CHIDDINGLY ORAL HISTORY  P5

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

Shopping

You could get everything, the essentials to live on, in the shop here. Everything. You could get your bicycles. Mr Robinson supplied the bicycles. Pails, buckets, all your cooking utensils, everything was hanging up. There was no need, essentially, to travel out. What happened when you did go out, it was a glorious day out. You really enjoyed it. It wasn't something you were doing every day. From Golden Cross, the bus service was excellent. You could go to Uckfield, to Brighton, to Eastbourne, connection on to Hastings. In Chiddingly you had a bus service from 1928. You had an old blue car which used to run Saturdays. It would take you into Hailsham, because from Hailsham there was a railway station, see, you could catch a train to anywhere you wanted.

Mr Robinson at the shop here was a wonderful character. I remember when they arrived. All the cars parked outside the shop. That used to be green grass then, with a footpath just the other side of it. We come home from school and we saw this huge Pickford lorry. Got in a row for being home late! Still, we were so interested, like, because we hadn't seen a lorry like that before. It come up from the railway station, I think. We knew that Mr Dark (?) who had the shop had already moved out.

The Robinsons moved in and it was quite something, because they started up the telegraph. Not in the shop, in the house, in the front room. That was in 1929. During the General Strike. I was just about eleven years old then.

They hadn't been there long, and then they had a very serious fire there. Mrs Robinson got a telegraph through that it was on fire, because in those days they had these acid jars to run the power for the telegraph, and of course once they go everything could burn. Terrible. Anyway, they got a telegraph through that there was a fire at the exchange, and the telegraph van came up. It got as far as the old vicarage entrance; there was only a narrow entrance then, and the road wasn't as wide as it is now. Of course it was very wet, very muddy, and he stops his van - solid wheel lorry - and gets his ladder to cut the telegraph wires so it doesn't disrupt anything.

The fire brigade came up and went to pass him, and went into the ditch, and they couldn't move!

In those days they used to have a big water trough outside the pub for the horses . There happened to be a lot of them in the Six Bells, and of course they all turned out to get water, see. Buckets of water from the Six Bells, down the side, through the gate. They got chains of them going. I always remember my father saying, what with the smoke and everything, he threw this bucket of water just as somebody shut the door! He was drenched!

They put the fire out. Naturally. With buckets of water carried from the Six Bells.
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Mr Robinson at the shop had a little Morris van. We were down the Stream, delivering, one Saturday night. It was eleven. "Right, boy, you drive home!" So the boy drove home! And that was the only lesson I've ever had! After that, Mother used to walk up to the shop for her groceries, and I used to drive her home. I could just about reach the pedals, looking through the wheel!
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I lived at Easterfields Farm, and my father ran the farm there. Then we moved down to Gun Hill and we had the post office and general stores there, in the front room then. We sold sweets and groceries. Then we gave it up and it moved to the top of the hill.
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The Westgates were lovely people. They had the shop at Muddles Green. They sold most things, but what a muddle! They had to find it underneath! Sweets and cigarettes. If they didn't have what you wanted, they would try and get it. 

We used to go in and get sweets. Twenty a penny for aniseed balls.

My Dad used to call in there every morning for his tobacco, on the way to work. Next to Jubilee Gardens; it's been modernised now.

We used to laugh at Westgates; he'd cut a sweet in half to get the weight just right! I got a lot of my bottom drawer in there, glassware, and I got a dinner service in there for 12/6 [63p]. I've got some of it left.

My mother had me in '33 and handed me over to a nanny, who was very good to me, I still remember her very well. My earliest memories are of ice-cream, and where the sweet shops were. I remember Westgate's sweet shop down the other end of the village. That's a private house now. And there was a 'stop me and buy one' ice-cream man. He used to have his bicycle outside the school, with a coolbox on the front.
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The Tollhouse then was a shoe shop - what we called a snub shop. Old Crossingham, he used to do harness for the farmers, repair saddles, all that sort of thing. He used to chew tobacco and he would spit it under the sole of a shoe and then hit it with his hammer and it would squirt out everywhere! He used to have a bucket at his side, filled with water to soak his leather, and he was always spitting his tobacco in that. He soaked the leather to put on the soles of shoes and boots. He used to do my football boots and everything. Soak it and then hammer it out, and now and again a nail would come up through into your foot!

He'd got one withered leg - and he rode his three-wheeled trike, which had one pedal with a lever which he pulled with his hand. We used to go right round Chiddingly in those days, collecting for the hospitals. There were some photos of him being towed by Old Cot, when he was on parade from Golden Cross to the church or to the hospital on a Sunday. He'd got a little wooden platform where he put his withered leg.

