Some Local Memories

1961

Cheltenham Road consisted of; Upper and Lower Southmeads farms were both dairy and family run farms, Holbrook cottage where Charlie Dean lived with his sister. Charlie had been butler to Lady Astor and had crossed the Atlantic to the USA many many times, maybe if he’d been called Burrows he would have written a book, but Charlie was an honourable man, I only heard him make one comment ‘they think because I live with my sister I don’t know about life’- he would never expand on this, as I said he was an honourable man.

Up the hill towards Througham the cottage on the hill was lived in by Jack Watts. Jack could neither read or write but would drive a lorry anywhere and could strip and rebuild an engine without any instruction manual. Past this cottage came Denman’s Farm, another dairy farm but with the distinction of having an adjoining cottage and a pigsty build into a long barrow. Turn to the left and you reach Througham House where Mr Cortauld Junior lived with many wacky smoking friends.

Amongst other inhabitants is Mr and Mrs Dinsdale. Billy Dinsdale was believed to be the first wool supplier to fly on business. Peggy bred fine Arab horses after she was widowed. If she invited you for a drink and you’d run out of excuses, you duly accepted. On arrival you were given a comfortable seat, a bottle of whiskey and a glass and you were expected to drink the whole bottle. It was a long evening.

If after passing Denmans you go straight on you pass the entrance to Jones Slad Farm, another family run dairy farm. On down the road is Througham Manor, one time home to Mike Oldfield of Tubular bells fame. I’ve been told at one time he had a lion cub as a pet but it bit him so had to go, maybe it didn’t like his music.

Follow the lane down and you reach The Grays at this time is was a complete ruin but has since been rebuilt into a very fine house now called Juniper Slad.

If you now come back to Cheltenham Road and head towards Stroud you travel along Stancombe Lane. Stancombe where Joe Brunsden had a home and yard, Jack Watts was one of his drivers, there were four or five more drivers. All good capable men. Sadly Joe had only one son, Young Joe, who died at an early age.

Joe never sent bills so after a month or so you would ring him up to ask how much you owed him and you would be invited to go over and settle up, this was another long night. At least this was with Father as driver you knew there would be three of you this time, the VAT 60 whiskey was to say the least a bit harsh.

At this time, we had a good police force and our local bobby was Bob Apew, Bob dislike paperwork so he used something that has gone out of fashion these days, common sense. For example, I was given a very nice rifle as a present so being a law-abiding citizen I rang Bob to ask how to get it put onto my license. I was told very distinctly to ‘bring it down to me now’. This I did and when it had been duly added to my licence the rifle was returned to me, common sense.

The petrol station on Cheltenham Road was run by Ron and Ruby Gay, the pumps were manual and the sight of Ron with sleeves rolled up and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth while serving petrol was a bit off putting but there was always the choice to do it yourself.

Pubs in Bisley at this time were The Bear, The New Inn and The George. The New Inn was nearest therefore our local, it was run by Les and Esme Restall. Les was Landlord, Carpenter and Undertaker as I found out when asked after being in Bisley for a few months if I could spare an afternoon and if I had a dark suit. Being a simple soul, I said yes to both questions and I duly turned up at the time and place indicated, thus becoming one of the pall bearers for a local farmer who had died recently. It went reasonably well until we had to take him to his final resting place. If you have ever had to dig a hole in Cotswold brash you’ll know it’s not easy so the grave digger had dug the hole precisely the right size for the coffin but without making any compensation for the brass handles so they kept opening at right angles so acted like a ratchet, the act of pulling that casket up several times was extremely tiring. My fee was a free pint that night. Looking back it was about right as I found some bills for the work done on the Chequers and we had paid £200 for a new roof, £20 for a new floor in the room left of the front door, £45 for a new staircase, f120 digging drains and septic tank by hand to include all blockwork and pipes.

Another story about Les to show he had his own set of rules and regulations was when Father and I were going home quite late and saw a police car parked in a gateway. Being good citizens, we rang Les to let him know as it was past closing time, only to be told he knew and that they always used the backdoor anyway.

Shops at this time consisted of The Corner Shop, Kilminsters, Co-op, Norwich House stores and The Post office. The Post Office was run by Doug Clarke and his two sisters. Doug like many men of the time was a very brave and modest man. Being one of the aircrew in bomber command he flew many more sorties than he should but would never speak about it. He also ran a taxi service including some for school Mums, doubt he ever made any money from it though. Opposite Norwich House stores was the Old Bell, home to the Doctor’s surgery and The British Legion.

The Doctor at that time was Dr H Crouch,(Father to Tim Crouch), I remember Ruby from the garage walked down to the surgery one night and not being very fast on her legs was late. Dr, Crouch was just going into the New Inn when he saw her coming, and asked her where she was going. `To see you’ was the reply so he took her over to his Landover and administered to her needs. On getting home Ron asked her how she got on. After explaining to him his only comment was ‘good job it was only your ear that needed examining!

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