World War Two – Evacuees in Spencers Wood

Evacuees came to Spencers Wood in September 1939 at the outbreak of World War Two.  In a wish to keep at least our future generations safe, young children were removed from the cities and towns which were likely to be bombed, and taken to country villages.  Spencers Wood, Ryeish Green, Three Mile Cross and surrounding villages were designated reception areas particularly for children from London.  Mothers with very young children came also but most children came alone or as a group from school with a teacher.  The children for this area travelled from Waterloo Station to Wokingham, where they transferred to coaches for the rest of their journey.  They each had only a small case and the all-important gas mask in its box fastened with string round their necks.

Children were allocated to local residents and it is heart-warming to know that many children regarded their time here as some of the happiest of their lives.  Not all placements were successful, of course, and some boys and girls returned to London when there was little or no bombing during the autumn of 1939.  However most of them returned when the air raids began in earnest.  The John Ruskin School and the Cypress School in Croydon brought whole classes of children here.  The children had to continue their education and the local school buildings had to accommodate the extra pupils.  At first, Ryeish Green (then a junior school) and Lambs Lane schools arranged to have separate sessions with their own children taught by the original staff attending in the mornings, and the London children having their lessons in the afternoons.  This was soon changed and the children were mixed together to have lessons for the whole school day.  It was quite a culture shock for both groups of children and rooms were described as “bursting at the seams”.

As the town children settled in, they regarded their surroundings with amazement.  There were few of the amenities they were used to – no street lighting, few houses with electricity, many with no mains water.  It was strange to get water from the well in the garden or from the communal well on the Common off Basingstoke Road.  Instead of narrow streets with their neighbours’ houses and industrial buildings, there was all that sky and lots of open space with green fields, woods and animals!  Children had to fit in with the customs of the families they were staying with, but many found plenty of time for play and for exploring the wide countryside.  Children roamed with their new friends to Shinfield or to Grazeley, enjoying streams and woods. Clocks were put forward two hours in summer to get the most daylight in the evenings and everyone was expected to assist in getting in the harvest.  Schools closed so that the children could help in these vital labour-intensive tasks since all the younger men were away at war.

With the abundance of children in the villages, special efforts were made to entertain them during holidays and at Christmas.  Church and chapel were important.  Concerts were put on and shows at schools were rehearsed and polished ready for performances there and in the village hall.  Local children recall that some of the refugees were “rather boisterous” but that they all learned to become tolerant of one another and some formed lasting friendships.  Several of the refugees who attended Lambs Lane School recorded memories reproduced above.

Patricia Green   September 2009

Village Hall – Celebration dinner on ending of WW1

After World War I, one hundred years ago on 3 September 1919, a banquet was arranged to welcome home all those from Grazeley, Spencers Wood and Three Mile Cross of the United Services that had survived the War. This was held in Spencers Wood village hall, then called St Michael’s hall.

The Village HallThe menu for the banquet seems modest to us today but would have been a luxury after all the shortages then, was salmon with mayonnaise sauce, ham, roast beef, lamb with mint sauce, and steak and kidney pie accompanied with salad and potatoes.  This was followed by plum and apple tarts, blancmange, jellies, fruit salad and trifle.  There was also cheese and biscuits with fruit, following the deserts.  Ales, minerals and cigarettes were also provided.  The catering was provided by J Allen of Farley Hill.  There were many Allens in the area.

Reverend Lewarne, vicar of St Michael’s church, said the grace and the toast to the King was made by the Chairman of the event, Brigadier General Crowe who also proposed the silent toast to all those who had not survived the War.  The Chairman also compered the concert that followed, during which another toast was made to all the United Services.  A W Dodd opened and closed the concert with a piano solo and the Brigadier General also sang twice as did Mr Percy Cooper, who was connected with the United Reformed Church (URC).  Mr C Holloway also sang once.  There was an Holloway family living in Grazeley.  During the concert there was a call for volunteers to sing and the concert finished with Auld Lang Syne and God Save the King (George V).

The Committee who organised the banquet consisted of three clergymen, Reverend Lewarne who was the chairman, Reverend Cole, the pastor of the URC and Reverend Jones from Grazeley Church. There were two Lieutenants, J Middleton and Salmon and others namely Messrs Alexander, Aldridge, Bullingham, C Double, Eggleton, Hayes, Steel, Turvey and H W Salmon.  The Vice Chairman was E R Horton, the Treasurer, M T Temple, and the Honorary Secretary, Mrs E R Grover.  The Grover families lived in Basingstoke Road and Hyde End Road. The Salmons were market gardeners in Clares Green Road and the Apple Tree Estate has a road named after them.  The Middletons were grocers on the corner of Hyde End Road but before 1919 had moved to Grovelands Farm.  (See our latest book.)  The Alexanders came from Grazeley as did the Holloways. One Aldridge married into the Wheeler family.  The Bullinghams were connected to the village hall and James Hayes lived in the Square.   There was a J R Horton at Highlands around this time and may have been a relative to E R Horton. The C Double was Charles who had the Forge on the corner of The Square.

