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Life in Badsey and Aldington, 1920s-1930s - letters between Don Wasley and Roy Page

In August 1999, an article appeared in “The Evesham Journal” which sparked off a correspondence between Aldington-born Don Wasley living in Essex and London-born Roy Page living in Badsey.  They corresponded for several months until Don’s death in 2000.  The article which started it all off was about the 110 ft Wellingtonia tree which once stood outside “The Pool House” (renamed “The Dower House”). The letters which followed give a vivid personal view of Aldington and Badsey in the inter-war years and the years immediately following the Second World War.

Donald Victor Wasley was born at “The Old House”, Aldington, in 1918, the second child of David and Illot Wasley. He and his elder sister, Betty, both attended Badsey Council School. Don lived at Aldington until the outbreak of war in 1939. After the war, he married a girl from Essex and settled in Maldon where he died in 2000. Don kept in touch with the area by receiving a copy of “The Evesham Journal” each week.

Roy Page came to Badsey in 1948 as a lad of 17.  He married a local girl and has been here ever since.

The letters have been edited for the Badsey website by Maureen Spinks.

Article in “The Evesham Journal”, 12th August 1999

The remains of a 100 ft high Wellingtonia poplar tree, which has played a colourful part the life of Badsey villagers for more than a century, have been finally rooted out.

The new owners of the Dower House in the High Street excavated the 10 ft stump last week – 25 years after 100 ft was lopped off it.

Oswald Mosley is reputed to have made speeches under its massive branches and villagers have, on several momentous occasions, scaled its craggy trunk to hoist union jacks at the top.

Villager of 50 years, Roy Page, said:  “Just after the war I knew a group of villagers who climbed to the top to tie flags in it on coronation day and jubilee celebrations.  There was even a chamber pot on one occasion.  The pranks were all done in the dark and the culprits always visited the pub first to muster up a bit of Dutch courage.”

Veronica Shaw, who with her husband Michael has recently bought the property, said:  “Getting the stump out was a massive operation.  It was a 20 ft high, 8 ft wide mass of brambles and shoots.  It had to come out because the roots were threatening the foundation of the house.  A JCB followed the skip which was straining to take the weight of about seven or eight tonnes when the root was carted away.”

In its place will be lawns and pathways.

Letter from Don Wasley, Baker Mews, Maldon, Essex, to “The Evesham Journal”, 19th August 1999

So the remains of the 110 ft tree at Badsey have finally gone and with it my memories of that eventful evening before the war when the Union Jack was hoisted at the top the evening before the garden party and the Black Shirts rally.

I well recall the plotting that took place on the steps of Badsey Post Office when Steve Crisp, Phil Sparrow, Bill Salter, myself and I believe two others talked about the arrangements that Lance Johns had made for the rally to which Oswald Mosley had been invited.

We looked up at that tree and agreed what had to be done.  The flag, the wire, the short ladder and the lookout points were planned and put into operation, with Phil being the principal climber helped by Steve.

It was after midnight when all was done and I know how proud I felt when my father told my mother the next day that the Union Jack was flying from the top of the tree next to the church.  I went to the top of our garden at Aldington to see for myself, then had to keep quiet as we had all promised not to speak of it.

I know several days later when we were waiting for a bus to Evesham outside Salters’ shop, Mr J Knight came by and put a 10 shilling note into Phil’s hand and said that he wasn’t asking questions, but have a drink, so we did!

I know it was a great talking point and Lance Johns threatened action as it could have caused the top of the tree to break off, but the flag stayed there until it slowly rotted away.

I know similar climbing feats arose after the war to celebrate various occasions.  But we felt we had a purpose in those pre-war years to fly the flag for which we all eventually fought.

I shall treasure the picture of the stump of that tree.

PS – My sister, Mrs Betty Styles, lives next door to me and has “The Journal” every week so we keep up with events in the Vale.

See also The History of Badsey's Wellingtonia Tree.

Letter 1 from Roy Page, 28 Green Leys, Badsey, to Don Wasley, dated 24th August 1999

Dear Mr Wasley

I was very interested to read your story in “The Evesham Journal” about the Badsey tree.  Although we have never met, we have something in common:  Badsey and the tree.

