A Taste of TADS 1
Gradually TADS is putting some of its older, out-of-print publications onto the website. A Taste of TADS 1, the Society's first publication (1990), was added in November 2014.
A Taste of TADS 1 contains articles on:
The Origins of Pamber Forest Nature Reserve
The Civil War Soldier
Gilbert White of Selborne
Tadley God Help Us
Tadley Families and Trades – 1861 Census
A Tadley Hero
Norman Goodland's Baughurst
Aldermaston Court 1940
A Long Walk Home
Prisoners of War 1944
Tadley's Farewell to the Broom
Tadley in the 1950s
North Hampshire's Natural History
Introduction (1st edition)
This volume contains a small selection from the records of the Tadley and District Society, accumulated since the Society was founded in November 1984.
The selection includes personal memories of members and invited speakers, important aspects of the history of Tadley and adjacent areas, and summary reports of some of the talks. It is intended to show the wide variety of subjects presented to the Society and, it is hoped, to stimulate sufficient interest in the reader to encourage him or her to join the Society at the evening meetings held in St Paul’s Church Hall, Tadley, usually on the third Wednesday of each month.
Introduction (2nd edition)
By 1994 stocks of the first edition of A Taste of TADS 1 had run out. This second edition is primarily a reprint – the text has been put onto computer and the layout redesigned, bringing it in line with the society’s recent publications. Whilst the opportunity has been taken to make several minor corrections the majority of the original booklet has been left unaltered.
In the Beginning
The Tadley and District Society held its inaugural meeting on the 21 November 1984 in St Paul’s Church Hall, Tadley. This meeting was arranged as a result of the considerable interest shown in old photographs of local people and places, and in illustrations borrowed from AWRE Aldermaston showing the history of Aldermaston Village, the Estate, and the Airfield, which were displayed at the St Paul’s Church Summer Fete in June 1984.
Twenty-eight people entered their names on a sheet of paper hurriedly produced and headed ‘LOCAL HISTORY SOCIETY – ARE YOU INTERESTED?’ The first name on the list was Mr E W (Ernie) Kimber. Subsequently a notice was placed in the local newspaper, and in the Church magazine, announcing the inaugural meeting and a potential Chairman was sought.
Mr Roger Searing, a retired headmaster of the Burnham Copse Junior School, who had produced a number of historical articles on Tadley and Reading for a Reading newspaper, and who was also part author of the booklet ‘Tadley Tracks – Tadley Facts’ published in 1982, was approached and was prepared to accept the post of Chairman of the Society. The inaugural meeting was held and Roger and other officers were elected. The meeting was much encouraged by the support and advice given by Mr and Mrs Woodruff of the Mortimer Local History Group, and by Mr John Oliver of the Basingstoke Archeological and Historical Society.
The first meeting of the Society was held on Wednesday 30 January 1985 and the subject was ‘The History of Basingstoke’ presented by Arthur Attwood, the Basingstoke journalist and historian.
Almost anything that does not move in Tadley is either built on or about to be and the roads leave much to be desired. Take the trouble to travel three miles to the east and you arrive amidst the peace and tranquility of the unencumbered site of Roman Silchester with its spectacular panoramic view of the Hampshire woodlands and distant chalk downs.
The contrast between these two communities is as different today as it must have been fifteen hundred years ago. At that time Tadley was uninhabited heath and woodland with a fine road, the Portway, crossing it; whilst Silchester was a modern, well planned city with a first class road system.
For the last seventeen years Dr Michael Fulford has been stripping away the layers of Calleva Atrebatum and the results of his excavations were the subject of a detailed, informative and well illustrated talk before a large gathering of Society members and visitors on 16 September.
Guiding us through his earlier excavations of the South Gate and the Amphitheatre, Dr Fulford brought us up-to-date with his team’s most recent work. Since 1980 work has concentrated on the site of the Basilica and with the benefit of modern techniques it has been necessarily more selective and penetrative than the extensive but relatively shallow excavations of the Victorians.
Below the late Roman stone building are traces of the wooden remains of the round houses and other buildings of the early Iron-age occupation up to the first century AD. From this date there is also evidence of a change away from round houses to a more planned settlement of rectangular buildings, each within its own plot along a regular pattern of streets.
It displays an early attempt by the Atrebates to lay out a Roman grid-type town some years before the Roman occupation. Further evidence of Roman influence is the adoption of Roman customs and fashions which were probably acquired in Gaul before the Atrebates fled to Britain to escape the wrath of Julius Caesar sometime after 50 BC.
Dr Fulford concluded his talk by reflecting on the generations of work still to be accomplished at Silchester. Returning from the past towards the present day, one is left to reflect on what should have been achieved in Tadley, with the benefit of hindsight and the Silchester blueprint.
The Origins of Pamber Forest Nature Reserve
Now that the Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council has exercised its powers under the National Parks & Access to the Countryside Act 1949 in accordance with the Local Government Act 1972 for the protection of the Nature Reserve of Pamber Forest, its confines are clearly established. However, trying to suggest the limits of Pamber Forest throughout the centuries is difficult. There was a large forest; some of it was called ‘Pamber Forest’, that is known and will have to suffice. There is good reason to suppose that, at one end of the forest was Silchester (Calleva Atrebatum) founded a few years BC by the Atrebates (People of the Wood), a Belgic tribe escaping from the Continent and Roman Conquest, only to be over-run by the Romans again. The forest at that time and for many centuries stretched as far as Windsor and included the Windsor Great Park. This is supported in the account of a licence being granted by the King for a Court to be held annually in the Forest of Pamber on the 20 July when the Tything man ‘sat in an Elbow Chair with his Hat on, as Lord of the Manor’ and read out the customs and presentments to the standing populace – a task which earned him the right to hunt and hawk as far as Windsor and to take up any stray cattle for his own use, in the same area. The size of the forest is shown in early terms, by reference to the protection given by the Forest to the ancient Saxon capital Winchester from invasion by way of the Thames and Staines and along the Roman road now known as the Devil’s Highway. This great forest was the royal hunting ground and sport was provided by wolves, wild boars, wild cats, foxes and hares.
