Hello again, thank you for all the lovely compliments I received for my first Chapter.
This is not Chapter 2 as promised but more Part 1: Andy’s Story – Part 1: Early Years, Hiltonbury Farm, and… My Old Morris as I have just returned from a visit to Devon where my older sisters Jennifer and Janet live and in conversations with them I have more to add to part 1.
My sisters’ memories about our Grandparents
My Father’s Mother died quite young. Jennifer thinks she died in the Sanatorium, a TB hospital in Chandler’s Ford just off Cuckoo Bushes Lane. It has been knocked down and the area is all houses now.
My Father’s Father was the gardener at Hiltonbury and my Father’s mother married him and it was terrible to marry beneath her. It seems that all the family except her Brother George Beattie disowned her but Uncle George was very kind to her.
Uncle George was the Farmer at Hiltonbury, who took my Father in after both my Father’s parents died and brought him up as his own son, sending him to Peter Symonds School in Winchester.
What an achievement! Cycling 15 miles a day for school.
Father used to ride there every day on his bike all the way from Chandler’s Ford to school, and that’s about seven and a half miles. I agreed there was no traffic in those days but all the same fifteen miles a day and the roads were not up to much either.
I presume he would cycle up Hursley Road to The Pound, go right through Hursley, past his Cousin’s Norman Coopers place – North End Farm, and along through Standon to Winchester, then Chilbolton Avenue to Bereweeke Road and so to College.
What an achievement, rain and shine, hot and cold, along, not roads as we know them today but probably tracks some of the way. Amazing. You would not get the youth of today doing that. It’s even a long way to go in a car, probably take as long today with all the traffic as well!
Now back to Cantley in Wokingham where I was born, there are a couple of fuzzy photographs of me in a pram and sitting on the lawn having something to eat, also a photograph of Mr Watson who was the owner of the farm where my Father was the bailiff / manager.
The Farmers Weekly – how Father kept milk under wartime conditions fresh
There are two very faded pictures of an article from The Farmers Weekly that tell of my Father winning the Berkshire Clean Milk Advisory Competition, which was a great accolade. It seems that keeping milk under wartime conditions fresh was very difficult as the milk turned sour very quickly. But the cooling method that Father used and the sterilisation of the milking utensils helped keep the milk fresh for longer.
He was an exceptional farmer and with that, his home guard duties and the fire service it is a wonder he got any sleep.
Father was also in the local fire service and there is a photograph of him with a group of guys with a fire pump.
My sister Jennie says that we lived in the lodge and not in the big house and there are a couple of stories she remembers.
Stories from the lodge. Nothing wasted.
It seems that during the war a bomb fell in a field near the house, and it killed a cow. The cow’s name my sister Jennifer recalls was “Forget me not”. And as I said that Jennifer has certainly not forgotten that incident of a cow being killed by a bomb.
The lawns at Cantley were quite big. They were mowed by horses pulling the mower and the horses had to have cloth boots put on so they did not make any marks in the lawn.
Mother used to make gloves from Rabbit fur. We presume the rabbits we shot on the farm and the meat was very welcome during the war and the fur made lovely gloves as well. Nothing wasted.
Nobby the horse. From Wokingham to Chandler’s Ford.
My sisters and I were taken shopping in Wokingham in a pony and trap and Jennie remembers that the pony was called Nobby. It was probably from that that both Jennifer and Janet’s love of horses came from those experiences as the both still have horses today eighty years on.
So the family came to Chandler’s Ford from Wokingham in 1946 and I would have been three years of age, and as I mentioned we moved in to my Grandmother’ s house in Lakewood Road called Beechcroft.
I also said in Part one that Auntie Bella (The lady good at Maths) was a friend, but actually she was my Granny Martha Miller’s sister and it seems she came to stay with Granny for two weeks holiday and never left!!
My Great Grandfather was an O’Brian from Ireland and the family left Ireland and went to live in France. I don’t know when but both Aunty Bella and Granny Miller were born there and when they came to England as children they could only speak French.
We do not know where they lived and all we know is that our Grandmother married my grandfather, who was German, but he changed his name from Muller to Miller as it was a problem being German and living in England because of the first world war.