When I first came to Badsey in 1948 at the age of 17, I worked for Fred Wheatley, who was associated with a couple of the climbs.  I married a local girl, Mary Cook, in 1953:  another year, the Coronation, when the tree was climbed.  I consider myself very lucky to have spent most of my life in the Vale of Evesham, especially Badsey and am always keen to hear stories of the past and local people.  If you would like to exchange a few memories with me, I would be only too pleased to hear from you.  I shall be taking delivery of a few photographs of the tree stump removal shortly which you may find interesting.  If I do not hear from you, I will assume that you do not wish to communicate, in which case I shall respect your wishes and not bother you further.

Letter 1 from Don Wasley, 28 Baker Mews, High Street, Maldon, Essex, to Roy Page of Badsey, dated 31st August 1999

Dear Roy

Thank you for your letter of 24th August which at least put my mind at rest in that I don’t think I know you and I don’t think we ever met.  I have no objections whatever about discussing our memories of things in and around Badsey and sincerely hope you will not eventually find it boring.

I suppose to put the matter in perspective, I should say that I was born at Aldington in November 1918, which puts me a little “before your time”.  My parents lived in a double-fronted house with a porch over the front door and it was actually the fourth house in from the Badsey road.  As a kid I called it No 4 Brickwall View as across the road was an eight-foot wall which ran from the Cherry Orchard to the Manor House, the other side of which was the Manor gardens.  I believe the Cherry Orchard has seen some development and the Manor gardens have now several bungalows built off the main road.

In my day there were 26 houses in the hamlet, with no shop, pub, post office or police house, the main buildings being the Manor House and the Mill House and the Flour Mill; there was also a Slaughterhouse at Sherwood Farm as you came into the village.  With the brook and the Mill meadows, the mill pond and the ford, we had plenty to play around in those days.

My father then worked at Burlingham’s in Evesham as an engineer, but later went to the Atlas Works at Pershore where he became an agricultural engineer around the three counties and the west country.  My sister and I attended Badsey School under the reign of Mr F E Amos, Miss McDonald and Mr Sealy, the Sports Master, who I believe are still affectionately remembered by many old pupils.  My mother was very prominent in the WI, the Mothers’ Union and Nursing Association, with Nurse Holbrook of Bretforton Road being the stalwart for pregnant mums.  Of course, in those days, nearly everyone in the village worked on the land or was associated with it.  I belonged to the church choir and when my voice broke I blew the organ for “Tickle” Sharp, the organist, who came from Cheltenham Road, Evesham.  With the village life and having grandparents on a farm at Laverton, and five uncles and four aunties and most of our school holidays spent there we really did have a very happy childhood.

When I left school, I worked at Smith & Roberts, Solicitors, in Evesham, joined the Evesham Rowing Club and enjoyed the life of an active teenager until the outbreak of war (now about 60 years ago).  I went into the army in 1939 and during my travels in 1943 came to Maldon and met the girl I was destined to marry, which I did in April 1944.  On demob in 1946, we found a house, I got a job in local government and so never returned to the Vale apart from frequent visits to see my parents.

My wife died in 1984 and as my sister lived alone at Cheltenham, she came to Maldon four years ago to live next-door to me which saved me a lot of travelling, but of course I now don’t see much of the Evesham district, but keep in touch via “The Journal”.

Having read the first page of this letter, I realise, Roy, that there are so many incidents around my schooldays and my teenage years which may or may not be of interest:  those days when with Mr Binyon, Reg Hardiman, Ron Churchill and I cycled around the villages and the Cotswolds, learning about the hedgerows, pond life, church architecture, etc; the LBG, local government and the RDC all of which were close to Mr Binyon’s heart.  Tales my father told me about the history of Aldington itself and the interesting times I spent with him when he had to visit farms to repair their machinery.

I know Terry Sparrow wrote a book about the history of Badsey and Aldington, but the personal things one remembers are far more interesting and far more numerous to record.  Anyway, if there are any items or things you have often wondered about, please don’t hesitate to ask – I might throw the book at you but will let you know what I can.

You mentioned that you worked for Fred Wheatley, but I don’t recall Fred.  My sister went to school the same time as Charlie, I was with Jim and I remember Ted who I think opened the garage.  I know Mr Wheatley kept the butcher’s shop and kept guinea-fowl in the orchard opposite and I spent many hours around their barns and gardens with Jim with tea in their kitchen.  I believe one son, Harold, was killed at the Pike in a motor-cycle accident.  Does Fred stem from the same family?  I know we are going back a bit and to the years which I can still remember and recall many things – as to yesterday, what I did and what time I had tea I just can’t think!

