Article id:85

The Knoll Villages

by Rosa Chivers (1972)

 

It takes fifty years to be accepted in a village - so they say. But does it take so long? I do not agree. I have now lived in a village community for 50 years and have felt “one of them” for most of that time. This is a tribute to the parishioners with whom I have lived and worked for many years.

In August, 1922, a family consisting of father, mother and three Children moved from a London suburb to one of the villages at the foot of Brent Knoll. My father, George Hudson, a city business man, had decided for health reasons to make his home and living 'in the country'. He had purchased a village store with a sub-Post Office. Before buying the business he had looked at several others but was so much more attracted to the area around the Knoll. Also, as he said, for a cockney it was on the main Great Western Line to London! I can well remember his excitement when he described the countryside around the hill to us all.

Several visits had to be made during the transfer of the business. On one of these trips a retired Methodist minister had asked some Children to collect wild flowers for father to take back to London with him. Mother was delighted when the box of fragrant flowers was in a street nearby many folk obtained their water from an old parish pump. Houses were lighted by oil lamps; my father sold vast numbers of glass chimneys for them.

The Vicarage had its own gas supply, and this was used in our shop too. We had a gas house outside and a miniature gas meter swimming in a Water tank Container. Two drawers were filled with carbide, a rocky substance also used in our bicycle lamps. This made a bright acetylene gas. It could also take a gas ring. Woe betide any member of the family who had been detailed to fill up the water tank and had forgotten during the daytime.

When evening came and we were sitting by the fire and the lights began to dim, someone would have to dash out in the dark and remedy the situation. Oil stoves and coal ranges were used for cooking.

Being a farming community, most of the inhabitants worked on the land; most had good gardens and grew their own vegetables, and farmers' wives made cheese and butter. Milk was sent to one of several factories in the district.

My father took me with him when he collected orders from distant farms and later to deliver goods. I was able to watch cheese making - mostly Caerphilly - for the Welsh miners which would be sold in the local Markets.

At that time a social scale seemed to exist in the villages. When I was invited to a dance, I can remember my Mother saying that I could not go as I had not “come out.” What that really meant still eludes me.

In my memories of the parish I must not leave out the important part called Rooksbridge, which has its own Public House, small Chapel of the Good Shepherd attached to St. Mary’s, a Baptist Church, and a milk factory employing many local people.

The factory supplied much milk and cream for the London market. This business kept the sub-Post Office very busy with telegrams, which were delivered by bicycle. Many a time I did this ride on a very windy road. Sunday delivery was different. If I took a cocoa tin, it would be filled with lovely cream. Mother always made an apple pie for Sunday dinner!

Politically the villagers were either Conservative or Liberal. At election times feelings ran very high and business folk dare not let their own party be known. I never knew to which party my father gave his support. Everyone was either church or chapel a little lower in the social scale if the latter! Leisure-time was enjoyable. Concerts were frequently arranged, dances and country dancing classes were held in the schoolroom.

In 1925 talk was of the need to build a Village Hall, and also council houses. Life was so different in those far-off days, and yet, looking back, so very similar in Parish problems.

The changing years roll on. More and more people decide to live in the country and commute to their places of work in the nearby towns. Many more roads and indeed, a Motorway, nearly completed abound. A St. Mary’s Church Hall for smaller numbers of folk and a hall has been built by the Methodists.

Yet still the cry goes up: “We need a Village Hall”  A group of young people are now trying to raise money for this worthy cause mentioned so many years ago -to be precise on 16th March, 1925, by the late Mr. Vernon Ward. And this year, on Shrove Tuesday, the first event of its kind was held in the village, a pancake race. A fund has been commenced to try to carry out the plans suggested so many years ago.

This is the Community of East Brent; a Somerset village where past and present meet.