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Reminiscences of Little Milton in the 1950s

By Janet Carpenter. Feb 2008 (Email)

I was born and brought up in the village from the 1950s and my association with the village continued mainly until my parents retired and moved away. My parents are Maurice and Eva Hart who owned and ran Greystone Stores for about 30 years. They arrived in the village in 1954 when telephone numbers only had three digits (ours was 234) and car ownership was not the norm. The property came with an enormous thatched barn, a set of pig sties and chicken runs and a stable complete with feeding manger and hay loft. The house had no hot running water or inside toilet and although there was a cold tap, clear fresh drinking water could still be pumped from a well in the central porch. There was also a solid stone bread oven built into the back wall. There was no central heating. Warmth came from coal fires at the back and the front of the house.

Early Memories

Supplies for the shop were generally delivered from the wholesaler or from individual companies by road but in the early days goods could sometimes arrive by rail and I remember a trip with Dad to Tiddington railway station to collect sausages and ham sent up by Harris’s from Calne in Wiltshire (near where we now live).

My friend Sue’s Grandfather Mr Saunders farmed Belchers Farm when I was quite young and I remember a trip in his land rover down to the Dutch Barns. Later when I was a student I used to work as a potato sorter on the picking machines on Belchers Farm in the summer.

The Doctor, Dr Cox lived in the village at the big house and held his surgery every day in the room at the top of the drive. It was a short walk from Greystone Stores to see the doctor. Once when at my friend’s house directly over the road I cut my finger fairly deeply on a sharp knife while washing up and was whisked across the road to have it dressed. 

In 1963 I remember the very heavy snowfalls. It must have been around a weekend when the worst falls came because I remember watching my father outside clearing a pathway through to the paraffin shed across the drive as he knew there would plenty of customers in on Monday to replenish their stocks to keep their paraffin heaters going in the cold weather. The banks of snow looked as tall as I.

On Sundays we attended morning service at St James Church, Rev Baker was vicar then. After Church we went to Sunday school at the Methodist Chapel in the school room at the back with Mrs Cooper as our teacher.

On the site of Milton Manor Drive there used to be the barns and outbuildings for Milton Manor Farm. These were disused so we used this area as a cut through when walking home from school.

Our favourite play area was the field below the Manor especially when the cows weren’t in it. Here we enjoyed playing on the willows in the marsh imagining them as boats. If we were feeling adventurous we took off on our bikes down to the end of Rofford Lane . A gypsy woman lived down there now and again and came into the village begging for scraps with her large black pram. It was only years later that I discovered it was our old pram given to her by my mother to carry her belongings.

The School

I attended the village school from the age of 5 to 9. The numbers of us were small as few as 17 in total one year. In my year there were two of us. We had three tables in the classroom bottom table, middle table and top table and one teacher, Miss Murchie. Apart from the usual classroom activities we enjoyed cooking in the School House kitchen and sports in the School House garden. The bunny hop race was the most fun. I do not remember anyone needing to be severely disciplined and rewards for good work and behaviour were fruit pastilles bought from the shop.

At the age of 9 we transferred to the Primary School in Great Haseley which was a much bigger school with 80 children. The top class was taught by the head teacher Mr Walker whose hobby was restoring old cars. We travelled to the school each day on a school bus driven by Mr Bill White who with his son Graham ran the Coach Business in Little Milton from what was the garage next to the Methodist Chapel. We had the little old bus for the run to Great Haseley.

The Shop

My father always prided himself on high quality service to all his customers. Although he considered adapting the shop to self service this was not really feasible in the old building and so it continued as it had for many years under his management. There were large tins of loose biscuits for sale in the early days which were discontinued but the tall glass jars of sweets stored on the top shelf remained until the shop closed. The orders of groceries were put together by personal service either for customers who came into the shop or for deliveries which were weekly over two or three evenings a week. He had a long working day.