East Brent History Portal

Childhood Memories of Old East Brent 1906 -1993

01 Nov 2012 Article No: 35

by Ruth Rider (nee Hutson)


Chrissie kindly refers to the Hutsons as a jolly family - we were a very happy family. I was the youngest of six sisters. My parents came to live at Chestnut Farm in 1902. When my Grandmother died, my Grandfather Hutson (a dear old man, with a long white beard) lived on there with us until his death.

My father kept cows and a few pigs, and two of us helped on the farm. We hand milked the cows, getting to know each one. My sister received a medal for being the best milker in the district. When the cows were kept in during the winter, we had to feed them and pump the water into the trough for them to drink.

My mother kept poultry, hens, ducks and geese in the yard at the back. We had a lovely garden in the front for us to play around and a large vegetable garden.

At haymaking time, everyone was kept busy, early morning till dusk. It was a great treat to be allowed to ride on the load of hay, a big wagon, with staves at each end, but a bumpy ride through the ruts in the gateways. It never seemed to rain in those summer days, and the fields were so lovely with cowslips, buttercups and moon daisies and the dainty cuckoo flower, with the birds and cuckoos singing their songs.

We children played in the fields, jumping the ditches or in the winter sliding on the ice on the rhines and ponds - sometimes someone had a ducking!

Sunday was special - work done early in the morning and we were all ready to go to Church at 11 o'clock to join in the worship. We would sing in Sunday School in the afternoon, and in the evening Father and Mother would take us for a lovely walk - up the Knoll - "first to reach the flagpole," then walk around the top to see the wonderful views all round. Sometimes we walked up Hill Lane, into the Gully - a running stream - where the banks were a mass of primroses, bluebells and violets, or around to Hill Head or to another Walk at the back of the farm to Lympsham or Edingworth. It is a great joy to see the signs now, and the styles and pathways well kept once more.

We had a good orchard with lovely eating and cooking apples, also Aden apples and we made cider, as Chrissie has described, on the farm. We kept one farm horse to do the work, and a horse or pony to drive in the trap. It was a hazardous drive on the stony lanes and sometimes the good horse would fall and break his knees. There was nothing to keep the driver in, and one could easily fall out on the top of the horse. The main roads were quite narrow, even the turnpike, now the A38. The Weston end was Called Dodd's Lane, bit remains of this, leading to Manor Close and around past the entrance to Manor Lane. If the horse was nervous, it was hazardous meeting the steamroller, or if driving to Weston along by the railway line, - or Batch, and a train were passing, the horse would take fright and gallop along to keep pace with the train. We had a few tip ups, but seldom anyone Came to much harm.

Some of the farmers liked their drop of Cider, but the faithful horse would bring them safely home. In winter we had a Couple of donkeys to keep, from Weston sands, to ride or drive. But they were so stubborn and would not trot along - we had lots of fun though.

Later, we all had second hand bikes (my first bike cost 13 shillings!) What a job it was after dark, for the little oil lamps would blow out at a puff of wind. The Policeman got tired of warning us of an offence he was a very stern man was Constable Bull, and we were a bit scared of him. I thought he would send me to prison for not having a light one evening.

We all went to the Church School. Chrissie was one of my friends there. We were lucky to have such good teachers and we were punished if we did not behave. Mr Rowlie was Head Teacher when I first started and his wife taught the infants. He was very strict - the boys got the cane - one boy, Jack Gamlen said "l got the cane whether I was guilty or not." He grew up to be one of the Characters of the village and none the worse for his experiences. He worked and lived at Chapel Farm for many years. Recently, looking at the number of names of pupils who won scholarships at St. Mary's School, we were fortunate to have such good teachers, the last of which I must mention, was Mrs. Yeomans. She was appointed Headmistress at the age of 21 years. She remained until retirement, working faithfully for pupils and school, for St. Mary's Church and the village.

During the First World War, the playground was dug up and we had to grow vegetables, and one day in autumn we had the whole day off from school to pick blackberries for jam. The girls were taken to Lympsham one day a week for cookery lessons. Mr. Fred Ham drove a horse in a wagonette, and we all sat on wooden benches placed across the vehicle. This was a very exciting day, rain or shine and we did learn to make soup and jam pudding! Mr. Ham also drove us to Burnham on our annual Sunday School Outing, with donkey rides and a grand tea.

