Life at Witley

 

I can only conjecture about why the Warings decided to move from Banstead (Beech House) to Witley (Great Roke) in 1944.  Undoubtedly a supplier of coal to the armed forces would have benefitted financially from the war.  Also, Mrs Waring was extremely fond of animals and probably wanted a small farm.  The business did not move, but stayed on in Sutton.  I doubt if the bombing would have had much effect on the Warings themselves.  They lived at Banstead so they would not have been so much affected by “Doodle bugs” as we were at Sutton.

 

 We moved on a lovely summer day. We travelled in a van that carried all of our household goods.  The journey was uneventful and I distinctly remember arriving at the top of Roke Lane, off Mare Hill, and bumping down the track that led through an avenue of overgrown hedges, past the entrance to Great Roke Farm (right) and to two worker’s cottages (left).  We then passed a small bungalow owned by Mr. Ledley Brown (left) to reach a five bar gate and through it to the pond and Roke Farmhouse.  “Lower Roke” nestled in a valley, surrounded by woods.

 

 The farmhouse was, I think, of Queen Anne’s time (early 1700’s).   It faced west.  The farm track led past a weeping birch (Young’s birch) in an overgrown lawn, to a brick path to the front door which had a small canopy over it.  The windows of the two main first floor rooms were modern casements on either side of the front door.  Similar, smaller, windows of the two main bedrooms were above,  with a tiled roof and a large chimney (North end) and a smaller chimney (South end).  A small footpath of sand led round the North side of the house, past a miserable little vegetable garden, past the large chimney, to a brick courtyard at the back of the house and the “shed” (originally the dairy and barn). This “shed” (tiled roof) was divided into two parts by a brick wall.  To the right was the old dairy with two windows and a brick shelf running its full width.  Here we kept our bicycles.  To the left, the barn had a window overlooking the large pond and one overlooking the courtyard.  This barn was where we stored our wood (sawn and unsawn) and one or two of our 4 bicycles.  Dad made a large sawing horse and we were equipped with bow saws and a large cross-cut saw.  Sawing wood was a major activity for David and me, accompanied by much argument (“keep the saw straight!) especially when heavy elm branches were being sawn.  One or two bicycles were often kept in the “barn”.  A major component of the barn for me was the double window that overlooked the pond (only 2 or 3 feet from the edge).  The window ledge always held one or two large glass aquaria (especially old glass battery jars from the garden shed at Great Roke, used before mains electricity came to Great Roke – it never came to Lower Roke in our time there!)  Also, this window afforded a wonderful view across the pond, to the high steep wooded bank on the other side of the pond – excellent for watching trout,  dabchicks, woodpeckers and occasional visitors such as mute swans, water rail, coots and kingfishers.  An old punt was moored here, so boating adventures started from here.  Mum made frequent trips in the punt for various reasons that  

were not obvious to me.  I think she enjoyed them, as we did.  She was very keen on pulling up hornwort (why?).  Latterly the punt got very rotten and sank.  The Warings replaced it with a small plywood boat which we never used.  Occasionally we were visited by kingfishers whose blue feathers were always a welcome find under a willow tree.  Pond dipping to supply the aquaria was a regular activity for me (David was quite uninterested and supercilious) but stickleback, dragon fly larvae etc. etc. were frequent occupants of the aquaria.  My nets were always made by Mum and the handles grew by the waterside (a 10’ high clump of bamboo).  The trout were always a problem – there were only 2 or 3 and I never caught or saw any young trout.  There were incomplete concrete blocks (?bridge supports) to be seen in the pond from the shed window and trout were often seen in this region of deeper water.  On the other side of the pond, in a high, steep bank, grew large oak trees.  One of these had an angular branch, easily recognised in a painting (“Rustic Anglers”) by Charles Wilson.  The painting is now in the National Gallery.  It shows 2 children who featured in many of Wilson’s pictures.  He lived at Milford.  Later in life I managed to find a print of it made into a card, which, of course, I bought and it hangs in my bedroom.

 

 At the top end of the pond, a spring arose and supplied the pond.  It also supplied us with all our household water and supplied the swimming pool at Great Roke.  From  the pond, the stream ran through a small field (used for Jersey heifers in the summer) and a large field which was grazed by a dairy herd and also cut for hay.  In later years I spent time there working in the hayfield.  This water course is very interesting and I will deal with it in more detail later on.

 

 To return to the house:  “Lower Roke” was originally “Roke Farmhouse”.  It was bought by the builder of “Great Roke” (1902?), who presumably built the small dairy near the big house and removed all traces of Roke Farm except for the “shed” (barn).  If you went to the “back door” of Lower Roke, up a short flight of steps, you entered a small brick-floored entrance lobby.  To your right was the staircase leading to the upper floor. A “gallery” led to the upstairs rooms.  First on the right, under the roof, was the bathroom (equipped with a 6’ bath) and w.c. Sitting on the seat of the w.c. one had the very best view of the pond, especially when the dabchicks had their nest in the pond, close to the bamboo clump.  At the far end of the “gallery” was a small bedroom, also under the roof (this was my bedroom).  The two main bedrooms lay between these two rooms.  One was David’s room, equipped with a double and a single bed.  The other, next to mine, was Mum and Dad’s bedroom.  The attic was never visited, but it contained the cold water cistern (of which, more later!)

 

 Downstairs, four rooms opened out of the entrance lobby.  All but one of these were brick-floored.  On the right was the kitchen with a small larder and a wood-burning range with an oven.  On the this was always one or two Primus stoves (pressure stoves burning paraffin).  In the opposite corner was the kitchen sink.  This included a semi-rotary pump for pumping spring water up to the water tank in the roof.  There was a tap off this pump so that water could be supplied by it direct to the glazed earthenware sink.  Filling the tank in the roof was a major responsibility for me and David.  On the opposite wall of the kitchen was a length of thin cord with a lead weight tied to its end.  One pencil line on the wall indicated the level of water in the tank when full.  (If you wanted a bath at night you always had to fill the tank first – no half measures or saying “it’s ¾ full already”.  It had to be full.  The corner next to the sink was occupied by the larder.  On the opposite side of the entrance lobby was the original “wash room”.  It included a copper with a fireplace under it.  It also had a double bed for visitors.  Between kitchen and washroom there were two big downstairs rooms.  One was the original parlour, equipped with a huge brick fireplace, wooden seats on either side, and a large cowl over the fire.  There was also a pipe bringing air in from outside to the front of the fire.  There were wooden corner seats at each side of the grand fireplace.  It was very impressive, but nothing would cure the fire from smoking except to have the top pane of the modern casement windows lightly open .   You could get a roaring fire going, and if you sat in a corner seat you could be reasonable warm.  But everyone else was cold because “the window was open”.  The pipe bringing outside air in to the front of the fire made no effect at all on the smoke.  A huge oak beam across the room had attached to it two square iron hooks – presumably for a gun.  On either side of the fireplace were two deep cupboards.  The front door opened directly into this room from the brick footpath.  The large  window was a modern iron casement window.  The floor of this room was of brick throughout.  It was a grand, but not very comfortable, room.   The other front room was small and very different.  It had no external door, being entered only from the entrance lobby.  It had a wooden floor and the fireplace was small, with a “modern” wooden surround.  The casement windows had wooden shutters and on either side of the fireplace there were cupboards/bookshelves with wooden doors.  By the fireplace we always had big elm logs standing to put your cup and saucer on, and to dry out thoroughly.  In the centre of the room hung a large cast iron oil lamp, and the floor was well covered with warm rugs.  This was a very comfortable room.  David and I used to do our homework here, with the aid of a very modern, and efficient, oil pressure lamp.  It was very definitely the“sitting room”.  The walnut dresser was always kept here and most meals were taken here when we had visitors.

 

The “garden” at Lower Roke was almost non-existent.  We had no need to grow our own fruit and vegetables and the very special “Young’s Weeping Birch” was the only plant of note except for the bamboo clump.  All around was teeming with wild life.  We put up nest boxes for the birds and the moist soil was always full of interesting plants and animals.  The main item of note was the large watercress bed at the top of the pond, over which the spring water flowed.  Mum used to pick watercress for us and sold the bulk of it to Forest Stores in the village.  She put the money in a special box and when I went to Bristol University

she sent me  the bulk of the £40.00 to buy a microscope for Histology classes.  It  meant a lot to me (and still does).  I used to carry it home for the vacations (quite difficult, especially in the summer, with a very heavy case to carry; she bought me a set of wheels for that as well!)

