David Parker’s memories of life in Little Comberton
“I was born in Little Comberton in 1945, born in the end one of ‘Lupin Cottages’ and, apart from four years in the early 1970s, I have lived here all my life.
“In our house we had no electricity, only gas, which ran our lighting and cooker. Our toilet was a bucket loo up the garden. The bucket was emptied when full by burying the contents in the vegetable garden in which was grown fantastic vegetables, eaten by the family. This was true organic gardening!
“My father worked on the land, starting his working life as a shepherd, then becoming a general farm hand, and in the summer my mother also worked on the land, helping with the fruit and vegetable harvest.
“These were the days of mixed farming when farmers had mixed crops and animals – the fields were full of cabbages, peas, beans, cauliflowers and there were many fruit orchards in the area. Life for me as a child seemed idyllic.
“Nearly all the houses had large gardens where we grew our own vegetables, kept chickens and one or two households even kept a pig.
“We played in the fields, around the farms, or on the roads. There were a few cars but we rarely saw more than one or two a day coming through the village so we played hopscotch, football and cricket using a plum box for a wicket.
“We climbed Bredon Hill and often went down to what was known as the “miller road” (the stretch of road leading out of the village towards Wick) to catch minnows in the Merry Brook.
“Ray Stephens, who lived in The Grange, was the first person in the village to have a television. In the field on the opposite side of the road he had a huge mast, which must have been 50 or 60 feet tall.
“Mr Stephens invited all his workers and their families to watch the funeral of King George VI in 1952, but unfortunately I only saw about 15 minutes before falling asleep.
“The following year, for the Coronation of Elizabeth II, a television was hired and installed in the village hall, so all that wished could watch this memorable event. There was also a fancy dress parade and a supper in the hall. The royal family were treated with much more respect than and this ‘viewing’ was the start of people buying televisions for themselves. Electrical appliances were fast becoming the norm but in our house there was still no electricity.
“The police station was built on the crossroads around 1950, although prior to this there had been a policeman living in the bungalow in Wick Road, now known as Karena.
PC “Taffy” Evans took up the position of village policeman, serving not only Little Comberton but also the surrounding villages. He actually did a good job but was the butt of many harmless pranks.
“As children we used to refer to him (behind his back, of course) as “beetroot face” due to his very red face. He found out about our name for him and confronted us, saying he had got his red face fighting for his country.
“We nicknamed his wife ‘Chopsy’ as she would stand and shout for him at the top of her voice when he was wanted on the telephone.
“As children we were afraid of him as law and order was less tolerant of minor offences than is evident today. Taffy was the first person we would contact if there was any trouble, and he solved and dealt with many of the minor incidents that occurred.
“The most remembered practical joke was referred to as ‘the body in the pond’. An anonymous tip-off to PC Evans reported that someone with a large parcel was acting rather suspiciously by the church pond.
“He went to investigate and saw what appeared to be a body in the murky waters. He immediately contacted the Pershore police station and the body was dragged out of the pond.
“The ‘body’ turned out to be nothing more than a tailor’s dummy. An article appeared in the local press saying that the prank was in very bad taste, but no further action would be taken and the dummy was awaiting collection from the police station in Pershore. It was never collected!
“I can’t help wondering if, when the police moved from the old station in Three Springs Road to the Civic Centre, whether they still had that tailor’s dummy!
“PC Evans was probably undeserving of these pranks but we lived in an era of providing our own amusement, and practical jokes were common.”
“I went to school in Pershore, walking from the bottom end of the village to the crossroads waiting for the bus. After school we would go pea picking to earn some money. Pocket money was unheard of then. If you wanted any money you worked for it, and fortunately there was nearly always some job you could do if the need arose.
“Gypsies came during the summer months to help with the harvesting of the fruit and vegetables and their help was necessary as there were not enough workers to cope.
The same gypsy families came year after year, camping by the drive of Old Fallow Farm.
“We knew a lot of these gypsies, and while they respected the villagers’ belongings, they were not averse to pilfering from the farms.
“We shopped mainly at the village shop, which was in Manor Lane, and although it still went in the name of R J Derrett, it had been taken over by Harry Onslow.
“The post office was in Orchard View, also in Manor Lane, but this eventually closed and went into the shop. The Derretts employed quite a lot of people as they had a bake house at the rear of the shop and they had vans to deliver the bread to surrounding villages. Harry and his staff formed a great darts team that won major tournaments in the area.
“Once a week a large van belonging to Wars of Evesham came to the village and we were able to buy hardware, such as paraffin, items that were not available from the village shop.
“Another weekly visitor to the village was Turner’s fish and chip van, turning up in the early evening with fish costing 9d and a portion of chips 3d. Fish and chips for a grand total of 1s (5p) and a real treat for us.
“We spent most of our leisure time in the village, only going to Pershore, Evesham or Worcester on rare occasions. Some of the children learnt bell ringing; there were always church functions and a Sunday School although, as a Roman Catholic, I missed out on a lot of this – religious faiths were much further apart than they are now.
“There was also the children’s Christmas party which was organised by the Women’s Institute. The WI was eventually disbanded by the party, along with the retired people’s part, was then organised by the Sports and Social Club and carries on to this day.
“The pride of the village was a most successful cricket team, winning most of its matches and having people queuing up to become a player. The pitch was in Flax Meadow, a field behind the houses on the Great Comberton side of the Pershore Road. There is in existence a newspaper cutting describing a wonderful fete organised by the team, and another cricketing social event was the annual dinner.
“I left school in 1960 and started work as an apprentice bricklayer with a firm in Pershore, so I, like many others, went out of the village for work.
“Agriculture was beginning to change with farmers choosing to grow less labour-intensive crops.
“It was around this time that the Stephens’ family dropped the bombshell that they were laying off most of their workers and going over to cereal crops. Many moved out of the village to week work elsewhere and so a number of tied houses stood empty, available for rent, but one by one they were sold as people began to buy their own houses.
“In the mid-1960s, virtually all the people from the old cottages in what is now known as Pool Close moved into the newly built bungalows in Brookfield, including me and my parents. The old houses were demolished and the new ones built.
“The next building development was on part of the allotments and so the whole structure of the village was beginning to change.
“New people arrived, but due to the fact that the village shops were still well patronised, people met and new friendships were formed.
“However, within a short while of one another, both shops closed, leaving the village hall as the one main point of social contact within the village.
“Social events were organised with new vigour in an attempt to keep the village united and these activities continue to this day. A few more houses have appeared as the years have rolled by, making the village that we know today.”