Although the Norman Kings frequently enjoyed the sport in Pamber Forest, they soon began to give away freely pieces of land, including stretches of Pamber Forest. In 1206, King John granted such land to Rogo de Secy. In 1243 Robert St John obtained licence to inclose part of the forest at Bramley, provided the King’s deer had free entry and exit. Similarly, in 1245, land was enclosed on condition it was, ‘quit of waste, regard and view of foresters, verderers and regarders’. In 1261 Henry III granted William de Soy licence to inclose part of Pamber Forest to make it into a park. Peter de Coudray was given a licence to inclose Cufold Wood in Sherborne in 1268 and later Richard I agreed his right, ‘to chase cats, hares and foxes’ in this part of Pamber Forest. In 1280, the Hackwood estate received the King’s licence to inclose 40 acres of Pamber Forest (How much of Basingstoke was in Pamber Forest?); for this privilege Henry de Brayboef paid 12d per annum to the King for loss of deer.
Around 1300, Edward I appointed a Bailiwick of the Forest, John de St John, an appointment which passed down to his heirs and eventually became the task of the de Poyntings. In 1316, supervision was increased by the appointment of a chief verderer, John de St Manifso, Lord of the Manor of Heckfield. Royal gifts of parts of Pamber Forest continued; Edward III in 1369 gave Bernard Brocas licence to inclose Beaurepaire Park including 64 acres of Pamber Forest
From Norman times, land in Pamber Forest was cleared for agriculture by those who had received gifts of ‘forest’. Ownership in these circumstances became confused and often disputed. Gifts had been haphazard and ownership by heredity was frequently doubted. And although the inquisitions usually concerned the unlawful inclosure of Crown property, an inquisition in 1331, returned 100 acres to a complainant who had protested that the King’s foresters had taken his woodland at Kingsclere.
Poachers were given cruel punishments, even for so much as chasing a hare. In 1343, John Cooper and Richard Twyhere of Tadley were fortunate to be sentenced to nothing more than long imprisonment for killing a young deer. Villagers who lived near the forest were not permitted to keep dogs and consequently were often victims of the lawless. Between 1261 and 1271 Henry III gave 5 or 10 oaks annually for the construction of the fernery at the House of Dominions of Winchester. A licence was granted by the Crown in 1275 for the priors and monks of Sherborne to take weekly, two cartloads of dead wood for their hearth. In 1312 Edward II repaid services by William de Horwode with 6 oaks and six beams of oak, fit to repair his manor house near Pamber Forest.
By the time of Henry VIII, the forest was no longer continuous from Silchester to Windsor and the King only hunted in Pamber Forest whilst a guest of Sir William Sandys at the Vyne and in 1535 Henry VIII granted the governship of Pamber Forest to Sir William Paulet (afterwards the Marquess of Winchester) and to be Keeper of all woods and underwoods. But by 1610, Pamber Forest was no longer part of a great royal hunting ground and James I sold it to John Waller but it was bought again soon afterwards by the Marquess of Winchester. The ownership of Pamber Forest passed down through the family to Richard Benyon (born 1746) and it has remained the property of the Benyons since that time. Richard Benyon appears to have been a precise man, he did not like the doubts about the limits of his forest or the various rights others claimed to have within the Forest. His case was heard in Winchester in 1793 and he won exclusive rights and exact boundaries to his land.
Some time before this, Henry Ludlow of Tadley Place, demolished 12 cottages in the original site of Tadley, scattering the unfortunate tenants to the edge of the Forest. Gradually an inter-dependence grew up between the owners of the forest and those who sought a livelihood from the forest. Although the forest was still used mainly for the sport of the Benyon family friends, the local community were useful in keeping the woods clear of debris and undergrowth and so grew up the local crafts – the broom makers, the basket makers, the scythe makers, the wooden shoe (paten) makers, hurdle makers, bowl turners and others. It is remembered by some in Tadley when agents of Benyons held auctions in local public houses of 2, 3 or 4 acres of the Forest to be coppiced (copsed, say some); areas having most birch fetched the highest bids 60 years ago. Sporting activities steadily declined and more recently the coppicing and related crafts. For some time Pamber Forest has been looked after well by Englefield Estates Ltd.
Count Lorenzo Magalotti, writing of his visit to Basingstoke in the 1660’s during his tour of England, had nothing very complimentary to say about it; a trend that has been continued by commentators down the years to the twentieth century. The latest commentary, on 18 November by the BBC TV South, was a tongue-in-cheek sideways look at tourism around Basingstoke, which included a visit to Basing House.
It so happened that this news item coincided with a visit to TADS, later that evening, from Kenneth Barton, who delivered one of the wittiest and most provocative talks that the TADS has been privileged to hear. Mr Barton is the Hampshire County Council archaeologist responsible for the most recent excavations on the Basing site: and the significance of the coincidence of the television report and Kenneth Barton’s talk was the first public announcement of the finding of an elaborate garden laid down in the 1690s and the existence of an older Elizabethan garden; both of which the County Council hope to restore to a resemblance of their former glory.
These excavations have also shown that this spur of land in Basing has been almost continuously occupied since pre-history. The lower layer has revealed middle Stone-age flint tools from 150,000 years ago, and successive layers have disclosed Iron-age pottery. Romano-British cultivation, and Saxon and Norman occupation. The later medieval constructions on this site were in turn buried by the brick building of the early Tudor and Elizabethan periods.
The final sequence of building was the massive circular earth-work which was thrown up in the late seventeenth century. Eminent historians had previously dated this earth bank to a much earlier period; a fine example of an early ring-work. It is now beyond doubt that the architectural ‘improvement’ of the ruin was part of the trend towards the ‘romantic view of ruins’ imported from the Continent. This ‘improvement’ was carried out by the Duke of Bolton in the 1690s and remarked upon by another seventeenth century traveller and writer, Celia Fiennes, who passed through Basing ‘and did visit there the new gardens made by the Lord Paulet’.
