The Humby Family in Bishopstoke
By Chris Humby
(From a presentation first created in 2011)
St Mary’s Church, Bishopstoke circa 1830
I became interested in family history some years ago and prepared this talk before television programmes, like “Who Do You Think You Are”, made genealogy fashionable. Of course, we all wish to find that we are related to somebody rich, famous, or even infamous. I am sorry to report that I have not been able to establish any such connection. I appear to be descended from a long line of agricultural labourers.
I do not believe that our family lives have been particularly unusual, yet there are aspects from my family history, that I believe you will find interesting. It will also be interesting to explore the social, economic, and cultural changes that have occurred over only three generations, particularly as these changes have occurred within the same locality. I will let you draw your own parallels for our lives compared with those of your own families and the lives we lead today.
I have chosen to use this picture of the old St. Mary’s Church, because, quite simply, I think that it is a nice picture, and some of my family were christened or married in this church in the mid-1800s.
Within this church there were faculty pews, which belonged to large houses, large farms, or wealthy families for which they paid an annual rent. If they did not attend service, the pews remained empty and could not be used by other worshippers. The church had very little accommodation for ordinary villagers. This church was replaced by a new St Mary’s Church around 1890. The new church was built without faculty pews. There were bitter disputes between other landowners and the church over the right of where to worship and these disputes were not settled until the body of the old church was demolished, on intervention from the Bishop of Winchester in 1910, some 20 years after the new church had been constructed. A century or more ago, during my grandfather’s time, the social structure in our village changed so that despite all men being created equal, they were now free to worship on an equal basis. Today the world is a far different place from when this picture was published 180 years ago. To illustrate how much change has taken place since my grandfather’s day, I bought this picture on e-bay, from a lady who lived in Bermuda, and it arrived four days later.
My Grandfather, Frederick Charles Humby was born in Durley in November 1863. His father, Henry Humbey, was born in Plaitford, Wiltshire in 1810 and married Eliza Neale in South Stoneham in 1848. He was employed as an agricultural labourer and could not read or write. His “X” mark was made and witnessed on his son’s birth certificate.
Whilst my grandfather Frederick was born in Durley, a village about 5 miles away, the family moved to Bishopstoke soon after he was born, and he was baptised in Bishopstoke during February 1864. He is listed in the 1871 census as living in Sandy Lane with his mother Eliza, his father having died the same year. The census also records that his mother was deaf, and his eldest brother George suffered from epileptic fits. His eldest sister Eliza suffered from tuberculosis.
Band of the Hampshire Carabiniers Yeomanry, Droxford Camp, 1904
My Grandfather, as had his two older brothers, became a regular soldier. He was trained as a military musician and as well as being a rifleman, he was also a trained medic. After discharge from the regular army, he became a retained soldier with the Hampshire Carabiniers Yeomanry. The Yeomanry were the forerunners of what we know today as the Territorial Army. He is pictured in the front row, to the left of the drum holding a clarinet. As a military musician he was proficient at playing clarinet, piccolo, flute, and fife. (These instruments are still in my possession.)
According to my father, my grandfather was also a percussionist and played timpani whilst astride a large horse. No, I do not have the timpani, my grandmother decided that they were too big to get through the door of the cottage. So was the horse! Whilst banging the large kettle drums and steering the horse with his feet, (I have his spurs), must have been a great spectacle on parade, the more sobering and chilling thought is that he would have been expected to lead troops into battle. I don’t know about you, but the last place I would want to be is on top of a large cart horse, coming over the brow of a hill, banging a drum and making a spectacle of myself, saying here I am, in front of the enemy.
By 1890 the London & South Western Railway had built new Carriage and Wagon works at Bishopstoke, and relocated employees from Nine Elms, in South London. The addition of the Locomotive Engineering Works in 1910 led to an even larger rise in population and the town of Eastleigh was created to house the workers and their families. My Grandfather and Great Grandfather were some of the many local people who took employment with the railway.
London & South Western Railway Carriage & Wagon Department Blacksmiths Workshop, Eastleigh.
My grandfather, Frederick Charles Humby, became a blacksmith’s striker, and is pictured, 5th from left, wearing a flat cap.
Chris Humby with his grandmother Ada
My Grandmother, Ada Caroline Pope, was born in Bishopstoke in 1871.
William and Penninah Pope
Her father, and my great grandfather, William Pope, were born in Cranborne, Dorset in 1838, and his wife Penninah, was from Wimborne. My grandmother was the 5th of their 8 daughters.
William and Penninah Pope with their daughters Emily, Jane, Laura, Peninah, Ada, Lillian, Esther & Flossie
By 1901, census records show that the family had moved to Southampton Road, Eastleigh. William Pope, my great grandfather, was now working as a carpenter and was employed by the London & South Western Railway in what was known locally as the “Works”.
