DOWN MEMORY LANE – BY AN OLD INHABITANT
(Evelyn Clark, Shepherds Cottage Hammersley Lane 1981)
As an old inhabitant of Tylers Green who has lived in Hammersley Lane for 76 years, it has been suggested that I write down my reminiscences of the Rayners Estate and Village Life. I cannot write in flowing language but will endeavour to relate in simple words, some of my recollections, which will not fill a book, but I hope may be of interest to some of the younger generation.
My parents were both born at Holmer Green, and came from farming ancestors. Before coming to Tylers Green, my father, Crispin Winter, was employed as farm bailiff for over 20 years by the great grandfather of the present Lord Howe, and lived at Penn Bottom Farm (now a private house). During the time my parents lived there the late King Edward VII (then Prince of Wales) would on occasions come to shooting parties on the Penn Estate. The luncheons were held at the Farmhouse, and I have been told by my Mother this entailed a lot of work and preparation for all those concerned, she herself making 100 lbs. of butter one week. I have two photographs of groups taken in the garden, in one of which is King Edward VII (then Prince of Wales) and in the other King George V and Queen Mary (then Prince and Princess of Wales).
I came to live in Hammersley Lane in 1905, at 9 months old, when my Father took up duties as farm bailiff to the late Sir Philip Rose, and I have seen a lot of changes since then.
THE RAYNERS ESTATE
The farmhhouse, at which I spent my childhood days, was originally known as Colehatch Farm (now the Pastures Farm), and was a part of the Rayners Estate owned by Sir Philip Rose. The cowsheds, barn, piggeries and farmyard were situated where Hammersley Hatch now stands. The stables, harness room and dairy have been converted into separate living accommodation. Hilden Hall (formerly Colehatch House) was the country house of Sir Philip Rose’s heir who died of war wounds in 1917, prior to his father’s death in 1919.
The Rose family were very kind people and good to both villagers and staff. They were always treated with great respect and given a curtsy by the females, and caps lifted by the men. Some difference in today’s behaviour, when everyone of whatever station, seems to be addressed and referred to by their Christian names! They employed quite a large number of local people, as farm workers, gardeners and domestics. Soup and milk would be sent to the sick, and a maternity box was kept at Rayners for use by villagers if needed. Christmas presents were always given to each member of the staff, Lady Rose personally attending to the wrapping and labelling. Each year all gardeners and farm workers received a woollen cardigan. The first Christmas in their employ my parents were given a 40-piece bone china tea service, and I am proud to say I still have this in my possession. Sir Philip used to enjoy walking down to the Farm with his favourite bull-dog, “Bobs”, and showing his friends around the Estate. In his latter years he became glad of a rest, and many a time would sit in my Father’s armchair by the kitchen range, smoking his pipe and chatting.
My Mother attended to the Dairy and poultry, whilst my Father dealt with the cattle, sheep and cultivation. Children from the Village used to come daily to buy separated milk at ½d. per pint, and take it home in cans. Often, they would scoop the froth from the top, which resulted in less on arrival home, and many a time one or another would have a spill and come back to Mother for a second helping, free!! Christmas was quite a busy time, when the poultry had to be plucked and got ready. This took place in the harness room, when we all took a hand sitting round on the benches, getting smothered in feathers, and sometimes ending up a bit “itchy”. Two carters lived at Winchmore Hill, and had to walk to and from work each day, and do a hard day’s work in between. But no complaints!! One difference in today’s mode of travel!!
Life on the farm in those days was far removed from present standards; lighting by oil lamps, well water pumped by hand to sinks and heated in coal fired coppers for washing up purposes, baths, cleaning of the dairy, etc. No detergents, just a handful of washing soda. Nothing mechanical was in use, with the exception of a stationary steam engine in the engine room, which drove the apparatus for grinding corn and threshing. The ploughing was done by hand ploughs with horses, and all transporting was by horse drawn waggons and carts. Sir Philip was always interested in trying out anything new on the Farm, and I remember an occasion when an artificial manure was tested in one field, and farm manure in the other. Needless to say the crop grown on the “muck” was much more prolific than the other. I guess my Father put in a liberal dressing as he was a great believer in the real article!
The gardens of Rayners were always kept extremely tidy, and once a week the mile long tree lined drive running from the House down to the Loudwater Lodge, had to be swept. This was the route taken by Queen Victoria when she visited Disraeli’s tomb at Hughenden, exactly 100 years ago this April. It is also 100 years since my parents were married, their wedding day being 5 days before Disraeli’s death.
The Rose family were Church of England, but on Sir Philip’ s marriage he turned R.C. to his wife’s faith, and had a private chapel made in Rayners. A visiting priest used to come each Sunday morning to give Mass, walking up the long drive from Loudwater.
