The Winsham Archive    "The Winsham I Remember"

by James Henry Paull

Winsham between the wars, surprisingly, changed very little. Men had to go further afield for work, into the factories at Chard, or at the Saw Mills and Creamery at Yonder Hill. (I can well remember men walking to work on tops of the hedges at Watery Lane when the river Axe was in flood).

The big estate at Cricket St Thomas had contracted as it passed down from Lord Bridport to Mr Fry and onto Mr Hall, (my grandfather worked for them all) and many of the farms passed to private hands. The game was still jealously guarded by the game keepers. Mr White, Mr Hart and Mr Bagge come readily to mind, and they were feared almost as much as the village Bobby. For one period he was 'Tiny' Weaver, a giant of a man of 6' 7". 'The George' was kept by Reg Grabham and woe betide any of the village youths caught on the pub forecourt, or sitting on the village cross, outside of opening hours. 'The Kings Arms' which Tommy Ackland still kept, was probably still the liveliest of the three pubs and 'The Bell' was run by Mr Hart, who supplemented his income by running a taxi service, and later by Bill Partridge, who has just retired to be our neighbour in Colham Lane. To supplement his income in 'The Bell', fish and chips were served on a Saturday night from a tin hut situated in the pub yard. For all that, 'The Bell' was still very much a farm, and Bill was more a farmer than a publican. It is ironic that this is now the sole remaining pub in the village.

The school was still very much the same although the seniors now went to Chard. Winsham must be a wonderful environment for school teachers as following the twenty-five years as a head master by Mr Northcombe, Jimmy Lomax had a lengthy spell to be followed in 1935 by Miss Harding, who only recently retired. 

Church, Chapel and Gospel Hall, still carried on in much the same way. The renowned Gospel Hall shirts were replaced by a length of flannelette, and this was still the reward for good Sunday School attendance, right up until the early days of the last war when the cloth became unobtainable. The Church was still very active, and a unique occasion was the service held on the tower on the morning of Ascension day. The Congregational Chapel, at least for one period, under the guidance of the minister, Mr Kemmish, had both a scout troop and a cub pack, which met in the Hall, at the back of the Chapel, at the top of a flight of wooden steps. Sunday School Summer outings had progressed, and Weymouth was the recognised destination for them all. 

Electricity and mains water arrived, although water was still more generally obtained from a number of giant iron taps that had been installed to replace the old wells, and to supplement the Cross pump. The recreation ground, which contained three apple trees and a number of flower beds, was always immaculately kept, by Captain Beer, who always locked the swings on Sundays. His wife, 'Granny' Beer, was a real character, and was known by everyone, and was to be seen most days, out and about in the village, until she was in her nineties. The Oak that stands in the recreation ground today was ceremoniously planted by Sir George Davis. 

Jack Boait ran a regular taxi service from the house next door to the bake-house opposite the Church. Herb Wheaton still left a head of cabbage, or a swede, in the doorways of those he thought were most in need, when he passed down through the village with his 'Horse and Put', from his fields in Western Way. He could often be seen riding around the village, together with his wife, in their splendid horse and trap, which was their mode of travel. 

The main shop was run by Charlie Appleby, who had inherited the Post Office form Mr Sylvester, who had a Ford van that would be eligible for the London to Brighton veteran car run if it were here today. I also recall he prided himself on his own blend of tea, specially purchased, and blended on the premises. The Baker shop at the lower end of the village was owned by Mr Wilson and subsequently by Mr Denning, who employed Sergeant Lawrence, ('Siddy') as his assistant. This eventually changed over to a butchers shop leaving the baking in the hands of Mr Milden, and George Forsey, who baked for Daisy Boait, and was always known as 'The Midnight Baker' because of his late deliveries. His horse and trap were a regular feature, as he came back through the village, lanterns blazing, in the evening, after making his daily round to the outlying farms. They still competed for the privilege of cooking Sunday dinners and cakes. 

