Wednesday, 2 March 2011

John Hunt writes:

I was an honorary resident of Shapwick in the 50’s and 60’s. My Great Aunt and Uncle lived in Swanway Cottage in Swan Lane and I spent every school holiday with them coming up from my parents in Devon either on the Train or in the car. They were always known to me as Gran and Grandad as that is what all my cousins called them and they always treated me as one of the grandchildren.

They were Ethel and Jack Dart and had lived in the cottage since the 1930’s. Their children Denis, Jean, Nora, Peter and John were all brought up in the cottage. Denis was killed in the war serving in the RAF flying Lancaster Bombers, he was shot down over Berlin in 1944.

Jean married Jack Cummings who she met when he was sent to guard a plane or glider from Tarrant Rushton that crashed in Swan Lane in the run up to D Day. They lived in Blandford after the war. Nora married and lived in Tarrant Keynston. Peter married and moved away to Preston in Lancashire. John worked for the Tory’s at Crab Farm and married Bobbie and they lived in the tied cottage opposite the Farm.

The cottage was part of the Bankes Estate and I’m not sure but I think it was a tied cottage. We had no electricity, gas or running water. The toilet was a bucket in a corrugated iron hut in the garden! Water was pumped up from the well by a hand pump and you always had to prime it with a huge jug full of water before you could get anything out. We had oil lamps downstairs in the evenings and candles up stairs. Cooking was done on an open range in the parlour. The Front Room was only ever used at Christmas when all the family came for the holiday.

I remember we had a wireless that used accumulators which we had to take in to Blandford to get recharged, the only problem was we were not allowed to bring them back on the bus so we had to walk back from Blandford carrying them and they got very heavy.

I remember walking down the lane to the village shop for sweets and to change the Postal Orders that my parents sent me as my pocket money. Mr and Mrs Boniwell were always very kind to me.

I used to visit Sid Marsh as his son Tony was great friends with John Dart and Sid was a great help to me in the late sixties when I left school and went to work for the Tory’s at Crab Farm for a short while. I seem to recall that Terry Frampton also worked there at the time. I think it was Terry that filled my cap up with tractor grease one day and stuffed it back on my head!

As a child I would never walk down Swan Lane to the village after dark as I always believed that the woods just down from the cottage which we always called Red Lady Wood was haunted by a lady in red shoes and she would get you if you went there at night.

My long stays at the cottage ended in 1968 when I joined the RAF and only went back for short visits to see Gran & Grandad before they died.

I did go back to the cottage several years later when the National Trust had taken over and spoke to the new inhabitants to discover that they had had an indoor toilet installed and a generator for electricity.

I have photos of the cottage and of some of my relatives who lived there if you are interested and can let you have copies for your website which I found purely by chance and really enjoyed.

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