The Village of Brede in the 1920-1930s

Memories collected and provided by HRFHS Member, Chris Offen, who still has family connections with the Village.

The village of Brede is situated in the south-east corner of Sussex, eight miles north of Hastings and six miles west of Rye. According to one theory for the name Brede originates from the Old English word of ‘bredu’ meaning ‘breadth’ and refers to the wide river valley which the village overlooks to the south.

For over 350 years, from 1054 to 1416, the parish of Brede was under the domination of the Abbey of Fecamp in Normandy. The Manor of Brede formed part of the charter drawn up around 1031 to 1035 between King Canute and his Queen Emma, the daughter of Duke Richard I of Normandy, which granted the transfer of property of Breta (Brede) to the monks of Fecamp. The original charter of 1017 had already conveyed the manor of Ramelise (Although its exact position is not known, it is though to have included the area bounded by the ports of old Winchelsea in the east, Hastings in the west and the river Brede to the north. This enabled the Normans to gain a foothold on English soil prior to their invasion of 1066.

Brede, as with many villages in the early 20th century were self serving with their own shops, trades and services. An insight into village life then is described by Eric Offen (1925-1991) who grew up in the village during that period.

The Brede Valley looking down Brede Hill in the early 1920s

 My earliest memories of Brede are sitting in a pram, at No 3 Peartree Croft at the top of Brede Hill. I suppose I was resting in the afternoon and guess I was having an afternoon nap. Next door at No. 2 Peartree Croft lived Mr Waters our local milkman, another Waters lived at No. 1, Mrs Nell Waters together with her son Jack. The rear of the houses was open and outside No.1 was a deep well was everyone ‘dipped’ for their drinking water. This well was over a hundred feet deep, but contained some very clear water and seldom ran dry during any dry summers, fortunately it was fenced in. Often a bucket would be lost when the chain or wire broke, the buckets were a special shape sometimes like a barrel made of metal and galvanised, holding about 2 gallons, An evening would have to be spent trying to retrieve the bucket with a “grabhook”. This was three metal hooks welded together, these would be fixed to the wire and lowered down the well and dragged around the bottom hopefully until a ‘bite’ was made and with a bit of luck wound back to the top. Sometimes on the way up it would drop off and crash back to the bottom, then the man would have to start all over again. I remember my Uncle [Les] having to go down to Manor Farm to draw water for’ old’ Russell Baker sometimes. The well was inside and was also deep, but this one lowered one bucket and brought another one up to the top.

 

 Peartree Croft (left to right no’s 1,2 and 3 at the top of Brede Hill in 1930’s

One thing about Peartree Croft was that it had some big gardens and very good soil, so all our vegetables were home-grown, most people kept chickens so always had eggs, corn was fairly cheap and was available from some local farmers. Some of the local womenfolk would go out in the cornfields ‘gleaning’ after harvest. Those lucky enough to be living next to a cornfield would let their chickens roam over the stubble. The gardens also had several damson trees; these were picked when ripe and sold to the greengrocer, giving us a little welcome money. I loved to climb these trees and gather the top ones. There were also a few apple and plum trees which were also used for jam, pies or were bottled for use in the winter. We often went blackberrying and what could be better than a nice blackberry and apple pie in the winter.

 All my childhood was spent in the village, so I think I can call myself a ’Bredeite’, this was the name of anyone born and bred there. There was some objection by the so called ‘Broadoakites’ who thought they were different ‘breed’. There was rivalry between the two in sport and at school, mostly of a friendly nature. Maybe it was because the Church was at Brede Hill and the Methodist Chapel at Broad Oak and people went to the nearest place of worship.

 My life was centred around Brede Hill, it was quite a compact and independent area; people did not go far for all their needs. Most of the property was owned by the Jee and Allan families. Most of the houses were weatherboard and people paid rent for the privilege of living in them. The period I am talking about was the [nineteen] twenties and thirties leading up to the Second World War. Over the years people never moved far so one had to be careful what you said about anyone, as you may be talking about to their relatives without knowing. Nearly everyone seemed to be related to one another as I seem to be calling most ’Aunt’ and ‘Uncle’.