Best wishes

PS Please excuse the use of the typewriter and the typing.  I used to write copper-plate writing at Smith & Roberts, but find handwriting a bit laborious nowadays.

Letter 2 from Roy Page to Don Wasley, dated 25th September 1999

Dear Don

I was very pleased that you did not turn down my request and thank you for your very interesting letter.  I am sorry that I have not replied sooner but I have been on holiday to North Devon with my daughter and family:  two boys of six and three years who insist on Granddad doing everything with them, swimming and football, which I enjoy immensely, even if my body objects somewhat.  Before I reply to the contents of your letter, I want to give you some details about myself and how I came to Badsey.

I was born in London in 1931, the first of four children, two boys and two girls.  My father was a painter and decorator but during the depression of the 1930s was out of work more often than not so my mother had a hard time trying to keep us clothed and fed.  She is now 86 years old and is in a home just a little distance away.  She has Alzheimers but is physically quite well and is well looked after which is no more than she deserves.  My father died in 1970 at the age of 60.  I was eight years old when war was declared.  With my two sisters, aged six and four, we were first sent to Northamptonshire where we spent the winter of 1939 and 1940 in a barn which was our dormitory and classroom with 30 other children and two teachers - not the warmest time of my life, I remember.  From there we were sent to a mining village in South Wales where I was billeted with a mining family.  After three years, 1945, we returned home, only to be evacuated again when V1s and V2s started coming over.  A V2 landed on the railway depot one Sunday a few hundred yards from our house blowing out the windows and killing 30 or so railwaymen who were having a meal in the canteen.  With my young brother, aged seven, we were sent to a farm in Devon which had no gas or electricity and a cold water tap in the yard.  Primitive, was it just, where even the children had to work after walking two miles to school each day and back.  Despite the hardships of that winter it was then that I found myself developing a keen liking for the countryside.  My grandfather on my father’s side was a farmer in Essex so perhaps there was already a bit of the country lad inside me; I like to think so.

At the age of 14 I did a three-year apprenticeship at the Albion Lorry Company in North London as a fitter.  But at the end of it, I was not too keen at the prospect of taking engines in and out of lorries for the rest of my life.  So one day, when talking to an uncle of my doubts, he suggested that he would try to get me a job with him as a coach-builder fitting out bodies on Rolls Royces and Bentleys, and suggested that I go to the Vale of Evesham to a friend of his called Fred Wheatley on a working holiday picking plums.  He gave me the single fare of 30 shillings and I duly arrived at Evesham Station, aged 17, in the middle of August 1948, with a small suitcase and an address in Badsey (“The Poplars”).  Ted Wheatley, who owned the garage just after the war picked me up in his black Standard 8 and took me to “The Poplars” and introduced me to a rather odd-looking selection of people, including Granny Wheatley, Jim, Enoch, Bill, Charlie and Fred, and numerous friends who had congregated in the same kitchen that you mention in your letter.  Within 24 hours of arriving, I knew that this was the place for me after the deprivations of the war years.  I was welcomed into the Wheatley family wholeheartedly.  I earned £10 plum-picking in the first week which was twice the national wage and with food such as home-cured bacon, ham, eggs and Granny Wheatley’s home-churned butter and, of course, local cider, I was hooked completely.

I’m sorry to have gone on at length, but I wanted you to realise why I enthuse so much about Badsey and its people.  Despite the fact that there are nine years or so between you leaving the Vale and my arriving, there are quite a few things that we have in common, Jim Wheatley being one.  I travelled with him on trips to the Walsall area in his old lorry selling fruit and vegetables during 1948-49.  He lives 200 yards from me and was very interested in your letter and wished to be remembered to you.  He is the only one of the Wheatley clan still in Badsey.  Fred, Enoch, Charlie and Bill are now all dead.  You mention Harold being killed.  Well Charlie went over to Bretforton to look after Maisie and the children and although he and Maisie never married, they had a good life together and ran a very successful farm, employing as many as 30 people at a time.  Charlie also bred a couple of good racehorses in his time and was a very keen race-goer.  He died about five years ago.  Bill and Fred were Market Gardeners in Badsey and Enoch ran the butcher’s shop after his father died but became addicted to the local cider and as a result died at an early age, some 30 years ago. 

