Guarlford Voices - "A Country Childhood"
Childhood is a significant period in all our lives, and memories of childhood can remain with us for a very long time. There are many reminiscences of Guarlford’s past in our two books 'The Guarlford Story' and 'The Guarlford Scene', which give us a good picture of life in the village over the past 100 years, often seen through childhood memories of a country life which changed little for many years.
Already on the GHG Reminiscences web-pages for you to enjoy are Reg Green’s stories from before the Great War; also from those who grew up in the village between the two World Wars – Sam Beard, Keith Chester, Amy Clifford (nee Neal) and Alf Young; finally a vivid history of his life as an evacuee in World War II by Reg Bevan.
To these are now added a few more memories of “A Country Childhood”.
One of the earliest references to Guarlford children comes in an article written by John Noake 'The Rambler' who made a visit to Guarlford in 1845.
He arrives a little late for Morning Service in the new Church 'at Barnards Green', which was Guarlford, and relates:
He also reports that:
The earliest memories described first hand by a child are to be found in a School exercise book of 1890 belonging to Thomas Hayes, then aged about 10 or 11 years, who lived beside the River Severn at Clevelode.
Thomas Hayes’s exercise book, dated February 1890, is a model of tidiness and provides some interesting details of education at the time.
His name is written in illuminated Gothic Script on the front cover, and the handwriting is generally beautiful copperplate. One essay shows the closeness of the children to the farming life around them. Thomas writes as he would have spoken:
First hand stories of Guarlford before, during and just after the Great War come from Reg Green and Lil Gilroy (nee Morris). Reg Green was the grandson of Mr & Mrs Panting of Clevelode Lane, and in his story 'I Got On My Bike' he speaks in great detail about his childhood visits to Guarlford before the First World War, including the adventure of travelling to Malvern by train from Dudley.
His parents had met in London, his mother having moved there from Guarlford, where she was cook to the Rector of Guarlford, Revd Wathen, and later they settled in Dudley, home town of Reg’s father, who was a policeman.
Lil Gilroy (nee Morris) lived at Clevelode as a child and recorded her memories in 2004 when she was 97 years old (ref 1):
Lil left school in 1921 when she was 14, and as with many of her generation, was trained well by an employer in the village before moving away to other jobs:
A particularly rich source of reminiscences came from those who grew up in Guarlford between the two World Wars, and many appeared in our first two books (ref 1 and 2).
These children were growing up in a very different Guarlford from the one we see today – no modern housing estates, what are now barn-conversions still used as working farm buildings, fathers employed on the land, life very much centred in the village with freedom to roam and play.
Cars were little known at first, and suppliers made deliveries by horse and cart. From about 1925 Amy Neal (later Mrs Clifford) lived with her family at one end of Jackpit Lane. Amy Georgina Neal was born on 23rd July 1918 at Thornbury, Gloucestershire, where her father’s family lived, but the family soon moved back to Guarlford, where James Neal found work.
At the other end of Jackpit Lane at Hall Green lived Phyllis, John and Stanley Bedington. They had a very happy childhood, with their parents and extended family living in adjoining cottages, both demolished – a modern house, 'The Paddocks', stands their now. Their great-grandparents lived in a cottage across Jack Pit Lane, and the children spent much of their time playing on and around the fields and commons of Hall Green, before the Hall Green houses and the Guarlford Road Estate were built.
* Photo of Phyl and brothers on common.
The Bedingtons’ old black & white cottage at Hall Green was surrounded by commons, and Phyl remembered fetching in the goats etc.
The family would also enjoy picnics and meals on the common in the open air. Phyl said:
Evidently the beams in these cottages at Hall Green were black and as strong as iron – one story says that they were re-cycled from timber from old wooden warships.
Contemporaries of Amy and Phyl were Joan and Colin Bradshaw, who lived not only physically in the middle of the village but also in the centre of village life, as their parents had grown up in Guarlford and were very involved in the community. Joan was a great local historian, collecting stories and photographs, as well as researching facts in dusty Record Offices well before the days of the computer.
