, Gloucestershire, when his name was registered as James Henry Neal. Amy says that her father did not go to school as her grandfather wanted him to work on the land, so James could not read or write properly.
The 1901 Census gives his profession as "stone quarryman", living at Crossway, Thornbury, near Bristol.
During WWI James served in the Gloucestershire Regiment and later with The Labour Corps.
His parents were John Neal, an agricultural labourer, and Annie (nee Pegler), who in the 1881 Census were living in Sopworth, Didmarton, west of Malmesbury.
Amy said that her father did lots of different jobs - "because he was in the First World War in the Gloucestershire Regiment, and he was gassed in France, probably on the Somme, and it affected his chest all his life. He worked down the mines and he worked in the quarry up at Malvern and helped build the second Malvern railway tunnel (opened in 1926). He had to walk from Guarlford to the tunnel, do a day's work and then walk home. He used to tell us that he was up to his knees in water working in the tunnel. We used to laugh and think it was all lies, but now knowing the springs that are in the Hills, it was probably true, wasn't it? He left school when he was seven. I don't know whether he ran away or whether he was made to leave school, but he went to work on a farm when he was seven. There wasn't much you could tell him about farming. When I was a little girl he worked for Mr Bladder at Fowler's Farm."
Amy's mother, Edith, was the daughter of William Henry and Alice Jackson, who had come from Ledbury and then lived in a row of cottages (now demolished) on the common at the end of Chance Lane near the twisted pear-trees. In the 1901 Census Edith is a domestic servant in the household of H. Stallard, family butcher in Church Street.
In 1910 Edith gave birth to a daughter, Alice, father unknown, Amy's half-sister, and subsequently married James Neal in 1915. Amy had curly red hair, which later turned to dark brown, and blue eyes. As well as her sister Alice (who was known as Betty), Amy had an older sister Mary, born in 1916, and a younger brother Alfred, who was born in 1920.
The 'Dolls' House' Rhydd Road
After living with Amy's grandparents at the end of Chance Lane, the family moved to a little white house in Rhydd Road which Amy called 'The Doll's House' as it was so small. This stood back from the road in front of a row of three cottages where a brook runs under the road, just along from The Glen, The Plough & Harrow and Tan House.
Amy thinks that her brother, Alf, two years younger than she, must have been born in their grandparents' cottage, because when they moved down to the Doll's House, he was only a tiny baby in the pram. There were two rooms and a scullery downstairs and two rooms upstairs. There was a coal fire for cooking and heating, and the lighting was by oil lamps. The earth closet and pump were outside, with a large garden at the front and at one side of the cottage, plus a large ditch for sheep dipping at the back.
In the row of three cottages near this little house lived: Amy's Uncle Ted and Aunty Nancy and their children in the first one, then Mr & Mrs Pritchard and Katy and two other sisters, and Mr & Mrs Arnold in the third. Amy recalls this memory of those days: "Mr Arnold asked me to go down to Mrs Thomas's shop and buy him some tobacco. He gave me two shillings, and there was a penny change and I bought some sweets with it. He didn't say I could, you know, but I thought, 'Well, he's sure to let me have that.' So I went back and gave him the tobacco and he made me take the sweets back and go and give him his penny back." A harsh lesson.
Sam Beard, who lived opposite the Neals as a child, remembers when Amy's brother, Alf, 'borrowed' the family's small zinc bath for the boys to use as a boat on the brook, which ran across the fields.
Thatched Black and White Cottage
About 1925, when Amy was seven or eight years old, the family moved to what Amy was told was a three hundred year old cottage, in Chance Lane, opposite the junction with Hall Green. There were two attached cottages there. The cottage adjoining the Neals was smaller and had only one bedroom. Living there were Dick and Frances lzzard. Their son married Rosie Sims and they went to live in Canada. A cousin, June Fletcher, also lived with them.
The cottages belonged to the Beauchamp estate; Lord Beauchamp owned the land (Grove House Farm), which was rented to Bill Brewer the farmer for whom James worked as a farm labourer (actually as a cowman and hedger). The cottage had a thatched roof in which you could hear mice and birds. Amy isn't sure if it was a tied cottage, but the rent was 3/6 a week (17 ½ pence), and James had to work on Sundays to pay the rent. There was an outside pump for the water supply.
