Interview with Ernie & Margaret Davis.
Conducted by Lesley Wray 26/4/2017
Ernie: I was born in Milborne, in Newtown, 4 August 1927. But when I was 65 the letter came about my pension, saying they would pay on the 12 August, so I phoned to query it. They said, send in your birth certificate and we will change it, but when we checked my birth certificate, it says 12 August. But I’ve always had my birthday on the 4th. So we reckon they registered on the 12 and got the certificate wrong. After all my family must have known the date.
Anyway, I was born in Newtown and I lived there until we went to Wheathill Way, then we went back up to Newtown when father got the farm and they built the farmhouse. Then when father was 65 they came back to Newtown and we went up the farm. We stayed there until 1993; we’d bought this, Stephen lived here until we retired. Then we moved here.
But as far as Milborne itself, well it was a village, you knew everybody. I remember when we were young we used to meet up at the cross. (This was when it was at the bottom of North Street.) That was always the place, if you were ever arranging to meet anybody; it was always at the cross.
Pause for thought
Margaret: There was the Boys’ Brigade.
Ernie: Oh yes, I joined the Boys’ Brigade when I was 12,
Margaret: It was a big thing in the village, there were Brownies and Guides.
Ernie: Oh yes, I was in the Boys Brigade when I was 12 until I was 21; I went right through, finished up as staff sergeant. Always had bible class on Monday and then Boys Brigade on Thursday, so that was twice a week.
Margaret: Back of the Chapel, that’s where this all went on, and you used to have whist drives didn’t you?
Ernie: They were at the back of the Co-op, the whist drives. The Labour Club. There was Life Boys, that’s Junior Boys’ Brigade, and Brownies and Guides.
Margaret: The Guides, we would walk to church and the vicar would walk with us. We’d walk behind the vicar and trim his hat up with flowers, we’d giggle, he didn’t know it and he’d go on into church and everybody would laugh. That’s all there was, there was nothing else I can think of. Oh, there was the girls choir, Mr Sinclair, he played the organ in the church, and was the choirmaster. And his daughter, she’s been on the Royal Variety Show, and she sang there. They were a very musical family. When he left that all stopped,
Ernie: He was choirmaster at church, I sang in the choir for years. When we were at Sunday school we used to have bus trips to Weymouth. Five coaches used to go, Goathill and Milborne Wick and our church and we’d go to Weymouth, but that was the only trip we ever had, no-one had cars, so no-one went anywhere.
Margaret: That was our outing, once a year, five coaches. I don’t know if the Sunday school is still going.
Ernie: I can remember when Harry Hallet bought a car, he was the only chap in Newtown that had a car. Then Billy, his brother bought one; they were the only cars in Newtown. Harry Hallet used to round with milk, Billy Hallet used to go round with milk. John House did a list of all the businesses in Milborne Port.
A copy of this is available in the Museum)
Margaret: There were three shops up at Newtown.
Ernie: Yes, it finished up just one, at the bottom of Newtown, in the first house, not the new one, but the first old house on the left going up the handle of Newtown, that was Liney Hannam’s, that’s the only one I can actually remember, the others were one on the right hand side and one at the top somewhere.
Margaret: They were just in the houses.
Ernie: Mrs Hannam’s, she were open for years. I remember my grandfather lived in Manor Road, I remember him giving me a shilling to go up to Lillee Hannam’s and buy an ounce of Red Bell tobacco. It cost 10½d and I could spend the 1½d change on sweets. In the corner of her shop she had a table of all the cheap stuff; you know so many for a ha’penny and such. One day mother sent me down there for something and I went in and said Mother said I could spend the change, but nothing of your rubbish table. She went for mother over that, but I were only a kid. We used to have all our groceries of the bloke that had the shop down Gainsborough, They used to come round with an order book, come round, come indoors, sit and write down all you wanted and then deliver it.
Margaret: Bit different now.
Ernie: All different, last time Muriel, my sister came up here before she died, she sat there and we went right down Manor Road and we could name everybody who lived in those houses, both sides, and all the way along South View. Luffman was a village name, and old John Hallet lived on Newtown and he had 3 sons, he had Harry Hallet, Billy Hallet and I can’t remember; big family. The Davises; keeper Davis, my fathers cousin, he lived in Keepers Lodge down bottom of South Street. He had several sons; Terence was another name in the village. The Hallets were related to the Dewfalls from the bakery in Stalbridge. People married locally, no-one travelled far. Baunton’s that was another local name.
All the houses in Baunton’s Orchard belonged to Thomas Ensors, and Thomas Ensors owned a lot of Newtown at one stage. When Newtown was sold, Work and Way were the solicitors. My father bought 56 Newtown for £25.00p; my grandfather bought next door, 55, for £26.00p. My Auntie bought 57 for about the same, then my grandfather bought number 13 Newtown, but I don’t know what he gave for it, maybe £40 or £50, and he bought the paddock, where Victoria Terrace is now, and he also bought a block of allotments in the middle of Newtown.
