THE HISTORY OF A SURREY VILLAGE
When I was a very small boy I ran away from home and went to the village school in Blackheath, which at the time was run by a Mrs Atfield. My mother raised a hue and cry, only to find me nestled safely in the school, armed with slate and pencil, sitting quite happily. The teacher allowed me to carry on, (best to carry on early she presumed!) Hence I went on learning (and am still trying to catch up).
Next door to the school was the house of the local bobby, and next to him was the house of the local postman, Mr Chitty.
Further up the village was the local church, where I joined the choir serving from about 1916 until 1920. Other members of the choir were, Mr. Arthur Atfield, (husband of Mrs Atfield the teacher), a Mr. Jimmy Atfield, (not a relative, I think), Mr. Hoad, Mr. Proctor and I think Mr. Len Saunders, Ron Burcher and myself. The curate at the time was (I think) the Reverend Chase who was resident at the vicarage nearby, and he recalled that the choir was led by a lovely little man, named Mr Elsley, who travelled twice a day on Sundays from Guildford and back walking via the Chantries, (how he managed it I do not know).
I used to attend twice on Sundays, travelling to and from Chilworth from where my parents had moved. They moved to Chilworth as it was an easier journey to the Chilworth Gunpowder Factory, where my father worked as a Cordite engineer, for 33 years, until it finally went into liquidation shortly after the 1914- 1918 war.
On Sundays, Mr. Brown, the Vicar from Wonersh, usually conducted the services. He used to cycle to the service. He used to cause us a lot of mirth because he used to grunt a lot during his service, accompanied by Mr. Jimmy Atfield who continually twiddled his thumbs. All these things caused suppression to giggle difficult to control.
We were fortunate enough to be given a visit to London to visit the Zoological Gardens, (quite a treat in those days.)
During this time the Blackheath and Chilworth Choral Society was formed by Mrs Sylvia Drew, ably assisted by her sisters Miss May and Joan (all maiden ladies). My mother joined, and made two journeys from Chilworth and back every week for Choral practise, (always walking in those days). They competed annually at Leith Hill, Dorking. Amongst others, they were judged by, Dr. Walford Davies, (who regrettably passed on after somewhat early years) Dr, Percy Buck and Dr Vaughn Williams, who lived to an old age. As the years dwindled away, the Choral Society’s last competition took place, and they returned with 4 Banner distinctions, my mother being leader of the Quartet Honours.
Mrs Drew, later having lost her two sisters, finally entered a nursing home at Brantingshay, Blackheath (premises at one time owned by Mr Sandeman, of Port Wine family), where she finally passed away at a great age. God bless her, this cherished lady, during her sojourn, enlisted much cash from affluent rich people over a large area, in providing houses (new built houses), for those of whom wanted them, members of her Choral Society, several still being in very good condition. To name a few, there were the Hodgsons of the Hallows near Shamley Green, The Dykes, Blackheath, the Godwin Austins, Prescotts and Mrs Cook, Barnett Hill, all very well off.
When attending choir practice twice a week from Chilworth and back, we always used to run past the Misses Dykes house, (near the crossroads), because they had several Chow dogs that used to bark furiously every time somebody passed by, albeit they were chained up, (even so they were a good deterrent against burglars), wearing plenty of boot wear and overalls, as one had to walk everywhere in those days, (cars being an unusual possession).
During those days there was only one shop, a confectioners, nearby the Church, run by a Mr and Mrs Mann. Thus anyone requiring groceries had to give their order to Mr. Remnant, who lived lower down the village, (a few doors away from Mr Sid Hayward the Coal Merchant). He in turn used to charge a fee of 2d and return with change out of a £1 note with grocery very carefully wrapped up in good quality brown paper.
The Bushby Brothers, who lived next door to one and other at Wonersh, delivered bread and meat. Those who were pretty tough, used to oft times ride their cycles in and out of Guildford for shopping, with large baskets fitted at the front of their cycles, collecting whatever they could safely manage. Several grocer shops were in Guildford High Street, such as Sainsburys, Home and Colonial, Maypole, Liptons International and Holdens. The Umbrella and Haberdashery man, Mr. Quitenton, used to call personally on foot to Blackheath.
Most of the men in those days worked at the Chilworth Gunpowder Factory, little else existed elsewhere, but everyone seemed to get on in spite of it all. Everybody being pretty healthy, most houses having large gardens from whence good crops of edible vegetables were produced, providing considerable vitamins there from.
There were two pubs in the village, The Volunteer Arms and the Forest King, the first named being kept by Mr. Strudwick and the Forest King, (now extinct), run by a Mrs. Cannon, situated near the cricket pitch.
Every Christmas we used to sing carols all the way up to Blackheath from Chilworth, calling always at Major Steward’s, Blackheath Hill, who always came out on his balcony with his wife in evening dress, (being well received) and requested us to sing all the verses of whatever carols we were singing, (not just getting away with one verse alone). After which we were all well complimented with plenty of silver, after having complied, (quite well, cash wise, even in those days.)
Miss Lacy of Warwicks Bench and her brother ran the Wesleyan Chapel opposite the school.
Last, but not least, considerable horse manure was gathered up in those days, from the many horses that operated through the village, all of which provided the very best fertiliser of all.