 

The country around Lower Roke was glorious.  Above the spring that supplied us and the pond was a 5-bar farm gate and through this a wonderful world opened up to me.  There was a large field; steep hillside to the left, gentle sloping part to the right, with a gulley between which filled in wet weather and drained into the pond.  In this gulley was a very large elm tree, often shedding branches and a good source of firewood. At the right hand-side was a long, narrow hazel coppice, overgrown and full of interesting things like magpie’s nests and badger setts.  Here Mum used to love to wander and collect fire-lighting wood, usually accompanied by our cat, Nigger (a great killer of rabbits – he brought us many meals).  At the top of the steep slope on the left side was a good mixed hedgerow but at the far end the whole slope was covered by a chestnut coppice.  Here we used to collect chestnuts (often full of maggots) and Mum used to collect firewood in sacks, to be brought back to Lower Roke in the garden truck.  When half a dozen Jersey calves were in the field, she used to say she was annoyed by them for bunting down the sacks and part - emptying them.  But I suspect that she, and I, really enjoyed it.  Right up at the far end of this field was another large elm tree – more firewood!  Beyond that we were “out of bounds” – the curving valley of fields belonged to Parsonage Farm (Witley Park Estate).

 

If you went through the hazel coppice from `’our” land at Lower Roke, you entered a field which contained a deep sandstone quarry.  On the grass at the top of this quarry was a large corrugated iron tin.  I used often to lift it gently, for there was usually a small rodent (?Field Vole) sitting quietly there.  We suspected (I think now correctly) that some of the sandstone from this quarry might have been used at the building of Great Roke in 190?.  In land on top of the opposite side of our field, the farmer kept sheep and I there had my first sight  

  

 

of sheep being folded on turnips in the winter.  The hazel coppice gave me my first sight of a badger sett.  Unfortunately, one morning I looked out of our window to see a group of men triumphantly carrying away a dead badger – I rushed up to  discover that the sett in  the hazel coppice had been dug out.  Mum saw it too, and  objected strongly, but of course she made no impression.  Returning to the pond and the stream that ran through it,  this could do with further research.  The stream is shown on the first Ordinance Survey map No.79, of 1816, 2” to the mile.  It is shown starting from where our spring was situated and it runs as a stream through where the pond now is, takes its course as I remember it, under the main Chiddingfold road near the origin of Wheeler Lane and under the railway line about half a mile from Milford station.  I believe that when Great Roke was built  (c.1902) the stream was dammed at the footpath to make a large pond and stocked with trout (one or two trout still lived in it in our days).  Incidentally, the map of 1902 calls the farm Rock Farm.  The farmhouse is near an excavated sandstone quarry which may have been used to get sandstone for the building of Great Roke.  The O.S.  1” map of 1954-57 (taken from the 6” sheets of 1913) shows the lower part of the stream as it flows through the small and large fields that were part of Great Roke Farm but does not show the stream at the pond from the spring at Lower Roke or the site of the pond.  There can be no doubt that this map shows “Lower Roke” for it is labelled as such.  My personal view is that the pond was made for angling (trout) by the owners of Great Roke.  The spring supplied Roke Farm with water for many years before Great Roke was built.  The stream flowed behind the barn, between two large concrete blocks, easily seen from the window of the barn (see drawing above) .  These could have been the bases for a narrow plank bridge over the stream.  In our day this was the place where the trout could most frequently be seen.  It was easy to wade out to it and stand on the concrete blocks.

 

Lower Roke had no real “garden” (Dad was too busy at Great Roke) so the area around the old farmhouse was a wild life reserve.  We put up a couple of nest boxes, occupied every year by the tits.  The rough land, often very boggy, was always full of birds, especially warblers.  Unfortunately we had no binoculars. It lead into a long, fairly dry rough area fringed with trees (the ‘dry bog’ in my terminology).  Along by the Great Roke fence ran a public footpath which crossed our lane and continued round the bottom end of the pond to a steep set of steps.  On the left of the path was a long narrow field and a long wooded bog (the “wet bog”).  The footpath went up from the top of the steps through a steep field on either side.  This field was full of large clumps of blackberries, dog roses, and a few stunted oak trees.  This was the “Blackberry field” and Rose hips (for Vitamin C in wartime) and blackberries were picked here in autumn,  If you sat quietly here in spring and summer you could locate and identify many warblers (but never search for the nests!).  The “sandy path” led up to the village church (which we never entered) and the lovely timbered public house (the “White Hart”, also never entered!).  The village school was opposite the church.  The other feature of this area was the lovely sandstone lodge of Witley Park.  If you turned left on  the Chiddingfold-Godalming road (A283) you entered the Southern half of Witley village.  This was not much frequented by us, but Mum used to sell watercress here at Forest Stores.  We rarely shopped here, preferring to go to Wooderson’s (General Grocery and provisions) and Fortescue’s (butchers) at the northern end of the village.  Fortescue’s son was in my form at school and also went to Crusaders in Godalming.  My uncle Cecil called the butcher “Fortyskewers”.  Witley Post Office was at this end of the village, and so was Jim Elson’s boot and shoe repairing shop.  He was a keen Christian with a large family (Dorothy, Phil, Herbie Vic, and some younger members).The family attended the Congregational Church at Milford, but were happier at Witley Gospel Mission (above the Co-op).   Jim Elson did most of are leather repairs – Dad was well equipped and skilled at the simpler boot and shoe repairs (as were many working-class fathers of his vintage).

 

 David and I were fortunate to have moved during the school holidays, so we could start the new school year at Godalming County Grammar, a co-educational school.  David, having just taken G.S.C. at Sutton with brilliant results, started in the Lower 6th form (Pure and Applied Maths, Physics and Chemistry).  I went into form 3A .  Up to the 5th form the whole class took all the same subjects.However, the whole form had started in form 1 at Godalming County Grammar School.   Whereas everyone else had been at the school for two years I had done only one year at Sutton. There were also differences in the subjects taken.  At Godalming they had all done Latin,  I had not, so I was excused Latin.  In French, I had learned only one present tense, so during Latin classes I had to sit in the same room and learn the ‘principal parts’ of the French irregular verbs.   I tried to learn the principal parts of French verbs whose present tenses I knew.  History, taught by Miss Purver (the head teacher of the girl’s side of the school) was difficult because she gave a standard chronological pattern of English history starting in the 1st form.  In the 3rd form she had reached the Tudor period.  She was a Roman Catholic so her view of the religious problems in Tudor England was very different from that which I had gleaned from my brother Bert (Protestant Truth Society; supported in his views by my mother).  “Pussy” Purver ran 9 o’clock “Assembly” for the Roman Catholics and was a force to be reckoned with if you got into her “Bad Books” (as I eventually did!)

 

At Godalming I was delighted to find that Biology was taught to all “A” classes.  It was not taught at Sutton until the 6th form – very strange!  This was my first introduction to Biology at school and it helped to foster my main academic interest.  Very fortunate!  Woodwork was another new subject for me at Godalming, but it never got further than planning wood and making joints .

 

On starting at Godalming C.G.S. I had two surprising encounters with memories of Sutton C.C.S.  Firstly Robin Smith had been in my class at Sutton for one term but his family had moved to a village near Godalming.  Secondly, one of the masters (Jimmy Laidlaw) greeted me on our first meeting with “you come from Sutton don’t you: know old Squeaker?”  “Squeaker” was the maths. master at Sutton and had the nickname from University days.  Jimmy was a member of Godalming Baptist Church.  He taught French  and a version of Christian Theology which, though not as “modern” as that of our headmaster (Mr.Wigfield) was too modern for many of our Crusaders, Kings Own, and Covenanters.  Our form had “R.K.” in the library, taken by “the Beak” (Wigfield).  It often led to serious arguments with the more “Orthodox” Christians in our form.