I do remember my Grandfather and he was a really clever guy. He worked for Sangamo Weston engineering and travelled far and wide for them. He designed and had Beechcroft built, somewhere I have some of his engineering drawings and note books. They are all very neat and precise writing and drawings. I must try to find them.
Beechcroft – first house to have electricity installed
Beechcroft was one of the first houses to have electricity installed when it was built – the first in Lakewood Road, and Grandfather Miller installed most of it and designed it himself.
We also believe but can’t really be sure of his involvement on the design of lighting above snooker tables, the big long shades and lights that make sure there are no shadows when playing. How he was involved in that we are not sure but it is part of the family tales.
He was a very accomplished pianist. The whole family used to often gather round for a sing song and Grandfather would play totally by ear no music whatsoever. So very talented. I have always admired anyone who can do that, and I would have hoped that his talent could have passed on to me or my sisters but none of us ever had any talent in that direction at all.
A family day out in a car – A wonderful car
Here is a photograph of many of the family on a day out. No seat belts in those days and I don’t think they could have got many more in the car!!
The wonderful Auntie Bella. I don’t remember Marjory at all.
Then there is Granny Miller and Bob is Bob Miller who was my Mother’s Brother.
But what a wonderful car, and no worries about Health and Safety. I love the young lad sitting on the running board.
Remember the smells of my Grandfather’s shed
I do well remember Grandfather’s shed in the back garden. It was a Man’s Shed. He had so many beautiful tools, a lathe and rows of many small draws full of everything you could imagine, screws, nuts bolts and many magical things and I remember to this day the lovely smell of that shed, the smell of wood and shavings and oils and tools all melding together. It was really something I can never forget. Funny things about smells they invoke strong memories and I have a few more about “smell” memories later in my story.
In part one I mentioned the story about a mouse in some wellington boots, but it seems that I was wrong, it was rat in my sister’s wellington boots that caused the consternation.
Mother’s unfulfilled dream as a ballet dancer
Jennifer and Janet both remember my Mother teaching them to dance. She always wanted to be a ballet dancer but was too short – she never actually made five foot, but just four foot eleven and a half. She was a great lover of ballet and went to a great many ballets when she could. She also did little plays and pantomimes on the lawn at Beechcroft and in the hall at Hiltonbury and the family all had to take part in the festivities. Jennifer also was stung by a stag beetle or some such insect while dancing on the lawn, and she remembers that being very painful.
My sisters tell me that my great Grandfather William O’Brian (Grandmother’s Father) lived upstairs at Beechcroft and was permanently bedridden. It seems he had an operation, (we don’t know what for) in France that went wrong, and he never got over it. When they came back to England, they had to operate again and found some sort of medical instrument had been left inside him from the first operation. Not very nice!!
So he lived upstairs in the bedroom and used to bang on the floor with a big stick when he wanted something.
He was almost blind in his later years. Grandpa Miller made a large clock with big numbers on it to stand by the side of the bed so he could see what time it was.
Beechcroft – a lively household
It seems that when we moved into Beechcroft it was all busy. Great Grandfather William O’Brian, (Don’t know anything about his wife), my Grandfather Herbert and grandmother Matha Miller, Auntie Bella O’Brian. (She never married), my Mother and Father and us three children and somewhere were Aunti Betty and Uncle Fred, Uncle Bob and Auntie Unice who were all my mother’s brother and sister and their partners, I can’t believe we were all there together, but it all seemed a very lively household.
Grandmother doing the washing on a wash board; lots of cocktails
My lasting memories are of my Grandmother doing the washing on a wash board in the kitchen and she did that for years after we moved out. She lived to beyond ninety years of age and I will always remember her as a very kind and cheerful soul who never seemed to complain about anything even when every Sunday, Grandfather would design different cocktails in the kitchen for everyone except the children of course, this was while Grandma was trying to get lunch for the hungry hordes. Maybe it was the cocktails that kept everybody happy as those days always seemed full of fun and laughter.
I had a lovely time in Devon catching up on family history and so I will now start to write Chapter two. My early days at Hiltonbury Farm. Coming soon.