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, 19 November 2014

Guest Post - My Sister Remembers - Part Five

Memories of Susan Poulter nee Flitney; Sue is my older sister (although she looks younger!)
Previous instalments herehere, here and here 

After a while dad found a job At Well Manor Farm in Hampshire. Mum hadn't seen the house and knew nothing at all about the farm. Dad took the job on the understanding that we would be moving into a new (as yet unbuilt) cottage.  We were told we would be staying at a place called No Man's Land while the cottage was built. When we arrived, someone was already living at No Man's Land, it was evening, and we and our furniture had nowhere to go. Dad managed to contact his employer who at that time was staying at a hotel in London prior to moving his wife and family to the farm. There was nothing else for it, the owner and his family ended up staying in London for an extra few months while we moved into The Manor House! I had totally forgotten or shut out memories of living at the Manor, I often had what I thought were dreams about it, but my sister Barbara assures me it actually happened.
Sue how could you forget? It was luxury compared to what we were used to - masses of bedrooms and a big old staircase that always reminded me of Gone with the wind. Not to mention the tennis court in the garden and the two giant tortoises a previous owner of the manor left in the grounds!
The back garden No Man's Lane
There used to be apple and pear orchards beyond the fence.

No Man's Land consisted of two semi-detached house on the edge of the village and, as far as mum was concerned, the village was miles from anywhere. Mum was also horrified to find the cottage had no electricity. Us kids found it a bit of a novelty (until it came to doing our homework with the very little light the gas mantels gave out) I remember mum and dad having awful rows at this time and once mum put a saucepan through the TV. It was really a grim time for us kids, especially Barbara, who was quite young and very frightened by it all. Our neighbours were Hampshire "born and bred” and one day when I saw them, they said “Hello Mush” to me – how rude and uncouth I thought, but it seems that was not the case at all, it was quite an affectionate and civil greeting.

Again, I had to go to an all girls’ school, Basingstoke High School for Girls, and it was just like going back to High Wycombe – how I hated it!!

Basingstoke High School for Girls (now Costello Technical College, Crossborough Hill, Basingstoke. 

This time it was even worse as mum and dad couldn't afford to get me the proper uniform, so I had to go in the uniform from Aylesbury until some second-hand clothes could be found for me. The girls there did not like my Buckinghamshire dialect, and I was teased unmercifully. I was allowed to go on one school holiday to the Lake District but there was no money for walking boots, so I slipped and slid around the Lakes (including climbing Hellvelyn) in slip on shoes. I don’t think dad ever got over the fact the Rebecca West didn't change her mind about the pigs. I think he always thought she would ask him back and our fortunes would change, but it was not to be.

Life was very stressful at Well for quite some time. Mum always hated No Man's Land, while dad loved the remoteness of it all.  He would take her to Alton, Farnham or Odiham shopping once a week, but there were no buses unless you walked or cycled to Long Sutton or Odiham, and then you could get to Basingstoke.

The buses were few and far between, and I used to arrive slightly late for assembly in the morning and was usually very late home.  I joined the hockey team, but if I wanted to play a match, I would have to cycle to Odiham in the morning as the bus back to Long Sutton left too early. Dad would never pick me up so it meant a cycle ride of four to five miles each way. Barbara went to school at Odiham and either dad or his boss’s wife would take her. Tony had already left school and worked on the farm with Dad. Long Sutton was about two miles away, and that was our nearest shop so mum did a lot of walking in those days! I imagine she was very lonely as it really was a small village. She and dad used to row all the time and she threatened to take her own life a couple of times.

The new cottages were eventually built and that made life a little easier. The Collins family moved into the one next door, and their daughter Violet became my friend and ally. The cottage was closer to the centre of the village and had electric light and gas for cooking. There was also a lovely big area for a garden and mum and dad set to and laid it all out with flowers and vegetables and for a while life seemed happier.

Dad working in the garden at Well

Well Manor Cottages – the garden was mum's pride and joy.  

The basic problem of no social life for mum was still there though. At the time, we didn't have much sympathy for her as she always seemed to be in black moods; I can just imagine now what it must have been like for her.  She came from a large family of Londoners who were very sociable; she used to go to the ballrooms in London as a teenager and had a good old time.  As far as I can remember from mum’s tales of “the good old days” she was working “in service” for a Harley Street doctor and met dad when he delivered milk to the house. They courted, and she fell in love. Dad was a really nice-looking  young man but, once married to a farm worker, her social life almost came to an end. It was forty years before she went out for dinner in a restaurant. Tony and his wife Eva, Barbara and Terry, and myself and Bob along with all the children, took mum and dad to Lakeside at Frimley for their 40th wedding anniversary. I don’t think dad even wanted to go to that really. 

