Written and oral records illustrate the lived experience of Chinnor residents. Whilst ‘recollections may differ’ they are acknowledge by historians to be valid primary sources, and are regarded as being no more or less reliable than other sources and are held by professional historians as perfectly compatible with scholarly standards. Oral history gives a voice and recognition to those who may not otherwise be heard.
Originally Duck Square was made up of very simple lathe and plaster cottages built around three sides of the square. The forth side was a row of sheds. These were demolished some time after World War 11
Mary Darmody remembers what it was like to live in one of the cottages in Duck Square in the 1940’s. There was no electricity and no sanitation. It was a wonderful collection of little cottages and sheds, some of them half hidden underneath rambler roses, elder blossom and stinging nettles.
There was a lovely orchard full of ancient apple trees and dotted around underneath them were Walt’s pigstys and chicken houses. The hens and ducks wandered around freely during daytime but were all shut up at night to help protect them from the ever hopeful fox.
In the middle of the square there wa a well, the life’s blood of the square as it were. Every single drop of water that was used for people and animals had to be drawn from it It had a very long rope on the end of which was a large hook to hang the bucket on Mum would put her bucket on the hook and let it drop down into the dark green, mossy depths of the well Then she would wind it up again, full of freezing cold sparkling water. Sometimes when the bucket cam to the top there was a little lizard like creature in it. Mum tossed them back into the water, she said they helped to keep it clean.
In the winter the area surrounding the well became very icy and one cold morning mum had just opened the lid of the well and was reaching over for the bucket when she slipped over. She almost fell in and was very frightened.
Mrs Hopkins had a lovely garden in the middle of the square. In spring and summer it was ablaze with old fashioned flowers. Lilac and lavender and a buddleia tree which was covered with hundreds of butterflies. Hollyhocks as tall as the eaves grew around one end of the square and masses of wallflowers smelling heavenly in the warm sun.
A full transcript of Mable’s memories is available in the Chinnor Library
Mabel Howlett recalls her happy school days at the St Andrew’s Church of England School in Chinnor
I was born in May 1920 and started school in 1923. I don’t remember which month but, in those days, you could start school when your parents and the school teacher thought you were ready. My own daughter started at the same school when she was three.
Mr Cuthbert was the headmaster, the teachers were Mrs Cuthbert, Mrs Kate Barrett, and Mrs Lulie Seymour. The last two being daughters of Mr Jones who was headmaster when my mum and dad attended the school. All Mr Jones pupils wrote in lovely copperplate writing.
When I started in the infant’s school Mrs Seymour taught us. She was assisted by pupil teacher Miss Phyllis Marr, who lived with Mr and Mars Seymour in the High Street who took me to school for a while. We were taught the alphabet and three- or four-letter words, counting and simple sums. I remember Mrs Seymour had a thick pointer to point to things on the blackboard and if your attention strayed it was pointed into your tummy pretty quick.
We all went home to dinner at midday, 12 – 1.20 and at about 2 o’clock out came the truckle beds. They were stacked in the cloakroom and made o canvas and wood, something like a stretcher and we all had to lie down for a rest, I can’t remember for how long we laid there.
A full transcript of Mabel Howlett’s school days are available in the Chinnor Library
Recalls his working life on a farm from childhood in the 1920’s to eventually buying the farm from the Landlord in 1963.
In the 1920’s married farm workers lived in cottages in the village or in Sydenham. They had large gardens or allotments with one or two pigs held in a sty. One pig was for home consumption and the other for selling. They also had hens and rabbit in cages for food. A large amount of vegetables were grown and the surplus sold. A head carter’s average was £1.10shillings a week plus free milk and firewood. He would get the horses in from the field at 6am in the summer but in winter when they were inside, he would lean them out, feed them and give them water. He would then go home for breakfast and would be back at work at 7am when the other men would arrive. If it were ploughing time, they would harness the horses and set off to the fields with 2 or 3 teams of 3 horses. By the time the teams were hitched to the plough it would be after 8am
The plough would take a 9” furrow and each team would plough about half to three quarters of an acre a day. The horses were intelligent and would follow furrow without guidance and turn to the left or the right on command. At about 11am the lunch break was taken for about half an hour. A top of a cottage loaf with fat bacon was washed down with cold tea. Ploughing would go on until 2.30 when the teams would wend their way home and the horses would be given water and feed. On hour for dinner and then he would return to clean up the stable.
Looking back, I had a very happy childhood, but times were hard for all those who worked on the farm at that time.
A full transcript of Jim Rose memories is available in Chinnor Library.
Cliff Folley remembers life in a Hamlet
I suppose I am not really an old ‘Chinnorite’ for I was actually born at Manor Farm Henton.as long ago as 1903.As I remember it then Henton was a lovely old village consisting of only 18 dwelling, 6 farms, 11 cottages and 1 public house. Everyone knew everyone, it was as if we were one big family but then those days the village belonged to Magdalene College Oxford. When it was sold new development started and thus the character of the village changed ......
Corinne Reed (nee Bass) - school days which Corinne wrote about in the November issue of the Chinnor pump 2021
Mabel Howlett remembers the start up of the Cross Keys medical practice, a Dr Summerhayes being the first doctor. Mabel remembers him attending her grandmother when having one of her 9 children. As Mabel says, it was unusual for a doctor to attend, it was then, normally left to the local midwife.
Later on several doctors, from Princes Risborough, Thame, and Watlington came to Chinnor on different days to hold their surgeries often in a residents home.
Mabel’s memories mention several Doctors including Dr Leverkus who set up a practice in a cottage in the High Street. Dr Levekus had Hempton Field built and this building is now a nursing home.
She was a remarkable woman and during World War 11 Dr Leverkus recalls that on a night call out to a farm she was alarmed to see that all the house lights were on in spite of the black out and German bombers overhead. When she mentioned this, the reply was that she was ‘not to worry as there were no Air Raid Wardens in the area.’ She also recalled ‘how frightening it was to drive around the countryside in the blackout.
We have a further edition to Mable's memories on the Cross Keys Surgery in the document library below