Gillian Rex

Ullenhall, 1966-1971

I moved to Ullenhall in 1966, on completion of the building of the 4 bungalows in a field between the Village Hall and Park Farm. We bought the bungalow farthest from the Hall, and spent 5 happy years there. We called it “Oulton”, as we used to spend happy times on the Norfolk Broads and racing at Oulton Park in Cheshire. I understand the name was added to at a later date. The pair to ours was bought by the Tobin family. He worked at Birmingham University. On the birth of their third child, 1967/8, they moved away as they needed more space. The neighbours were then Mr.Mrs. Cyril White, who later moved to the Feckenham/Astwood Bank area.

The other pair next to the Hall were purchased by Mr.Mrs. George Cummings, who moved to Moseley around 1971 and with whom I am still in touch. The pair to them was occupied by Mr.Mrs. J.Powell. Mabs Powell had health problems and died some years later. The Cummings kept in touch with Jim.

At the time we moved in, the daily bus service to Birmingham had only just been taken off but there were several buses per week to Redditch, mainly for shoppers. It always seemed a shame there was no public transport to Henley where most people needed to go. The Redditch bus ceased on the early seventies, I believe.

There were 3 shops in Ullenhall in 1966. One at the top of the village on the same side as the pub, – a paper shop with general stores/some toys, run by Mr.Mrs. Iles? – the Post Office in the cottages below the pub, run by Miss Sparrow and the General Grocers cum Off Licence at the fork in the road, run by Rowland Jones. He was a “character”, whom we had known for many years, as my husband had lived in Tanworth in Arden in the fifties, meeting Rowly at the Tanworth Players. He retired and sold the business about the time we moved in 1971. I recently found my old grocery book, when we moved. You made a list and left it at the shop, and the groceries were delivered to your home, later in the week. My list seemed to be about £2-£3 per week, much the same each time as unlike the Supermarkets, you didn’t get tempted by seeing offers or bargains, unless there was anything he recommended when you left the book. When Miss Sparrow retired, having stayed well after retiring age, no-one came forward to take on the Post office and it became a private house around 1971.

I believe there was also a visiting van, selling meat and veg. We had our meat delivered by an old established butcher in Henley called Masons. After generations, they gave up when the new EEC regulations were implemented.

There was also a flourishing garage business opposite the “Wicked Spur” as it was known, for repairs and petrol. I think petrol was about 5 shillings a gallon then. Next to that the village school. My children were born 1967/70 so were too young to attend. As I remember, there were only two classes, covering ages 5-11. The children then went to Henley. There was a Montessori Nursery school run in the Village Hall, some mornings, for under fives, which I did use.

At that time the pub, the Winged Spur, was kept by Richard (?). Dick was another “character”, full of mischief. I well recall him arriving at our home, early one evening dressed in full monks’ brown robes, saying he’d come to show us his filthy habits! I have no idea what fancy dress event was happening – or not. He was a very entertaining landlord but moved away from the village before we did, going to Wootton Wawen, Pennyford lane area.

The Village Hall was the centre for most events really, including the W.I., which flourished with a wide age span. Amongst other many varied things they did some Evening classes and I learned to crochet there. After so many years it is hard to recall names but Mary Price? and Jill Bazley, who lived opposite me, spring to mind. One close friend was Cheryl Tomlin who lived in the first cottage, in the row before the garage. She delivered my milk before having a family, Rachel and Jo.

One disaster at the Hall was letting it for a pop band to use for practice. They deafened the area and did not last long. I think one member lived up by the Alcester Road but can’t recall which well known group it was.

Another event that caused a lot of argument, was the use of the Hall for a Bamix food mixer promotion. Every house in the village received a numbered invitation card, through the door. A raffle was to be held at the end of the cookery demonstration, with the main prize to be a food mixer. After a long demo, the draw took place and it was announced that “unfortunately the person with the winning ticket had failed to come to the promotion, so no mixer would be given away”. There was some uproar and sales dropped away, and the Hall emptied rapidly.

The church was also a centre for many in the village. I had both my children christened there but we were not regular church goers. The Vicar lived higher up from the school in a large house with his family of several children.

Near the church, going towards the Studley Road was an early Pick Your Own Fruit garden.

Studley Agricultural College was also local for us and a very interesting and historic place to visit. If I remember it was about the only women’s college for agric/market garden studies and I believe a book was written about it after it closed. Possibly with WI connections in the publication of it.

It was a quiet village, everyone more or less knew everyone else, at least by sight, but even then a large number used it as a dormitory for working in Birmingham, ourselves included at first.

It is so long since I visited Ullenhall, that I cannot comment on Housing. Nothing much new was added in those 5 years but I expect that has changed and the 2 Council Estates will have been sold off.

Gillian D. Rex