You are in [Themes] [Hungerford 1900-1920]

A series of articles in the Newbury Weekly News was written by "Jimmy" - who had evidently lived in Hungerford before the First World War, but had been in Truro for forty years. He wrote them under the banner "Some Hungerford afterthoughts".

They provide a wonderful insight into the characters, activities and life in Hungerford in the first two decades of the 20th century:

Article 1 - August 1963:

I have to head my column like this- it brings back memories of the Hungerford notes in the Football Chronicle to which we used to await so eagerly on a Saturday night. Of which I sold many a quire. Memories of Felix Powell (famed composer of "Pack Up Your Troubles "), then mine host at the Plume Hotel, and great patron of the "Whites" v the "Canaries." Yet again before him at the same hotel, E. E. ParIby, ex-champion cyclist of the world.

And now I am hundreds of miles away and 40 years on, but still I like to study the Hungerford news week after week in the good old N.W.N. and note who is still who and what's where. But - as the song truly says-" Fings Ain't Wot They Used To Be.'

March to school

So here goes - and I'll bet there are still a few around who can join me in these memories. Such as the day when the two rival schools (National and Wesleyan) had to unite and march as one up to the new big school on the hill in 1910, with (the then much detested) Mr. Camburn as headmaster. One of the old school, but what a stern disciplinarian, and yet what a first- class schoolmaster. Remember his reading out the war reports every morning during the First World War, from the columns of the old Daily News. And who, among her old pupils, will ever forget “Betty Winkworth" and Miss Piggott?

Then the Hungerford tradesmen. Remember Richard Bass, so familiarly known as “Dirty Dick?". When things were in short supply during the first war, Dickie Bass could always get margarine and matches. And no favourite customers. When supplies came in they were pitched into the window and it was a case of first come first served.

Penny hot drinks

And Jessett’s fish and chip shop at the start of Borden Carriage. What a dither he used to get into when he had a rush of customers in the shop. Then there were Ern and Fanny Hawkins in the High Street. Always popular with the boys for their hot drinks (1d. a glass) in the winter.

And what Hungerfordian will ever forget Fred Barnard the fishmonger. How many local boys over the years did their stint as errand boys for him?

Which of course brings me to the Corn Exchange next door. What a genial character was old Edward Bushnell the Town Crier, caretaker-cum-cinema manager and what have you. Those were the days when Newbury's great character, Jimmy Tufnail, ran the Hungerford Cinema, and the present-day showmen had nothing on Jimmy when it came to enterprise and showmanship.

Many a time have they shown the film of a big fish, boat race and Derby in Newbury, whipped it down to Hungerford on the last train, where yours truly (then a screen struck schoolboy in shorts) ran all the way to the Corn Exchange so that it might be screened as the last item in the evening's entertainment.

Fair cavalcade

Then what about the annual Michaelmas Fairs? How eagerly we used to await the arrival of Henry Jennings cavalcade drawn by “Big John” and “Little Jim”.

I can still retain vivid memories of the boxing booth outside Mapson’s shop, with Mrs. Beckett in charge, calling one and all to come and see "Joe Beckett, the champion of the South of England”. Little did we realise that he was within a few short years to attain national status.

Then, occasionally we had a fair in the Croft as well - much to the annoyance of the residents in that area. Who can remember Baker's "Sea On Land!" in the Croft when things went wrong one night and they could not stop the machine and the whole fair had to close down for the night?

Which of course, brings me to Smallbone’s Meadow opposite the railway station. There we used to get the odd fair. It was here I saw my first moving pictures. Projected from a caravan on to a large sheet and widely advertised as "Come and See the Living Pictures." This field was also a favourite rendezvous for the travelling "fit-up" portable theatre. How we used to enjoy "Maria Marten," “East Lynne" and the like. Not to mention the inevitable closing farce each night with such “tit-bitty” titles as “Never send your Wife to Kintbury” or “The Man from Ramsbury who had never seen a woman".

