Winifred Lamb nee Cox

Notes from a chat with

WINIFRED LAMB (nee Cox) born 1908.

My father worked on the railway at Birmingham but he got fed up with the town and came back on the country to Ullenhall in 1911 or 1913.

We lived in the cottage opposite the war memorial, but of course the war memorial wasn’t there at that time. My father went in the Army in the First World War but came home when he was wounded. My younger sister, Marjorie, was born after the war. All the village belonged to Barrells as did our cottage so we rented it from the Barrells Estate paying rent on 25th March.

Mr and Mrs Newton lived at Barrells Hall and they had two sons and a daughter. Mrs Newton was very much a lady and, I don’t want to be rude, but a bit posh/snooty. They would have a Christmas Party for the school kids. We had to take our own plate and mug. We would go with them in our hands and the party would be in the big kitchen not in the house. We had bread and jam and a scone.

Mr Barber lived in the cottage at Barrells stable yard and I was friends with his three daughters.

Barrells Hall was beautiful. There was a conservatory with flowers growing inside and in the grounds outside there were three great big private fishing pools/lakes. We weren’t allowed to go down there, he would let us go but Mrs Newton, who was a lovely looking lady, wouldn’t.

During the first world war a Belgium family lived at Westfield. Also during this time we would go up to the gravel yard to pick blackberries for jam for the army. The war memorial was erected after the war, I think Rev. Pelton had something to do with it – his son was killed in the war.

The vicar, Mr Pelton was a lovely man and the vicarage was beautiful inside. My mother was very religious and we had to go to church. My elder sister, Doris, and I sang in the choir. Choir practice was every Monday and Wednesday evening in the vestry with first Mrs Hanson playing the organ and later Mrs Bomber from Mount Pleasant Farm. My sister worked in Birmingham as a milliner at W.T. Jones High St. and Union St. so Revd. Pelton would ask Doris if he wanted anything from Birmingham.

Beattie and Ivy Ashton kept the Coffee House, they came from Birmingham and later went back there to Small Heath. I used to visit them. It was behind the Coffee House where my brother Ernest got stung by wasps or bees. Someone threw a stone in the nest and they stung Ernest all over. He was only 8 and was in and out of hospital for 3 years. It took the use of his legs and he couldn’t walk so he had to have a bed in our front room. All the folks were very good to him and Dr Nelson from Henley would come and pick Ernest up when he was doing his rounds. People would also bring him bantoms and hens which I ended up looking after.

I used to fetch the milk for my Mum from Ralph Franklin at the Perry Mill. He drove a horse and trap. The Perry Mill is at the top of Watery Lane and when I was young it was watery – you couldn’t walk up it. His sister lived opposite (Mrs Morgan). She had an old (?) machine on the market and I always remember that it slipped and cut all her tummy.

All the men had an allotment in the field that you go up the steps to. Mrs Clayton had a cottage behind the pub where she sold paraffin and mended things and Mr Loach had a fish and chip shop in the cottage opposite the pub. Nick Walters lived in a cottage and kept two cows in the back kitchen. I would go to churn the milk for butter at Friend’s farm whose son married Miss Squires who was from the south of England.

Chatterleys were the bakers who lived in a cottage belonging to Barrells and the kid fell out of the window. They later moved to Henley. Mr and Mrs Tatnall had a shop and cafe. She was a bit miserable. There was a brick wall round it, no back door and soft water in the cellar. Behind this cottage, where St Marks Close is now, was Johnny Walker’s orchard which was full of apples. Billy Walker kept his fowl up there. Johnny Walker kept the Spur and was a nice man with a big moustache.

I started school when I was three. Children would walk to school from as far as Morton Bagot, Oldberrow and Deans Green, and it was packed. The school was cold with a fire in the far corner and we wrote on slates.

The teachers, Miss Crookes and Miss Albrighton, both lived in the School House and I suppose were a couple of old maids. They were lovely, Miss Crookes was very strict but she was nice. I was Head girl and I still have the silver thimble that she gave me when I left.

There were some very poor kids who were sent to school without any dinner. The boys cloakroom was first when you went in and the boys had to put their lunches there. The poor folks, when no one was looking, would go in and pinch the food. They would have no hot drink all day but sometimes Miss Crookes would make cocoa at lunchtime.

Miss Crookes and Miss Albrighton did used to work us but sometimes they would say “Would you like half an hour out?”, and we would ask what we were going to get and they let us go into the kitchen of the School House to wash up the crocks and dust the bedrooms.

Sometimes I used to get into mischief. Miss Crookes had a bell that pulled. It was only halfpenny for a ball of string so we bought some and tied it onto her bell. In those days there weren’t so many cars so we took the string through the gate, across the road and over the stile of Johnny Walker’s orchard which was opposite the school house. We climbed over the stile and pulled the string. Miss Crookes came out to look but couldn’t find anybody. After 5 minutes we pulled it again. Eventually she came out with a carving knife and cut the string. The next day at school she found out that it was us, some of the other kids knew but I don’t know if they told her, and we had to do some extra writing. Another thing that the kids used to do was tie a bit of cotton on top of the window ledge and keep rapping the window with it.

When I first left school there was no work anywhere so Miss Squires got me to go to Arden House in Henley where the wealthy folks sent their boys. I was only about 15 and it was very hard work. I would get up at 6.30 and carry the hot water in a great big can to fill the basins for the boys to have a wash. It was hard to do because I was only a little whippet. I had to ring the bell for them to get up and then lay out the 100 or more breakfasts for the boys. Everything had to be carefully measured out – tea, toast, butter. Some boys, whose parents had paid extra, would have cream on their porridge whilst the others had milk. Some of the boys, when they came from home, were only 6 or 7 and if there was something they liked they would pull my frock and say “Winifred do you think you can get us a bit more of that?”, which I daren’t do because everything was rationed and we weren’t meant to speak to the boys. The boys were well fed though and on the Annual day, when the parents came, they had some smashing food such as strawberries and cream. We weren’t as well fed, sometimes we would have no breakfast because the kitchen maids who were supposed to get up and cook it didn’t bother because they were more interested in the chaps outside. It was a great big place with corridors and I wasn’t allowed to sing or whistle, and I loved to whistle – the matron wasn’t nice at all. Working there made me very ill and I was glad to leave.

I left Ullenhall in 1931 but would return to visit my mother who lived in Church Hill. I would walk from Studley pushing my son. My mother looked after the school for 30 years. She was a fabulous cook and made all the cakes for the school parties. During the war people had clothing coupons and some folks would bring their clothes to my mother and she would turn the collars for them.

April 1999.