Your village of Aldington has happy memories for me as in the autumn of 1948 along with three or four others, I helped Fred make cider in the mill at Elm Farm.  The fruit came from the numerous orchards owned by the Wheatley family, now mainly built on.  Fred had a couple of large sheds at Jinks’, opposite Badsey Manor, with 20 or 30 120-gallon barrels where he kept the cider before selling it on to the local people.  Nearly everyone had a barrel in the back garden shed, as you know.  Fred sold the cider for 2 shillings a gallon.  I have vivid memories of standing in a trailer behind Fred’s 1930s Rover along with a 120-gallon barrel full of cider, several rubber pipes, funnels and buckets, clinging on for dear life while Fred tried to negotiate the back streets of Evesham and surrounding villages - something which would not happen today, I fear because Fred, having sampled his wares, would have failed a breath test and the old car would never have got through the MOT test.

Aldington has grown quite a lot since your young days but is still a very pleasant place to be.  I have friends there and pass your old house every week.  There are names in your letter which link us to people such as Nurse Holbrook who attended my wife when she had our first two boys (we have four sons and a daughter).  My wife also has fond memories of Mr Amos, her best teacher, she always said.  Mr Binyon was also one of her favourite people.  She knew him from her days as Secretary to Vic Smith, the Manager of LBG.  Ron Churchill we knew well, along with his brother, Bill, and their parents, as they were neighbours of my wife’s grandparents in Brewers Lane.  Also Reg Hardiman lived just a few hundred yards from us.

You mentioned the Evesham Rowing Club, well I had a friend called Leon Butler who died of cancer three years ago.  He was very much a part of the Rowing Club fraternity and was also a founder member of the Evesham Ramblers.  I wonder if you knew him.  Talking of rambling, I think I have done enough in this letter, so hoping I haven’t bored you too much, I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Letter 2 from Don Wasley to Roy Page, dated 17th October 1999

Dear Roy

Thanks for all your latest correspondence.  I am glad I wrote as I at first thought that my original letter had gone astray and you may have wondered why I had not been in touch.

Your letter was most interesting and very touching and I realise deep down how our lives were affected by the war.  I can also see now why as you say your coming to Badsey and your sudden involvement with so many kind Badsey folk completely changed your way of life.  In my case, of course, I virtually left home for 6½ years, never really to return apart from holiday visits, thus making my life at Maldon in Essex.  I recall that my parents took in two evacuees about eight years of age from the Birmingham area and I met them on a couple of visits home when on leave.  I know deep down how envious I was and I suppose jealous that they now had the love and affection of my parents which I would normally have been at home to enjoy, but I believe my sister when she says it gave Mum and Dad something to help fill their thoughts whilst I was away.  I know I lost a few mates but also made a few mates and I was grateful to come through it all, whilst my sister, who had married Jack Styles from Wickhamofrd at the beginning of the war, became a war widow when he was killed at Alamein, and she remains so till this day.

Anyway, Roy, all that and the sad experiences are far behind us and as always we remember with pleasure the happier moments, and funny experiences, coincidences, etc.  The Cider Mill at Aldington – yes, as lads we enjoyed those days when Wilson Butler and his brother, Ernie, started cider-making as they owned the Manor and the Mill and a lot of land around Aldington.  Ralph and Teddy Bell lived in those houses backing on to the Cider Mill and helped with the Harwood brothers from Badsey to make the cider.  I know Jim Taylor and I were off school one morning with “the Trots” after Ernie gave us mugs of pure apple juice as it came from the press!!  We used to take the waste in a big old cart down to the Ford and tip into Aldington Brook.  My father always had two 60-gallon barrels in the workshop and tapped them just before Christmas.  Mother made parsnip wine every year and you could smell it cooking in the brick copper when you entered the village.

You mention that your mother is in a Nursing Home.  Is it Briarlea?  My sister has a friend, Nancy Greening, now residing there; they both travelled to and from Evesham together for many years and both retired on the same day.  She heard some months ago from someone at Badsey that Nancy was now in Briarlea.  Of course, Mr Houlding, who used to own Briarlea as a private residence, ran the Nursing Association and held garden fetes to raise funds and I remember going with my mother and playing croquet on the lawns and doing the raffles.  His brother, John, was a founder member of the Evesham Hockey Club.