Joan was born on 28th June 1918 at White House Farm. Her parents moved to Guarlford Court, where lived Joan’s grandparents, Mr & Mrs Absalom Bradshaw, and where, in December 1919, her brother Colin was born. In the early 1920s, Joan and Colin moved across to Grange Farm when their father bought a piece of land. The ancestry of the Bradshaw family has been described in great detail in the first two Guarlford History books: father Victor, like his father Absalom, was a farmer and their mother Flossie had been a teacher at the Village School.
Lots of new photos to be looked at. Many rather pale. Would they be retrievable?
Their maternal grandmother, Mrs Price, had come from London; evidently she was very generous and a typical Cockney, but Welsh Grandpa Price had died before Joan and Colin were born. Granny Price lived in Vine Cottage, which Joan remembered visiting:
*Charming (but pale) pictures of children in garden and adults on the common at the end of Chance Lane.
Like the other children, Joan and Colin Bradshaw grew up in a village centre very different from what it is today – with thatched cottages opposite the Church, no modern houses in Penny Lane, which was then a narrow lane leading to Hanley Swan, no Penny Close or Bamford Close.
Their father, Victor, bought the land opposite Guarlford Court, Grange Farm, around 1921 and had a three-bedroomed house built. Evidently this house had galvanised steel window frames and a wooden-block floor, plus an unconventional roof internally clad with ‘sarking’ (tongue and groove planking for insulation) and tiled with Canadian wood roof tiles. Opposite the pantry was a hand pump. Joan and Colin still spent a lot of their time across the road at Guarlford Court, where their paternal grandparents lived until their Grandfather died in 1932.
Joan and Colin had an extended family, and they particularly enjoyed visits from 'Uncle Phil and Aunty May'. Uncle Phil was Dr Feroze Gandhi, who had graduated from Grant Medical College in Mumbai (then Bombay) in 1907 and was also awarded the Wellington Gray Prize for Surgery. He moved to Britain and married Flossie Bradshaw’s sister, Lucy May Price in June 1914. *Photos
Sam Beard was also part of a long-established Guarlford family and told us:
They found the deserted 'Noggin', a cottage near Portocks End and moved in. Sam’s grandfather, the legendary George Beard with his distinctive white hair and moustache, was a well-known figure in Guarlford, later living in the Malthouse Cottage (adjacent to the Village Hall). Sam, his parents and siblings once lived in Maywood, Rhydd Road, where the violinist, Marie Hall, had lived, and in the 1920s the cottage was then still a very humble affair. He related:
Photo of cottage as is now?
Keith Chester was, as he himself says, one member of a newcomer family:
Have we used all the photos Keith sent?
When the two Guarlford History books were written (ref 1 and 2), we had no firm date for the opening of a school open to all children in the village, including the poor.
As described above, John Noake referred to 'Sunday Scholars' in 1845.
A letter of March 4th 1946 about an architect’s inspection refers to the building having been ‘erected in 1867’ and there are indeed plans of Guarlford School inscribed 'McCann and Everal, March 1867'.
However, we have since researched various Worcestershire Directories, which describe Guarlford National (church) School as having been built in 1847, not long after the opening of St Mary in 1844, and being extended in 1867.
Sadly, the earliest Log Book we could find in Worcester Records Office dates from 1901.
A little information can be found in census returns. In the 1851 census a schoolmaster, Thomas Morris, aged 70 years, and his wife are living next door to the Revd Fancourt, curate in charge of St Mary, somewhere near New House Farm and Guarlford Court.
No indication of a teacher in the 1861 census that we have found.
About 1870 the Tan House, next to The Plough & Harrow, is described as a Finishing School for Young Ladies, as recorded by Joan Bradshaw in her history of Guarlford.
*Photo of young ladies outside the Tan House
Kelly's Directory 1870 for Worcestershire lists the National School at Barnards Green (ie Guarlford) but doesn’t give the names of any teachers.
In Victorian times school masters and mistresses each seem to have spent just a few years in Guarlford. Thanks to census returns, various County Directories and the Guarlford Baptism Register we have been able to compile a list of some of the teachers:
In the 1871 census in a ‘dwelling’ near The Rectory, is John Harrison aged 25, Schoolmaster, born St Ives, Huntingdon. At the same address is Eliza Felee aged 45, Housekeeper, also born St Ives, Huntingdon.
Littlebury’s Directory for 1873 says that the schoolmaster in Guarlford is John Greenlaw with his wife Mrs J Greenlaw as Assistant.