My great grandfather, William Pope, was a deeply religious man. He had the honour of opening the new Methodist Church in Leigh Road, Eastleigh on 1st November 1904. He was the oldest local Bible Christian preacher at that time and, had preached under police protection, on the site, some years before. As a Bible Christian he was not following the teachings of the establishment, and in some quarters, this was seen as controversial and, on occasion, led to physical violence. Hence the need for a police escort.
The full transcript of his speech and the opening ceremonies were reported in the Bible Christian Magazine of December 1904.
Family folklore says that William Pope was also a member of the committee that negotiated privileged rail travel for employees of the London & South Western Railway. The bottom picture is, I believe, that committee and the picture may have been taken at the Railway Institute in Eastleigh, but I can’t be certain.
My grandparents were married at the Baptist Mission Hall in Eastleigh in October 1893.
My Uncle Fredrick Lionel Humby was born in August 1898.
My father, William Charles Humby, was born in 1909, which means my grandfather was in his mid-40s when my father was born.
This is a picture of my grandfather Frederick Charles Humby, my grandmother Ada Caroline Humby (nee Pope) and my uncle Frederick Lionel Humby with my father William Charles Humby as a baby and was taken in the Spring of 1910. Note that all of the garden was used to grow vegetables and, of course, cultivated by hand. The wash-house is to the right of the cottage, behind the trellis screen and washing can be seen hanging from a line beyond the wash house.
This house in Spring Lane, which in part was occupied by members of my family for over 100 years, is believed to have been constructed in the early 1800s as two cottages, each cottage comprised two bedrooms, a sitting room, and a living room/kitchen. Outside of each cottage, at the bottom of the garden, there was a privy (toilet). In around 1910 it is unlikely that there were any mains services. Water was provided by a well at the rear of the cottages, and the well was shared between both cottages. Each living room/kitchen was equipped with an inglenook fireplace for cooking and baking. The sitting room and two bedrooms each had their own fireplace. The chimneys were built to permit cleaning by young boys who would climb the chimneys to do so, as was the custom of the day.
These cottages became part of the Longmead Estate and the Longmead Estate sales catalogue from 1928 advised that “Company’s water is laid on and the Drains are connected to the Main Sewer”. Progress indeed, but this statement would also indicate that there was no gas, nor electricity, connected at this time. Lighting would have been by candle or paraffin lamp. An extract from the catalogue states: “One Cottage is let to Mr. Humby at 4s.0d. per week. The Lodge (on the corner of Spring Lane and what is now West Drive) and the other Cottage are occupied by Estate Servants on service tenancies, rent free, or at nominal rents of 1s. 0d.”
The catalogue mentions: “Also an Old Stable and Wheelwright’s Shop.” These were located, in front of our cottage, at road level and can be seen on the sale map for the Longmead Estate. The wheelwright’s shop, which doubled as a blacksmith’s, was located on the slope below the stable. Between the stable and the wheelwright’s workshop was a set of steps for access to the cottage and a yard where horses were tethered whist they waited to be attended. It was further noted in the sales catalogue that: “The purchaser shall, within 6 months from the date of completion, demolish and remove the bridge over the road”. The bridge can be seen on the sale map below. Chimneys of the old wheelwright’s workshop were still visible, in the retaining wall at the front of the property in the 1950s. Subsidence in the early 1960s removed any trace of this construction. Gas lighting still prevailed in the 1950s and Spring Lane did not have a pavement installed, until the 1960s. There still remains a small section of the original retaining wall which formed the wheelwright’s yard, and it is still possible to find an iron ring or two that were used to tie up the horses all those years ago.
This map of the Longmead Estate shows the relationship of Longmead House to my own family’s more modest accommodation in “Hillside Cottage.” We were neighbours.
Longmead House was a grand house, built in the Gothic style, and designed by the notable architect, George Edmund Street, who designed and built the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Longmead House comprised 23 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, numerous reception rooms and outbuildings. Built in 1866, it was demolished in the 1930s.
Longmead House was the most significant house in Bishopstoke. Originally built for Captain Alfred Barton, it was occupied for many years by Lt. General James Gubbins and his wife. Lt. General Gubbins had been Assistant Adjutant-General of Malta following the Crimea War and died at Longmead in 1894. His wife continued to live there until she died in 1927. It was sold in 1928.
This picture was taken in Spring Lane where my family lived, just beyond the bridge. My father is the young lad on the right of the picture.