It was nice to learn that Jim is still around and please give him my kind regards, and I enclose a photo cut from “The Journal” a year or so ago showing us with a lot of our schoolmates before Johnnie Haines became a celebrity – he was, of course, the son of the chauffeur to Lees-Milne of Wickhamford Manor and the lived in a nearby thatched cottage at Wickhamford.  Can you let me have it back some time?

By the way, seeing your address, I believe Gerald Sadler lived at No 50.  When I used to take my father up to the British Legion Club, I used to leave him talking with Francis (Cloggie) Perkins, Bill Merriman and Lollipop Jelfs and taking pinches of each other’s snuff, whilst I sat at the bar talking to Gerald who was the steward.  Is he still in charge there?  His brother, Ernie, is in the football photo.

The girls I knew from my schooldays and teenage years have doubtless married, moved away or sadly passed on.  There was Elsie Ballard (quite a good violinist, I remember), Joyce Hardiman (Reg’s sister), Kate Brailsford, Mary Marshall (her father had a club foot and rode his bicycle one-legged), Pat Mustoe from “The Oak”.  I know as an ink monitor at school we often filled their inkpots with watered-down ink and they in turn stuffed them with blotting paper before they left on Fridays – oh happy days.

Did either you or your wife know Esme Sparrow, Phil’s sister?  She was secretary to one of the partners at Smith & Roberts and we cycled to and from work together nearly every day.  I believe she married a policeman named Kedward or similar and lived along Whitechapel which is the road between Wickhamford and Broadway where about six new houses were erected before the war.  I never heard of her after the war.  Speaking of the Sparrow family reminds me that Phil’s mum used to send Phil and me on Sunday afternoons with a cake she had made for Phil’s grandfather who lived opposite the Stockey near Sands Lane.  Phil and I used to stay and have afternoon tea with him and listen to his tales about his younger days.  He was a lovely man with white hair and short beard and lovely complexion and sparkling eyes.  I have a photo of him with my grandfather, David Wasley, and Buster Mustoe’s grandfather and several old gentlemen and ladies apparently taken at Seward House with Sir Julius Sladden.  I don’t know what the occasion was.  By the way, talking of Whitechapel, my sister and I recall the days when Dad had a two-seater Clyno car with dickey seat and when we came home from my grandparents at Laverton on a winter’s evening, we used to pull the blanket over our heads along Whitechapel as we approached Wickhafmford as the wind blew across there something awful and we would count to 50 then peep out to see if we had got to Murcot corner.

Well, Roy, I must stop now as one thing leads to another.  I appreciate that you may or may not have heard about these people and places, but and only but they may become a topic of conversation.

Best wishes to you both.

PS  Do you know Stan and Barbara Jelfs who live at Offenham Road, Evesham?  He used to live at Bretforton and worked at Cross, Son & Hodgetts.  She was a daughter of Walter and Eva Bell who lived and worked ground at Aldington before moving to a new house at The Pike.  They are great friends of me and my sister.  Eva died recently at Seward House Nursing Home.  She was a Dore, another well-known Badsey family.

Letter 3 from Roy Page to Don Wasley, dated November 1999

Dear Don

Thank you for another interesting letter.  Because we are linked by so many people and places I almost feel that I was part of your pre-war world.  There is one certainty, when I have mentioned your name to people, you are certainly well remembered.  People like Gerald Salter who still lives on the Green Leys estate but is no longer steward of the Legion club; Michael Barnard remembers being involved with you and others in travelling down through Aldington in a sheep trough with iron wheels and a chap sat at the bottom in a box recording the time taken.  Michael has asked me to wish you well and he hoped the enclosed pictures are of some interest.  Pat Mustoe lives a few doors from us and is still a very active member of village and Club along with her husband, Len Lord.  The newspaper cutting was interesting.  I knew most of the people on it, especially Ron Reed who died earlier this year.  He was another neighbour of ours and I did jobs for him, decorating, etc.  We spent quite a few interesting hours talking about Badsey and its people.  Jim Wheatley found the cutting brought back memories and wants to know where has all the time gone.  Don’t we all!