Notabilities at Church

On to more serious memories. There was George Tubb, the worthy churchwarden at the Parish Church who used to keep us boys in order in the back rows. There we sat - more or less demurely - while we watched the local notabilites arrive for divine service - Major Portal from Eddington House (where I first saw an aeroplane land - no need to ask where Lord Portal got his early taste for aviation) and George Platt from Priory House. the numerous King family from Folly Farm and the Hiddens. And there must still be living plenty who will remember the Rev. T. S. Gray and his active curate, the Rev. Naters.

Article 2 - NWN 22 August 1963:

So summer is with us again - or am I being too optimistic? Whatever it is, the summers are certainly not like those happy (sometimes) carefree (always summer days of our youth. Yes, looking back over the years, Hungerford was not a bad place to spend a lazy summer holiday. Plenty of fresh air, open spaces and lovely country walks.

I never saw the sea until I was 18 because we were too poor, and now I live in a spot where the poorest child - and there aren't many of those nowadays - can walk to the nearest beach, but I am sure they do not appreciate it like we would have done in our younger days.

Sunday School Treats

The highlight of our summer at Hungerford was the annual Sunday school treat to Baydon Oak in Savernake Forest. How we tumbled up into Adnams' farm carts (with fresh clean straw laid on the floor) and sang lustily all the way "We're off to Savernake Forest, so Hip­-Hip-Hip Hooray." And what a thrill when the Sunday School moved with the times and the faithful horse-drawn transport was replaced by Harding's steam engine. I always remember there was not much singing coming home at night. We were all too tired.

Then of course the Common was every Hungerford child's Mecca in the summer. Get mother to pack a few cakes plus a bottle of Champ's pop (remember Champ's mineral water factory in the High Street, and Billy, son of the owner, in his blue overall ?) and we were every bit as happy on our day out as any kids at the seaside. Besides, for us bigger boys there was always the chance that we might earn a shilling (what untold wealth) by carrying golf clubs for one of the many visitors who liked to have their usual round of golf on the Hungerford course.

Golf Course Dances

Now I believe even the golf course has gone into the limbo of the past. Little did the worthy members of the Hungerford Golf Club know that many of us Hungerford boys learnt to dance on their greens on a Sun­day morning, with the aid of a gramophone. We always had to keep a watchful eye open for Mr. Huntley, the cowkeeper who had an unpleasant habit of chasing us boys away and-as he usually had a formidable whip in his hand - we lost no time in making ourselves scarce. No standing our ground to cheek him, or' worse, ganging to­gether to "beat him up" like present day youth. We were in the wrong and we knew it, so we went in double quick time.

Many still living will remember when they used to have the Regular Army camps on the common during summer manoeuvres prior to the 1914-18 war.

Then there were the visiting evangelists with their tents and "camp meetings," as they called them.

To say nothing of the odd circus that was graciously permitted to pitch on the Common. Who can remember "Wild Australia" and Bostock and Wombwell's Menagerie"?

Band Concerts

Another tit-bit for our delectation on a summer Sunday evening was when Hungerford Town Band used to render a programme of music just beyond the Down Gate. Remember Joe Vincent, the then bandmaster, with his tapping the music stand and his usual phrase "come on, you chaps"? Memories of "La Rinka," "Destiny!' and so so. Every time I hear one of these old favourites on the radio it takes me back 40 years ago. I wonder if they will still sentimentally recall "Loub-de-loub" and "Bobby's Girl" in 40 years' time?

Another attraction for those boys interested was taking a snack and having a day out on the seat by the cow bridge to collect railway engine
numbers. And what a haul we had in the summer time with all the extra trains! Another field day (or days) was just after the declaration of the
first World War when trainload after trainload of men going off to the war went through. Many of them, alas, never to return.

