A view down the High Street, on the left is the former George Inn and on the right is the Corner Shop. But in the centre can be glimpsed a shed, roofed with corrugated iron. This was the workshop for a saddle and harness maker, a family concern which had involved at least three generations of the Woolls family.
Charles Woolls came to Bisley in 1879. He lived at Bakers cottage in the High Street (next to the Wesleyan Chapel) where he also had his workshop. It was a good time for him. He was kept busy as horses were in use everywhere, on the farms, by carriers and with every method of transport – the pony trap, the wagon and the carriage. Charles was still working at the age of 70 and died in 1924 at the ripe old age of 84. By then his son Alfred had joined him.
Alfred Woolls, like his father, had served for several years in the Indian army (see photograph). Eventually he returned to Bisley, married and went to live at Myra Villa with his young family. He was soon working again at the family saddlery (where the Cut Inn used to be)
His daughter Madeline remembered “the saddles were out of this world, all lined in lovely red and white check. He made bridles, saddles and shoes. Everything was done by hand – no machine“ but by 1929 Alfred Woolls was in real financial difficulty. The work had gradually dried up as horses were replaced by lorries, tractors, motor cars and bicycles. And as ever, people were slow to pay their bills. Then his wife fell ill with influenza. He nursed her but caught the illness himself. It turned to pneumonia and he died. Meanwhile his wife was seriously ill and was taken to hospital where she too died. Their four young children were taken in by a neighbour.
A villager remembers him “He lived and died in poverty ‘twas a poor job. I often think about them. He was a decent chap, very decent and a very good workman but it wasn’t wanted.
Alfred Woolls 1874 – 1929
Research by Juliet Shipman