My mother is in Badsey Fields House which is opposite Briarlea and is smaller with only ten residents.  One person I do know who has been at Briarlea for the last couple of years is Phil Sparrow’s wife, Margaret.  I did the maintenance on her bungalow on the Stockey for about ten years.  She is still quite physically and mentally active.  She is enjoying having people looking after her and fussing over her.  You mentioned Tickle Sharp in your previous letter.  Well I did gardening for a Mrs Queenie Sharp who died earlier this year aged 90 and who lived along the Bretforton Road.  She mentioned that she once lived along the Cheltenham Road in Evesham with her husband who was an agricultural engineer and who played the organ so she was obviously Mrs Tickle.  Small world once again.

Your sad story of your sister losing her husband during the war prompts me to tell you about my wife’s family as she lost her father during the war.  Mary’s mother was Norah Vincent whose father was Lewis Vincent who lived in Brewers Lane and was a Market Gardener for 40 years on Calli Bank, Willersey Road.  He died in 1960 aged 84.  Mary’s father came from a sailing family in Bristol.  He did 12 years in the Royal Navy and was on the Reserve when war was declared so was one of the first to be called up.  He was a Stoker on board the aircraft carrier HMS Courageous when it was sunk in the Bristol Channel on 17th September 1939.  A sad time, I fear.

Your account of your association with Leon Butler has not only been of great interest to me but to his wife, Tess (Numpy”) who has a home in Greenhill in Evesham.  She remembers you and wishes you well.  She had not heard the story of you and Leon but most amazingly of all is that Mike, the chap on the Journal photo with me, and Veronica Shaw have been friends of the Butlers for years and at present are living with Tess while they are renovating “The Dower House” in Badsey.  Quite a story, I think you will agree.

The girls you mention from your young days are all well known to Mary and myself.  Esme Sparrow I do not recall but remember visiting her mother in Brewers Lane as they were neighbours of Mary’s grandfather.  I’m afraid I cannot recall Stan and Barbara Jelfs but Matry knew Walt and Eva Bell.  Eva had a sister called Barbara who was married to Harold Wheatley.  I think I had better sign off now, Don, because as you say, one thing leads to another.

Letter 3 from Don Wasley to Roy Page, December 1999

Many thanks for your November letter and the follow-up with Michael’s prints of Ivy House.  We seem to have virtually exhausted the many coincidences which we enjoy and it seems to me that all the people I knew as a boy and teenager you have and are enjoying knowing when they were middle-aged and elderly (no offence meant!).

My sister says she remembers the Vincent family and believes that there was a girl in her class of that name but can’t remember her Christian name.

To give you something to read over Christmas, I have typed a précis of how I remember the village of Aldington, and no doubt Michael would be interested.  I suppose Thomas Byrd would be his great-grandfather.

I saw the piece that Buster had recorded but I certainly wasn’t involved then as I was only 16 and didn’t join the Rowing Club till the following April when I was 17.  At Aldington, we had a village celebration attended by all the residents with sport and games in the Pastures and cold beef and ham tea in the chapel, and fireworks in the evening.  I can’t say that I remember any flag on the tree in those days and certainly Phil Sparrow never mentioned that he had already been up the tree a few years earlier.  Anyway, as you say, lots of people climbed the tree for all types of reasons, but your picture certainly brought back memories.

Well, Roy, I do hope that you and the family have an enjoyable Christmas and it has been a pleasure swapping tales about the people we know or have known.  It was nice to hear about Jim and Pat and Tess and Margaret.  By the way, the lad in the wheelchair that Michael spoke of was Ron Hart, the grandson of Alf and Mrs Butler of The Manor.  He and his parents lived in London and came to Aldington for a fortnight before the schools went back after the summer holidays.  I used to come back from my grandparents’ farm at Laverton to meet and play with Roan and I suppose I was about 11 or 12 when he was struck down by polio.  He came to live permanently at The Manor when he finished schooling and we became virtually inseparable until the war came.  I can, as you might guess, give you chapter and verse of our activities in and around Aldington over the many years we spent together, if you or Michael are interested.

Tell Michael I can also relate the many stories and things I recall about John Byrd.  We was a very aloof man in the village, but always very friendly with my father and mother who were quite fond of him.  As kids we played him up at times but he bore no grudge – he would send for the bobby on occasions.  I remember also Jack and Peggy Byrd, Harry’s children, and Jack, Ross, as they often came to stay at Ivy House and were all relatives, I suppose of Michael.

Again, best wishes to you both and perhaps we can correspond again in the year 2000.

