You are in [Themes] [Reminiscences] [Oral History - Transcripts] [Joan Macey, May 1991]

Interview with Joan Macey (by Pam Haseltine), 100 High Street, 7 May 1991

Joan's maiden name was Macklin. She was born in Hungerford. The house no longer exists but Macklin Close off Fairview Road is named after her family. She went to the Infants and Junior schools in Fairview Road and then went on to Newbury County Girls School. She left school in 1939 and taught for a year at Longworth, then went to Teacher Training College. She got married in 1942.

Hungerford in the 1920s was a quiet market town. No traffic problems. No one had heard of Hungerford (it is now well known after the 1987 tragedy). There were fields at the end of Church Street. Prospect Road and Fairview Road were known as the 'Back Ways'. Park Street was sometimes called Cow Lane. Priory Road wasn't built up. The Priory (now flats) was there - a private house lived in by Platt, the brewer. Macklin Close and the land opposite the Catholic church were fields growing swedes, turnips, corn or hay. Mr. Macklin grew barley on the land which is now Atherton Crescent - there was a record barley crop in 1906. The roads were very dusty. On a Thursday afternoon - early closing - the water carts would come round and lay the dust. There were various standpipes along the roads. There was a water trough for cattle and horses on the common near the Down Gate. Joan's grandfather lived where Marie's, the hairdresser's shop now is. On the tree outside there was an iron ring that they used to tie the horses to. It has now gone. During the summer the men used to drive their horses and carts into the river by Eddington Bridge. This watered the horses and soaked the wooden wheels so that they expanded and fitted more closely into their iron rims. Her grandfather grew corn on a field near the waterworks at the southern end of Church Way. The field went right down to the fir trees which are still there today. Mains electricity was put into Joan's house in the High Street about 1930. The installation, which included lights in every room and a socket cost about £5- Before that they had. gas lamps and candles. As far back as Joan can remember, there was always main drainage and mains water


The first Headmaster that Joan remembered was Major Attewell MC. He was also captain of the volunteer fire brigade. The brigade was all volunteer and operated from Charnham Street from 1892 (where The Fireplace is today) Before that it was based for a very short time in the Brewery Yard (Everland Road, behind Gateways), as Mr. Platt the brewer offered accommodation. After about 2 .years the Brewery was sold without any warning and the fire brigade had to find new accommodation. At the annual Fire Brigade dinner they launched an appeal and very quickly raised enough money to establish the HQ in Charnham Street. They raised money for everything - engine -equipment - uniform etc. and were entirely self supporting and voluntary.

The engine was horse drawn. About 1900 there were plenty of horses available at livery but by about 1910 livery horses were becoming scarce and farmers' horses were in use on the farms. By 1910 the brigade acquired a steam driven engine and pump until 1924 when a Leyland petrol driven engine was bought. Major Attewell claimed that the steam driven engine started more fires than it quenched as the sparks from the steam engine ignited the surrounding material. The fire station moved to its present site in Church St. in 1968. The voluntary brigade was absorbed into the National Fire Service at the beginning of the last war and now the firemen are paid. The original volunteer fire brigade was founded in 1892 so it lasted exactly 50 years. Mr. Camborne, the first Headmaster of the school in 1910 made the Roll of Honour which is placed on the stairs up to the Town Hall.


The boys played football and cricket and the girls netball and rounders and stool ball (this was similar to rounders). Swimming was in the Kennet which Joan always found freezing. It was compulsory at school. There were changing huts near the river, which have now gone. There used to be water sports on the canal - swimming races and the greasy pole competition. In the winter the canal would often freeze over and the children would skate or slide on it. The canal was not fully navigable to boats until cleared in 1974. People also used to swim near Marsh Lock and in Ash Pool in the river Dun on the marsh.

The school gave elaborately costumed concerts at the Corn Exchange - the costumes all being home made largely from coloured crepe paper. There was dancing on the Vicarage lawn round the maypole at the church fete and on May Day the girls in school used to have their own miniature maypole - rather like a tutti pole. There were Free Forester sports on Whit Monday on the New Common. These were quite elaborate with horse races eta. They were probably stopped by the 2nd World. War.

Children's games had seasons. The games were mainly tops - hoops - five stones - skipping, all on the pavements, even on the road or in the old school yard in the High Street. When the new state school was built in Fairview Rd. the High Street building was still used for woodwork and cooking. There was a small building in Fairview Rd. for 'Mixed infants' and a larger building for the rest of the school with separate entrances for boys and girls. They were taught together in class but were not allowed to play together. The school age was from 5 to 14. The marsh and the common were favourite haunts for children where they could go alone in those days.

The population of Hungerford in the 1930s was about 3000. The main occupations were agricultural labourers, brewery, police. There were many policemen on the beat - all well-known to the inhabitants. The row of policemen's houses was built at the south end of the High Street, on the east side, beyond the 'Tutti Man'.