 Brede had twelve shops, two garages and three milkmen. At Brede Hill we had Allen’s shop [Owned by Mr Norman Allan] for groceries who stocked almost everything from chamber pots to boots, cloth, oil stoves even things they did not have in stock they would try and get it for you. It was also the Post Office. Hob nail boots hung from the ceiling, and one side had household wares, and the other had the food counter. Just inside on the right going in was a little Post Office’ Box’. On the counter was a big scale, were everything was weighed, no packaging in those day. Bags with ‘Allen Bros’ on the side were filled with sugar, dates, raisins, whatever you required. Mr Jim Allen used to serve at the food counter. Every one referred to the shop as ‘Mus Allens’.

 Allen’s Shop at Brede Hill with Mr Joyce and Jim Apps

 My Uncle [Les Horton] worked at the Allen’s shop as a rounds man. His job was to go around the village on his bike early in the week for orders, and then deliver them with the van latter in the week.

 

Les Horton and Marjorie Ann with ‘Allen Bros’ Grocers van, (an old Ford)

“Bert Waters who lived a Peartree Croft was the local milkman, he operated from Pottery Lane and early days rode a three wheel trike and carried milk in cans. You would hear him cry ‘milko ma’m’. People would go to the doors with their jugs, he carried a ½ pint and a pint measures with which he measured out the customers needs. Latter the bottles came along and the galvanised cans were made redundant.

 The Red Lion pub was a well attended’ local’, all the locals seem to go there each night, mostly for a pint and an once of ‘baccy’. Jack Jee the publican was never in a hurry, so you had to expect some delays in getting served. Jack smoked a pipe so if it happened to be wanting to be smoked, Jack would first get lit up which would take while, but then no one was seemed to be in a hurry anyway. He seldom opened at six o’clock; it was more like half past by the time he unlocked. By this time quite a few had gathered on the green and began to get impatient but it made no difference shouting at him. Jack was a likeable chap and quite a character. At the Red Lion they ran a Slate Club. Money was paid in on Mondays and I anyone was off sick he would received so much a week. At the end of the year at Christmas there would be a share out. Money left over was paid out to members most would be spent on Christmas drink for the family. Saturday nights was the night most men visited the pub, they togged-up for a game of dominoes, darts, crib, shovehappenny and most card games, sometimes there would be a sing-song.

 Red Lion Brede

I spent quite a few hours at the Forge where Granddad Horton operated as the local Blacksmith, I often helped to pump bellows or turned the big sandstone whilst he sharpened tool, and if you needed a haircut and shave Bert Apps could give you one.

 Mr W. Horton Blacksmith at the Brede Forge

 Bert Apps who lived at ’John and Marys’ acted as a barber, undertaker and repair man (and early DIY man). I often went there for a trim. I sat in his shed on a board across the arms of an old wooden armchair. He used to tease me and asked me if I knew Brede River was alight. I felt that these were happy times, everyone was friendly and helpful and also very kind. I used to like watching the horses being shod and would still recognise the smell of hot horseshoes as they were put on. On his death it was taken over by Jack Apps.

Crouch’s Corner, Cackle Street, Brede with Crouch’s Shop on the right, one of two shops in the village owned by Mr A E Crouch

 At Pottery Lane there was another grocer, where old Mr Crouch ran his store. Then opposite Hartnell’s Garage there was butchers run by Mr Martin who had lost an eye, a kindly man always helpful. Hartnell’s Garage always seemed a busy place; here people would take their accumulators for charging. These were used for the wireless sets. There was a very few cars in those days.

Hartnell’s Garage at Cackle Street, Brede with Mr Hartnell and Bob Skinner 

 Just above Hartnell’s Joe Warne had his little shop. This was a ‘lads shop’; we would spend our evenings here drinking soft drinks. Joe was open all hours and sold most things from Liver Salts to Dinky toys. Joe was always disappointed if he had not got anything you wanted. He even sold the ‘Evening Argus’ which Dengates bus delivered from Hastings. Joe always wore his cap in the shop, turnout time was around 8:30 pm. Many workers relied on Joe for their favourite ‘Bacca’, most worked up to 6 pm in those days.  