The correspondence ends here as Don Wasley died shortly after this time, but we are fortunate that he found the time to put pen to paper to record his memories.

Article by Don Wasley, 1999

ALDINGTON – THE VILLAGE THAT I KNEW AS A BOY

The following article was written by Donald Victor Wasley (1918-2001), who lived in Aldington as a child.

  • “The end of the lane” – the road that led from the Badsey/Evesham road to Sherwood Farm and the Slaughterhouse
  • “The Village” – the road that led from Sherwood Farm to “The Corner and Nag Stable”
  • “The Street” – the road that led from the Corner to the brow of the hill
  • “Offenham Road” – the road that led from the brow of the hill to Aldington and the Evesham/Offenham Road
  • “Chapel Lane” – the road that led from the corner to the gate to the pastures and the gate to my grandfather’s land adjacent
  • “Down the Mill” – the road that led from the Corner to the Flour Mill and the Mill House
  • “Ford Lane” – the lane that went from the road to the Mill to the Ford across to the Mill Meadows
  • “The Furrows” – the footpath that led from the top of the Street to the Badsey/Evesham Road near the S bend

It was known that locally if you lived in the Village you talked about going up the Street or along Chapel Lane or down the Mill or to the end of the lane.  If you lived up the Street you spoke about going down the Village or along Offenham Road or along the Furrows.

When you came into the Village from the Badsey/Evesham Road there was agricultural land on the left and the Cherry Orchard on the right with a copse and the brook.  On the little bank on the left there was a black tarred shed on “Halfpenny Piece” owned by Charlie Heath and subsequently bought by my father and sold on to Jack Byrd.

The village street first had three houses all attached occupied by Walt Jelfs, Charlie Heath and James Reeves.  The large detached house was my old house and then there was the thatched cottage occupied by Fred Taylor.  The next three cottages all attached were occupied by the Enstones, Griffins and Alf Bell and then the copse and tennis courts with the Manor House opposite.

The Corner was fronted by the Nag Stable with a low wall against which we played football and cricket and adjoining the Nag Stables was Mr Butler’s Garage, in which he kept his car, a Panhard Levesser.

The Street consisted of Butler’s Orchard on the left with a row of Horse Chestnut trees and then Byrd’s Orchard up to a driveway to Sam Byrd’s house near the Furrows Gate, then an Orchard up to Ted Ballard’s on the brow of the hill (he always kept bee hives around his house).  On the right-hand side from the Corner there were three cottages occupied by Bill Stewart, Ralph Bell and Teddy Bell, then the Cider Mill and an orchard up to the White House occupied by Ernest Butler.  There was then the middle road which led to the tenanted agricultural land through Butler’s Orchard which stretched from Chapel Lane to the top of the Street.  Next to this middle road were two cottages occupied by the Westburys and John Jelfs and then open land until the top road opposite Ted Ballard’s which led along the top of all the tenanted agricultural land stretching up from the Pastures.

The tenanted land was used under the Evesham Custom and owned by Squire Ashwin.  My grandfather, David Wasley, had the first piece, later to become my father’s.  Next was land used by Walt Bell, then land used by the Harwoods, then another piece used by Walt Bell, and then pieces used by Ralph and Teddy Bell and by a Bill Dunkley.  Right along the bottom of these lands was the Pastures which stretched to the railway line and the Cuckoo Bridge.

Offenham Road from the brow of the hill to Aldington Siding was all open agricultural land or plum orchards.  Aldington siding was open in the summer months for goods train traffic to collect produce.  A small cottage at the Evesham/Offenham road junction was I believe occupied by the Cook family.

Chapel Lane had an entrance on the left leading up to the rear of Stewarts’ and Ralph and Teddy Bell’s housess with Butler’s Orchard stretching up to the top of the Street and as far along Chapel Lane as my grandfather’s land.  On the right-hand side there was Ivy House occupied by John Byrd with all the farm buildings, with two cottages occupied by my grandfather and the Tandy family.  The other side of the farmyard entrance was the chapel and two more cottages occupied by Edie Field and one of John Byrd’s stockmen.  Opposite this farmyard entrance just in Butler’s orchard was the famous Nut Bush.