In Reading Library there is a copy of the Reading Standard’s Pictorial Record of the War in four volumes.  In volume four, 1919, on page 983 is a flashlight photo of the returned warriors of Spencers Wood, Grazeley and Three Mile Cross at the banquet, should anyone wish to see it.

Margaret Bampton and Jackie Blow.

2017 Events

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As we come to the end of 2017, we have looked back on a year of the book launch and local events, and think well, what a fantastic year we’ve had!

We’ve launched a new book – an updated version of Our Village of Spencers Wood, and been involved in a number of events/shows.

The book (3 years in the making) has chapters on the history of the Village, with the Development and the Environment of the area, Highlands and Stanbury, the Congregational (before conversion) and the Church of St Michaels and All Angels; the Library, Village Hall and the Post Office; the Schools – a new chapter on Oakbank & a precise of Lambs Lane & Ryeish Green (as we have previously published books); a walk around The Square; and finishes up with the Village during the World War II.

The book is available through Amazon, in Henry Street, Caf D’Active, in Shinfield Parish Council offices, The Swan & the Farriers, Beech Hill Shop, Riseley Tea Rooms – in fact you couldn’t at one point get away from it!

It was a delight to write, and has been really well received.

Book still available!

It can still be found either at the Spencers Wood Post Office, Spencers Wood Library or Budgen’s, or if you know anyone in the group!!

We have promoted it at many village events whilst playing, where we can a key part in village life.

We have taken part in St Michaels Church Fete in July, Swallowfield Show (in August), Spencers Wood Carnival (in September); Craft Show (in the Village Hall in October) and we continuing to participate in the Christmas Window in St Michaels & All Angels Church.

Christmas Window – St Michael & All Angels Church

 

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who contributed to the book with your wonderful memories, continue to use our website (www.swlhg.co.uk) and our email (spwood.history@googlemail.com.

 

We’ve received some wonderful current aerial views of the village during its changing landscape, fascinating information from Prisoners of Wars, and Evacuees… please keep them coming! This one below is from Graham Stewart, recently sent. He’s has a small aeroplane & has sent lots of recent images while the development work is going on.

2017 – Centre of Village – current development (taken by Graham Stewart)

 

As the village is changing so much around us, it without you the village memories could not be retained! It has been a delight to meet you all at these events – please continue to engage with us.

We would all like to wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Traditional Village Christmas

Do you know more about this??

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Where was this picture taken? Who are these bunch of lads? Geoff Day donated it to our group (far left standing). He’s also in our most recent book, as a member of Fire Brigade stationed at Highlands (see p 163) and we also have captured his wedding to Alice Marcham in 1936/7 at St Michaels & All Angels Church (see p 130) – donated by Irene Elliott.

 

Geoffrey Day & Pals
Geoffrey Day

 

What are these boys doing? Were you part of this group? Were you the one legged chap?

We spent lots of time yesterday at our meeting discussing hats, coat styles, arm bands, and guessed at timelines for when this was taken.

We would love to have answers!

Celebrations & New Book Launch!

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Celebrations all Round!carnival-picture

This is the seventh year that I have been involved in the Spencers Wood Local Group and supported the Carnival.  I joined the group at the Carnival eight years ago!

It was also our 20th anniversary, and the group has grown so much. Margaret wrote eloquently about the group’s achievements over the years in last month’s Loddon Reach, and if you missed it, you can find it on the Blog page on our web site – www.swlhg.co.uk.

Finally, this year was a special birthday for one of our members too: hence the orchids in the picture!

We had interest in the new book (More from Our Village of Spencers Wood) from many people, as well as information from others about where to find historical imagery of local properties (Reading Library/Records Office) and our other publications. Our children’s history box always goes down well, with coin rubbing, and Lesley telling children stories of milk being delivered by horse and cart, showing horseshoes, and cricket caps and jumpers!

There was a brilliant fairground, and Morris dancers whose bells you could hear from afar!

Launch of New Book!!

We are very pleased to announce the dates for the official launch of More from Our Village of Spencers Wood.

Book Cover - More from Our Village of Spencers Wood
Book Cover – More from Our Village of Spencers Wood

This will be held on the evening of Wednesday 7th December at St Michael & All Angels Church from 6pm to 8pm. The Speaker will be Professor Richard Hoyle who will give a short talk about the history of Spencers Wood, and the Reverend Marion Pyke (who grew up in the area) will be presented with the first copy of the book!

