My mum Rene (Alice Irene Flitney née Harding) died in 1999. When my brother, sister and I went through her things we found an envelope full of old newspaper clippings and other bits and pieces. We looked through the papers and put the envelope away, but those yellowing pieces of paper keep whispering of half-forgotten times and places. Places like Butlers Cross, Stoke Mandeville, Aylesbury, West Wycombe, Little Kimble, Wendover, Ellesborough, Southcourt and Princes Risborough.

Wednesday 25 January 2017

Meet another member of the Flitney family: Albert Flitney, Sexton at Butlers Cross in 1939.

I’ve read dozens of old newspaper clippings about the Flitney family. Most are reports of births, marriages and deaths, but just occasionally something a little more unusual turns up. The following is an account of a stroll through the ‘fragrant English countryside’ written by a diarist by the name of ‘Longman’. It was published in the Daily Mirror on Saturday April 8th, 1939.  

The Daily Mirror April 8th, 1939 Via Find My Past

It begins: 

By fields, across deserted meadows, down leafy lanes, over quaint old stiles, along the willow lined banks of winding meadow streams and into the fair county of Berkshire. Arriving at the village of Aston Tirrold, I visit The Chequers Inn, where the landlord Mr. Morris tells me “the Danes and Saxons agreed to share the place, so one part is called Aston Tirrold, and the other Aston Upthorpe.”

Later, ‘Longman’ meets Mr. Stevens a trainer at Springfield House Stables.  Mr. Stevens tells him they have “the finest gallops in England." After enjoying lunch with The Rev Gillespie rector of St. Michael’s, he continues on his way towards Aston Upthorpe, where he meets Mr. Clacy a seventy-four-year-old gamekeeper.

It was late on another day when 'Longman' arrived at Butlers Cross.  Here he spent the night under the thatched roof of a tiny cottage. Where (he tells us) local legend has it; a witch once lived. His diary continues:  In this quiet village, that lies under the shadow of Coombe Hill, close to Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country home, are contrasts and gossip to be had for the asking.  The village folk are talking of the fields and gardening, and of the sad case of a young farmer who died, leaving a wife and two little children.

Longman enjoys a chat with Mr. Mooney, proprietor of the Russell Arms, recently returned from a holiday in Wales and with Mr. Cox landlord of the Rose and Crown who hasn’t had a holiday for more than fifteen years. Mr. Webb the Baker talks of supplying bread to the locals and the incumbents at Chequers for over sixty-five years.  Mr. Lloyd George, Ramsey MacDonald and Mr. Chamberlain have all eaten his bread.

The article continues: I took a stroll to the parish church where I found the Sexton old Mr. Flitney. The children call him “Navvy” because he always wears hob nailed boots. Mr. Flitney is seventy seven and still as active as a kitten.  He is happy to share a few stories one of which concerns a lady by the name of Granny Wheeler, a church cleaner. The story goes that Granny Wheeler likes to eat her lunch while sitting on her husband’s tombstone. Miss Simmonds the district nurse is another subject of great interest. Apparently Miss Simmonds can converse in Italian and drive a car! 

After talking to Mr. Flitney 'Longman' set off again and later records in his diary: An air of gentle peace rests over Hagbourne. It is like a perpetual Sunday afternoon, except on certain occasions. It reminds one of a dear old lady who dreams of the past, and smiles.  

Footnotes & Source Documents 

According to the 1871 census, Albert Flitney (born 1861) was the son of Moses and Eliza. The family lived at Church Hill, Ellesborough, Buckinghamshire.  At the time of the 1881 census, Albert was employed as a domestic servant.  He married at the age of 40 by which time he was a cattleman on a farm. The 1920 Kelly's Directory lists Albert Flitney Sexton at Butlers Cross.

Sexton: a person who looks after a church and churchyard, typically acting as bell-ringer and gravedigger.

The above article appeared in The Daily Mirror on Saturday April 8th, 1939.  

The first photograph shows the newspaper headline and Mr. Clancy, the gamekeeper. Via FindMyPast/The Daily Mirror.

The second photograph is The Chequers Inn, Aston Tirrold. Via The Astons.Net

The third and final photograph is of 'old' Mr Flitney and an unknown companion outside the church at Butler's Cross.  Via FindMyPast/The Daily Mirror.  