My grandparents, Frederick, and Ada Humby were active members of the Methodist community in Bishopstoke. The centenary publication of Stoke Common Methodist Church, in 1948, recorded that a Band of Hope had been established in 1872 in connection with the Church and that the Humby family was in possession of a membership card dating from 1874. Unfortunately, the document no longer exists. With the advent of the railway, Bishopstoke was a growing community, and a new chapel was considered necessary in 1895. William Pope, my great grandfather, was a member of the committee that decided to construct a new Bible Christian Church in, what was to be designated, New Bishopstoke. It would take time to raise the funds and locate a suitable site so it was decided to open a shop that would be set up as a preaching room. This was done in 1895 under the stewardship of Mr & Mrs Humby, my grandparents. It was reported a year later that “people do not care to come into the shop” but it has been successful in establishing a Sunday School and Band of Hope. This galvanised efforts to provide new premises and by June 1897 land had been purchased and the “Tin” Chapel erected for the sum of £431. The new Post Office was built next door in 1906.
Bible Christians were staunch supporters of the Band of Hope Union, which formed part of the Temperance League that campaigned against the dangers of alcohol. Pictured are Bishopstoke Band of Hope Union members marching past the entrance to the London & South Western Railway Carriage and Wagon Works in Bishopstoke Road during 1908, on their way to a public rally in the village.
This certificate of merit was awarded by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Band of Hope Union, to my uncle, Frederick Lionel Humby, in 1907, for his success in a competitive examination on the knowledge of alcohol and the human body, at the age of 9 years old.
Football, in its relatively early days, was a popular sport in the village, as it still is today. One lad in the village, Bert Paddington, played professionally for Southampton and Brighton in the early 1900s. My uncle, 2nd from right in the front row, is pictured with the Bishopstoke Boys team in around 1910 at Bishopstoke Recreation ground. A newly built Portal Road can be seen in the background.
F. L. Humby Bishopstoke Council Boy’s School Attendance Certificates
Education was more important in my father’s generation than in my grandfather’s, and education is even more important today in a more competitive, and technically challenging time. My grandparents went to school and learnt to read and write, whilst it is evident that at least one of my great grandparents was unable to do so. By the early 1900s, it had become expected that children would be able to read and write by the time that they left school. Unlike today, there were no exams nor qualifications to be obtained. When my grandfather was born most children left school by the age of 10 or 11, some only receiving two or three years of education. My father remained at school until the age of 14. School leaving age was fifteen when I went to school although you could stay on an extra year to do GCEs if you were considered bright enough and volunteered to do so. It was not until 1973 that the school leaving age was raised to sixteen and examinations became compulsory for school leavers. These certificates of attendance, from our local school, were awarded to my uncle for exemplary attendance. These documents would have been seen as a testament to an individual’s character. These certificates would have been used as a reference to a prospective employer by a young lad on leaving school. They have been signed by Thomas Cotton of the Mount, as chairman of the school managers, and by both Edwin Sims, head teacher, and by Frederick Garton who succeeded him.
As the new Boys School headteacher, Frederick Garton introduced organised physical activity (games) which, as can be seen in this pictures, which took place in the playground. This picture shows Frederick Garton in the centre of a ring of boys who are holding hands. The headteacher is swinging a rope, to which is attached a metal weight, probably lead. Each boy has to jump as Mr Garton sweeps his arm around the circle so that they avoid a very painful rap on their ankle. It can also be assessed from the picture that the older and bigger boys are pulling away from the arc of the weight to avoid contact, with the consequence that the younger and weaker boys are pulled closer, and therefore at greater risk so that they have to exert more effort to remain safe. Nowadays, teachers would not be allowed to get their own back on their pupils like this. HM Inspector in 1911, whilst praising the introduction of these physical activities, is less than complimentary with the facilities of the Boys School. Examples given include desks being unsatisfactory. All have awkward gaps between seats and desks, none have back rests and, in several cases, the seats are only 12 to 13 inches high, a quite unsuitable height for big and growing lads; classrooms being overcrowded, and the majority of dual desks being occupied by three boys; cloakroom, lavatory and closet accommodation being meagre and the urinal being very malodorous. The urinal was still “malodorous” in the 1950s, if memory serves me right.
Early Scout Cap badge
Scouting was a popular pastime for young lads in the village and, both my father and my uncle joined the scouting movement in the early years.
Ambulance Man Leather Worker Pathfinder Musician
Missioner Cook Naturalist Gardener
These badges are early examples of scouting badges from my family collection, and could be easily overlooked as token awards, but this is not so. These badges were hard to achieve and the process of obtaining the award provided sound practical skills and knowledge that would be useful throughout life. As an example, the leather workers badge required a demonstration of boot/shoe repair by stitching or nailing, saddle repair, harness repair and harness dressing. The pathfinder badge is perhaps easier to relate to in modern times. The scout had to have a detail knowledge of every road, path, and bridle way within a 2 miles radius of the scout hut so that precise directions could be given to a stranger, to find their destination, by day or, by night. As if this was not enough, they also had to have a good general knowledge of the area with 5 miles as well. Try doing this to-day without a sat-nav.