There will be a permanent display in the Church (during their opening hours) in the week of 5th December, with a member of our group selling copies of the book.

Books will be sold from Spencers Wood Library on Thursday 8th December from 10.00 am, and Friday 9th December books will be sold at the Village Hall from 11 to 1pm.

You will also be able to buy the book at all these events, or via our email and website.

Jeannie Brice

Cricket on the Common

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Mary Russell Mitford’s journal about Three Mile Cross is noted that on August 15th in some unknown year was wet in comparison to the previous year when it was very hot and dusty.  So much so that Mary’s garden suffered greatly and the usual evening walk up the hill to Spencers Wood Common was described thus: “No foot could make three plunges into that abyss of pulverised gravel, which had the impudence to call itself a hard road, without being clothed with a coat of a quarter of an inch, of thick dust. Woe to white gowns!  Woe to black!  Drab was the only wear.  Should one meet a carriage, what a sandy whirlwind it was!  What choking! What suffocation! “

Mary met a coach which was an hour late and the steeds, driver, carriage and passengers, all one, dust!

Mary goes on to say that she liked the current year’s wet season as it kept one in but they were more alive.  Everything was doing well.  The corn ripened, the grass grew, the fruit was plentiful and fewer wasps.  There was no need to water the flowers which flourished.  Sometimes the weather cleared and Mary was able to merrily walk up the hill to the common in the evening, enticed by the gay shouts of a dozen, clear, young voices to linger awhile and see the boys play cricket.  Half a dozen of the boys would run away to bring chairs from their homes.  Mary describes these ‘urchins’, as she calls them and their prowess at cricket, with affection.  There was Joe Kirby, aged twelve who led the boys, much older than him, at fifteen and sixteen with a merry and happy disposition. She also mentions Joel Brent and Jem Eusden.  All the people that she mentions by name are real people with their proper names – it is only the place names that she disguises.  Her reason was that people would be proud to have their names in print in Our Village.

The sun sets and to delay getting home she walks back via Mr Welles cottage and its’ spring on the corner of the common to the green lane called Woodcock Lane where the elms grow overhead.  It was getting late but she wasn’t undeterred because she had the glow worms to guide her.  Mary was concerned that the boys didn’t follow her because they so loved to stick them in their hats.

Cricket on the common
Cricket on the common

One hundred years later, cricket was still being played at Hill House on the edge of the common, according to Alan Best who lived here in Spencers Wood then.

Margaret Bampton

Tour around the Web?

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Have you seen all of the web site? And did you know that the group have their own email?

Our group consists of a few members – Barry Boulton, Lesley Rolph, Jackie Blow, Catherine Glover, Mary Wheway, Margaret Bampton, Jeannie Brice, Patricia Green and Sheila Davis.

We are primarily a research group, meeting just once a month and more information about how our small group works is in the “about section”.

The Blog Section carries our articles from Loddon Reach section, but the site features other pieces of research (under Projects ) from:-

Our Village of Spencers Wood (now sold out)

The Local History Group
The Local History Group

The History of Lambs Lane 1908-2008

Celebrating the Centenary of Ryeish Green School

A History of Three Mile Cross Methodist Church

Our Current Research Project is investigating our

2nd Village Book

It has taken us quite a while in the research and publication, but we hope it will be worth it. Anticipated publication date is October 2016.

There are features on local people through verbally taken histories – have a look and see who you can spot!

Trades, shops, census, development and enclosures are also a part of the remit that we hope to continue to investigate once the book has been published.

We also have the previous events that were at & the ones will be at this year – Look for our 2016 dates!

Since the launch of the site, it has been a real place where the group has gathered information from outside the locality, examples such as contact made from Argentina, Australia, Canada, and Cumbria!

One of our original “poster girls” was re-united with her great-nephew, after many years and miles apart.

We do seek to include many photographs. Many historical pictures are donated to us at local events for safekeeping, whilst also taking images other ephemera such as deeds, of our own as the environs changes around us. As a group we attend most local events – St Michaels and All Angels Church Fete (Saturday 16th July) and the Spencers Wood Carnival (Saturday 17th September).

Whilst we can’t display all of them, we do our best. We were set up to retain the “local” feel of the village, and are very passionate about that. It is so lovely to hear of people that have lived here all of their lives, and we are sharing their stories with individuals that are newly moving into the area.

Our books contain many of the villagers memories – thank you for all them, we really couldn’t do them without your lovely contributions!

If you find anything you think we should see or if you have some feedback for us, email (spwood.localhistory@googlemail.com) us through our Contacts page.

You’ll always get a reply!

A Quiz based on the words of the 1720’s

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A Quiz based upon words of the 1720s.

