Mrs Becher’s Diary

Penny Bank, Slate Club, Mrs Spicer

The Penny Bank & the Slate Club were almost inseparable institutions. Originally a coal club had been started by Mr Ashley Spencer, (the Vicar) & this had gradually developed into the Penny Bank. When we came to Tylers Green in 1915 this was being carried on by Col Becher. Every Monday evening from 5-6, he went to the Parish Room laden with his huge ledgers & specially printed cards which cost a small fortune & which he paid for from his own purse. Interest was paid on the credit a/cs. Latterly the sale of War Saving Certificates had been part of the business. On Col Becher’s retirement, I took over the work & a few years later the Vicar, (now Rev Gerald Hayward) started a Parish Slate Club. Such clubs existed at most of the public houses, but only men were eligible & the paying of the weekly subscription meant the spending of money on drinks. A strong Church Committee was formed & women were eligible for membership on equal terms with men. Subscriptions were payable at the Parish Room from 6-7 p.m. The money was in many cases sent by the children who paid their savings into the Penny Bank at the same time. Gradually it was convenient to have the same time for both Clubs 5.30-7 p.m.

One evening, just after we opened, Mrs Long was attending to one or two customers & I was sitting idle. Mrs Spicer, (wife of Danger Spicer), came in, put down her basket & handed up her card. There was a £1 worth of silver in the bowl. Suddenly I saw her stretch out her arm, & seizing the money out of the bowl began to empty it into her bag. Mr Long rose to his feet, retrieved the coins and ordered her out of the Room.

There seemed likely to be a fight & I could not stand by and see a woman roughly handled by a man, so I hastily intervened. It was obvious that the woman was having a brain storm & was temporarily out of her mind – her face was scarlet and her eyes were curiously bright – I took her arm and firmly told her that she had left her umbrella up at my house & we must go and fetch it. After some hesitation I persuaded her to come with me.  Mr Long had a dangerous look on his face & was covering the money bowls like a man guarding a priceless treasure from a crafty enemy. Thinking that I might have trouble with her, I signalled to a man to follow us up the road – I kept telling her about her umbrella which we were going to fetch & she came with me quite quietly to Pitlundie, the storm had passed and she accepted the offer of a car ride home & seemed to be herself once more.

The Bucks Enquiry

‘I don’t see why I should do Mrs Dunn’s spring cleaning for nothing’ – idle words spoken by a Girl Guide were responsible for an Enquiry held in London under Dame Helen Vaughan & the resignation of a very keen District Commissioner, etc, etc.

It had been agreed that a good test for the Housewife’s badge would be for a guide to turn out a room in a private house. Mrs Dunn had very kindly consented to allow the test to take place in her house. It happened that she was not very popular with one of the Guides & the fact that it was the season for Spring Cleaning, called forth the thoughtless remark. It was of course repeated & Mrs Holme, Sec to the Guide’s Committee told a fib with the object of covering up the episode. Somehow it all came out and grew in importance & the Chairman considered that as truthfulness was essential to the Girl Guide movement, it was necessary for Mrs Holme to resign. She agreed to do this & a Committee Meeting was called to which the D.C., Mrs Eyre, was asked to be present and receive the resignation.

At the meeting, Mrs Holme refused point blank to resign & made it all very difficult. Mrs Eyre unfortunately lost her temper & asked for the resignation. It was all very painful and not a little awkward.

We felt that we were due an apology from Mrs Eyre, who feeling thoroughly ashamed of herself gladly offered to do this & a meeting was called to accept the apology.  Very few of the Committee turned up, but all went as planned. Mrs Holme meanwhile appealed to influential friends & this caused many Committee members to stay away. Still the matter grew & Lord Dawson of Penn, & Mrs Elliott, (wife of the Bishop), took up the cudgels on behalf of Mrs Holme. The Vicar also threw in his weight on her side – he was not fond of Mrs Cuthbert, our Chairman & she was not one of his Parishioners.

Another G.G. Committee was called & without asking our consent or approval Lord Dawson appeared and calmly took the Chair. He asked us individually, (one after the other), Mrs Holme being present, whether we wished her to resign. Fear and awkwardness made most of those present reply indefinitely. I replied that my views had not changed & that I had no intention of discussing private G Guide affairs when an outsider was present.

The meeting proved unsatisfactory & Lord Dawson threatened Police Court Proceedings – the charge being defamation of character or libel against all members of the Committee.

Spending some hours of a lovely sunny day in Kings Wood, there came to me a complete solution to the problem. That evening I offered to go and see Lord Dawson – I explained my scheme to him & added that I was perhaps the only person who could approach ~ the Committee & that if he persuaded Mrs Holme to accept the conditions, I thought that I could deal satisfactoriIy with the others.

He called it a machiavellian scheme & promised that if I succeeded, the matter would be closed & he would be satisfied. The suggestion proved acceptable to everyone & a meeting was called & everything went according to plan. I had a letter from Dawson corroborating his promise & all seemed well.

