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.

Mable Howlett

Mable Howlett

Duck Square

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.

Remembering school Mabel Howlett

Remembering school Mabel Howlett

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

Jim Rose working on a farm

Jim Rose working on a farm

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

Maggs Warman

Maggs Warman

Maggs and Andy are active members of the Chinnor and District Royal British Legion. The Branch meets on the first Wednesday of every month in the committee room where a short business meeting takes place. After many members adjorn to a local hostelary for well earned refreshments. Anyone is welcome to the branch there is no requirment to have been a serving member of our armed forces.

Andy Warman

Andy Warman

Do you know Maggs and Andy Warman

Maggs writes I was born in the Bakehouse at Marsh Gibbon near Bicester where my grandfather and father were the village bakers. I was the youngest of three girls. We had a wonderful childhood. A large orchard to play in, a fabulous village school to go to with ‘Girls’ over one door and ‘Boys’ the other. We would look forward to the summer holidays when Mum would make us some bread and jam for lunch and a bottle of orange. Off we went on our cycles to the Cricket Field where we would play tennis on the court that Mum had helped raise money for. Life itself in those day was very basic.

The toilet was at the bottom of the garden by the pigsty. Water was taken from the well in the garden and once a week the old tin bath was dragged from its hook from outside the kitchen door, into the kitchen next to the old stone copper. The water was heated by the fire under the copper and once hot enough we would ladle the water into the bath and take turns. The remaining water was for Mum to do the washing by hand using the mangle to wring the clothes out before hanging on the line outside.

When I was old enough, I joined the church choir. My mum and sisters were already there. I loved singing and for those who are old enough she said I sounded like Édith Piaf. A wonderful French singer. At the age of 12 I became Head Chorister and loved doing the solo parts. At this time, I changed schools and went to St John’s Royal Latin School in Buckingham. This was a boy’s boarding school at the time with girl day students. In winter we wore black gymslips with a scarlet sash, red cardigans, black blazers, and red berets. In summer it was red and white striped dresses and boaters. I loved school and whilst there I was lucky enough to be introduced the Her Majesty the Queen Mother when she came to open the new school in June 1965 I believe.

On leaving school I went to Stoke Mandeville Hospital to train as a State Registered Nurse. It was there I met my first husband whom I married in 1969 and came to live in Chinnor.

I worked for Molins' Machine Company in Saunderton in the Machine Tool Division Stores. After two years I left Molins and went to the paper manufacturers in Princes Risborough called Cheverton & Laidler. I began in the accounts department, moved to Personal Assistant to the 23 Donate to United Parish of Chinnor, Sydenham, Aston Rowant & Crowell Website: http://chinnorunitedchurches.co.uk Financial Director and ended up on the switchboard. One of the old ones that had plugs and switches which I loved. I stayed there for five years until we were accepted for adoption.

We were lucky to have a boy of 11.1/2 months old first and then a 14 weeks old baby girl four years later. After 16 years we decided to separate but remained firm friends until he passed away in 2013. In 1986 I decided it was time to return to a working life and joined Thames Valley Police at Aylesbury Police Station as a Civilian Intelligence Officer.

 In 1987 I married Andy in St Andrew’s Church. Whilst working in Aylesbury I joined 1365 Aylesbury Squadron Air Training Corps as a Civilian Committee member. My daughter CJ was a cadet and later became the RAF cadet to Sir Nigel Mobbs, the Lord Lieutenant accompanying him on several royal events. It was in my capacity as Civilian Chair that I met HRH Princess Anne when she opened the new Territorial Army Centre in Aylesbury. I retired from TVP after 20yrs and became the Parish Administrator in the Church Office.

I loved this time and was sad to leave due to ill health. By this time Andy was churchwarden at Crowell and when a vacancy arose, I joined him. Since then, I have made a garden in the church car park – The Rainbow Garden – where lots of the plants have a religious name or connection. I still sing in the church choir. 