 

Sport was very different at Godalming.  In the Autumn term, the boys played Rugby, of which I knew nothing at all.  David knew a little, for at Sutton, in his 5th form year, they had begun to introduce Rugby.  On our first Saturday at Sutton there was a trial for all potential 1stXV boys and David was included .  I went along to watch and learn, and was horrified to be asked (?told) to join the scrum of the “Possibles” against the “Presumptive”  1st XV.  I hadn’t a clue what it was all about but I suppose by the end of the practice game I had learnt a little.  David made the 1st XV that term and I went along to watch and learn at all “home” matches.  I think we must have played during our 3rd form games period, but I have no recollection of it at all.  In the Spring term, Sutton played soccer and  was much more “at home” in 3rd form games at Godalming.  From the 4th form onwards I played Rugger and Soccer for the first XV and XI and in the 6th form I was captain of Rugger and vice captain of Soccer.  In the summer term I had no problem (except for the pitches, which were not very good) and in the 2nd year 6th form I was captain of Cricket.  Athletics was taken very seriously at Godalming but I was much keener on Cricket.  I ran in the 4x110 metres relay at Imber Court (Surrey Grammer Schools competition) and won the 100 metres and 220 metres sprints for my house at the School Sports.  These School Sports were between the four “Houses” at Godalming.  The “Houses” were based on where the boys and girls lived – those from the Guildford area were in “Phillips” house, those from Godalming in “Munstead”, those from Haslemere in “Page”, and those from the villages in “Freyburg” (our House).  I never took Athletics very seriously.  For rugger, soccer and cricket it was necessary to unite these houses to get decent teams, so Phillips and Page used to play Munstead and Freyberg.  The inter-house competitions were not taken very seriously by David and me though some boys took the Athletics events at Sports Day very seriously.  The girls at Godalming C.G.S. played hockey in the autumn term, lacrosse in the spring term and tennis in the summer term.  It was the first time I had seen lacrosse, which seemed potentially a very dangerous game to me.  After I left school, one girl died after being hit on the head by a lacrosse stick. Boys were never allowed to play any of these “girls” games and I knew nothing about tennis until after leaving school.  I played tennis on Mr. Secrett’s hard court at Milford with the Milford “King’s Own” class one evening a week.  We were not very good but we greatly enjoyed it.

 

Lunch times were very well arranged at Godalming.  David and I had free lunches (based on Dad’s wages).  Lunch tables (10 pupils per table) were set up in the Great Hall.   A senior boy or girl was appointed as Head of each Table and there was no mixing of the sexes at lunch.  At the beginning of term the Heads of Table took their places and the rest of the school was “released” into the Hall, each boy or girl to find a Table.  Girls and boys occupied separate areas of the Great Hall.  Each Head of Table had to have a reasonable mix of ages on his or her table.  Each Head of Table appointed two of the more senior members of his or her Table to act as “Dishers-out”.  At lunch time, the Grace was said by the member of staff supervising the lunch.  Then the Head of Table sat on a chair at one end.  There were benches down the sides for 2x4 pupils, with one “sprog” sitting on a chair at the far end.  After Grace, for the first course the “meat” component was put at the Head’s end and the two vegetables were given to the “dishers-out” to right and left of the Head.  Each plate received its allocated helpings and was passed down the table until all were served.  Water jugs and glasses were on each table and I never remember any problem with “accidental” or “intentional” spilling of water.  When the first course was consumed the plates and cutlery were taken to receptacles at the front of the Hall and any unconsumed food was “binned”,  One of the “Dishers-out” collected the second course from the front of the Hall and it was dished out to the hungry table members.  I can’t remember how the meal was finished off, but it was all done very efficiently and with no disturbances.  It was a good system, putting responsibility on to three pupils on each table and ensuring as far as was possible, that the food was fairly dished out and order was maintained by the Heads of Table.  The separation of the sexes was a very good idea.  All classes were held with boys and girls together, and school lunches gave an opportunity for the sexes to be separated for the lunch period.   The “means test” allowed David and me to have free lunches so that Mum and Dad could have their midday meal at home together, with “tea” when Dad came in from work (Another advantage that we had was that by cycling to school we both got an “allowance” (?how much) per term for cycle upkeep, which also helped at home financially).

 

 During the war, after the bombing started, Sir Walter St.John’s School (“Sinjuns”) was moved from Battersea to Godalming and thus shared some of our facilities.  They were a big school (trounced us at soccer and cricket but they didn’t play rugger).  They had classrooms at other places in Godalming and played their games on the (much better!) town pitches.  They brought several   “London” games for lunch hours including “Codgers” a very popular ball game played against a wall.  Their music master (Dr. Hunt – doctor of music and a distinguished musician – organist at Godalming church) stayed on at Godalming and started to take classes at our school when “Sinjuns” moved back to Battersea after “War in Europe” came to an end.  At the same time, our ancient  Geography master was replaced by Ward Needham who made it an  interesting subject.  These two “new” teachers got  together with a project to start Gilbert and Sullivan operas at school – ideal for a “Co-ed”  school.  Auditions were held for “Trial by Jury” and David (Usher) and I (Counsel) were given Principal Parts.  The Judge was played by John Noble  (like us, the son of a head gardener)  John later, after Dr. Hunt’s training, became the recognised baritone soloist on BBC channel 4, after finishing his degree in Geography.  David and I were interested to discover that John Nobel’s training was paid for by his father’s employer!  On the girl’s side we had two very good singers (the “Strong” twins – Bridget and Mary – almost indistinguishable from each other, with very good voices – one contralto and one soprano.  Both became professional musicians.  Neither of these sang in Trial by Jury but the contralto sang in all of the operas after “Trial”.  They were very tall and too much alike for both to be given principal parts, though the Soprano was certainly the school’s best Soprano.  Another aspect of the operas was that we had no big stage in the Assembly Room.  This was built under Ward Needham’s supervision (he had been in the Navy and was a good “engineer”).  Two or three pupils played a very active part in these constructions at weekends, especially Maurice Dance and Dennis Beagley who had up to that point been considered as pretty useless members of the ”B” form.  Ward Needham got them going and they responded to his friendly approach and produced excellent work.  Dennis was a soccer fanatic – school goalkeeper – and Maurice a very good wing threequarter at Rugger.

 

 During my time at school we produced four G & S operas.  The Principals included:-

Trial by Jury – John Noble (Judge) David (Usher)  RRA (Counsel)

Pirates of Penzance – J.N. (Major General)  RRA (Frederick)  ? Strong (Ruth)

H.M.S. Pinafore – J.N. (Capt. Corcoran)  RRA (Ralph Rackshaw) ? Strong

  (Buttercup)

Yeoman of the Guard – J.N.(Jack Point)  RRA (Col.Fairfax)  ? Strong

   (Dame Carruthers)

The “Strongs” were identical twins, very difficult to differentiate but one was a soprano and the other a contralto.   Ward Needham called them “Bridget-Mary”

I am rather proud to think that in these operas I appeared with professional musicians, especially John Noble (the BBC 3rd programme’s Baritone).  Unfortunately, John died of pancreatic carcinoma several years ago.  My brother David went on to take solo parts in Gilbert and Sullivan in many places in the West Country.  Another notable musical performance was that of Mona Tong (her father was Chinese) who played the piano for all 4 operas.  We also had a full orchestra of expert instrumentalists – all friends of Dr. Hunt.

 

Academically I did fairly well at Godalming, getting Credits or Distinctions in 8 subjects at O level.  At A level I got Distinctions in Botany and in Zoology with passes in Physics and in Chemistry.  For these two subjects our teacher left to go into Research at Farnborough at the end of my first year, and we had no teacher for the second year – we had to do it all ourselves with the aid of the laboratory technician for the practical work.  I’m afraid that I have always blamed our Headmaster for this.  None of our form did well, though those taking Maths did  better in Physics than those taking Biology.  I stayed on for the

Christmas term at school to take part in the opera, and left at Christmas.  By then I had a firm offer of a place in the new Veterinary School at Bristol University.

