“Memories of Chipstead” is a wonderful account of rural life in Chipstead between 1901 and 1920, including those gentle, bucolic days before the First World War. They make a valuable contribution to Chipstead’s folklore. They are written by Fred Little, who lived his early life in Bashford Cottage, Southerns Lane, Mugswell, and later in Starrock Lane, Chipstead. Fred was born in 1898.
Fred was a gardener, simple and unsophisticated, but nonetheless a man who relished the Chipstead of his youth which he’d seen disappear as the twentieth century progressed. The Memories reflect both that naïveté and that relish: the words are written down from the heart and as the memories flood back, so don’t expect a polished style. It should also be remembered that these are Fred’s memories, and not an official history! The incident with the suffragettes, for instance, isn’t quite accurate. They didn’t deliberately try to set fire to the church; they only planted a smoke bomb! Fred’s words to speak for themselves.
“Memories of Chipstead” was written in 1969.
Fred served in the Royal Artillery in The First World War. He refers in Memories to his ‘battery diary’, but whether this was a personal memoir or an official document is unclear. But if it is personal, and sadly – particularly as we are currently commemorating the centenary of that momentous conflict – it doesn’t survive. However, the second essay, The Pilgrimage, tells of his return to Arras in 1961.
Fred died in 1977.
Rupert Courtenay-Evans 2014
Memories of Chipstead 1901-1920
By Walter Frederick Little
An Old Gardener’s Prayer
Lord God of gardens, if you please,
Allow old Reuben Pace his ease;
The lawns are swept, the apples stored
New beds are made, but one, O Lord
He wishes for himself to keep
And lie there in unbroken sleep.
For ninety years, he’s risen early
To tend the things he loved so dearly
Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter; Never
Escaped a hand and eye so clever
With plants there in the potting shed,
But now he wants to lie abed.
“I’m tired” he said “ and plants keep growing,
My back aches awful, my poor old knees
Give way beneath me, so Lord, please
Allow old Reuben Pace to sleep,
Blind to the weeds that o’er him creep.”
From 1901, I lived in a remote part of Chipstead; it was Bashford Cottage, Southerns Lane, bordering that little village of Mugswell. Although it is some years back, I can remember it all as a most peaceful little spot, and as a child, to me it seemed so very interesting to explore.
There was a High Street in Mugswell with one little general shop where one could buy almost anything – including coal. The shopkeeper was a very old-fashioned lady; she was a Miss Jane Richbell.
As most of the old cottagers used to keep pigs, it was a common sight, just before Christmas, to see freshly killed pigs hanging up in the plum trees to stretch.
Then there was the Old Mill House at the end of the street, which at the time was occupied as four cottages. There was a delightful mill in the garden – round, just like a beehive. After the First World War, the Mill House was converted into a private residence.
But there were still many old-fashioned cottages around Mugswell – some had twin toilet seats. Although I was only a child, I used to have many a laugh at them!
There was a huge wood bordering the village of Mugswell, known as Beecher Copse – a beautiful place to explore for hibernating creatures. The Windmill Press now stands on that spot. It was built just after World War One. My battery diary was printed at the press.
Quite near is The Monks Well Inn, which has recently been converted from a teahouse, but up until the First War years, this inn was inhabited as four cottages by three families of Beadles, and another neighbour by the name of Knight.
Then there was another residence, quite near, known as the Little Well House. It has now been take over as kennels for the hunt. I had many a chat with Mr Wilde, who owned The Well Inn Tearooms. A peaceful little quarter of Chipstead.
The hedgerow, the whole length of Chipstead Lane, was massed with some hundreds of those little birds called Yellowhammers.
There is Southerns farm very close. I have beautiful memories of this farm. Right from the beginning of this century (20th century) there was a huge pit near the farm, about eight feet deep, where all the dead animals of the district were thrown in – horses, cows, sheep and anything that had died. It was a ghastly sight, and the stench from this great mortuary passed description – I always referred to it as the Great Plague of London! Only a few years ago there was still evidence of it.
Sunday was a great day when the local men used to form a colony of gamblers near Parsons Green. I used to watch them, and a greengrocer from Croydon used to come and replenish them with fruit and nuts. He also carried a tub of winkles. It must have been worth while to bring a horse and cart from Croydon. Distance was no object in those days.
Another man used to pull a barrel organ from Croydon and up Star Hill (in Star Lane) to play the organ by the children’s school for a few coppers.
About 1904, a man named Mark Smith, who lived in the Iron House near the Old Rectory, brought up four children in that little iron coop as everyone sees it. Mark Smith was a very well known figure in Chipstead just after the turn of the century. He was the sexton of Chipstead church (St. Margaret’s) and did all the grave digging himself. Besides this, he kept the grass in the cemetery so beautiful, and then he was at church for all the services. It was a two mile walk for him to attend church services, but he never failed. Before 1905, he could be seen grazing a cow by the roadside, and sometimes he fed the cow on Parsons Green. Then, the following year, his eldest daughter named Nell, used to graze another young cow very similar – and just after the First World War he had raised quite a little farm; he had 25 milking cows, a horse and a donkey. His little donkey was a great help to Mark Smith, for when he was advancing in years, he used to drive his donkey to his work at the church. Mark was devoted to our church for many years.
There were quite a few donkeys in Chipstead up to the outbreak of the First World War. Ronald Hawkins started the first local coal delivery to Chipstead with a donkey cart in 1919. I had seen him many times leaving Chipstead station with four sacks of coal in the donkey cart.
Another donkey used to be hired by the Ross family who lived in the big house at Starrocks (Starrock Court in Starrock Lane). The donkey hired was from the Chipstead rectory. The Ross family were a Scots family, and very much respected. During the First World War they lost three sons, a very severe blow to the family, especially Mrs Ross, who soon after had a little verse printed in a well-known seedsman’s catalogue. The words were very touching; her little verse was:
“I lost my three sons in the war,
Then I watered and watered my garden with tears.