But apparently there were other interests at work. The bishop’s wife had a long felt grievance against Mrs Eyre, & Lord Dawson – in spite of his promise was not content to let the matter drop. Apparently things went on seething below the surface. More trouble was made & the next thing that I heard was that a Bucks Enquiry was to be held in London under the Chairmanship of Dame Ethel Vaughan.

Purposely, I feel certain, I was not invited to be present. It would have been awkward for one who was going to give evidence and my name was suppressed.

The result of the enquiry was the resignation of Mrs Eyre, the District Commissioner. It broke her heart for the time being, for her whole life was bound up in the Guide Movement. The shock may have been indirectly & in some small measure responsible for the death of the baby she was shortly expecting. Another result was the change-over of our local Guide Committee from Beaconsfield to the High Wycombe District.

Cherry Trees

There can be few sights more lovely in Tylers Green than the cherry trees in the spring. Single trees spreading their whiteness beside old brick cottages.   Great clouds of white in the orchards standing out against the blue of an April sky, the sun making the blossom a dazzling contrast to the fine black -. [illegible].

Across the fields in the distance, the wild cherries are like smudges of white over the distant woods. The cherry trees seem to be things of perpetual beauty. Gaunt and stark throughout the winter, the swelling buds in spring shroud the trees in a dusky rose colour.

The blossom is a magnificent sight. Trees in full bloom rioting like spray over the countryside ­festoons of glowing white tossing themselves against the blue or glistening like broken lines of surf against the rain clouds.

Lovely they are too in the evening when they reflect the colours of the setting sun and take on an unearthly beauty in the fading light.

The fruit comes early and is of great variety and colour from cream tinged with pink through rose colour, crimson and there is a variety which is almost black. In Autumn, when the first frosts come, these cherry trees of ours change colour quickly and stand out covered with tongues of scarlet flame all over the countryside.

Allan Freemantle

Said by some to be the best looking man in Tylers Green, Mr Freemantle is well known partly because of his eccentric personality: ‘for genius is to madness near allied & thin partitions do their bounds divide’ so wrote Pope and it is partly true of Allan Freemantle.

We are all familiar with the famous notice he put up in the post office.
“Lost, a soft man’s hat”.

Asked to subscribe the Sunday School Outing to the sea, he replied to me; ‘I am very much afraid your touching belief in my eventually becoming reasonable about the necessity of taking S.S. children to the seaside is likely to be disappointed once more. I cannot bring myself to abet the discharge of one more charabanc on to our much enduring south coast.’

I have another note regretting his inability to attend a meeting of the P.C. Council fixed for Feb 14th. ‘I am sorry to say I cannot be your Valentine today – or Mrs Haywards, as I am kept In with a cold.’

He and Mrs Freemantle are a familiar sight walking to the church. A few yards ahead of each other. [sic] – Nearly always late.

He undertook the reading of the lessons on one occasion, (he came alone to church), he fainted dead off at the lectern & it required six men to carry him out. On ringing up his wife to warn her of his arrival home she told me that he had eaten nothing for five days – just to see if he could do it and that she had refused to go to church with him as she was quite sure he would faint.

His tastes are literary and he is engaged in writing an exhaustive history of England in the 18th Century. His speeches at the ex-servicemens’ annual dinner are looked forward to for their humour and pithiness. His clothes look as if he had slept in them and where other men’s coat collars have a convex curve at the back of the neck, his curve downwards and he is never seen without his stick with its large silver knob.

Thin and regular, his bones seem to stick out but his back is as straight as the proverbial poker. Kindliness, friendliness and straightforwardness look out from his eyes, heavily fringed with dark lashes and there can be very few who can compete with his magnificent record of a double first at Oxford University.

Willie Luttman

Lines on the death of Willie Luttman, organist at Tylers Green, at the age of 55.

Willie, the humble spot where you began
to show your genius in the eyes of man
should surely add a laurel to the crown
which claims you great in musical renown!
Your youthful years with music were beguiled
and fortune, looking down on you, smiled
your young ambition father was to man
(I put it that way so that the Iine might scan!)
You made the most of your allotted span
A gift the gods give not to every man

Did you forgo the play of other boys
Did finger exercises take the place of toys
Did mother mind you making all that noise?
Did Wycombe feel no shame, ‘as you were seen
Each Sunday setting off for Tylers Green?

And so the promise of your early youth
Materialized before your wisdom tooth
A little boy of fourteen tender years
They picked you out to lord it o’er your peers
And chose you – full of musical desire
As organist and master of the choir.

So Tylers Green is proud to have the name
of being the nursery of your greater fame.

