Memories of Uplyme in 1953
By Ian Waters
in 1953 I was offered a job working on a pig farm on Trinity Hill. I had
recently been made redundant whilst working abroad and was really seeking
employment in tropical agriculture. However, an old school friend, Henry,
offered me immediate work on the farm that he was managing, which I
accepted, thinking it would do until I found something better. This turned
out to be a very happy period of my life.
Henry had been living in
Uplyme for several years and lodged with Mrs Crichard, an elderly widow and
her deaf and dumb son, Tommy, in Penrith House in Church Street. You
will find a photo of both of them on page 92 of 'The
Book of Uplyme'. Mrs C agreed to find room for me so I was quickly
installed. I think that we paid her £3 per week for full board, which does
not seem much, but a farm worker's wage was only about £8 per week in those
days. Our accommodation was somewhat basic by today's standards.
drainage had not been installed in Uplyme at that time so the loo was a
chemical toilet at the back of the yard. There was a cold water tap on the
kitchen sink and I think that was the only source of water; there was
certainly no bath or bathroom. Regarding hygiene, I gathered that one washed
down as far as possible and washed up as far as possible. However, Mrs C did
tell me, with some amusement, that she had once gone into the kitchen and
found Henry crouched naked in the sink presumably washing the impossible!
Despite the lack of
modern conveniences, she did have some Summer visitors, who often arrived on
bicycles. We always knew when visitors were expected because Mrs C always
gave the little room across the yard a special tidy up.
did not like the idea of bathing in the kitchen sink so we bought a tin
was left outside in the yard when not in use. On bath nights we
waited until Mrs C had gone to bed, which was usually fairly early, and then
filled kettles and pans which we heated on the gas stove. This meant plying
the gas meter with coins. It was quite pleasant sitting in the bath in front
of the kitchen stove. Whoever was first in had clean water, but more hot
water was added making a deeper bath for the second bather.
water was tipped out into the yard from whence it found its own way down to
the stream. Unlike his mother, Tommy usually stayed up quite late except on
bath nights! When he saw us filling kettles and bringing in the bath, he
discreetly took himself off to bed. However, one night he was engrossed in a
book and looked up just as Henry was stepping into the bath. He must have
been somewhat unnerved, because his departure for bed was much speedier than
usual and caused Henry some amusement.
life as I remembered it largely revolved around the church, the Village Hall
and the Talbot Arms much like today. However, this was in the pre-TV era and
people visited each others houses or met in the local more often. Mrs C had
several married daughters and all of them lived locally. One of them, Cora,
was married to Eddie Wheadon the butcher whose shop can be seen on page 6 of
Book of Uplyme.
The daughters all had children so there was a constant
coming and going of visitors to the kitchen, all bringing their news or
trouble to Mrs C who had a very sympathetic ear.
I remember many
convivial evenings in the Talbot with various colourful characters who
regularly gathered there. Mabs Sloman, the licensee, usually presided over
the saloon bar and did much to enliven any occasion. No food was available
in those days, in fact I can't really recall crisps being sold.
who looked after the public bar was Bill Cross who can be seen on page 83 of
Book of Uplyme. He had worked for Billy Manfield
of Court Hall Farm as
a carter. Billy, who was a regular in the saloon bar, was a great raconteur
of stories usually about horses and hunting.
One story that he told against
himself concerned a horse that he sold to a gipsy. This horse had various
vices and Billy must have been glad to get rid of it whatever the price. The
gipsy quickly discovered that the horse was not the bargain that he had been
led to believe and a few days later turned up at Billy's back door with a
request for a few quid back in consideration of the vices that his new
purchase now exhibited, This plea was bluntly refused but it might have been
better if Billy had been more obliging. The disgruntled Romany caught him
coming out of the pub one night and gave Billy what he described as 'a hell
of a hiding.'
post war period of the late forties and early fifties is often now described
as being very war weary and drab, but this description does not accord with
Uplyme as I remember it. On certain days the Village Hall was cleaned and
decorated with flowers. In the evenings the ladies, looking very glamorous
in their long dresses and the gentlemen in their dinner jackets danced the
night away to the accompaniment of a band until the M.C. called for the last
waltz. This was the age of ballroom dancing and how elegant and romantic it
evening when Mrs C had not got any visitors and we had no other diversions,
Henry asked her to tell our fortunes. This was something Mrs C was often
asked to do and was regarded purely as entertainment. When it was my turn
she shuffled a pack of cards and dealt several out in front of me. 'I see
you in the company of a very dark man; you are carrying a gun and are in the
service of the Queen.'
Again she shuffled the pack and dealt. Once again
appeared the ace of spades which meant a dark man; the queen of hearts which
represented H.M. and another card which signified a gun. None of this meant
anything to me and I almost forgot about it.
The months passed and in
December I applied for a job in E. Africa. After an interview and medical I
was accepted and flew out to Nairobi early in January 1954. Before that,
however, I spent Christmas with Henry and Mrs C. at Penrith House and a very
joyful one it was. Christmas Eve was spent skittling at the Talbot before we
walked up to the church for the midnight service. Christmas Day was spent in
the traditional way and passed without incident as far as I can recall.
About six months later,
in an idle moment, I was thinking of Uplyme and realised that Mrs Crichard's
prophesy had more or less come true. I was in the Kenya Police, so could be
said to be in the service of H.M.; also because the country was in a state
of emergency, I always carried a gun and usually had an escort of several
'very dark men'. This was undoubtedly a coincidence, but a curious one!
years later I am not in Uplyme, but very close to it and marvel at my good
fortune living in such a lovely corner of Devon and Dorset.
Ian Waters. 5.7.06.