At last, I found life worth living in my beautiful garden.”
In the early years of the century, Chipstead and Mugswell were not over-populated, but there was plenty of horse transport which came from afar. A large brewery dray used to come to the village from Wallington, with a large buff-coloured horse, and the driver was typical of the old-fashioned people with his moustache and sideburns. He used to deliver to the old labourers in the fields a two gallon stone bottle of beer with a tap. The old women cottagers used to be on the lookout for him to get a basin of yeast.
Dr Walters came to us from Reigate by horseback or pony and cart; Mr Underwood, our grocer from Merstham, on horseback. He must have enjoyed a good canter over the fields and over the slopes of Hastings Hill. Our goods were due at Mugswell on Friday evening. More often than not, we had to wait a day, for as the horse and cart were bringing our groceries, the horse used to shy at a rabbit or something at Hoggs Cross, near Shabden, and tip the cart over. We usually saw evidence of this next morning when we went to school – broken jam-jars and packets of foodstuff broken and soaking wet.
We had many reasons to be frightened when we were kids. Around the old lanes in the evenings, we used to meet old tramps – and very rough ones! All they asked of us kids was the way to the Doss House. We did not know ourselves at our age, so we just said: “straight on”. Actually, the Doss House was where the county hospital is at Earlswood now (Royal Earlswood Hospital, closed 1997 and converted to flats.)
At our old cottage in Southerns Lane, our toilet was about ten yards down the garden, and we were surrounded by a big wood. If we kids left our visit to the toilet during darkness, we used to carry a lighted candle in our hands – and if the wind blew out the candle, there was a stampede to run back indoor. Anyway, we had to make a return journey and mother would send a fresh escort. I remember one dark night when two or three of us were at the toilet – a very quiet night – we heard a cow crashing through our garden hedge. Our little legs did move quickly!
That time, anyway, it was a lovely old cottage with commanding views of Shabden Park nestled among the trees. To the west, we had a fine view of Kingswood church. Then we used to sit on the banks by our house and admire the old steam plough working on the slopes of Eyhurst farm. In those days, Eyhurst farm had many visits from the chicken stealers. It was really lovely to watch the old steam plough working on the slopes of Eyhurst farm, and at intervals the old wooden plough could be seen.
In our garden of the old cottage, we had apples of many varieties, and plums and bullace trees. My father, Mr Little (you will read more of him later) was in his glory around here with his sport – pigeon shooting.
But in 1909, he was getting very anxious about the old cottage, which he dearly loved. He believed the old house was falling down, so the landlord put two long iron bars through the house, along the bedroom floor and bolted outside – so father told us kids to lift our feet upstairs. My father now felt more easy and happy.
He had a little hideout at the top of the garden to shoot his pigeons. Another year had elapsed, when my father made another survey of the old cottage. He felt very depressed, and told the landlord the house was still falling, and to save it, a large brick pier was built to hold it up.
In 1912 we moved to Chipstead village. We were all very sorry to leave the old house – we were all very happy there. My poor mother cried to have to leave it, and my sisters are too frightened to go near it again. I myself paid a visit to the old cottage about 1963, and found that the brick pier had split and the old cottage had gone back into its old foundation.
Vincent Green where Fred's family moved in 1912
What a story of a cottage! I have not time now to tell you of an old cottage I lived in in Mugswell. There was a fire going for two whole weeks, but we could not find it. We found it just a few hours before the old cottage was due to collapse.
Our neighbours were an elderly couple. The old gentleman was poorly in bed. His wife went up to see how he was, and she saw him moving his arms at a skylight in the ceiling. His wife asked him why, and the old gentleman said he could see the angels. So, please readers, do not believe this to be false, as I myself hope – towards the end of my writing – to explain a most extraordinary pilgrimage abroad.
And now, (Mr Little again) he used to keep two pigs at the old cottage and have them killed just before Christmas. We helped my father to deliver the pork around Chipstead village, and we kids soon found out that he had some good customers too.
We went one night to deliver some pork to Mr Shurman, who ran the blacksmith’s shop. Of course, we kids used to have to wait out in the road! Our dad was always greeted with the words “Come in, Bill!” We kids got a bit frightened when the old owls in the surrounding woods started up, some screeching and ‘hoo-hooking’, and then there was a horse and cart went rumbling by, the cart wheels with the old iron rims. So with the mixture of owls’ music and the noise from the old cart wheels, we continually chanted all together: “Come on, dad!” We were relieved when Mr Shurman said “Good night, Bill!” Anyway, dad owned up about his long stay – dandelion wine!
Another night we were delivering pork to Elmore Cottages, by the pond, to Mr Tranter. It was a cloudy night, and we guessed dad would stay a little while and have a drink with Mr Tranter as they were great friends. We kids were getting bored with waiting, and we were tired, having walked from Southern’s Farm. All of a sudden, the moon started to brighten. Looking out over the pond, we saw a woman’s body floating on the water. We kids nearly choked with fright; we all screamed and screamed. Dad hurried out, and we told him there was a woman in the pond. He had a hard job to convince us it was a dressmaker’s dummy floating on the pond! I cannot remember ever again delivering pork!
The kids of the village found plenty of amusement the whole week through. There were the old gas balloons with the basket for the crew – and did the kids get excited when they saw a balloon over their heads! The ropes used to get lower and lower and we used to think it was coming down. We were under the impression that they lowered the rope for anyone to help pull the balloon down, but by the time we had followed over two or three fields and still could not get hold of the rope, we gave up.
The former Chipstead School in High Road
Children came from all quarters on foot to Chipstead School – some from Mugswell and some from Upper Gatton and Lower Gatton being the longest distances. One could easily tell the girls who came from a farm – they would come to school with their hair gaily decorated with ‘horse ribbons’. There were some boys who came from Lower Gatton farm; they would come to school with their pockets laden with locust beans from the cattle troughs. There was one not very nice teacher, so she was always the target for the pips from the locust beans.