 

While at Witley I had a very active Christian life.  At quite a young age I felt that it was right that I should make the outward sign of being a Christian, and I was baptised at Providence Chapel, Chiddingfold by my father (where David had been baptised). In commemoration of the baptism I was given a Schofield reference bible, which seems to have been lost in our series of recent moves.On the first Sunday after we arrived, we all cycled to Chiddingfold to a small Brethren meeting in the home of Mr. & Mrs Lintott.  Their daughter Rene lived with them.  How Dad knew about them I never found out.  It was a lovely bike ride on Sunday mornings, and when spring came we used to count the nightingales to be heard singing along the road.  The Lintott family ran a Walking Stick Factory near Chiddingfold.  Dad visited it, but I never managed to get there.  Hilda Lintott (their other daughter) rarely appeared.  She married George Herbert and, after the war, when her husband returned, they settled down in Chiddingfold.  Their daughter Ruth eventually went to Godalming C.G.S.  After we had left school Ruth Herbert became the soprano soloist in the school operas.

 

 On Sunday evenings we used to attend the Witley Gospel Mission which was held in the room over the Co-op, opposite Mr. Fortescue’s butchers shop.  This was an off-shoot from Milford Congregational Church, run by a Witley family, the Enticknaps, and others from the surrounding villages.  During the war, the “young” married Enticknaps (Bob and Eric) were in the armed forces but Bob had two sons, David and Peter, about our ages.  Bob was an excellent pianist, Peter was also a pianist, and Eric also passed muster on the organ.  There were also men past service age who attended from surrounding villages,  When we first arrived, Bob and Eric’s parents were still alive and week-night (Wednesday) Cottage meetings were held in their home.

 

 On Sunday afternoons, David and I used to cycle into Godalming to Crusaders, where many of our school friends attended.  It was led by Bert Gorringe and was not restricted to Grammar School boys.  It was a bit rowdy but we had good speakers.  It was held in a part of the Baptist Church – in another part there was a Covenanter class where some of our friends attended.  In another hall there was a “King’s own” bible class started by Eddie Leroy whose father ran Leroy’s

 

Boat Yard on the River Wey in Farncombe.  All these Bible classes used to engage in “Pudox” matches, together with other classes in the surrounding villages.  Another week-night or Saturday activity was a visit to the sandstone caves at Compton.  Here we played “chain-he” in the complex passages of the caves.  Starting off with an experienced leader or senior, he had to catch other boys to add to the chain.  You could only be “caught” and added to the chains if the chain was unbroken when you were caught.  The caves were large, complex, and difficult to remember until you had experience of them.  There were places where, with knowledge, you could be fairly sure of catching someone if the chain was long enough.  Crusaders and King’s Own were centres where the pernicious “modernism” of the headmaster (Wigfield) could be discussed and opposed.

 

Another annual event at Crusaders was the canoe trip on the R.Wey.  We had canoes from Leroy’s boat yard and there was great effort made to get ahead of the other(s) in time to stop and load up with all maner of soft objects with which to pelt the slower canoe(s).  On reaching an agreed spot we all stopped for a light meal, then got back into the canoes and had a race back to Leroy’s boat yard.

 

Both Bert Gorringe and Eddie Leroy were members of the Open Brethren meeting at Farncombe.  This was held in a converted shop.  Their influence made several of us, Crusaders and King’s Owners,  attend the morning meetings.  Three or four of us became quite regular and, together with an older man from Witley, David and I used to bike out to Farncombe for the morning meeting, back to our homes for lunch and then back again to Godalming for Crusaders.  In this way we came to meet an Old Boy of the school, John Wright, who was a very good footballer, also an older older man from Witley (Fred Farr) so there were in the end usually four of us regularly biking in to Farncombe for the Breaking of Bread.  David and I always attended the evening meeting at Witley Gospel Mission.  There was a variety of speakers – I remember especially Mr. Eames the butcher from Liphook who looked just like the Butcher in a pack of Happy Family cards.  Dad sometimes took the “Gospel Service”.  Initially, Peter Enticknap played the organ but after demob his father Bob took over.  Bob was a great musician, able to extract real gusto from the ancient organ, but he became embroiled with a married woman from the village who attended the Mission, so Peter took over from his father.  After the war, with the return of Bob and his brother Eric Enticknap from the forces, the evening meeting went with more gusto.  One of the preachers who came fairly regularly was Mr. Holmes, who had painted our kitchen at Lower Roke while we moved in.  He had a “falsetto” singing voice and usually sang a solo.  He was very good and had been very welcoming on our arrival in Lower Roke.  He sang hymns while he was decorating  Dad was certainly one of our best preachers – always interesting – practical Christianity.

 

 When we arrived in Witley, the Great Roke garden was in a state of neglect.  Dad had only one elderly under-gardener, Mr. Dykes, to help him, so he obtained permission to employ David and me on Saturday mornings to help him.  The garden had been splendid when first laid out but was now  neglected.  The pleasure grounds extended south from the big house, with lawns, terraces and walls.  We rarely worked there, though one of my last jobs was to “bastard trench” one of the big terrace beds.  Our main concern was the kitchen garden,  which sloped southwards away from the potting shed, fruit store, garden sheds etc.  It was divided by high walls into an upper section with greenhouses and garden frames and trained fruit trees.  An important land mark here was a large circular water tank surrounded by a circular stone seat on which the three of us 

used to have our “elevenses” on Saturday mornings and discuss news in the News Chronicle (Dad was a Liberal).  Below this upper section, the middle section was for fruit and vegetables.  It included a very large area that was supposed to be used for fruit (gooseberries etc) but was quite overrun with Equisetium.   The roots of this go down for feet, and the only way to control it isby hoeing.  Dad bought two large Dutch hoes (9” – 1’ across) and in  summer David and I spent a great deal of time hoeing the light sandy soil to contain the weeds and managed to get it to yield a reasonable crop of fruit.  The lower section of the kitchen garden had the best soil and yielded good crops of  vegetables.   We spent a great deal of time there digging, manuring, weeding etc.  Its lower limit was a beech hedge, and beyond that was the large orchard, stretching down to a high boarded fence.  Beyond that fence was the footpath up to the Church.  Below  was Lower Roke and the glorious wild countryside around it, including the pond.

 

 When David and I left school and went our different ways, Dad was left with only Mr. Dykes, the under-gardener, to help him.  So he engaged Phil Elson (son of Jim Elson the shoe repairer in Witley and member of the Congregational Church) as Garden Boy.  From time to time both David and I gave some help to the farm manager at Great Roke.  He had a milking herd of Jersey cows in a small dairy unit near the big house.  This also had a pen for the Jersey bull.  Mr Waring brought with him from Banstead the Scottish farmer, “Sandy” Maitland and his wife.   Sandy had not much farming to do at Banstead but now he was in his proper  element.  He sowed his seed in the fields by hand (much to Dad’s approval), hand-milked half a dozen Jersey cows, and managed services with the bull.  He made hay and grew root crops for the cattle.  It was a proper small farm.  Around the farm,  Mrs Waring ensured that there were plenty of peacocks and their voices became part of everyday life at Great Roke..  The Estate included good pasture land, sufficient for hay to be made, and heifer calves were reared, (often in the steeply sloping field beyond us at Lower Roke when Mum used to enjoy their company,  although they butted over her sacks of lighting wood – she loved them, as I did).

 

 Meanwhile, the War, which we had more-or-less “escaped” from at Witley, entered a new phase.  Doodle bugs (V1’s) were succeeded by V2’s (?1944).  These were launched high into the atmosphere and descended on Britain without warning – just a sudden explosion.  They proved more frightening than the V1’s and London suffered severely.  They produced a very severe reaction on my brother Reg and his family (especially little Christine).  So it was agreed that they should move down to Witley, leaving Reg in London, working in the docks as a rivetter on the ships (this was his war service; he had been a Petty Officer on board P & O cruise liners before the war).  Later, he suffered badly from a fire started by German bombing of London docks.  He was trapped in a blazing

inferno and experienced the horrors of panic in the men trapped with him in the fire.  Reg’s sons, Eric and Peter, settled in well at Witley School  but Mum found it difficult with Edie and little Christine living in the house.  It was a great relief when it became possible for them all to return to London after the V2’s were eliminated and Edie could look after Reg at home in East Ham.  Their  house (31 St Bartholomew’s Road) was badly damaged by bombing and Reg got compensation for that after the war finished. 

