Wright Family Album

Doris' memories - Bourton 1930-1935

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Leaving Shudy was very upsetting although we realised why we had to move, to be near the ageing grandparents. A semi-detached house with decidedly small rooms and a nondescript garden was a great comedown after the spacious vicarage and gorgeous country garden of Shudy.

Fitting into the house was like having to use a shoe horn. In one of the front rooms was Daddy's desk, a very large roll-top affair, and Mummy's smaller desk. This was their sanctum and we hardly ever went in. Our sitting room opposite had a largish table in the middle and a couple of old easy chairs on either side of the fireplace. In the window was a padded window seat made by Phil at Weymouth College. On winter evenings we would sit round the table playing games such as racing demon - a game where each had a pack of cards to play a straightforward patience game with the addition of everyone's being able to build on each others aces in the middle. Then there was rummy, pelmanism, happy families, snap, among others. The dining room at the back was practically filled by the table and a large sideboard. To get to the chairs near the window the boys had to climb along the intermediate chairs to get to them. The only other rooms downstairs were the kitchen and pantry.
My main bugbear job there was to empty all the chamber pots under the beds and keep the bathroom clean. That was a major task because the boys had cold baths every morning and the floor was always flooded with what seemed like half an inch of water which had to be mopped up. Of course I helped as usual with the washing up and cooking and clothes washing ironing. I think there must have been some boiler to heat the water because I cant remember the chore of boiling kettles for the washing up, as in Shudy days, and ending up having to wash the greasy pots with half cold, grey, soda-filled water. There was also electric light at Bourton, the first time we had had it in any of our houses. For cooking we still had the paraffin stove and a primus stove. This was placed on the table near the window and one time a curtain caught on fire. It was soon put out. I cant remember what the boys chores were. There was no milk to fetch because the milkman came to the back door with his enormous straight-sided pail and ladled it out into our gallon jug with his mouth-watering, brimming-over pint measure.

The three boys, Phil, Basil and Hugh used to spend a lot of time in their bedroom, Phil fiddling about with his wireless sets and Basil doing something with clocks. I think they spent a certain amount of time during summer holidays watching the road, although that was some distance away, for girls and young ladies walking past!

There was little room in the house for relations or friends to stay. On one occasion though. Daddy had invited an African clergyman to stay, who, at night, carefully left his shoes outside his bedroom door to be cleaned. Little did he suspect the this was done by his very reverend Lord Bishop!

The rough work in the house was done by a rather slovenly country girl from down the lane called Gladys Screen.  She was always sniffing and this was picked up by our poll parrot, much to our amusement. The parrot had been brought back by Daddy from Sierra Leone soon after we
Doris with Pollymoved to Shudy. It was a male parrot and adored Daddy. Whenever he arrived home from Africa Poll would get all sentimental and bring up his food for him. He never spoke; if he screamed we would shut him up by throwing a cloth over his cage. He was never allowed out of his cage - it wasn't done in those days. The house was never without its pussies - one, two and sometimes three. (Ed: see pictures on previous page.) Pippy used to make us laugh when he sneaked off to see his bitch friends. Hidden in the shed we watched him tiptoeing close to the wall under the kitchen window so that Mummy wouldn't see him, then, once round the corner, he would race away for dear life. He sadly died of an adder bite one Good Friday. Good Fridays were already sad enough without that.  They were always national holidays and at eleven o'clock we would troop off to church to a no-music service: no hymns, sad psalms which were said, etc.