On October 26th 1873, and then in 1875 and 1877 three children from the Brockway family are baptised – for each the occupation of father Charles Brockway is given as 'Schoolmaster of Guarlford'. Interestingly, in previous and later censuses Charles’ occupation is ‘joiner’ or ‘carpenter’. It is his wife Sophia who is then described as a ‘National School Mistress’.
Ten years later in the 1881 census there are two entries referring to 'certificated teachers', William aged 22 and Mary Ann Roe aged 26. Kelly's Directory of 1884 lists the teachers at Guarlford School as W T Roe and Mrs Roe. Then among the Baptism records transcribed so far appears the name of children Albert William Roe on December 25th 1881, followed by Alice Mary Roe on March 18th 1883. Parents are William Thomas and Mary Anne Roe, with father’s occupation given as National School Master.
Sadly in St Mary’s churchyard this inscription is recorded:
There is a small grave opposite the Church door looking towards where the school and School House stood.
And equally sadly, the two daughters of another Guarlford headmaster and his teacher wife lie in the next grave. These girls were Gwendolyn Louisa Martin, born 1900, died 1913 and Wilhemina E Martin, born 1911, died 1919.
Children’s lives could be very brief all those years ago.
In Kelly's 1888 directory the schoolmaster is Charles Allcott and the mistress is Miss Weaver; by the 1891 Census Charles is teaching in Didmarton Gloucestershire with his widowed sister.
The 1892 Kelly's says that the teachers are Miss E Henderson and Miss F Weaver (possibly the same Weaver as in 1888).
Kelly's 1900 lists:
Then in 1901 arrived one of the two families to occupy the School and the School House for the rest of the life of Guarlford National School.
In the first part of the twentieth century two men spent, in turn, many years as Head teacher.
From 1900 to January 1923 Mr Alfred Ernest Martin was the Head Teacher with his wife Louisa as Infants teacher.
Then came Dora Gardner, for a short time, until Mr Clarence William Woolley took up the post in April 1923.
You can find out more about Mr Martin and Mr Woolley, their family and the school in the Guarlford History books (ref 1 and 2). One day we hope to create a webpage specifically about these memories.
The people we spoke to who attended Guarlford National School between the Wars all seem to have loved their school and the staff. Like many of her contemporaries, Amy Clifford is very grateful for the education she received from Mr Woolley, Miss Cole and Miss Cope:
Sam Beard recalled 'The headmaster in my day, the Elgarian figure of Mr Woolley'.
Joan and Colin Bradshaw both started at school at the age of four and were well advanced for their age, as their mother (who, before her marriage in 1913, was assistant teacher at Guarlford School) had taught and encouraged them at home. Colin won a scholarship to Hanley Castle Grammar School (for boys) at the age of ten and, like others cycled five miles each way throughout the five years he spent there.
Joan and Colin Bradshaw had parents who were very religious, so the family went to Church regularly, with Colin serving at the altar for a while. *Photo The Church figure who appears most frequently in childhood memories is Revd Newson see St Mary's church circa 1900 and Revd Newson Sam Beard was very much involved in the Church, as his grandfather was the Sexton and general handyman, and the young Sam also turned his hand to many jobs in Church, as in this story of times before electricity was used for the church organ: “The usual organ blower was not available for one weekday wedding, and I was called upon to do the job. I waited somewhat apprehensively in the narrow passage beside the organ after a few minutes instruction from the Verger. (‘If you blow too much the Rector will not be able to press the notes down; if not hard enough the organ will make some funny noises.’) Sadly I overdid it, and the side panel at the other end of the narrow passage crashed noisily open, and the Revd Newson appeared in the gap. ‘Don’t blow the damned thing like that,’ he roared, and without waiting any further he slammed the door panel shut. The rest of the wedding passed without incident, and a half-crown from the groom was my reward. The Rector withheld his judgment. As far as I can recall it was a Sims/Clarke wedding that day.” Sam described Sunday School which “ took place in church, St. Mary’s, in the first (altar end) half dozen or so pews on the right-hand side. Names were taken, as good attendance meant you could go on the summer outing, often on a horse and dray loaned by Mr Medcalf, or Woodward’s coach for the seaside, a most exciting event in those days, in Mr. Woodward’s big yellow coach with its ‘pram’ hood, which took two hefty men to pull into place. For light storms Mr. Woodward pulled under a tree!”
