(99) 'Hullmead, The Arrival'

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(99) 'Hullmead, The Arrival'

Ken
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6R5NwyS8I8U

During the early years of British cinema it became traditional before the main film to watch a newsreel of actual events.  The main supplier of such films was, 'Pathe News,' and I recall with great affection the crow of the, 'Pathe Cockerel,' that proceeded each of the newsreels.  These ten minute films began long before the age of television and, from 1910 onwards, were a welcome relief from the newspapers.  By the 1930's, 'British Pathe,' was offering more than just news clips and people could watch other gems whilst awaiting the big movie, Dog shows, Sporting events, Showbiz news, etc. Today's story begins with a film they made in 1938 and it features a glimpse of what two special villages looked like in the pre-war years.

Of course the village that interests me is obvious and, if you click on the above link, you will see a short film that includes Shamley Green, as it was one year before the Second World War began.  It was this sight that young Len and Bob Tuffs saw whenever they left their Longacre Cottage home and made the ten minute walk up Hullbrook Lane.  If they stopped in front of that triangular village green at the point where the lane divides left and right, they would have seen what the Pathe film cameraman  also saw.  Immediately to the left was Hull Cottage, aka Ivy Cottage, where Ernie Hill once lived.  Continuing up the road to the left they would have passed others homes and one, Easteds Cottage, was where a young couple called Ted and Eve Branson would one day raise their family, including their son, Richard..  Then they would have passed, Avenell's, in those days the village Post Office as well as a sweet, newspaper, tobacconist and ice cream shop.  Next there'd be, Waverley, a dorma bungalow whose roof tiles needed constant repair, from the cricket balls that thundered onto it during the weekend matches. Passing the entrance to, Sweetwater Lane, they would have come to the large and impressive house owned by the Foot family.  Then, having passed the new and mysterious red public telephone box, they'd be outside the Congregational Chapel.  This was a place of worship where many of the village children attended Sunday school and it was run by Mr and Mrs Scwart and their daughter Vera.

Crossing the main road carefully, the four and a half year old Bob, probably held the hand of his big brother Len, who was one year older.  The house in front of them was called, Shamley House, and was one where, in years to come, I would have a carol singing treat.  Walking up the road towards the bus shelter, they'd pass the six ancient Red Lion Cottages and then the Red Lion itself, the marvellous pub where Len and Bobs father could often be seen.  Glancing to the left they'd have seen the village forge, where the blacksmith worked, and next to it the house where he lived with his wife and two children, Mary and Robin, aka Pip.  Crossing the main road again, they'd be at the, Forest Stores, and the village green was now on their right.  Walking down the road they'd soon come to the large house everyone called, Lockets, named after the wonderful old lady who lived there.  Then they'd pass the village hall and the short road that led to an almost hidden home called, The Coach House.  The brothers were then in front of the, Jubilee Trees, a group of tall Lime trees that were planted in 1887, in honour of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.  Now they were back where they'd started, their short, triangular, walk around the green was over. They'd seen everything the Pathe film had shown and they were again outside Ernie Hills home, Hull Cottage.

The way I described this Shamley Green of 1938 is undeniably true.  The proof is immortalised in the Pathe News film you have just seen.  What I now write of cannot be proven for everyone I asked had a different answer to this question.  "What would the young brothers have seen if they'd turned away from Ernie Hills home and looked in the opposite direction?"  Everyone agreed that there was an area of very rough overgrown meadowland, but what was it used for and what was it called?  I've been told it was definitely a chicken farm, but people who lived nearby say that's untrue. They never saw a single chicken, let alone heard a single cluck. My sister Violet thought there was a small holding of some sort, while others have said it was a fruit orchard. Unfortunately, those who knew the answers have all passed away.  So lets settle on what we do know and give a name to this mysterious space of land that my brothers gazed upon. We know it was situated to the left of Hullbrook Lane, and we know this rough, overgrown meadowland stretched down the lane until it reached the home of Mr and Mrs Bixley.  So, for the duration of this story, I'll call the empty space between the Bixley's house and the Jubilee trees, Hullbrook Meadow!

In those wartime years, children like Bob and Len often played in Hullbrook Meadow. Bob tells me he remembers a big old barn being there and a selection of broken down sheds.  There is a favourite Tuffs family story that tells of an event that occurred when Bob was six years old and Len a year older.  The two of them and a friend called Tony Green, found some fishing rods locked up in one of the sheds.  The boys decided to break in and borrow the rods so they could go fishing.  However, when they attempted to return the rods they found, to their horror, that the village policeman awaited them. Len and Bob were too young to go to court but their friend was old enough and the poor lad was found guilty.  So a nine year old child, described by my sister Violet as a nice boy, was humiliated and painfully birched.  Not many years later a law banning this cruel form of corporal punishment was passed, but not soon enough to save poor Tony.  

Another interesting fact came to life while writing this story and that came from Jean Jones, nee Bushell. Jean is the older sister of my friend, Chris Bushel, and I'd asked him to find out what she knew about the chicken farm.  As a child she'd lived next door to the Bixleys and I felt certain she'd have some information for me but she had none. She said she'd no recollection at all of chickens but she did remember the time when all the German prisoners of war arrived to clear the area I'd labelled Hullbrook Meadow. "WOW!" How did that little gem of village history escape my attention? Jean said the prisoners had been brought in to clear up the whole area and were there for weeks.  I immediately phoned my brother Bob and asked him if he'd known this and his answer stunned me.  He said he'd often watched them as they cleared the land and he'd sometimes spoken to them.  He informed me that there were German and Italian prisoners and they'd sometimes argue.  One occasion he recalled involved a German who was shouting angrily at an Italian prisoner. "He very bad man," the German repeatedly told the young Bob.  Then, to Bob's amazement, he drew a knife and held it to the Italians throat.  What the authorities were thinking of when they allowed knife wielding prisoners near small children baffles me.  Mind you, I'm equally baffled as to why it took Jean Bushell to inform this amateur family historian of this intriguing set of war time events!

Lets travel back in time to the junction of the two roads outside Ernie Hills house, this time there is no Pathe News camera, for the year is now 1948.  The two brothers standing there are ten years older and, although the rest of the buildings around the village green have not changed from that pre war year, the site they gaze upon is no longer a wilderness of rough meadowland.  'Hullbrook Meadow,' is no more, for before them lies the twenty brand new dwellings that will be known as, 'HULLMEAD!'  Bob and Len walk a few yards up the newly made road and then, turn right down a narrow path.  They pass No.17, where the Aylett family will soon live and then, No.18, which will become home to the McEntee's. Then they've arrived and they walk up the path that leads to their back door and the two join the rest of their large brood. The Tuffs family are back in Shamley Green and ten of them will live in the three bedroomed house known as No.19 Hullmead.  Dad, Mum, Wally, Violet, Len, Bob, Dot, Phyl, Gordon and Ken have come home!              
Ken
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Re: (99) 'Hullmead, The Arrival'

Ken
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This post was updated on .
This is a story of my Hullmead years.  It is the first of a series that will tell of the twenty two years I spent there.  It starts at a time when strangers became friends on one of the first of the many, post war, council estates that were built all over Britain.