Sir Philip’s heir was a keen cricketer, and used to get up his own team, sometimes playing against the local team, the pitch being on the site now used by the children at Rayners as playing fields. My father and brother used to play in these matches and they wore pink caps on which were embroidered a white rose. I kept my Father’s until the moths got the better of it!!
A large staff was kept at Rayners. On a few occasions when dinner parties were given, I was allowed to go up and peep through the green baize doors, by the butler’s pantry, to watch the guests going into the dining room. The housekeeper’s room was always a place of interest to me as a child, and when I was asked to tea, she produced some very nice cake, also her bread and butter “always tasted better than that I had at home”. A childish fantasy, of course, the butter being exactly the same, as it was made by my mother. The sewing rooms in the basement were always quite busy, and during the First World War a lot of knitting was done for the soldiers, and sent to the Front. A pump for drinking water was situated near the tradesmens’ entrance at Rayners, and villagers used to go and fetch water from it whenever they wished or when their own rain water supplies ran dry.
I remember on King George V and Queen Mary’ s Coronation Day, June, 1911, a firework display was given by Sir Philip Rose in the grounds of Rayners. The gardens were prettily decorated with fairy lights, being night-lights in little coloured glass containers. I still possess the Coronation Mug which Sir Philip gave to me. It is inscribed:- “Rulers of an Empire on which the sun never sets”.
I also remember an occasion when Sir Philip Rose gave the school children an outing to the seaside, going by train to Southend for the day. That was a great event. The children were transported to the station and back in farm waggons and carts.
It was a sad day when Sir Philip died. in 1919, and I well remember his funeral, when the coffin was brought down the Church Path from Rayners on a bier, into Hammersley Lane, and placed in the family vault under St. Margaret’s Church. His grandson, a school boy of 15, became heir, but the Estate had eventually to be sold. His death came as a blow to quite a number of employees, and it meant loss of jobs and our homes. There were no pension schemes or National Health Insurance at that time. The farming stock was sold first; and we were all saddened to see it go under the Auctioneer’s hammer. We dreaded whether poor old “Ginger”, (the horse which my Father had for his use) might go to Gypsies, but were relieved to find it knocked down to a kindly person, who gave it a good home. In May 1920, the whole Estate was sold in separate lots, and from then onwards it was split up and has been built on, changed hands, etc., almost beyond recognition. One thing I am pleased to see has been preserved, and that is the old weighbridge which used to be in the potato house at Colehatch Farm. The owner of Hammersley Hatch has had it positioned just inside the courtyard to his house. A lasting memory. How many times I used to help weigh up on this when a child!!
Tylers Green, as I first remember it, was just a small hamlet, adjoining the village of Penn, with the houses of any size being in the Penn Parish. Developments have taken place mostly since the second World War, but it is gratifying to know that the centre of the Village itself has not been too badly spoiled.
In my early days there were no buses, and our only means of getting anywhere was on foot or bicycle, unless one was lucky enough to possess a horse and cart. I can remember when we went to Wycombe, my Mother would push me in the push-chair down Hammersley Lane, and hide it in the hedge just by the Railway Bridge. The first horse buses were started along the bottom road into High Wycombe from Loudwater, so we sometimes caught a bus from King George V public house and back, and then back to the push chair waiting in the hedge!! One could walk the whole way up Hammersley Lane and not meet or see a soul. There were no houses from the Railway Bridge on the right hand side, until Colehatch Farm and Colehatch House, and only one on the left from the Railway Bridge, until Shepherds Cottage, where I now live. Can anyone, who knows the Lane as it is today, ever believe it!!
A horse bus was started between Penn and Beaconsfield, which only ran spasmodically, and then, after the first World war, an enterprising man started a good bus service from the village to Beaconsfield station. He was the founder of the Penn Bus company, which grew into a thriving business, and was eventually taken over by The London Transport. Now we are bereft of any bus service at all to Beaconsfield from the village, and no buses to Wycombe on Sundays and holidays. Yet we have increased population, so I suppose that we must thank all the car owners for this result.
When I first knew the Village, it had five more Public Houses than it has now, three being demolished, and two turned into private houses. They were the Fox and Pheasant on the site where the Village Hall now stands, The Dog in Hazlemere Road, and The Rosebush, in Hammersley Lane. The two left standing are The Old Bell on the Common, and The Sportsman and his Dog, in Beacon Hill. The landlady of The Fox used to sell sweets, which she kept in jam jars, with patty tins for lids. The children could go and buy aniseed balls and sweets in farthing and half penny worths. Sweets were also sold at The Queen’s Head and The Dog. The Rosebush had a bakery and the Landlord used to bake and deliver bread and cakes round the Village with a horse and cart. The Queen’s Head used to have a cottage attached, with large garden on the site of the present car park.
