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This page is a transcript of a talk given by Dr Humphrey Hope to the Hungerford Historical Association on 28 Nov 1984. It gives a fascinating insight into many of the characters of Hungerford in the early 1900s.

Town Characters

Talk by Dr Humphrey Hope to the HHA 28 Nov 1984

Ladies and Gentlemen, I pray that I will not be inflicting on you 3/4 of an hour's boredom. The talk that I have prepared on inhabitants of our town at the beginning of the century lacks finish. I can not complain that I was not given sufficient time to prepare it, and can only plead that professional work and many other commitments have limited the time I have had to spend on it.

But like scientific papers or academic lectures, research has to be publicly delivered or published in order to be recorded in people's' memories. And it is on memories of previous revelations that further historical research is :based. I must ask you therefore to regard this as matrix into which further items of knowledge can be fitted, - a piece of trellis work on the garden wall onto which, one day, someone else will hang other matters of historical interest, examined in more detail and more elegantly presented.

The round-de-Iay, if I may so call it, has no 'obvious' place to start or to finish. With one exception, I have limited myself to people living in the High Street, and said:-

Let us start with the Doctors who bring us into the world, and end with the Clergy who see us out of it.

At the time we are looking at there were two medical practices in Hungerford - that of Dr Major and that of Dr Barker.

Dr Major: Harry Pike Major may have been the son of an old Hungerford family as a Thomas Major was Constable in 1812 and again in 1824 and 25. Harry Pike Major was Constable in 1877 - we think he was born in 1836, son of Harry and Maira Major of Little Church Lane. He lived and had his surgery in 107 High Street, the large grey brick house which is now occupied by Brading and Barber's offices. He had a large family of sons and daughters and started in practice about 1860, carrying on till the early 1900s when he sold his practice to a Dr Dixon, whose brother-in-law, (Cookson), who was manager of GWR had married one of his daughters. He still lived on in the house, being looked after by two unmarried daughters, and was Constable in 1907 and 1908.

Dr Dixon: Dr Dixon took up residence and created a surgery in Farringdon House, (no. 128 High Street), which he rented from my grandfather. He lived there with his wife, but had no children. He drove a funny little car of undisclosed make, at about five miles per hour. He was well liked as a doctor but he never lost his strong Scottish accent. It always caused amusement when asked if the patient could have anything to eat, the invariable reply would be "A wee drop Scotch broth would be a good thing". In the early 1920s he retired, sold his practice and moved away from Hungerford.

Dr Richard Henry Hempstead Barker, who lived and practiced in Kennet House, on the corner of Church Street and High Street; (now occupied by Borough & Co, Anglia Building Society and Hungerford Book Shop), was also of a Hungerford family.

It seems as if it was his grandfather, Dr Richard Barker, who was Constable in 1820 and married a Miss Ann Hempstead of Kintbury. His grave is on the left of the Parish Church.

His son, named Richard Hempstead Barker was Constable in 1851 and 52 and listed as surgeon to the Hungerford Troup of the First Berkshire Regiment of Yeomanry, (later to be called the "Royal Berks Yeomanry Cavalry).

Richard Henry was born in 1847 and probably took on his father's practice in the early 1870s, but I have no confirmation of this. He was certainly elderly but in active practice in the early years of this century. He was a bachelor and looked after by a housekeeper by the delightful name of Miss Locket. He was the owner of a superb garden running up beside the railway from the back of his house all the way to A W Neates sale rooms, where the Public Library and car park stand today. it was separated by a high wall from Church Street and could only be viewed from the railway, and all travelling west would make a point of sitting on that side of the carriage in order to catch a glimpse of it.

In 1907, when there were 22 telephone numbers in Hungerford, his was Hungerford 7, while my grandfather's was Hungerford 6.

Early in this century he took in as a partner a Dr Blake James, who lived and had his surgery in The Manor House, which was pulled down some 20 years ago for the International Stores. It is probable that he bought the house when George Platt moved to The Priory.

In about 1910, (probably when Dr Barker retired from active practice) he was joined by a young London doctor, Gordon Starkey-Smith , who became my Godfather, and who lived initially at The Laurels in Eddington, but later moved to The Manor House, where I remember him with a tennis court alongside our garden on the south side, (where now stands Loheat's factory), and throwing tennis balls back over the wall when they came over.