The cottage was whitewashed and Amy thinks it was made of mud and straw. The windows, small to retain the heat, had wooden frames.
The downstairs floors were composed of big red flags or tiles - Amy said she should know this as she washed them often enough.
The upstairs floors and doors were probably wooden. The front door went straight into the front kitchen, and there was no back door. Downstairs there were two rooms, kitchen and back kitchen. The front kitchen had two windows and a fireplace, where the cooking was done. Next to the fireplace there was a very small room where the family used to wash. The clothes were also washed manually in this room with the aid of a copper with a fire underneath. The copper was also used to cook the Christmas puddings, and there was a table under the window where the washing up was done.
For furniture there was a dresser, which Amy's parents kept until they moved to Skyrrold Road, a horsehair sofa and wooden chairs. Mother had a basket chair, and Father had a captain's chair.
The lighting was an oil lamp. The bowl that held the oil was dark green; it had a narrow glass chimney but no globe like most oil lamps had.
The stairs went from the back kitchen to the two bedrooms, and the coal was stored under the stairs. At the top of the stairs there was a window. You went straight into the small bedroom - there was no door and the window at the top of the stairs served this bedroom also. There was no fireplace in the small bedroom, which led into the second and bigger bedroom.
The walls upstairs were wallpapered with a creamy coloured paper with red roses. In the big bedroom there was a double bed for Father and Mother, a single bed for Amy and Mary and a single bed for brother Alf. Grandad Jackson slept in the small bedroom. In the main bedroom the wall was only four feet high, and there was a sloping roof in the middle so that the wallpaper kept falling off. Amy's mother, Mrs Neal, used to try and stick it back on again with the aid of a broom.
In this bedroom there was a fireplace with an alcove each side where Mrs Neal used to store homemade chutney and jam, also apples and probably homemade elderberry wine, all of which the mice used to try and get at.
The small bath used for washing clothes was also used for bathing in front of the fire, although it's debatable whether the adults could have taken baths in such a small receptacle. Water for baths was heated up on the fire, and one chimney served both the two cottages.
At the back of the cottages there was a passage (or alley), which went down to the toilets (earth closets or non-flushable variety). There was a toilet next to the pigsty on one side for one cottage, and the same arrangement on the other side for the other cottage. The waste used to drain into the fields at the back, which produced lovely tomatoes! The pigs helped to keep the toilets warm in the winter although the smell was less desirable!
There was also an outhouse where the bikes were kept. The cottage, though picturesque in photos, was poorly maintained, and when it was demolished the wooden beam over the fireplace was nearly burnt through. A pleasant modern house, 94 Chance Lane, now stands its place.
Amy and Mary had to go to bed at six o'clock in the winter and would lie in bed listening to the mice trying to get at the food stored in the alcoves in the bedroom. They used to sing in bed or play about, Leapfrog among other things. Mrs Neal used to call up the stairs and tell them to be quiet, so they started to sing hymns. Mrs Neal would then go upstairs with the copper stick. They used to draw their legs up in bed so that she would beat the bed and not them.
One incident Amy recalls involved her Grandfather, who was living with the family by that time: "Granddad bought a musical instrument - I don't think it was a guitar or just a banjo, but he bought something and he didn't know how to play - he couldn't get a tune out of it, so he took it up to the Green Dragon, and he exchanged it with Harold Clarke for a gramophone. So we were lying in bed - of course we had no radio, no note of music in the house, and there's this music going on? We rushed down the stairs, and there was this gramophone, it was in a dark blue case. Not one of those with a big horn. I can only remember two of his records: one was "The Sinking of the Troopship", which was quite deadly, and the other one was Sandy Powell. We were thrilled with this gramophone. I don't know what other music he had or how long he kept it, but I remember that night plainly."