 

  When the war ended (1945) School Certificate exams were looming.  David did brilliantly in Higher Schools Certificate (Distinctions in Pure Maths, Applied Maths, Physics and Chemistry).  I did reasonably well in General Schools Certificate (Maths, Physics with Chemistry English language, English Literature, Biology, Geography, French, and History; 5 distinctions and 3 Very Goods) and not so well in Higher Schools Certificate two years later (Zoology and Botany; Physics and Chemistry; 2 distinctions and 2 passes which was quite good since we had only one years’ teaching in both Physics and Chemistry).

 

 David faded out of my life – he was conscripted at 18 years of age, did his “square bashing” in Guildford, and was drafted into the Education Corps.  He went overseas to the East and came back to live at home for a while, teaching at Godalming County Grammar School.  By that time I was no longer living at home and we drifted apart.  He married Gill Pusey, a Witley girl who attended Witley Gospel Hall.

 

 Home life at Lower Roke came to an end around the time I left school.  I stayed on for the Christmas term to do my last opera – Yeomen of the Guard and, having taken Higher Schools Certificate that summer, did little school work.  There were several of my friends doing the same thing so we did a little bit of Chemistry, (with a newly appointed teacher who was appalled at our experience) and a little bit of practical Botany.  It was all very pleasant and I was captain of rugger for that term.  However, at Christmas everything changed and in the New Year I was  offered a place in the new Veterinary School at Bristol, to become one of the first vet students on the 2nd year of the 5 year veterinary course, starting in the Autumn.  It was a cold winter and no farms wanted any extra help in winter.  But I had to get a job and pay Mum and Dad for my board and lodgings.  I went to the Government’s War Agricultural Executive Advisory Committee in Guildford. 

 

They suggested that I should apply for a place on the “British Boys for British Farms” scheme.  This I did (having had quite a lot of farm animal experience at Great Roke) and was accepted.  So I left home in that winter and went to Wilderwick House, near East Grinstead in Sussex.  This was a large Victorian mansion in the grounds of a large estate belonging to Sir John Anderson, with all the Farm enterprises on the estate.  At Wilderwick I discovered that I was older and better educated than the other boys on the course, who were secondary school leavers, 14 or 15 years old, with little or no knowledge of the countryside.  But I got on well with them all.  Most of them, like me, were from working class homes.  I was allowed to use a Quiet Room in the evenings (“free time”) for study of a book on Applied Biology because I was hoping to train as a vet.  Everyone did an “Introductory week of domestic chores {“spud bashing”, floor polishing, wood sawing and splitting, etc. etc.  Then you were matched up with a small group of 4-6 boys and did one week’s work on a variety of farm activities – taking down trees in an old orchard, then a week with pigs, or dairy, or chicken, or young stock etc.  We had a half day off on Saturday when we could go into East Grinstead to shop (especially to buy your own jam to put on the bread at tea time. There was always a Quiet Time in the evening (a hymn, a Bible Reading and a short talk) because the “BBBF” was originally a development from the “YMCA”.  Each week we had 2 lectures from the “Tutors” who supervised all our work on the farm.   I found these very interesting, and was deeply humiliated to discover that though I had Physics and Chemistry at Higher Schools Certificate level I knew absolutely nothing about how an Internal Combustion Engine worked (we had no car at home but Dad used petrol-driven lawn mowers!)

 

 The week on cattle included hand milking.  3 or 4 quiet cows near the end of their lactations, using a cream separator to produce cream for the Big House, and also working with milking machines on the Ayrshire herd (restricted to those boys who were reliable enough.  Ayshires were not like Jerseys!).  We also had a very interesting week with a forester doing coppicing, selecting wood for different purposes and tying it up with twisted hazel wands.  I can’t remember what happened at Wilderwick House on Sundays except that there was a Christian gathering in the evening before bed time.  I used to walk in to East Grinstead on Sundays to attend the morning service at the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connection church and also had lunch with the young couple who ran the church.  This must have received the blessing of the Warden at Wilderwick.  I look back with pleasure on my 10 weeks at Wilderwick and I certainly learned a lot about farming and about life.

 

 In the meantime, Dad had been busy at home and had found me a job so that I could earn my keep at home and continue my agricultural education.  The job was as under-cowman on a small Jersey dairy farm belonging to Major Nathan at Prestwick, near Chiddingfold.   Dad also bought  me a large old bicycle, for there was no bus route to the Prestwick area.  It had 3 speed and was very heavy.  The farm was managed by Mr. Perrett, who had sold it to Major Nathan fairly recently.  Major Nathan’s horses were looked after by an ex-army man who also helped with the farm.  So there were now three of us for the herd of about 25 milking cows and young stock.  It was a nice old farm.  Mr. Perrett continued to live in the farmhouse, and 100 yards along the road there was a barn and a large yard in which the young stock were wintered.  The grazing land stretched down both sides of the road towards Chiddingfold.  The soil was heavy clay and a silo had been made in one of the fields.  I kept out of Major Nathan’s way, got on well with Mr. Perrett and the horseman, and also with Mr. Perrett’s family.  I used to eat my packed lunch up in the hay loft and often had the company of Mr. Perrett’s little daughter who would come up and chatter to me while I ate.  Because of the long ride from Witley, I was excused the morning milking with few exceptions, but had to do all the washing of utensils, cleaning the cowshed and yard, and looking after the calves, while Mr. Perrett had his breakfast.  I often had to take the milking herd out to pasture first of all, if it entailed a long walk along the road.  I always helped with the afternoon milking and did odd jobs.  We all three took turns at doing the afternoon milking on Sundays (only one needed for that).  At haymaking and harvesting I did my full share of the work and greatly enjoyed it.  There were always odd jobs like “making good” to field entrances with stones.  Once or twice I was able to arrange to have a Saturday off when the King’s Own Bible Class had an important football match on.  They had a very good team and played in a Saturday afternoon League.  That year they reached the final of the League cup to be played on the Guildford F.C. ground on a Saturday afternoon.  They wanted me to play, but at the last minute I was needed for the milking – I was very disappointed not to be able to play at a proper football ground, in front of a crowd, especially since the K.O. won the Cup.  But work came first.

 

 My time at Prestwick was now running out, but first we had the harvesting.  Haymaking had been a tiring job: the hay was brought in on the long spikes of a tractor, and had to be pulled out with a hayfork before getting it onto the elevator.  Harvesting was enjoyable and rewarding and we had a good harvest.  I was allowed to load the wagon.  During the summer my life became complicated by the starting of a new King’s Own Bible class at Milford.  It was led by Hugh Sanson, an Anglican, from Cambridge University.  His home was in Milford and he was a very keen Christian.  The new class was an idea of Mr. F.A.Secrett’s.  He had a very large and important market garden in Milford and was a keen Christian (Godalming Baptists).  The class met in a large room at the WLA’s establishment at Milford crossroads.  Hugh was not always able to be there on Sunday afternoons and David Enticknap (from Witley Gospel Mission) led the meeting in his absence.  Peter Enticknap played the piano and we had a group of about 15 youths from Milford.  I decided to join the Milford K.O.  During the summer the K.O’s had the use of Mr.Secrett’s  tennis court on one evening a week and this was a great draw, though none of us knew much about the game.  During the winter the lawn tennis was replaced by table tennis.  Quite a number of local Bible Classes were playing table tennis now, and I was amazed to find, after a year or two, that David Enticknap had developed into a quite formidable player.  His father and uncle (Bob and Eric) were very good at sports.  Eric had been in the Royal Marines during the war and had opened the batting for the Marines with A.B.Sellars the Yorkshire captain.  I played football with him once and was very impressed.  The two brothers used to open the innings for Milford or Witley before the war.

