You are in [Themes] [Reminiscences] [Oral History - Transcripts] [George Eatwell, Marjorie Cox and Marjorie Eatwell, Jul 1991]

Interview with George Eatwell, Marjorie Cox and Marjorie Eatwell by Pam Haseltine, 3, Coldharbour Road, Hungerford, 8th Jul 1991:

George Eatwell and Marjorie Cox are brother and sister. Marjorie Eatwell is their sister-in-law (she married Alfred Eatwell).

George was born in 1914 and his sister in 1920. They have both lived in Hungerford all their lives. Marjorie Eatwell was born in Eddington in 1915. They all think that the town has changed for the worse since they were born. They have taken all the historical bits away, changed the pub names, changed Church House into Croft Hall. They don't agree with it!

'The Borough' pub became 'The Tuttiman'. Beyond the pub is a row of houses where the policemen used to live but before they were built there was a row of very small houses where Mr. Hunter, the cobbler lived. He used to sit outside and mend the shoes in front of his cottage. He had a club foot.

Shops: There were lots of small individual shops. Going down the High St. on the west side there was:- Batt, the baker, opposite the 'Borough'; next a pub 'The Plough' where Mrs. Wilmot lived; Mr. Harris the baker where the launderette now is; The National School; Parsons the photographer, where Barclays Bank is. Previously Mr. Parsons had a shop in Bridge where Paravicini now is. Next, Adnams, the corn merchants; Alexanders the grocers, now the Arcade; Gingells, later Spackmans; Wren, hardware, later Nicol, now Supernews; after what is now the Courtyard there was a saddlers; next 'The Crown' pub; Freddie Barnard, fishmonger, now Razeys; the Misses Barnard, fruit and vegetables; R. S. James, newsagents; Bartholomew, undertaker and furniture.

After Church St. there was a private house where the James family lived; next the London Central Meat Co; Killicks, grocers; Alright, draper; International Stores, now the Co-op., previously the old Post Office; Ted Pratt, butcher with the slaughter house behind; Hawkins, cake shop; Mills, butcher; Bass, where Seconds now is; Cash and Co., shoes; W. H. Smith, newsagent; Banyard and Tyler, haberdashery and clothes, now Dobsons; Mr. Bushnell, the Registrar; a dentist where the 'Tutti Pole' now is.

Bridge Street. Wooldridge's yard and wharf; Charlie aid Freddie Low; Charlie was a Royal Academician and Freddie, who had a cleft palate, was a painter and decorator. This is now the silver shop; Trigg, a sweet shop; Bachelor, bric a brac, later Priest; Batt, barber, now Clifford; Methodist chapel; Town Mill; Rumbal's, butcher, later Mills; Freemans (2 sisters) fishing tackle; Chivers, bicycles; Taylor, chemist; Clements, watchmaker and jeweller, next to the Dun Bridge; Tommy Fruen, undertaker and china shop

Charnham Street, south side. Bear Hotel; Stradlings garage, Bennett's yard. North side. The 'Sun' pub; gas works; Mrs. Cox's father worked at the gas works for 18 years. He was also the street lamplighter; Ernie Howe, now Unwin and Davies. He had brick-a-brac outside on the pavement; Stares Fish & Chip shop; Prouts, later Budgesses; Len Hibberd, rag and bone; Jessetts bakers, (The Thatched cottage); Mr ? who sold kindling wood; Stradlings cycle shop and oil; Wesleyan chapel; 3 cottages; 'Red Lion', now 'Toad and Trout' the unemployment office, Mr. Honeybone; Charlie May, cycles. Charlie used to live in a cottage at Eddington and would hire out cycles at 3d and 6d an hour in the 1920s. This was how the young learnt to ride.