Granddad would often tease them and used a pack of cards to tell fortunes. For Christmas Amy received black stockings and knickers, although she does remember once having a manicure set which cost 1/- (5p); one blue & one pink, one for Mary and one for Amy. She did have some toys when young. Mrs Neal used to work as a cleaner at Lawnside, a private school for girls. One of the teachers gave her a china doll all dressed in cotton baby clothes for Amy. Alf broke it, whether by accident or design is not known. Sometimes the children were allowed to go to Lawnside in the holidays with Mrs Neal to play on the lawns. Amy always wanted books for Christmas. When Betty was working in London she used to send books to Amy. Once Mrs Neal and Betty went to Worcester. Amy wanted a doll from Woolworths; they brought her back a toothbrush, she threw it on the floor in a rage.
The grocery shopping was done at Mr Squibbs on Barnards Green; the list was taken there on Wednesdays for delivery on Fridays. Mrs Neal used to buy things from Mrs Johnsons Drapery on Barnards Green, and a Mr Pettigrew would also come from Hereford. Mr Pettigrew used to parcel up the goods he was selling and put them on the carrier of his bike, put his bike on the train and then cycle round the district. Mrs Neal would buy from him things like bed-linen and thick underwear for Amy's father, and Amy remembers ordering and buying a coat from him.
Before the days of the welfare state you could get help from the parish, but you had to sell everything you owned first. Mrs Neal paid a shilling (5p) per week to Mrs Bullock at the Guarlford Stores for the dispensary, while Amy was at school, to cover healthcare, although exactly what this covered the family are not sure.
Amy remembers having a smallpox vaccination when young, and then contracting diphtheria when she was about eight or nine years old. Amy thinks she caught it when visiting Aunt Lizzie who lived in Painswick, Gloucester. She had to go to hospital and was taken there on a cart with windows you could see out of but not in. In hospital medicine was administered by tube through the mouth which came back up through the nose. The medicine tube was flat which went into a two-pronged fork at the end. The only other people in the ward were two brothers who used to hold her head down while the medicine was administered, as she didn't like having it. However Amy didn't have diphtheria as badly as her mother did later.
Amy has fond memories of District Nurse Nurse Bingham: "She was lovely. She was the nurse who came down to look at our heads, and she delivered all our babies. She delivered my sister and I - and my cousin Ernie Jackson; his parents lived in Peartree Cottage down in the Clevelode Road. Ernie emigrated to Australia after the Second World War. He was a poet and he's written a lovely poem about Nurse Bingham. She was really nice. I never saw her annoyed or in a temper about anything. She used to drive a little Austin 7 when they gave her one - it was a bike at first. She lived right down at Madresfield where the Post Office used to be and she used to have to go on her bike everywhere, even if it was right down to Clevelode - any time of day or night - I never heard her complain at all. She was lovely. She used to call my sister 'Straight' and me 'Curly'."
Amy's older sister Alice (Betty) worked for a time at the Malvern Winter Gardens. George Dalley, Alice's boyfriend, gave the family a radio. The Dalleys lived in Rose Cottage at the bottom of Red Lion Bank. Mr Dalley was the manager of Woodyatts Garage just there. The radio aerial was fixed in the pear tree out on the Green. There was only one set of ear phones so evidently they couldn't hear much. The radio worked by means of an accumulator filled with acid. They had two, one for use, while the other one was taken to Ranford's Garage on Barnards Green to be refilled. Ranfords was on Barnards Green, roughly where Merrivale stands now.
Amy recalls that her sister-in-law came with her on holiday to Guarlford from London one year, and they went to Ranfords and hired two bikes and cycled all the way down to Tewkesbury. Her sister in law had never ridden so far in her life, and so was very sore. Amy had to lend her a cardigan to put on the saddle to soften it a bit on the way back!
Amy recalls that Mrs Knight who lived next door to Uncle Tom & Aunty Maggie wanted someone to take the accumulator to Ranford's. Amy offered to go as she thought it would be a chance to use the bike as her mother didn't let her use it very often. (Amy and her sister Mary then had a bike between them.) However, when she went to the shed her mother had locked it and taken the key, so Amy had to carry the accumulator, which was probably heavy, to Barnard's Green which was quite a long way.
The Christmas dinner was cooked at the bakery along the road from the thatched cottage, on the corner of the drive up to Grove House Farm. Amy doesn't know how much was charged. The year they had the goose, Father went along to collect it but instead of using the cloths Mother had given him to carry it, he carried it in his bare hands. He managed to get it to the front door and then dropped it. Amy can't remember what happened after that.