Mr Underwood quite often had an inspection of the cleanest shoes at the school. Of course, it was always won by the three Mills boys who lived only 25 yards from the school. But there was another well-respected family who lived at the thatched house at Priors Field. There were six lads by the name of Flack; those lads were all in the choir at church.
In those days the rifle range was in the meadow joining the school playground, surrounded by railway sleepers. The kids in the playground used to get excited when the village nurse used to hurry through to get a confinement case from the gypsies in the old chalk quarries in Chipstead, down Mark Edge Lane.
There are still quite a few chalk quarries in Chipstead, and some were worked as late as the First World War. And from that time, several stone or flint quarries were started. One particular stone quarry was started in the valley just below the old rectory near Parsons Green. The owner told me it was a valuable concern. But as far back as 1902, it was nice to watch casual labourers stone-picking on the fields for 6d a yard. (Six old pence). The council was a ready market for them. It must have been an expensive job in those days, for the stones had to be broken – flints, they were then. These flints were spread along the road to be made up, then covered with about four inches of soil, then covered with water and rolled.
The roads then got very dusty during the dry summer, and you used to see some fun after a car had passed over – the dust used to lift and form a very large cloud, and then travel in the air. It was very amusing to see one of these clouds travel high, and then settle into a field. Most of the roads through Chipstead have a foundation of flints.
We had glorious summers in those years gone by, and Mr Crocks used to bring his Scout troop to Chipstead for the summer holidays and camp in the fields near Hoggs Cross. Quite often a young priest used to camp with them, but in 1912 he was chopping wood for the Scout fire when he badly cut his foot. The wound soon after turned to blood poisoning, and that young priest died. His last wish was to be laid to rest in the church cemetery. Upon his stone is inscribed: ‘Rev Edgehill. He laid down his life for his friends.’ He is resting on the south-west side of the church.
A few years later, Chipstead church was set on fire by the suffragettes, but fortunately, shortly after, a man and his wife were cycling by and saw the fire and put it out. They had soaked the mats with some inflammable liquid and put them in the church. The lady and gentleman who extinguished the fire came from Redhill.
Chipstead church was always so beautiful, those years ago. I have a lovely sweet memory of that little church. There were two very nice gentlemen as sidesmen; it was most cheerful to see them together. They were identical; they always dressed very much alike and they always had an identical buttonhole of flowers. They were two charming gentlemen; Sir Alfred Tritton from Reeves Rest, and Mr Goad from The Lodge, Chipstead.
Just before Mr Goad resided in Chipstead, The Lodge, as it is known, was the first village smithy. The late Capt. Horne showed me a photograph of it as a smithy and since, the late Mr Peter Wood chatted to me about it. He said he knew the smithy well when he was younger, therefore this must be correct as I have seen the photo of it.
I well knew the Adams family who lived at The White Hart from 1905. A relative of theirs lived at The White Cottage, opposite Dene farm; a very nice gentleman, he often read the lesson in church.
Indeed, from the turn of the century, Chipstead village was a most pleasant and peaceful spot. During my early days in Chipstead, the rector was a Rev J Hervey, a very charming gentleman. He was just like a shepherd – every day with his flock. You could rarely find him at his own home. He travelled the whole length of the village daily, visiting the sick and needy. He would set off from the rectory with his pockets laden with bottles of Bovril for the sick. On leaving a home he would say: “I will come again.”
Rev. James Hervey
The rector’s wife, too, was a wonderful lady. She would set off in a little cart drawn by a Shetland pony with her two dogs Caffa and Rich, to take for a ride some of the aged and infirm ladies. Both the rector and his wife attended to the village needs with great love and devotion. I will always say of them “they were the glory of their time.” The whole village was grieved when Rev Hervey had to retire in middle age through ill health. They both retired to live at Felixstowe, and it was very sad when we heard of the death of Mrs Hervey a few years later. I chatted with Mr Hervey just a few years before he died at 94.
The Rev Stone took over the rectory and church, but after only a few years the Rev Stone had suddenly passed away. I can remember when the Rev Hervey gave a beautiful garden party every year, and the children were very thrilled when, as darkness came, Mr Hervey sent off some gas balloons with a lighted candle attached in a paper cradle. We saw them sailing at great heights, then after reaching a few miles, there was an explosion and a flash. I believe the strange lights seen in the sky in recent years are very similar.
It was a very warming effect for the children when the beautiful Church Army caravan travelled around the village, and quite often services were held on Parsons Green.
A few years before the First World War, the village Post Office was switched to No. 1 Shabden Cottage. There were three spinster sisters there, and they soon converted their garden shed into a place of worship. I remember some beautiful Sunday evening services being held in the old shed. They were the three Miss Simmonds.
The Old Post Office at No.1 Shabden Cottages on the corner of High Road and Elmore Road
The Peter Aubertin Hall was a beautiful little place when it was built in the very early part of the century. The children from all quarters came to the hall every Sunday morning at ten o’clock for Sunday school, and quite often, the Church Army caravan – which had travelled round during the week – used to stay on the forecourt of the hall for the weekend. A very warming sight it was with that beautiful caravan.
The late Mr Cheeseman, who once lived at ‘Elmore’, gave each and every child who attended Sunday school a new sixpence every year from the mint. He continued this for many years. Mr Cheeseman was little seen in the village, but he was very well known.
The Sunday school teachers were all very well known throughout the village, too. They were all great ladies of their time: Miss Nellie Marshal, the daughter of Lord Marshal, who is now Mrs J Rank; Miss Doris Garle, a most wonderful Christian teacher who often spent her holidays in the Holy Land; another great Scottish lady teacher was a Miss Janet Craerer, daughter of a great Scottish family. Miss Janet Craerer was the daughter of that great Scottish gardener, Head Gardener on the Shabden Estate from 1860, in the employ of the late Mr Catley. The late Mr Little was also an under-gardener there at the same time.
