Extracts from Sam Beard’s “Guarlford Doodles”
"Memories are made of this"
Sam (1920 - 2011) recounted many stories about life in the village, of which here are some.
When Sam passed away, the History Group wrote a short account of his life for the Parish magazine
Index of stories
There is no special order as these notes were written as they came to mind.
The unusual name Haha refers to a barrier formed by digging a trench leaving one side sloping steeply and having a wall on the other. Thus animals on the bank were deterred from straying into neighbouring fields where they were not wanted for one reason or another. Hahas were also formed where a fence or wall would spoil the view. A good example is excavated between Guarlford Churchyard and the Rectory paddock to prevent the Rector’s pony straying into the Churchyard. The same effect is used in Offa’s Dyke, and the two leapyatts in Guarlford – one lies along the thick hedge a field’s distance between The Green Dragon and the "Welcome to Malvern" sign. That is Lower Leapyatt. The upper one followed the line of Mill Lane, one sloping side and one vertical were cut in the soil, no walls.
The well at Willow Cottage was in need of repair, and the family were mobilised to replace the dislodged bricks. Several buckets on ropes were in action to empty the well for a clean-out at the same time. Uncle George was boasting of the taps and running water at their West Malvern home. In fact he kept on about it and went to town when his bucket had a dead rat floating on the top. “Look,” said Uncle George, “See what you are drinking?” Grandad pointed to the rat and said, “He’s dead. I ain’t!”
A familiar sight on the Guarlford and Rhydd roads at muck spreading time were the carts collecting basic slag form the Mill Lane Sewage Works. The stink was terrible; the slag was semi-liquid and leaked from the carts, leaving narrow trails of slag from sewage farm to farm. These trails stank for days, and windows in the parish remained tightly shut! Some of the carts were ex-army, sold off after WW1.
A boy was walking up the Rhydd Road towards the church, unaware that he was being observed from the top of a haystack in the Dutch barn on the opposite side of the road by two pretty girls. Heaven knows what mischief they had in mind, but, faces alight with smiles, they called to the boy. He did not hear what they said and crossed the road the better to do so. As he did the mother of one of the girls looked over a nearby five-barred gate, took in the scene and all but screamed, “Daisy! How many times must I tell you not to talk to the village children?” By contrast the aforementioned boy found himself in the “Worcesters” at Norton early in WW2 and sent to do air-guard on Whittington Tump, otherwise known as Crookbarrow Hill, manned by Home Guard men by day and men from the depot by night. Pte. Beard was taking his turn, with a mate, a Bren gun and tripod and .303 ammunition. Nearing the site he realised that the Home Guard Major he was to relieve was the father of Daisy, the girl on the rick. The officer, smartly dressed in service uniform and wearing a monocle, placed a restraining arm on my forearm as I started to salute. “Cut it out, Sam. Here’s the key to our hut. There’s a crate of beer in there, but don’t drink the lot.” We were not entitled to the key but were glad of it, but I do not think Daisy’s mother would have approved!
A young eight to nine years of age lay on a sofa, unusually red of complexion, hair lank with perspiration. Her mother felt the girl’s forehead once more and decided to call the doctor. The doctor arrived, immaculate in yellow kid gloves and spats to match, a ‘British Warm’ overcoat and Holmberg trilby. He parked his coffee-coloured Vauxhall car with its distinctive chromium flutes along the bonnet on the roadside, grabbed his case and hurried to the gate. Halfway along the garden path he saw the girl’s mother opening the door. He stopped abruptly – half-turned as though going back to his car but paused long enough to say, “My fee is five shillings. Have you got it?” He had the reputation of being a first class doctor as long as you could afford him.
Guarlford was well-served by public transport in years gone by – Midland Red; Bristol Blue; Woodward’s Coach Station, Chance Lane; Black & White (limited stops); Tucky Friar’s horse-drawn cab and the Rector’s old London cab for emergencies. The schoolchildren used farm carts for their outings, usually Mr Medcalf’s. Woodward’s Bus was used for the seaside. A Saturday Midland Red was used for Worcester, pick-up point Clevelode crossroads. Try getting to Guarlford or Upton by public transport today in 2005!