In her notes collected over the decades, Joan gave plenty of details about the social life of the village – see “The Guarlford Story” – new webpage?? She and her brother were always surrounded by animals and had a lot of freedom to explore the countryside. Joan also told a story once of how she and Colin would climb on to the Grange Farm hayrick opposite what is now the Village Hall and throw apples at the door of the Men’s Club to make someone come to see who was at the door, whereupon they would duck out of sight! Photo Keith Chester recalls “Nightlife in Guarlford for my parents in the '20s must have been limited and less than riotous. In fact until the Men's Club acquired the Malt House premises and later made the hall available for village gatherings, evenings must have been the Plough pub for men and making and mending for women, or early to bed - or both.” There has been no mention of Scouts and Guides in the village, although some people did attend Mrs Newson’s St John Ambulance sessions, and one source of entertainment was Mrs Newson’s Dancing Class for the teenagers. Frank Jarrett was a popular band-leader for the Village dances, and Sam Beard remembered these dances and Whist Drives held once a month in Malt-house (now the Village Hall and old Moen’s Club building). “Granddad manned the door, and Frank Jarrett’s band supplied the music. Frank was a butcher from Hanley Swan and delivered meat around the village in a horse-drawn butcher’s cart, no protection for the driver, who was exposed to all winds/weathers. His cart had a ‘cupboard’ which opened to reveal a chopping board and meat for cutting. My mother whose maiden name was Voyce worked as a girl for an hour before & after school at Phipps the butcher, Hanley Swan.” *Photo Frank Football and cricket were also popular, and the history of the Football Team can be found in “The Guarlford Scene”. (Add an extra webpage and link?) Christmas was very different for the children growing up between the Wars from what seems to be expected in the twenty-first century, far less money spent but as enjoyable if not more so. Phyl Bayliss, speaking in 2004, recalled Christmases in Hall Green in the early twenties: “At Christmas we would have stockings; we had one cousin in London who always sent us presents, but otherwise it was just ordinary things. Everything happened at Christmas; the postman came with all the Christmas cards on Christmas morning. It’s all commercial now; everything in life is quite different.” Keith Chester and Amy Neal also have many stories about Christmases in Guarlford, which recall past – and possibly better - times? But it was the countryside outdoors which attracted these children most, as Keith Chester recalls: “Lying in bed listening to a nightingale through the open window, together with birds egg collecting, started my life-long enthusiasm for the wild life of the English countryside, and for birds in particular. I had then a better memory for their song, and it stuck. I was so fortunate that farmers in the '30s did not mind local boys and their dogs on their land, and the Victorian enthusiasm for, and ecologically accepted hobby of egg collecting (but only one!) still prevailed and, as with so many, turned me from "poacher to gamekeeper" in later years. I still have my grandfather's 19th Century bird and butterfly books and beautifully made egg-blowing equipment.”
