The interview which follows is with three cousins, ladles who knew Bloomfield as it used to be. Because they spoke so interestingly as a group, their conversation is reproduced as closely as possible. For convenience, their names have been abbreviated. Q is the Questioner (Interviewer), Mrs. B is Mrs. Bridges Mrs. H is Mrs. Hoddinot and Mrs. Br is Mrs. Brock.
Q. Where was old Bloomfield?
Mrs, B Old Bloomfield began here with the wall (to the side of “Brymeade”). We don’t into the new Bloomfield here. It went down as far as the foundry, about half a mile down.
Mrs. H How many of the original houses are left?
Mrs. B Oh, it’s all been altered. Bloomfield House, then four cottages and Leonard’s Cottage, with the Rising Sun public house, now a private dwelling house, and the shop and Picklands is about all that’s left of the old Bloomfield, but before that there was a long row of cottages which housed the miners until the redevelopment of Bloomfield in 1947, when they all moved out, and went to the new council houses.
Mrs. H Going back before that Bloomfield House used to be called ‘The Dove’, and it was an off-licence but it became an ordinary house for years and years. The man that kept ‘The Dove’ used to have a black dog, and course, they always used to say “Go up the Black Dog”. That’s how Bloomfield was sometimes called Black Dog.
Q. The people who lived outside Bloomfield used to call the whole area Black Dog, didn’t they?
Mrs. H Yes, they did at one time.
Mrs. B But it felt like a slight on the place, didn’t it?
Mrs. H Yes, it did. Made very bad at one time.
Q. Was there a bit of rivalry between the people in Timsbury and the people here then?
Mrs. H Well, it was like two separate communities, really. I mean Timsbury was Timsbury and Bloomfield was…….
Mrs. B Bloomfield. And the Glebe was football field, wasn’t it?
Mrs. H That’s right.
Mrs. B The Glebe was Church land. A lot of houses were built on the Glebe.
Q. Were there quite a lot of people living here?
Mrs. B Perhaps forty, fifty houses. I reckon on fifty. They all had big families.
Mrs. H Oh, yes, often ten in a family.
Mrs. Br My grandfather, Walter Kite, started a bakery first in a very small cottage down here when they got married. My grandmother was born in 1858 and she married when she was 19, which made it 1877 but I can’t tell you the exact date they started their baking. Grandmother started making bread and a few more people started making bread as well, but the people around would go to my grandmother and ask if they could borrow a loaf until they had made their own. This went on a little while and my grandmother decided to sell hers. This is how they started their baking. I don’t know how many years she went on. Grandfather’s son was called up when the (1914-18) War came and that stopped the business.
Their sitting room was a bakehouse and over it they had a loft and they had a crane where they used to have the flour delivered from Bishop Sutton, from a firm called Lovells. That went on for years and years, then she started a shop and she started selling everything, she was like the wholesaler and all the people down round here used to go there and buy all their groceries. They went on until they got a big round up and they were delivering bread, Mrs. Hoddinot’s mother, Mr. Bridges’ mother, my mother and my uncle. They were delivering bread to High Littleton, Withymills, Paulton, right round the district. In fact the doctor at Paulton used to say: You have one of Kite’s…..
Mrs. B Doughcakes…..
Mrs. Br Doughcakes, and one of Coggins’s …..
Mrs. B Doughnuts…..
Mrs. Br Doughnuts, and they would immediately be going back to him because they had the wind.
Next door to our grandmother down here was the Mission Room, with a stable underneath. And people down there that would not go to an ordinary place of worship would go there. I’ve seen them myself, with shawls. That Mission Room used to be packed. We just went there and had some good hymns and lovely local preachers. We really had a good time there.
Q. Was at friendlier than the Church?
Mrs. Br Oh yes. Where people would not dress themselves to go to any church in the village or any chapels they’d go to this little Mission Hall.
(Mr. Newth adds that the idea of the Mission Room was to save people walking into the village on dark nights as there were no street lights. It was only held in the winter months, attended by as many as forty or fifty people. A service could last for about one and a half hours and was very popular with Bloomfield residents.)
Mrs. B The bakery buildings stayed for a long time until 1942 when Granfer died and we came down to live in the cottage and Bert made the bakehouse into a dwelling house.
Q. Why did they knock so many of the houses down? Mrs. B. Well, at one time they come round and condemned them.
Mrs. Br My mother owned the cottages – they were six cottages converted into four. They were given to her as a wedding present.
Mrs. H The shop that’s there now was burnt down years ago, wasn’t it? People by the name of Spinney.
Mrs. Br My mother lived in the shop, you see. She came from where Mr. White lived over at Wallmead up across the field where my mum and dad went when they married. They moved down then into the shop and it was a person called Box before my parents moved in and I had a brother who was very sick. My mother decided to move to Picklands, next to where Mrs. Crozier lives. Then when my parents died I moved to ‘Elfrida’. I’ve lived here the whole of my life, so I know all about Bloomfield, all the cottages. I knew everybody.