Charley Crossingham. He was my uncle. Not to be confused with the Crossingham that owned the garage - they were brothers. And so was the one in the Band.
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The bread used to come round in a horse and cart. You could go to the local shop, but it was also delivered. We were lucky because we had a baker at Lower Dicker, and Wickens did bread before he went on to corn and coal. Wickens had the mill at Golden Cross. I always remember coming by old Darby's up at Dicker, though. The smell of that bread, didn't that used to smell gorgeous! What was even better was when he used to come along, and the bread was still warm and you could cut a crust off and put a bit of butter on it.

When I came here in 1939, Wickens the Miller, he came down to see me. He said, "I've served your mother for a long time, could I have your business? And if you're short of money, you needn't pay for three or four months." He was a gentleman.

They used to have the mill down the road, it's called the Sussex Traders now. They'd never do haying on a Sunday, even if it was going to rain hard. They'd rather lose that hay. And he always used to say, when he gave us sixpence, "You look after the pennies, and the sixpences will look after themselves."
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I've worked at Golden Cross mill all my life. I started there in 1932. It used to be an agricultural mill. It changed hands a time or two, but I still carried on. And then the company closed that down and their headquarters were further down the road at Coldharbour Mill, so I went there. I was 14 when I started working in the mill, and their main product was grinding oats. Because at that time all the farmers had got chickens in coops and they had tubes which they put in their mouths and two or three pumps. That was our main product. Then I got promoted when I was 16, which meant I was working only part-time in the mill. The firm I worked for then was just a family concern.

They also had a bakers business; they'd got two men who went round on a van, and also they'd got a horse and trap. So my promotion was coming round Chiddingly three afternoons a week delivering bread. From Golden Cross to Nash Street corner and back again, up through Chiddingly, along to Frith's Farm and then up round Colonel Agg's, and then I came back home. There were candle lamps on this cart. Once it got to lighting up time while I was still on my rounds. There was a big tree outside this house, so I pulled up under there to light my two lamps. I was bending over trying to light them, and I dropped some money out of my leather bag. When I got back to work I counted up, and I was 18 pence [8p] short. My boss said, "Well, you can go up there tomorrow before you start work and collect that 18 pence!"

So I had to go from the Dicker all that way before starting work at half past seven, to pick up 18 pence!
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I always remember there was a place down in Alfriston, coming down the road there was a little old farm on the right where they sold butter. I went in there one day, and his wife said, "He's not quite ready yet, he's down the barn milking." He was down there, sitting there hand-milking. I thought, "Oh, he's got a big old drip on his nose," and all of a sudden it went - plop! I never had no more butter from there. It put me clean off!
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It was hard for adults. Very very hard. The benefit of modern life is that financially you can do things which you could never do before the war. You'd like to go to Eastbourne but you hadn't got the 1/9 [9p] to go on the bus. When I started work when I left school I got four shillings [20p] a week, and I gave my mother three shillings and had a shilling in my pocket. I went to work on a poultry farm, but it was six days a week for four shillings. I wasn't there long when I found that I could get another job at Park Corner Garage. They had chickens there, and they would give me five shillings a week. I already had a brother working at Hilders Court, so it was all filled up there, see.
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We didn't have time to listen to music or do anything really, working from half past six in the morning, until it got dark at night. I used to do 80 hours a week. That was before I was fourteen. I left school at 13 and a half, because my birthday is in February. We broke up in the Summer holidays, and my father wrote to the Headmaster, which was Mr Sturdey, and asked could I possibly leave earlier because he desperately needed me on the farm, as my brother was in the army. And the Headmaster said by all means. It suited me a treat, because I hated school. I started work and in the summer we were doing at least 80 hours a week. We used to come up and do old Mr Ellis's haying for him.
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We used to have to get the water from the well. When I was a young girl, I used to have to pump the water hundreds of times every morning, to pump the water into the house! My family paid to have the water brought out along Stalker's Lane. It took us three years to pay for it.
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I was born at Blackboys, nearly a hundred years ago. My father was a farmer. We moved to a Farm at Laughton when I was thirteen, but my father had a nervous breakdown and we had to get out. We were only there five years. So I came to Chiddingly when I was eighteen. We stayed with my father's brother for about 12 months because we didn't have anywhere to live, and then we heard of Parsonage Cottage coming up empty, so we went up there.

Chiddingly was very good when we first came. My brother was in the band. He really was smart. The band uniform was navy blue with red piping.

