Childhood memories of Farringdon in the 1930's and 40's

    In September 2013 several former residents of Farringdon talked about their childhood memories at an event in Farringdon Village Hall.

    First Brian Webber talked about his memories of living in Farringdon as a boy in the 1940's.


     
    Living now in Cullompton, Brian grew up at Holwell Farm where he was born in 1936, son of a farmer.

    He started school in Clyst Honiton where a chief memory is of the outside toilets and a low brick wall the boys 'aimed' over.

    His mother was on the Parish Council, and his father was People's Warden at Farringdon Church, where Will Skinner (father of Roy) was
    Vicar's Warden.  At the time, Spain Farm was farmed by Bill Stevens and Denbow by George Burridge. The Millers were at Hill Farm and the Stallards at Home Farm.   When Stevens left , Eddie Northam took on Spain Farm.

    Brian moved on to Farringdon school, also with outside toilets, and a teacher who always sat in the only warm place by the stove.   The teacher taught basics, with ten or a dozen in one room – the little ones in the area at the far end.   Brian remembers very nice vegetable soup being served.

    Reverend Liptrott was vicar, and the organ had to be pumped.   Brian has a brother and a sister buried here; the brother was stillborn and sister Marigold died at six weeks old.

    The field behind the Rectory was a good place to shoot rabbits.   The stream here used to be drinkable.   The village fete at Farringdon House was a treat, and he remembers the pony rides that he gave.   Other children came from Perkins Village.

    In 1941 he remembers coming home and finding 200 troops had moved into the orchard at Holwell, to do their training.   The war was sometimes very close.   After a plane crash by the stream he kicked a boot sticking from the crater and a foot came with it.   Up at Northfields 16 incendiary bombs fell, and there was a crater in the middle of the road.  If there was ack ack gunfire there were searchlights.

    The soldiers were very friendly to the family and the children.   They all went to the Garrison Cinema (up by the Askew's place), with the landgirls.

    When Exeter was bombed, the cinema there and the market and Sidwell Street, they could see the flames from Farringdon.

    Even locals could be stopped by sentries and asked to show a pass.   But children soon found ways of getting round this. 

    Brian can recall no businesses in Farringdon at all (though others remember a sweet shop at Farringdon Cross).   The shop was in Clyst Honiton, in a red brick building now a house.   It had a bakery and it was there he first had an ice cream – memorable !  

    'I never had dealings with the constabulary, since you ask!   But I do confess to an escapade once, after we had been visiting Grandma in Seaton and brought back a lot of pebbles.   With catapults and these pebbles we scored direct hits on every window of Clyst Honiton school.   But I do not think the police were involved.'

    Was anyone from Farringdon called up to the war?  'No.' Farmers were Reserved Occupation, some served in the Home Guard.  The farms were all kept going and the cows milked, regardless.    At Topsham, as the war progressed, the US Navy were at the site of the Naval Stores.   It is remembered that they segregated the blacks from the white personnel.

    At Holwell there were three AA guns, within 200 yards of the farmhouse.   Sometimes they fired right over it.   The gun crew lived in Nissen huts.   Brian also remembers 200 men  living in tents by the road near the airport, waiting to be sent to France for invasion in 1944.   Soldiers were very friendly and gave the boys sweets.

    Brian had brought a 3.7inch shell case to the meeting.   When the troops left, his mother had asked for one and been told   “That is not
    allowed, but look in the hedge when we've gone and you will find some!”


    Following Brian, the twins, Kenneth and Michael Partridge and their sister Sylvia took over the talking. It was clear how easily the twins could have been confused for each other as boys. Ken did most of the talking, prompted by the others

    The twins were born in 1936 and lived first at School Cottage, then at Rectory Lodge (now Glebe Lodge, the Tyzacks home) and Ken recalled how cold it was at Farringdon school.  Miss Ryall was the teacher and always sat by the stove.   Mr Strong emptied the outside toilet buckets, which were equipped only with sheets of newspaper.

    At age 10 Ken became a choirboy (says he couldn't sing) and took on the job of pumping the organ which was paid at 7/6d a year.   He soon got fed up with that and passed the job to his brother Mike.

    They then moved to Clyst St Mary school for a short time and found it easy to skive off for rabbiting.  When between them the twins had saved 7/- at church duties they bought a gun (vicar never knew).   You could sell a rabbit for 1/- and buy cigarettes for 6d.

    The air raid shelter at Rectory Lodge was usually full of water.   Their father was a regular soldier (Horse Artillery) and there were five children.   They left Rectory Lodge and moved to the Sidmouth Road (now Vic Sawdye's house, by the present Farm Shop).

    Sylvia, the twins' sister, remembers she had to walk from there to Farringdon school, up the Sidmouth Road and down Upham Lane, by herself at age 5.

    There was not much food with the rationing, but grandfather kept bees which helped.

    There was a plane crash in Mr Cundy's Big Field.   The military took the wings off and the children used the fuselage to play in.  The Big Field was part of Home Farm, managed by Tom Cundy;  it was thought to be the largest in the
    county.

    The children then went to secondary school in Exmouth.    They had two days a month off school to work on a farm, probably with Mr Skinner for harvesting etc.   With a ferret you could earn 2/6d for a rabbit.   Ken took the ferret to school secretly on
    the bus.   It was kept inside his shirt at school.   In the snow the coach broke down and all the children had to get out and push.

    Mr Philip was the local policeman (well remembered!).   Poaching was a serious offence, and there was an occasion when the twins were fined £1 each.

    When the time came to leave school Mother wanted the twins to get apprenticeships, she did not want them to go on a farm.   She cycled round everywhere looking for openings and found two:   One boy (Mike) went as a bricklayer
    apprentice to Norman Pratt, builder, and the other (Ken) to be carpenter apprentice to Sidney Pratt.

    In 1954 Ken was called up by the War Office for National Service and passed for the army.   He was posted to Germany and had one of the really unpleasant times of his life.  Despite this he was able to sell NAAFI cigarettes to the Germans and send the profits to his mother who put them aside for him.   After National Service he bought a car.

    Other memories of Ken and Mike :    When Exeter burnt after the bombing the flames were 500ft high.   Mother took the
    children to see the damage in Sidwell Street.  They saw Paris Street filled with wooden sheds provided for all  bombed out shops and businesses.

    They had both worked at Farringdon House Approved School when the bad boys there set the place on fire.  A fine wall painting of two pilots and a Spitfire was one of the casualties.

    Dawn told of how, in the war, her father Roy Skinner had a horse up at Farringdon Park which was peppered with shrapnel.   It recovered well and was officially named Shrapnel.

    US troops used to march up the hill past the Partridges' home in long columns, from Topsham to Woodbury Common, training for D day.

    More memories of the cold winters:  Ken fell through ice on a pond while waiting for the school bus, and arrived at school soaked through.  He stayed wet all day. They seemed to remember that sister Sylvia got the blame for that.

    Their remarkable mother, who had raised five of them, often on her own while husband served as a soldier, died at age 47, and they all still miss her. Their father survived the war.

    After the talks, very warm thanks and appreciation were given from a fascinated audience to Brian Webber and Ken,
    Mike & Sylvia Partridge, and also to Brian Curryer and Dawn Cowler for persuading them to talk to us and for planning the evening.