There was a public library open one evening a week when a member of staff from the school was on duty. At one time it was in Church Lane, then in the High St. and later in the 'High and Mighty' school house in the High Street. There was also a paying lending library in W.H. Smith's (where Martin's is now). Fred Barnard had a fish shop next to the Corn Exchange and his sisters ran a 'gift shop, circulating library, stationers and tobacconist' next door. The shops would be open till eight or nine at night on Saturdays


Alexanders and Gingells (grocers) Higgs, Killicks. Nicols (hardware), where the Hungerford Wine shop is now. Two chemists, Binghams and Taylors in Bridge St. One forge in Hungerford and another in Eddington The Red Stores - a mini Woolworths

There used to be many spectators at football and cricket matches because the teams were local. Today not many people go to watch because they do not know the players. Pre-war there used to be a 6-a-side tournament which brought clubs from all over the place - usually on Easter Monday. Sport was a much more important part of village life than it is today. After all, there wasn't much else to do - no television. There was a cinema. In the silent days it was at the Corn Exchange and then in 1934 it moved to a purpose-built building in Church Way. This finally closed in 1972 and was demolished in 1974-, making way for the houses in Regent Close


There was a pretty big station with large coal sheds and sidings for the coal trucks. The service was good as before Beeching there were many small lines going to all sorts of places in the area. There was also a good service for the children going to and from the Newbury grammar schools. There were also private carriers. Mr. Giles was the carrier. He would take your shopping list to Newbury on a Thursday (Market day) and buy anything for you. They would also take passengers. Mr. Giles was Freda Horwood's father and her grandfather before that was the carrier.


St. Lawrence's St. Saviours Congregational (URC) Wesleyan (now gone. It was where the Squash Club now is) Primitive Methodists and the Mission Hall (opposite Atherton Crescent - Church Army). The Catholics used to meet above Bibi Antiques in Church St. and they also went to Inglewood.

Joan doesn't remember any water pumps along the Bath Road for watering the horses (as are found east of Reading) but there were standpipes in the High Street for laying the dust until the war.


These were only at St. Saviours. Joan couldn't remember any at St. Lawrences. There was no cremation pre-war in the country areas. There were two different vicars at the two different churches. The Rev. Denning at St. Saviours was a great cricketer. He was also chaplain to the Norland Nursery Training College.


Joan remembers the hospital as a functional council workhouse. The children used to walk up to the school in Fairview Road in their workhouse uniform. The men were given the job of chopping wood to make small bundles of kindling wood for everyone's fires. Later the workhouse was turned into a geriatric home.

Harvest Time:

We used to take large churns of 'Salisbury Beer' - non-alcoholic - similar to ginger beer, to Harvest Festival. Harvest festivals in church were much more elaborate than they are now. On the Monday after there was an auction of all the harvest gifts - largely the people who had given them bought them back again and the proceeds were given to charity - probably the church! Possibly some of the things were taken up to the workhouse. On Tutti Day tobacco was taken up to the workhouse for the men and oranges for the women.

Toc H:

Joan's father was a member. It was formed after the first world war in memory of Gilbert Talbot. At All Hallows by the Tower in London there is a Toc H Chapel, whose well known chaplain for many years was Tubby Clayton. It was a kind of social club for ex-service people. In Hungerford they used to meet at the old library but it ceased to function with the 2nd world war.

In the Croft there was a croquet lawn near Church House, also bowls and tennis. The Misses Alexander used to play croquet in their long black dresses. There was also another tennis club in Priory Road, almost opposite the Catholic Church. This was a non-conformist tennis club. There was quite a difference between the congregations of the two churches. There were cricket teas every Saturday when Joan helped Mrs Rogers, the Guide Captain, with teas. There was a 9-hole golf course on the common for a short time. Commoners used their fishing and shooting rights much more than they do now. There weren't so many other distractions and the trophies were free for the larder. Neates had a produce and plants auction market in the Corn Exchange every Wednesday. The livestock (poultry, rabbits etc.) was out at the back where the car parks are now. Later they moved to Neates salerooms in Church Street, next to the fire station. They tried to revive a produce auction in the Corn Exchange in the 1970s but it became a market for dealers rather than individuals where you were expected to buy in bulk, so it gradually faded out. Thursday was early closing day and that really meant that all the shops closed. To Joan early closing day meant trips around the town in the waggonette to see relatives. This was exciting for children. The firebell is still rung on the Friday after Tutti Day to summon the office holders to the Court Leet. That is music to Joan's ears. She still loves to hear it. The firebell was in the Town Hall and until the installation of electric bells in firemen's houses it was the only means of summoning the firemen to duty. After the last war the bell was replaced for a time by a siren, then by the electric bells and now by the bleep system. Hungerford volunteer fire brigade went to a lot of south coast towns during the blitz on an open engine and often in freezing conditions. They did a marvellous job. Originally the engine had solid tyres. The old steam fire engine was alerted sometimes during the 1st World War when zeppelins were in the area.

Michaelmas Fairs:

There were Michaelmas fairs which were really great events. They were held in the High Street with roundabouts and numerous stalls. They had football on Easter Monday, May Day celebrations, Whitsun sports and Michaelmas fairs - two in October - the Wednesday before 11th October and the Wednesday after. The first was the big one. Marlborough still have their fair. we don't which Joan regrets. Ours was stopped because the increase in traffic meant that the High Street could not be closed. We also had Carnival where there were much bigger processions that there are now - several fire engines - houses were decorated - floats - little lights were strung across the river by the war memorial

The Common:

Floppy New loved the common. He was a Hay Ward, looking after the common. The Hay Ward used to come on Saturdays with a match box full of moles tails which he had collected and he would be paid Id. a tail. Now the common is used for cattle grazing but pre war there might have been 20 horses. Lewington, the coal merchant had several large piebald and skewbald cart horses which used to graze on the common and it could be quite frightening if a dog »et them off galloping. A boy was killed on the football ground by the horses. The wild flowers were something that Joan remembered. Interest in these was encouraged, particularly by her teacher, Miss Cherry Langdon at Newbury. They used to pick them and press them. You could also go birds nesting and collect eggs

The children who went to school in Newbury were always disciplined and well-behaved. They always had to sit in the same carriages in the trains, with the same people and always wore uniform - gym slips. Sunday school anniversaries were popular, particularly between the Congregationalists and the Methodists. Joan and Donald were married in the Congregational Church in 1942.

See also:

- Oral History / Audio Archives