The ‘grandest house in England’ was built and fortified under licence from the Crown, by William Paulet and dated from 1531. Claimed to have been the most heavily defended dwelling outside of Windsor Castle, it was reduced to rubble by the Parliamentarians after being besieged during the Civil War. Basing House was the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting during the whole conflict; so perhaps it was not too fanciful of Keneth Barton to imagine that the Duke of Bolton’s intention was to create a garden in honour of those who died defending the home of his father, the fifth Marquess of Winchester and whose family motto was ‘Love Loyalty’.
The Civil War Soldier
In welcoming Alan Turton of the English Civil War Society to Tadley the TADS was also welcoming him to Basingstoke where he has recently taken up the post of Assistant Manager at Basing House.
A retired Colonel from the Parliamentary section of the Society, Mr Turton has spent several years researching the life of the common soldier during the Civil War and it was with the fruits of this research that he captivated his audience on the 20 May. He literally got inside his subject when modelling the various items of clothing from the period, all of which were faithfully made to the pattern of the period; from the footwear which quickly wore out, leaving the hapless soldier barefoot through all seasons, to the Montero cap which was the forerunner of the balaclava. The low pay of the soldiers, six shillings a week when indeed they received it, made it difficult, if not impossible, to replace items: a good buff coat, for example, cost £10; the equivalent of two years wages for an agricultural worker.
Since the opposing armies were similarly dressed, on the day of battle a field sign was worn by each man; usually orange sashes for Parliamentarians and red for the Royalists. From describing the clothes Mr Turton then went on to describe the soldiers’ arms and equipment and their methods of use, and not least their unreliability. The seventeenth century musket was nearly as dangerous to the user as it was to his foe. Communications and supply were another great problem, whether it was finding enough horses to keep the cavalry in the field or trying to move stores around the country via the very poor roads.
This war was the first, and it is to be hoped the last, national war this country has known. It not only divided the country, but communities and even families and touched every town and village. If the opposing forces were the tangible foe, the universal enemy was hunger near to starvation; severe cold and wet weather through which the soldiers slept rough with little or no cover; and the horrendous injuries which, with only rudimentary medical skills, often meant an agonising death. But the greatest enemy of all was disease, particularly typhus, which could and did reduce regiments of a thousand men to less than a hundred.
The romantic portrayal of the Civil War on film is far removed from the conditions described by the speaker, but the touches of humour throughout Mr Turton’s talk were mainly drawn from his experiences as an extra for film and television companies, and from their use of special effects. It was an informative and entertaining evening that should have whetted members’ appetites for a future visit to Basing House.
Gilbert White of Selborne
With the aid of slides, Dr June Chatfield, the curator of the Gilbert White Museum, who was the speaker at the July meeting of the Society, gave an account of the country curate who became recognised as a pioneer in natural science and was also highly regarded in the literary field. Little is known of the private life of Gilbert White, the man who, in contrast, revealed the ‘minute particulars’ of Selborne’s history to the world.
As a graduate of Oriel College, Oxford, White was unable to become Vicar of Selborne, the living of which was a gift of Magdalene College, but such was his love of Selborne that he refused many other livings, preferring instead to eventually become the curate of Farringdon, three miles from Selborne. This allowed him to live at ‘Wakes’ which was the family home and not, as is popularly misconceived, the vicarage.
A very observant naturalist and gifted writer, Gilbert White also had the benefit of living in what is today regarded as an exceptional parish, both for the beauty of its landscape and its ecological importance. In his own time it would have been regarded as unexceptional ‘with the single farms, and many scattered houses along the verge of the forest, (containing) upwards of six hundred and seventy inhabitants. We abound with poor’.
He was under no illusion as to the needs of these poor parishioners. A bachelor of small means and himself a frugal person, he took his clerical duties conscientiously. A very kindly and helpful man he did all he could, in a practical way, to relieve his parishioners’ hardship.
Gilbert White extended the ‘Wakes’ and enlarged the grounds, recording the results of his garden activities in ‘The Garden Kalendar’. He also wrote a history of the village but it is for the book, the fourth most frequently published book in the English language, that his name was to become synonymous with natural history and Selborne.
Following Dr Chatfield’s interesting and informative talk, members were afforded the opportunity, three days later, of a visit to this attractive parish as a part of a programme of summer visits by the Society. Marred only by the green and the white of the distant giant ‘puff-balls’of the MOD, the visitors were able to see the Selborne landscape little altered since the eighteenth century, an appropriate memorial to the man who shunned ostentation.
Tadley, God Help Us
For many miles around Tadley people refer to this village, now town, with a knowing smile as ‘Tadley God Help Us’. The origin of this name is also frequently told. Many years ago a balloon made an unplanned descent in a clearing in Pamber Forest. The occupants of the balloon asked of a small group of forest workers, ‘Where are we?’ The workers, considerably frightened by what they thought was a visitation from the heavens replied, ‘Tadley’, adding the supplication, ‘God Help Us!’ The balloonists assumed they were in a place called ‘Tadley God Help Us’. How much truth is there in this story? There is little hope of proof one way or another, but the following extract from an account of adventures of balloonists in the 19th century written by one Frank Mundell tells a story which may help readers to make up their own minds.
The book records that the well known balloonist Coxwell set out in his balloon on the 16 October 1853 but his plans were ruined by the sudden arrival of a very strong wind and the sticking of a valve which would have helped him to land quickly. Instead he drifted until ‘shortly after eight o’clock the balloon descended in a field north of Basingstoke. It was by then quite dark … He shouted until he was hoarse and so he reluctantly decided to spend the night in the car …’
A glimmer of light in the distance guided him to a farm house but a great fierce Newfoundland dog chased him away. He returned to the balloon and later heard voices and shouted, ‘Here I am, and the balloon all safe’ After a brief hush there followed the sound of hurried departing footsteps. Coxwell now realised that there must be houses nearby and set off again … ‘He found himself face to face with a workman on his way home. Coxwell made known his condition but his story excited suspicion instead of sympathy and the only help he could get was a recommendation to make known his wants at the village inn’. He was directed to the inn and on his way he met a policeman. Again he was met with distrust and in reply to his question, ‘What county am I in?’ the constable said, ‘You don’t know what county you’re in, don’t you? Well, if you don’t clear out of this you’ll know that you’re in the county gaol soon enough’.