She used to fetch milk from the farm, and boasted she could swing a pail of milk right round without spilling a drop. (Judith, her daughter, once tried this with a bag full of conkers and they all fell out.) The branches of the family lived not far from each other, except Aunty Lizzie, who was in Gloucester. Auntie Annie was in Worcester, and Auntie Beatie in Twyning. Father's cousin Ella wanted to adopt Amy. On a visit she bought her some new clothes. three dresses, new hat, white shoes and socks, white button up boots, and other clothes.
Girl's Life Brigade
Amy and Mary went to GLB (Girls Life Brigade, now GB Girls Brigade) for a short time. The doctor said it was too far for Mary to walk, as she had had rheumatic fever. To get to the GLB they had to walk from the cottage right up to the Baptist Church at the foot of the Worcestershire Beacon and back (Abbey Road). There was a bus, Martin's, that stopped near the Baptist Church, when they would have had a little walk at the other end, but they didn't have the 1½d to pay the fare.
Family income was boosted in various ways, including fruit-picking. Amy recalls:"…..the times when we used to go blackberrying.
Mr Brewer of Grove House Farm, he was the School Governor, was at the farm when we moved from the Dolls House. He had with him his sister, Mrs Tombs, she hadn't got a husband, I think he was killed in the War. She had two children, Molly & George, and there was also another sister, his own. She used to ride a tricycle - her name'll come in a minute. (Sarah). I can see her now, riding up the lane on this tricycle. We used to go down there to get the milk. We used to be sent down with the milk-can. I used to carry it home, swinging it about like that. Don't ever remember it being spilt.
We used to go blackberrying a lot. It was a good source of income. We used to go blackberrying for Mr Yapp, Violet Yapp's father. He used to come round with a pony and a dray, old baths and anything that would hold blackberries, and collect them all and presumably take them to Evesham. We only got a penny or three ha'pence a pound.
We went blackberrying all over the fields, anywhere the blackberries were. My Mum went out one day, blackberrying. Well, Mr Brewer had said to the policeman, "If you see anyone taking mushrooms from the big field, bring them straight down to me." So he caught my mum, didn't he? So off they go, and my Mum said, "Well, you can have the mushrooms, but let me have my blackberries." So he carted her off to the farm to Mr Brewer. Of course he said, "I can't very well do anything about it, because it's (my neighbour) Mrs Neal."
The cinema was mostly a closed book to them, but Amy does remember Betty and Mrs Neal taking them to see a film called "Making Whoopee" starring Eddie Cantor.
One source of entertainment was Mrs Newson's Dancing Class for the teenagers. This is how Amy remembers one special party: "When I was fourteen, Mrs Newson started up a Class in the Club Room for the teenagers, and Frank Jarrett came and played the piano. The men's Club, up the stairs, 6 o'clock on Monday nights, and all the locals were there: Phyllis Bedington, Joan, not Monica because she had a weak leg; all the local farmers: Alf Wilks, Al Webb and Jim Wilks, his brother, and Muriel King and Ted Somebody. I remember Mrs Nelson saying, "I said on his shoulder, Muriel, not round his neck."
We had a Fancy Dress Dance and I couldn't afford to get anything much. Phyllis Bedington sent to Ovaltine to borrow a dress, an Ovaltine costume, lovely bonnet to it, a sunbonnet. Joan Nichols, her father was the baker down in Chance Lane. Poor Joan died when she was thirteen, she had meningitis. Her mother was a dressmaker - she made her a lovely old-fashioned dress with a big bonnet. I thought, "Where am I going to get a dress from?" So I had a white dress that we'd had for the Confirmation, and my employer at that time, Mrs Bott, cut out all the Nursery rhymes - I don't know where she got them from - and sewed them all round the bottom for me, and made me a bonnet with the Nursery Rhymes on it as well, just so that I had a costume to go in. That was nice of her, wasn't it? I can't remember any of the other costumes, but everybody had one."
Guarlford National School (sometimes called Guarlford Elementary School) was next to St Mary the Virgin Church in Guarlford. The Junior Classroom was one big room divided in half by a curtain. When a certain age was reached you went on the other side of the curtain.