When this article was written Aston Tirrold, Aston Upthorpe and Hagbourne were in Berkshire but after the boundary changes of 1974, they became part of Oxfordshire.

Sunday 4 September 2016

A postcard and a visit to Well Manor Farm

Buckingham old postcard

You might wonder why I'm sharing this rather ordinary looking postcard.  The views of Buckingham (The Square and Town Hall, the old jail, the church of St. Peter and St. Paul, an old house, the River Ouse) are perfectly nice but not especially interesting. It’s neither very old nor rare, but it is special in that it opens a very small window into the past.

The postcard sent in 1960 is addressed to my parents Mr & Mrs D. Flitney (Rene and Denis), Well Manor Farm, Hampshire (UK).  I’ve not been back to Well for many years but the last time I visited it looked very much as it always has. It is one of those timeless places, and it is somewhere that will be forever dear to my heart.

Auntie Jean sent the card after she and her husband Graham, and their two boys spent a day or two at Well. I was twelve at the time but to be perfectly honest I have no recollection of the visit. The card, however, did bring back memories. This is what Aunty Jean wrote; 

We arrived back soon after 9 last evening, the mileage done was 67, so I think we travelled on the route you gave us OK.

We may have not needed to go through Henley, but the scenery was gorgeous and well worth the extra 2 or 3 miles.

We stopped for a drink at Twyford in the square and then came straight on. 

The stay was enjoyed all round and we know the boys loved it. Colin stayed awake after the first half hour, but was soon down to it when put to bed. I think he was determined not to miss anything on the route. 

Seeing those words all these years later reminded me of my dad. He loved to talk mileages and always had an opinion on the best or quickest route to or from anywhere.  I have a clear picture of him fetching his map books from the car and running his finger along the route while adding up the miles in his head. 

Naturally, I have no memories of Jean and Graham stopping in the square at Twyford, but it did bring back memories of days out with mum and dad.  

Most journeys started out with a stop at a transport café. Few families used them, but dad loved them.  A good strong cup of tea and a fry up would set him up for the rest of the journey.  The prices were usually low, the staff friendly and lorry drivers were always happy to chat. In my memory, every single conversation was the same – the best route, the number of miles and more importantly any traffic problems. This was in the days before mobile phones and the Internet so the only way to find out about these things was by word of mouth.

After a day spent with relatives or at the sea, we would set off for home and sooner or later dad would mention needing to ‘stretch his legs’. This was the signal for mum and I to start looking out for a decent pub. Those that appeared grubby or had shoddy paintwork would be rejected out of hand.  Those with five or six cars in the car park were deemed too busy. Eventually, we would find something that looked ‘nice’ and dad would pull in.   If it was a warm evening, we would sit in the garden, but more often than not they went inside while I waited in the car. After a few minutes, one of them would return with a bag of crisps and a fizzy drink. This was long before the drink driving ban, and they would often be an hour or more. Once fed and watered, we would be underway again.

The only part of the day I didn’t enjoy was the ‘eating up’ of the sandwiches. These were the leftovers from lunch, by now soggy and truly horrible. Dad would munch his way through a couple, but it was more than I could stand so I would say goodnight and take myself off to bed.  NB My brother married when I was quite young as did my sister. These recollections are of the time after they left home, prior to that all three of us would be in the car.

I don't have any photographs of Jean and Graham, but this is one of me as I must have looked when they visited. A note on the back reads Bobbie and Blacky. I don't think Blacky was our cat, so I'm guessing he belonged to the family who owned The Chequers Inn. 

Barbara Flitney at Well, Long Sutton, Hampshire

The Chequers Inn is to my right (out of the picture). The building behind me is Mulberry Cottage once the home of Old Bell Ridges. I don't know Bell's actual name, although I assume it must have been Bella or Annabelle. I have two clear memories of her. The first is that most of the children in the village (including me) were a little afraid of her because on nights when the moon was full she would stand in her garden and scream. The second is of her showing mum a collection of beautiful old-fashioned Valentine’s cards the type made from material and lace. Other than that Old Bell Ridges was and will probably remain a mystery to me. I do wonder how she would feel if she knew the house she once lived in now has a price tag of more than one million pounds.  