In early days, Fowler’s Farm provided the only garage in the area. This was quite a change for a farm that for many years had swept the board with prizes for heavy horses. The doors of the old wooden cart-house behind the garage used to be covered with prize certificates on the inner side. I called there for petrol in a 1934 Austin 7 once. Mr. Cooper Bladder who served me said, “How much - a pint?" But I actually refuelled at that pump (shown on page 94 of “The Guarlford Story”)
Our ‘daily bread’ was baked at the bakery in Chance Lane by Mr. Nicholls and delivered by Derek Jones in a Ford Van. The present development maintains the lines of the lean-to bakehouse, but of course the smell of freshly baked bread in Chance Lane has gone forever. The writer worked there for a while, my reward a ride round the countryside helping to deliver the bread, plus an occasional two shillings.
Mr. Tout, Quest Hills, Malvern Link, came round with a horse and cart supplying paraffin, cleaning materials etc etc. He would stop at Gran’s for a glass or two of home-made wine, but gave this up when he graduated to a motorised vehicle saying, “The old horse would take me home, this thing won’t.”
An Italian couple in an old van that had seen better days sold fish and chips – freshly cooked in the back of the van, the cooker heated by a coke fire. A chimney was fixed on the back of the van. We could rarely afford fish and chips for all and had to be satisfied with one bag between two, and when money was very short, two or three pennyworth of scratchings of crackling had to suffice. It has to be said that when affordable they were first class fish and chips.
Granny Thomas by the Plough & Harrow ran a sweet shop from her home, staffed by Thelma and now and again Granny Thomas, who was very old and often impatient with us kids when we were choosing sweets.
Bullock’s Stores was by the Green Dragon and was also the Post Office. Rather more officious here, time for choosing sweets was far more limited. Mrs. Bullock or her daughter Violet served, but you would often have to wait for them to come from the cottage behind.
Barber’s Stores not far from The Blue Bell was similar to the other two, but my memory fails me on whether the shop was in the house or the wooden shed alongside. The latter eventually became home to Mr. Barber Senior.
Marsdens was across the road from Barber’s and on the same side was a large nursery supplying plants of all descriptions.
Alf Bosworth occupied the other half of Barber’s thatched cottage. He was well-known for his annual display of begonias on a stepped display stand on a corner of the house. When Mr. Bosworth extended his nursery he and Vic Taylor stripped the turf from the field at the back by hand using special long-handled spades, no doubt ensuring an exceptional good supply of loam for years to come. The nearby sewage works no doubt made a contribution. Tomato plants used to grow by the hundred at the sewage works, self-sets, of course. Needless to say local people – permission first obtained - would plant their gardens and greenhouses from there.
Coalmen from Dipples-Jones, Cannock Chase, Sparry and others kept the home fires burning with horse-drawn drays, but whenever we got to know of a big tree being felled, we gathered round to collect the chips, but not until the tree was down. In the osier beds, after several cuttings, stumps would die off and Mr. Yapp would tell us to “kick them off”. We did so and took them home in our truck to dry. The orchards were regularly pruned and the prunings wired up. Employees could use a horse and dray to take a drayload home, mainly for kindling purposes.
The Reverend Frederick Newson – a chaplain to the Forces (Army) in W W 1 - along with his wife Francis, were good friends to the parish.
He always spoke his mind, and his sermons were of the highest order. One Rogation Sunday he mounted the steps to his pulpit, did a leisurely survey of the congregation and said, “It must be Rogation Sunday. All the farmers are in church.” Armistice Day was the day for his finest sermon of the year. Mrs. Panting who had lost her husband in WW 1 had his memory especially honoured with part of the service taking place at his graveside. Afterwards she would start her lonely walk back to her wooden bungalow on the edge of Dripshill Wood – next to “The Noggin” - but called into our house where my mother gave her a “Sunday Roast”. On one occasion my father said to her “You must feel very proud today, Mrs. Panting.” “I’d feel a lot prouder if he was here with me,” the old lady replied.