My father has told me of many of his exploits through his life. His chief job through the summer months was to chase the wasps away from the garden, find their homes and then destroy them. I cannot help but laugh at many of Mr Little’s exploits. He would choose a wasp in the garden at Shabden, and then follow it until he lost sight of it. He would then have to wait there until another wasp came along – and then trail that one to its nest. He said he had at times followed them from Shabden to Eyhurst!
This old Mr Little was a comedian throughout his life. At one time he had to plant out some new carnation plants, so he carefully placed a stone against the plants he wanted. Shortly after, the head gardener came by and he saw the stones by the plants. He guessed why the stones were near the plants; he just said to my father: “Pick those stones up Bill!”
I strongly believe a Milburn family resided in Shabden from the turn of the century. They gave a great firework display in front of Shabden. I remember going to these displays annually.
Chipstead Minstrel Troupe
This is a picture of the Chipstead Minstrel Troupe, formed in 1901. Their wives designed and made the costumes. They gave some grand songs at the local pubs, and at Christmas they were always welcome at the big houses in Chipstead with their music and carols. Unfortunately, after a few years it faded out. The picture was taken at the lower end of Vincent Green. In the background of the picture is an old cottage, where lived one of the great footballers of Chipstead – Jack Dulake. Adjoining this little cottage during the First World War was a searchlight battery, to spot the Zeppelins making for London. Then the little cottage was named ‘Searchlight Cottage’! Some years later, the cottage was built up to form a private residence, and now named ‘Palmer’s Cottage.’ Through this, the story went round that the great Palmer family had lived there. The Palmer who did live there during the first ten years of this century was none other than the bachelor Mr Palmer, the Choir Master at the church.
The three minstrels in the picture are Mr Little, Mr J Peckham and Jonah Ellis. Poor Jonah! In 1915 he was working as a gardener at the big house opposite Dene Farm. He was in charge of a donkey, and one morning Jonah was trying to get the donkey up in the field. The boss saw Jonah kicking the donkey from his window, and came over to Jonah with some knuckle dusters on his fingers, intending to hit Jonah for kicking the donkey. But he retracted his temper and gave Jonah a rise in his wages instead!
Near this scene is the old Dene Farm House, which at that time (in fact, about 1912) was used as two cottages. The surroundings at that time were most beautiful, with a lovely dairy a few yards from the house, but during this last ten years the beauty has been destroyed. During the early part of the last century, the water came from a well about 200 yards south of the farm. A sapling ash tree has grown at the mouth of the well. There used to be an iron railing round the well. As I write now, I think all protection against the well has disappeared.
A beautiful sight near the farm was to see, every morning about 8 o’clock, four horses in single file climbing up the winding track to The Downs – a very pretty sight to see. A very early resident at Dene Farm – at about the beginning of this century – told me that he had heard that Dick Turpin lived there in years gone by.
Stagbury, at one time, was a wonderful piece of landscape. There were some most beautiful cedar trees on the estate, and there were some beautiful large oaks – some could have weighed between 20 and 30 tons.
I had seen the cave in Old Oak Avenue when it was on the verge of a beautiful meadow. In 1912, the hounds ran a fox into the cave. I understand that now the cave entrance has been closed. The whole of Stagbury estate was a beautiful place. For many years Mr Alec Lloyd resided at Stagbury. The cottage at the junction of Lower Park road was for the coachman.
Chipstead Station in 1911 looking from Station Parade
This was Chipstead station in 1911. The footbridge was erected there after a fatal accident on the level crossing the previous Christmas Eve – a very pathetic accident. For many years the passengers all had to use the level crossing. It is now a bridle way and a nice view of the golf links. The whole of the estate now known as Lackford Road was then a huge field, and enormous long field. It was a fine sight to see the casual[ly employed] women potato picking. The white gates on the left of the station were the entrance to the goods yard.
At the same time, Court Hill was just a cinder footpath right through to Woodmansterne. Way back in 1910, almost from the waterworks right away to Mitcham, it seemed to be a great big herd farm. Anyone standing on the golf course could see a most beautiful sight, with blue herbs such as lavender, cornflowers etc. It was a magnificent sight, like looking out on the big blue sea.
My family took up residence in Lakers Rise about 36 years ago, and quite near that spot I discovered the last of the great herb farms.
In 1910 Hollymead Road had been made – and a very good road – but it was not until 1913 before they started to build any houses. It all seemed so strange to me. There were two well matured holly hedges, one on either side. They were then five feet high. The road bordered the Tucker’s farmland. I can remember seeing almost all Chipstead as landscape.
Starrocks was a nice secluded spot, and the little bungalow at the corner of Starrock Lane was the coachman’s residence; it belonged to Starrock House.
In the village of Chipstead itself in about 1906, Mr Barnard started in business -partnered by a Mr Stenning - as builders. The partnership was dissolved in 1912. Then Mr Barnard opened an ironmonger’s shop – almost opposite the General and Post Office shop. His trade was advertised as ‘Builder and Decorator’, also funerals arranged.
When the First War was ended, a Mr E Pillings opened a bank next door to Mr Barnard’s shop. The bank business faded out after only two years, but the General and Post Office shop dates back many years. The old man Phillips always looked a real Father Christmas with his long flowing pretty white beard. I was always interested in his brass scales in the shop. There were two brass bowls and he would put the goods in one bowl and the weights in the other and then lift them up together by a little brass chain. To me, it looked guess work! All over the ceiling of the shop hung pairs of boots which he got down by a long pole. There were two sons and two daughters. Only one son was married; the other son, Tom, when he was seen with girls, the boys used to laugh at him. So Tom stayed single. He was well liked and very much connected with the church.
It was not until after the First War that we had a newspaper shop in the village. Mr Hughes started a news and tobacco shop. Prior to that, a paper delivery man came from South Merstham every morning on foot. He did this for many years – he never failed. The writer used to set off on Sundays to his shop in South Merstham, and still he was most obliging. I would tie the pony up, and he would give me a haircut on Sunday mornings.