Unlike when Mrs Neal was young, they did not have to pay to go to school.
Amy remembers one Sports Day at school. Mr Medcalf, a local farmer, often let them use a field near the school, and they also used a field opposite the Green Dragon. Amy cannot remember the farmer's name, but that was when she and Joan Nicholls won the three legged race. They received a cup and saucer full of sweets. There was also a school play at Christmas, and Amy remembers playing Belinda in "The Christmas Carol". Then they had a play in which Amy was the fairy clock. She had to run onto the stage holding a clock and strike twelve. She had a gorgeous frock, pink crepe paper with frills all down the skirt, wings and white socks with a dab of tinsel on the ankle. Of course being Amy "I put the socks on with the tinsel inside, instead of outside. No one seemed to notice."
Amy remembers being with a group of children one year singing "Widdecombe Fair". Empire Day was also celebrated, and Amy remembers seeing flags in the playground, and singing Patriotic songs, such as "Land of Hope & Glory" and "Arethusa" and definitely "God Save the King". She also recalls a Commander Radcliff, who used to give a party for the schoolchildren once a year.
Like many of her contemporaries, Amy is very grateful for the education she received at Guarlford School: "I want to say something about Mr Woolley and Miss Cole and Miss Cope - I'm only just realising all they did for me and all they taught me. If any of their descendants are going to hear this, I'd like them to know that now I can appreciate what they were trying to teach me. I remember the songs that Hilda (Cole) taught me: (sings) "I am the Queen of the Pixies' Hall, Each must answer when I call. We dance together, hand in hand, Come join our merry little band. Tra la la……" and we'd have to dance around to that tune, and I was only about six when she taught me that."
Amy also has good memories of another teacher: "Miss Cope would teach us if we stayed behind at dinnertime. She was ever so pretty, fair-haired - it wasn't naturally waved, she had a permanent wave. Her father was Superintendent of Police in Upton. Her boyfriends used to come to School on their motorbikes to see her. I think she married a Lewis. She taught me to sew and how to make us a dress, and that stood me in very good stead. I was able to make things for the children and make curtains and that.
When I was in service they taught me to edge sheets; to edge sheets sides to middle. I was very grateful for all they taught me. I remember a lot of the songs: "Widdecombe Fair", of course, "Turnip Hoeing" and a lot of Nightingale songs. Every now and again it all comes up in my mind and I start to sing to myself. And we did a lot of Shakespeare in School, such as "As You Like It", "A Midsummer's Night's Dream", "The Tempest" and "The Merchant of Venice".
When they went on School trips to Worcester Cathedral and Tewkesbury Abbey, they were shown the carvings underneath the Choir seats. These are the Miserere seats and were carved by the monks to relieve the boredom of the long services, as the monks leant against them instead of sitting down.
Amy remembers being told that when the Danes sailed up the River Severn to Worcester, they set about pillaging the Cathedral: "The Monks caught one of them and nailed him up to the Cathedral door. A piece of his skin still exists, although it is not on show now as it is falling apart. It is kept in the dark."
Guarlford School was a 'church' school and Revd Newson was the Vicar, as Amy remembers: "He liked us to go to Church. We had to go on certain Saints Days - because it was a Church school we had to on those days. He liked us to go other times if we could, Easter, Christmas, things like that. But for me and my folks, when we lived in that house there (Chance Lane), it was nearer for us to go to the Old Elm Gospel Hall. We'd rather go there than go to church, Ticklebelly Chapel - that's what people used to call it.
Monica Woolley and Joan Bradshaw went to Church one time, don't know if it was Easter, or which festival it was, but they went, and Mr Newson was so pleased he bought them a bar of chocolate each - we were all mortified!" They had a Sunday school treat in the summer; sometimes they went to the fairground at Bishops Cleeve near Cheltenham, and sometimes to Barry Island in Wales.
At church everyone had their own seat and woe betide you if you sat in someone else's place. There was also a Christmas party, when the present was usually a book. This was at the Tin Tabernacle (nicknamed "Ticklebelly"!) near the junction of Hall Green and Guarlford Road, a non-denominational church, because it was nearer.