There were two types of lavatory in the village: the bucket and the cesspit. At our cottage brick builts were situated over one cesspit. Flap type doors over the pit at the rear allowed access for emptying. This was family job – Dad, Granddad plus the landlord (or agent) to M Birch. Handbowls, galvanised type, were fixed to long handles. The stench was horrible, and it used to be said if you do not get on with your neighbour wait till the wind is blowing his way! Nothing interfered with the mid-morning tea break, and a sizeable lump of home-made currant cake, protective gloves removed and cake held in the paper it was handed out in. Bacteria? What’s that? The contents of the pit were dumped on the landlord’s huge vegetable patch, as was the manure from his stable where Polly the pony lived. Needless to say there were moans from some locals when this task was carried out, but none when later offered a cabbage, sprouts etc. A true economy, everything going round and round, and a far better solution than dumping it in the sea.
The headmaster (in my day), the Elgarian figure of Mr. Woolley, took a keen interest in his pupils and was a fair and firm disciplinarian, using two foot or so of solid (male) bamboo cane. He could often be seen out in the parish visiting a family in connection with coaching for a likely Hanley Castle Grammar pupil, or for a disciplinary matter, walking reasonable distances, otherwise in Mrs. Woolley’s car. I had a 50/50 chance of getting to Grammar School and Mr. Woolley came down to see my parents. Reluctantly my mother told him “We want him at work to earn his living”, and with a W W 1 disabled husband and three children (soon to be four) she knew what she was talking about!
Miss Cole taught the Infants’ Class. Daughter of a local wheelwright she looked after her charges extremely well.
Daughter of Upton-on-Severn Police inspector – disciplinarian and educational all-rounder – she took us for music once a week. We of the Senior Class were told to “Close over”, three to a desk, which left Mr. Woolley free to mark the register. The curtain that divided the upper classes now served to give Mr. Woolley a little privacy for his work on the register. It served one other purpose - when all were ‘closed over’ she would say, “Sammy, get your silent reader and go behind the curtain”, from which you may assume my future as a singer was not very good. They were learning “The Minstrel Boy”, which I wanted to learn also, and by careful listening I got to know it. Others must answer for my tunefulness? No one investigated a hearing fault which later service with the Royal Artillery did little to improve.
Miss Farmer came into the system for a while, another quietly efficient teacher.
As I recall Miss Young did not operate in my class as I had moved up, but she was of the same quiet firm-handedness, common to all our teachers. She was a relative of the Youngs at the Hall Green Smithy, which still stands.
Mrs. Lindsay, wife of the Headmaster of Malvern Link Primary School, came to Guarlford School on relief work occasionally, a somewhat sterner teacher to deal with.
Mr. Appleton came to check our religious knowledge occasionally. His daughters, Joan and Betty, did the “Joan & Betty Bible stories” on the wireless. His sharp manner tended to unnerve us, and I’m afraid he did not think much of our chances of going to Heaven!
If Mr. Appleton did not get the message over, Mrs. Newson (wife of the Rector) did. Sunday School took place in church, St.Mary’s, in the first (altar end) half dozen or so pews on the right-hand side. Names were taken, as good attendance meant you could go on the summer outing, often on a horse and dray loaned by Mr. Medcalf, or Woodward’s coach for the seaside, a most exciting event in those days, in Mr. Woodward’s big yellow coach with its ‘pram’ hood, which took two hefty men to pull into place. For light storms Mr. Woodward pulled under a tree!
Guarlford Football team under Charles Bladder swept all before them, stalwarts like Eric Atyeo manning the defence, Stan Smith performing all kinds of acrobatics to keep the ball out of the net. ‘Tinker’ made up the number in a beautifully laundered strip and a turn of speed that took him to all areas of the pitch, and on rare occasions he managed to kick the ball; all in all an excellent team of cup winners. (see "The Guarlford Story" for photo and names.)
Once a month a Whist Drive and Dance would be held in the Malt-house. Grandad manned the door - Frank Jarratt’s band supplied the music. Frank was a butcher and delivered meat around the village in a horse-drawn butcher’s cart, no protection for the driver, who was exposed to all winds/weathers. The School and Sunday School put on plays there, highlight of the year being Mrs. Newson’s tableaux to which parents were invited. There was also the Sunday School Christmas party complete with Father Christmas.
The shoot in question took place in a field in front of our cottage at Guarlford. Gentlemen of the village, suitably attired, dogs panting excitedly, and a farm employee with a long pole on his shoulder as bearer. An occasional shot heralded their approach to our cottage, and I took up my position on the bank between the ditch and the hedge. No shooting was done near the house, of course, and the bearer and I knew what to do. He dropped behind the main party, the latter now turning along the hedge that led to the brook. The dogs renewed their enthusiasm for their recovery duties. The bearer turned to follow the party, but as he did so swung the one end of his rabbit-laden pole over the hedge and signalled to me to take a couple of rabbits which I promptly did. Mother set about skinning, gutting and cleaning them. Rabbit was on the menu for several days!