I left school at fourteen, and worked on the farm. I enjoyed it, doing everything on the farm. You're brought up on it, aren't you? You didn't take any notice of the long hours, because you were poking about outside with the chicken and all that. We were contented. We weren't about to rush off anywhere. The only place we went, that I can remember, was to whist drives. As a teenager, the old Reverend used to get them up.

We used to get up about six and do the milking before we went to school, because we had 22 cows. I didn't milk them all, but I helped. I didn't like scrubbing down the cow stall on a cold morning. We pumped up the water for the cows to drink. You got frozen doing that. There was no running water, of course, we had a well. And we had paraffin lamps.
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The old Sussex brogue was difficult to follow sometimes. They had different words for different meanings. There was a different word for a scythe in Kent from what it's called in Sussex. Fropp-up, they used to call it, but here it was an arnbull, I think.

A local man and his brother were in partnership, farming for a number of years, and some people who didn't know them were talking to one of them, and he was very Sussex, and they turned to his brother and said, "What's he saying?" I mean - to say that in front of somebody!

Farming

Stream Farm was one of the last farms in Sussex to have oxen instead of horses, for pulling ploughs and so on.

Back as far as I can remember, all the agricultural boys worked six days a week, and it was only the Council chaps with the horses who worked five days. On the Saturdays we used to cut the chaff, and I used to have to keep the chaff cleaned away from the chaff-cutter while my father and another chap cut it up. We used to take it round to the different places where the horses were being stabled. I think I'm right in saying that each horse had half a hundredweight of oats a week , and either half a hundredweight or a quarter hundredweight of flaked maize. Then they used to have bran mash once a week.
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I moved to Burgh Hill Farm when I was about five years old, because my father farmed it. We didn't own it, it was tenant farming. Because people didn't own farms - it was mostly one person who owned most of the land, and you never even saw who they were, because they lived miles away.
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A harvest barrel was used to take cider to the men who were working on the harvest. You had the initials of the farmer on the side so that nobody walked off with it. And you'd go down to whoever it was who made cider and fill it up. Usually it was the farmer who made the cider. There were a lot of hop fields about in those days.
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Rabbits! You never saw so many rabbits in your life. I never liked a gun. My brother came down and say "Have you tried shooting?" and picked up the gun and just popped them over. He was always with a gun under his arm. I used a ferret. Me, if a rabbit sat up and said half a dozen prayers, I might just get him as he says the seventh one!
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When my dad had the farm at Easterfields, I hated hay-making time, because you had to go out and help him by turning with those big rakes in the field, by hand. You no sooner turned the fields than it would come on the rain, and you'd have to go out and do in all again! I used to hate it!

The hay was cut by hand with a scythe. And then it was turned over with hay rakes, hand rakes, and then rowed up. I think they did have a horse rake. They'd go along the furrow and get a lot, then they'd tread on a lever which lifted it up and left it behind, and they'd leave it in rows across the fields. Then they'd come along with these carts, they were called Sussex Wagons, and you'd roll it a bit and dig your fork in, and pick it up and put it up on the waggon, and then they'd put it where they wanted it. They had to be loaded in a style. You loaded one pitch there, one pitch there, then the sides and then one in the middle.

The position tied them in, so they didn't slip off. And when you unloaded it, you unloaded in the same order only in reverse. If you didn't, you'd pull your guts out. If you loaded it, you unloaded it. It used to come off as easy as anything. But if you mucked it up, you'd be completely knackered by the time you'd finished that load. It took about half and hour to pitch off a Sussex Wagon.
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My Dad was cowman at Stream Farm. They used to milk about 12 cows apiece. One morning, he said, the farmer came out, and it was one of those mornings with real black ice. He always wore the old britches, and he'd got his hands stuck in his britches. He came striding along, and he fell over, didn't he? He said, "You're all fired!" But he took them back on again!
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In those days everybody was queuing up for jobs. 1928 or 1929, I can't think which it was. They were queued up from Dukey's House (?) to the Bush. I said to my wife "I'm not stopping here!"

She said, "Why not? You never know."

And I saw a friend coming along. "Hello," he says.

I says, "I ain't stopping with this lot!"

He says, "Don't you be too sure, he's got his eye on one or two."

So anyway, I got the job, didn't I? 70 hours a week, 4 o'clock Sundays, half past four the rest of the week. And you got one day a month off.

The boss said, "I want you to be head cowman."

I said, "Why? Your head cowman's has been with you 28 years."

"I know, " he said. "He ain't doing the job properly."

It was 36 shillings [1.80] a week, less ninepence.

He said, "I've been paying 38/6 a week, but he ain't been bothered whether we get live calves or not. What I'm going to do now," he said, " I'm going to pay you 36 shillings, and you'll get so much a calf." So that was that.

