Memories of Flackwell Heath

I started school when I was four years old at the Infant School in Flackwell Heath. We used to gather blackberries for the war effort to be made into jam or dyes. Later I moved from the Infant School down to Wooburn Church of England School and this meant a walk of over two miles through fields and woods or three miles by the road. During the war and for sometime after we could go to the Welcome Hotel which was just opposite the school, and for one halfpenny we were given a bowl of lentil soup and a piece of bread. This was subsidised by the nearby mill owners, Mr Thomas and Mr Green. We used to pick Bee orchids and Fly orchids on the golf links, and sainfoin, scabious, blue chicory and knapweed in the fields and listen to the linnet, Jenny Wren and Writing Schoolmaster (yellowhammer).

Anne Allen, Wooburn

My father owned the village shop, which meant that he was grocer, butcher, baker, draper and also had carriages—a brougham, victoria, landau and wagonette for hire. The village was two miles from the station so there was quite a bit of station work to be done and elderly ladies to be taken to church and out visiting. There were very few cars about. The doctor had one of the first, a De Dion-Bouton, to replace the high dogcart he had always driven previously. When I was seven, my father was very ill with double pneumonia and that meant a daily trudge to the squire's house for ice to bring down his temperature. In the corner of a meadow near the head gardener's house was a round wooden hut, thickly thatched almost to the ground. Inside was quite a deep pit which, during the winter when the various lakes in the park became frozen, was filled up with big blocks of ice where they remained frozen right through the summer. The winters were very much colder then and there was always ice to be had from the 'ice house'-and we used to love to go into the chilly darkness and watch Mr Swanborough chip off big pieces of ice with a clean garden spade. We then wrapped the ice in flannel and carried it home in a fish basket.

In the spring-time there was primrosing. We knew every bank and hedge row where the best ones were to be found, where the red oxlip grew every year and where, among the cowslips and milkmaids which grew in a low-lying meadow, we would find numbers of early purple orchids. A little later there were afternoons by the river where we gathered king-cups and Lodden lilies.

During the winter we killed three pigs every week and there were chilly afternoons spent in the cold damp slaughterhouse helping to make the sausages. There were the long strips of fat and the 'flays' to be cut up and cooked in the copper to make wonderful home-made lard. The next night the copper would be in use again to heat the water for our weekly bath in front of the kitchen fire.

Down the road was the big village pond which was often frozen over in winter hard enough for skating and sliding and where in the summer horses and carts drove in at one end to let the horses cool their legs and get a drink and drive out the other end.

E.M. Wootton, Flackwell Heath

Extracted from 'A Pattern Hundreds' (1975) and reproduced with the kind permission of the Buckinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes

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