I think Dr Tudge was one of the early doctors in Chipstead. He was out on a cycle for a few years, and then had a Douglas motor cycle. Unfortunately, he died so young.
The village boys had fun when Lord Marshall was being driven down to the station in his carriage. Two or three boys would sit on the rear axle of his carriage and have a ride. The old coachman knew they were there, and sometimes we could hear his whip unfold! But they were safe rides; the whip never did reach anyone.
Chipstead Post Office in 1904
This is a picture of Chipstead Post Office in 1904. The Post Mistress was Miss Bray. Those were the days when the kids were playing in the road, and suddenly we would hear a loud blast on the siren at Cane Hill. That was a warning that a patient had escaped and made everyone very alert. A little while after, you would see the nurse, scissors dangling at his waist, hurrying on to find the patient. It made the kiddies very alert for a while.
The children in those days were more content to play in the fields and woods. It was quite a common sight in Chipstead to see so many people catching wild birds. Tickners Wood, just after the turn of the century, was the home and paradise of many nightingales. Many people used to congregate in that spot in the evenings to listen to those beautiful birds. I am afraid that now we can only say it was a wonderful sensation, but now no more.
When Lord Marshall started with a car, the boys missed their rides on the back of his carriage. Mr White from Park Farm had an early car, just a two-seater. The whole thing looked more like a box affair. It made a peculiar noise whenever it went – all one could hear was ‘Tut-Tut’. But the very early car that Mr Campbell Cooper had at the Old Rectory caused some amusement. His gardener used to drive him to Reigate station in the mornings and quite often, after it had reached the top of Reigate Hill, it was too hot to go any further. Sometimes, just before lunch, we would see the gardener pushing it home – he used to put a kiddie in the seat to steer it. The local people began to make fun of it. They said it was too far for it to Reigate – it got very tired!
In 1908 there was a car crashed out of control down White Hill. Parts of the wreckage can still be found.
Happy were the days when the Chipstead folk went to the fair in Merstham. They came from all directions – our family came from Southerns Lane. We went via Reeves Rest to Mark Edge Lane and then over Hastings Hill down into Merstham. Hastings Hill is a beautiful landmark. There was fun for everyone at the fair, including hoop-la, striking the bell with a mallet, and the highlight of the fair – water squirters. They were little tubes like toothpaste tubes but full of water. Great fun the boys had, squirting water down the girls’ necks!
The old cottages we passed in Mark Edge Lane were nestled in a dell surrounded by fruit trees. There was an elderly man who lived in one of the cottages, well known to many of the older residents in Chipstead. His name was Mark Whitaker. He was a very pleasant character, and it was always nice to meet him in the village. This must have been about 40 years ago. In the other cottage lived a family called Stepney – a much respected family in Chipstead. It is a coincidence that both families were in the building trade. Bob Stepney, being the eldest son, retained the business tradition, and eventually it was built up to be a great concern. Bob was much loved in the village and was highly respected by all who knew him. For many years he was an outstanding feature of all Chipstead; he will be sadly missed. I can remember nearly thirty years ago I saw Bob’s wife, Mrs Stepney, hurrying across the fields towards Mark Edge. She told me she had just heard that Mark’s home at Sophers was burning down, but it happened to be a false alarm.
Bob Stepney’s younger sister was a special feature. She started crying on her first day at school, and I don’t think she had cried it out until she had left school! If the teacher told her that her writing was good, and her sums were all right, tears would stream down her little face. Even when the girls asked her to join a game - more tears, more and more tears. She was promptly christened Cry-Baby Dolly. But I have just two years ago met Dolly after all these years and conversed a short while with her.
Although there were various individuals in the school, the atmosphere was very good. The schoolchildren were always aware when winter was approaching – on a cold morning the headmaster used to come into the classroom and breath out strong fumes of eucalyptus and then, a short while after, he would draw out his handkerchief and flutter some more of the stuff in the air! No child could be truthful to their mother and say: “I caught a cold at school”.
Chipstead's old blacksmith's forge on Hogscross Lane
A beautiful picture taken in 1904. When the old blacksmith retired, it was used again by the owners, the Garles family. It was later converted into a bungalow. A few years after, it was destroyed by fire. It was a handy place for the schoolboys to get their iron hoops mended, but they soon got cheeky when their hoops broke again. Then they said: “Old Shurman ain’t no good, couldn’t shoe a donkey!” Forge cottage is where the old blacksmith lived, and the forge adjoined the garden.
It was most pleasant at all times to stroll through the village. There were many noticeable people. Mr Harry Allen went through the village daily, and he was very well known. There were more pleasant people to be seen near Vincent Green. There was George Abdee who was a groom at the lodge for the late Mr Goad. It was so nice to see him sometimes when he came to the Lodge gates to have a peep along the road, and there he stood with his braces down, his coat off and his little red belt. He looked like a little jockey.
It was nice, too, to see the gardeners going to and from their work, with their knee-length blue aprons. Times were so peaceful and quiet before the First World War; there were no noisy cars to awaken the silence. I loved Chipstead very much in those early years.
There was another well-known personality in the village; he was old Mr Little. He was a bit of a humorist – but the laugh was on him one day. He went into Mr Barnard’s shop and bought some bass for tying his plants. He tucked the bass under his arm and the top of his mackintosh, lit his pipe and set off down the road to work. He had gone about 400 yards when a man confronted him and told him he was on fire! The other chap took the smouldering bass out and Mr Little said: “How did that happen? I thought my pipe was drawing nicely!”