If a parishioner died, and my grandfather was at work somewhere between Powick bridge and The Rhydd as a road lengthsman, I was sent to fetch him. There would be a note at the thatched cottage in Clevelode Lane (by the Homestead) telling him who had died and their age. The latter would be tolled out on the Church bell. I had to go with him and help to keep count. Needless with some of the very old folk both he and I would lose count, and parishioners more attentive than Grandad and myself were quick to point out the error.
It often fell to Grandad to decide where a grave should be, as he knew the existing ones off by heart, and he would start to dig the grave. I was employed to shovel the crumbly marl back clear of the edges to stop it falling back in the grave; but first I had to go to Mr. Barratt at the Plough & Harrow for a bottle of beer, which was kept in the bottom of the grave to keep it cool!
At the end of the service the undertaker would show his appreciation – to qualify for this everything had to go “as per book” and I never knew Grandad to fail. Apart from parish graves he regularly received requests from overseas, usually “Empire” countries, to tidy up certain graves. There was usually a postal order with the letter.
The Remembrance Service was always well attended, the Reverend Newson excelling himself on this occasion, part in church and part at the War Memorial. It was indeed impressive. There was only one ex-Serviceman buried at Guarlford in those days – name of Panting. His widow always attended the service. She used to walk from Little Clevelode, and on her way home to her lonely wooden bungalow on the edge of Dripshill Wood my mother would call her into our cottage (now Maywood) to have Sunday dinner with us. My father once said to her, “You must be very proud today.” She replied, “I’d be much more proud if he was here with me.” A humorous note crept in on one occasion – an ex-Serviceman blew last Post and Reveille and on this particular day he fainted and fell backwards. As Grandad arrived home Gran asked him, “How did it go, Dad?” “Oh, all right,” said he, “but the bugler blew himself over!” However, he soon recovered.
An annual event during my childhood in Guarlford was the arrival of an R A unit from South Wales. They took up residence at Blackmore Camp, and the broad Guarlford commons were ideal places to deploy their guns; horse-drawn they made a splendid picture on the Guarlford/Rhydd roads. I followed them everywhere, sometimes to the Old Hills at Callow End. It was a great adventure to me, though I felt a sense of disappointment one year when on their first exercise along the Guarlford Road the unit commander was seen to be riding in an Austin 7 car. The car was painted Westminster Green, its brass headlamp rims were highly polished as were other brass bits, but it did not seem right to me. These experiences with the T.A. plus the everlasting tales of the Army experiences of my father in the Rifle Brigade, Uncle George R A, Uncle Jim R A and Uncle Jack, Ox & Bucks and Grandad “Worcesters”, gave me the idea of joining the T A when I was old enough, which I did, joining 8th Battalion Worcestershre Regt (part company at Upton-on-Severn). Drill Hall a one-time warehouse still stands in London Lane – O C Major Jewell P.S.I. CSM Graham, afterwards Richardson. The 8th was being lined up for France, but I escaped Dunkirk when posted along with several more to Norton Barracks for mundane Staff duties. On arrival at Norton we were told “For you the War is over”, but within twelve months I was on my way to Iceland through submarine infested waters. Many years later I learned a nun from Stanbrook Abbey, Callow End, had been on the same boat, the “Polaski” a Polish vessel and crew. Visiting Stanbrook Abbey many years later to give them a “Brown Bible”, the librarian told us she had been on that boat on the way to America to set up a new order, but the “Polaski” had caught fire and sunk on approaching Newfoundland. This story had got back to us in Iceland at the time. We had one incident with submarines, and our crew dropped depth charges. The skipper said the four-funnelled U.S. escort was too slow, and he steamed off for Iceland unescorted. The sister said she “saw no submarines”. Neither did we, but we saw the crew using some gadget to hurl depth charges over the side as fast as they could go! I never expected to hear a nun’s account some 60 years later!