When Amy was 14 she used to walk over to Malvern Link to the Pentecostal Tabernacle. The congregation there were very devout and one or two of them would speak in tongues. Amy remembers several faces but the only name she can recall was a lady named Ruth Guys. These people were not highly educated, so Amy didn't know how they managed to speak a foreign language. (This was presumably what is known as "the gift of tongues" - the power of speaking in unknown languages, regarded as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2)
Out to Work
Amy's Mum got Mary a job in Dent's glove factory over in The Link. "She went there on the first day on her bike and she saw the people going in. She wouldn't go in, she came back home and then went into service as well, working at one time for Mr Woodward (with the coaches). She went to work for his two sisters up Barnards Green Road and Amy thinks that they were rather mean. They used to give her margarine on her bread and said, "If you're very careful with that, we'll let you have some butter." She ran away from there and left them." Amy didn't really know what Alf did. She recalls one incident: "I don't think he had much of a job at all. He had appendicitis when he was seventeen, and my Mother wrote to me that Alf had had appendicitis and hadn't got much money and hadn't got a suit. And I sent him all my month's wages, £3. I sent it to him, and Mum wrote and said, "Alf says thanks for the money". I was upset, as I thought well surely he could have written a few lines, even if only on the bottom of her letter. So when I wrote back, I said he could have done this, and he's old enough and ugly enough to do it. " Amy's half-sister, Betty, was in service as well. One of her jobs was with Mr & Mrs Patterson up in Roselea in Albert Road, and she had a friend there, Edith Townsend, cook there, they were friends all their lives. She left and got a job with Mrs Green up in Hornyold Road, North Malvern. Lovely person, Betty. (see Winter Gardens photo) When she first went to London, she had a job with Lady Phipps in Hampton Court Palace. She always went to posh places like that.
When Amy was 14 years old she left school. (Her mother told her "It's time you got your feet under someone else's table".) She went to work in service at Whitehouse Farm for Mrs Bott the farmer's wife, a live in position, earning five shillings a week, of which she gave half a crown to her Mother, put aside two shillings to pay hire purchase on the warm coat she had bought from Mr Pettigrew and so had sixpence left for herself! Amy has many memories of that time: "I went to work for Mrs Bott - I've got a photo of Mrs Bott sitting on the cart holding Geoff. He was born after I left.
I was very happy there on the farm, but the pay was terrible really, and long hours we had to work. I got up at a quarter to seven in the morning to let the hens out and feed them and water them and then collect the eggs in the afternoon. And in the evening I used to stand in the annexe and wash them. Well, I was silly, because I asked if I could do it, because I thought it was a nice job, because Mr Bott always used to do it, but I said, "I'd like to do that." But I was sorry, because I only had plimsolls and standing on the cold floor, my poor feet. Mrs Bott bought me a lovely pair of slippers for Christmas, just to keep my feet warm when I was stood there. But these eggs were not the silly things you get in the shops now. These were proper eggs and there was a big twelve dozen case to put them in, and then he used to take them up - Mrs Bott's father was a grocer in the Link at Colston Buildings, and I think that was probably where he took them to sell. And she had the egg money, that was hers.
That Free Church they went to, they were in the choir. (You mentioned a car.) The Yellow Peril, yes. It was a Citroen?, two seater with a little dickey seat, and it was yellow, which was why it was called the Yellow peril. On Sunday mornings they set off for Church, they'd take me home in the dickey seat. I could stay then until the next morning, because I slept in.
They were married in August, and I started to work there as soon as I left School. No holiday - didn't expect it. They hadn't got a room ready for me, so my Mum kept saying, "ask - dark lanes at nights coming home." I was lucky, I had a bike, otherwise I'd have had to walk.
You know that stuff - forgotten the name - you put it on the floor to stain the wood a bit. I can see Mrs Bott now on her hands and knees. Two bedrooms and two rooms, attic rooms really, on her hands and knees staining all these floors. As soon as the nights began to get really dark, I slept in. I had this little room downstairs to myself, Valor oil stove. I used to sit over it and all the smoke would come up my nose, all black, but sometimes they'd call me in and we'd have a game of cards sitting in front of the fire.
