This article follows an interview with Eddie and Rose Clarke, who have been living in Long Marston for 41 years but who have memories which go back even further and also cover Wilstone and Puttenham. It was good to have Rose’s contribution because she grew up in Wilstone and is one of the few people who has lived in all three villages.
Eddie’s life and family history show that he is very much ‘Long Marston through and through. He worked on farms around our villages for nearly all of his working life, as did his father, grandfather and great grandfather. Eddie has kept a photo of the latter (also shown here) probably taken towards the end of the 19th century.
Previous generations of Eddie’s family had some tough times that put our current problems into perspective. His father had to leave school at around eleven years old to provide income for the family, after his grandfather was killed at the Somme during the First World War, leaving a wife and four more children. Eddie’s father also worked on the farm for the whole of his working life, the main difference being that, to quote Eddie, ‘He drove a horse and cart whereas I drove a tractor’.
Eddie was a wartime baby so his memories of that dangerous period are limited. He does however remember seeing tanks and marching soldiers coming through Long Marston and – something that no-one else has mentioned – meeting German prisoners of war working locally, catching rabbits, cleaning ditches and delivering eggs. He attended Long Marston School but, as this was after the bombing, had to go to different places, the Chapel School Room and the Old Parish School. He left to go to school in Tring just before the new school opened in 1952.
His memories of childhood are mainly of other things than school, taking numbers of the few cars that passed in those days, shooting rabbits and ferreting, helping to milk cows in the barns owned by the Rodwell family down Potash Lane. Further discussion of this memory revealed that milking took place in the very spot where my wife and I now have our breakfast every morning!
An even more pleasant memory for Eddie and Rose was their first meeting at parties organised by a local Wilstone character, everybody’s ‘Auntie May’, who was a friend of both their families. After their marriage in the 1960s, they first lived in Langdale Cottages close to the old Marston Gate station, then in Puttenham before finally settling down in their house on Tring Road.
Memories of the early days are of close communities where, to quote Rose’s memories of Wilstone, ‘everybody knew everybody’. She also recalls how, when living in Puttenham, there were good and close relationships with neighbours who all helped each other when any problems or emergencies arose. It was a quiet village but close enough to Long Marston which was ‘the place to go to’ with its Saturday Night Dance, Go Kart racing and local businesses.When they moved to Long Marston, some of these events and businesses were beginning to tail off but there were still plenty of local activities. They remember particularly the Village Show which was a big day for the community, not tailing off at 5pm as it does now.
Although Rose and Eddie enjoy living in Long Marston very much, they have to accept that, with the changes in society and population, the community cannot be so active and integrated as it was in the early days. When most people worked locally or within a few miles and there were few cars, people naturally saw more of each other and spent more time in the village. But the people of Long Marston are still friendly and the many walks around the village give them much pleasure.
Eddie’s main relaxation these days is working on his allotment on Potash Lane, which he has cultivated for the last twenty five years. Only recently has Rose been allowed to cross the threshold and give her assistance, a key breakthrough (she suggested tongue in cheek) that could indicate she is beginning to ‘get the better of him’!! Apparently the allotment is quite a social network and helps to develop a community spirit, holding an annual get together with drinks consumed between the marrows and the courgettes.
It was a great pleasure to meet and talk to Eddie and Rose. Their memories of all three villages help us to see a wider picture and appreciate that, though our villages have inevitably changed over the years, there is still much in common to value and appreciate.