August, 2016. For my birthday this year Terry offered to take me to London, Bath, Bristol or anywhere else of my choosing - I chose to go back to Well.

The Chequers Inn, Well, Hook, Hants
The Chequers Inn, Well, Hampshire in August 2016.
The Chequers Inn, Well, Nr Long Sutton, Hook, Hants
The Chequers 

Well Manor Farm Cottages, Flitney Family, Well,  Hampshire
Well Manor Cottages a pair of semi-detached cottages and the place I grew up. We lived in the one on the right of the photograph. Mum and dad were incredibly proud of the garden and spent hours working on it.  (With thanks to my sister Sue for the photo)

Well Manor Farm Cottages, Dutch Barn, Cowshed, 1960s, Flitney Family, Hook, Hampshire
Looking in the opposite direction with the dutch barn and cowshed in the distance.

The same pair of cottages in 2011 this was some time after our parents died. 

Well Manor Farm Cottages, gone but not forgotten, Nr Long Sutton Hampshire
Aug 2016 - can you spot the difference?

The house where we lived has been completely flattened, the other half of the pair still stands but our home has gone. The only thing left is a gate and a mark in the grass where the path used to be.

Well Manor Farm Cottages, Well, Nr Long Sutton, Hampshire

Well Manor Farm, Well, Nr. Long Sutton, Hampshire
This photograph taken across the fields at the back of the farm might give you a clearer idea. Our house should be directly in line with the dead tree.  Most of the original farm buildings have also been knocked down and replaced.

 These buildings now stand where the dutch barn once stood. Progress? I guess so but I know which I prefer, although having said that most of the farm had fallen into disrepair in the intervening years. 

The back of the new barn.

Another of the new farm buildings

Much of the rest of the village looks almost exactly as it did...

Well, Lower Froyle, Crondall, Nr Basingstoke, Hampshire

Near The Chequers at Well, Hampshire
The cricket pitch used to be in the field beyond this fence, I have no idea why I felt it necessary to point that out!  I’m standing in front of one of my favourite trees and the one I used to climb at every opportunity.  As I've grown older, the tree has grown taller - I'm not sure I could climb it now, although I was tempted to try.

Well Manor Farm, Well, Nr Long Sutton, Hampshire
The field where the cricket pitch used to be. 

The well at Well, Nr Long Sutton Hampshire
The well at Well 

The well at Well, Nr Long Sutton Hampshire

William Fullerton who died at Well Manor, August 25th, 1888. The Well at Well.
This well is a gift to the inhabitants of the hamlet from William Fullerton who died at Well Manor, August 25th, 1888.

Cottage at Well, Nr Long Sutton, Hampshire
A family by the name of Biddlecombe lived here.  I believe Mr & Mrs Biddlecombe had a son and a daughter. The little girl and I used to play together until the awful day when she fell out of a tree and broke her collarbone. I wish I could remember her name – Janet perhaps?  She was a good two years younger than me so the day she fell I naturally got the blame.  I remember knocking on their front door the following day and her mother telling me exactly where to go!  That was the end of our friendship. I was seven at the time and have never forgotten the injustice of it all – although I did demonstrate how to hang upside down from a branch – so in hindsight it was entirely my fault – sorry Janet (if indeed that is your name).

Cottage at Well, Nr Long Sutton, Hampshire
I can't remember the name of the family who lived here, but I do remember singing Christmas Carols outside their front door. My sister was responsible for our little band of singers. She had the best voice, and it was left to her to decide on the carols and who should sing what. She had a passion for singing descant, and it was down to the rest of us to follow along with the basic melody.  Unfortunately, the moment she started singing I would find myself joining in.  I just could not get it right no matter how often and how hard we practised. We must have looked (and sounded) a raggle, taggle bunch when we arrived at this particular door, and I don’t think we were very welcome.

 The following photographs are of the woods and fields at Well Manor Farm.  I’m afraid I was trespassing at this point (Terry had gone to park the car – so he is not implicated in this!) I could not leave without walking these familiar paths and as requests left on the new farm owner’s blog had gone unanswered I decided to risk a telling off. 