Mr Little was to be in many more incidents. When he came to live in the old cottage in Southerns Lane, he took up pigeon shooting. He had a hideout in the corner of his garden near a wood. Then his neighbour gave him permission to shoot from his garden. He never had much time at all to shoot, just a few hours on a Saturday afternoon. He thought up an idea, so he bought himself a walking stick gun. It was a beauty, and very hard to detect as a gun. He thought that if he took his walking stick gun to church, he could have a shot on his way home across the fields. He used to set off for church on a Sunday morning in his best suit and his bowler hat – and did quite often get a shot. I remember, sometime just before dinner on Sundays, Mother would say to us children: “Your father will be home soon. I’ve just heard his gun go off”.
And still he had other ideas to get more shooting. When he went to The Star Inn to pay his club, if it was a moonlit night he would take his walking stick gun. Then he would go via the plantation to see if he could remove a pheasant from its roost. It would fall wounded and scramble among the bushes, and Mr Little would scramble through the bushes, too, to get it. Then he went on to The Star Inn, and when he got into the bar, his face was all scratched and he was soon picked out. His mates used to say: “Ah, Bill, where have you been?”
Mr Little always knew when any strange pigeons had come to Chipstead. He still had a long run of pigeon shooting, but he was well and truly beaten in the end. He swapped his gun for a dummy (Presumably an ordinary walking stick!) He has often told me of his encounters with hares. Sometimes he would cross a field with his gun, and once he was walking in the plough furrow and he saw an old hare traversing the same furrow. My father said that he had sometimes been within walking distance of an old hare. Mr Little used to say to himself – just to himself – “Ah, I wish I could!”. But hares were game.
I well remember the time when the late King George the Fifth was crowned. Chipstead celebrated the occasion with a festival on the football field. There were free drinks for all, and there was also a wet canteen – free beer - on November 11th 1919. Sir Alfred Tritton gave in the hall a great Armistice supper to the men who returned from the First World War. There was a long list of casualties of Chipstead men from the war. This put our little village in gloom for several years.
High Road shops on the occasion of George V's Silver Jubilee in 1935
Chipstead Valley in 1911
This beautiful picture was taken in 1911. In it can be seen a wee bit of the old school, the small roof by the cottage is the remaining part of the drag hound kennels. At the time when the hounds were hunting, all the droppings from the hounds were collected and they fetched around 7/- for a hundredweight. They were sold to a leather tannery in Croydon. And now, readers, if you can remember in the years way back when you bought boots or shoes and you noticed they had a peculiar smell, this is the answer: A Product From Chipstead.
Funerals in the village before 1910 were very impressive. The hearse was drawn by two beautiful black Suffolk shire horses with long manes. A very impressive turnout. Many horses of various types were seen in the village, mostly used by tradesmen, and during the summer months many horses were seen wearing straw hats. They were glorious summers; the heat was, at times, unbearable.
It was only when the last of the harvest was being gathered in that we had terrific thunder storms – most frightening. Sometimes during a storm we would see horses bolting with carts or machinery. They were much worse than the present storms of these later years.
At one time, when the Rev Stone was at The Rectory, when his daughter was driving her horse and cart down to the station, her horse fell heavily down the hill. The horse was struggling to get up, but was unable to do so. The late Mr Johnson was soon on the scene, and he made the girl sit on the horse’s head, as that was the only way to free a horse in those circumstances.
There was a fair amount of cricket before the First War – mostly friendly matches which concerned only the higher class of people. There was no Sunday cricket, as the Sabbath, during those years, was much observed.
The village policeman, Mr West, lived in Shabden Cottages, opposite the old pump. The pump was in use in those days. The policeman was never on duty on Sundays; he belonged to the Reigate division. As the Chipstead population were so well behaved, he was more concerned with poachers. As there were no police on duty on Sundays, the gamblers or card-sharpers had a free undisturbed day. There were several old soldiers from The Boer War in the gang.
I had nearly forgotten to mention: I feel sure it was in 1923 in the Mugswell area around Christmas time, we had a fall of 7 feet of snow and Mugswell was almost isolated. The council gathered all available men to dig a trench from the High Road to Mugswell. That was the only means of getting food supplies to Mugswell. It lasted for three weeks, and when the thaw came, in the valley between the Eyhurst slopes and Mugswell, there was two feet of water rushing towards Pigeon House Farm. At the Pigeon House, a huge concrete slab was removed from a deep well to collect the water. Indeed, it is an extremely large well; the concrete top had to be removed with some strong iron bars and I noticed that the Christmas holiday people could not get back until the end of January.
It was a long tradition that the children at school always observed two annual days each year. They were Oak Apple Day and Maypole Day. On Oak Apple Day, the children wore an oak apple in their coats, and if any child did not wear an oak apple, they would have their toes trodden on.
On Maypole Day, which was for girls, they had a long stick with a bunch of flowers tied at the top and a ribbon bow at the bottom. They would earn some coppers by going to a lady’s house and singing:
Here we go round the maypole
Trit trit trot
See what a fine maypole I have got
Ribbons at the bottom with flowers at the top
See what a fine maypole I have got
Trit trit trot.
And now, to end the memories of dear old Chipstead, the writer will be very happy to record some of his boyhood days when living near Southerns Farm. Very exciting and happy memories they were, and now beautiful memories.
I can still remember all the old men at the farm and I smile now as I write of those very happy days. I sometimes had a ride with the old shepherd who made very frequent journeys into Redhill, and sometimes on the way home we might give a lift to an old labourer in the horse and van. Then, as soon as the old labourer had got settled on the seat, he would take from his pocket a coil of twist tobacco and ask the driver if he would like a chew of his candle. Most of the old-time labourers used to chew tobacco.
But George the cowman was a great favourite. He used to quarrel a lot with his father, and I remember one day after lunch the farmer, Mr Burges, had his men together in the farmyard to detail their work. One man was missing – it was my little playmate’s father. Mr Burges said: “Where is your father, Tommy?” Tommy said: “George is cutting him with a knife!”. Then everyone rushed to Tommy’s house, but it was only a quarrel with his father.
But there were many days when George the cowman enjoyed a bit of fun, and quite often George got fun from me. One day I was at the farm helping George in the cow-stalls. I was told by the farmer to keep out of the farm, but I used to sneak in when the farmer was out.