Much has been told to us about those days before the National Health Service - particularly by Amy Clifford and Sam Beard The children of these country families were also expected to take their part in helping in house and garden, as well as boosting income at times, eg with the harvest. John Bradshaw tells how Colin and Joan would visit Mr Cole’s smithy in Chance Lane and his wheelwright shop next to their Granny Price’s house on the common. Mr Cole employed Mr Mortimer as farrier, and the children found them very friendly. Joan was more interested in the horses being shod at the smithy and was soon trusted to take horses from the farm to Mr Mortimer, stay with them while they were being shod and then lead them home. Colin was attracted to the mechanics of the forge, watching wheels being built, hinges and all kinds of metal furnishings being made; he was even allowed to have a go occasionally. *Photos Colin Bradshaw’s childhood hobbies were very important in forming his interests in later life: “Much of my early technical interest was in model yachts and steam-powered launches, largely inspired by John Robathan. However, I was also much influenced by the Revd Newson’s interest in what is now called HiFi sound reproduction, and this has been a continuing interest of mine ever since.” Colin and some of his friends shared an enthusiasm for motorbikes, and Colin would ride motorbikes round the neighbouring fields, his first was an Ariel LF 1929 250cc side valve. Unlike Joan, Colin preferred all things mechanical to running a farm, but as his son John says “Guarlford continued to maintain a secure, comfortable continuity throughout the whole of Colin’s and his family’s life.” * Photos
All too soon these children of the twenties had to leave childhood and teenage years behind, as War loomed closer. As World War Two began, other children were growing up in Guarlford, some from long-established families like the Lanes and the Littles, the Hayes and the Newsons, and others part of a contingent of children evacuated away from the dangers of bombs falling on Birmingham. Among these little evacuees was Reg Bevan, who has given us an invaluable detailed and vivid account of his new life in Guarlford between the impressionable ages of 5 and 10 and who admits that his time in Guarlford changed his life for ever; all the evacuee children give a new view of Guarlford and the countryside. Mrs Pat Greenfield (nee Troth) was evacuated to Priestfields to the home of Mr & Mrs Jones, parents of the late Curly Hatt. In later life, she used to come to Guide camps with her daughter at Blackmore Park, but she never investigated then to see if any of the Jones family were still in the area. However, some years ago Pat did ride around with a friend trying to discover old haunts and happened to see Curly in her garden. They got into conversation and renewed their wartime friendship, which lasted until Curly and her husband Ernie died. A R Rose and his sister Violet “were fortunate in being evacuated to Guarlford Rectory, in the care of the Revd and Mrs Newson. We were very well looked after, and very well fed in spite of rationing. I shall never forget those wonderful Sunday dinners, and the blackberry and apple puddings; it was a marvel of good housekeeping and good cooking. How Mrs Newson managed to cope with ten evacuees as well as her own family for several years is beyond me, but we were grateful for it. It wasn't just the task of getting meals for sixteen people every day (much more difficult in wartime than in peacetime), but all the other little problems: sickness, relatives wanting to visit the evacuees, etc. They ought to give medals for this sort of thing.“ *Photo Mrs E Anne Franklin (nee Bint) wrote ”My sister Janet and I were evacuated to live in the cottage up from Medcalf’s Farm with – as we called them – Gran and Grandad Finch and Aunt Rose and Uncle Tom. I believe they had another son serving in the forces, and they had a huge lassie dog. The cottage was lit by oil lamps, bathroom was a shed and water carried from the pump and heated on an oil stove. The loo was down the garden – and we had lovely veggies and free range eggs. Very good food in those days of rationing. The cottage has been almost rebuilt now. I think a family called Clarke lived next door.” The evacuees soon settled and revelled in the freedom of the countryside. As A R Rose said, “It was like a different world to the kids from Birmingham, being evacuated right out in the country at Guarlford. All those animals and fields everywhere, and the rich ripe smells of the countryside. It was all a bit overwhelming. Experiences such as going to the local farm to fetch milk, and being menaced by hissing geese who looked as though they were eager and ready to bite chunks out of us: this was certainly new to us.” Reg Bevan definitely loved the life: “Lots of freedom, roaming far and wide across fields.” A R Rose wrote: “The Rectory was a fascinating and interesting place to live, with lots of people coming and going there. All the kids were given their own little plot in the garden to dig and plant; I don't think we were too keen on gardening though! I can still vaguely remember the local stream in which we used to fish, the trees we used to climb, the local smallholdings where we went for eggs and such like. Also the shops in Barnards Green and Malvern, and the Winter Gardens where we occasionally went for a swim. “ Children used to be kept busy during the long school holidays. Mr Rose said, “We used to go hop picking, to keep us occupied and earn some pocket money. Lots of memories linger on clearly from those two years I spent at Guarlford from 1940 to 1942. At harvest time we