I moved to Binfield with my parents Rose and Cyril Richardson and my brother Brian in 1946. We lived in Rose Hill at a house called “Athlone”. It isn’t there any more, it was demolished and six houses built on the site.
At the age of 30 I finally left Binfield but the memories of growing up there have never left me, nor the love of the countryside which living there instilled in me. I have listed just a few of the people that lived and co-existed in the village during my time there, I could still list many more tales, some good, some very sad, if anyone is interested.
POP RAPLEY was a small round man who lived in Red Rose Hill opposite the White Horse pub. He was always dressed in corduroy trousers, highly polished leather gaiters and brown boots. I think he earned a living by hedging and ditching and gardening jobs. One day, roughly 1949, Bill (Blocker) Sergeant, who lived next door to my family, discovered that his chickens were disappearing one by one. It wasn’t believed to be a fox so Pop was summoned and diagnosed the problem as the work of a badger. They traced the old badger to the drains that ran down the length of Rose Hill. So with some hard pushing they rodded out the drains from Blocker’s house to ours and after lifting the manhole cover outside our gates, Pop was stood there with his twelve bore shotgun and duly dispatched the badger. Imagine that happening today!
PACKY MONDAY was the village cobbler; his shop was on the corner of the Standard crossroads. It was later an estate agents office. The bus stop for Reading and Wokingham was just around the corner and was just a simple concrete post without a shelter. On rainy days it wasn’t unusual to find the entire bus queue crammed into Packy’s shop, steaming nicely, until you could hear the no. 2 bus grinding its way up Forest Road, past Kilby Stores and when it got to the Royal Standard the queue would de-camp from Packy’s shop and onto the bus.
MR & MRS PITHER lived in a small white bungalow directly opposite our house in Rose Hill. When we moved from London I was four years old, our house only had gaslights and no electricity although my father had it connected soon after we arrived.
The Pithers, however, had neither gas nor electric and relied on oil lamps and a wood stove for heat and cooking. About two years after our arrival I was sat on a seat with Mr Pither in his garden outside his shed which was completely covered in ivy. Suddenly, he keeled over and fell off the seat, I ran to fetch my father who sprinted up to the Royal Standard to phone for the doctor and to get some brandy. Sadly, by the time he returned Mr Pither had passed away.
BILL HUBBARD was the village blacksmith; his forge was on Forest Road. As a child I used to watch him shoeing the horses and making steel implements with amazement. He wasn’t a particularly big man, but was obviously very strong. I think he emigrated to Canada.
HAPPY DAY At the top of Rose Hill there was a coal merchants and on the other side of the road on the corner of Emmetts Nest was their yard. Happy Day worked there and had a pet goose, which followed him everywhere. It wasn’t unusual to see the traffic – such as it was in those days – stop, so that Happy and his goose could cross the road.
THE MISSES WOODS were a strange pair looking back. They were sisters and lived in a house in Terrace Road next door to Timms Garage. On one occasion they showed my around their house. It was full of artefacts, mainly African, for I believe their father was a missionary. I think their names were Freda and Vera, both had short hair, wore very masculine clothes and rode around on big sturdy bicycles.
They both taught Sunday school, which I was forced to attend and also ran the village library. When I was in my late teens I left home and went to live in a pub, The Falcon at Woodley. After a few years I returned to Binfield to live in a small rented cottage in Terrace Road, practically next door to the Victoria Arms. I had brought with me the lady who years later was to become my first wife and her son who was about 4 years old. I must stress that we were not married at this time. However, the lady concerned was an avid reader, in fact she devoured books. She endeavoured to join the lending library ran by the Misses Woods only to be refused because they didn’t consider her a suitable person. Funny old thing, religion!
FISH DISASTER In 1952 my family decided to go to Lynton, North Devon for a holiday. I was ten at the time. Apart from the fact we arrived there a week after the Lynmouth disaster, when we returned home we discovered that the stream that runs from Bracknell through Binfield Manor to Westley Mill and beyond had been poisoned by some chemical discharge from a factory in Bracknell. I have never seen so many dead fish in all my life, everything was dead or dying, it was heartbreaking. Considering all us kids had learnt to fish and swim in this water it was the end to all this for a future generation. It only left the brick works or Warfield Manor lake which was out of bounds really to fish in. I can’t remember the stream ever being re-stocked.
