Guarlford History Group

Some memories recalled by Alf Young

"My grandfather came to Guarlford in the first instance to help run Cole's blacksmith’s shop in Chance Lane and lived in Latchford Cottage, which stood beside the barn opposite the Green Dragon. I was born in Upper Chase Road in 1923, and we moved down to one of the cottages which stood near the two pear trees on the common at Chance Lane. Sometime about 1924 we moved up to the new place opposite Hall Green because my father and my grandfather agreed with the farmer at Mill Farm to open a blacksmith’s shop there. There weren’t many cars about then. 

Early on winter mornings the smiths would be up ready to put on the frost nails – horseshoe nails with domed heads – so that the horses’ hooves would grip on the icy roads.

When I was a boy Mr Cole also had a Wheelwright’s business. Sometimes I used to go and help the wheelwright to turn a bandsaw to cut the felloes out for the wheel. A felloe is the rim of a wheel supported by spokes. Afterwards in the early thirties the wheelwright shop, which was on the common at the end of Chance Lane, became a coach station, Woodward’s Coaches. It was there when I was a lad at school, and Mr. Woodward opened up a bus service from there to Upton and Hanley; one of the first it was around these parts, before Midland Red. They used to sell R.O.P. petrol, Russian Oil Products. When you’d pay 1/5d or 1/6d for a gallon of Shell, the R.O.P. price was 11 ½ d. Woodward's was eventually sold to a transport contractor, who I think eventually gave over all the land in the corner at the end of Chance Lane to the Conservators to become common land.

I went to Guarlford School from Hall Green when I was five in 1928. Mr.Woolley was the Headmaster, Miss Cole looked after the Infants and Miss Cope took the Middle Group. The School consisted of a long room split with a curtain on a rod, and all the Juniors were in one room. The Schoolmaster used to sit over by the stove. That’s where I went to school for nine years. Every Saint’s Day we went to church and then had the rest of the day off. Every November 11th, Armistice Day, we used to parade to the War Memorial by the Churchyard gate.

The person before Mr. Woolley in my father and uncle’s time was a schoolmaster called Mr. Martin. My uncle was there till the middle of the First World War. During World War One a Miss Severn Burrows interviewed boys at the age of 13 to decide if they had had enough education and could leave school to go to work in place of the men who were serving in the Forces. 

The only thing I can remember about going to school for the first time was the fact that somebody took me. We had a dog. That dog came with us and when we went into the school, this dog went for the teacher when she took my hand. We used to be horrors sometimes. There was Roll Call every morning – the headmaster wrote on the board each day how many were there. It was touching 100 pupils – you wouldn’t think that, would you? We used to play tops all the way down the Guarlford Road to school.

The school used to take its pupils from the Old Hills (Callow End), Clevelode, and also from as far as Hangmans Lane (on the road to Upton). Those children used to walk along Honeypots Lane by the Plough and Harrow. My memories of school are reasonably happy. I think the Headmaster, Mr. Woolley, was a fair man. There was terrible poverty in those days. I remember times when Mr. Woolley would bring in bread and jam sandwiches for some of the kids. They hadn’t got anything at all, terrible it was. Everybody, even in our family, was clothed by the Jumble Sale. They were at it, hammer and tongs, to get first at the Rummage/Jumble Sales, that sort of thing. There wasn’t much money about. At that time we’re talking about the farm labourer was earning about 30 shillings a week and a free house; but with a tied house, if he fell out with the Gaffer, that was him out. A hard life, definitely.

In the 1930s the children of Standard Three (those over 11) spent one day a week at Great Malvern School, where the boys were taught woodwork and the girls did cookery. We used to have school outings in a char-a-banc, which is a large horse-drawn wagon with rows of bench seats. 

The original elm trees which bordered the road leading into Malvern were felled, Dutch Elm disease. The new ones have all grown well now. When I went to school I remember, along the common here - where the 'gardens' jut out – a Mr. O’Connor had a barn. He was a haulier and had ex Army vehicles, those World War One American Whites, big chain drive lorries.