One morning, after the farmer had gone out in his horse and trap, a thick fog came up – we could hardly see the cows close to us. George looked out and then said to me: “The farmer is coming back” and there was no escape for me. George said to me: “Hide, sonny” and I said: “Where?”. George said to lay in the horses’ manger. There was little boy me, laying in the horses’ manger. The fog was very thick and as I lay in the manger, I heard the horse walking to its stall - and it could smell me. The horse made an awful noise and became uncontrollable, and I though it was time to get out quick. So I rushed out through the fog and I heard the farmer say to George: “What was that George?”. I could hear George’s watch chain dancing across his waistcoat pockets. George loved his fun!
On another day, George asked me to milk a cow. I said I would. He gave me a pail and a stool. First of all George said: “Take off your coat, sonny”, so I took off my little coat. George said: ”Put it in the cow’s manger”. This I did, then sat down to milk the cow. The old cow had a look at my little coat in the manger, then had a good look at me – and then I was kicked right away. The pail went rattling down the cowshed and I was scrambling to get up – there was George’s watch chain dancing across his waistcoat.
I stood dumbfounded one day; I was standing by the pond at the farm, when one of the old farmhands was throwing all of his chicken into the pond. I was speechless; then the old man said that they would drown their fleas!
The writer is having many a chuckle writing these old memories.
There used to be some stables opposite Reeves Rest, about 1905. I remember, on my way home from school I used to go in the stables and watch the farm carter groom and bed down his horses for the night. There were two horses in the stalls, and in the next stall, there was a bed, a human bed, on the straw, with blankets. It seemed of some significance to me, being so young and I was an ardent learner at my Sunday School. If anyone had told me Christ was born in this bed in this old stable, I would have believed them. However, it was a beautiful feeling to me, every time I gazed at it. But actually it was the bed of an old couple who worked on the farm; they were Mr and Mrs Janto. Can any reader remember years ago, when this dear old lady used to sell – in Chipstead – some of the finest crochet goods ever seen? She was a tiny lady, but very sweet and much respected.
And now I must finish my writings with regards of my favourite day, Sunday the Sabbath. After Sunday School and church every Sunday morning, every third Sunday in the month, there was a children’s service at the church. It was most beautiful; all christenings were on that day. The children were asked to turn round and watch these little babies christened. While the christenings were taking place, we used to recognise the mothers and say to our little selves: “That little child will come to our school in a few years” and how nice it was to welcome those little newcomers to the school, and how every child wanted to play with them. It is much different today.
We also had a Children’s Flower Service on one Sunday in the year at the church. They were beautiful days. The little children would gather nice bunches of flowers, and their kind parents would add a few special flowers from their gardens. How nice it was in church to see these little children leave their seat in pairs and walk up to the altar, where the Rev Hervey laid the flowers so nicely on a large table. On the morrow, they were taken to be distributed to the hospitals. In those years far back, every child looked with joy for those beautiful services at Sunday School and church. I can remember as many as 150 prizes were given each year for regular attendance, and the writer’s opinion of these services in his boyhood days, was that one could almost feel the warmth of the Gospel, and some wonderful incidents during the late hours of the Sabbath.
I can still remember, during the light summer evenings on Sundays, we walked into the meadow close to our old cottage in Southerns Lane. The sun had gone down, but the air was still warm; as we sat in the long grass, the evening shadows began to glide over the fields – a most beautiful sight. These were many years ago, and during the intervals of the shadows, we would see perhaps a rabbit standing upright, just to see that he was still in safe pasture. We children thought it was lovely to sit in the fields and watch the evening shadows glide over us and then, as the evening passed, we would see the old rooks flying in ragged formation to their roosting quarters in Lower Gatton Woods. It was interesting to watch them. And then we would see a few of the old birds trying to catch up, many of them with wings like clothes pegs. Then, later in the evening, we could hear the nightingales coming into song. It was most beautiful to hear them, firstly from around the woods around Reeves Rest, and then to be joined by the nightingales’ melody from The Plantation, and a short while after we could hear the nightingales from Upper Gatton. The evening air was full of song – it was most beautiful. I can now understand why my dear mother cried when we left the old cottage in Southerns Lane.
Then, as we left the meadows near our home, we could see the old Victorian folk returning home after their Sunday out in their pony carts. Indeed, it was lovely to see the candle lamps on their pony carts flickering through the trees as they came through the narrow winding lanes.
It was so nice to see them preparing for their Sunday outing early in the morning. We could see the men folk bringing their ponies from the meadow through thick mist and heavy dew, then, after feeding and grooming their ponies, all was ready for the day’s outing. Myself, as a small boy, loved to watch them. Then, all ready to start, the wine glasses came out and everybody had a glass of elderberry wine and some hot newly-made rock cakes straight from the oven. Readers can now understand why Sunday was the writer’s most happy day.
It was most heart-breaking for all our family to leave this little spot. It was my father, old Mr Little, who wanted to get away only to explore for more pigeons on the other part of Chipstead. The writer feels deeply grateful to his late father who has so much helped with the village history in this book – especially about his pork business. What would readers think today to see, when walking through the village, pigs’ carcases hanging in plum and apple trees? They would probably phone the police!
The writer would now like to drink from one of the penny bottles of lemonade we used to buy, way back in 1902 when we had to put a finger inside the bottle and press down the glass marble to release the lemonade – and then get a halfpenny back when the bottle was returned. Those drinks were sold by Mrs Blake at the Reading Room, also at the cottage of Mrs Thrussel living near Southerns Farm, and there was a Mrs Purver who lived in the cottage next to Perce Hanscombe. Mrs Purver also sold sweets, and her only son was the founder of The Electric Window Cleaning Service, 1910.
Up to 1920, the little Pigeon House Farm was used as a sheep sanctuary. The old sheep were brought from the hills for their confinements – and very, very interesting to all who paid a visit. Then the little lambs would have to forfeit their tails before being released.