 

 In due course I travelled to Bristol for the fresher’s conference and so began a very different life.  “The vets”, being a new group at the University, were given a generous number of places in the Halls of Residence, and I journeyed to Wills Hall.   I was fortunate to be in a shared room with the brother of my brother David’s girl friend.  David Cook was a second year engineer.  It was not a very successful idea – we lived very different lives.  David Cook was a Public School boy, very “hail fellow, well met!” with everyone and there was a constant stream of his friends in the room – very nice, but too “hearty” for me.  At the end of the year the problem solved itself – David Cook shared another room with one of his

 friends (and failed his finals) and I was given a single room where I could work in the evenings.  I enjoyed my second year at Wills.  I was on the Chapel Committee, played a lot of squash with other “vets”, and enjoyed many days of lazing with friends in the garden of “The Holmes” annex.

 

 About half of that year’s intake of vet. students had done the 1st year course (Biology, Zoology, Physics and Chemistry) with the 1st year medics.  This meant that they were much more knowledgeable about Bristol and the University than us “freshers”.  However, I had no regrets about starting in the 2nd year of the B.V.Sc. course.  I had enjoyed and benefitted from the three months at Wilderwick and from the months at Prestwick.  I had also enjoyed living again at Lower Roke with Mum and Dad.  I think that I spent most of my first “long vac.” working on the farm at Great Roke (earning money to pay for my keep at home) and probably working in the garden at Great Roke for Dad (although by now he had a Garden Boy – Phil Elson).  Dad himself never seemed to tire or worry – he seemed indestructible – but Mum was going downhill.  I think that by now the diagnosis of “Multiple Sclerosis” was unavoidable.  At Lower Roke she was really “out on a limb” – unable to use her trusty Raleigh bike.  It had been a present to Edie from my brother Reg but she found it too heavy so Mum had taken it over when we were at Rusper.  One of the major aspects of Mum’s bike was that she would not use a head lamp with a battery – the bulb produces a “blob” in the middle because it interferes with the reflection from behind it.

 

At Bristol I had, on Sunday mornings, attended an “Open” Brethren Assembly in Clifton.  There were a number of very able men taking part, several from the Hospitals and the University.  A small group of students, including me and another 2nd year   vet. student attended.  Occasionally the other vet. student and I   were asked back to Mr. Melville Capper’s home for Sunday lunch.  He was a surgeon.  He and his wife gave us a very good meal and it was good to be in a “home” again after weeks at Wills Hall.  Years after, when I was doing research at the Vet. School in Park Row I heard how he always came and had a word of prayer with his next patient before the operation.  He was a good Christian and well liked in the hospital and the University.

 

 The subjects taken and examined in at the 2nd B.V.Sc. examination were Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, Histology and Animal Management.  Classes in Animal Management were run at the Field Station, Langford House, which was still finding its feet in the University.  There were oral examinations, with external and internal examiners, in Anatomy, Physiology (Including Histology and Biochemistry) and Animal Management.  I passed them all, with Distinction in Anatomy, and so got used to the annual business of sitting on an uncomfortable chair in a lonely corridor with Pat Axten and Don Attenburrow (awar time fighter pilot) waiting for the call to enter the lion’s den and the risk  ofbeing eaten.  The results were put up very soon after the last examination was completed – no waiting at home for a “notification”.

 

The journey back to Witley at the end of term followed a well-worn track.  I had a very large and heavy blue “expanding” suitcase, well lashed up with a leather belt, with wheels held on at one corner rather precariously by a second leather belt so that it could be “trundled”.  I also had my microscope in a wooden box, to be carried.  We were told that microscopes were not provided – you had to bring your own, including a 1/12” oil immersion lens.  This required an outlay of about £40.  I did not have £40 when I went to Bristol, but Mum made £40 from selling watercress to Forrest Stores.  Dear Mum – tears come to my eyes at the thought of her!  The tragedy was that, in the event, microscopes were provided for everyone in the class.  I took the bus to Temple Meads Station, Bristol and caught  the train to Reading (west).  From there I had to walk to Reading (south) to catch the train to Guildford.  At Guildford I caught the train to Milford Station and, miraculously, David was there with Mum’s bike.  The suitcase was lashed on to the frame and somehow or other we walked back to Lower Roke.  We were young, strong, and impecunious in those days!  We had no car and never used taxis!

 

 Much of my first “long vac” was like my old life at Witley, including work on the farm and garden at Great Roke, with Chapel and Bible Class activities. However, Mrs. Waring had talked to her veterinary surgeon, Mr. Calder from Godalming, and I think I started to see a little “practice” with him.  It was 90% small animals in a converted shop.  He and his wife were Glasgow graduates.  He had one veterinary nurse and he did a few visits, occasionally to farms.  It was a useful introduction to veterinary practice and I learned a lot of “basic” veterinary   work.  Somehow or other I learned about the National Laying Test at Milford.  Hens from pedigree breeders were kept in pens of 20 in large wire netting runs, with large houses fitted with “trap” nests (once the bird had entered the nest box a gate descended stopping them from leaving.  The staff went round regularly

checking the nest boxes, releasing birds that had laid,  recording the number of their leg ring and writing the number on the egg.)   The birds were fed a generous “optimal” diet (layers mash in the morning and good grain in the afternoon).  The grass and clover in the fixed runs provided a good dietary supplement.  In late summer there was a grand finale with the results of the laying tests for individual birds and the whole pens, the results being published in an annual report.  Birds that laid 200 or more eggs in the year were examined by the manager (Mr. Hawkey) and Jack the foreman and an external assessor.  Those with a good bodily conformation and good health record were awarded a copper ring sealed on the leg as a mark of excellence.  I helped with catching up the birds and learnt a lot from the whole, enjoyable process.  Pedigree breeders watched the published results carefully in buying new stock.  There was also another competition.  The breeders delivered a number of “commercial” cross-bred pullets at the start of the autumn.  These 20 birds were run on, in a separate field, in “folds” that were moved every day  over a good quality grass and clover field.  At the end of the year the value of the eggs laid and the surviving stock was published in detail as an indication of the breeder’s stock of “commercial” cross-breds (crosses like Rhode Island Red x Light Sussex).  This gave an indication of the quality of the breeder’s cross-bred commercial stock.  After the first year, we bought half a dozen of these RIR x LS hens and kept them at Great Roke farmyard.  So Mum had her beloved hens again!   I got on very well with the staff and management of the Laying Test and thoroughly enjoyed the clatter and bang of life in Jack’s shed.  There were about 13 full time staff and we all got on well together and with the manager and the office staff.  Mum greatly appreciated the hens that I bought for her though it gave her extra work, but we made up a little house and run and I think Dad helped with looking after them at Great Roke.

 

 So it was back to Bristol for the autumn term.  The new courses were in Pathology, Microbiology, (held in the Medical Dept at Canyge House), Parasitology and Animal Husbandry (held at Langford, I think)  “Public Health” was quite awful.  An aged official read from documents on Animal Health and we learned nothing.  Norman Western spent one class on the top of a cupboard, occasionally asking for a new piece of paper to be handed up to him!  We also saw practice in the R.S.P.C.A. at Bristol, run by Bristol Veterinary Surgeons.

 

   We all had to move out of the University Halls of Residence. With the aid of the university “Accommodation” staff I got a room in Cotham.  It was an old lady’s house.  Another vet student in my year, Roger Oldham, also got a room there.  Roger was almost immediately “in trouble” with her.  She didn’t like hisLancashire accent, and he was a bit odd as well.  He stuck it for a term and then moved out, to be followed by a non-vet student.  One big advantage of this “digs” was that it was near a cinema that showed foreign and old films so I was usually able to go there once a week to see a worthwhile film and get a change from veterinary science.  We also occasionally, in a rota, attended R.S.P.C.A. evening surgeries (don’t forget to tell the landlady!)