Summer Fun

For the boys, of course, the other great summer attraction was the Broad, and most Hungerford boys learnt to swim either here or the far­ away Piccadilly Lock. While I was never much for the water myself I could always have great fun in the old boat used by Mr. Lewis the waterkeeper-again so long as he did not catch us. As I sometimes sped through Hungerford on the "Cornish Riviera" express in the summer I am amazed to see that the opposite sex have now infiltrated the Broad bathing place. They would never have come within a mile of the place in our younger days as we never troubled about the niceties of wearing any costume. Also I observe the maior bathing place appears to be down by the Marsh Lock.

Which brings me to the occasion when we once caught some crayfish in Richen's stream, carried them carefully up to St. Lawrence's Church. took them up to belfry and left them crawling about on the table where the bellringers later gathered. I often wondered what those worthy campanologists
Withers, George Tubb and Tom Fruen thought about this effort - the naughtiest deeds done on a Sunday afternoon, you will observe!

Rides to Marlborough

One of my own pleasant memories of summer time at Hungerford was when I used to get a ride with the laundryman every Saturday in the horse-drawn van to Marlborough with Tommy Ward, who also ran the "Three Swans" tap, He was at the same time a stalwart of the town band and coming  up that long hill out of Marlborough every Saturday l used to be treated to hummings and "oom-pahings" of the latest pieces the band were learning.

Then there was another summer sensation one evening (for me at least) when a special train - yes actually a special train - br­ought a party of guests for a big "do" at Littlecote House. Not many county families would go to that expense nowadays, I guess. That was one time Mr. Dore (then the G.W.R. inspector) never caught me, as having pestered the engine driver (and I still remember the engine, "Prince of Wales" 4041) they let me have a ride to Newbury on the footplate, where they had to turn the engine round. With strict instructions to duck down going through Newbury station "in case any inspector might see you". That was  a thrill I shall never forget!

Walking to Newbury

Another favourite jaunt was walking along the canal to Newbury on a Saturday, visit the Newbury Cinema just outside the station (admission 2d. for children) then back home by train, half fare to Hungerford being 4½d. Not to mention a "must" for us boys was a visit to James Tufnail's "Penny Bazaar." He certainly anticipated Woolworth's by a good many years.

I always seemed to get enough cash for these trips by doing errands for Mr. Bushnell at the Corn Exchange, always my financial benefactor. And if he was ever absent, I could always depends on either of his sons Walt or Sydney to spring a few coppers. One Saturday  I remember I was doing this trip with a boy pal, Bill Townsin (remember their cafe in Faulkner (sic!) Square next to the Fire Station?) when we got just the other side of Kintbury and saw a fire in the distance. It turned out to be Irish Hill farm ablaze, and that day we certainly never got to Newbury.

Memories like these keep crowding in and time and space are so short, so here's to the next time.


Article 3 - NWN ?29 August 1963:

WHOA, WHOA!" Happy Hungerfordian. Give me a chance. I am glad to know you like my humble reminiscences, and I well remember all the people you mention, but I can hardly crowd all my memories into my first recollections. Added to which our Editor so frequently has the task of trying to squeeze a quart into a pint cup with topical news of local events that we must perforce take second place. Hence the breaks in continuity which I feel sure readers will understand.

On top of all this the writer is in business in a teeming holiday centre and the past few weeks have been too hectic for writing.
Now we can relax a bit, so here goes - and to start with I will give " Happy Hungerfordian " a few memories of the Shalbourne area.
Such as when Ivy Martin (then a strapping young country girl whose parents kept "The Royal Oak" at Bagshot) shocked all the villagers by turning out in trousers and biking to and from Hungerford every day with the papers. I wonder where she is now-and young Fred Hatton who succeeded her. Those were the days when a Mr. Muntz occupied Stype Grange and everyone was sure that, because of his name, he must be a German. I remember he was followed at this country house by a Mr. Spurrier, who, even in those days was supposed to. be "something in the motor trade” Yet another notability who has gone long way in the past 40 years.