Joe Warne’s Shop in Cackle Street, Brede

 Joe’s father had a shop just above Joe’s [Broadoak side of Cackle Street], he also was a grocer and opposite him was Mr Oliver’s bakery.

 
Mr Warne in his shop at the time of King George VI’s Coronation in 1937 

 Here was baked the bread for local delivery. What a lovely smell from the bakery, as you went by. I often ran errands to collect bread and rolls for people. He always rewarded me with a hot bread roll and butter, always had a jolly word for me. With all the shop keepers and workers there was always a nice friendly and jolly word for us lads and often a couple of sweets were shoved in your pocket.  

The W.I. Hall at Kingwood Land was the local community centre. Concerts, plays and dances were held there much as today, but it was a cold place but those days there was only a stove for heating.

 I think the first war had had an impact on these folk, some had lost husbands and sons and it had left a big scar this bonded the people more. As you went into their homes you would see photos of their husbands and sons on the walls, some never returned from the war. It must have been sad to have to carry on life without them, but they seem to accept that it was all in a good cause. Now one looks back on the 1st World War, one feels it was a waste of life. When we spoke to those who returned they had a different opinion but kept their thoughts too themselves.

The Church was the centre of most things; I started Sunday school before I was five the lessons were held down at the old schoolroom on Sunday afternoons and I did not have far to go.

 The Old School room at Brede

 We were taught by the two Miss Danns, ‘Old Lou’ and ‘Flo’ (who had the nickname of ‘Nip’) who lived at the entrance of Stubbs Lane. I must admit I never had a clue what they were telling us. At the age of five I became a ‘cope boy’ at morning service along with Ron Morley we had to hold back the vicar’s cloak while the procession proceeded around the church before a service. Each Sunday morning service started with a procession and the servers would go right around the church ending up back at the alter. It would be lead by someone with the incense and’ boat boy’ (he carried the fuel), they would be followed by’ two candle boys’, then someone carrying the cross. Sometimes the banner of St George would be there, and at times the Mother’s Union banner would be in. Then two servers followed by the vicar and the ‘two cope boys’. In between the two banners, or in front of the two servers would be Father Cator who was the other vicar at Brede. Incense would be flung around the church as the procession slowly walked. When finished some of the servers would go back to the vestry and disrobe and pop outside go round to the North door and join the choir returning later for the last hymn. The vicar at the time was Rev. Frewer following his death he was replaced by Rev. Hill, with the support of Father Cator. On Sunday morning the green would be full of cars belonging to the ‘nobs’, some with chauffeurs waiting to open the car doors on the return of the owners. The ‘nobs’ always had the best seats in church, with the ‘locals’ at the back. They always came out first, followed by the local working class. What use to annoy us, was being made to step off the path to make way for them; “You boys, get on the grass and let sirs pass”.

  St George’s Church, Brede

 As I grew older I became a member of the choir and so became more and more involved with the church and I also became a server. Serving at early morning services at 7 and 8 o’clock morning communions, having watched the older servers I had little trouble ’leaning the trade’. One job I would like to have done was bell ringing but there was always plenty to do it, being a server, choir boy and doing most other jobs kept me fairly busy as it was. I enjoyed all these jobs, for we seldom went outside the village.

 The organist was Mrs Winch and old Teddy Jewhurst pumped the bellows, we would try to distract Ted so he took his eye off and let the wind get low. Remembrance Day, the British Legion would march from Broad Oak to the Church joined by the Scouts and Guides and sometimes headed by the band. On Empire Sunday when an evening service was held and the band would play on the green afterwards.

 Christmas was a great time, we had plenty of parties down in the old school room. These would start with sandwiches, followed by fancy cakes of which we could not get enough until we began to feel a bit sick. Games followed and then a conjuror and a song sung by one of the choir. There always seem to be someone local who could play an instrument. The scouts, choir servers all had their ‘do’s’ there. These took place weekday evenings and we would arrive home from school, no tea, so we were starved by the evening.  