Pictures of my father, William Charles Humby, in his scouting uniform, probably taken during WWI.
This postcard is a picture of the Bishopstoke River Carnival that was regularly held in the village. This particular card was sent by my uncle from a scout camp at Lee-on-Solent in August 1913 and, although Brownsea Island in Poole, Dorset is acknowledged as the first Scout Camp, this camp in Lee-on-Solent must have also been one of the very early camping activities of the scouting movement. This card tells his mother that he is safe and well. One aspect of camping that transcribes time is the weather. He complains that “It is raining”.
The scout knife pictured was awarded to my uncle, Frederick Lionel Humby, in August 1913. It is inscribed “Patrol Leader Humby, 1st Bishopstoke Troop, B.P. Boy Scouts, 1st prize Ambulance Knowledge, 27.8.13.
This penknife and the badges illustrated are possibly some of the oldest surviving examples of relics from the scouting movement to exist locally.
Villages were close-knit communities in the early 1900s and it was common for villagers to marry within the village. This picture shows my great grandfather, William Pope, with his wife and members of the Elkins family, who were furniture movers and coal merchants in the village. My father is the little boy in the sailor suit on the front right of the picture. My grandfather is not in the picture. It is probable that he was serving in the 1st World War.
My Grandfather, Frederick Charles Humby, became a retained soldier in the Territorials on 5th October 1903 on leaving the regular army, and was finally discharged from all military duties on 14th August 1914, just before the start of hostilities, which some would consider to be his good fortune. He re-joined the Hampshire Regiment on 3rd February 1915 (51 years old) and was sent to France in September 1915.
Frederick Charles Humby, 3rd from left in back row.
The Regiment was transferred to Salonika in November 1915.
This little book must have been produced in vast quantities, probably millions of copies were distributed. It is titled “Active Service Testament 1914 – 1915”. It became known as the Lord Roberts Bible. Lord Robert’s message to the troops was “I ask you to put your faith in God. He will watch over you. You will find in this little Book guidance when you are in health, compassion when you are in sickness, and strength when you are in adversity. My grandfather sent this bible home to his family. A man of fewer words, his message to my father was simply “search the scriptures”.
Frederick Charles Humby, back row, far left, with Regimental Band in Egypt.
He also saw service with the Rifle Brigade and Royal Army Ordnance Corps and was finally discharged on 22nd June 1919 at the age of 56.
He sent souvenirs home from Belgium, Egypt, Salonika, Naples, and Malta.
On March 1st, 1917, he wrote a soldier’s battlefield will: – “In the event of my death I give the whole of my property and effects to my wife Ada C Humby 66 (now 82) Spring Lane, Bishopstoke, Hants. Signed Frederick Charles Humby 22nd Rifle Brigade. He was wounded and hospitalised in Malta before being shipped back to England. He was not wounded in action. Whilst stationed in the Balkans, there was a lull in hostilities, and he took the opportunity to visit an old farmer and his wife who supplied food to the troops. Whilst he was visiting them, the farm was attacked by brigands (bandits) who silently killed the farmer and his wife. They also over-powered my grandfather and slit his throat. In their haste they did not cut sufficiently deep and when they had left, he was able to discharge his rifle. The rifle shot attracted the attention of a British patrol, and he was sent to a hospital in Malta to recover before being transferred to a Casualty Clearing Hospital in Salisbury. According to the “family story”, on his arrival in England, and being near to home, he “somehow” got separated from his unit in Southampton and in his “confusion”, mistakenly boarded the wrong train, finding himself “accidentally” at Eastleigh Railway Station without a ticket. The ticket collector, who he had been at school with refused to let him pass, so, according to my father, my grandfather decked the ticket collector with a right hook, and went home, before receiving his “marching orders” from my grandmother, to make his own way to the clearing hospital in Salisbury.
Bishopstoke County Infants School 1916
WWI was fought overseas and did not have the dramatic effect on life at home that later conflicts were to bring. Family life centred around the matriarch and children, like my father, attended school as usual. William Humby is seated by the blackboard, to the right of picture. The young lady in the back row, on the left is dressed differently from the rest of the group. Her headscarf could indicate that she was suffering from nits and her head had been shaved as was the practice of the day.
School certificates were issued to celebrate Empire Day in 1916 and were awarded to children who had sent some comfort to troops serving in the Great War. These particular certificates were issued to my mother, who lived in Romsey. She was awarded a certificate for providing an Xmas food parcel for the troops serving abroad in the same year. This would have been a significant family sacrifice as her father, a civilian, had been killed in an accident in Fordingbridge, in November 1916 and her mother was left without means of support and six children to raise. This certificate reflects how ordinary families put their own difficulties aside to give some comfort to our troops.