What are the meanings of the following words taken from John Watts Memorandum of 1722-3 and 1728-9?

 

1. SALLETS

2. BEARWARDS

3. BROACHES

4. NEATS

5. COLLATION

6. COLLERD

7. MONTEBANKS

8. RACK

9. BACON CHINES

10. PIBBLES

11. HERRIOTS

12. FORESTALLERS

13. MATTOCKS

14. CALLOPS

15. HIGLARS

16. CAMSHOTS

17. WEAL

18. WHEN IS ST. MATTHEW’S DAY?

 

 

For those of you who know Reading and District where were these places in 1720?

 

  1. CONDUIT PLACE
  2. WATERY ROAD
  3. POTTMANS BRIDGE ROAD
  4. CROWN FIELDS
  5. SHERVILL
  6. SHEFFIELD MILL ON KENNET
  7. SHAMBLES AT BROWN’S HILL

The answers will be available either by attending the Spencers Wood Carnival, or in next month’s Loddon Reach.

Margaret Bampton

Jam, Jellies and Pickles

Lorna Merry was a founder member of Spencers Wood WomenBanner of WI - Spencers Wood‘s Institute who gave the group these memories to go in our first village book. Initially there were only twenty members but the numbers increased to around sixty or so.

They had lots of speakers from all walks of life and many different topics such as the police, lace making, cake decorating, painting on china, lawyers, dolls of all ages and countries, the Royal National Institute for the Blind, antiques, flower arranging etc.   They had some very happy times. A choir was formed which many of them joined under the leadership of Mrs Wellstead. Practices were held at the United Reform Church in the village.

 

In later years, Mr Jones, who was the organist at St Michael’s church, became the conductor. Other members were Olive Franklin, Nancy Benham, Peggy Gillings, W Runyard, Lorna and many more. They also had a concert party which was great fun. On one occasion they gave a performance as ‘The Black and White Minstrels’ (a popular TV programme , which would be non politically correct today).   Supper parties were held and they had many coach trips on which everyone was eager to go. The men folk often came on the trips and they enjoyed them too. On another occasion of the 21st birthday party, the branch held a dinner and social evening. A cartoonist called AREFF printed the cartoon of the committee in the local paper. These are the names in the cartoon; Joan Parkes, Edith Burningham, Peggy Gillings, Miranda Mayne, Eileen Summersgill, Barbara Panting, Mag Dore, Phil Drake, Edna Carter, Eileen Simmons, Janet Rickson, Marjorie Lyon and Lorna Merry.Spencers Wood WI for blog

It was unfortunate that it had to close down in the mid 1980’s because the members were getting older and did not like walking to and from meetings on the dark nights. Lorna and her friend Vera Bowyer were the only surviving original members when they closed. Marjorie Lyon could remember the happy meetings that were held by the WI which were usually educational or instructive. Sometimes members would bring along their personal collections to show and talk about them.

When the group disbanded, each member held a memento from the group and Marjorie had a cup and saucer with WI on them. The idea was that if they group ever reformed the equipment would be in safe keeping until that day. The group has been given the banner of the WI.

Margaret Bampton.

 

St Michaels & All Angels Church – Christmas Displays

Church Window Christmas 2010 - picture taken by Lesley Rolph

Over many years our Group has been involved with St Michaels & All Angels Church either through exhibiting at their Church Fetes, buying their superb tea & cakes at the Caf D’Active or presenting at the Junction club (see article 30 April 2011) which meets there.  We  also often helped at Christmas with decorating the church through putting up local pictures and decorating them. One year we were behind the choir stall.

Since December 210 we have started photographically recording our displays.

In 2010 our theme was entitled “An Edwardian Christmas” (see article in Loddon Reach January 2011) where we were given a window to dress.  The Edwardian Christmas was inspired by village living and the display reflected this – in addition to the holly and other simple foliage, there was an old fashioned mixing bowl and wooden spoon, various types of nuts and pine cones, jars of sweets, an orange, brass candle stick with candle and a red and white checked cloth.

Christmas 2011 Display - picture by Lesley Rolph

In December 2011 the Church adopted the theme of “12 Days of Christmas”. The group was given “Ten Lords a Leaping” as a subject to interpret.  The carol (originally French) is based, some say, on reminding Christians of their faith, with Ten Lords a leaping representing the Ten Commandments. In any event, whether true or not, we had lords a leaping in abundance.

The display was inspired by a members daughters book featuring the 12 Days of Christmas. On the display there were ten colour silhouettes of top-hatted men leaping about,  an actual top hat and cane and an old hat box,  a variety of colourful festive flowers in glass vases with foliage and a mini decorated Christmas tree. 

Who knows what idea 2012 will bring!

The SWLHG Members responsible for the displays