Each year we had a choir outing, a coach took us to places like; Hampden Court, or the Zoo, Tower of London a great day for us lads, as we seldom went out the village. The night before I could not sleep because of the excitement of the next day, so I was a bit tired on the day. To go to London was big day out and much talked of for the next few days. I can recall standing on the village green waiting for Skinner’s blue bus to arrive and rushing on to get a good seat. Most of the choir went, but any empty seats were filled up OK. What we did not like was being bossed about by one or two’ heads’ as we called them. Packed lunches were taken for the day and there was a stop on the way home for fish and chips ‘four penuth’ fish and ‘two penuth’ chips and they did go down well!!.

 It was seldom we ever went into Hastings, it was lucky if we went twice a year, usually we taken to see Father Christmas at Mastins. Here you would pay to see him and you would enter a decorated lift and would get the impression you were going up in air to visit   him. On reaching the top you would get out and meet him surrounded with toys, sit on his lap while he asked if you had been a good boy etc. Then he handed you a present all rapped up and back down you went. Even riding on old Dengates bus was a treat, the conductors were always joking with us. To see all the shops in Hastings all lit-up was a real treat and every one seemed so happy, even though they could not afford much. People were grateful to just to receive one present that was needed by them. I had a Hornby train once, it was clockwork one that went around in a circle, but I played with it for hours on end at Christmas, and if I was good they would buy me some more rails for my birthday in April. Lead farm animals were also popular and I amassed quite collection. One of my pals would come and play bringing his collection and it would all be set out like a real farmyard. I suppose these lead animals would be banned today, I wonder what harm they did to us?

 My first day at school started after Easter 1930, two girls nearby called to take me to Board Oak for my first day. We cut through the fields near the forge, behind the cedars following the footpath to Broad Oak. After school we would come back down the same path. This was the route we always take when the weather was good, but often in winter we keep to the road. Most of us carried a penny tied in the corner of a handkerchief; we would only use it on the bus fare in bad weather. It cost one penny from Broad Oak to Brede Hill. Sandwiches were carried, and we were given a ⅓ pint of milk, supplied locally free. Many had to walk quite a distance; some walked from Brook Lodge and in winter were allowed to leave early so as to arrive home before darkness.

 The older boys always bullied the smaller ones, and we would be shut in the coal shed all the play time, and let out last minute or you would be picked on and shut in the latrine. Fights often broke out, usually ending up with the cane or both when spotted by the Headmaster. Football was favourite, played with a tennis ball usually it was between Brede Hill v Braod Oak. Other games were played were five stones, where you placed five stones in front of the wall and dried to knock them out with a tennis ball; spinning tops were popular and wheeling hoops. We have stood at the top of Brede Hill and rolled hoops down to the bottom. Wednesday was sports day in the afternoon football was played in winter and cricket summertime. Should it be wet then we had singing lessons, which everyone hated, the headmaster’s wife played the organ. One boy was singing naughty words once and promptly received the cane with out a word being said.  

 Our school holidays were happy times, we spent a lot of time down in the Brede marshes; I would reckon we knew every inch of those marshes in those days. We knew all the tracks, foot bridges and easy paths, the best mushroom fields, blackberry hedges and crab apple trees also clove tree. Many local people would give us six pence for a basket of blackberries, and many would make crab apple wine, so these earned us a bit of pocket money. Some would make clove wine but these were more difficult to find. Some years it was a good, but some years it was hard to fill a basket. Mushrooms you had to get up early to make sue you got any. Men from Hastings use to come out on the early train, get off at Doleham and comb the marshes to take and sell in town. I have sometimes been lucky enough to make two or three journeys with gathering a full basket each time.

We were always warned not to go near the river, for fear of falling in but we still went. We had a fascination for making boats, we would ask ‘Mus Allan’ for old orange boxes then take them apart and make a shape of battleship. When ready, sneak down by the waterworks and slip them into the water then watch them float down to Brede Bridge. Spring was great as bird nesting was the favourite pastime, some would collect birds eggs so we would comb the marsh. Collecting wild bird eggs was a hobby for us, some had large collections. Most of us had a bit of collection we were not supposed to but no harm was done. We would only take one form a nest, a hole was made and the egg drained. Some seem to suck them raw. Dabchick eggs were in demand, I can remember two of us finding 26 in one trip and then we would take them home and fry them. We always leave one egg I the nest, this was one rule we had. I used to get a ticking-off for taking them home then they were fried and I always noted that they eat them with me. Once we had a good day, Vic Apps hid in his cap, came round home with me, but on the way out hit his head on a low branch. Come home to clean up it was rather unfortunate as we had had a good day.

