Memories of Bishopstoke written by Lily Valentine Cull (Biddy) 1913-2015
Thanks to her daughter Linda for allowing us to reproduce her personal stories about Bishopstoke. Biddy was born in 1913 and lived her married life in St. Mary’s Road.
Memories of Bishopstoke by Mr. & Mrs. E. Cull of 29, St. Mary’s Road.
We came to Bishopstoke, to this very house at Easter 1944 on Easter Saturday to be precise because my first sight of St. Mary’s Church was at Easter Sunday Communion, when I was enchanted by the beauty of the Church decorated in flowers for the occasion. My home was in Chandlers Ford and we married in St. Boniface Church in August 1940. Our wedding was planned for June but my husband was called up to the forces just before this and so we had to wait for his first leave (of 36 hours) and we were married on a Saturday and had to say goodbye next day when he returned to camp. Until he was demobbed I lived firstly with my parents and then shared a house with a friend who was also a soldier’s wife but was always on the look-out for a house in readiness when we could start our married life together. This came about through a friend at my office who knew 29, was soon to become vacant. It had been rented out but the owner decided to sell it and gave us first choice, it was a hard choice because it was in very poor condition but we made up our minds quickly and brought it, as a vacant houses then were so scarce there was likelihood of new ones being built for a long time. So we did not choose to live here but have never regretted it.
When we studied the deeds of the house and we found it is on a 999 year lease from the Chamberlayne family at Cranbury Park and was built in 1907. We have a right of way to drive a horse and cart along the backway into St. Mary’s Road and a pedestrian access to Stoke Park Road. We are also forbidden to keep pigs in the garden and have to paint the exterior every 7 years! There was gas laid on but no electricity o the house, fortunately there was overhead electric lines in the road and we eventually connected. When we settled down and looked around us we found the majority of the houses in the road were rented from pre-war days and there was a very noticeable “village” atmosphere, quite different from our neighbours in Chandlers Ford who had mostly brought land and had a house or bungalow built, as my Father did. This “village” aspect intrigued me and I discovered a lot of people were related, a sort of extended family and they tend to stay in Bishopstoke when they married. There was also a coolness towards Eastleigh people and I often heard the expression” a good thing we’ve got the river ‘tween us and them”. I also heard Eastleigh people say “They’re a funny lot over ”Stoke”.
I was lucky to be given a copy of bygone Bishopstoke soon after we’ve moved here and so I was able to research the history and recognise the landmarks when we felt “ accepted “ by the neighbours after a while we learned a lot of interesting facts, the houses on our side of the road more recent than those opposite. I was told by an old lady who was born in the road and said there was a field between the terrace opposite us and the church and she used to play in the field as a child so I guess the even numbered houses opposite are turn of the century and are also smaller and of different design to ours. When we arrived in 1944 the road was loose gravel, as well as Stoke Park Rd and there was a farm in between the rectory what is now Sedgwick Rd, cows graze in these fields and often broke out and wandered up our Rd and along the backway with an irate farmer following them. When Eastleigh council started to build the post war estate of houses the landscape was altered and the old Longmead house was demolished, there was a very deep well in the kitchen which was filled in and the drive to the house was retained as East and West drive. With the arrival of so many new people on the estate the character of Bishopstoke altered somewhat, so many more children for the school for one thing and buses became more frequent, when we first came we were told it was the longest penny ride from our stop opposite Whitehaugh to the railway station, as it was just over a mile and they weren’t allowed to charge for the extra bit. Gradually having all these new people bought us some benefits among them a library visit to the church room once a fortnight and a baby clinic weekly, we also had a thriving corner shop now sadly gone and the Infant School with Mr marsh as headmaster and Mr and Mrs Collis living In the school house, he was the school caretaker and church verger. The Rector was the reverent Cooper Anderson who escaped from Jersey just before the Germans arrived there. Tom Blake was an old inhabitant having been born in the village and he told us the bricks in our house were made from the local clay, there was a flourishing brickworks owned by the London brick company, he also told us of the rivalry between the young men up bottom stoke and top stoke( Stoke Common) who would set about each other on any excuse one from the bottom Stoke lads laid a bet he could get to the top Stoke without being set upon, he waited for the annual “ Band of Hope” procession from Riverside to the Mount, where Mr cotton provided tea and games he inserted himself into the middle of the procession, where the other lads dared not touch him and so won his bet. When our daughter Linda and son Ian were born we were naturally involved in much many more activities in the village, they both started school at the Infant School in Church Rd which was as it was built almost a century ago with outside toilets and very few modern advantages, but a very happy place for all that. There was a corrugated iron Hut, where the Memorial Hall now stands and I remember going to see the schoolchildren’s Christmas play there when it rained so hard the noise of it on the roof drowned the voices of the children this inspired various local people to start up a fund to replace the tin Hut with a proper building and among the money raising efforts we had a hut day once a year with floats and a procession until enough money was raised to build the new hall, dedicated as a memorial to the Bshopstoke men who lost their lives in the war at about the same time Mrs Trill who was a churchwarden, ran the Sunday school and sang in the choir and had started the first brownie company in Bishopstoke called a meeting of parents with the aim of providing a Hut for guides and brownies meetings, I only went to see my daughter enrol in the brownies and found myself elected secretary of the new committee.