He was not a man of robust health, having had rheumatic fever as a child, which had damaged his heart valves, but he devoted himself to his practice and patients and was loved and admired by rich and poor alike. A photo portrait of him used to hang in Hungerford Club and probably still does. I have always liked this one of him during a beating of the bounds in the late 1920s. He died at the Manor House at the age of 57 in 1937.

One of his patients to whom he gave much care during his final days was Lytton Strachey, the historian, who lived at Hamspray House.

Dr Blake James, who had retired, returned to the practice, working up to and into the second world war, living in Riverside, (on the corner of Bath Road and Bridge Street). He died in 1953 aged 84 and is buried in St. Saviour's Churchyard.

From about 1910 onwards, there has only been one medical practice in our town - and my grandfather used to tell how Dr Dixon having decided to sell the practice was walking up to the Post Office with a letter advertising its sale, when he met Starkey-Smith, who hearing what he was about, there and then made an offer and bought it. I am afraid I have no slide to show you of Dr Blake James, and the best I can offer you is one of his house. It is a photo of the highest professional quality, which leads us up Bridge Street to the man who took it -

Mr Parsons, the photographer, to whom we owe such a debt as a pictorial historian of our town. He was a fine Londoner, who had been born in the sound of Bow Bells. He served his apprenticeship in Nottingham, and before settling in Hungerford, had set up in Pewsey, where he met his wife.

He was a man of many talents, a keen fisherman, and with a lively interest in motor cars, being in his time owner of several which would make valuable exhibits in a motor museum today.

Moving from 1 Bridge Street in 1916 to the High Street, he joined the Royal Flying Corps and excercised his skill as an aerial photographer. After the war, when professional photography declined with the wider ownership of cameras, he ran a taxi business.

He died at the ripe old age of 77, and has a daughter still living in Hungerford

Next door to Mr Parsons on the west side of Bridge Street in No. 2 was the china shop of Mr Fruen . He had been Constable in the early 1890s, but I know no more of him than that.

Mr William George Taylor lived and carried on business as a chemist in No. 3 and was Constable in 1903 and 1904. He was succeeded by his son, Henry Fearnley Taylor, who carried on his good traditions and was Constable himself in 1927 and 28. In later years his wife suffered from a severe form of dropsy and was virtually housebound. She spent much of her days in the bay window of the room above the shop where she could derive some entertainment by watching the people in Bridge Street.

There was no television in those days. the Butcher's shop of Mr Ernest J Rumball was opposite the John of Gaunt, and Mr Freeman kept a Toyshop and Tobacconists in No. 5. After his death, his two daughters kept the business going for many years.

At No. 12 Bridge Street, recently the Styles Silver Shop, lived Frederick and Charles Low with their sister. Frederick worked as a wood grainer or featherer as it was called, and there was an attractive door in our house during my grandfather's day, which was an example of his work.

Charles was a water colour artist of high reputation locally and not unknown on a national scale. He exhibited in the Royal Academy and examples of his work are to be found in many houses in Berkshire.

Living in No 13 Bridge Street, now the home of Michael Blakeway, your chairman, was John Holmes Wooldridge. He had been born in 1854 as second son of a family of two boys and four girls. One sister became a Mrs Sieke, the wife of an official of the Danish Court, and lived in Copenhagen, and another became Mrs Wilson, and had a son named Ralf.

Neither John Wooldridge nor his brother or other sisters married. His father Thomas Wooldridge was owner and manager of the building firm which bore his name and whose yard occupied the site of the Hungerford Wharf In the eighteen eighties, John Wooldridge had taken up a position abroad, possibly to gain experience, when his father died unexpectedly and he returned to take over the family business and look after his mother and two unmarried sisters.

in Hungerford, he was much respected, not only as a builder of high repute, but as Actuary of the Savings Bank, Secretary of Hungerford Gas and Coke Co, and Agent for the Kennet and Avon Canal. The quality of the houses he built in Hungerford are testimony of the firm's workmanship. (Examples are 26 and 28 The Croft). In those days, No. 13 had an extensive garden with an island in the river.

During the 1914-18 war one of his sisters became matron of the voluntary hospital for wounded soldiers, which was founded in the old National School buildings at the top of the High Street, now occupied by 'The Manner Born'.