This was in November.

He said, "Can you come straight away?" Our cottage wasn't free then, so I went and lodged with old Fred Budgen for three weeks. Do you know where Dutnes (?) is? Round that bend? Well, there were two cottages there, and we had the one nearest as you come up the lane. It got warm there, and smelt. The wall was covered with flies. We'd been there only a week, and my wife pulled back the sheet and it was nothing but flies. Because there was no windows to open. Well, my wife wouldn't have that.

She said, "He'd better do something about this. It's unhealthy." And he did, too. He had the walls seen to inside. There were nests of flies. I had five and a half years there.

Farming's a healthy life, but you earn all you get. And if you haven't got the right partner, you don't get on. My brother came to us one day and my wife said to him, "What's the matter?".

"I've got backache."

So she said, "Well, don't your wife rub anything on it?"

"No" he says. "she won't do anything like that. "

So she says, "Pull your shirt up." She puts some stuff on that came from Scotland.

My brother said it burned so much that half way home he had to lay in the grass to cool it off!
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Me and my wife never had a holiday. I've been to London twice. It's busy. I went with the Farmers' Union. Once to the Motor Show and once to the Fatstock Show. I went to Brighton now and again, but we had to get the milking done, didn't we? That's the trouble, you're tied up, aren't you?
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I think my Uncle bought the house from the Lowers. It hadn't been altered much from the days when it had been a school. He took the pulpit down in what we used to call the 'barn'. He didn't own any land; he used to build all the hay-ricks on the farms, specially for Stanley Wood. He was the first one I can remember having a motor car in Chiddingly. He lived in Eastbourne, and he had a little bungalow at Muddles Green. He used to come out pretty well every weekend, and spend about six weeks in the summer there as well. He used to have an old Vulcan lorry, which he used to do the haying with as well. Very unusual to see a lorry in the fields, haymaking.

My Uncle used to ride a tricycle, he used to go right up to Smithlands to tend cattle up there. Stanley Wood also built the Guide Camp at Bulls River. We used to stand on the back of the old trike and we used to go with my uncle, to tend to the Camp and sort things out down there, empty the toilets and all that sort of thing. It was just the old bucket toilet in those days. Right in the middle of a wood. It's still going strong, that Camp. Stanley Wood gave it to the Guides, Eastbourne Guide Troop I think it was, and then it went into all the units of Guides.
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We had a tractor come in about 1935, that was a platform tractor. The farmer used to load up his horse and trap with chicken and butter, and drive to Brighton. I think he used to drink nearly all the money, and they said very often they went out there about two or three o'clock in the morning and the horse would be standing outside of the gate, and the farmer would be in the trap asleep, half tight! The horse used to come home on its own!

We had tractors and machinery down at the brick- yards, and lorries, solid tyres they were, but the first tractor at Burgh Hill Farm was in 1936 or 37. The carter had got a bit fed up with horses. He'd be there at five in the morning, polishing his brasses, and we always had to ask him which horses we could use. He was the boss. When I used to go up there to take over the ploughing, you'd take out such and such horses, and then at lunch-time they'd give the horses quite a break. I remember when my father used to sit on his horse-mower mowing the sides of the road and save that hay, and pitch it up on a stack. He'd mow little bits out of the corner of a field, because horses could get right to the edge.

In those days you used to cut the hedges with a swop [sickle]. They've taken a lot of the hedges out now. There was a grant to take out the orchards, I think it was 40 an acre.
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I was working in gardening for the well-to-do people in those days. Years ago, there were so many small-holdings. Crossingham used to have one, he used to fatten chickens in crates. He used to have a container, mix up some sloppy old ground oats, and with a long pipe, he used to what we call 'cram chicken'. He used to have a little pedal and he used to slide the pipe into the chicken's gullet. When they pressed it they'd just feel how much to put in, and then they'd stop or else they'd burst the crop, you see. I've seen them do it. To fatten up the chicken quick - no wastage. Not like nowadays, when they throw the food out and it's all trodden in. They talk about free-range chicken - but you look at the dirty old muck those chickens pick up!
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When I left school I helped my father on the farm. I'd already got two elder brothers working. I didn't actually go to school for the last three days; I left at the summer term and of course Dad was very busy, and he said "I need you at home. You're not going to school for the last three days, we're too busy." So I started work, and I was working for Dad until war broke out.
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There used to be a chap at a farm near here, they called him deaf and dumb. When my mother used to take my sister to school, she was ever so scared of him. He used to put his hands in the air and shout, in his way, because he couldn't speak. He was a good worker. They called him Dummy.