He set off for the inn again but he found it surprisingly locked and in darkness, so he returned to his balloon. The next day it was explained that the landlord had heard of a mysterious stranger being about. However, the next day he received help from a farmer who expressed regret for the unfriendly reception the aeronaut had had and on parting was told, ‘Another thing, you must not forget that you have come among the Hampshire hogs, and that a grunt or two is all in character’.
Tadley Families and Trades – 1861 Census
The prospect of a local speaker on a local topic attracted an audience of over sixty people to hear David Cottrell, deputy head of Tadley School, talk about the 1861 census for Tadley at the TADS first meeting of the new year on 20 January for an unusual and interesting evening.
Skilfully adapting the skills of his profession to inform and entertain us, David Cottrell distributed several sheets of statistics extracted from the census, encouraging his audience to participate in interpreting and discussing his findings. A brave man; for such an exercise is full of pitfalls for the unwary especially where Tadley is concerned. Just as the Domesday Book gives nothing more than part of a picture of one day in one year of the eleventh century, so the 1861 census captures a part of the life for one day in one decade in the nineteenth century parish of Tadley.
Both the year and the month in which the census were carried out were untypical. 1861 was the middle of probably the most prosperous twenty years in Tadley’s history when both agriculture and the wood trades were at their peak; and April, when the census was taken, was the one month of the year when the maximum number of inhabitants were most likely to be found in the parish. Unlike most parishes of the time, Tadley’s population of 900 was high and still rising and it was different again in that for most of the year the parish was comparatively empty.
Although the parish had very little woodland most of the men and many of the women were employed either in the woods of North Hampshire from late November until the end of March, or in the withy beds; and from late April until the early autumn the men, and very often the whole family, would be employed in bark picking and hoeing in early spring; taking the harvest across the southern counties in the summer and then hop-picking around Alton in the autumn.
The term ‘agricultural labourer’ hid a multiplicity of skills, such as thatching, which was not regarded as an extraordinary craft in those days. Similarly, of the thirty-nine broom-makers, only a few would have been full-time masters; the majority would have been making brooms part-time for these master broom-makers. It was ‘more prestigious, for some to describe themselves as broom-makers, even though only part-time, than as agricultural labourers. This trait was most evident among the most prosperous of these people, the wood-dealers.
These were the men who bought the standing underwood and timber, employed others to cut it and then sold it to the various craftsmen and timber merchants. They also had the transport. Although their living and their small wealth came from wood, they described themselves as small-farmers, since they needed to buy land to keep and feed the considerable numbers of draught horses they used.
There was some surprise expressed that the average family size was less than expected but this may have been accounted for by the prosperity of the time. In 1841 in less prosperous times, the family sizes, particularly among the broom-makers, were much larger. In an age of high infant mortality, each extra child was seen not so much as another mouth to feed but as another wage earner from an early age and families of from ten to fifteen children were common.
A Tadley Hero
Tadley’s past does not include the names of the great and famous, but it can boast of having at least one hero. He was Major George Roller, DSO, DCM, 1856-1941 and he lived in a house which still stands, south of what is now the Water Board Training HQ in Tadley Common Road. The house was called ‘The Wilderness’ but the locals naturally called it Roller’s place and for many the house has been known as ‘Rollers’.
Major Roller was an artist, a soldier serving in both the Boer War and the Great War, a steeplechase rider, a London Magistrate, a Governor of London Hospitals and the Royal Berkshire Hospital and the inventor of Burberry’s rainproof cloth. At all of these tasks, and others, he excelled but his skill as a painter/artist enabled him to be known world wide, as a restorer of pictures. He restored pictures in the Royal Academy, which had been damaged by Suffragettes.
Stories abound concerning the activities and exploits of this man, but there is space here for just two.
Major Roller illustrated Burberry’s advertisements for nearly 40 years and became a great friend of Mr. Thomas Burberry, who lived in the neighbourhood of Basingstoke. Mr Burberry gave Major Roller a horse as a present but a horse which the major did not admire at first. He described it as, ‘painfully small and nondescript and looking like a brown bear’. It seems that Burberry’s groom had made a mistake in offering this particular mare as a gift. However, time showed that this small beast, named Gaberdine, although ‘funny tempered and having no nice feelings for anyone’ was a tough, speedy, brave mare ‘who could bound over obstacles like an india rubber ball’. Gaberdine carried Major Roller through the Boer War and the major was convinced that the mare’s qualities saved his life on more than one occasion during the campaign.
In peace-time, Gaberdine was a ‘star’ on the race course, especially when steeplechasing. The partnership of Gaberdine and Major Roller prompted this verse in a newspaper in 1900 ...
There’s a smart yeoman called Roller
Whose mount it will pay you to foller
At the name Gaberdine
The bookies turn green
As they pay out the dime and the dollar.
Gaberdine spent her last days in retirement, literally in clover and died at the age of 25 and lies buried in the garden of ‘Rollers’ under the tombstone bearing the tribute – ‘Gaberdine, a gallant little horse’.
Gaberdine featured in another story involving his master. Major Roller was the officer in command of the 34th Company Imperial Yeomanry when it was engaged in a hopeless attack against the Boers who were positioned safely at the top of a steep slope. The yeomanry were forced to dismount under withering fire and lie down. Every horse was shot, except Gaberdine. Only six men survived but the major crawled to a safe spot, dragging a wounded colleague. He managed to recall Gaberdine and pull the unconscious soldier across the mare’s back and ride to safety. Major Roller was recommended for the VC but unfortunately there were no officers alive to confirm this brave action.