Well Manor Farm, Well, Hook, Hampshire

Well Manor Farm, Well, Nr Long Sutton, Hampshire
Taking only pictures, leaving only footprints and a great big chunk of my heart

Well Manor Farm, Well, Hook, Hampshire

Well Manor Farm, Well, Nr Long Sutton, Hampshire

Well Manor Farm, Well, Hook, Hampshire

Well Manor Farm, Well, Nr Long Sutton, Hampshire

Woods at Well Manor Farm, Well, Nr Long Sutton, Hampshire

Well Manor Farm, Well, Hook, Hampshire

Road sign Well, Nr Long Sutton, Hampshire
I started off by saying I’ve not been back to Well for many years and the last time I visited it looked very much as it always has. However, time has indeed wrought changes at Well Manor Farm. Happily, the woods and fields are virtually unchanged.

Stored at the bottom of a box for more than fifty years Auntie Jean's postcard took me on a journey through my memories and reminded me it was time to go home.

Tuesday 14 June 2016

A Sleepy Dog Story

Once upon a time, there was a boy who longed for a dog of his own. One day when the boy was nine years old, a travelling funfair visited the village where he lived. The fair arrived in large trucks and with the trucks came the showmen in their caravans. Inside one of the caravans was a litter of puppies. The boy enjoyed the brightly painted stalls and the rides, but he quickly lost interest when he spied the puppies.  The boy longed for a puppy of his own and pleaded with his parents to let him have one. They refused… they didn't want a dog, and besides the puppies were of an indeterminate breed and probably had worms or worse! The fair moved on and the boy was heartbroken, and so began the gradual capitulation of the hard-hearted parents. Soon a puppy of a pedigree nature came to stay...

A puppy of a pedigree nature;  A Beagle by the name of Kelso or Kelly as he became known. 

Never a fussy dog Kelly was happy to sleep anywhere.

Kelly and the boy (centre) were inseparable.

Wherever the boy went Kelly went and whatever the boy had Kelly wanted ….

It wasn’t long before the hard-hearted mother fell under Kelly’s spell and turned into a bit of a softy.

Time passed as time will, the boy grew up and Kelly went to heaven. Soon the boy married and left home, and his parents missed him, and they missed Kelly.  But then Patch entered their lives, and it's difficult to be sad with an eight-week old puppy about the place.

Patch liked to sleep on chairs and on loungers, but most of all he liked the luxury of a lap.

Patch loved his new parents, but he missed his brothers and sisters. He needed a playmate and so a second Cavalier King Charles Spaniel by the name of Albe joined the family.

Albe liked to sleep anywhere, but sometimes he stayed awake while his master slept!

Meanwhile, the boy now with two boys of his own was enjoying the friendship of another dog.  Sadly when work took the boy and his family to live abroad, Rosie the Cairn terrier couldn't go with them, and she went to live with the soft-hearted parents. Before they left the boy and his family gave Rosie a special pillow knowing she would be treated like a princess!

Princess Rosie loved to snooze, in her bed, under a desk, on a chair, in a lounger or on a lap.

After a few years, Patch and Albe went to join Kelly in heaven. Rosie grew old. She started to slow down. Her legs would no longer carry her, and her eyes grew tired.  The vet suggested a pair of Doggles (doggy sun glasses) to keep the sun out of her eyes. The indignity of it didn't spoil her enjoyment of life, and she carried on for as long as she could, but eventually she too was called away. 

The kind-hearted parents didn't want another dog.  It might have worms or worse it might die. But what of the boy?  He is now a father of four, two grown-up sons and two little girls. A beautiful dog by the name of Nushka is part of the family, but the boy will never forget Kelly his puppy of a pedigree nature.

Oh yes, the boy now lives in the land of Koalas, kangaroos and other wondrous things and his parents get to visit, and they are all living happily ever after...

...but truth be told the soft-hearted parents would really like another dog...worms and all!

  If you are still awake why not pop over and see what my fellow Sepians are up to here

Love is a four-legged word. Author unknown. 

“A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down.” Robert Benchley (humorist and actor, Broadway Melody of 1938)

Update October 2016: Sadly, Nushka passed away a few weeks ago. She will be missed by everyone who loved her. 

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