By Tim Heymann
My parents bought ‘The Gomms’ in 1924 for £1,300. I was born in the house in 1926 and christened in Bramdean Church. My elder sister, Hazel, and I were brought up there until 1940 when both my parents joined up’ (although my father was over fifty at the time).
The house was let during the war to Mrs Cook, a refugee from the Portsmouth bombings. Before we left we had as lodgers teachers from Portsmouth Grammar School – which had been evacuated to Hinton House. I spent the wartime school holidays at the Old Rectory, the house which Major Victor Tahourdin and his wife Vera had also bought in 1924. Their son Peter was my best friend. His elder sister Elizabeth, has written about the 1940’s air battles. I remember bicycling up to Wolfhanger to see tattered clothes (and head, I believe as I remember!) of the pilot of a downed Messerschmitt fighter. Another friend was Elizabeth (now Strong) daughter of Ernest and ‘Guite’ Liversidge of the Malthouse who still lives in the village. Ernest was killed in 1950 in a motorcycle accident on the A272 near Privett. The Gomms was sold in August 1945 to a Colonel Moseley. I remember being on leave there to help with the move at exactly the time of the Hiroshima A-bomb. I don’t recall how much was paid.
There was very little traffic on the A272 in the ‘thirties. Being confined to an invalid carriage for a year or two I could recognise all the makes of the many different motor-bikes by their sound, as I could the haulage contractors’ lorries -James Duke from Bishops Waltham, C & F Freeman from Cheriton, SCATS and of course, the old Leyland Hants & Dorset bus on the Petersfield/Winchester route.
Later Peter and I used to sit on the wall by the road, noting down all makes of the spasmodic vehicles and buying iced lollies (1d) from the Walls ‘Stop Me and Buy One’ which pedalled through the village in the summer. We also talked to the many tramps who came by. They marked the gateposts with secret chalk-signs for their colleagues to read. It was said that the one on our gate indicated that the house was good for a meal and a tip, but they had also to do casual work!
The two shops were well patronised with our pocket money. Mrs Pat Read on the main road (Manchester House) and Mr Cammell on Wood Lane. Mrs Bill Read lived at the back of Mrs Pafs house and there was also a SCATS milk-churn depot there. Mr Dumper had the farm close to the village up Wood Lane. He used to deliver milk in his old motorbike and sidecar. The farm was very dilapidated in the 1930’s depression.
During the war Peter and I worked in the summer holidays for Tony Dowling of Mariners Farm helping with the harvest. The ‘old’ Daily Express correspondent, Bruce Blunt, lived up there too. He enjoyed patronising The Fox and his car regularly ran out of petrol on the way home. Tony’s father lived at Manor Farm. We used to sail our model boats on his duck pond.
Double summer time was in force during the war, so we could not start harvest until lOam. at the earliest, but went on to 9pm. I remember how hard the work was pitching the sheaves up on to the last cart, drawn by a pair of carthorses. We also worked at Woodlands Farm for Major Talbot-Ponsonby. On Saturdays we biked into Winchester – a vehicle every ten minutes or so, unless an army convoy was travelling – had lunch for 1/6d at the British Restaurant in Jewry Street and went to the cinema.
‘Old’ Mrs Dutton (Ralph’s mother) lived at the Dower House (now Bramdean Manor) near the church. Hazel remembers having tea there. I recall the fireworks display held there for the village to celebrate King George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935 – the same year ‘old’ Mr Dutton died. Miss Legge lived in Little Dean next to Bramdean House. She was a relative of the Duttons.
Owen Griffin ran the garage. Later David Charlwood was the owner. He worked during the war in the secret Naval Signals Establishment at Haslemere. The cheapest petrol was 111/2 d per gallon. At one stage there was a huge ‘R.O.P.’ (Russian petrol) advertising hoarding in the garden of the cottage the other side of Wood Lane, but it had to be removed.
My mother was one of the Founder Members of the Bramdean W.I. She also acted with the ‘Meonwaras’ amateur dramatic company, which toured Hampshire (and further afield) ‘big houses’ and village halls. My father played cricket for Bramdean on the ground at the top end of the field called ‘Currants’ between The Gomms and Woodcote Manor.
The carpenter, Mr Budd, lived in Fox Lane (Old Curates Lodgings) where he had his workshop and gave carpentry lessons. I remember well the difficulties of mortice and tenon joints.
Mrs ‘Jinny’ Hill, who lived in the cottage (now demolished) next to Mead Cottage, was our cook for many years and her husband ‘Sailor’ our gardener. As a widow she lived in Cheriton. Mrs ‘Annie’ Hawkins I just remember, dressed all in black and with a bonnet. She was about eighty-five in the early ‘thirties. It was said that her grandfather was at the Battle of Waterloo – perfectly possible!