The Post Office, when I first remember it, was at the Baker’s shop (now Woodbridges Stores) and I have been told prior to that it was at the butcher’s shop (Kings). I took out my first Post Office Savings Bank Account therein 1912, putting in the princely sum of £1, and I still have the book!! A grocer’s shop (now Mr. Wigram’s Antique Shop) was in the earliest of my recollections run by a Mr. Day, given the name of “pinch-plum” as he was supposed to have pinched a raisin in half to get even weight!
How different in those days! Sugar, tea, dried fruit, were all sold loose, and kept in drawers and canisters, and wrapped in blue paper, rolled up into the shape of cones. The butcher, Mr. King, was always given the name of Smiler, as he rarely smiled. He always wore a straw boater and striped apron, and sold excellent home killed meat. The shop now called the Old Horology Shop, was originally Grovers, the shoe shop, where good shoes could be bought and repairs were done on the premises. It run for years, first by the parents and then by their two daughters. It was quite a custom for people to go in and try on several pairs of shoes, then take about six pairs home, to try them on again, and return those not required. What trusting and obliging people we had for our shopkeepers!!
The shop now called Country Fair, was originally in the hands of Mrs. Ellen Finch, and later her daughter, Mrs. Saunders. I am told by my Mother that it first started with a few reels of cotton, ribbons, etc., set out on a kitchen table. When I first remember it, it was the corrugated roofed and wooden lined building adjoining the two cottages, with two counters downstairs and a staircase which led up to the room above, where dresses and coats were sold. Here again customers could try on clothing, take three or four articles home, and return what they decided were not suitable.
There were two blacksmiths in the village, one where the garage showrooms of Slades now stands, and the other in buildings (now demolished) belonging to the house, then called The Gables, now French Meadow.
CHURCHES AND CHAPELS
Penn Church has quite a lot of memories for me, and there are some very old gravestones of some of my Father’s ancestors in the Churchyard. My eldest brother was organist there for 57 years, being taught by a former vicar’s daughter, Miss Grainger. My father was a sidesman, and used to sing in the Choir, and another brother was a bell ringer. As Penn Church was the nearest place of worship to Penn Bottom Farm my parents attended there, but on coming to Tylers Green, they eventually attended St. Margarets. I remember in 1913 the organ at Penn Church was fired, and it was believed to be the work of Suffragettes. At that time the Vicar of Tylers Green was the Rev. Ashley Spencer, a dapper little man, who wore a round black clerical hat, and had as his companions two little black pug-nosed dogs. There was a lot of interest aroused, when in 1913 a Court case was held at Aylesbury, involving the Vicars of Penn and Tylers Green. The vicar of Tylers Green was awarded damages of £400 against slander by the Vicar of Penn. The Rev. Gerald Hayward succeeded the Rev. Ashley Spencer in 1918, and I remember him coming to the Church wearing his officer’s uniform, as he was a Padre in the First World War. The seven virgin lamps, which hang in the Chancel were a gift to Tylers Green Church, from the Rose family. Years ago they were all kept alight and as a small child were a source of comfort to me, watching them twinkling, whilst waiting for the long sermons to end!!
The Baptist Chapel in Beacon Hill was pulled down years ago. The roof became dangerous and few people attended there.
The Methodist Chapel, situated on the road going to Beaconsfield, used to get good attendances, and every year held an Anniversary Service, when the Sunday School children would sing and recite, and in the following week they would have their day’s outing, often to Burnham Beeches, and in later years to the seaside. I can remember a lay preacher who used to preach at this Chapel years ago. He had a remarkably strong voice, and when he really got going with his sermon, the sound would make the metal shades of the oil lamps reverberate.
Holiness Mission. This was a Mission Hall, situated in Elm Road on the site where Pond House now stands. It was run by the Wooster family, the farmers who lived at Penbury Farm. The wall of the building, facing the road, was painted in huge letters GOD FIRST, the barn at the farm had a text on it, and the horses bridles were similarly inscribed. Mrs. Wooster used to deliver booklets around the Village relating to the Holiness Mission teachings. She always wore a little bonnet, with ribbons tied under her chin, similar to the Salvation Army bonnet.
There were few entertainments in the early days, except those we made ourselves, but we were all very contented. The main event of the year was Penn Fair, to which villagers and people from surrounding places would flock, to meet old friends, buy farings, etc. I remember I always had to have a new dress which Mother would make, or one of my best ones really smartened up for the occasion. It was customary for the children to have the day off from school, and the Fair was opened by Sir Philip Rose giving them free rides on the roundabouts. A sack of potatoes from the Farm was always sent to one of the Fair showmen, Billy Matthews. He was quite a character, with his black and red check shirt, and tall Winston bowler.
