The sun always seemed to shine on the people in the 1930’s. But the people of Timsbury wouldn’t have spent the time sunbathing then.
There was work to be done: gardening, and especially harvesting fruit and vegetables. Once picked, these had to be dealt with so that they could benefit people through the winter months. The methods used by housewives in those days before freezers were boiling (for fruit), jam making, pickling (for vegetables and eggs) or drying in saltpetre (a well known way of preserving runner beans). Eggs could also be put in isinglass or lime. This, of course, created a lot of work for the women of the family, and the summer seemed to be largely taken up with these domestic chores.
Farming work was much influenced by the season, and sometimes work in the fields would be available for the miners who were on short time in the collieries. When this extra source of income was not forthcoming, summer could be a financial hardship for the miners.
But summer was also a time for enjoyment, especially by the children of the area. Agricultural shows like Bath and West and the Mid-Somerset Show provided exciting days out. In Timsbury itself, fetes and flower shows took place when people could show off their new clothes shows, bought at Whitsun. A big day in the calendar was Timsbury Sports Day, which took place to the North of the Miners’ Welfare Recreation Field. There would be athletics on the track, of which 5 circuits was a mile, but better known was the cycle racing, where a high standard was demanded of the entrants.
Well known cyclists like Mr. Theaker and H H Lee would come to take part in the games, and Timsbury had its own champion, Mr. Coombs, who kept a cycle shop and had won a large number of trophies for his cycling making him a local celebrity. Some quiet bets would take place on the races, which aroused great interest. At the same time as the sports, there would be a fair at the Recreation Ground.
Coles would run this, paying a sum for the rights to use the Recreation Ground for the day and setting up roundabouts. One of them was powered by a steam engine whose name was ‘Little Willy’, the smoke from which was sent high above the stalls and the people, so it didn’t annoy anyone! There were also swings, coconut shies and so on. A tip about the coconut shies – you always went for the centre one, because it sat higher up in its supporting cup. The coconuts at the sides could not be knocked down. All in all, the fairground was a place of bright lights and excitement for the young.
Churches and Chapels were responsible for many of the summertime social activities of the village. There would be a Sunday School Treat, consisting of paste sandwiches, fruit cake and jelly, with lemonade made from lemonade powder. This would be followed by outside games, like egg and spoon races, sack races, three legged races, or bun-on-a-string (similar to apple bobbing). This resulted in an afternoon and evening air of togetherness, with many families walking home down Lippiatt Lane singing on the way.
The Tabor Chapel Sunday school organised trips which would take eight coaches to Weymouth. This would happen on the middle Saturday of June. The village would be dead quiet while they were away. Sometimes day trips or longer outings would be arranged. The Rechabite Club was a devout organisation. If you wanted to join you had to swear not to touch strong liquor. There were quite a few who weren’t eligible to join! The Club would pay sick benefit to its members, but they were kept a close eye on, so only deserving cases received their benefit. If you were receiving benefit, you were expected to be home by 8pm and to stay there as proof of illness. However, the club did arrange a trip to Barry Island every year for the juveniles, who paid a few coppers every week towards the treat.
A day out to Barry Island would typically began at about 8am. The trippers would travel by train from Hallatrow to Bristol, and then change at Bristol. The journey would take them through the Severn Tunnel, which was very exciting, unless you left the window open, in which case you were covered in smoke and soot! The tunnel took 4 minutes to pass through. At Barry Island the beach did not count for much – the seaside amusements were the main attraction, especially the water-chute, the roundabouts and the caterpillar. Timsbury folk would return home tired but happy.
Barry wasn’t the only destination for a day trip. Weston and Weymouth were also much frequented, these sometimes being reached by charabanc with wooden wheels, providing a bumpy ride. One member of the group went on holiday to Weston-super-Mare for 2 weeks.
He remembers ”We stayed in a hotel. I used to take my chair and play on the beach. One day I went on the sea in a big boat, with a lot of handicapped people. It was great fun. I got back at 9.00 in the evening. I didn’t want to get off the boat. You can go many miles on a boat.”
Camping trips for Brownies and Guides would be arranged in Dorset, where they would cook and also go for trips. Other organisations remembered are the Timsbury Brotherhood (who had regular religious meetings with music ), the Women’s Bright Hour, who started in 1929 in Timsbury with the aim of attracting women (especially younger mothers ) to the church. There were Bright Hours in many towns & villages, and women could take their children. The Band of Good Hope Society and the United Patriots, National Benefit Society also met and organised events in Timsbury. The Male Voice Choir has been running for many years.
Here is a story given to us by an eighty-one year old resident of Timsbury.
I am a native of Timsbury and I recall an incident which happened when I was about eight years old and which to me now seems quite humorous. The village has always seemed beautiful and in those days there were more fields, which as children we really enjoyed playing in. The weather was much better – glorious summers. On this particular day, there were about a dozen of us children in the New Works field, with no Council houses at the bottom but a lovely shrubbery and a pathway in the middle leading from the turnstile at the Avenue, and down to the stile leading into Newman’s Lane. No new Cemetery of course as there is now. It must have been June or July as the grass was quite long and ready for mowing. My school pals were playing houses and mums and dads. As I approached they said “Oh, come on and play with us.” About six girls I recall and not so many boys. I stayed on the footpath for a while, reluctant to join them as I knew it was wrong to play in the mowing grass, but eventually I was persuaded when I saw our monitor Charlie was amongst the little crowd. We had a jolly good – time but as I wandered home I felt quite guilty and tried to forget how naughty I had been!
A few days after there was quite a lot of whispering going on in our classroom. Mr. Penn, the P.C. is here. He must be after us. Oh, did I shake in my shoes. He stood in front of the assembly with Mr. Arnold, our headmaster, who ventured to say ”Attention all. Will the children who were playing in the New Works field on such and such a day, please stand”
I felt so ashamed I wished the earth would swallow me up. “Mrs. Samborne (whose land it was) is going to summons you all on account the grass was ruined. PC Venn will come down to the school on Monday morning and escort you to the Manor where you will each take a sixpence each and give it to the Lady of the Manor.”
I was quite sure my Mother would willingly give me the sixpence to pay up but, alas no! She would not. She was a Sunday school teacher and quite strict and so she said she would lend me the money and I would have to pay her back each week from the pocket money I earned (2d a week) by doing errands on Saturday for my Aunt B. So that was indeed a lesson for me!
PC Venn duly arrived on Monday morning and marched us in twos up the three hills, through the big gates up the drive, over the ha-ha bridge to the north side entrance to the house, a big oak door with an iron pull bell which PC Venn pulled and rang with a loud clang. He maid promptly answered the door and ushered us in one by one into the study where the lady was sat at her desk looking very formidable in her black attire complete with crinoline skirt.
“What is your name? ” she asked.
I told her
”Not the man’s granddaughter who does my decorating and general repairs?” ”Yes ma’am, I am.”
“Well, tut tut” she said, but did not let me off paying my fine.
What humiliation! I went home not too relieved because I still had to pay my mother back the three tuppences.”