My eldest sister taught at the school. She later trained and went to teach at St. Patrick's Mission School, Gwelo (now Zimbabwe). She had 200 girls and boys from the countryside around. They were so eager to learn. She loved the people, and they loved her, but after five years she unfortunately contracted pneumonia and died there. The native people built the school and a lovely little church which would be full for the services.

My Grandfather would tell us of seeing the first train pass through Brent Knoll Station. "It was like a monster appearing" he said. My Father and Mother were married at St. Mary's Church by Archdeacon Denison in 1898. They told us of all he did for the village, particularly the wonderful Waterworks he had had Constructed to bring fresh water to the village. In those days it was a beautiful walk with flowering trees and lots of wild flowers. A pity it has not been preserved.

The Harvest Home was started by Archdeacon Denison and a great day it has been in East Brent. Such excitement to see the Fair People arrive in their shining caravans, the swings and roundabouts, the big marquee, the flag flying on the Knoll. Then the great day, the procession to the Church Service, and afterwards the ladies carrying the hot plum puddings for the lunch, the young men with the enormous loaf and huge Cheddar cheese.  Chrissìe's mother, Edwards, made the plum puddings at the Vicarage kitchen. She would mix all the ingredients in a big round cheese tub, stirring with her hands up to her elbows in it, smiling as ever! Then they would be placed in big basins, tied down with cotton Cloths, and put to boil in the huge furnace in the kitchen. She must have worked all night, but would appear smiling at the window to hand the steaming puddings to the ladies to process into the tent for the lunch. Down the years this has been a great day in the village - and still is - long may it continue. Prebendary and Mrs. Wickham came to East Brent in 1911 and they also worked for Church and village life and were much loved. They organised concerts in the sohoolroom for all with talents, the Choir, Glee Singers, with Mrs. Wars playing the flute,  Ham the mandolin. Various people sang and some very amusing sketches were performed. The front seats were chairs at each, the back were all desks at 9d each. We also had whist drives and dances - life was never dull.

The Rev. Wickham had been Wicket keeper for Somerset and played with the great W.G. Grace. He also had a wonderful collection of butterflies and moths which he was delighted to show and which were given to the British Museum at his death.

Drama rather improved when the WI was formed. My Mother was a founder member of that, also the Mothers' Union. She was a Sacristan at St. Mary‘s for many years, later my sister, and finally myself. A work we much appreciated having the honour to perform.

Much of the beautiful altar frontals and vestments had been hand embroidered during Archdeacon Denison's day, by the ladies of the village. Alas now, some new ones are badly needed to replace the old.  (Mrs Treise and other local people have done some beautiful banners in needlework recently).

Our home was always a welcome place. My Mother and Father were ready to help anyone in trouble and both took part in all goings-on in village life.  Father was appointed Assistant Overseer of the Parish in 1895, also Clerk to the Parish Council which he retained for 47years. He collected tithes for the Vicar on Tythe Day which was held at the Vicarage on March 25th and September 29th. When farmers and others came to pay their tithes, bread and cheese, ale and cider were provided. He also collected the rates for East Brent and Lympsham and in later years for the Axbridge District Council. He was always ready to help and many people came and asked his advice on form filling or making their wills. I remember him saying "They will leave it until they think they are going to die!"

During the war years, my three sisters were among the band of bell ringers, which they much enjoyed. They worked as V.A.D.s, [Voluntary Aid Detachment], in the hospital at Burnham among the wounded. My sister Edith and a friend,  Searle (also the headmaster‘s wife at East Brent and much loved), started the Red Cross Working Party. A good number of ladies assembled each week at the big room at the Knoll inn, armed with materials, knitting needles and sewing machines. Large parcels were made up and dispatched, for which they received a certificate from the Red Cross and St. John's, signed by Princess Alice, Queen Victoria's daughter.

My Father used to tell us "lf you cannot say anything good of anyone, do not say anything bad," and as Mr. Hill remarked, "A handshake, and my word is my bond." I suppose life was slower and quieter then.

