CHIDDINGLY ORAL HISTORY  P4

Introduction     Page 1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    11    12

Before the war, we never travelled much. Dad used to have one day off a year, during our summer holidays. Mr Robinson from the shop used to take us down to Eastbourne for the day. We had no conveyance to get there, see, only a horse and cart - and that would be rather a long journey! Mr Robinson had a car. Mum was a very good customer, with nine children, and he was kind enough to offer to take us down there and then come and fetch us later on. That was our day on the beach, and we had sixpence to spend. The first thing on my shopping list the night before was a penknife. I always seemed to lose my penknife! Christmas Day, we had off after we had done the necessary work on the farm.
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I can remember the first time I went to Brighton. I couldn't get over the funny little streets and shops you came to. There was no big stores then, of course. It was quite a thing to see all the crowds of people. But of course I was used to it to an extent; when I was married we lived at Cross in Hand first, and we used to go to Tunbridge Wells. That was a town you had to be young in. All hills, Tunbridge Wells!
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Free time? It was all about money, see. The maids of Hilders Court, their money was eight shillings [40p] a month. And they wouldn't have a lot of time off. The same with a lot of the youth. You'd be working at least five and a half days a week, and mostly six in your regular job. If you weren't working on that, you'd be trying to earn money elsewhere, or you'd be playing football Saturday afternoon. Sunday was more or less a free day. Everybody met and talked. Church; Sunday was treated as a Sunday! Only the essential people on a farm, naturally, had to work. But for others, it would be a day of relaxation, a day of rest. Nobody would ever think of doing building on a Sunday or anything like that.
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Looking back from today, we feel proud and very lucky to have lived those years between the wars. Think of all the wonderful things you could do. Sunday evenings you could go out for a walk, boys could go out with the girls. This Village Hall, three nights a week was a men's club, two billiard tables. And the other nights, apart from Sundays, there were whist drives, dancing. Saturday nights was the threepenny hop. They were wonderful years. Although we didn't have the television, or the clothes or the money.
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Before the war, there used to be dances in nearly every village hall on Saturday night. They were called the sixpenny hops. We nearly always went to Upper Dicker, they had a dance there every Saturday night. They had a little band, drums, trumpet. Piano Accordions mostly. Sixpence to go in, and that was your evening. And that was where most people met their future husbands and wives.

In those days, we used to wear long dresses. Always wore an evening dress to a dance.

I can remember going to Upper Dicker after my sister got married in 1937. I was bridesmaid, and of course I thought I was quite "it", you know! The sixpenny hop in my long dress!

We used to have dances here in Chiddingly, and little dances at Golden Cross - the policeman used to run them. That's where I learnt to dance. He taught us ballroom dancing. Of course you'd do the Velita and all that sort of thing. Waltzes, foxtrots, quicksteps, all those. Better than all those dances they have today. Just shuffling, isn't it?

Chiddingly had their own little dance band before the war. On Saturdays we had sixpenny hops. Cecil Vine and his wife, and another one from Golden Cross used to come in to help, and played dance music. Tangos, foxtrots, all that sort of thing. In the pubs you got your singsongs on a Saturday night. "Home Sweet Home", "Annie Laurie", "Irish Eyes".

At the Village Hall, there was a generator for the electricity outside. It used to be wonderful when it broke down, of an evening, when we were dancing!
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Weddings were always something spectacular. Everyone in their best clothes. For my wedding we had MacGregor, the vicar. We had the wedding breakfast at the village hall. There was 82 sat down! We had ham, and salad with it, there was quite a variety of things. You had a nine gallon beer barrel. Beer was only fourpence [2p] a pint.
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There used to be a vicar here called McGregor. He drank a lot. He used to run the most superb pantomimes in the village school. A myth arose around him which was quite pleasant; that he could say the blessing and be at the bar at the Six Bells quicker than anybody else! There became a theory that there was an underground passage from the church to the Six Bells! There isn't an underground passage to the Six Bells and certainly there is nowhere where there has ever been one. I think he ran. He was a lovely man, very good to the children.

Regarding the underground passage, William Chives in "The Church of Chiddingly", 1941, writes...