Over the hills

Back in the early 20s we used to go right over Rivar Hills to Vernham Dean and Oxenwood with the papers, when the name of Clewett in the latter village meant something, and another name that sticks in my memory was Rev. Rhodes Hall, the then Vicar of Buttermere.
Then there was Col. Butler, of Standen Manor, who was the military representative at the tribunals during the first world war. I was too youthful to attract his attention myself, but I do recall that, at these tribunals, it was apparently his duty to try and get every available man into the armed forces. And what a shock it was to everybody in Hungerford when they even called up. Mr. E. S. GingelI, the High Street grocer, and he had to close his business down for the duration of the war. At least they ordered things a little bit different in the last war.

While my memories turn to the countryside around Hungerford there was Mr. Butler, of Kirby House, Inkpen, where my own grandmother was housekeeper for many years. Also I recall a Mr. Weston. of Totterdown House, an aristocratic gentleman of the old school of whom I still have a most vivid recollection.

Fire scare

Another popular country squire was Col. Walmsley. of Inglewood House. That was the day when a fire took place there and all the servants were seen running out of the house depositing various valuable pictures on the grass. Fortunately the Hungerford Fire Brigade (under the command of genial Ted Stevens) managed to get the fire under control and the house was saved. I seem to remember this gentleman was always the leading light at the yearly Earth Stoppers' Feast, held in the Hungerford Corn Exchange, and it was. the understood thing that he should give the gathering a song-and it was always his "party piece," "The Galloping Major." On those occasions there was always a huge bowl of punch placed on the tables, and more than once yours truly has taken a sly sip at this before it was taken in.

At other times Col. Walmsley graciously supplied the posies of flowers which adorned the tutti­poles at Hocktide and it was I who used to go out and bring same in for Mr. Edward Bushnell to decorate the poles.

Christmas band carols

Possibly the best loved of all the local gentry was Capt. Sawbridge, of Denford House. Many a Christmas have I trudged up there with the Hungerford Town Band who rendered a programme of carols while some of us boys held the lanterns so the bandsmen could read their music.
On one occasion when I was in the Scouts we had a clergyman come to Hungerford named the Rev. Lilley, a most corpulent cleric who (to us) seemed to weigh about 20 stone. He decided to take the Scout troop under his wing and got up some sort of band. One Sunday he betook himself and the Scout band to Denford House. and you can imagine the reception the party got with blaring bugles and big drum on a Sunday afternoon at a gentleman's country house. I recollect the air was somewhat chilly. A very funny episode on this particular outing was that the good reverend was so fat, the boys had literally to push him from behind up the long hill from the Bath Road.

Still at Denford House. later on when I was a paper boy, Mrs. Parsons (the gardener's wife) was always good for a bunch of flowers or filling my newsbag with apples during the season.

The "Big gun”

I suppose the really ”Big gun" of all the local gentry was Col. Ward, of Chilton House. I remember when King George V paid a visit there in 1912 soon after he had been crowned. What an event for Hungerford, and how the residents really “went to town" with the tasteful decorations, both private and public, Needless to say the weather was shocking, from the time His Majesty arrived and for practically all the week he was in residence at Chilton House. We boys and all the other local organisations were duly lined up at the station to salute the royal guest and how it rained. Needless to say the great event was filmed for posterity by none other than Newbury's Jimmy Tufnail. Enterprising as he always was, and I still have a cutting from the film after all these years. Sometimes I must get a frame blown up to see what I looked like in 1912.

First aeroplane

And now I must draw to a close for this week. I must thank readers for their kind letters of appreciation, and how good it was to see and hear of Bill Champ with his photo of the first aeroplane to land at Hungerford. Sometime I must look him up in Newbury, unless he looks me up first. Which reminds me, how pleasant to have had two or three callers this summer from the Hungerford and Newbury areas. We had a good old “natter" but unfortunately for not long enough. Anyhow here's to the next time.