The tough, brave hero of Tadley, the reckless, dedicated soldier, the superbly competitive steeplechaser was also a sensitive, imaginative painter with a delicate touch which he used, in particular for the slow tedious task of restoring the nation’s art treasures. What an extraordinary man!
Norman Goodland’s Baughurst
The June meeting of the TADS was graced by the presence of one of its native sons, the Radio and Television raconteur of country life past and present, Norman Goodland.
The large audience was entertained by anecdotes, poetry and prose from the man who was brought up in nearby Baughurst and who gave us a glimpse into his childhood spent with his parents Frank and Harriet West in the 1920s. The Baughurst that Norman Goodland knew is still relatively unspoilt as yet, in comparison with its neighbouring village of Tadley, or town as some people like to call it now. What has changed from the village that Norman Goodland knew is the way and pace of life and the aspiration of the people.
As he told us, his foster-mother’s daily routine never changed for most of her life; and his foster-father was that nowadays all-too-rare person, the jack-of-all trades; and master of them all. Thatcher, sexton, gravedigger, parish clerk and Captain of bellringers, he took them all in his stride; a kind and considerate man.
Among the memories recalled by Mr Goodland were those of Hospital Sunday, held in May of each year, when the inhabitants collected money throughout each parish for local hospitals. In Baughurst this could mean a ten mile walk through the parish before everyone met on Baughurst Common for a fete, community hymn singing to the accompaniment of the brass band, and afternoon tea.
Throughout the hour or more during which he entertained us however, it was laughter that increasingly punctuated the preceedings as this master of the pregnant pause, weighted phrase and unspoken innuendo related his tales, which, as he assured us, were all true ‘except that I’ve tarted them up a bit’. And all this in that rich, slow drawling Hampshire dialect with its dropped ‘aitches’, which have a ‘abit of popping hup again where they shouldn’t; and the use of words that only the very oldest countrymen retain in North Hampshire, the New Forest and parts of Dorset. Words common to the poetry and prose of Thomas Hardy and William Barnes, such as ‘thic, vor, ‘snow and chimp’ which have a poetry of their own and no longer enrich our language.
At any time of the year Norman Goodland would leave you laughing, but on a cold, miserable June evening his cheery, earthy, country humour, tinged with nostalgia, left one with tears rolling down the cheek; and if you would like to hear how the first dish-washer was invented on a farm by a land-army girl during the last war, you will have to invite him along to tell you.
Aldermaston Court 1940
We arrived at Aldermaston Station on 12 June, a strange collection of females of varying age and size, all apprehensive of what the future would bring.
We still wore civilian clothes, but had already signed on for the duration and were on our way as volunteers to the ‘Auxiliary Territorial Service’ training camp, which in this instance was Aldermaston Court.
The lodge at the gates was the reception centre, where we were all herded like sheep for the purpose of a quick medical. I had a temperature due to the strain of the situation and was ordered to report sick in the morning which did little to allay my fears.
Our sleeping quarters were in the attics of the old Mansion, very hot and overcrowded, just enough room to stand between beds. Nowhere to put any of our belongings so we lived out of suitcases. In spite of this a wonderful atmosphere prevailed with a good deal of laughter over our misfortunes.
Morning arrived alas too soon. First parade and roll call at 7 am. We lined up in front of the house on a gravel path and our names were called and dutifully answered until the unfortunate ‘Green, P’ was hailed with laughter. I often wondered what happened to her.
This assembly looked even more strange than our contingent of the previous day. Coats of many colours, a girl even sporting a leopard skin model (on a hot June day). High heeled shoes and sandals, which must have caused the wearers much suffering in the days to come.
My memory fails me as to what happened for the rest of the day. I do know, however, that owing to a shortage of water in the village this commodity was turned off in the house from 8 pm until 7 am. As we had to report the next day at 5 am to the cookhouse this made washing impossible, so we learned to leave a very wet flannel at night so that we could have a ‘mop’ in the morning.
The ‘other ranks’ kitchen was in the old stables, a wet and uncomfortable place with a mountainous pile of greasy tins waiting to be washed. Happily, it did not fall to my lot to do these, instead I sat and peeled a sack of onions in what used to be the old dog kennels with bars at the window.
The stable yard contained ‘Soyer Stoves’ in which the porridge and cabbage was cooked by girls suffused in steam. We all ate in a marquee nearby.
We had orders one day to gather up all the spare mattresses we could find in the top of the house and speeded things up by dropping them down the ‘well’ of the beautiful staircase. We discovered later that they were needed by several hundred war-weary girls arriving from France after the fall of Paris. We stood and cheered as they marched up from Aldermaston Station having refused transport.
I spoke to them later as they lay on grassy banks by the lake surrounded by flowering rhododendrons, so thankful to be back safely in England.
Six days after our arrival my sister and I were unexpectedly posted to Pirbright Camp, still without our uniforms and wearing flowery dresses and carrying civilian gas masks in plastic-like containers!
The Junior Commander was much amused by our request for a bath so we had to explain about the shortage of water at Aldermaston. Blissfully our request was granted.
W/38019 Vol Hersey E (Claire Best)
A Long Walk Home
At the April meeting of the Tadley and District Local History Group a talk – ‘A Long Walk Home’ – was given by a local man, Mr Keith Kent, who told of his war time adventures. Mr Kent was a member of the crew of a Lancaster bomber that was shot down while in action over France on the 10 April 1944. After parachuting from his disabled plane over northern France, he landed in a ploughed field and started to walk south, heading for Spain and hopefully safety. However, this was not to be.
After leaving Cambrai, north of Paris, and the scene of the crash, he walked 400 miles in 3 weeks, encountering many helpful French villagers on the way, as well as a few unpleasant moments. He was almost at the Spanish border, in a small French town, Celles, where the Mayor while giving him a meal, apologised profusely saying, ‘the matter is out of my hands’, and he was handed over to the Germans.