Postcards, like these pictured, were used to maintain support for the troops overseas. It is interesting to note that the card on the right recognises the role of soldiers, sailors, nurses, and scouts. The Royal Flying Corp was still very much in its infancy.
Many young men joined the services as soon as they were old enough, some even earlier. This picture of Bishopstoke Junior Football Team was taken in 1916-1917 season. By that summer most of the young men would have “joined-up” as can be seen in some of the other pictures. It is interesting to observe that the team is exactly the same lads that were pictured together, some years previously, when they were much younger.
My uncle joined the Royal Navy Air Squadron and was based at Felixstowe. I have his notebook containing training notes on flying and repair of fuselage, along with general descriptions of life and camp activity, as well as his uniform badges.
Life in the early days of the Royal Navy Air Squadron must have been highly precarious. Planes were towed behind destroyers and used for reconnaissance. Crew had to ditch in the sea and hope to be picked up by their mother ship.
I was told by my father that my uncle was assigned to North Sea convoy duty to Russia. Sea planes were the better option than the other alternative, which was to be assigned to bi-planes that were fired off the deck of a destroyer without the option of being able to return to the mother ship. These were the days before the Royal Air Force was formed and flying was under Army or Navy control. Senior officers of the period had concluded that parachutes were not to be issued to flying personnel because such a device would encourage aircrew to put their own safety ahead of their duty. There was also a practical consideration, as in those days’ parachutes had to be attached to an anchor line for opening. This line would not have opened the chute when a stricken plane fell from the sky. According to my father, my uncle was recovered from the North Sea, twice.
My uncle survived the war, although my father believed that some of the traumas my uncle experienced during this time changed his personality. He suffered a breakdown in the 1920s. Whilst visiting his girlfriend in Manchester, he arrived early. She rushed to the top of the stairs to say she would only be a few minutes and tripped, falling down the stairs and breaking her neck at his feet. Those of us that have never encountered such trauma cannot imagine what such an experience can have on an individual. His mind became unbalanced, and he attacked his father and brother, in the kitchen of our home in Bishopstoke, with an axe. Although they survived unharmed, he was sectioned and spent the rest of his life in Knowle Psychiatric Hospital, Fareham, until his death in 1988. I only refer to this because very little is mentioned about what effect stress had on those that served in the Great War. They were simply expected to “get on with it” and be grateful that they had survived. It is only in recent years that mental trauma associated with military conflict has been recognised and treated more compassionately.
My Father, William Humby, joined the Carriage Works as an apprentice french polisher in February 1924 aged 14 and remained there as a polisher until October 1932 when he was laid-off in the “depression”. He very briefly worked as a polisher on the liners in Southampton docks before re-joining the “Works” and retraining as a machinist in the machine shop. He completed 50 years’ service with the Railway in 1974.
My father’s social life was more varied and successful than in his career. Shooting and music were his passions and he excelled at both.
Pictured is the medal awarded, by the Society of miniature rifle clubs to commemorate the Coronation of King George VI & Queen Elizabeth, in May 1937. Imagine holding a shooting competition now to commemorate a royal wedding. I cannot imagine anything being more socially unacceptable.
Pictured are certificates to commemorate my father winning open national competitions at Bisley, Surrey, in 1937.
My father did not serve in the armed forces during WWII due to a combination of age, health problems, and working in a reserved occupation. He was a member of the local Civil Defence Brigade, and my mother was a fire warden.
My father met my mother during WWII, and they were married at Romsey Abbey in December 1942. My mother was one of 6 children. Their father, a drayman for Strong’s brewery in Romsey, was run over by his dray cart whilst making a delivery in Fordingbridge and died whilst they were still quite young. Their mother died some years later and the younger children were raised by their eldest brother and sister.
My father William Humby was also an accomplished musician. During the war he was actively involved with the Southern Railway Choir and Orchestra.
He was a church organist, cinema organist, and concert pianist. Our front room in Spring Lane was filled with a Broadwood grand piano and a treadle harmonium stood in the corner of another room.
These programmes, many of which are signed by the artistes of the day, are souvenirs from that period. During the hostilities of WWII, concerts were held all over Southern England with my father, William Humby, acting as accompanist, conductor or director to the Eastleigh Southern Railway Works Choir or Orchestra.
Travelling in times of conflict was not an entirely safe activity as transpired in Ashford on 12th March 1944. I am not entirely clear as to exactly what happened, but a letter was received from F. Munns, Works Superintendent, to congratulate my father on his handling of the situation. I believe that the train they were travelling in was strafed by machine gun fire from an enemy plane and my father, using his civil defence training, guided the choir and orchestra to safety.
