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Memories of Uplyme in 1953
By Ian Waters

Early 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. 

Main 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.

I did not like the idea of bathing in the kitchen sink so we bought a tin bath, which 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.

Afterwards the 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.

Social 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 the 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.

The barman who looked after the public bar was Bill Cross who can be seen on page 83 of the 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.'

The 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 was!

One 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!

Fifty 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.

NB. Thanks to Ian for this fascinating glimpse of the village in bygone days. 
If you have any memories of old Uplyme - please send them in for inclusion in the site.

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