The Parish Council records for 1939 – 1945 testify to man’s ability to preserve an appearance of normality at times of great upheaval. Concerns about ‘thorns overhanging the footpath from the New Inn to the Church of England school’ in July 1941, or that cows were causing a nuisance on the footpath at South Road, and the police should be informed, have an irrelevance when set in the context of the war then being waged on a scale hitherto unknown. But for the Parish Council it was ‘business as usual’ as it carried out its duty to provide and maintain village amenities. When official directives concerning various war efforts do appear in the minutes, they, too, appear rather far removed from the serious events taking place elsewhere.
Faced with the likelihood of food shortages, the Council agreed to co-operate with Somerset Rural Community Council in the production and marketing of vegetables during the war, but decided not to form a Pig Keeping Club. In 1941, the Ministry of Food was sent a strong protest ‘against the proposed method of allocating sugar for jam, which in the opinion of the Annual Parish Meeting is an insult to the ordinary householder’s intelligence’.
Invasion scares brought a letter from the County A.R.P. Organiser warning that enemy aircraft might land in open spaces. A sub-committee identified some likely fiends, and ‘informed the various occupiers of their responsibility to erect obstacles therein’. A representative of the Parish Council was appointed to an ‘invasion Committee’ in October 1942, but there is no further reference to any of its meetings or activities.
Sympathy for victims of bombing, and support for far distant allies, was shown in the flag days held throughout the war to raise money for the National Air Raid Distress Fund, Aid to Russia, and Aid to China. Footpaths remained an important item on the agenda, especially those that had been ploughed. In September 1943, Councillors resolved to record, with dates, those that had been brought into cultivation. They also complained to the War Agricultural Executive Committee that the Council had received no notice when footpaths were about to be ploughed.
The W.A.E. Committee offered to investigate any eases of farmers ploughing footpaths without the necessary authority under the Defence Regulations. Several farmers were named, but only one had acted without authority. Farmers were ordered to signpost any diversions and all rights of way were to be restored ‘as soon as Paragraph 5(a) of Defence Regulations 62 shall cease to be in force’.
The likely needs of the Parish at the end of the war were being discussed by the Council early in 1943. The celebrations at the end of the war sound extraordinarily modest. Out of £10 allocated in 1945 for fireworks and a bonfire, £9.16.9d was later returned to the general fund, and £20 intended for souvenir presents for all the village children, was never spent, but used to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Victory celebrations in 1946 were abandoned, ‘in view of the serious world shortages of food and other goods’.
Plans to restore street lighting to the village started in February 1945. But the efforts of the Council were repeatedly frustrated by post war shortages of the necessary brackets, reflectors and time switches. Then, in March 1947 came a government ban on street lighting because of fuel shortages, followed by refusals to approve schemes in areas which had not been lit before the war. When eventually nineteen lamps were lit in December 1948, the village had its first street lighting since 1916. The remaining eleven lamps come into use in January 1950, making a total of thirty lamps all financed by a 6d lighting rate.
By 1946, the village was entitled to thirteen Parish Councillors. Exactly thirteen candidates were nominated for the new Council, including for the first time three women. Not until 1949 was a poll necessary and the parish had to share the expenses of such an election amounting in 1949 to £32.9.8d.
Attempts to get things done after the war met with frustrating delays and objections. The problems experienced over the lighting scheme have already been indicated. The Council tried, and failed to provide such items as bus shelters, better road signs, and an extra letter box at Greenvale. (This was refused owing to the proximity of the box at Timsbury Sub Post Officer) Road repairs were regularly postponed, and the Annual Parish Meeting in March 1950 complained about the ‘present slow rate of building council houses in the Clutton District, and especially at Timsbury’, a charge which was not accepted by Clutton. A few months later, clearly, there were families living in the houses at Greenvale because the Council decided to alert the police to the dangers of children there playing on the highway.
A reminder of the exceptionally cold weather in 1947 comes in the reply of the scavenging contractors to complaints that refuse collectors were damaging the bins. Apparently, the problem arose from ‘householders not having proper containers with lids, and through putting out potato peelings which froze and had to be bumped out by the men’. The failure of water supplies at this time raised concerns about the likelihood of further failures in summer, and concern at the delay in getting an adequate supply.
The recently formed Women’s Institute is mentioned when in April 1948 the Council asked it to organise a collection for the ‘Children of Europe’. A year later the Council did not immediately respond to the W.I.’s request for litter bins for the village, but in May 1952 the Chairman was investigating ‘containers to be put on telephone posts for people to place waste paper in instead of leaving it in the street’.
Sometimes the Council had to admit that it was powerless to be of any assistance as in May 1950, when it received a complaint about the nuisance of rooks nesting in the trees in Rectory Lane. But it had remarkable success in persuading the Bath Tramways Motor Co. Ltd. to run extra buses at times of peak demand, duplicating and even triplicating the scheduled service.
For over twenty six years, from April 1924 to August 1951 Mr. Oliver Janes was Parish Clerk, with a salary of £15 per annum. When ill-health forced him to retire the councils recorded its ‘sincerest thanks for the long and faithful sensible rendered’. Once again, as in 1924, a councillor, Mr. Frederick Sims, resigned from the Council in order to become the clerk. After a brief period, he too became ill and resigned. His successor in 1955, chosen from three applicants for the post was Mr, Eric Brimble, who served the Council for just over thirty four years.
In January 1953, the death of the Chairman, Mr. Clifford Ruddock is recorded. For nearly thirty years, he had been member of the Council, and for much of that time he had been its chairman. For the next seventeen years, Mr. Roland Pickford was chairman, with Mr. Arthur Moon as vice-chairman. The Council would continue to enjoy the benefits of stability and long experience in its leadership.
Reproduced from ‘Timsbury Parish Council 1894-1994’ by kind permission of the Council and the author Mrs V Packham.