Churchill's Yard was always busy shoeing most of the local horses and New Churchill also charged all the accumulators for everyone who was lucky enough to own a wireless, with the help of an ancient oil engine, that supplied electricity long before the mains came to the village. Arthur Manning's garage was a Mecca for anyone in the village, who wanted anything, at anytime. Whatever it might be, Arthur always had it, the trouble always seemed to be in the location of it, and the simplest order normally resulted in a prolonged search by the customer, by Arthur, and by anyone who happened to be passing at the time. If, in the end, the purchase was located, Arthur was then faced with the even more difficult situation of finding out how much it should cost. This was normally left for a much later date. He was also the proud owner of a telephone, and he made most of the calls for everyone in the village. Even after the arrival of the public call box on the corner not twenty yards from Arthur's, a great many people still relied on him to make their calls. It would be difficult to say whether he was more reliable, or it was popular by the fact that if you couldn't afford to pay, you didn't have to. 

The Courtney's still provided the music for the Bob-hops, although they were later replaced by the Phelps family, all of whom were musical, and one of the daughters, Olive, gave piano lessons to a great many children at the fixed rate of sixpence.

Many of the women in the village supplemented their incomes by repairing lace at home, which was collected and delivered to Lace Room in Back Street. A large wooden hut which also served as the practice room for the village band, which was, and still is going strong. Harvesting, for which the arrival of the steam engine and the threshing machine, was an occasion to delight all the small boys, and haymaking, were will the major parts of the year, and a great number of people from the village helped out on the farms at these times for no more reward than the hope of a rabbit at harvesting, and some cider at haymaking. (The word quickly spread as to who had the best cider, and that farm never wanted for help).

George Clark, all his life a drover, and his wife, Paishy, were two more characters that come to mind. George, as a legacy of his droving days, still walked miles, and was always to be seen walking in the lanes and byways until he was a very great age.

Jim Loaring was the carpenter, Church organist, and the last of the village undertakers. He operated from a house almost opposite the vicarage, with the timber yard alongside.

Daniel Butler, the last of the old boot makers, lived a few doors further up, and he still made the occasional pair of boots, as well as the more usual shoe repairs. He combined this with the job of village postman, his daily walk went to the farms at Broadenham, Hay, Puthill, Midnell, Loe, Chalkway and Holywells, but I remember my Grandmother, his sister, saying that Daniel would read the mail to see if the importance warranted the walk. Another village postman was Mr Hart, whose wife, in later years, kept a sweet shop in Fore Street.

Tanky Good, Alfie Phelps and Bert Lacey were all regular barbers and the usual charge for those who could afford to pay was three pence. Bert was also the Sergeant in charge of the Winsham section of 'Dad's Army' or the local Defence Volunteers, later to be called The Home Guard, during the last war. I recall the ammunition store being on the site of the old Lock-up, in Colham Lane, and in the event of there being an invasion, the banks of the cutting, and the Axewater Road, were ready to be blown up, to block the main road.

The football club still flourished, and was always a force to be reckoned with in the area. I recall an annual fixture played against 'Alma', visiting club from London. There was still never a properly formed Cricket Club, although friendly fixtures were played from the village, but I suspect only as a stopgap until the next football season came round. Any keen cricketers in the village went to Cricket St Thomas, where the cricket club on the estate still flourished, or to nearby Perry Street. The Tennis club at Broadenham was still in existence up until the early nineteen forties. I also recall on one occasion PC Burton, the village policeman at the time, tried to introduce Rugby, but it never progressed to the stage of using an oval ball and extended goal posts. PC Burton was also well known as an amateur boxer, and I recall seeing him box in the arena known as Dennings Hanger in Chard on the same bill as Freddie Mills, later to become a world champion.

The old factory at the bottom of the village was ceremoniously demolished by Herb Wheaton's youngest son Pat, and most of the village turned out for the occasion. There never was a speed limit through Winsham and the polite notices to 'Please drive slowly' have always sufficed to ensure that the village isn't unduly disturbed. Who would want to speed through Winsham anyway?



Click here for Winsham Web Museum home page

This page revised 16 May 2009