It was a nice Sunday afternoon, and we decided on a boat trip on the Severn, boat to be hired from Sid Little at Clevelode (we being myself and a young lady who worked at T.W. Barlow’s bakery as I did). I had often rowed on the Severn, up to Pixham or down to the Rhydd. The boats known as pleasure boats were clinker built with lovely cushions on the seats and ornate metal arm and back rests. The passenger did the steering with two cords attached to the tiller. The rowing, of course, fell to me, and with sleeves rolled up I prepared to demonstrate my skill with the oars. At first all went well. We passed some motorised craft, the passenger steering neatly into their wash at the required angle. Approaching the Rhydd we heard the heavy thump-thump of an approaching tug, and I told the passenger to steer in as before, but not until I said so. The engine noise of the tug drew nearer, echoing from the marl cliff at the Rhydd, but due to the bend in the river we could see nothing yet - - - - - Then around the bend I spotted over my shoulder a timber barge about the size of a semi-detached block of houses. The wash from the tug was huge, the one from the barge even greater. I had no answer to a double bow wave, there being not enough room to re-site the boat. The first impact sent water over the bow of our boat, much to the discomfort of the lady, though she “kept her cool”. Subsequent waves from tug and barge poured in more water. We tossed around like a cork in a whirlpool until, after more shouted insults from the bargees, we saw the water levelling out. The boat, half full of water, was rowed to the bank. My passenger and I managed to pull the heavy boat far enough up the bank to tip out the water. The floral patterned cushions were laid on the mowing grass to dry; the young lady took off her thin summer dress and laid that out to dry. After a while we started our return journey back to Clevelode, dreading the ear-bashing we knew we would get from Sid Little the boat-owner. He exploded! What the bargees told him I do not know, but he was furious and told me not to go there for a boat again. In fact, he did hire me boats again, but all these years later I do not know what action I could have taken to avoid that near tragedy at the Rhydd.
Edith was a 1920s mother, and with a war-disabled husband she had a very busy time. Four kids made life hard indeed. But she was a conscientious mother, and when a local farmer’s wife offered two hours housework on Saturday mornings, Edith took it on. One of her duties was to make a pot of tea and serve it on a tray to any member of the family who happened to be at home at the time. Emily was not allowed a cup of tea. One day the lady of the house told Emily to make an extra large pot of tea as the lady of the house was expecting two visitors. Emily did as she was bid, and an hour or so later was called to clear the tray away. As she did so she was told “There is a cup of tea left in the pot if you like it, Emily”. Emily said, “Thank you” and retreated to the kitchen. When her two-hour stint was over, she waited for her ‘wages’. Two hours at ninepence per hour total one shilling and sixpence. But Emily noticed she was getting only one shilling and fourpence and drew her employer’s attention to this. She rounded on Emily and snapped, “You had a cup of tea, didn’t you?” Emily was speechless but returned the following Saturday – that ninepence an hour played an important part in her 1920s budget.
A World War Two Poem
Somewhere a woman
Thrusting fear away
Faces the future bravely.
For our sake
Fights back her tears
Nor heeds the bitter ache.
Somewhere a woman, mother, sweetheart, wife
Waits midst hopes and fears
For your return. Her kiss, her words
Will help you in the strife,
When Death itself confronts you
Grim and stern.
So keep for her dear sake
A stainless name.
Bring back to her a manhood
Free from shame.
Distributed by Padre Reverend T. T. Thomas of Caerphilly to 179 Fld Regiment
Could I have raised
His dying head
Or breathed a last farewell,
The parting would not be so hard
For one who loved him well.
Husband dear for you I grieve;
The loss is hard to bear.
But for the little ones you leave
For their dear sake I’ll care.
Written under the photo of a soldier from Guarlford who died in WW1
Poem for The Plough & Harrow where Village Elders often meet
There were no strangers
At the “Plough”,
For as they came thru’ the door
A hail of “Marnin’s” greeted them
Though they’d never bin before.
One day a gipsy chanced that way,
His caravan painted bright,
Two lurcher dogs were at his heels,
On the seat his sunburnt wife.
“An’ wurr might you be gooin?”
Old George was heard to say.
“Well by this time tomorrow
I’ll be down Gloucester way.”
They chatted for an hour or more,
Then to his van he strode,
And the clip clop of his horse’s hooves
Rang out on the old Rhydd Road.