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Memories of Michael Cox – Written in 2011

My Life in Charney

The earliest I can remember is walking up the fields from where we lived on a farm between Charney and Lyford. We had to walk up the field we called the narrows (it was called that because it was a narrow field that used to be the track to the farm) of about a half a mile and then through what we called Hobson’s field which was very muddy by the gate in the winter. On entering the village there were three farms close together, the first being on the left, a big curly headed man by the name of Jack Nickelson farmed this, there was an orchard and one long barn and a cattle shed to milk his cows. I can remember on the roof tiles of this shed printed in odd tiles a date, I can’t remember the date, but I was working in Faringdon some years later and an old chap was talking about Charney and he told me that when he worked for the local builder he put them in. When the boss came along the road he could see it and he got a telling off for wasting time doing it.

On the right of the track was a big barn and a few sheds they were farmed by a man named Ackers. He lived on his own in part of the big farm house and I can remember he used to go in his car to Denchworth to pick up his housekeeper in the morning and take her back at night. Both Jack and Mr Ackers had their land outside the village and they had to walk the milking cows though the village.

The third farmer was a Mr Hobson I can just remember old Mr Hobson. But his son Dick ran the farm when he died, he and his wife Nora had two daughters and they both went to the local school. He farmed the land north of the farms. His buildings were a big barn and a cow shed. There was another long low shed which was farmed by two brothers Gilly and Adey Belcher they also had the big thrashing barn on the green. Next along the track was a big stone house which Jack and Dolly Nickelson with their daughter Fay lived in (Jack was the first farmer I mentioned).

The next small cottage was lived in by my gramp and gran Miles and her brother by the nickname of Clockey. I never did know his real name, he used to work for Jack Nickelson. When gramp died we used to spend loads of hours there. I remember that she used to cook on an old paraffin cooker and the electric light pole stood nearly in her garden but she still lived by oil light and candles right up till the day she died, and also the toilet down the bottom of the garden. All of these said properties were owned by the county council.

The next house was a big white house on the village green, the people that lived there seemed to have a lot of money Col and Mrs Thompson. I can remember the man who owned the garage used to be their chauffeur. In fact they bought the old chapel and gave it to the village as a village hall and it still is to this day.

Across the way is a thatched cottage called the Cottage on the Green but it was a different place when I first knew it, in fact it was two cottages. The first was lived in by my auntie on my mother’s side we spent many a hour playing with our cousins in the big garden there, in the adjoining cottage there lived a old Nazarene lady, Mrs Alder, she was deaf and we used to help her in the garden and we said anything we liked because she couldn’t hear us!

Across the road is the Chequers pub. We used to sit in the seat that was in the porch as kids and the landlord was called Mr Hillsdon. His daughter Mrs Mills used to sell us biscuits for a penny a time, we would pick a biscuit with different pictures on and I bet we could only afford one at a time. Next to the pub was what used to be another pub called The Horn that’s what I’ve been told as I only remember a farmer called Mr Burson there. Up the lane by this said pub was a little cottage that the daughter of the pub lived in with her husband George Mills and daughter Shirley. Next to that was a bigger cottage that belonged to the Hodgkins family and their son Gordon kept chickens there. The big cottage at the end of the lane belonged to my gramp on my father’s side, he had the thatch taken off and tiles put on, imagine that happening today. I think it used to be a shop at one time because it had the big window in the front and the shelves still inside. He let the small flat at one end to a woman who we used to call the star lady, because she drove a van with the star newspaper printed on the side. Coming back down the lane on the right is the old chapel that is now a village hall given to the village as I said before by the lady in the white house. Next on the corner is a thatched cottage, an old lady with a hunched back lived there I think by the name of Mrs Douglas. Going up the main street the big long house was in, and still is in, two parts, the first one being Roy Hodgkins and in the second lived Mr Alder. Across the road was the big farm house known as Jeffries farmhouse. In one end lived Mr and Mrs Smith and in the other half lived a family by the name of Blackalls. I was great friends of their son George and we used to play in the big granary that stood on Straddlestones by the side of the house, and also in the barns and the orchard. Sadly the barns and the orchard has gone to make way for a housing estate although some of the remains of the sheds next to the barn still remain. The bus shelter had to be moved to make way for the road to the estate, the first shelter was made of wood and was erected on the year of the Queen’s Coronation, the second was made of some reconstructed stone. Back across the road is another thatched cottage where an old lady and her brother lived, Mrs Taylor and Jo Dowling.