Charnham Street, South side. Gibbons forge and iron foundry, now Stirlands garage; the manse for Primitive Methodists; The fire station; Freddie Brooks, shoe repairer, later Bill Barnes. Freddie served through a hatch at the side of his house; Dr. James, Riverside. This was previously a tannery. In the 1950s the back garden was laid out in the squares of the vats; two small cottages; International Stores, before they moved up to the High Street. Now the War Memorial; the forge, Mr. Caswell. This was all marshland and liable to flood if people did not attend to the hatches in time in wet weather, 'John of Gaunt'; private house, Mr. Andrews, 'Barley Mow' . All the land behind here was water meadow; Beards, coal merchant; The Malt House, lived in by Mr. Burrard. He was a gunsmith and adviser to the Home Office on ballistics; Bridge House, Mr. Astley. He was Town Clerk 1889 to 1936; College House, Bed and Breakfast lodging. It was previously a girls private school. (N.B. Miss Hitchens also had a private school on the west side of the High Street). Munfords, printers; a dentist; Earle's Stores, later Lipton's, grocers; Council offices; post office; Bingham's chemist; Elsie Tyler, haberdashery; fish and chip shop, later a grocers, now Inklings; Manor House, doctors' surgery, now Gateways; Alexanders, now a flower shop; Banks; 'Three Swans' and 'Swan' tap; Culper, butcher; dentist; Park Street. The 'Plume'; Bodman's, drapers, where you got your small change in pins. Now antiques; the 'Craven Arms'; Chivers sweet shop, later Alcock's sweet shop; Clifford's shoe shop; Harry Hawkes, barber; Neate's office - The Laurels. Neates came to Hungerford after the Hoflands left. Hofland used to have Eddington Mill; Dr. Barker at The Bower House; Peachey's flower shop, now Pemberton and Somerville; some residential houses; Macklin's dairy; Con Wilkins, hardware and paraffin, later Marie, hairdresser, now Autoparts; Peachey's dairy; The 'Borough Arms'..

There was main drainage only in the bigger houses in the main streets. Before World War I there were privies in the gardens of the smaller houses in the side streets. The same applied to the water supply. Most houses had their own well. There were open gutters in the streets. Children used to put their toy boats in the gutters and race down the High St. to see who won. Council refuse collection started only after world war II. Refuse used to be buried in the gardens. Before World War II everyone who could kept their own pig and chickens and provided themselves with 90% of their fresh vegetables. Everything was ploughed back into the garden - there was no artificial manure.

Street lighting was by gas originally. It changed to electricity after World War II. Originally one had to pay to be connected to the mains electricity. Later on it became universal.

Most streets were dirt roads with water carts to lay the dust. They seemed to have far more dry summers in the 1920s. The seasons formed a more regular pattern then than now. You could put your winter clothes away at Whitsun until September. You always had snow at Christmas. The canal used to freeze over.. No boats used the canal in the 1920s and there was a lot more vegetation growing in it. They used to have water sports on the canal during carnival week - greasy pole, pillow fights, swimming for the children. The canal was not so polluted.

The Town and Manor Trustees used to do a lot for the community and organise a lot of entertainment before World War II. Apart from the carnival there was Whit Monday sports and entertainment on the common, with horse racing, cycle racing and games. It invariably rained that weekend but nobody bothered. Marjorie Eatwell has photographs of Bridge St. and Charnham St. completely flooded one Whitsun.

There were also the Michaelmas fairs in October right down the High St. Mr. Edwards had permission to bring his fair to the High St. because he was born in a caravan in the town. No other fair man had this right, so when he died the fairs stopped. The fairs were originally in the Croft before coming to the High St.

There were also cattle markets in the High St. These stopped during World War II; also the produce market in the corn exchange stopped with the war; also a fruit and vegetable market in Church St. where the chapel was. This used to be held every Wednesday

Before the war Hungerford was really a large village and a very close-knit community. Everyone took an interest in the cricket and football teams. The rag and bone man used to come up the street ringing his bell. The poorer families used to live on rabbit and they would sell the skins to him for 6d. He would give the children a toy monkey on a stick or a goldfish in a glass bowl (not a plastic bag as used today!) The muffin man used to come with a tray of hot muffins on his head. There was also the 'stop me and buy one' ice cream man on his tricycle and the faggots and peas man. Everyone was very friendly before the war and during the war and ready to help everyone else. Now things seem to be more distant and less friendly.

Employment. There was very little unemployment. A large proportion worked on the farms. Others were employed as shop assistants or errand boys or servants and grooms in the bigger houses. At harvest time all the youngsters used to go out in the fields and help, also at strawberry picking time. Money wasn't much but people wars just as happy. Most villagers had gardens or allotments where they could grow their own vegetables and possibly keep a pig. Now the gardens have been largely built over. They were the good old days when you made your own fun. You could go to bed and leave the door unlocked - no vandals. The children used to play 5 stones and with hoops and tops in the High St. and hopscotch. Cigarette card swopping was popular. Now it is all vandalism.