Q. Do you know everyone now?
Mrs. Br I’m afraid not, I don’t.
Mrs. B You don’t know your neighbours.
Mrs. H Just us, the family. But it was a real community in those days, each one did help the other.
Mrs. Br They did, yes. They were a really friendly lot of people.
Mrs. B They were when I come here.
Mrs. Br You could go to anyone for help and they’d give it to you. They were really nice.
Q. Were some of the people quite hard up?
Mrs. Br Oh, they all were really. In fact I know one family whose children used to come from school at twelve and I’ve known their mother go to the allotment and she’d go up and pull a beetroot and those children would come home to a lunch of beetroot between dry bread. That was really hardship.
Mrs. H Of course, they bad nine or ten to a family, didn’t they?
Mrs. Br Yes, in two bedrooms.
Mrs. H Sardine fashion, wasn’t it?
Mrs. Br Grandmother only had 4/6d a week (housekeeping) when she married. And she cried about it and she went to her cupboard and she found some flour and some jam, and she started making some little jam tarts and sold them: 1/6d. She was a wonderful manager.
Mrs. B Tell her about Granfer buying his land off Rees-Mogg.
Mrs. Br Oh, when he wanted to borrow the money? Granfer’s sister-in-law promised him the money (to buy the land), and so he carried one child, Bert’s mother, and the other little girl thirteen months older walked along with him from here to Midsomer Norton, because my grandmother’s sister said she would loan him £400, and when they got to Midsomer Norton this sister-in-law of grandfather’s said “I’m sorry, my husband won’t let the money go”. So they walked all the way back from Midsomer Norton again and, well, he cried. And he went to Mr. Rees-Mogg that was at Temple Cloud and he said “I am sorry, I can’t purchase that land. I’ve been let down badly with the money” and Mr. Rees-Mogg said, “Kite, I trust you enough. I’ll let you have the money” and Grandfather said, “I’ll pay you back every penny”. That was a struggle then. But my grandfather was a big believer in prayer and this really got him and Grandmother a long way. Grandmother finished up, I suppose, owning most of Bloomfield. As these miners went on, so they would buy their cottages from Grandmother for £25. That would have been in the early years of this century.
Q. Were there any other well-known characters in Bloomfield?
Mrs. H Old John Newth. He used to be at the Mission Room. He bad a huge beard, all white and down to his waist. (We also know that John Newth used to help people who couldn’t read and write. He was a blacksmith at the Grove Colliery.)
Mrs. Br They were wonderful, the Newth family. George’s Brewery owned the Mission Hall then, but the Newths took care of it and did all the heating didn’t they? Mr. Bridges’ father used to come down from the village and play the violin, my sister used to play the little harmonium down there and then this Mr. Newth would be up there, praising the Lord. It was really a wonderful time down there, as a little community. We were really a very happy band.
Mrs. H The Newths were herbalists. They used to make peppermint in large jars, down by ‘The Dove’.
(They distilled peppermint for the villages. Around 17lbs of mint and 10 gallons of water were needed. They sold Tiptop, a very strong peppermint essence, which was good for colds, indigestion and wind. They also supplied elderflower for ladies complexions.)
Mrs. Br Did they ever serve drink?
Mrs. H Yes, out by the back window.
Mrs. Br We used to have a smallholding here in Bloomfield. My name was Gregory then and my sister before me used to take the milk in little cans banging from her arms. In 1939 she married and I took on after her with the buckets with the measure on the side. I don’t think there was anyone down here who had a pint of milk. If they had a pint of milk you were serving well! It was only half a pint usually. And that was tuppence, and it was always a little drop over! They used to think the world of that little drop over! I delivered all round Bloomfield, right down to the Foundry, and I went down as far as the old school. I put the milk in the car with a cloth underneath my little can and away I’d go. But still, we enjoyed it.
Mrs. B There was more to life then than there is now. It was a happier life then. There were allotments up here. Nobody used to buy greengrocery. What we didn’t grow we didn’t have.
Mrs. H There use to be a quarry down the back in the field behind Picklands, by the side of the allotments?
Mrs. Br Yes: that’s where the White Lias stones were quarried for Tabor Church.
Mrs. B Hillside Farm belonged to Bert’s mother. That was her wedding present.
Mrs. H My mother’s present was two pieces of land.
Mrs. B Twenty-six acres.
Mrs. H You see they used to work for their parents with no wages but when they got married, each had what was convenient for them. Mum was going to start farming when she married so she had the two fields. Mrs. Brock’s mum was living there so she had the houses.
In finishing this brief account of the life and work of old Bloomfield, we hope it will bring back a picture of very hard working men and the pits and their womenfolk in the home. We have only given a brief glimpse into the past and many more stories could be told of the people and their lives, but this will serve to bring back happy memories of life in this unique hamlet.
Reproduced from ‘Look! This was Timsbury’ by kind permission of the Cheshire Home.