The next morning Keith was taken all the way back to Paris for questioning, to the notorious Fresnes a political prison which had a wing for RAF ‘types’. His next stop was Stalag Luft III, at Sagen. It was now Christmas 1944 and from the sound of the gunfire, the Russian Army appeared to be getting nearer and Keith was on the move again. This time to Luckenwalde, 30 miles southwest of Berlin.
Keith spoke of the Red Cross parcels that were received during his captivity, how they were often shared between up to 7 prisoners. He showed a log book which he had kept at the time and which had been in one of the parcels, listing the items in the parcels which had been sent from Britain, Canada, America and Sweden.
They heard on the camp’s radio in a broadcast by the BBC that the Russian Army were very near and that no one should attempt to escape. The Russians were anxious to exchange British prisoners for Russian.
Luckenwalde was liberated on the 21 April 1945 and after almost being detained by the Russian army, Keith was eventually repatriated to England on the 15 May.
It wasn’t until 1946, in a letter from the War Ministry that Keith found out someone in France had informed on him, although he does not know who.
Coincidentally, our April meeting of TADS was the 45th anniversary of Mr Keith Kent being shot down in France – there is a full account of his experiences in his book ‘A Long Walk Home’.
Prisoners of War 1944
Shortly after our invasion of France in 1944 I was ordered to take a party of girls to Tilbury Docks where a number of German prisoners were being disembarked. Among them were a small number of German women in civilian clothes. We had been sent to escort these female prisoners to an unknown destination. ‘We’ being members of the Womens’ Military Police or ‘Red Caps’ as we were better known.
We were told to board a train which was standing nearby and ordered by a male officer to pull down the blinds. The journey seemed very long but by some devious route we finally arrived at Kempton Park race course, where I handed over the women to an armed guard.
Our own party was dispersed to different rooms with improvised beds. Actually we were so tired we could have slept on anything, not being used to coping with German prisoners these being the first women to arrive in England.
We had one amusing incident. A young soldier on duty shading his eyes and looking across the race track called out, ‘What do you fancy for the 1.30?’ This brightened us up considerably.
The next morning we had an early call and proceeded with the prisoners (travelling in the back of army trucks) to Rayners Lane, an Army depot where we stayed for several days whilst the women were interrogated and searched.
From there we went again by truck to a London Station and north to a large estate with a country house called Windlesham Hall right in the middle of nowhere. I handed over the prisoners to a male officer in charge and breathed a sigh of relief that we had not lost any in transit!
Then, quite exhausted with the mental strain, we retired to our rooms. The following day I was sent for by the O/C and asked if we could stay on and continue to take charge in order to make a more detailed search of the women and their luggage.
This we did and were amazed in the middle of a war at the quantity of extraordinary things they had brought with them, including cases of wine which were immediately impounded.
We looked after the prisoners until a relief party was sent from York then thankfully returned to London and our normal duties.
I did not know then or now who these women were or what they were doing in the front line dressed as civilians. Most of them spoke good English.
Tadley’s Farewell to the Besom
Tadley, north of Basingstoke and just in Hampshire, has changed in the last 30 years from a quiet village, still nurturing some of its old crafts, to semi-urban community of 12,000 people. However, these changes have not destroyed its character …
A great adventure for a boy living in Reading in the Twenties was to cycle along the Bath Road, turn left beyond Theale and hurry through Aldermaston (where the smallest indiscretion was likely to bring down the wrath of the squire of Aldermaston Court). Then, before returning home via Mortimer and Burghfield, he might dare to pass through Tadley … chancing a confrontation with the wild lads of that village, who seemed as foreign to him as Red Indians or Hottentots.
More than half a century has passed and now he lives side by side with these same ‘Tads’ and their descendants, and those early prejudices have been severely jolted,. On close acquaintance ‘Tads’ are independent folk, forthright, with a dry sense of humour, a little jealous of their heritage and as united as any Scottish clan. In any dispute with a newcomer the first challenge is likely to be, ‘How long’ve you lived in Tadley then?’ Some of us senior newcomers are now able to answer, ‘Longer than you have!’
It is fortunate that Tadley people are tolerant of strangers – so many have come here following the building, in 1951, of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment. The influx of scientists and technicians certainly did not induce any sense of inferiority in Tadley residents, who speedily perceived the direct and indirect ways in which they might benefit from this event. And of course they had all the advantages (including hindsight) of local knowledge.
They knew that houses should not have been built next to Tadley Brook with its tendency to flood; they knew the whereabouts of the old gravel pits (likely to subside at any time) and the precise location of the ‘Tadley Treacle Mines’. Of course they know that the remaining gravel deposits, eyed greedily from time to time by would-be extractors, were in fact not worth much.
‘Tads’ seem to know or recognise each other almost by instinct, without reference for instance to a street name – ‘Down by Fred Long’s’, ‘At the back of Tom Monger’s’, ‘Next to John Williams’ sister’s boy’s’. It has to be said that the casual stranger, passing through the village today, straggling its way from the Fighting Cocks to the Falcon, may not feel inclined to linger, dazzled by Tadley’s beauty.
Yet there is beauty and variety in the countryside which stretches away in every direction from inside the Parish boundary. Pamber Forest, Tadley Common, Haughurst and Baughurst, Wasing Wood, Wyeford House, Tadley Place and Browning Hill are all within easy reach on the parish footpaths, which not only give splendid views of present beauties but also hints and glimpses of Tadley’s past.
Tadley cannot claim any great fame in the history of England and yet Stone Age people having got their flints near Basingstoke, probably came to Tadley for clay and food. Some of them are still there, under their tumuli.
The Romans came marching through, past Honey Mill Bridge, along the Portway from Salisbury to nearby Silchester. In the Tadley area in 1641 King Charles’ men came looking for food before the second Battle of Newbury. Perhaps they found some in the well filled fish ponds at Wyeford, which were tended by the monks of the nearby Pamber Priory.
Tadley has its fair share of churches and chapels, Church of England, Roman Catholic, Methodist, United Reformed and Salvation Army. The discerning visitor may find it strange that the old parish church, St Peter’s, is about two miles from the village centre.
