Wartime memories of Redhill and Wrington                written by evacuee Christopher Coles from September, 2012 Wrington Village Journal
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On Good Friday 1941 Bristol suffered the blitz and many buildings were flattened. My uncle Ewart was in hospital when his pub was hit, but another uncle, Jack, had been helping out in the bar that night. All the family were down in the cellar sheltering, when it was hit. They were rescued, but unfortunately, a beer barrel fell onto uncle Jack, badly injuring him. He died shortly after, leaving our auntie Min a widow. It was arranged that my mother, my brother and I were to go to Redhill, and we lodged with Gwen, Mabel, and Elsie Deacon in their cottage which was called The Stallards. Uncle Ewart's family and aunt Min moved into our home with dad, who had to stay behind for work and ARP duties, though he was totally unfit for anything really, having been badly shot up in the first World War. We had the top room on the left of the cottage, and I remember being fascinated looking out of the end window, which was level with the field behind, and seeing a farmer drive a tractor right past the window. I can't remember how we slept or ate, I expect mum used a primus stove. I should say here that auntie Gwen, as we called her, also had two London evacuees staying downstairs with her, Bernard and Betty. I shall never forget the weekend meals though;, we used to go across the road to aunt Minnie's cottage, the old school house. She was thereafter known as Redhill Minnie. We all sat along a wooden settle I think they were called, and aunt Min cooked on a black cast iron range, with a large soot-covered kettle always on over a hot fire; the oven was at the side. Above the oven sometimes were two smoothing irons for ironing her clothes. She used to dish up large roast chicken dinners with potatoes and veg, covered in a thick brown gravy., It worried mum no end. "Be careful Min", she would say, she was worried about rationing etc, Minnie would tell her, "Be quiet, they are growing boys and they need the food". And she would carry on piling it on, gosh it was heaven, we never left any over for the chickens she kept in the garden . Sometimes a chicken would have to be dispatched and Sam Amos, who kept a farm just up the road, would be sent for. He would take the hapless creature round to the back of the cottage and do the deed. We would then have to sit on a seat out in the garden and pluck all the feathers out - quite an experience for us. Aunt Min's mother always sat in a chair at the far end of the range, dressed in black with a lace cap on her head. She was 94 when she died, at the end of the war. In the room that used to be the school room Minnie had her tin bath and her wash tubs and a wonderful old mangle, with large wooden rollers, which were covered with tea towels stitched on, driven by two cast iron gear wheels all open for you to catch your fingers in and a handle to turn it with. The toilet was on the end of the cottage and consisted of a wooden plank with two holes cut in it, suspended over a cess pit. Hanging on a nail was a wad of newspaper and i think some Jeyes toilet paper. That would stick in my mind wouldn't it? We used to roam around the countryside with Bernard, looking for hazel trees that were ripe enough to pick the nuts; they tasted lovely because they were so fresh. Occasionally we would come across a bush called creeper (Old man's beard) and out would come our penknives and we would cut three lengths, put it in our mouths and light the end, puffing away, feeling very grown up, if somewhat queasy. Once we were organised to go collecting rose hips. These were used to make rose hip syrup for babies for vitamin C, Other times we would play in the rec. a field alongside the church, on the swings and see saw. My brother and Ifound some old pram wheels and a plank of wood to make a trolley with and went round the cottages collecting old newspapers which we piled on the back, taking them along the road past the church and then freewheel down the hill to the little shop / post office at the bottom, where we left them for collection for the war effort. Jackson's farm was just along the road to the left between there and the Darlington Arms. We were strictly forbidden to stray as far as the Paradise Motel, as we were told American soldiers were there, It wasn't long before we had to go to the local school opposite the church, the head mistress was a Mrs Buckley I think. I remember having to learn to knit: I can still knit a pair of socks today - so not so daft after all! We went on a school outing once on a charabanc, probably to Cheddar and were asked to write about it afterwards. Mum made me do it, and I won a prize, a book on King Arthur and his Knights. Later she spoilt my pleasure a little by telling me I was the only one to enter. Later we joined the cubs, going down the hill to Lye Hole to a large house where a Mr Goodenough lived - he was the scout master. Recently I learnt that an earlier relative of mine was listed on the census as having been a coachman to farmer in Lye Hole lane. Back by the side of the A38 at Redhill was a tump of grass where we would sit listening to the crickets and grasshoppers in the long grass, and sometimes an old Foden lorry would come puffing up Redhill. Halfway up he would have to stop to get some more steam before he could continue. Those were the days of quiet, green, transport. Wonderful as long as you weren't in a hurry... Continued