 

At the end of term, having done reasonably well in the 3rd Vet.Med. examination (Pathology, Bacteriology and Animal Husbandry).  I returned to Witley for the vacation and to see practice in the veterinary practice of Barrett and Nicol at Guildford.  This was a very farm-run orientated veterinary practice by two excellent veterinary surgeons and their very pleasant assistant, Mr Cripps.  This practice covered the whole range of veterinary work (except for sheep) and I learned a great deal from them and their two veterinary nurses.  Mr. Barrett was very particular about dress and behaviour, and was highly respected by his clients.  Mr. Nicol was a younger man, very approachable and a good teacher.  Jack Cripps (a relative of Sir Stafford Cripps) was a keen Christian, somewhat diffident.  It was a very profitable vacation for me.  A good student friend of mine, Roger Short, also saw practice there.  Things at home were getting difficult as Mum’s illness progressed, but she still just about managed to cope with the complexities of life at Lower Roke.  Life at home was, for me, very much taken up with “seeing practice” in Guildford.  My Christian life was not very different from that of the previous year.

 

 So I started my final year as an undergraduate at “Langford House”, a “mansion” on the skirts of Mendip purchased by the University of Bristol.  Langford village used the cricket pitch at Langford and I took my whites and  played for the village occasionally.  The new Student Hostel was not yet finished, so we were in “digs”.  I got digs in the adjacent village of Churchill with Bill Manktelow whose home was in Sussex.  Like most of the year, he was older than me, having done his National Service on leaving school.  We had digs with a very pleasant landlady, a short walk away from the New Veterinary Field Station.  She fed us too well in the evenings! Our “digs” were quite close to the Anglican Church at Churchill village, and (at Bill Manktelow’s suggestion) we used to attend Matins there.  They used the Prayer Book service and though still in the Brethren, I was much impressed by it and tried to insist on keeping it at East Dean when a new vicar was appointed.  I lost!

 

   The curriculum at Langford was  simple – Veterinary Medicine, Veterinary Surgery.  Not enough variety of cases was being referred by the local practices to the new veterinary school.  Large animal surgery was mainly rumenotomy on cows and caesarian section on ewes.  Small animal cases were infrequent.  Partly because of this, three of us (Dave Smith, Norman Western and I) used to take a fine summer afternoon off when the surgical operations were “the usual”.  We kept some old clothes at Langford and would don these after lunch and bike up to Burrington Coombe on Mendip.  Armed with our torches we would spend the 

afternoon there, mainly in Read’s Cavern, Goatchurch cave or Rod’s Pot (all well documented in Balch’s (1947) Mendip chapter VIII – the Caves of the Burrington District.

 

 Pairs of students (e.g. Bill Manktelow and I) were allocated to cases under the supervision of one of the qualified staff including Professor Messervy (surgery: a Channel Islander), “Ginger “ Jones (British, but with experience in  American universities) Marjorie Levey (a Bristol veterinary practitioner from Clifton in small animal practice) and various other members of staff.  The Ministry’s Veterinary Investigation Centre had moved to Langford House and its two qualified vets (Osborne and ? Another) dealt with their specialities especially mastitis and tuberculosis in cattle.  We had a special “Isolation Unit” down on “The Marsh” – a Sabbath Day’s journey for the unfortunate couple of students who had a case down there!  The Veterinary Investigation Laboratory for Somerset had moved to Langford House and was very active, but everything was very much in its infancy.  The Director of the Langford Field Station was Frederick Blakemore, (“Bready Flakemore” to us), a very much respected Government Veterinary Research Officer who had made a big reputation for his work on virus diseases.  We saw little of him but he gave us excellent lectures on viruses – (very much an “infant” subject in 1954).  His emphasis on the problem of the borderline between health/illness/and pathogens was memorable.  His comments could be very scathing (“hmm hmm – a very bad worker!”)

 

 The Christmas term finished with a bang.  Roger Johnson and Dinah France had, during the long vacation, written a pantomime to end the Christmas term and it was duly performed to Langford Village in Langford House.  It was a resounding success.  I took the part of Professor Messervy (surgery) and had a good solo, sung to Sullivan’s music.  “Take a straight big needle too.  These Tiddly things won’t do / and it’s always best to have two!” (Gilbert wrote “Take a pair of sparkling eyes”)  The Prof. was “bald as a coot” so I frizzed up my curly hair to a great height for this performance.

 

 The Director decided that Finals should be held towards the end of the long vacation so that teaching could extend right to the official end of term.  This gave extra time in the summer for seeing practice and for revision.  I spent the time at

 

Barrett & Nicol’s practice in Guildford at first.  Then came the “swotting”.  During the late evenings I used to go for long walks all round the adjacent farmland on the Witley Park Estate to tire myself out before going to bed.  I went back for a late stay in bed, to sleep, before rising to help with the housework etc. and then get down to revision again.  During the long vacation at home, I received a surprise visit from the Godalming vet., Mr. Calder.  His wife was also a vet and she had a single-handed small animal practice in Guildford.  Her veterinary nurse was about to go on holiday and Mrs.Calder (also from Glasgow) needed a veterinary nurse for a week.  So I took the job – a good break!

 

“Finals” came and went – Veterinary Medicine, Veterinary Surgery and Meat Inspection (the course was based on practical classes held by Dr. Soulsby at Bristol Abbatoir).  With no delay for the vast wheels of the University to grind,

results came out quickly.  I passed, with Honours, in October 1954 .   That meant that I could take up an offered scholarship in the Dept. of Vet. Anatomy under the supervision of Professor Ottaway.  I got a very dark bed-sitting-room in a small Victorian terrace in Cowper Road, Clifton and became a research student in the Veterinary School at Bristol University – nearly opposite George’s Bookshop, close to Milne’s 2nd hand bookshop (yes, son of A.A. Milne!) and to another “George’s Bookshop (A very different “Mr. George”) in Christmas Steps.  Too many distractions? Yes!

 

 However, to return to Witley.  Mr Waring sold Great Roke to the Roman Catholics, Dad finished his long life of work (started in Hamsey, West Sussex, aged 11, after his father died) and, finally, Dad and Mum moved from Lower Roke to live in a Prefab (No.1 Sunny Corner in Roke Lane).   Roke Farm and Great Roke Estate were finished.  The Prefab had a large garden (too large!), two bedrooms , a sitting room, kitchen, bathroom, and a good outside shed.   What to do with the chicken?  Dad was happy with the big garden, so I made supports to hold a “Sussex night-ark” at the right height above ground and sufficient wire netting frames to make a run.  Pen and run could be moved over the vegetable garden along the garden fence.  The hens had their wing feathers clipped to prevent flight.  Mum had her beloved chicken near her now!  The prefab was much better than I feared and it had a good coal or wood fire in the sitting room.  It needed an electric fire in the winter, but was fairly warm.  David and I could sleep in single beds in the spare bedroom when we were at home.  So the move from “Lower Roke” was complete.  The fields, that had been part of Roke Farm were still visible (but only for a short time, alas!).  Mum and Dad got on very well with their neighbour in No.2.

 

 A big change came about afterwards.  Uncle Cecil (Mum’s brother) arrived, having fallen out with his sister (Aunt Gert).  He and his wife Esme got lodgings in Roke Lane, nearby.  Uncle Cecil was always difficult, but Esme was a dear – very dear to us all, and a great help to Mum and Dad.  By this time David had finished his studies at Cambridge and had his degree in Natural Sciences (with 1st class Honours in Maths, Physics and Chemistry).  He was then called up for National Service, doing his preliminary training in Guildford.  He was drafted into the Education Corps and was soon sent overseas to the East, where he spent his time teaching basic science to recruits who seemed to be a lot of miscreants.  He learned a lot about theft himself in the process and could open almost any suitcase without a key.  He took up his State Scholarship at Cambridge (Trinity College) and for a short time we were both living at home during the vacations.  He got a 1st in Chemistry and took a teaching post at Godalming County Grammar School.  This enabled him to pick up his career again in Gilbert and Sullivan.  He also joined the Godalming Town Operatic Society, married a Witley girl (Gill  

Pusey) and eventually they moved to the West Country where he continued teaching and acting (including G & S)  He died in 2015.