Returning to the East side of Bridge Street, I have no history of the inhabitants of buildings on the present war memorial site. The landlord of the John of Gaunt is listed as Albert Hance but I know no more of him than that.

In number 20 Bridge Street, now occupied by Jack Knight, photographer, lived George Andrews, and his unmarried sister Kate. Two of his sisters had married the two young vets, Davidson and McKerley, who had come down to Hungerford from Scotland as young men in the eighteen nineties, and a fourth sister Ethel married Harry Bishop, who farmed at Home Farm, Hungerford Park.

I don't know what George Andrews did, or if he did anything very much, but he certainly spent a lot of time fishing, to such an extent that a seat in the upper part of the Dun used to be known as George Andrew's seat, when I came to Hungerford, and he must have been dead several years then.

Where Peter Stirland's showroom looks out onto Bridge Street stood 'The Barley Mow' public house, whose landlord at that time was Frank Batt.

No 16 Bridge Street, occupied today by Jeremy and Liz Jarrett, housed the coal business of Henry John Beard, who also farmed land over which Membury Airfield was constructed. He had been Constable from 1872 1875 and his son, Louis Edward Henry Beard, who was to succeed him in the business was Constable in 1919 and 1920, but at the time we are looking at was living in No. 3 High Street, with his son Louis Beard Jnr. who was born in 1890. They were an old Hungerford family, with a history stretching back over 200 years.

The Malt House Antiques of Peter Hunwick was the shop and presumably the residence of Thomas Blake and Son, sadlers and harness makers, but of them I know little. Thomas Blake lived to the age of 91 and is buried in St Saviours, beside his son who predeceased him.

At the beginning of this century, John Platt lived in Willow Lodge, (now called The Limes). He was of an old Hungerford family, his father having been Constable in 1857-1860. He himself was Constable 1881-1888 and owner of Hungerford Brewery, where Loheats Factory is in Everlands Road.

He had two sons, George, who inherited the Brewery, and Baron, a great friend of my grandfather's. (They used to keep a boat on the canal as young boys). Baron, sadly died as a young man in about 1885 and George went to live at the Manor House before purchasing the Priory from Mr Morse Goulter, (Solicitor and listed as Registrar and High Baliff of the County Court in Church Street), who had had it built for him by Mr Wooldridge, I believe. George had four daughters, Winifred, Marjorie, Geraldine and Dolly - only Winnie married - a Mr Church, who died soon after the 14-18 war.

Winnie and Dolly are still alive but in their eighties and nineties and live in Peppard, Nr. Henley, Berks.

George Platt had his own chair in the bar of the Three Swans and a little black cocker spaniel with whom he always walked back up to the Priory. I have always heard that it was 'woe betide' any ignorant stranger who sat in George Platt's chair. He was Constable for the four years of 1897-1900 and died in 1928 aged 60.

Moving southwards over the canal bridge we come to the family house lived in by my sister Lady Troup, and I , with our respectful husbands, wives and families.

My grandfather, Henry Edward Astley came to Hungerford in 1847 as a young man of 30 and bought the practice of Mr Matthews who lived and practiced as a solicitor there. For some 15 years, he enjoyed the life of a batchelor in a small country town and was one of the town's three young men who drove a Tandem, (the sports car of the day), the other two being Col. Willes of Hungerford Park, and Mr Wooldridge Snr.

It would be interesting to look back and see what fun and games went on in those days. However, by 1863 he had obviously decided to settle down and he married Jane Elizabeth Keen, widow of Benjamin Keen chemist, and (no doubt) dentist, in Hungerford. She had three surviving children of her first marriage. One daughter, Clara, later marrying John Cottrell, who with his brother George, ran the Hungerford Engineering works and Iron Foundry, where Normans Garage stands today.

Edward Astley and Elizabeth Keen had one son, Henry O'Oyley Wolvey Astley my grandfather, born in 1865. He studied law and returned to Hungerford when qualified as a solicitor and took over his father's practice. He married in 1895 Catherine Richens, daughter of John Richens of North Standen, thereby linking us with a family who farmed extensively in this area. My grandmother, known as Kitty, was one of 14 children. She had brothers farming Hopgrass and Parsonage Farm, and a brother- in-law, Fred Hissy, taking over North Standen when her father died.