Of particular note is the programme for the Annual Fur, Feather, Chrysanthemum, Vegetable and Handicraft Exhibition, held in the Carriage Works Canteen on 5th November 1944, where it was recorded that a massive £545 had been raised by the previous year’s effort.
Colonel Sir Eric Gore Browne, Chairman of the Southern Railway, was given the privilege of meeting my father on 10th May 1948. The occasion was to present a new Rifle Challenge Shield, on behalf of the general managers of the former main line railway companies, to replace the trophy that had been destroyed by bombing in London during the war. It seems strange today, but prior to, during and after WWII, competitive shooting was a popular sport practised between different divisions of railway operations. Sir Eric paid for the new trophy out of his own pocket, and my father is accepting the trophy as Chairman of the Federation of Southern Railway Rifle Clubs.
To illustrate the popularity that shooting held in the late 1940s, I have included this picture. It is of a group, of 17 members of the Southern Railway Rifle Club, led by my father as Chairman of the Southern Railway Rifle Club and the then Mayor of Eastleigh, Mr. T.W. Coles, on an official civic visit to St. Helier on the island of Jersey in January 1947. I understand that this was the first official civic visit to Jersey from the British mainland since the island had been occupied during WWII, and that the group were given a civic reception hosted by the Bailiff and Constable of St Helier. I have the original newspapers that recorded the event and the visit made front page headlines for two consecutive days in the Jersey Evening Post.
To mark the occasion, a competition had been arranged between the railway team and a Jersey team. During the match, my father was deemed to have completely missed the target with one shot. He contested the decision, as he believed that he would not have missed the whole target, and on closer examination, it was agreed that the second shot to the bottom left hand target had indeed entered through the same hole as his previous shot.
He was awarded a perfect score and the scorecard was signed by all of the dignitaries present. This was the only time that my father, William Humby, left the shores of the UK mainland, apart from ferry trips to the Isle of Wight and holidays on Hayling Island, when I was a child.
1947 1948 1948 1949 1950 1951 1952
These medals commemorate winning various rifle club leagues in the Southampton area, and you can see that my father, and his team, were very successful.
By 1949 my father had stopped firing blanks and I was born and brought up in the old family home.
It is difficult for us today to realise that the NHS had only just been established when I was born in 1949, and this receipt is for a doctor’s bill to attend my birth due to complications. One or two people have unkindly suggested that the biggest complication was that I was born at all.
We have also forgotten that rationing was still in place in the early 1950s, and that the National Identity Card scheme did not end until the 1960s.
I cannot resist displaying this proud certificate of accomplishment. I have included the pictures to illustrate that I once had hair. On a more serious note, it is also the first and last time that I ever received a reward that I did not have to work for.
My parents were in their 40s when I was born, and I was an only child. We lived in a quiet lane with very few houses nearby, and what near neighbours we had were older than my parents, with much older children than myself. My youngest cousin was also twelve years older than me.
Until I went to school in the old Victorian school in Church Road, I had not played with another child of my own age, yet I was not lonely. I had my parents and grandparents and, most importantly, my pets for company.
Life, for me, growing up in the 1950s was not greatly different from my father’s childhood.
My father had bought both cottages in the 1930s, where his father had lived since the late 1800s, and where he had been raised. We lived in one half of the house and my grandparents lived next door in the adjoining cottage. We did have a bathroom which was shared and running water, which had replaced the old well in the garden by the back door. There was electricity for lighting with round pin plugs, gas for cooking and hot water, and a radio for entertainment. The garden was devoted to growing fruit and vegetables. We kept chickens for eggs and meat. Spring and Autumn were busy periods for planting and subsequently harvesting. Vegetables once collected had to be stored for winter. Potatoes were dried on wire frames, then bagged and stored. Root vegetables were washed, dried, and layered into boxes with dry sand. Fruit was picked and preserved. Bramley apples were laid on racks in a spare room and rotated by hand every couple of weeks to prevent rotting. They would last until March or April the following year, if we were lucky. Heating was by coal fire, usually in one room only. The grate had to be cleaned and the fire remade every day and coal collected from coal shed at the bottom of garden in a bucket. Elkins, the local coal merchant, and distant relative through marriage, delivered 10cwt at a time, in 1cwt bags carried by hand, which usually lasted through winter. Perishable food had to be bought every day as there was no refrigeration. Food waste was composted or fed to the goat and chickens. Garden waste was composted or burnt, and household waste that did not get composted was stored in a metal dustbin that was emptied once a week. My father never owned a car or motorbike, and we did not have a TV until about 1963. He finally got a telephone in the 1970s, after I left home.