 
1930’s view of the Brede Valley from Forstal Road near Brede Church with the main road leading to Westfield 

 As children our favourite pastime was to wander over the Brede Marshes One of our games was to take a pocket of stones and look for water rats and throw stones at them to make them stay underwater and as soon as they came up for air make them dive. Sometimes we encountered a grass snake which would enter the water this would suffer the same treatment.

 We would spend hours making boats, keeping out of sight of parents whilst the building was taking progress. We would ask the local grocer for old orange boxes, hid it in the shed somewhere. Often when the big day came, and they were taken down the river, they were too heavy and sank. Orange boxes were also ideal for making ‘go-carts’ as were old prams. Some amazing carts were made; our favourite run was down Forstal Hill on route to the Waterworks .Many times these carts would go at a fair speed, and up in the ditch flinging us out. Some were guided by the feet, others by sitting in a box and using rope to steer. Many a time we returned home with grazed knees and elbows usually with a different story of how it happened. Often when the truth was known we were kept in from play for a week. Friends would call for you and be told he won’t coming out until next week.

Much time was spent on Church Farm and we often use to help, one job I liked was fetching the cows up for milking. I suppose we liked to feel we were grown up men. Les Mann and 1 would walk down Forstal Hill to the waterworks and open up the gate out, call the cows and they soon came across to the gate. They always seem to know the time and each had their own track back, one or two would always go close to the hedge. Everything was alright until we reached Church Farm pond. They always went there to drink and were a job to shift not only that but they got pretty muddy. Sometimes they would let us lead out the horses to the field to graze, I can still recall the smell of a horse, and they seemed to be big animals to us. They were harmless and you could stroke and talk to them. Hay making time was great, we would race home from school change and collect the workers sandwiches, pop round the back of the Red Lion, pick up some bottles of beer there would be about six in a wicker basket. Here we would use the go-kart, take it round to Church Farm, load it on to an empty wagon which Skipper Waters had just unloaded and waiting to go back down the marsh. Some would send cold tea in bottles for their men folk. When Skipper Waters was ready, away we went sitting in the empty wagon and down Forstal Hill. I well remember sitting on the side of the wagon and it was pretty bumpy and a hard seat, those iron wheels clattering away. Was quite exciting for us, on arrival down at the field the farm hands welcome us. They were eager for the drink; I bet the beer went down well. They would have break for tea, lay on the hay faces sun burnt, straw hats, open necked shirts, sweat running from their faces, it was really hard work. When ready Skipper would hitch the horses to a loaded wagon, and then set off back to the farm. We would stay on and help at the field, perhaps lead the horses around. They would carry onto nearly darkness, before riding back, perhaps nipping for a quick on in the Red Lion.

   The Brede Valley

 Hop picking time was one time 1 didn’t reckon on I hated it, don’t know why, some loved it. It used to start about the first week in September, old clothes were saved to wear in the gardens, hop resin would stain, and not be removed. The bines were big and rough and would scratch you like brambles, so you had to be well covered. Two sorts of clothes were used, one for hot weather and the other in case of cold. Picking went on for week, and it could be a cold start in the early morning.  

 We would be up at six in the morning, early breakfast and down to Mr Winch’s garden down Stubb Lane by 7.30 am, loaded with pot, billy can, umbrellas, and stool. All this OK when the weather was dry, although I do not remember too many wet ones in my day. The call ‘All to work’ would be called and picking would start. We had to pick an upturned umbrella or in an old bath was full before we could go and play with the others, this seem to be the rule with most. That umbrella seem to be a darn big one, and when it was near the top it never got fuller and you would keep asking if you could go and play, but the reply was ’it’s not full enough yet’.