Jack Adnams was another brother. Through marriage we became cousins of the Cundells, the Nicols and Gores.

Having taken over his father's practice at such a young age, my grandfather was able to devote a long working life to the affairs of Hungerford.

He was secretary of Hungerford Volunteer Fire Brigade in the late 1890s and early years of the century and Clerk to the Board of Governors of Hungerford Workhouse, whose members included Major Portal of Eddington House, Mr Gladstone of Wallingtons and the Rev. Butler of Inkpen. He was a director of Hungerford Water Works and, from 1889 to 1935 he was Clerk to the Magistrates and Steward to the town and Manor of Hungerford.

After retirement he took on the position of Steward to the Duchess of Somerset's Almshouses at Froxfield. His only son, Edward Dugdale who was born in 1896 was killed at Arras in the last months of the 1914-18 was, while his daughter, my mother, I am glad to say, remains fit and well at the young age of 85.

My grandfather died in 1940 and is buried in St Saviour's churchyard, and the words on his tombstone, "Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord", describe his life very aptly. You have seen him in two slides already and he appears in others I have to show.

On the other side of the road to us lived Edward Bushnell, Town Cryer from 1880 to 1923, also Bill Poster and proprietor of the "Red Rose Coffee Shop" on the premises now occupied by "The Tutti Pole Restaurant".

He had come to Hungerford in 1870, from Holyport in Eastern Berkshire, where his parents kept a pub. It is related that there he had seen "what the demon drink did to people", and he became a Reckabite, and registered his family as Reckabites, foreswearing liquor.

Here, in Hungerford, he married Lydia Joyce, niece of William Joyce an Agricultural Engineer - a board announcing whose place of business used to be seen at the bottom of Church Street on the south side. (He is accredited with the invention and building of the water bicycle) .

In 1884 he was captain of the Fire Brigade and there is a record of his having rounded up the horses, harnessed them to the engine and got to a fire at Little Bedwyn within 17 minutes of the alarm being sounded - no mean achievement.

Edward Bushnell had six sons and two daughters. Bert and Walter both became Registrars of Births and Deaths. Sidney succeeded him as Town Cryer, and of course, his line is handed down to our present Town Cryer, Robin through his grand-daughter, Mrs. Jean Tubb. Edward Bushnell is buried beside the north wall of St. Saviour's Church.

Moving south on the west side of the High Street, we have mentioned that Louis Beard was living in No. 3, and occupying No. 5, where Dopsons is today, was Tylers Drapery Store. It was run by Mr & Mrs Tyler who had a son and a daughter, (rather like Happy Families).

The daughter married the shop assistant, a Mr Banyard, who took over the store.

In No. 10, where Mrs Norris wool shop is today, was a sweet shop run by Mr Hawkins, and a Mr Hutchins had his butchers shop where John Lewis' shop stands.

Where the Co-op "hits the eye" today, was the drapery shop of Mr Alfred Allright. He lived in the fine Georgian house beside it, (numbered 15 and 15A at the present time), and was a staunch Liberal.

He was Constable between 1909 and 1911 and this picture shows him with his two Tuttimen, Fred Macklin and Robert Cole. The late Mrs Lillian New of 47 Church Street was a Trainee Shop Assistant there, and told how her parents had to pay a guinea a year for the privilege of their daughter working there and learning the trade. Times change!

Mr Arthur Killick, one of the three grocers in the town had his shop north of the railway bridge, where the Chinese restaurant operates, while immediately south of the railway stands Kennet House, as mentioned, the home and surgery of Dr Barker.

Returning to the east side, College House, No. 130, (immediately on the south side of our house), was a small mixed school run by a Mrs Froome and her daughter, Mary Elizabeth. My mother and her brother were pupils there, as were the Butler boys from Standen Manor and the Platt daughters.

After the war the Froomes gave up the house and moved to Church Street where Mrs Froome died in January 1927 aged 83. Winnie Platt , who had always felt sorry for Mary, who had always been poor and had enjoyed little fun in life, took her to London for a weeks "jolly", but it was all too much for her and she had a heart attack and died while up there. A sad result to an act of kindness!