By Walter Frederick Little
An account of the pilgrimage to the battle fields of France on September 1st 1961, of an old so.
It was during the summer months of 1961 when I decided to make the pilgrimage. I set off on 1st September with no known destination.
On arriving at Arras station in France, I asked a taximan to take me to a pub, and having arrived and booked my stay, I had a nice beer at the bar. While I was resting, I saw a beautiful surprise, for on the opposite side of the road was the great garden of Remembrance. I thought what a beautiful place the taximan had found for me.
Arras in 1919
I walked through the gardens every day and felt very proud being so near to my old comrades. One day, when I was alone in the gardens, I was suddenly joined by an old French soldier. We were the sole occupants in those beautiful gardens and we talked together of the horrors of war and of the young lads of tender age who had unselfishly given their lives. After that episode I thought to myself what a beautiful place for two Allied soldiers to meet - in the Garden of Remembrance!
My pilgrimage was full of adventure, and one day I was sitting at the bar when the publican’s wife came towards me holding a bottle of medicine. She approached me and asked if I thought her doctor was treating her correctly. I was not embarrassed at all, as I have myself been connected with Faith Healing for many years. She showed me her disability, and I tasted her medicine and assured her that I believed her doctor was not treating her correctly. It was a coincidence, as my own wife had had the same complaint at one time. I had known this lady for only two or three days and yet she must have had some feeling that I could help her.
My Good Samaritan the taximan came to say he was very happy to take me in his car to visit all the old places where I had been in action during the 1914-1918 war. We paid a visit to a village church; it was Thilloy, which was blown to pieces during the war, and very near to our gun battery. The little church had been beautifully rebuilt. As we went inside, the sun was shining through the windows and all was quiet and peaceful. It was a very warming feeling for me to enter this little church again.
On several days I strolled around the streets and roads of Arras. There were still some ruins of the First War which I quickly observed. One day when I was exploring the town – I knew it well, having been in action there while waiting for the great offensive – I was suddenly lost and no-one could help me. I was beginning to feel tired, walking and trying to find my way back to my old pub where I was staying. I was on the point of collapse, being both hungry and tired, and it was an awful feeling wandering through the evidence of war. I came to one conclusion: I strongly believe that I was lost by God in order to explore and examine the aftermath of war.
On another day, while I was walking peacefully in the garden of Remembrance, the gardener took me into his little mortuary and showed me the remains of two British soldiers who were killed during the second offensive in 1917. Little remained of these poor chaps; their machine gun was also found buried together with the magazine of bullets. There was only a watch-glass and a 1913 penny remaining, and the gardener said I could have the penny for a keepsake. It is now in my possession and I treasure to have it still now. It was a coincidence that their bodies were found on the same day that I landed in France; thus I was reunited with my old comrades, but in a sad way. It was a remarkable adventure.
World War One artillery
I had yet another great adventure. My little bedroom faced east over the old battlefields, and every night there was a bright and most brilliant eastern star shining above my bedroom window. It was a most wonderful feeling to gaze through the darkness across those eastern battlefields, and as I gazed through the stillness of the night, a warm and solemn message went slowly through my mind – ‘The war has gone.’
It was nice in the evening seeing whole families, including the children, sitting as if at home in the pub. I saw much love everywhere; I even saw two old men in their very late years necking like a young couple.
I regret that I forgot to mention that during my arrangements for this pilgrimage, I had wondered if I should see a vision during my important journey; indeed, I had forgotten about the vision, but as I was preparing for home, I was suddenly aware that I was watching a great ghost. France was being torn to pieces and it soon became too horrible to watch. I could not leave the room as this great ghost was between me and the door. I was terribly frightened and covered my head. I then tried to focus my eyes on a small picture. It was the only picture in the room and was of three beautiful horses. They gave me some comfort, for the names of the three horses were Faith, Hope and Charity.
I was later having a farewell drink with my hosts and emptied my pockets to these lovable people and, with a warm embrace with Madame, I set off for home. That dear lady stood at her door and waved until I was out of sight.
In a shop in Arras, I looked for a little present for my wife and I bought a tiny china soap dish. It had a broad marking across from end to end, which looked like a long bolt with a nut on each end. I had no idea what it represented. My wife loved the present, but she too could not identify the marking. One day a gentleman came to our house, and we asked him if he could explain the markings, and he said they were of the cart axle and the broken fellese which was the symbol of a broken France. It seemed amazing for one to see a horrible vision and then unknowingly to buy a replica of the same thing.
Having bought this present for my wife, I walked to Arras station for my train home. Having time to spare, I had a last look back to see the great building of the British and Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and was convinced this great building had been erected on my old gun site which I had helped to make in preparation for the Great Offensive. I said to myself: “This is an everlasting memory of my old gun battery”, which was to be the foundation of this great building.
On the train to Boulogne, I had one important change at St Pol. I did change as requested, but the porter said I should not have done so. However, I had an hour to wait, then owing to unforeseen circumstances I found the last ferryboat had gone, leaving me with a rough night in Boulogne harbour. In the early hours of the morning, I had a coffee in the station buffet and then boarded the boat for home. After some way out, I was enjoying a smoke on deck, when a lady – not an ordinary person – conversed as to the beautiful morning and the calm sea. It was only a short conversation, as this lady was waiting for her husband to return. I told her I had been on a pilgrimage and she said: “How nice of you.” And then, with a very pleasant face, this lady said: “I am sure God does look after you.” I accepted the message with warmth. I began to wonder – was my journey delayed in order to meet this lady?
I was soon on the train to London, and in the same compartment with me was a young man just returning from Switzerland. He was fondling many silver coins which he had collected on his holiday, but my own heart was warm with the penny I was holding for one of my lost comrades.
The theme of my pilgrimage was Love and Loyalty. Love is the greatest constructive power in the world.
Most sincere to all readers from the writer,
Walter Frederick Little.