At mid-day a break was allowed and tea was brewed over a wood fire. Children would gather the wood and a bill-can of water was boiled, and then went in the tea leaves. Little groups would form and sit on used poles that were stacked at the side. Some would take a frying pan and fry eggs or sausages. Bread pudding and ginger bread were favourites; home made ginger bear was also another favourite with families. The local grocer, butcher and baker would visit the garden with their ‘wares. Even the ice-cream man on his three-wheel trike would call at the gardens.

   Group of Hop-pickers at Winch’s Farm, Brede

Some essential people in the gardens were the pole-puller, measure man and booking lady. As a rule the same men and women did the job year after year. The pole puller has his own little group or ‘set’ of about 12 pickers to pull to look after. He pulled the poles up and cut the strings and kept an eye out for the best hops. His job was to keep everyone well supplied with hops. They always did a good job and people had the same man each year. He was usually given a tip by each family after the picking, as he was paid by the farmer.

The measure man had a difficult job, as he had to be fair to the pickers and farmer. Many arguments to place over heavy measures, but as a rule he was respected by most. Sometimes there would be too many leaves and he would ask them to be removed before he would measure up.

The booking lady (or man) would go around with the measure man and would write the persons name down and the number of bushels of hops. The picker would also have a book, and they would also write down the number of bushels recorded each time.

Winch’s did not have outsiders only the local villagers, but other farms had people for Hastings, Old Towners and Hollington-ites, they would stay in the hopper huts on the farm. We called them ‘bug hutches’, they were whitewashed sheds that they lived in while hopping. They would bring old beds, pots pans even a few nick-nacks just to make it homely. For cooking they would cook on an open fire, the farmer would provide some wood. Week-end the husbands came out and help out. There were quite few farms with hops in Brede at that time. To name a few; Hare Farm, Pick Dick, Stonelink, Johnsons, Frymans and I believe Maidlands.

  
Hop-pickers at Millar’s Farm, Bankside, Brede (Photo shows Mrs G Piper and daughter, Emily Apps, Tommy Stone (Boy), Pole puller (Mr Selmes) and Measure Man (Mr Will Piper))

One thing I did enjoy about hopping was going to the Oast in the evening and taking ‘taters’ (potatoes) for baking in the oast fire. The Oast man who dried the hops was suppose to a fairly skilled man. Tom Goodsell use to do it for Mr Winch, down at Knights Farm, the one just past Brede Bridge. They would sleep in the Oast and tend the fires. At the end of the day hops were taken to the Oast for drying and so it had to be done at night, so as young lads we went down evenings to help and keep company, a half a pound of butter in our pocket and two or three spuds (big ones) in a bag. These were baked in the fires, who could find the better baked spud than those; I would like to meet them. Some times old Tom would pop up for a pint in the Red Lion while we looked after things.

Hopping was a good time for the pubs and the Red Lion use to be packed week-ends, Saturday night was the night the village come to life. It was crowded with hoppers there would be a sing-song right up to turnout time. We would sit on the triangle on Brede Green and watch. The poor kids of the hoppers were kept quite with Smiths tuppenny crisps and lemonade outside the pub. At turnout they come out worst for drink, and arms around on another, stagger down Stubb Lane to Hare Farm singing at the top of their voices. An extra policeman was drafted in during this time to curb any trouble, but seldom was needed.  

In all it was a happy time, which brought villagers together and it was one way of earning extra money. Much of this went on buying new clothes for the family and maybe mother would have a bit left over for a new dress or winter coat, their reward for very hard work.

At the beginning of winter we would be asked to go beating. The farmers asked us to turn-up Saturdays at the farm. People with guns would assemble and we all went down to the woods. We entered the wood beating the trees and shrubs with sticks shouting and all the while shouting. The gunmen would wait outside in the field and as the pheasants and rabbits ran out, they would shoot them. Many rabbits were shot in those days and at the end of the day there seemed to be hundreds loaded on a wagon. Very often we would be given one to take home. We were provided with a meal of hot sausages and bread and butter at midday. The pay was 2/6 a day; this was a lot for us lads in those days.  