Because Daddy was a bishop we were taken a certain amount of notice of by the well-to-do retired Generals and so on who lived on the edge of the village. A kind single lady used to take me for outings in her little red open sports car. Once it was to an auction at Mere, the first auction I had ever been to and I found it fascinating. Once Mummy and I were invited to luncheon by a General Berner's wife. We had to go wearing hats and keep them on all the time we were there - a habit in those days. One of my friends at Kennaway Hall, where I hostelled as a student at King's College, London, lived at Blandford and she would drive over sometimes to take me to stay at her home. What a contrast a grand manor house was to our humble abode. Two footmen (local, from Blandford) and many other servants. Such a luxury to lie in bed until the chamber maid brought the hot water in a little bronze can to wash in at the wash handstand and my first introduction to delicious Roger & Gallet soap, carnation scented. Every evening dinner was a seven course meal. Only Mr Williams (one of the owners of William & Deacons Bank), Agnes's father could tackle all seven courses. Breakfast was of the kind one only sees on television these days: one came down and lifted the lids off the warming silver dishes to see which of the smoked haddock, kidneys, bacon and variously cooked eggs one preferred. I still remember the shock of returning from that peaceful, gracious life to the hurly burly of our noisy household.

Phil at work
When Phil left Weymouth College he stayed at home for a year doing a correspondence course to try and get into the Indian Police. He occupied his leisure time in building his little wooden canvas-covered boat, 'waters wet' and practising pole jumping, over hedges if they were low enough.

We older ones (Gordon and Betty having left home) had a few friends of our own age. There were the Brittons, Rosemary and John. Rosemary was in the same form as me in St Michael's and we were always good friends (even after school). John was at Weymouth, being led astray by my brothers (with regard to smoking), only on the trains! We used to go on cycle rides with them. Their Auntie Win coached Rosemary and me in French one holiday before our School Certificate exams. I am sure that was why I got a credit. Then there were other Weymouth boys called Foulkes who also went to Weymouth and were doctor's sons in Gillingham. We used to have parties at their house in the winter. Another house where we had parties was the doctor's at Mere. He was our doctor and I remember my poor mother finding the bills very difficult to pay after Hugh had had mastoids very badly at Weymouth and on coming home for the holidays had to be attended to and have his ear dressed by Dr Whitby every day.

Barbara being mad on horses, discovered a riding stables nearby and spent almost all and every day there. How the boys used to tease her when she arrived back home for the evening meal smelling to high heaven of horses. I came in for my share of teasing too. The boys called me 'fatty' which I hated, but I really did get horribly fat at St Michael's because the food there was so starchy. (I remember once lying awake one night longing for a whole tin of corned beef to eat!)

In 1934 I left St. Michael's and went to King's College, London. That meant living away from home and C.M.S. very generously rallied round and let me live as a hosteller at their Women’s Training College in Stoke Newington, North London. I enjoyed my two years there. Kennaway Hall, as it was called, was opposite Clissold Park where we could play netball and hockey. Some of us made frequent visits to Sadlers Wells Opera House which was on the tram route into town and where I was introduced to many delicious operas such as Mozart's Magic Flute, Puccini's Madam Butterfly and so on. The tram fare was only Id and a seat in the 'gods' 6d. We would come back late and hungry and tuck into white bread, butter and marmalade in the hall kitchen.

1925 Kennaway Hall, CMS Ladies Training College. Housekeeper & Miss Allshorn, Principal
The Principal, Miss Allshorn, was a lovely lady and a famous personage in C.M.S. circles. The housekeeper, Miss Bottomley, was very kind to me too and my last summer there invited me to accompany her and her niece on a tour of Scotland in her little Austin 7. In spite of being extremely cramped in the back seat sitting next to the pile of suitcases I found it a fascinating journey, taking three days and two nights (staying with friends of Miss Bottomley’s) up the Great North Road to the Highlands. Our first week's stay was in a homely hotel where I first learnt to eat delicious Scot's porridge with salt instead of sugar and the breakfast scones were straight out of the oven. One or two evenings there was dancing. Three kilted young Scotsmen arrived, one to play the bagpipes and the others to throw us excitedly around the room in their style of dancing. Our last visit was to Edinburgh. Such a beautiful city. It was so hot in the top bedroom of the hotel where the niece and I slept (I can’t even remember her name. She made extraordinary little impression on me) and had to share a double bed that I couldn't bear it on the bed and finished up sleeping the rest of the night on the floor.

Leaving Bourton in 1936 was no wrench.

Basil's memories

David's memories

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