Another feature of the Fair was Mr. Bell’s china and crockery stall. He and his wife used to come from High Wycombe and the goods were set out on straw on a patch outside the Red Lion. He would conduct Dutch Auctions, and did a lively trade, people taking the opportunity to renew their stocks, and buy presents for friends. He always wore a bowler hat, breeches and gaiters. His wife was a cheery, round faced little lady, who always wore mittens.
The lighting of the stalls and sideshows was done by flaring paraffin containers, and the water for running the steam engines was taken from Widmer Pond. Quite a few romances started from meetings at Penn Fair years ago.
I first went to a little private school, run by a Miss Oakley, at her house (now Tyler Cottage) and she gave us a very good start. We were various ages in one class, but one thing I remember vividly was the spelling lessons. We all stood in a row, and the ones who failed to spell correctly were sent to the bottom of the line. We used to write with slate pencils on slates. After leaving here I went to the Village School until age 14. A bell was always rung in the mornings, before nine o’clock and it was situated in the small turret on the front roof. We knew when we heard it, that there was no time to dawdle!! Apart from Penn School, this was the only school in the Village.
Widmer Pond used to have a slope from the road junction opposite the Red Lion and people with horses and carts would take them down for the horses to have a drink. Also it was a good place to give the carts a wash and brush up. There used to be two Ponds at Potters Cross, one at the end of New Road (then known as Muddy Bottom) and the other on the opposite side, in Penn Bottom. A tragedy occurred in this pond, when a lady who lived in Hammersley Lane was having a car driving lesson. As she turned into Penn Bottom she lost control and the car overturned into the pond, pinning her underneath, and causing her to drown.
The smaller houses and cottages did not have names in the early days, but were defined as “the place where so-and-so lives”, also the roads were not officially indicated until recently. We had our own names for some of the cottages, which it would not be polite to divulge, but we openly referred to the roads, i.e. Wizzle Street (now Nursery Lane), Paddle Alley (now Bank Road), (—No Bank, but one can still Paddle!!!), Frying Pan Corner, (now Pauls Hill) and Muddy Bottom (now New Road). The Public House at the Wycombe Marsh end of Cock Lane was originally officially The Cock. The publican in my earliest days used to be a man with a wooden stump for one leg.
Before the days of radios we used to rely on the factory hooters at Wycombe to give us some indication of the time in the morning and evening, also the sound of the trains from the valley would give us some idea of whether it would be a wet or fine day.
CHARACTERS IN THE VILLAGE
We used to have a blind basket maker who lived in Beacon Hill. He had his training at St. Dunstans, and made baskets, which were beautifully done. He was a dear old man, Tom Burrows. and for years was Verger and Organ Blower at Tylers Green Church. In his latter years he used to sit in the Pew just inside the door, but one could hear his singing right through the length of the Church.
Before the days of District Nurses, we were fortunate in having Nurse Simmons who came to people who were ill. Also another dear old soul, Mrs. Harriet Wheeler, who would come and sit up with people who were very ill and on their last, and help in many ways in sickness. I can see her now, spotlessly clean, with her starched white apron and shining white hair.
Dick Lacey who used to sweep our chimneys when he didn’t forget to come. Also he would deal with any wasps nests which needed destroying.
Miss Hearten A lady who lived on the Common in the house now known as Jasmine Cottage, where she employed local girls to help her with sewing and the making of sequin and bead work for evening dresses.
Sam Taylor, a cheery, witty old gentleman, who used to run a carrier’s van between High Wycombe and the Village.
Sherby Druce, who lived in Beacon Hill and had a horse and van doing collections and carrier work between the Village and Beaconsfield Station.
Miss Sabin, who helped in the Laundry of the Rose family, and lived in a Bungalow opposite the Laundry Cottages, with her uncle, the Roses’ coachman. She had a green parrot and on fine days this would be outside in it’s cage, squawking at all who went by.
Lord Christopher Soames. was born at Ashwells Manor (now the Katherine Knapp Home) and my brother (who was his Father’s farm bailiff) has told me he was allowed to see him when only an hour old.
Lord Dawson of Penn The King’s Physician, used to live at Dell Cottage, Penn, opposite the Methodist Chapel.
Although it would not do to wish to return to life as it was years ago, yet in many ways the old village life was good, peaceful and tranquil, everyone knowing each other, and having respect for one another. All amusements were made amongst ourselves and there was not the craving for something different, as there is today. The children could spin tops and bowl their hoops along the roads to school, with no fear of being knocked down by traffic. What a fast moving, ugly world it has now become!! The bad old days? No, not by any standards. We had no resident associations, trade unions, societies for this that and the other, but were content to live and let live. The one “wish” I would like to make (if fairies existed) would be for the banning of all vehicular traffic going through the narrow lane in which I have lived for 76 years. It is now used as the main inlet and outlet for the majority of the traffic, and at times is impossible to get out of one’s own gate.
Mrs. Evelyn Clark, Shepherds Cottage Hammersley Lane 1981,