Farringdon House, as mentioned, was occupied by Dr Dixon, while immediately on the south side stood Earls Ironmongery Stores , covering a long site now occupied by Carpenters, the Council Office and Wessex Gifts. It was owned by the elderly Mr Earl and managed by Mr Hawkes who lived in Lancaster Villa, No 6 Parsonage Lane.

In the Manor House, as mentioned, lived George Platt initially and then Dr Starkey Smith, while on the other side of the bridge was the corn and seed business of Joseph Alexander, father of Roy and Donald, who had been born in 1859 and lived at Bacon Farm, (now changed to Beacon Farm).

Mr Frances Waldron Church, was landlord of the Three Swans at the beginning of the century, later to be succeeded by Mr & Mrs Wigglesworth (previously guardians of the workhouse), and then by Mr & Mrs Dodds , parents of Donald Dodds of Atherton Crescent.

Returning to the West side, above Church Street, there stood the furniture shop of Alfred Gough Bartholomew, Constable in 1922-26 and seen here striding the rivers while beating the bounds; and immediately above it was the Newsagents and stationary shop of the Miss Barnards with their brother's fish shop next to the Town Hall.

Further south Mr George Wren had an ironmongers business in No. 24, today owned by Paul Good, and Mr Edward Samuel Gingell (Constable from 1924 to 1931), ran a grocery business in No. 25 which is today Phillip Spackmans. He must have been a man of great public spirit and patriotism because I understand he closed his shop in 1914 and joined the forces.

Nos. 26 and 27 were occupied by Mr Thomas Walter Alexander with his grocery business in the southern part of the premises and the front door of his residence where the entrance to the Antique Arcade is today. Poor man, he was afflicted by a tic and often nicknamed "Twitchy" Alexander.

He built Oak Lodge on the Salisbury Road and retired there sometime after the first world war.

28 High Street, (later called the Pillars) end now the offices of Lucas and Marshall, Solicitors and Clerks to the Town and Manor of Hungerford, was the homes of John Corderoy Adnams, a brother-in-law of my grandmother. As far as I know he was unrelated to the makers of fabric which is so called, and the name had been handed down from a French ancestor and is derived from "Coeur du Roi".

There is no record how long his family had lived in Hungerford, but his father was certainly running the business before him and had been Constable in 1878. John Adnams, (jun.) lived in Kennet View in Park Street after marriage to my great-aunt, Susan Jane Richens, and his three daughters, Olive, Mercy and Joan were born there.

The house is now the home of our haywards of the common, the Harvey brothers and their sister.

In the early years of the century, when his father died, he moved to the High Street and became an enthusiastic commoner, keeping a cow on the common, which was brought down daily and milked by the boot boy, and he conscientiously fished the river. Along the side of the front stairs there used to be a channel he had built to lay his fishing rods in so they didn't have to be taken down each time he came in.

He was one of the first in Hungerford to own a motor car, an open Buick, which he drove in goggles, hat and dustcoat, essential equipment in those days. In 1912 he was elected Constable and is seen in the group of trustees assembled to welcome the King when he came to stay at Chilton Lodge. During the 1914-18 war he was a special Constable and with many others in Hungerford spent many nights guarding the railway bridges in case the Germans blew them up, while my great-aunt was cook and caterer to the Hungerford Hospital looking after wounded troops.

Sadly, Jack Adnams died in 1933 as a result of surgical complications following a simple operation on his foot. Joan, who married Dodge Osmond of West Kennet is his only surviving daughter.

Further south I have few names to give you. William Mapson had a photography business where Barclays Bank now stands, later to be taken over by Mr Parsons.

Messrs Davidson and McKerley had their veterinary surgery in No. 34. Davidson emigrating to Canada in the early 1900s and Mr McKerley living to a great age in the house. I used to visit him professionally and I remember him telling me that in all his life he had never suffered from a cold!

William Harris a baker, occupied No. 35 or 36, and of course, the National School was in No. 42, with Mr James Newhook, the headmaster in what is now called Cameo House. He had two children, Bob and Maggie, and retired when the new school was built on Priory Avenue in 1910. For amny years he was choirmaster of St Saviours and is buried in the churchyard there.

As mentioned, the premises was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers during the 1914-18 war and these two slides show the patients and staff.