On the common opposite our smithy, near where the horse trough stands now, stood the “Friar’s Elm” or “Old Elm”. When we were children it was still there, just a hollow shell about ten feet high and round it was a circle of iron railings to protect it – whether from us kids or not I don’t know! We used to pull them apart and get in. There was a notice on it right up at the top, put there by a Rev. Pritchard. He was a churchman who retired to one of those houses down there. The notice read “Old Elm or Friar’s Elm – remnant of a giant tree”. It gradually deteriorated and became a danger to traffic coming out of Hall Green. I remember that the remnants of the tree and the railings were removed by Malvern Hills Conservators in the 1960s, and the site was levelled. The Old Elm stood ‘on Barnards Green’ but Barnards Green is not where they say it is now with the shops. On old maps it goes from The Blue Bell to Guarlford.

There was a Guarlford dispensary, started by the Beauchamps of Madresfield Court. Because my father was a blacksmith, he was self-employed. If you were a self-employed person in those days, you didn’t pay National Insurance; and the doctor used to say, ”If you can’t afford to pay for the dispensary, you can’t afford me.” He wouldn’t come. All I can remember what it was, I was given the money for the cards at the end of each month and you had three cards: - for the hospital, doctor and the nurse. For the doctor’s card you had to take a shilling, the nurse’s card you took sixpence and the hospital card you took threepence. So you took those down to The Guarlford Stores and you handed them over to Mrs. Bullock. She would then give you three more for the next month, but if you’d been ill, she used to take that card. When you went to the Doctor, if you didn’t have a card, you paid an extra shilling. And I believe that ran up to World War II or until the National Health Service came in. Farm labourers didn’t pay any insurance, they didn’t go on the dole.

As I said, my grandfather was in that blacksmith’s shop down in Chance Lane. He was shoeing a horse one day and the horse pushed him against the wall and broke his shoulder, so he couldn’t work. That’s when my father came in and decided that because my grandfather couldn’t work and the local farmer wanted a blacksmith nearby that they would open it up here near Mill Farm, because Mr. Cole said, “Look, I’ve got to get another blacksmith in. You’ll have to go.” So that’s how it came about. Grandfather and Dad took over the shop here and when grandfather recovered they worked together. That’s the way it was. I mean, I think a lot of people were thrown out on the street. There was nothing else. But it was a good scheme, that insurance – for 1/9d a month we were covered for the service that was available. The doctor wouldn’t turn out otherwise. 

The Guarlford Stores sold most things you’d get in a one-stop shop now, everything from fireworks to faggots. Every Thursday a butcher would call from Hanley Swan in a flat-top cart, bringing trays of faggots for the shop. Everyone existed on fowls. My father kept and killed a pig – but in the end he was the only one who ate it! Every house had a pigsty. Up until 1938 there were no toilets to these houses, just an earth closet right at the top of the garden and it was always next to the pigsty. These earth closets were over just a pit with a cover. Two or three times a year my father or the man next door would take it in turns, would get up about 5 o’clock, get themselves some Woodbines and they’d dig a trench in the garden the night before and empty all that – the pit – into it. Put a bag of lime in it.

I remember we sometimes had thick fog in those days. Here I’ve seen the Sentinels, steam wagons from the quarry on the Hills, in November time, coming back from somewhere with the fireman walking in front of them because the fog was so thick – all gone now. 

At the end of Hall Green opposite, there was a pond called The Fladder, which used to have trees all round it. It was a lovely pool at one time. I always remember a bloke from one of the houses nearby used to skate on it – no chance now. The point about it was, all the ditches were looked after; I often wonder where they got the money from, there was no money about in the 1920s/30s, but there was always a bloke who had a “length" - the one for the Guarlford Road lived in those cottages which stood where the bungalows are, in Penny Lane. Guarlford Road started at The Blue Bell and he used to keep it immaculate; used to see all the drains were clear. He used to clear the ditches and a lot of water used to come off the road and go into the Fladder. Now it doesn’t. It was a lovely pool then with a lot of water in it and the animals grazing on the common used to drink from it."