NORMAN MUNDAY was the village barber; his shop was really the front room of his mother’s house opposite Timms garage in Terrace Road. There was only one barber chair when I was a boy but he graduated to two later on! The problem was Norman had learnt his barbering skills in the navy so when it came to styling he had no idea! Consequently, after about the age of 12 you tended to go into Bracknell or Wokingham for a haircut!
I remember it wasn’t unusual to be sat in the chair and his mother would come through with a cup of tea and he would stop cutting and gaze out of the window at whatever was happening outside.
Norman was also the scoutmaster and he married Bertha who was the Arkala for the Brownies. They went to live in a house near the Victoria Arms in Terrace Road. Bertha had a little girl who sadly died of leukaemia. I later heard that Norman had died in tragic circumstances too. A real shame, he was a good bloke.
P.C. BOB HOPE was a true village copper! He lived in the police house with his family. You had the impression that he knew exactly what was going on, but all you ever got was a warning! I remember he always varied his nightly patrols so that you never knew when he’d turn up.
On one occasion, a friend of mine, Ken Tugwell and myself had fallen out with Mr Price the butcher who ran a small youth club. Outside Mr Price’s shop was a bubble gum machine on a stand. Ken and I thought it would be a good idea to put said machine in the pond in the field opposite with just the perspex top full of bubble gum showing. This we did and the following night PC Hope appeared, all he said to us was “I know you two b*ggers did it”. I don’t think he was too fond of Mr Price either!!
MR BURNHAM was the epitomy of the English gentleman, always immaculately dressed complete with a brown trilby hat. He lived in a beautiful house in Monks Alley. When the coronation came in 1953 not many people had television sets, but Mr Burnham did, so all the Scouts, Cubs, Guides and Brownies, all in uniform, marched round to Mr Burnham’s house to watch the coronation on his small black and white television. His wife, who was a very graceful lady, served us with cakes and lemonade. We though this was marvellous.
Later in his life and mine he moved to a bungalow nearly opposite to my cottage in Terrace Road. Although my partner and I were unmarried and “living in sin” at the time, whenever he met her in the street he would always raise his hat and say “Good morning, Mrs Richardson”, a true gentleman.
MISS BROOKS & JOE BRANT Miss Brooks was a district councillor and lived in a beautiful house next to the gates of Binfield Park, practically opposite the end of York Road. I remember she drove the first Volvo sports car as used in the early Bond films. She was a dedicated councillor and fought hard for any worthy cause.
Joe Brant was also a councillor, but for a district in Bracknell. He was a man after my own heart. When they were building Bracknell New Town, Bracknell Development Corporation was housed in Farley Hall a large building on the Wokingham Road opposite the junction of Popeswood Road and Blue Mountain. Joe Brant had received complaints from his constituents about the mud on the roads, when nothing was done about it, he gathered up a bucket of mud, went to Farley Hall and tipped the bucket of mud all over the beautiful oak floor in the foyer. He said, if his people had to put up with it so should the Development Officers!
The reason I mention both of these people is that next to my cottage in Terrace Road was a Wavy Line Store owned by my landlady. A developer wanted to buy the store, which was empty at the time, and also my house. In order to get me out they had to prove that the house wasn’t fit for habitation. Although it didn’t have a bathroom, I had done a lot of work to it and it was a very cosy home. Both Miss Brooks and Joe Brant visited and promised that they would fight my case. Miss Brooks said at this stage I was not to worry as she could get me a council house in York Road. At the next Easthampstead District Council meeting they both spoke in my favour and the council refused a demolition order. However, the Developer approached me and offered me £1250 to vacate the house. After considering my position should I jump the housing queue, or move on? I chose to take the money and move on. The whole site was demolished and I think then four or six houses built there.
I bought a house in Aylesbury, Bucks where I lived for the next 30 years. I left England in 2005 and moved to the South of France where I lived for 3 years, sold up, moved on and now live in Corfu, Greece, a beautiful island.
Looking back I think my generation had the best of England, sure, it was hard at times and without such luxuries as double-glazing and central heating, but we had a degree of freedom that no future generation will experience. I for one will always be grateful for my childhood spent in Binfield.
A memory shared byon Nov 3rd, 2008.
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