Reflections of a wartime evaquee in Holford

Reflections on life as a Sheffield wartime evacuee in Holford Village West Somerset 1939-40

Reproduced by Brett Bates with kind permission of Basil Grandfield

I was sent to Holford by my parents at the age of eight years, together with my brother of fifteen years, to live with an Aunt and Uncle (The Sharmans) at the Hazels in Hodderscombe Holford.

I believe all of the evacuees billeted both within the village itself and close to it numbered about one dozen and were dispersed as follows:

Myself and brother at The Hazels Hodderscombe.
Two sisters - Ex Leamington Spa in the first cottage down back lane (Glen Cottage?).
One Girl - Ex Coventry / Birmingham at Pardelstone Farm.
Several Boys - Ex East End London and possibly Bristol at a Farm in Woodlands area.

Dyche School and associated activities

On school days those living close to the village centre met at the Plough Inn and walked down Green Lane to Dyche. Our school was one large high roofed room, rather like a barn with a stove for heating. The yard / playground at the front bordered the road and contained a barn, which was probably used for shelter at playtime. A large tree (for the lads to climb) was against the roadside wall and I believe there was a maypole at the yard centre. At the rear of the school, against the back wall of the yard was a row (5/6?) of lavatories with, I think, flushing cisterns. Also in the left hand corner of the back yard was a water tank fed with water from a hand pump operated by the pupil pump monitors, according to the class pump rota. We all had to take our turn. Water was also used for hand washing prior to eating our lunchtime sandwiches around the stove. The farmers wife from the farm across the road and to the left of the school bought daily in a large pitcher or jug hot National Cocoa, a Government provided wartime drink for young children. There was only one class in the school without any segregation for age or sex, and taught by one lady teacher from London I think. She was dark haired and lovely.

Lessons?  Not much recollection of the Three R's but we did have what might be classed as arts and crafts. We all attempted a waste paper basket woven from cane (Osiers) on a wooden base and I recollect we all sat round a central table to draw a large black boot placed on it. There were I believe, some nature walks and one particular highlight-  a class visit to Dodington Hall it's Minstrels Gallery intrigued me and I've never forgotten it.

Osiers (Willow)

Downloading picture of Dodington Hall
Dodington Hall

Living at The Hazels, chicken farm at Kilve and wood gathering

I was aware that I was much more fortunate than other Holford Evacuees through living with an Aunt and Uncle who I knew well from previous annual holidays and also having other Aunts and Uncles and a Grandfather living next door at The Orchard (recently demolished 2010). In contrast to living in suburban Sheffield I had to adjust to an outside chemical loo, candles and oil lamps for lighting and a general lack of entertainment and young companionship, particularly during the winter months. The only village boy of comparable age was Alan Boobier. Fortunately my brother and I could at weekends walk through Holford Glen to Kilve to a cousins chicken farm where we helped with egg collecting, mucking out, feeding chickens, carcass plucking and other farm duties. Another domestic duty was 'sticking', the collecting of wood for The Hazels fire and cooking range gathered from The Beeches, Alfoxton Park woods and the combes, using an old battered pram for transporting.

The Orchard

Knitting soldiers comforts, rose hip collecting - wartime effort

I recollect that a visiting friend of my Aunts taught me to knit (plain stitch only) and I produced some colour - assorted knitted wool squares to be made into 'soldiers comforts' for the war effort. Similarly in the autumn of 1939 payment was made to the pickers of rose hips which were weighed I believe on the village post office scales and dispatched to produce syrup, No doubt the local WVS, or just the good ladies of Holford oversaw this exercise.

Miss Dickinson and weaving, Scouts and Cubs

A Miss Dickinson lived in one of the cottages on the right at the top end of Holford Combe (always known as Butterfly Combe to me) which backs onto Combe House Hotel. She had a spinning wheel and a weaving loom on which she produced lengths of cloth. She made gentleman's ties and other similar woven items which were displayed for sale in her cottage front window.
Presumably Miss Dickinson heard that my brother and I were keen Boy Scouts and Wolf Cubs respectively in our home town and she sought our help in establishing similar activity in the village hall on a weekly basis. The intention, I'm sure was to effect some form of local troop and pack. I think it was quite without any official organization support, lacked the necessary trappings and was I believe very short lived.

London Lads, Kilve Beach and glatting

Another singular extra activity for the evacuee boys comes to mind. The London lads became aware of the local sport of 'glatting' (The hunting of eels in the rock pools of Kilve Beach after high tide) and organised a hunt. Participants were required to 'obtain' a kitchen fork and meet at Kilve. I doubt that any eels were caught, we would all get pretty wet and several local households would be puzzled to discover forks with mutilated tines amongst their kitchen utensils after the event, my Aunt included.

Basil H Grandfield 12/11/2012

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