all used to go along to the local farm owned by Mr Medcalf to ‘help’ with the harvest. We were fascinated by the combine harvester and rabbits and mice running for their lives pursued by farm dogs. I recall it used to seem very hot in summer in those days and very cold in winter. “ Anne Franklin went gleaning in the Medcalf’s fields for corn for the chickens – also “I used to walk every day to the Medcalf Farm for a billycan of milk and occasionally to Barnards Green to the ironmongers to collect refilled batteries for the wireless.” Mr Rose also had his ‘adventures’, including one incident which must evoke similar memories in many of us! “On one occasion my cousin and I went for a day walking along the Malvern Hills; afterwards we went to see the film "Dumbo" by Walt Disney at a cinema in Malvern and managed to miss the last bus to Guarlford. We happily walked back to Guarlford and strolled into the Rectory about 10.00 pm. It seemed they had the police out looking for us, and we were somewhat in the doghouse for a day or two.” The evacuee children attended Guarlford School, until the early death of Mr Woolley meant that the Senior class had to move. Later the Juniors were sent to Madresfield School as the Guarlford building deteriorated. Mr Rose wrote, “I remember the Brummy kids thought the country accent was a bit funny, no doubt the Guarlford kids thought our accent was funny too. We were not very scholastically inclined at the village school; we were more interested in the ferrets and things kept by the son of Mr Woolley the schoolmaster, and the superb model planes made by his other son. Later we were all moved to a school in Malvern town, which we were driven to and from by bus each school day. There we had to work a lot harder at our lessons: I can still remember the speeches from Shakespeare I learned there.” The Americans being treated at the Hospital at Blackmore often visited the village, as Mrs Anne Franklin recalled: “The school had visits from injured American Forces stationed, again if memory serves me right, at Blackmore Camp, who always arrived with candies and gum for us. If I remember correctly there was a ditch on the right hand side before the gate to the Church and I can recall seeing an upended jeep – they missed the corner too!” Reg Bevan also remembers the Americans: ”At times when an American convoy passed, we would stand at the roadside and shout, “Got any gum, chum?” and if your luck was in, there would come a shower of gum packets and candy. There was an American army camp at Blackmore Park, and, although I was forbidden to go there by Mr & Mrs Raines, when we had the chance, two or three other lads (one of them was a lad called Bobby Gowen and possibly another named Charlie Partridge) and I used to slip over to the camp to scrounge candy and gum and so on.” “I was walking down Blakes Lane with Bobby Gowen one day, “says Reg Bevan, “when an aircraft flew over fairly low and trailing smoke. We both shouted out “It’s going to crash!” then “No, it’s not”, probably in disappointment, as it disappeared over South Wood, but almost immediately it went out of sight there was a loud bang and a plume of smoke rose above the trees. We both raced off through the wood arriving out on to a ploughed field. On the other side we saw a plane burning away, a fire engine already in attendance, with sounds of cannon shells exploding.” This was, of course, the brave rescue by Charlie Williams. Eventually over the years the evacuee children returned to their homes, but they seem mostly to have carried happy memories with them. A R Rose: “Even at that tender age, the beauty of Malvern and the surrounding area struck home to us, and we finally left to go home with mixed feelings.” And from Reg Bevan: “I have so many more memories, I suppose I could almost fill a book of my own, of people I remember and events, many like yesterday, from my evacuee days. I can only say that my evacuee days were some of the happiest of my life, so I was luckier than some others who didn’t have the same care that I received.”
Some thoughts from Keith Chester sum up feelings expressed by so many Guarlford children: “I feel fortunate to have lived in Guarlford through my childhood years and experienced and seen a way of life largely unchanged for generations. I have watched such ancient crafts as demonstrated by Mr Cole the wheelwright fitting the iron tyre he had made to a cart wheel, heating it in an open fire and quickly shrinking it with buckets of water on land opposite Woodward's garage. The fascinating art and sparks of the traditional blacksmith I enjoyed at Mr Welling's smithy at The Heriots. On the farm hay was cut, tedded and carted by horses with some stored in the field in thatched ricks, giving opportunities for rides on the carts and gentle giant horses. Can young children of today, with their plethora of sophisticated indoor toys ever experience such thrills as Christmas past, riding a donkey up to the Beacon or flying in an early open-cockpit aeroplane with pioneer aviator Alan Cobham from Mill House Farm? Will they, nearly eighty years later, remember such adventures as steam train rides alone in the charge of the guard all the way to London? These were highlights of a childhood in Guarlford in which our parents could send us outdoors to find our own simple pleasures and healthy occupations in comparative safety to learn joy - and sometimes pain - from active experience. But was it really better? “ “What are those blue remembered hills, What spires, what farms are those? That is the Land of Lost Content, I see it shining plain, The happy highways where I went, And cannot come again.” A.E. Housman
Edited by: Rosemary McCulloch