Donald Wintersgill (grandson of Walter Wingrove)

29 June 2008

The blacksmith’s shop was a tumbledown heap of wooden sheds. The only interesting thing I remember was that the arm of the bellows ended in a cow’s horn.

The smell of a hot horseshoe being put on a hoof was memorable.

Outside the smithy was a large circular disc of iron or steel. Maybe more than six feet across. That was for putting steel tyres or rims on wooden wheels. The steel tyre or rim was made a little bit smaller than the circumference of the wheel. The tyre was put on the iron or steel disc and heated with burning wood. It expanded. It was put on the wheel and to stop any burning, water was poured over the whole thing. The tyre contracted round the wheel, making a tight strong fit.

The pub was called the Fleur de Lys or Flower de Luce; it would be wonderful to find a pewter pot engraved with those words but a remote chance. A man in the pub might push his pint of beer towards a friend and say: “Take the top off that, old meate [mate}.” That is, drink some of my beer. Polite and generous. My grandmother hated that.

There was, to the side of the pub, a urinal, against the wall. It was of corrugated iron sheets maybe six feet high, to shelter the man from view. The drain was not far from the well.

The stable was where the hen food was kept. The smell was memorable. My brother and I smelled it again when we had hen food delivered to our house in Glasgow. There was a “pig bucket” by the back door of the kitchen for vegetable waste; maybe bits of meat went in there too. That stuff was boiled up for mixing with the hen food, which was a kind of meal, perhaps from a brewery. The hens also were given grain, of course. They loved the maize in the rest of the grain.

Do people still know how to deal with an “old sitter?” An old sitter is a hen that is broody but has no eggs to hatch. Nor does it lay eggs. So it is put in a coop with other hens, I suppose old sitters. Very cramped. That was the cure. They could start laying again.
The well was circular in section and lined I think with brick or maybe flint. A costly thing to build. My grandfather had a pole maybe as much as six feet long, with a clip on the end like the clip on a dog lead but bigger. That held the bucket in place.

My brother says that my grandfather was leaning over and some sovereigns fell out of his pocket into the water. And that they must still be there.

The eggs went off to the egg marketing board, packed in cardboard boxes. The eggs sat on cardboard trays like the ones you buy with eggs in them at the supermarket but his trays were bigger. My grandfather cleaned up the eggs and handled them very carefully. But the egg marketing board claimed every time that some were cracked or broken. My grandfather hated that. He did not believe them.

The house had a gas stove and one gas lighting (I think) but the gas supply was only on the ground floor. You went upstairs at night with a candle, of course. Water came from the water butt or from the well (i.e. soft or hard) but later, when I was in my mid teens, I think, there was at the front of the house a tap with running water. How wonderful it was to sleep in a feather bed, i.e. with eider feathers.

There was a bread oven in the tap room, to the right of the range or chimney. There were two deep cupboards in the parlour to the right and left of the fireplace. I bet they are still there.

I was sent to the village school one summer. We pupils, I remember, were given jam jars and told to bring back butterflies. The butterflies were supposed to be cabbage whites which ate vegetable crops. We children came back with not only cabbage whites but also various other types of butterfly, which was a great pity.

Doug Pusey delivered milk He measured it out with his own ladle. I believed at the time that he gave short measure but I may be wrong. He had a milk float and a pony. I once got a ride, very briefly, on the pony.

We children played a lot on the common, which had many paths worn by our feet. I do not see paths like that on the common any more.

A committee of the village got money to build a playing field on the common. It may have been from the fund set up to commemorate George VI - that fund raised as I remember £1 million, especially for playing fields. Bulldozers flattened some of the common but stopped work. I am fairly certain nothing more happened.

Someone called Mrs Fawcett paid for a wrought iron gate into the churchyard; the gate had initials in the pattern of the wrought iron. I do not know what the initials stood for. My grandmother thought that gift of a gate was a case of a rich person showing off

How smart the village hall is now. It used to be a wooden shed.

There used to be a resident vicar or parson who lived in a house overlooking the common.

The Searses had the first bathroom in the village. I have told you verbally my grandfather’s comment on that.

My brother remembers my grandfather carrying water with a yoke, but I cannot think where from or where to. My grandfather used to take baskets of fruit - big baskets, maybe bushels - to Amersham to sell to Mr Webb the greengrocer. He went once, I remember, to get a bucket of tar from where the gas holders were. The tar he took back home on the bus and painted his fences with it. When he had done a job about the place he would say: ‘Worth another tuppence.”

He told me a story once - I cannot remember it - but part of the story I do remember. It began: “The squire said to me, Be you a-busy, Wingrove? I said, No, Squire,” True speech, quite lost now.

Another time the squire was riding around to look at the corn being reaped. He saw some bad mowing and said: “Who did that bit? The other men said it was So-and-So.” That same thing happened again. And again. The squire said: “So-and-So has been everywhere. I must give him a shilling.” That is a moral tale, not meant I think to be taken literally.

My grandfather said he had once been present at a rough-musicking. Which is when local people gather outside a house where an “immoral” couple are, and make a din. Like in a Thomas Hardy novel.

Donald’s brother sent the following addition to this account:-
My brother says that he was at the primary school in 1934 while I was being born in Glasgow; it was my mother’s habit to pack him and me off to Coleshill from time to time.
He said the pub was licensed to sell only beer and porter, not wines or spirits. A group of ‘shooters’ came for lunch sometimes; they were not local but I suppose were there for a rough shoot. My grandmother, I remember, had some of their knives and forks and occasionally used them, although she was aware she should not. She said BUT THEY ARE THE SHOOTERS KNIVES AND FORKS.

My brother and I remember the goldfish in the village pond.

My brother says that our grandfather (Walter Wingrove) worked as a gardener at Coleshill House; he went there by bike. He took the dry closet (at the Fleur) down to the wood, below the orchard, every Sunday to empty it and bury the contents. I remember when trees there were cut down – not with machinery but with axes. My grandfather gathered up the lumps of wood that were chopped out of the trees. They were useful for fires. He was a great man for snaring rabbits. I think the wire snares are forbidden now.

He had an old muzzle-loading shotgun, fired with a percussion cap. At the bottom of the orchard was an open pit, with water in it, where the pigs would wallow.


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