Andy writes I was born in Somerset (that place where the cider apples grow) the elder of two brothers. I lived in Wincanton where life was pretty basic as with Maggie. Absolutely not unhappy though, only very happy memories. At age 6 the family moved to Guildford where life greatly improved with what are now considered standard facilities. My uncle had a holiday home on the Isle of Wight and three sets of cousins arrived there during the summer holidays to be supervised by a set of parents every two weeks. Wow did we have a good time. After junior school I was educated at George Abbott Comprehensive. One of the first in the country. I got involved with the technical side of amateur dramatics with a little bit of acting thrown in when needed.

I joined the Air Cadets and achieved a Duke of Edinburgh Gold award and completed a Gliding Scholarship, flying solo. I met the Duke of Edinburgh on a couple of occasions. Once through a school hosted event where he was a presenter alongside Uffer Fox and at Buckingham Palace to receive my Gold award.

I left school and the Air Cadets to join Surrey Police. Having completed my probationary two year’s, I joined the Traffic Division. After 5 years I transferred to Thames Valley and was married to my first wife, living at first in Lacey Green then in Chinnor from 1975.

I spent 5 years on Traffic Division as a driver, motorcyclist, instructor, and tutor. At the end of the 70’s, during the period of aircraft hijackings, I alongside many others from police forces around Heathrow Airport was recruited by British Airways. I doubled my salary overnight (bonus), had access to staff travel at very reduced fares (more bonus) but went to some quite dodgy, to say the least, areas of the Middle East (not so good). We all had various areas of the world to look after from a security perspective. Anyway, some fun times were had and I thoroughly enjoyed the work. Even Maggie Thatcher’s 45% pay rise, for the police couldn’t tempt me back. Many of us received letters from our previous Chief Constables asking if we would consider it. None took up the offer.

I was privileged to meet and travel with several members of the Royal family including Princess Margaret.  I also met the Queen on an official visit to British Airways. At the end of the 80’s I joined an internal team investigating crime and fraud within and against British Airways, continuing with overseas security responsibilities. I project managed the introduction of very successful fraud prevention systems (even eventually decommissioning one that had outlived its usefulness after 25+ years). I was a member of several national and international fraud and crime prevention committees, eventually chairing one or two. I became Business Support Manager for the team responsible for maintaining policy, fraud/crime prevention systems, team administration, credit card fraud and disruptive passengers. After 36 very happy years I decided it was time to go. What else was I doing? Well, after 10years of marriage to my first wife, we decided to part company. It was a very sad day for me. I got my life back together and eventually married Maggs and we have now just passed our 35th anniversary.

I have two wonderful step children. Air Cadet wise, well I sort of got conned into re-joining. Maggs was working at Aylesbury Police Station and one of the Sergeants was OC of Aylesbury Sqn. (get the picture, “You’ve always said you wanted to give something back and so you’re going to ATC tonight”). I joined as a Civilian Instructor in 1986 and taught and coached shooting. I took several teams to the Inter-Service events at Bisley with some good success against the Army and Sea Cadets which also included teams from Canada, Australia, and South Africa.

In 1995 I took a Commission as a Pilot Officer in the RAF VR(T). During my time as Sqn Shooting Officer I was privileged to introduce the Sqn Bisley team, including my Stepdaughter, to the Queen on her visit to RAF Halton. I progressed from Sqn Shooting Officer to Wing Shooting Officer and then onto a Small Arms Training Team that teaches adults to train cadets to fire rifles, coach cadets to shoot and train adults to run ranges to enable shooting. I became Adjutant and 2IC of the team and then joined a HQ RAF Cranwell team responsible for Air Cadet Corps shooting competitions Internationally, Nationally and Inter-Service. I became 2IC and am now OC of the team. I have been honoured and privileged to have been Adjutant and Commandant of the GB U19 Target Rifle Team to tour South Africa in 2018 and 2019. Many cadets from all three cadet services go on to compete successfully at Commonwealth and Olympic level. I have been a member of the PCC for many years and a churchwarden at Crowell for a around 10 years or so. As you can see, we have both had full and exciting lives. Long my it continue

Start up of the Cross Keys surgery

Start up of the Cross Keys surgery

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