Mrs Bott used to put three glasses of milk in the dairy, one for each of us, and cream would be like that on the top. We had nice food there. We'd sit round the fire playing cards, and if she'd been baking, she'd have some little tasters in the cupboard. Mr Bott was especially kind. He was always telling me jokes. Some if them come back to mind sometimes. I've forgotten a lot of them. One thing he taught me which I always remember: "I wish I was a little rock A-sitting on the hill, A-doing nothing all day long But just be sitting still. I wouldn't eat, I wouldn't sleep, I wouldn't even wash, But sit and sit a thousand years and rest myself, by gosh." I always remember that."
In 1933 the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother came to Malvern to open the York Library at the Girl's College. She was then The Duchess of York. The Botts took Amy with them to stand at the junction of Rhydd Road and Worcester Road to see The Duchess of York. Evidently they were the only people standing there and as the Duchess's car approached the place where they were standing it slowed down so that she could wave to them.
After Amy had worked at Whitehouse Farm for two years Mrs Bott told her that she couldn't give her a pay rise, and so Amy left. However, Amy kept in touch with Mrs Bott for many years, and when the family visited Malvern they always went to see her.
Amy went from Mrs Bott's to be a maid to Mrs Bulman, who lived at "Vernmore" on Barnards Green, also a live-in position. Mr Bulman was Town Clerk and it was he who Amy's mother asked about moving to the empty Council house in Chance Lane. The Bulmans had three children, of whom Amy was very fond and she was given a lot of responsibility for the children, even though she was only sixteen and had had no lessons in childcare.
Then came the move to London. Amy says, "I was working at Vernmore, and someone Mrs Bott knew from the Free Church, Mrs Brook, her son and daughter-in-law lived in Birchwood Avenue, Muswell Hill, and they wanted a maid, because Betty was leaving and would I like to go to London? "Yes, I'll go to London" because I had a sister in London. So I got the job, ten shillings a week - I was rich wasn't I?
The Brooks had two children, John, he was about 12, and Angela, she wasn't 5, I think. I had to look after them as well. I didn't know much at all and they let me take them out. Highgate Woods, Alexandra Palace and all those places. This was about 1935.
The reason why I left there - John was a bit cheeky and he told me to clean his shoes one day. I said, "I'm not going to" and he said, "That's what you're here for." I thought, "I'm not staying here much longer." Mother had diphtheria in 1935, autumn time; she was so ill, couldn't swallow anything. She nearly died, and they wouldn't let me go home to se her. Mrs Brooks said, "Wait and see what happens", which means she might have died, and then they would have let me go home. I said, "I'm not stopping here."
So I went to Sussex Square; that family there had a big house, four or five storeys. The kitchen-maid - I was one of the housemaids - and I shared a room there, right at the top. You know these old houses - they've got this balustrade along in front of the window? Well, if we wanted to see out we had to stand on a chair to see out through the window, it was so high up. The fire escape was in our room. It was just a pile of rope, and if there had been a fire we would have had to put it round our waist and jumped out. Imagine doing that - we would have landed on the drawing room balcony!"
Marriage and Family
Amy married a Londoner, Bill Clifford, whom she met via her sister who worked at the Winter Gardens. Betty was a penfriend with Bill's sister, Winnie, when the two girls were in the Girls Life Brigade; so when Betty went to London, she visited Winnie at her house, and Amy met Winnie's brother, who became her husband.
At first, Amy says: "I wasn't struck really. When I went to London she took me there as well. My husband was 21; he'd never had a girlfriend in his life; at the tea table he just sat there looking at me, he was struck dead. I did tell him, I was only 18 at the time, I didn't want a serious relationship. I just wanted to find friends. He was upset I didn't go out with him for about three weeks. He kept ringing me up and we weren't supposed to have 'phone calls. He asked me to go out with him, so in the end I did, because there is absolutely no way you can meet people in London when you're shut up in a house from morning to night, from 6 o'clock in the morning to 10 o'clock at night. What chance is there of meeting people? And Tuesday was my half day and there's nothing going on on a Tuesday, is there!"
3 Grove Cottages Chance Lane
The family moved into this house (now 80 Chance Lane) when Amy was sixteen years old, in 1934. Evidently the house stood empty further along Chance Lane from the old cottage, so Mrs Neal went to the council and asked if they could have it.