Police. There was an inspector living at the police station and relays of police on different shifts. They used to walk about the town and were well known. They were all right if you kept in with them, said George! There was also a large contingent of special constables, an aftermath of World War I. They weren't disbanded until after World War II.

Railway. There were many more trains. The milk train used to go up early in the morning with the milk churns and tanks of live trout from the fishery. The newspaper would come down from London by rail. The school children went to Newbury on the 8.30 a.m. and the business men on the 9.00 a.m. The trains ran about every half hour and stopped at every station, except the "through" trains which stopped only at Newbury, Reading and London. The return to Reading was 2/6 and to London was 12/6.

The town clock used to strike all through the night but some people complained so it was stopped between 10.00 p.m. and 6.00 a.m. Mr. Clements the watchmaker used to look after the Town Hall clock. The old fire bell is still at the Town Hall and is rung on Tutti Day. It was a very interesting town -a rural market town.

Voluntary Organisations. The Eatwells belonged to the Christian Endeavour Youth Club run by Miss Gosling. There was also a Girls Friendly Society run by Miss Franks. Marjorie Eatwell was a guide when Marjorie Platt was guide commissioner. (The Platts lived in the Priory) All round Priory Road was then woods and fields. Margaret and Gwen Nicol were also guide leaders at the time. The Girls Club was run by a couple of the school teachers. They used to have to do an hour's sewing then have an hour's recreation. During the recreation period they used to do some dancing and Marjorie Eatwell got roped in to play the piano. Marjorie Eatwell belonged to the W.I. for a time and George was in the LDV (Local Defence Volunteers - Look, Duck and Vanish!). Later he was in the Auxiliary Fire Service then worked on a farm for the rest of the war. Marjorie Eatwell's father was in the fire brigade and became Station Officer.

There were whist drives in the Corn Exchange every week, organised either by the Fire Brigade or the Conservative Association, which was very strong in Hungerford before the war. There were dances in the Corn Exchange at Christmas and Harvest. There were also socials and dances every week in Croft Hall, but TV has killed all that. There were also films in the Town Hall 3 nights a week - Thursday, Friday and Saturday - also Saturday afternoon when Ivy Giles and later Miss Bell played the piano accompaniment.

As far as the children were concerned there was no transport. They all had to walk to school. They used to come in from Leverton, Standen, Anvilles, Chilton Foliat etc. From Eddington they could walk back to lunch. May Pearce used to walk in to Sally Richen's private school from Chilton Foliat. Sometimes she got a lift back with the milk cart. No school meals were provided.

Schools There was the state primary school for children from 5 to 14. Miss Richens had a private school for girls. The Wesleyan school in Church St. was co-educational.

Eddington. This was a complete self-contained village before the war and in the 1920s. It had a grocer, a shoe mender (Freddie Brooks), a blacksmith, a carpenter, a mill, a post office, a baker, an off licence and 2 small pubs. The only thing you had to come in to Hungerford for was fruit and clothes

Church and chapel. The Eatwells were Wesleyans and they used to have to go to services in chapel 3 times on Sundays. They used to call the Wesleyan chapel the Eatwell chapel because so many of the family went to it. There was a vicar and a curate for the church and a Salvation Army chaplain. The curate from Eddington also served Newtown. In the 1920s it was Bob Denning. He was a great sportsman and played football and cricket. Rev. Gotto was curate at Eddington. St Saviour's at Eddington deteriorated so badly that they had to close it. Eventually it was sold in the late 1970s and it is now a private house

Marjorie Eatwell was a Nursing Superintendent in the St. John's Ambulance. Her husband organised the blood donor service. The number of donors rose from 8 to 200 during his term. The organisation had to be transferred from St. John's HQ to Croft Hall due to lack of space. George's second brother, Ed was the father of Geoff and Liz (Cable). There are several Eatwells in Hungerford but they are not related. It is an old name that dates back to pre-Domesday. It originated in Derbyshire as Ettwell. They are spread all over the Commonwealth. Marjorie Eatwell's maiden name was Willis.

See also:

- Oral History / Audio Archives