"The 'subway' from Place to Church has been the subject of much discussion. Some say it never existed, but firstly, the majority of the oldest parishioners in my younger days scorned the idea of such a statement. Secondly, the late Rev J Scales told several visitors in my hearing that the late Jefferay emerged inside the church from the said subway. Thirdly, it has been said by many that the place of entry to the church from the subway is a few yards outside the western door. Fourthly, I am one of those who would be greatly surprised if that subway never existed, having heard several folks state that the entrance to it is to be found bricked up in the cellar or cellars at the Place. Fifth, now, come with me my friend, see it is a very dry summer, but see that green strip in a straight line across yon field, toward the church from Place. You may agree with one or may not, but be that e'er which way it will, that strip of grass is green there still."
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I remember going to the Harvest Suppers at Stream Farm, at the big farmhouse. That was a real thing to look forward to. We never had too much to eat, and when we went there to this Supper, we did tuck in! The farmer laid it on, for all the farm workers.

We had a Harvest Supper at Place Farm. There'd be a dozen, fifteen people. Home brewed cider. If you had two pints of that you wouldn't go far! One local chap, he'd come to help us do a bit of haying, so I said to him, "When we've finished up, come and have a glass of beer or cider." He said, "I'll have cider if it's good, I don't want any of that rough stuff."

So I said, "Well, I think it's all right. You just try it." So I gave him a glass, with just an eggcup-full in the bottom, just to taste.

He said, "This isn't cider." I said, "Yes it is." Anyhow, I poured him out about a third of a pint. I hadn't filled the glass, and he looked at me, but I didn't take any notice. It wasn't too many seconds before he'd drank it. I said, "Look, you can have another if you want it, but if I were you, I'd call that enough."

"Don't you think I can take my cider?" he said. So I said, "Well, you tell me when to stop then." I filled his glass up. He was still there at half-past one in the morning. He couldn't get up!
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You used to have gas lamps on your bicycles, and oil lamps, carbide. I can smell it now - horrible!

We used to go to the cinema in Hailsham, and then walk home - we hadn't got enough money! In those days that Boship road wasn't there, we had to come round the other way.
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Everybody used the pub. It used to be a full house, see. Everyone from this area, because you had your pub at Golden Cross, so all those from Golden Cross went to their pub. Where you'd meet one another was at a darts match. Each pubs had their darts matches.

Women didn't use the pub as much as they do now, they used to have to wait outside. After the war they used the pub more. But before... you'd be scorned on for using the pub. Coming up towards the end of the war it was creeping in. And then afterwards it come in.
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I remember the old Gun in days gone by, when they had the rack with the big barrels on and they had chicken in the bar as well. You'd walk in, and the chicken would fly out the door. And the only food you could get there was a hunk of bread and cheese.
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If you were out for the walk you used to go in for a glass of cider and a lump of bread and cheese, and if you were lucky you got an onion!

Cheese and pickled onions. And we used to get those big arrowroot biscuits in the pubs.
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We used the pub as soon as we could! How old were we? That depended on who'd you'd got inside who'd bring one out for you! And who the landlord was. We've always been blessed with good landlords. There was Smith, who went from here down to the Golden Cross. Burt Antrum played football with us. Then Charlie Kirkby took it over during the war, he had been a local farmer, at Willetts Farm.
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We used to use the pub. A few of us women, even before the war. All the village people were there, for a drink and a dance of an evening. If your friends weren't there, you'd want to know where they were! Some people would come from Eastbourne.
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Wm Chives, writing in 1955 ...
"A few days ago, while talking over the days of my younger years with an elderly man, Mr Jesse Durrant, (chimney sweep visiting Chiddingly in those days to fulfil orders). At Horam, speaking of Chiddingly, he told me that when he was five years (or thereabout) he remembers that a man got as far as "Holmes Hill Farm" (Mr Durrant's home) in the neighbourhood of Cross in Hand, Heathfield, carrying a new Weather Vane on a long rod.

Being that the Vane was somewhat glittering, it attracted his attention. The bearer of the Vane told them that he was taking it to Chiddingly for the Church. It being dusk, Mr Durrant's parents gave the man supper and he slept afterwards in the Barn, getting on the road, walking, again at daybreak. Now Mr Durrant's age at the present is 89 or 88 and when the above incident happened would appear to have been 83-84 years ago. Note - the said man had walked from Rotherfield (beyond Mayfield)."