In the 1950s, life for my wife Shirley and her family in Chandler’s Ford was also basic, compared to the luxuries of modern day living. Her family lived in an ex-army hut at Velmore Camp, Chandler’s Ford which had originally been constructed to accommodate soldiers during WWII. The camp was converted for family accommodation after WWII due to a lack of accommodation for families at the time.
Velmore Camp rent books for hut No 29, 1950 to 1954
Hut no 29 was draughty with little insulation and relied on a single stove for heating. There was an inside toilet but no bathroom. Cooking was on an electric cooker. Water was provided by a single tap and hot water was achieved by boiling a kettle. There was a stove for heating water but there was no flue, nor chimney, so the stove could not be used as it filled the hut with smoke. There was no defined area for a garden.
My wife and her family moved to a new house in Sedgwick Road in 1954, built on what had once been the Longmead Estate, which provided modern standards far superior to the family’s previous accommodation.
These estates were developed throughout the country to replace sub-standard housing and generate employment in the aftermath of WWII. The houses were built to new national standards and provided sizeable gardens with areas for children to play and for the growing of vegetables. A bathroom and indoor toilet were luxuries that many people had not previously experienced and whilst electricity and electric lighting were by now commonplace in most homes, the new estate brought electric street lighting to Bishopstoke for the first time. It seems strange to recollect that some of my endearing childhood memories are of lamplighters switching on gas lamps at dusk (I was never enthusiastic enough to get up early in the morning to watch them switch the lamps off) and of course the milkman delivering milk by horse and cart. These “Council” estates were built for the working man and his family. Sheds were provided for bicycles and there were many bicycles to be seen in those days as cars were not commonplace, although by the end of the 1950s the nation’s economy was improving and more families were beginning to enjoy leisure time and own a motorbike or car to enjoy exploring and travelling further afield.
My father worked in the Carriage Works and holidays could only be taken during the two week summer shutdown. We had a large garden that needed constant attention and we lived with my elderly grandparents. Our holidays in the early 1950s, were limited to day trips. Even then we could only visit places that could be reached by train as my father did not own a car. I believe that these pictures were taken at a day’s outing to Highcliffe.
From the mid-1950s until the early 1960s, we holidayed as a family for a week each year on Hayling Island. We caught the train to Havant Station before transferring to the “Hayling Billy.” We stayed with Ken and Maggie Keane in Elm Grove. Ken ran a shoe repair shop, and his wife, Maggie, ran the guest house which was above the shop. To make rooms available for paying guests, Ken, Maggie, and their son John lived in a lean-to outbuilding in the garden during the summer months. Ken also played guitar in the holiday camps on Hayling Island in the evenings and at weekends. We became family friends and John would come and stay with us.
The creation of a large new housing estate in Bishopstoke brought a large influx of people into the village in the 1950s. This strained the local infrastructure, particularly schooling. The existing Victorian schools (infants and juniors) in Church Road could no longer accommodate all the children in the village, and plans were developed to build a new Junior school. Before the new school was completed, there were more children needing education than could be housed in the old school, despite the introduction of temporary classrooms. Shirley and I were bussed daily, for a year, nearly 5 miles to another school near Merdon Avenue in Chandler’s Ford. Other children’s lessons were accommodated in church rooms and halls around Bishopstoke where space could be found. Imagine the outcry that would occur if such actions were taken nowadays. We both joined the new Bishopstoke County Junior School in Underwood Road when it opened in April 58.
Although employment in the area in the 1950s and 1960s was predominantly industrial, at home we continued to live in a rural atmosphere. As I grew older, I helped in growing vegetables, rode my bike to school and during summer holidays stayed with an aunt near Romsey for two weeks each year, and worked on a neighbouring farm (unpaid).
I generally helped with milking the cows and mucking out the stalls and yard. I am pictured with a calf that I helped to deliver when I was around 10 years old. I was also given shooting rights on the farm. Imagine somebody doing that nowadays, although in the 1950s this was not entirely unusual for a young country lad working on farms. Even though I had been brought up with guns from an early age, I had to spend many months walking the fields to demonstrate that I could carry a gun safely and act responsibly with a weapon, before being allowed live ammunition.
When I was a child, there was a brief period of the year when the sun always shone, and the gates of the local swimming pool were open. The problem was the water was supplied direct from the River Itchen and it was usually mind numbingly cold. It was usually changed every Thursday and you tried to avoid the place until the water had time to warm up a couple of degrees, which was usually by Saturday. Anything over 55 deg. F was considered OK and over 60 deg. F was balmy. Another reason for not going on a Thursday was they had to catch the fish and eels that had swum in with the river water when the pool was filled. You also did not want to be swimming when Arnold, the pool manager poured in the chlorine. This he did on a regular basis from a demijohn with the cry of “it’s OK, its only chemicals to help keep the water clean. It won’t do you any harm.” Presumably, it did not do any harm when the pool was emptied back into the river the following week, but then life, risk management and environmental management were seen somewhat differently in those days.