William Giles ran a coal and carrier business on the south side of the school, and at the top of the town on the other side of the street in No. 68 High Street lived Joseph Edward Neal who ran a decorating business in Park Street. He came of an old Hungerford family, had been born in 1853 but orphaned at a very young age and he and two brothers had been educated at the Blue Coat School at Reading.

He married Rachel Miller and his successor in his business, his son, George Henry Neal, whom many of us remember, was born in 1892. He also had two daughters, Fanny and Kate and another son Joseph, who was killed in the 1914-18 war. He died in 1933 at the age of 80.

Before finishing, as promised, with the clergy, I must not forget Nos. 100 & 101 High Street where lived Frederick Macklin. He had been born in 1870 and, in 1884, while still a youngster, had established a business as a barley grower and selling milk. His son, Alfred, whom many of us remember, was born in 1886 and assisted his father in his business and in running the horse-drawn passenger vehicle for getting travellers from the station to outlying districts.

Frederick Macklin was Tuttiman in 1906 with his son, probably a unique appointment, but was never Constable. He died in 1930.

To end with the ministers of the Church, we must start by mentioning the Rev. Joseph Ball Antice MA, vicar of St Lawrence and also the Rural Dean of Newbury, from 1866 to 1894. He was a batchelor had a housekeeper, Miss Hedges, who lived in later days in The Croft, west of the club, the little house beside the railway. Leaving Hungerford, he took up the post of rector of Hartley Westpall, but came back to Hungerford to marry my grandparents in 1895.

During this time and well into this century, the Rev John Frederick Charles Denning was curate and minister to the church at Newton, Denford and Hungerford Workhouse. I understand he was a tubby little man and rode a high bicycle with two crossbars. He mounted it by getting onto the axle step at the back and then precipitating himself forward onto the saddle.

He and his brother were fine cricketers and Hungerford had a strong team which played on the common. He had two sons, both all round sportsmen, and a daughter called Irene who was often scorer for the eleven.

In the 1890s he was living in Charnham Street, but later moved to No. 4 Parsonage Lane.

The Rev WAG Gray, (Rev. Gray Snr.), took over as vicar from the Rev. Anstice in 1894 and was followed by the Rev. H A Sealey from 1901 to 1908. He had been a missionary at which he was probably successful but I understand he was not a popular vicar. His curate was the Rev. Wardley King, who became vicar to St. Lawrence after the war and served there from 1924 to 1952.

In 1909 there came to Hungerford the Rev. Thomas Seccombe Gray, whose father had held the living ten years previously. He was immediately popular and entered into the life of the community with enthusiasm. He joined the Volunteer Fire Brigade and, after George Cottrell gave up, became its captain. He enjoyed country pursuits, was a good shot and he wrote a book on Pike Fishing under the 'nom de plume' of Silver Devon.

He was a man first and a parson afterwards and my mother tells the story how, as a young girl in a fit of religious fervour she went to early morning service on a weekday. No one turned up to take the service and she returned home. Later in the morning T S Gray phoned my grandfather to offer his sincere apologies, saying he had no idea Barbara was coming and thought the congregation would just be Miss Hedges who was quite capable of saying prayers herself!

Mrs Gray managed the vicarage in a fashion of her own. If she was busy, the children would be tied with a long rope to the big tree in the garden, so they could play there without running away and getting into trouble. This prompted a visiting bishop to remark that it was the only vicarage he had called at where the children were tied up and the shooting dogs roamed free.

The Rev. Gray was a good looking man as can be seen from this photograph. He was fond of the ladies and frequently on the dance floor at local parties. After sitting for a photo portrait, and a print of it being on show in Parsons window, several copies were usually sold to admirers in the town. I have heard it said that one of our titled residents consulted his friends because he was convinced that his wife was hopelessly in love with the vicar.

T S Gray left Hungerford in 1924 to take up a less arduous living in Scotland where the shooting and fishing appealed to him. I only met him once when he came to visit my grandfather in the late 1930s. I was in my early teens and I can remember sitting on a bench with him in the garden and being fascinated with his knowledge of animals and birds.

Thanks to my mother, Mrs Tubb, Mrs Betty Clark, Mrs Macey, Mrs Foals, Mrs Sampson for the bulk of my text. And to Dr Hugh Pihlens for the loan of many slides and to Peter Bloodworth of Newbury for so excellently copying several photographs.

Dr Humphrey Hope