Saturday mornings I had a regular job (errand boy); I called on some of the locals and collected their orders for Mus. Allen. First I‘d call on Aunt Liz Chapman, collect her shopping list, take over to Allen’s shop and leave it to be ‘put-up’. Then call on Mrs Packam, get her list if ready take it over. Then up onto the Forge where Gran Horton,, another list back to the shop, by this time Aunt Liz’s would be ready and so on till all delivered. For this I received 2d each one, but often others would call me to get theirs, so I might end up with a shilling some mornings. Out of this I would buy a sixpenny saving stamp and have the rest as pocket money. Now and again I would be asked by Mr Allen to deliver a telegram, for which I would get 6d, which was like a bonus.

Sometimes I was asked to pop-up to Mr Oliver’s for bread, I love doing this, as old Mr Oliver would give me a hot buttered roll as a treat. One time I was expecting a hot roll, but as he served me and I waited a bit but no roll, so I turned slowly, just as I closed the door he called me back.” I think 1’ve forgotten something” he said “any idea”, I slyly said “my roll”. He picked up a plate and on it was a roll and a lovely cream bun, he had been teasing me. He was always cheerful saying, one I remember “Lucky Johnny Brown, lost sixpence found half a crown”. I can still smell that bake house smell of fresh bread. As kids were always treated with kindness by the shopkeepers, often a few more sweets than was ordered. Uncle Jim Apps worked at Allen’s and he would weigh up the sweets and throw a few extra in, taking care that Mus Allen wasn’t looking.

When I was ten, I was allowed a bike you had to be ten before you are allowed to ride; of course you had a go on any mates on the quiet. So although your parents thought you were clever to learn so quickly, you were not new to the saddle. I had to ride around the garden first before being allowed on the road. After a while I was allowed to ride to school, this was good as I did not have to get out so early and also home much earlier. Also sometimes I got a job from Mus Allan delivering telegrams which I received a sixpence for. Most of us had a bike over the age of ten so went for long rides discovering neighbouring villages; sometimes we got a hostile reception from their ‘natives’ in the form of abuse. The older lads used to ride their bikes in the summer evenings down from Crouch’s Corner, race along Allen’s shop and broad side by the Church gate flinging the beach stones into the hedge. Of course people complained, so one night PC Watts stood just inside Stubbs Lane and wait for them. Down they all came one after another; he waited until they had all assembled on the green, then walked across and gave them a good talking to. Broad-siding was a favourite hobby on a bike; all sorts of tricks were tried. It was common for three and four to ride on one bike, on sitting on the handlebars, one on the rear seat and one standing on the rear step fitted to the rear wheel.

The village green at Brede Hill with Allen’s shop on the left

One Christmas ‘Old Cocky ‘Firrill, who lived in Cackle Street used to help out at Christmas with delivering the Christmas mail, he left Broad Oak Post Office to do the Chitcombe round, got as far as the Broad Oak pub stopped for a quick on someone must have doctored his drink. He come out, did the old leg over but never made it he headed strait for the pub garage bang into the garage door. Parcels and letters went all over the place. They had to take old Cocky home and Jim the postmaster had to take over.

‘Old Cocky’ was a little man who tackled anything, one of his tasks was to empty anyone’s cesspool. In the summer cesspools were emptied, and the contents put in trench in the garden, this was covered up and the runner beans planted when it had settled in. I remember ‘Cocky’ coming to use one evening in the summer, the cesspool had a sort of concrete plug with an iron ring, rather like a bath plugs. Cocky’ lifted the plug off, looked down in his old cap fell into the ‘pool’ he reached down picked it out stuck it back on his head and said “A bit of s**t wont eart ya” and carried on. Scooping out was done with a special shaped bucket, with a side fitting for a wooden handle which was quite long to reach the bottom. Not everyone had these cesspools most WC were only a bucket, one hole’ers or two hole’ers. One may be brick, or some were wooden, rather lie a sentry box mostly had a galvanised bucket which was emptied each Sunday, it was ’father’s job’ each Sunday morning. A hole was dug and the contents planted in the garden. A box was placed in each privy in which ashes were kept, an old cocoa tin was used in the box and these were used to cover the bucket’s contents. A tin of Jeyes Fluid was also kept nearby. Each weekend the privy was scrubbed out and newspaper replaced no toilet rolls until latter on in the thirties”.