There are at least three possible reasons – the Black Death was rampant in this part of Hampshire and survivors probably moved away from their old dwellings near the church.
Then, in the late 16th Century Sir Henry Ludlow, local squire and master of Tadley Place, drove out some of his more difficult tenants and pulled down their homes. Finally, in Jacobean times, support grew in Tadley for nonconformist religions, and the Old Meeting House, near The Green, also drew people away from the old centre.
Incidentally, a descendant of Sir Henry Ludlow’s, Colonel Edmund Ludlow, once the owner of Tadley Place, was a signatory to the death warrant of King Charles the First.
It was a Ludlow, too, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth at the Vyne at Sherborne St John on her royal progress through Hampshire in 1601. In September of that year the Queen had been welcomed to the county by the chief nobles of Hampshire, assembled on nearby Silchester Common.
The past does not easily fade in Tadley. Simpson’s Charity has provided help for the needy in a number of parishes, including Tadley, since 1674. In 1739 William Mothe presented a legacy and land to be used to house the aged, and the result of this bequest is visible today as Mothes House, standing on the donated site.
A feature of the old village was the Tadley Revel, a day of festivity and merriment, and although it ceased in 1922 it was revived in 1965 when a Revel Committee was formed, and has since held numerous events which have raised thousands of pounds to help local voluntary groups and good causes.
Perhaps it is the stories of past events; sometimes of dubious authenticity, told by local people, that give a true flavour of Tadley’s past, like the Tadley witch who was shot one foggy night but whose body, found in the morning, turned out to be that of a dead hare!
Stories, too, of horrors averted by an adder’s skin hung on the front door, and the tale of the Tadley man who, finding his old donkey too expensive to feed, took it into Pamber Forest and hung it from an oak still known as the Donkey Tree.
Finally, many people in the Basingstoke area refer to the village as Tadley-God-Help-Us. It is said that some time in the last century, a balloonist, landing near Tadley, approached two quaking ‘Tads’ and, on asking where he was, was given that reply.
A larger than life character from Tadley’s past was John Mulford, (remembered in Mulford’s Hill) who claimed to be a descendant of William the Conqueror’s mole catcher. He was an eccentric, a recluse, an expensively dressed and prosperous member of the travelling people.
He built two chapels in the village and was noted for both his generosity and his meanness, depending on the matter in hand. He died in 1814, aged 94, shortly after looking out of the window and remarking ‘What a fine day for gossiping people to go about and say “Old Mulford is dead”’!
Prominent among the changes which have overtaken Tadley in the twentieth century is the decline and almost total disappearance of the crafts which were once the mainstay of Tadley people.
Pamber Forest was the source of the materials which supported broom makers, bowl turners, burdlers and clog and patten (mud shoes) makers.
Tadley was particularly noted for its besom brooms and that good Hampshire man John Arlott, during a Test match commentary, once referred to the fact that the pitch was being swept by a Tadley besom.
Tadley today is a village of considerable size and no particular shape, modernity brought by the development (some say over-development) of Basingstoke, the proximity of motorways and the influx of AWRE employees.
‘Tads’ have turned it all to profit (‘Where’s George nowadays then?’ – ‘Didn’t you know? He’s working up the Atom’)
However, tucked away in the housing estates is old Tadley, more or less safe and sound in a conservation area, with Con’s Cottage, Crooked Cottage, the Old Meeting House and so on. Elsewhere in the village are the supermarkets, new churches, a health centre, newish schools to augment the century-old Tadley School, a new Concert brass band as well as the time-honoured and locally famed Tadley Silver Band.
Tadley is nothing like it used to be. Do the ‘Tads’ approve? One of them explained, last summer, why his clock was an hour slow. He said he didn’t believe in altering clocks twice a year - he liked to get up and go to bed the same time all the year round. “You wouldn’t like to put the clock on then?” With a twinkle in his eye he replied, ‘No, no! You’ll catch up wi’ us, one day’.
Tadley in the 1950s
Our first home
We came to Tadley in 1951, my husband, my two daughters and myself. We came to what is known as the Brick Kiln and that was owned by Mr Stacey and his family. As there was no accommodation of any kind in those days, we had double-decker buses to live in and a few caravans So, we chose a double-decker bus and we lived there for a few years. There was another family who lived in a single-decker bus at the other site, I should call it ‘the yard’. There were also two more families in two more single-decker buses on another part of the site which also housed three caravans. And that was all the accommodation you could find in the centre of Tadley at that stage.
Our upper deck was converted into two bedrooms with quite a bit of furniture we had brought over from Ireland. Downstairs was a living-room/dining-room with kitchen at one end. There wasn’t any light in the buses and neither my husband nor myself felt happy about that. However, after a short time we were able to have the light put on our bus and the others. Another problem we had at that stage was sanitation which was very bad in Tadley when we came here. I was not happy about it at all. After some negotiating with various people and the Council, my husband and I eventually made the Council collect the sewage and remove it from the site once a week, and what a relief that was.
There was very little accommodation as you gather from us living in a bus and the other people living in caravans. Then started the beginning of the building of the estate but, previous to that, it was in huts that the men used to live, all around where Burnham Copse School now stands. Most of the men living there worked under contract, but some of the AWRE’s employees lived in huts too. My husband was one of them before we joined him as a family. Since I have lived in Tadley I have seen the huts gradually pulled down as the estate was being built. About that time Boundary Hall was built for the AWRE’s workers.
One of the first families we knew when we first came here was Dr Morland and his family. Another person from whom we bought our bus was Mr Sam Williams, a very old show-businessman. Neither he nor his wife are any longer with us but I am sure a lot of people will remember them. They were very good with us when we came to Tadley. Their son still lives in Tadley but, alas, their house is no longer there.
Early in the fifties, the only shop was Whatmores where Budgens now stands. I have to speak very highly of Mr Whatmore. He was very helpful to people like me who came here with no ration books while rationing was still on. You could get anything you wanted in his shop. If he did not have it, he would get it for you. We did not have a chemist in those days.