The one good thing for me about school at Basingstoke was that I met my friend Fran. She lived at Odiham and would bring her pony up to the farm. I also had a friend in the village, Mrs. Biddlecombe, who owned an old grey pony called Nobby. He used to pull a milk cart but had been retired. Anyway, Mrs. B knew I was horse mad and let me borrow him and Fran and I would ride for hours – again I only had a rope halter for Nobby. I used to follow the hunt using just the rope halter and Nobby would fly over the biggest jumps with the best of ‘em. Looking back I expect I was frowned on quite heavily, but I didn’t care. I only gave up following the hunt the day I was in at the kill and the Master of the hunt gave me the blooded paw of the fox – poor fox.

Sue and friends in the garden at Well

I occasionally stayed in Basingstoke after school to go to the pictures with another friend, Megan. Her family were members of The Salvation Army who made me very welcome and were happy to take me home at the end of the evening. It was strange visiting people in a town house, who seemed to have plenty of money and whose table always groaned with food. Megan’s mum and dad were very independent and seemed to enjoy each other’s company, but would come and go as they pleased. Much different from our home, where if mum went out too often on her own dad would not speak to her for days on end.


The highlight of the year at Well Manor Farm was apple-picking season. In those days they still had fairly large orchards, although these were all pulled out at a later date, and it was all hands on deck once the apples were ripe.  There were Russets, Cox’s, Discovery, Blenheims and James Grieve, there may have been others whose names I can't remember – really lovely old English apples. We spent days picking the apples and packing them into boxes ready to go off to the wholesalers. I remember Peggy, our Jack Russell Terrier in the packing sheds “ratting”, dad would often have to pull huge rats off her ears or tail. She always seemed to have chunks out of her body, but it couldn't have done her too much damage as she lived to a grand old age. We would get enough apples to store for the winter for our own use, and apples have never tasted the same since those days.

Thanks to the blacksmith who visited the farm, I was able to get a weekend job at Pococks riding stables in Wrecclesham. I would be up before dawn, cycle to Wrecclesham to get the horses ready to go out to the hunt. I would delight in cleaning the tack, and eventually I was allowed to ride in gymkhanas, which was great fun. I had some second-hand jodhpurs and a waterproof riding coat and thought I was the bee’s knees.

High Street, Odiham c1950s.

Later on I got a Saturday job at Dickers Grocers in Odiham. This was the place where I really started to learn what “growing up” was all about.  In Well I had no friends older than me but the girls I worked with at the shop seemed very sophisticated. I had never used make up so the girls showed me how to use it and how to make more of my hair. They chatted about their romances and exciting outings with boys to rock and roll concerts, and it was like entering another world. The best part of the job was getting my pay packet at the end of the week and being able to save for things I wanted. I remember buying my first pair of court shoes and mum and dad being horrified as they had one-inch heels...

Memories of Susan Poulter nee Flitney; Sue is my older sister (although she looks younger!)
Previous instalments hereherehere and here 

To be continued... 


  1. Sue,
    Wow! I am going to read that again!
    Such an interesting story so well told it leaves me wanting more.
    Our Dad was moody too. I came on leave one time and Mum answered my knock at the door. She greeted me with "OH! Hello dear!" Dad heard this and apparently sulked about it for weeks. I have such fond memories of Well Manor farm too, I used to visit when stationed at Portsmouth and will forever be grateful for your Mum and Dads welcome and hospitality

    1. Hi John
      Hope you got my email a couple of days ago. Glad you enjoyed the blog, I am sure mum and dad enjoyed your company when you visited. Did you get "best ham" for tea? X

  2. Just the name "No Man's Land" must have summed it up for your mother. How very sad for her. I'm glad Sue can look back on the past and see your mother through adult eyes.

    1. Hello Wendy
      Yes it was sad and I think dad did not realise just what it was like for mum. He just loved farming and tinkering with his old cars and, like most men then, would not talk about problems until things became really desperate. A different age!


I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara x

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