 

During my last year at Langford I had been offered a post as research student  under Professor Ottaway’s supervision in the Dept.Veterinary Anatomy in Bristol.This was to work on a ?congenital? inherited condition causing infertility in the bull.  It would be funded by the Agricultural Research Council.  It earned automatic exemption from National Service after qualification.  I gladly accepted the offer.  I got an upper 2nd class B.V.Sc. so came top of my year.  I was accepted for exemption from military service and  took the research position at the Veterinary School in Park Row, Bristol. Graduation day left me with mixed feelings.  Our small group of 30 students had been through four years together and would now be broken up and scattered.  Several of them I never saw again.  However, we did agree to hold an annual reunion (Dinner Dance) in Bristol and establish a graduate society (The Chiron Club) which would publish an annual Journal to keep us all in touch.  These kept going for a few years and, as I was to remain in Bristol, I played a major part in both of these ideas until I moved to London. Back in Bristol after the long vacation ended, I was made welcome in the VetSchool  at Park Row and given a place in the Anatomy Research Lab.  This already housed Peter Biggs (London graduate) and Michael Goodchild (Edinburgh graduate), both working on avian anatomy projects  I quickly settled in with academic and technical staff.  I got digs in Cowper Road, near Whiteladies Road.  It was a basement room overlooking a small and dingy garden, with a small kitchen, a gas oven in a recess, and use of an upstairs bathroom with an extremely antique geyser.  I became a research student in the Veterinary School – nearly opposite George’s bookshop , close to Milnes 2nd hand bookshop – yes! A.A.Milne’s son! and another Georges Bookshop (a very different Mr. George) in Christmas Steps.  Too many distractions? Yes!

 

As a research student, I had been encouraged by Professor Ottaway to regularly attend the meetings of the Anatomical Society held in London on a Friday.  In 1955 I had a bright idea.  After the Anatomical Society meeting I could meet Miss Margaret Roberts, who now worked at Great Ormond Street Hospital (secretary to the Sister Tutor), go out for a meal, and then go on to the theatre.  To my great delight she also thought it was a good idea.  She also had another good idea – that I should go back to Kingswood with her for the weekend.  We had a very good time in London, enjoyed the theatre (“The Water Gypsies”), and I felt quite “at home” in Caer Gwent.  (Several Christmas gatherings had been held there by the Roberts family, which our family had attended while staying with   Aunt Kath and Uncle Don at Burgh Heath.)  Margaret and I had several of these “outings” when there were Friday meetings of the Anatomical Society in London.

 

   Meanwhile, in Witley, Mum’s condition was deteriorating.  David was now teaching at Godalming C.G.S. and had become very friendly with Gill Pusey, a Witley girl who was attending Witley Gospel Mission.  They married and moved into a flat in Witley.  Esme’s presence in Witley was an enormous help to Mum and Dad, who loved her very much.

 

 It was about this time that the future of Witley Gospel Mission began to be discussed.  I know nothing about it, but I think the Mission had to vacate the big room over the Co-op.  The Enticknap family included a brother who was a builder; Bob Enticknap was a “Clerk of Works” by profession: David Enticknap (his son) was a surveyor; Eric Enticknap was a brick layer; and other Enticknaps were in a small building firm in Farncombe.  So the Mission decided to purchase a plot of land just off Wheeler Lane, on the Common, and build Witley Gospel Mission Hall.  They built an excellent Hall, one large hall, one small room with a kitchen, and space for 2 or 3 cars to park.  My first view of the completed Mission Hall was to attend my very dear Mother’s funeral service, soon after it was completed.  It was then an active Mission with a very good Sunday School at which Esme was one of the teachers.   Shortly afterwards, Uncle Cecil died and Mum was buried near her brother (my Uncle Cecil) in Milford cemetery.  Dad continued his active life of Christian service, and was much in demand for various meetings all around Witley and Chiddingold.  He was a very great Christian man, a very skilled gardener, a good carpenter, electrician and cricketer.  His preaching had great power, humanity and a profound knowledge of the Bible.  All this from a boy who left school at 11 years of age in the village of Hamsey.  Dad’s father worked at Hamsey Brickyard near Lewes and there were 4 boys and 3 girls, all very young  when he died.  In order to avoid the workhouse, the boys had to go out to work, which they could do legally if they passed an exam at 11 years of age.  This they did and Uncle Bob and Dad went to work at the near-by, very famous Mac Beans Orchid Nursery.  It is still going strong.  Dad died while we were in Philadelphia and I decided not to go back to England for the funeral because I was fully committed to my teaching programme in the Dept. of Anatomy in Philadelphia.  Mum was dead, and so we decided to visit all of Dad’s relatives who were still alive on our return to England.  This we did, and I think it was appreciated.  We were able to take Stephen and James to see some of them also.  I especially remember having Dad’s sisters – Aunt Nell and Auntie Ethel to stay at Oakhurst. (see photographs!)

 

 I must now return to my developing relationship with Margaret Roberts. It was decided that the post-graduate Bristol veterinary club (the Chiron Club) should hold its 2nd Dinner Dance at the Royal Hotel in Bristol.  It fell to me to make the arrangements and to the year secretaries to notify members of the

event.  I, of course, asked Margaret – she came, and stayed at The Hawthorns hotel.  Two people whom she met at the Dinner-Dance played a major part in our later lives – Bill and Judy Manktelow.  At Dinner-Dances I am a fish out of water, but Margaret put up with me somehow.

 

   With Dad’s death, Witley went out of my life (but not out of my memory).  Margaret and I paid a visit to Witley a few years ago that was fired by discovering a painting, “Rustic Anglers” of the pond at Lower Roke by Charles Wilson (1890’s).  We went to see it at the National Gallery.  I had previously seen a painting of “Rorkes Farm”, near Witley (painted by Sutton Palmer) in a book by A.R.Hope Moncrief – “Surrey” published by A & C Black in the 1st edition, 1906 illustration No.9.  A few years ago, Margaret and I visited “Great Roke”.  The gardens were derelict – a sad sight.  We also went down to Lower Roke, which has been stripped of its true character and is now a “Gentleman’s country residence”.  We were shown round – Sutton Palmer’s book illustration was hung up to remind one of “better days” at Lower Roke.  The “development” of Witley village has gone on apace – all the fields that were cut for hay or grazed are now a large housing estate and the “Prefabs” are now gone.

 

 My weekends at Caer Gwent had continued without  always going to a show in London and we were thinking seriously about our future together.  On one occasion on the train from London  to Kingswood we had a detailed discussion after the  carriage (Southern Railway style) seemed completely empty.  It was all based on my remaining as a research student in Veterinary Science on an Agricultural research grant.  When we reached Kingswood station we got out, and as I passed the man in the seat behind me (the only other person in the carriage) I recognised the “Man from the Ministry” who had briefed me at the R.V.C. recently about the terms of my remaining exempt from National Service.  Who could have dreamed of that? Margaret was not 21 when we were engaged, but her father had given his consent and Uncle Hugh recommended going to Mr. Joseph in Hatton Garden for the engagement ring.  Mr. Joseph was a very nice man and recommended a nice ring with 3 diamonds set in gold.  We both loved it and we still do.  A very happy day in our lives.  When we arrived back at Caer Gwent, Margaret’s parents were both in bed and we went upstairs and showed them the ring.

 

 Somehow or other, possibly from Margaret Shepherdson (nee Smith) who worked in Biochemistry at the Vet. School and had married John Shepherdson, Reader in Mathematics, we learned that Peter Reifenberg (lecturer in Maths) had married and bought a three storied house near the top of Clifton Vale (No.2).  He had three vacant flats to let.  We immediately jumped at the opportunity and chose the ground floor flat (the top flat was let to Margaret Jarvis in Education and the basement flat to Geoff. King, a physiologist and Shirley his wife – all University people).  There was a small front garden (with lawn) and a small back garden.  The shops in Clifton were very near but we had a marvellous view over Bristol.  Peter Reifenberg was an eccentric mathematician who mowed his small front lawn in a figure of eight pattern.  His father was an architect who disliked the paper that we put up in the bathroom – he said what was needed was “taste”! Our flat had a front room, bedroom, w.c. and kitchen with a new glazed earthenware sink.  We found the discarded stone sink in the back lane and we still have it in our garden now.  It proved to be a very happy household, despite the owner’s eccentricity.  Margaret Jarvis was a keen ornithologist and something was always going on in the flat downstairs.  On one occasion there was an almighty BANG!  Geoff had dropped a large plate (wedding present) on the stone floor because he didn’t like it!l