Norton Bavant Snow Scene
Norton Bavant Snow Scene Norton Bavant Snow Scene Norton Bavant Snow Scene Norton Bavant Snow Scene Norton Bavant Snow Scene
 
A Boy's War by John Pincham  

John was evacuated from London to Norton Bavant during the Second World War. John's describes how it was to grow up in Norton Bavant in 1939.

The War, the Second World War as it’s now known, began for me at 11am on 3rd September 1939 sitting in the kitchen of 5 Norton Bavant, near Warminster, Wiltshire, listening to a broadcast by the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, declaring war on Germany. I left behind much of bliss of childhood and began to take a serious interest in adult life and in particular the War.

My Mother, brother Roger, sister Margaret and Dad’s mother Gran and me, had been taken there from our home at 41 Stuart Road, Wimbledon Park two days earlier by Mr Bliss, the chauffeur who’d previously taken us on holidays to Selsea.

Car journeys were a very unpleasant experience as Roger was a terrible traveller. He was sick all the way. The smell was awful. Whether Margaret and I were also sick on that endless journey I cannot remember. Gran returned with Mr Bliss to London.

Strangely as we neared Norton Bavant Mum was able to direct Mr Bliss although in this lifetime she’d never been to that part of the country. Her grandmother, Priscilla White, had been brought up in Chitterne, a village not far from Norton Bavant. Later Mum and Dad would plan to retire to Norton Bavant but never did.

Our new home was the cottage of Alice and Dorothy Taylor, an aunt and cousin of Granddad, Mum’s father. It was one of four in a terraced block with two earth closet lavatories at each side of the four unfenced gardens. To get to ours you had to walk halfway down our garden and then across ours and the next garden. Chamber pots were used at night.
Apparently Granddad loved Norton Bavant and was devoted to Alice with whom he had stayed as a boy. He was not told of our time of departure in case he insisted in travelling with us in the car.

Grandma, a towny, hated Norton Bavant so there had been no visits since before Mum was born. Alice’s one and only visit to London had been to attend Granddad and Grandma’s wedding. She had not been favourably impressed.

Hearing that evacuees might be imposed upon them Alice and Dorothy had decided to invite relations. Fortunately for us townies electric light and mains water (one cold tap) had reached Norton Bavant and their cottage some months earlier.

 

 

Alice’s husband, who had died recently, had been a gardener at the manor house. Alice was a cultured lady with a great sense of humour. She could not abide the smell of cow dung. So if the faintest trace was on our shoes we had to enter by the back door, reached by a footpath across the neighbouring end of terrace garden, and leave offending footwear outside in the porch.

Photo: Number 12 Norton Bavant: Violet Hoddinott, John Pincham, his sister Margaret & brother Roger in 1945.

Items in Alice’s small sitting room through which one passed to get from the front door to the kitchen, had been polished every day for about 50 years with remarkable effect. Beside the kitchen was the pantry with many jars of jam and pickle, a large supply of tea and the one water tap. Cooking was in and above a stove in the kitchen heated by a coal fire.

At the front of the cottage were a small lawn and some flowers. Outside at the back was a long vegetable garden with several elderly apple trees, and a compost heap for marrows at the end. The outside earth closet toilet was a source of fertiliser. Following the recent installation of mains water the well just outside the back door was no longer in use. One of Alice’s four sons, whom I cannot recall meeting, helped keep the garden.

Dorothy was a primary school teacher at Kingston Deverill some miles away where she lodged during the week, coming home by bicycle at weekends. When unemployed in the 1930’s she had earned her living knitting. She’d bought woollen garments at jumble sales and unpicked them to save the expense of buying wool. Mum spent a lot of time knitting clothes for the family. She could knit while chatting or listening to the wireless.

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