It was bigger than the 300 year old cottage. When the family first moved into this house it was lit by gas, but when electricity became available the lighting was changed to electric. Downstairs you went through the front door and entered into the hall, in which there was a staircase on one side leading to the bedrooms.
There was a door into the lounge from the hall on the right as you entered through the front door. At the end of the hall facing the front door was a door into the kitchen; as you entered into the kitchen the back door was facing you (i.e. you could go in the front door down the hall into the kitchen and out of the back door.) In the kitchen there was also a sink with a tap for cold running water, a fireplace in one corner, and a gas copper.
There was also another room downstairs which had a Triplex range for cooking, this was never used as Mrs Neal had a gas cooker in the kitchen, and therefore this room was used as a sitting room. The Triplex range was made of iron. The gas had just been put in and the electricity, so Mrs Neal had a gas cooker. But it was right near the window, and she managed to set the curtains on fire! Upstairs there were three bedrooms; the two bigger bedrooms had fireplaces but not the small bedroom. There wasn't a bathroom; baths were taken in a zinc oval bath called a bungalow bath. The hot water for the bath was probably heated in the gas copper and because this was probably a difficult operation everyone used the same water.
The toilet adjoined the house outside and was a water closet (flushing type). The family still had the dresser from the old cottage, and the basket chair, captains chair and the wooden chairs. Mrs Neal had a gas iron which Amy didn't like as it had a naked flame which was only slightly protected.
Presumably a shilling per week was still paid to Mrs Bullock's dispensary as there was no National Health Service.
The shopping was still delivered from Mr Squibbs on the Green, and food and clothes pre WWII was good. If Mr Squibbs didn't have what you requested he would send a replacement. During the war soap powder became very hard to get, and one week instead of the soap powder a detergent called Manselle was sent, which was new on the market. It got the dirt out well but didn't lather up, so the family sent it back.
Evidently the manufacturers had to add an ingredient to make it lather before it would sell. This was the forerunner of all today's washing powders.
Amy would normally have used Rinso, Oxydol or Persil, which were all proper soap powders, and she liked to use soap flakes for the children's clothes. At number 1 Grove Cottages lived Mr Mortimer, blacksmith at Cole's Smithy, with his family - Amy remembers that two of the daughters, called Kathleen and Joyce, were her playmates. She also still recalls stopping on her way home from School to watch the horses being shod.
At times during World War Two Amy brought her little daughters Gill and Judith to live with her parents in Guarlford as evacuees from London, for which they were given an allowance. Amy has various memories from that time. Evidently one day Judith couldn't be found. Mrs Neal said that the gypsies must have got her. They heard a little noise in the larder, and there was Judith - she had emptied a whole bag of flour into the bread crock. "Go away," Judith said, "I'm making pastry". They were too relieved to be cross and fortunately flour wasn't on ration.
One wartime story comes from when Amy & children were living with the grandparents, and Judith recalls an elephant & a pony coming along the lane, en route for to the circus at Upton-On-Severn. Judith vaguely remembers standing on the gate with Janet to watch them go past. Evidently the Milkman's horse got wind of the elephant and bolted! At another time a civilian plane came down in the field opposite, the pilot had just got everyone in the ditch and the plane blew up!
During the war Mrs Neal wanted new curtains from Mrs Johnsons, the shop in Barnards Green. The first day clothing coupons were in use Amy gave her mother all her ration to buy them. One day Amy was working for Mr Derrett at the bakery, when Judith sat on the hot tins he had put out to cool. She then had to go to the pharmacy to have her burnt legs treated. Luckily there were no permanent scars. On another occasion Amy's other daughter Gill fell in the overflow from the pig sty and the family had to stay at Aunty Bee's for the night till they could get her clean. All her clothes had to be washed.
During the War Judith received a parcel either from The Junior Red Cross of Canada, or a school in America, which contained toys. The only thing that either Amy or Judith can remember in it was a skipping rope. Amy wrote and thanked them for it.
Amy describes Life in Guarlford from the 1920s to the 40s in a very vivid and detailed way. There is no doubting the influence of her childhood on the rest of her life, and historians can be very grateful for her excellent memory and storytelling skills.