55 & 56 Newtown
That’s my sister’s wedding, that girl there is an evacuee. (The girl on the left hand end) She was with us all through the war, then went back up to West Ham. That family, Minnie, she wasn’t an evacuee in the first place, but her sister and brother come down here as evacuees, and stayed with our family, then Minnie and her mother came down as well, and stayed with us. Her name was Davis, and she stayed with us.
That’s her now, she’s 94.
Margaret: The house where the Ferraris live now, you know opposite the school. It was 2 flats, and our schoolteacher, he came from Southampton with the evacuees, he had the bottom flat and they had the top one. Evacuees were alright until you realised they had lice in their hair. We had two girls, sisters and they had beautiful hair, all curls, but when they came I said to my Dad, I do itch, all in my head and everything, he said what are you talking about, so I went to my Gran and she took one look at my head and said “You’ve got fleas!” You know, I cried. My dad would sit night after night and put this stuff on our heads, it took ages to get rid of them.
Ernie: We had evacuees, but during the war my Auntie lived in Yeovil with eight children, her husband died when the youngest was a baby. When Yeovil was bombed, her house was hit, so we had all them up here. As well as our evacuees, you can’t think where we put them all, but we managed, until they got another house in Yeovil. We split them up around the family and they slept wherever we could fit them. Surprising what you can do when you have to.
Margaret: We had Black American soldiers here, on Limerick Field, in tents, and down at the lodge at the back entrance to Ven, in what was the museum, we had them there as well.
Ernie: I used to go down there, they had dances there as well.
Margaret: Yes; there were some high jinks mind.
Ernie: I remember going down to Gardener’s Cottage, down the back of Cross House, they took that over as well, and they used to come down and drink Cider, they used to enjoy that, like drinking Honey. They’d give us cigarettes and everything. We got married in 1950, in our church, by the vicar Mr Holbrook. He didn’t have a car he walked everywhere and he was a proper vicar. He visited everybody, not like the ones today. If you don’t go to church they never see you. He would walk out to Goat hill and Milborne Wick every week. During the summer he would always wear a straw hat.
Margaret: I told you we used to decorate it.
Ernie: He lost his wife, but he married again and she was nice. He was like George Shrimpton, a good man.
Margaret: He (George Shrimpton) wouldn’t have left the village if it hadn’t been for his wife. She wanted to get on.
Ernie: George was one of us, he came up the farm and I thatched the crib they use at Christmas, I was the first one who thatched that. It’s been done since of course, that must have been 40 years ago.
Margaret: The children were nice, he let them do as they liked, but they were nice. One of my friend’s daughters was getting confirmed, so she had to go for classes, she turned up at the door one night and rang the bell, next thing she was wet through! The children were up in the window and had thrown water all over her. She had to sit through her lesson wet through! And when there was a jumble sale, we used to help with jumble sales, she would buy stuff for them and they would dance round shouting look what we’ve got, they were so proud of it.
Ernie: He was one of us, just like Mr Holbrook. My sister’s boy, he went to America, but he always kept in touch with Mr Holbrook, until he died.
Margaret: His wife lived in the nursing home in Sherborne for a while, after he died, but she’s dead now.
Pause for thought
Margaret: We used to have a fair.
Ernie: I remember a couple of chaps, one from Charlton Horethorne and one from Milborne Wick. They went to the fair up Gainsborough and I was outside talking to them. They went of on their motorbike to Sherborne, and at Dodge Cross they met up with another chap on a motorbike, from Milborne Port, and collided. Two of them got killed. The one from Milborne Wick and the one from Milborne Port got killed, the other chap escaped. That was at the fair, we were up there when they went on. It was sad day.
Margaret: A girl from Milborne married one of the fair people; the Townsend’s, that was the family. We were over by Dorchester one day and I saw a book about Townsend’s fair. So I picked it up and the girl who was selling them says to me “You don’t know who I am do you? So I looked and said No and she said “I’m Esme Deighton’s daughter,” so that’s why she had the book.
Pause for thought
Ernie: I took over as chairman of the social club in 1970 when the club was in a bit of a lull, we had to build it up and I was chairman there for 32 years. We worked for nothing to start to get it back up. I was chairman on the parish council for 25 years, and I been on the Commonalty for 40 years. Mary Russell, she was on the commonalty years ago. She was our neighbour at Coombe Hill. Nice neighbours, there if you wanted them. Mind, our neighbour at the back here is good, how it used to be.
(General discussion about neighbours, and the growth of the village)
Ernie: It’s a shame; Milborne’s got big, but the Co-op hasn’t got any bigger. Out the back of the co-op was a place big enough for a full size billiard table and then the tables for a whist drive around it. What do they do with all that?
(From here on the discussion is about the village today, proposals for new building and so on.)