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Respect for your elders and betters
Hilders Court has been altered and altered. It must go back over two hundred years. It was called Hilders Farm in the old days. Prior to Lady Laurie, it was owned by the Richardsons. The Richardsons owned all of Chiddingly. When you talk of Chiddingly, you really have to start from Hilders Court, as the hearth hob, you know.
Whatever you were going to do, Hilders Court was involved somehow. As later years come on, when you enter the thirties, people started being able to do things themselves you see, a little more money was available, but prior to that, they really did everything. They arranged everything.
From when we were children, you were virtually coming out of the primitive age. People started standing on their own two feet, they started organisations, directly after the first World War. What started the ball rolling was when the Richardsons sold off the properties of various farms.
In those days, when I was in the choir, when it came to Christmas, or any of those big religious festivals, you wouldn't have a pew to sit in. It would be that tightly packed. There were eight if not nine choir-boys, and there would be about four others. People were required to go to church. You had to go!
You wanted to go to church. My grand-parents used to dress up in their best clothes to go to church.
The schoolmaster and the vicar used to live in the village, which kept it a sort of closer-knit society. And then you had the people like Colonel Agg, and Hayden Morris. Colonel Agg always used to give a Christmas Party for the children, and Hayden Morris gave a summer party for the school, when you had races. These were the Squires. Burton Row was another one. What one used to call in those days, 'gentry'. They had money, they'd always been used to it, and they treated ordinary working people just normally. They never looked down on them. If we hadn't touched our cap to them, I don't think anything would have happened - you just did it. You were just brought up to do it. You used to do it to the teachers as well. They were the days when you had respect for your elders. And of course, you'd never call them by their Christian names. Always Sir, or Madam or Miss. That was how things were in those days.
You talk about discipline - if a teacher goes to school smartly dressed they set an impression. It's the same with children. If they have to wear a uniform, that's a form of discipline. Teachers now are called by their Christian names - that would never have happened in those days. Of course you had respect for people with money - because of the position they held. Some people say you can command respect, but I don't think you can, I think you've got to earn it. Nowadays you don't respect people, or people's property.
When we used to have the cane, we daren't go home and tell our mother and father because they'd day "It served you right - you must have deserved it!".
I never swear - I never have. My Mum and Dad used to say grace at the table, although that gradually faded out. But Dad wouldn't have swearing, although he had no time for church.
I said to my friend, "You go to Mass at 8 o'clock of a Sunday morning, and you're a Catholic, yet you swear like a trooper all the week!" He said, "Yes, but I can confess, I can cross that lot off at the end of the week!"
There was no trouble. Trouble didn't enter your mind. You see, villagers could leave their doors open all night. Nobody'd ever go in. If you had locked your door to go up to the road, it would have been an absolute insult to your neighbour. We never had a key to our house in any case . No such thing as a locked door! And the windows in summer were always wide open. Let the lovely air go through! You never thought about vandals.
We used to leave our doors open, there's the money on the table, the butcher
used to call in, or the grocer, and leave the change.
There were little things. I can tell you of one instance. It was at the Six Bells. I was only a school-boy at the time, this is in the twenties. My eldest brother, he was fifteen years older. He was leaning was against Robinson's wall, talking to another chap. It was in the winter. He saw this chap come out of the pub, and take an oil lamp off a bicycle and put it on his own. The chap couldn't see my brother, because he was against the wall - there was no street light. My brother saw him, though, because of the oil lights in the pub, see. He saw it happen. So then Tom Wickens came out of the pub, and his lamp was missing. My brother Purce went over to him.
He says "Yes", he says, "I saw the chap take it. He was from East Hoathly ."
Anyway, it wasn't long before the policeman came up on his bicycle, and Tom tells him, "A chap has stolen my bicycle lamp."
He says "Never! Nobody wouldn't do that!"
Tom says, "Well, they did!"
And my brother Perce says, "Yes, I saw him take it! I was standing by the wall. I didn't realise he was stealing it. I thought he was just taking someone's light. And I can tell you who it was too, it was a chap from East Hoathly!" And he told him the man's name.
So the policeman went over to East Hoathly, and he retrieved the lamp in the man's house and he charged him. The chap had been in trouble for petty theft before, so that warranted him to go to Uckfield after he was sentenced, for two strokes of the cat-o-nine-tails.
And my brother used to say that he was one of the nicest chaps in the world
after that. And he used to come out and tell Tom Wickens how sorry he was for
what he'd done. He was a nice chap after that.
There's a family story that someone gave one of the boys two pears which weren't quite ripe, and they said if they were put in the haystack, they would ripen up. Well, the boy's brother evidently saw him put them there, and when the boy went back to the haystack, the pears were gone!
I think the first car in Chiddingly was owned by Colonel Agg. It was a Rover. That's the first one I can remember. It was maroon, and sort of fabric-covered. That must have been in about 1927, '28. I was still at school, and he used to come down to the school, because he was a Manager or Governor or whatever they called them. The kiddies used to go and look at this car, but they daren't touch it or get anywhere near it. Children in those days respected anyone older, or anyone with something. Today they don't respect anything or anybody. In those days, if Colonel Agg came to the school, everybody stood to attention. You did it automatically, you didn't have to be told. It was sort of bred in you. If you were spoken to, you'd always call him Sir. Your parents always said that you had to be polite. And you were respectful to your parents. If you weren't it wasn't too long before you got a bit of the stick.
When we used to go for a walk on a Sunday afternoon, if we met anybody my Dad would always lift his hat. It was a recognised thing. We were always told, being polite costs you nothing. I remember when mum and dad used to take us to see our aunties and so on, you never moved. You mustn't say anything if they were talking. You just sat there. You didn't dare say anything, or get up and run around. You just sat there until you were told you could go out and play.
It was the same at the table. You daren't ask for anything. If they saw your plate was empty, they would ask you if you wanted anything. Otherwise you just waited.
I always remember the 6 o'clock news on the wireless. If anybody said a word when the news was on, oh dear, you were for it! You could hardly hear the wireless anyway, for all the crackling. Everything was dead silence. It was a good thing. It taught you respect for elder people.