The Manor House farm buildings stretched down towards the Mill with the Maltings cattle shed and stables, with the cart shed and Mill House opposite and then the Flour Mill, locks and mill pond.  By the side of the cart shed the land went down to the Ford.  The Mill House was occupied by the miller, Mr John Sharp and his family, and they were great friends of my father and mother.  John and an old solid tyred Foden lorry for his work and a four-seater Ford car; my father had a Clyno car which he garaged at the Mill.

The other side of Aldington Brook and the Mill Pond were the Mill Meadows which separated more agricultural land which stretched up to Badsey and Horsebridge Hill.  The Mill meadows ran alongside the brook to Blackminster and a footpath down the Pastures and through these meadows allowed us a short cut to Littleton and Badsey Station, on the GWR line.

In the Cherry Orchard opposite Walt Jelf’s house there was a corrugated iron shed which we called the Gardeners Arms.  The Harwoods and Bells had the Cherry Orchard and when working on their tenanted land adjacent to my grandfather’s, they would have their lunch there with the usual tot of cider.  It was the custom that at about 11 am there would by about six cycles propped up against the wall.  As a boy I went there at times to collect cigarette cards and there would be Mr Harwood, Cecil Artie, Bill and Jim and Teddy and Ralph Bell.  They were a great crowd and sent me on all kinds of errands.  At cherry-picking time, I had a bird-scaring job and plenty of cherries.

The development of the village started with eight council houses up the Street, then two houses in Byrd’s Orchard opposite which were occupied by Charles Gardiner, Clerk to the RDC and Dr Murray, the Medical Officer of Health.  Then two more houses next to the Cider Mill, one of which was occupied by a teacher and one by Doug Jelfs.  After that I was no longer resident at Aldington and only an occasional visitor.

I believe that village life was not always friendly and placid, as my father and mother when married lived in Lime Street, Evesham.  Thomas Byrd, however, owned the double-fronted house in which the Cockbills and the Taylors lived and when the Cockbills moved out, he also wanted the Taylors out and thought that as my mother had been brought up on a farm at Laverton, she wouldn’t like the tow so offered them the whole of the house.  Mr Byrd got the Taylors out and hoped they would move out of the village, but Squire Ashwin rented them the thatched cottage which at the time was empty next door.  In any event, my father and mother were pleased to move into village life, my sister and I were born there, and my father and mother lived until the were both 92 in that same house.

I understand that the property was put into a family trust by Thomas Byrd and when the last member of the family trust died in about 1973, properties were sold and my sister bought the old house at an  auction held at “The Oak”.  In the meantime, Thomas Byrd ensured that John would have Ivy House and Sherwood Farm, and of course I can only remember John Byrd living there.  Harry Byrd had the butcher’s shop in Evesham and I remember going there at times when my father was asked to mend the motor that ran the sausage machine at the back of the shop; in those days we came home with a few sausages and a joint as payment!!

The Manor House and Ivy House

Don Wasley's sketch plan A Don Wasley's sketch plan B

Don Wasley's sketch plans A and B of Aldington. Click on the plans for larger versions.

I remember that my grandfather and my father often spoke of the feud which existed between Thomas Byrd and Arthur Savory, as apparently the Village Street in those days ran along quite near to the front door of the Manor House and the kitchen window.  When Thomas Byrd took his manure wagons along from Ivy House Farm to Sherwood Farm, they went right in front of the Manor House windows and to avoid this nuisance, Arthur Savory asked if Thomas, who was on the Council, would enquire if the road could be diverted.  This was subsequently agreed as long as Savory bore the cost.  He got his men to dig out the new roadway, build the retaining walls on each side, make the old road into a driveway with a turn to the left to face up the street and pave along in front of the dairy to steps leading down towards Chapel Lane.

The land in front of the Manor House was raised an a lawn laid with shrubbery at each end and opposite and next to the copse a tennis court was laid out near the old village pump.  When all this was completed (see Plans A and B), apparently Thomas Byrd asked Savory if he would as a favour let him clear away a bit of bank and piece of land near the Nut Bush in Chapel Lane so that when his horses pulled the manure wagons from the farm into Chapel Lane, the lead horse would not need to turn so sharp that it ceased to pull before the wagon was on the roadway.  Apparently Savory had agreed to this but when the time came for him to surrender a bit of his land near the Nut Bush, he thought better of it and refused.  They said Thomas Byrd and Arthur Savory never spoke to each other again.

True or false?  Quite feasible when you look at the layout as it is today.