The next house is one of a block of six houses going up New Road. Each block consisted of two houses number 23 is where I live at the moment and by the side of it was what once was a blacksmith’s shed, and then it was an old council shed for the road men. I have since converted it to a single flat. I can remember old Sid Head used to live there after he moved up from Northfield farm. Next door at number 22 was Dick Dore and his wife with their three children. In the next block, numbers 24 & 25, was Mr & Mrs Sharpus with their two children Ruth & Diana. He farmed over the bridge on the left hand side, and later moved up the road and Mr & Mrs Ponting and their two children moved in. Next door was Mr & Mrs Ody with their two children Joe & Joanne. The next block, numbers 26 & 27, I can’t remember who lived in the first one but I think the next one lived a chap by the name of Bert Bouter. In the next block, numbers 28 & 29, lived Ady Belcher with his wife Minnie who I said farmed around the area. Later his brother Gilly moved in with his wife Mabel whom he married later in life, when Ady moved into a house down the road. I can’t remember the next house. In the next block, numbers 30 & 31, lived Mr and Mrs Bright and their son John (John stayed there when his parents died and later moved up to a bungalow in Buckland Rd) who farmed up the Buckland Rd and the next was a Mr Bungay who also farmed in Buckland Rd at Minmere Barn. In the next block, numbers 32 & 33, lived two sisters to Ady and Gilly Belcher (Gilly lived there till he moved to no 28). Coming back down New Road was the school where we used to go to. The head mistress was called Miss Benson who later became Mrs Price. The toilets were outside, the boys being in the first playground and the girls in the other playground, we were made to stay in our own playgrounds and in the winter there was an old slow but sure coke stove to warm us, that the teachers had to keep going, A lady by the name of Mrs Mills used to be a minder at lunchtime. Mr Dore was the caretaker, and Mrs Dore was the cleaner.

Behind the school was a garage that the two Hodgkins brothers used to have, later they sold it and moved away.

Next to that was a bungalow which was called “At Last” that belonged to Mr & Mrs Hilisdon whose son lived with them we used to call him Shirty I never knew why. The same looking bungalow was built next door called “Millhill” and Mr & Mrs Mills lived there with their daughter Shirley.

There were two more bunglows next where Mr & Mrs Carter and their two daughters and one son lived, and the other one was Mr & Mrs Ackland with their son. Coming down the road to a large house that was made into three separate houses called “Threeways.” In the first one lived Mr & Mrs Wheeler. The one that faces the road was where her daughter lived Mr & Mrs Pevrell and their son Melvin and daughter Veronica. I can’t remember who lived around the back one. Next to that was a bungalow (I don’t know that one either), but next to that were two new bungalows built by Mr & Mrs Street and Mr & Mrs Metcalf. Opposite these bungalows was a cottage.

Bridle Cottage was lived in by Mr & Mrs John Cox who had four sons Billie, George, Malcolm and Harold.

Coming down the lane again was some farm buildings that was farmed by Jo Thompson who lived next door to Wick Cottage. The only people I can remember who lived in Wick cottage was Mr & Mrs Anderson.

Going up the adjacent lane was “Byways” where old Mr & Mrs Aiden lived and she lived there till she was nearly 100 years old. Now next to that by the River Ock was the Post Office that sold everything, owned by Mr & Mrs Browning and their son Charlie, where we used to go for our sweets and fishing rods which was a 6ft cane and a simple reel, line and hooks, and in those days we brought all the shopping from there.

Back across the road was a house called “Primrose Villa” where Ady Belcher and his wife moved to, later they had a bungalow built in its grounds and a couple called Mr & Mrs Dance moved in.

Next there were two old cottages, one was where Ken Church and his wife and his children lived, and in the other were Mr & Mrs Webb and their children. Harold Webb was the bus driver for Stevens in the garage around the corner where you could get petrol and your accumulator (or in other words a battery) for the wireless charged. Next is the church and behind this is Charney Manor which is owned by the Quakers and in my time it had a few managers and employed women from the village to work there. The last place on the road going to Lyford is the mill and mill house where a woman lived alone called Nelly Belcher. We used to get the conkers off the tree opposite.

Well now we have to go back to Buckland Rd, coming from New Rd, on the left was old farm buildings that my gramp Cox used to farm and when we were at the school we used to have one of the fields to do our sports in because in those days there was no playing field like there is today. In the corner was some several big elm trees but sadly they were cut down due to elm disease. Along the road there were no houses like there are today so we have to go up the Longworth Rd, first on the left is an old thatched house that Bill Clark and his two daughters lived in (he later built a new house across the road) next was a brick built house where Mr Cripps lived, (he later built a bungalow down the bottom of the garden and Mr & Mrs Sharpus moved in the old house). A small cottage was next and I haven’t a clue who lived there. The last bungalow was owned by Mr Jack Cripps and Mrs with his two daughters who had a removal business and the big storage shed stood behind.