Chrissie mentions the dressmaker in the village. I must include Miss Annie Frances, who lived next to the Post Office. She was a dear little lady, a wonderful needlewoman. She made beautiful dresses for us. She was so patient and worked by the light of a tiny oil lamp, but the result was always perfect. I think her eyesight suffered in later years. But ladies did most beautiful tapestry and embroidery by small oil lamps or candles.

As children, we were never dull, as we were always busy making our own games, marbles I remember in particular and how we envied a friend who had some lovely, glassy marbles. We would have hoops which we could bowl along the lanes to Edingworth and Rooksbridge. I went with my cousins to Sunday school at the Chapel of the Good Shepherd at Rooksbridge. It was an upstairs room and much loved by the people of Rooksbridge or Edìngworth. There was also a very nice Baptist Chapel near, which was very well attended in those days, now alas also closed.

In 1922, my Father drove the pony trap to Brent Knoll Station to collect the flowers for my sisters wedding. Alighting from the train were Mr. &  Mrs. George Hudson, who wanted to view East Brent shop and Post Office, so Father offered to bring them along in the pony trap. That was the beginning of a long and pleasant friendship and association between the Hudson's' and the Hutsons'.

The store was a great benefit to the village and it was exciting to have a family from London to run it! Mr Hudson took over as Clerk to the Parish Council from my Father and later Mrs. Chivers from her Father and Grace Hudson when she retired from office. Mr.   Hudson were staunch worshippers at the Wesleyan Chapel and took a great interest in all village activities. Miss Grace Hudson has continued to do so, and has been a great worker for the Parish for the Village Hall and the Methodist Church, and is a friend to many.

We had interesting neighbours, the Rev. Derrick built the strange looking red brick house with the tall chimneys. He was a native of Lympsham and owned our farm. Unfortunately he died before the house was completed. It was composed of pinewood inside and had a wrought-iron spiral staircase and intriguing little bedrooms in the roof.

He also built a studio for his daughter who studied Art and had published several illustrated books. The first was the Ark Book, full of animals and amusing to children. She was quite a character, and could be seen riding around on her bicycle, with sketchpad. Her brother, a B.A. from Oxford, had a hut in one of our fields, where he studied. The hut is now at Rossholme School - The Derrick Hut. Unfortunately Leslie Derrick was killed in 1917. His name is on the War Memorial. He so loved the village and countryside and opposed new developments. They were all great walkers and talkers and the two Miss Derricks’ always came to stay with us in August from Cheltenham where they lived. Mrs. Derrick was the first lady to ride a bicycle in Cheltenham and rather scornedl she brought her bike on the train and looked quite a character riding it, in a little black bonnet, a long black skirt, and a tight fitting short coat.

Our next neighbours at St. Martins (as they called it) were Mr.  Mrs. Glencross, who kept showjumpers and Mrs. Glencross drove a little gig with two ponies, and won many prizes as best lady driver. They also had a dear little monkey which we loved.

Next came Mr. & Mrs. Harrison who owned the first motor to be driven in East Brent. It went by steam and took two hours to get up enough steam before they could drive out. But they looked very splendid and everyone turned out to see them.

Another old lady lived at Church House, a Miss Fisher, a descendant of Admiral Fisher. She was an eccentric and seldom went out. My Father bought Church House when she died and we found piles of newspapers, The London Times, London Illustrated News, The Observer and Tatler. Such a pity we destroyed them. They would make interesting reading today.

Another little lady who was much liked and thought highly of by many in the village, lived near the bake?s shop along the old Bristol Road. Her name was Nurse Baldwin and she would tell us how many babies she had helped to bring into the world. She helped to bring me into the world. She persuaded my Mother to call me Ruth.

There was an amusing tale of Mr. Jimmy Fisher, the Cobbler, who also lived along the Bristol Road. One day a car collided and ran into his front door. No one was hurt, but Mr. Fisher grumbled, "Drat them, they have knocked my tacks all over the floor."

I will end my story with the words on the lovely War Memorial. 

“All you who live on in English pastures green,

Remember us and think what might have been."

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