Footnote: From Mrs Becher’s history of St. Margaret’s Church.
1888 Mr. Willie Lewis Luttman, of High Wycombe.
(Appointed Organist and Choirmaster at the age of 14.  1888-1891)
M.A. Mus.Bac.(Cantab), F.R.C.O.,

Editor’s Note: (From Alumni Cantabrigienses)
LUTTMAN, WILLlE LEWIS. Adm. pens. at Peterhouse, Oct. 1, 1894.
[2nd] s. of Charles (Edwin), Esq., of High Wycombe. B. there Feb. 20, 1874.
School, Royal Grammar, High Wycombe.
Organist and choirmaster (age 14) at Tyler’s Green Parish Church, Bucks., 1888-91;
student at the Royal College of Music, 1891-3;
Organist and Choirmaster, Hughenden Parish Church, 1894.
Matric. Michs. 1894; Organ Scholar, 1894; B.A. 1897; M.A. 1901; Mus.B., 1903. F.R.C.O.; A.R.C.M. Organist at Banbury Parish Church, 1898-1907.
Organist at St Albans Cathedral, 1907-30. Conductor of the St Albans Bach Choir.
Served in the Great War, 1914-19 (Sub-Lieut., R.N.V.R.).
For the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the death of Dr Robert Fayrfax (organist of St Albans Abbey, 1498­-1502), he translated and adapted Fayrfax’s Albanus Mass. Composer, songs, anthems, services.
Resided at The Old Rectory, St Albans, where he died, Feb. 2, 1930.
(T. A. Walker, 631; Univ. War List; Schoolmasters’ Directories; Who was Who; The Times, Feb, 3, 1930,)

Mrs Winslow

Those who helped to run the jumble sales were familiar with Mrs Winslow – a well covered gaunt figure with a slight caste in her bespectacled eyes and a loud voice, who could be persuaded to buy almost anything and at the end of the sale, most accommodatingly looked over ‘the remains’ (at a small inclusive price’ and removed it to her ‘shop’ to be sold presumably as antiques.

The ‘shop’ was a messy looking shack on the edge of Kings Wood full of filthy junk with a large notice – “Tired, come in and rest”. Her window dressing was let us hope unique and on occasion loose green peas were arranged artistically round bars of strong smelling soap. She kept a library consisting of musty looking books picked up at jumble sales and the boys of the village were invited in to read them. I had the privilege of an entire afternoon in reading and the hospitality of the shop.

She sent an advertisement for insertion in the Parish Magazine in which she stated that her shop would be open on Sundays. This met with the stern disapproval of our brethren of the Wesleyan Reform and she was asked to amend her advertisements in accordance with the 4th Commandment.

Dora Brooke Clarke

Full, square faced, with its wrinkled skin deep coloured, blue eyes, breaking on occasion into an inscrutable smile – pernickety – her voice strong and deep with its genteel accent, fighting old age with a courage as amazing as it is pathetic.

Her art treasures in her antique shop are chosen with individual care and parted from with obvious regret. A tour of her shop shows them fingering them lovingly and it would be cruel to shew the slightest doubt of the genuineness in the face of the complete satisfaction. It is expected that purchases shall be taken away at once, as any packing is charged for.

Her hobby is the doing up of old collages and she had bought, restored and sold one or two before settling on antiques in the Old Manor House.

She had specialised in jewellery work and was a master silversmith.  In nursing a very dear friend, she contracted blood poisoning, lost the use of her thumb and was unable to carry on her craft.

Granny Rogers

Among our celebrities I must put Granny Rogers. Petticoats and on top of them a once black skirt, a circular cloak, now green and threadbare.

After knocking on the door with the stick she always carried, one would open it to find her standing with her back to it. A gentle reminder that one was ready to speak to her would make her start round exclaiming: ‘Oh dear, but you made me jump!’. Hard of hearing, with her blue eyes with the hurt look in them, would gaze up trustfully out of the dirty face with a childlike lack of understanding – and then she would laugh. She was always laughing when she came to see me, only her laugh was a cackle, I can call it nothing else.

Living alone in a filthy cottage, covered with running sores, her life must have been a misery and it was for old linen she made her periodical calls. It is hardly to be wondered at that she had estranged herself from her children, but her love and delight in her little granddaughter when her old face lit up with joy at the mention of her. Little Myrtle, she would always have it that the child was the image of herself.

Granny would always stand for a long time before she would cross a road. She would gaze in one direction only and then step off quite oblivious that traffic comes from both directions. Her manner of expressing herself was somewhat original, but she surpassed herself one morning by making reference to ‘the Minister’s woman’,

The paying of rates was too much of a difficulty for her and was responsible for her ejection on Armistice Day. She and her belongings were bundled out onto the Common – her feather bed was wrapped in a sheet. I should like it to go down to posterity that Mr & Mrs Henry Wheeler offered her a room in their own house – so shocked was he [were they] that at the very hour in which we were remembering before God her two sons killed in the Great War, their Mother should be turned out of her cottage, homeless and friendless. I was glad in the end that he was not called on to make this sacrifice.