The Junior school very keenly encouraged sporting activity and in springtime there were swimming lessons. This was in the open air swimming pool, opposite Chickenhall Lane. Each year there was a school swimming gala with prizes awarded. I remember, like most kids in Bishopstoke, I would spend Saturday afternoons at the swimming pool during the summer. A memory that still lingers with me is of a particular Saturday when a young girl was sadly found drowned in the deep end of the pool. On the following Monday in assembly, the headmaster asked all those who had been at the pool that day to remain in the hall. We were then told to wait in a corridor whilst one by one we had to enter an office and be interviewed on our own by a police detective. This was quite traumatic as policemen in those days were seen as figures of authority, and detectives were particularly intimidating to a young child.
Of course, childhood gives way to youth and growing up in the 1960s was an exciting time to be a teenager. Pirate radio stations broadcast from offshore, and on Sunday evenings every teenager in the country tuned in to listen to Radio Luxembourg broadcast the latest music chart, sponsored by Horace Batchelor of K-E-Y-N-S-H-A-M, Bristol who was promoting a dubious fool-proof system to win money by betting on the football pools. Many of us learnt to play an instrument, and many local lads formed bands with various degrees of success. Our band (pictured) was not successful, but we did perform a few gigs at our school Wyvern in Desborough Road but went our separate ways when some of us left school in 1965. Fashions of the day rebelled against the somewhat rigid and austere designs of the early 50s. Although to-day, looking back, the fashions of my youth seem somewhat amusing and tame compared to developments in the 1970s and 1980s.
1970s chic, strong colours, cheesecloth shirts and glam rock heralded the way to the “bliss” of married life and raising a family. We still live in Bishopstoke, but no longer occupy what had been my old family home in Spring Lane. Despite facing challenges growing up in the 1950s, both my wife and I have enjoyed a full and rewarding life. Whilst our fathers worked for the same company, and basically the same job all their working lives, and our mothers tended the home, Shirley and I found that our careers took us in various directions. I never followed the trade I had learnt as an apprentice with Pirelli, instead I entered a drawing office, and for a while designed machinery. I qualified as an engineer, joined an appropriate professional body, took a management qualification, and moved into manufacturing management. In the 1960s, Eastleigh was a town dominated by large industrial organisations, and I have spent most of my working life in industrial companies. Is it a reflection of change in government policy towards industry, or because of me that none of the industrial companies where I once worked still exist?
Shirley spurned going to university and joined Hampshire County Council as a local government administrator establishing health centres in Hampshire, before taking a career break to have our children. On return to full time employment, Shirley joined the University of Southampton, working in senior administrative roles. Whilst at least one of my great grandfathers could not read or write, both Shirley and I gained Master’s degrees in later life. Perhaps, this reflects that learning does not have to stop when you leave school, for us leaving school was when lessons in life really began. Our children have left home (hooray) and unlike our parents we have travelled the world extensively and witnessed some of the most magnificent spectacles that nature and mankind have created.
I am the third generation of my family to live in the same village. At face value, this has been a story about my family, it has also been a story about broader social change that has taken place over the last 150 years. I choose this item, from what Shirley describes as my collection of junk, to illustrate the extent of these changes. It is a Fleam, dating from the mid-19th century. A Fleam is a medical device which was commonly used for bloodletting for nearly 2000 years until the late 19th century. The red and white striped pole of the barbershop, still in use today, represents advertising from a time when bloodletting was performed by barber-surgeons. Bloodletting was also commonly performed on animals by veterinarians. This particular instrument is inscribed to William Butlin of Edmond’s Menagerie in 1856. This menagerie was the Royal Menagerie at Windsor. A regular visitor to the Zoo was Charles Darwin who, in 1857, first presented his paper: – “Origin of the Species” to the Linnean Society in London.
St Mary’s Church in Bishopstoke, pictured at the beginning of this paper, was built by Dr Thomas Garnier, Rector of Bishopstoke in 1825. Dr Garnier was also a botanist and a member of the Linnean Society.
My grandfather was born in 1863, so this Fleam, if you can forgive the terrible pun, represented the cutting edge of medical science at the time of his birth. For me, this instrument represents the social, political, scientific, and economic conditions that were prevalent when he was born. I leave to your own imagination and understanding the changes in society, science and technology that have occurred since then.
One day, when they are older, our children may want to look back on their early years, and the history of their family. They may well come to realise that they never asked us about our family when they had the opportunity to do so. I hope that this story may inspire people to record their own family history and write stories about their life for future generations.
Thank you for reading my story.