There was also a small shop called Hutchins (Mulfords Hill). The son of the family still lives in Tadley. Mr Hutchins used to sell small amounts of groceries, he also had a taxi run and repaired bicycles.
We had no banks and only one Post-Office (Tadley Hill). Mrs Evans, who then ran it, is still alive. There was a fish-shop next to the Office and we had fish delivered in the village.
We had traders coming from Reading and Newbury to deliver fish and groceries on certain days.
Mr Marks, the butcher on New Road, would take your order and come and deliver the next day. If you were not in, all these people would leave what you wanted and come back again to collect their money. What a trusting world it was ...
Alas, we cannot say the same for the world we have to-day.
Then the Co-op started to come out and deliver. They would take your order for anything you wanted, from coal to clothes or whatever, and would deliver two days later to you. That was how I did most of my shopping as soon as I moved in to 34 Mount Pleasant. Then the Co-Op saw there was an opening for them and they came to Franklin Avenue where they still are … We also had a butcher shop which is where Poulters the Estate Agents now stands.
The ‘Mountain Buses’ used to collect the AWRE’s workers from all over the area, from Newbury and as far as Pangbourne. They fetched the workmen backwards and forwards and what a sight that was to see … It was such a fantastic sight to see all those buses lined-up one after the other and disappear out ot the yard to the main gate... Of course in those days people did not have their own transport. On Saturdays, you could use the buses, still free of charge, and do your shopping with your family. There was a bus service going to Basingstoke and buses did not run very often. We did not get many buses going to Newbury and Reading either.
We haad no schools when we first came. We had a small annexe-school where the Cinema stands now . This school was planned basically for the people who worked at Aldermaston. My daughter spent a very short time there, then went to the Holy Ghost Convent in Basingstoke.
The school-annexe was eventually moved to Burnham Copse. Mr Roger Searing was the first Headmaster and what a super one he was. The school brought the community together with the parents’ committee meetings to raise funds for a new library, swimming-pool and other equipments.
My son went to Bunham Copse. At the time he was supposed to go to Tadley Hill school but I did not see why he should go there because there was a school on my door step. After a lot of consultations with the Education Authorities, a line was put down the road in Mount Pleasant: the people on my side of the road could go to Burnham Copse – there was only my son at that time – and the people on the other side had to go to Tadley Hill. I hope that Mr. Searing will write his memories on the Burnham Copse School.
When we first came to Tadley, there were only two churches. I have seen all the other churches being built. Before the Roman-Catholic Church was built, you just had one service on Sundays. The clergy came from Douai Abbey as we did not have a resident priest. At first, the service used to be at 6 o’clock in the morning and was held at what is now the Community Centre next to the library.
It was not until we had proper transport that we had exchanges with other villages. The WI was founded under Lady Penney and I was one of its founder members. It was a very friendly organisation. In the summer we had the Tadley Fete. It started off at the Fox and Hounds with a fancy dress. There were also lots of garden fetes, most of them on Tadley Hill on the Green. Gradually, the Scouts and the Guides brought people together. The first hall was at Tadley Hill but there was not much time for social life due to the long working hours at the beginning of the fifties.
When we moved to Tudor Cottage, 34 Mount Pleasant, it was a beautiful country lane with few old houses. On either side of the road, there were big ditches where the water used to run down in winter time and these were rather dangerous: if you did fall down, you could not get up again. Many changes took place, the only part unaltered is where I live now and where the Mongers live. There was a farm run by Mr. James with two boys and we used to get our milk from there. Then development started and the farm was sold. All the other houses have been built since.
Mount Pleasant at the beginning was only a country lane and its upkeep cost us residents a lot of money. Without going to the High Court, we could not prove that the lane was in fact a road which should have been maintained by the Council.
I have seen changes in Mount Pleasant but also all over Tadley. I still love our ‘village’ and am looking forward to the coming of the new shopping centre and to the opening of a new era, with also the building in Mount Pleasant of accommodation for retired people.
Mrs Teresa O’Keeffe’s Memories (recorded December 1988)
North Hampshire’s Natural History
Such is Dr Peter Brough’s expertise as a botanist and entomologist, that it often comes as a considerable surprise to the naturalist outside of the Tadley area, layman and professional alike, to learn that the Northern Conservation Officer of The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Naturalists’ Trust is, first and foremost, a local GP.
It was a large and appreciative audience that welcomed him to its regular monthly meeting in October when he illustrated, by words and slides, the diminished splendour of Hampshire’s natural heritage and the work being done by the Trust to conserve the little that is left.
Up until the 1950’s Hampshire had the richest and most diverse flora and fauna of any county in England. In the 1980’s, after thirty years of factory farming, housing and industrial development and new roads, only a remnant remains. A measure of the magnitude of what has been lost throughout the county is that in the parishes of Pamber and Tadley (a total of four thousand acres) there is over ten per cent (20 acres) of the total acreage of the old hay meadows left in Hampshire.
For those people born here from 1950 onwards and for those who have settled here since, there is not even the memory of seeing in profusion the many species of orchid that once graced the meadows of Tadley and Pamber, now reduced in some cases to single figures. Gone too are the snakes-head fritillary and the natterjack toad, a member of the species from which, surprisingly and amusingly, Tadley derives its name.
How many people can still remember the time when a blaze of yellow gorse stretched uninterrupted from Padworth and Silchester Commons, across Pamber Common to the commons of Tadley and Baughurst and Brimpton and on to Crookham, Greenham, Newtown and Wash Commons to the south of Newbury?
As the area of this heathland reduces, so does the former peace, seclusion and emptiness so crucial to species at risk. The red-backed shrike was one of the first of the birds to disappear in the 1950’s. Increasing disturbance from people, dogs and motorcycles is putting many other species at risk, such as the nightjar and stonechats which are just hanging on. The natural history of a district is complementary to, not separate from, its local history. Time is running out for many local species; they need help from all of us, not just from the Trust.
Page updated: Saturday 8 November 2014; review date: 1 January 2015.