Ernest Joseph William Freebrey was born in 1908, the eldest of four, in Edmonton London. He moved as a child to Winchcombe where he was brought up, and in 1927 he came to Bishops Cleeve. From that time until his retirement in 1973 he was the village shoe repairer. In 1983 he produced the following reminiscences of the village in those early days. He died in 1987 at the age of 79.
I came to Bishop's Cleeve in 1927 at the age of 19, to start a business and establish myself in the shoe trade. The parish boundary of habitation at this time extended in a southerly direction to what was known at Gidleys Cottage on the Cheltenham Road - the cottage is scheduled for demolition when the Bypass is made. It is approximately 150 yards from Meadoway in a southerly direction on the left-hand side of the road. The Southam boundary stone used to be in the garden hedge. The western boundary was Stella Cottage, the cottage below the Home Office Buildings in Stoke Road. The north west boundary was Anchor Cottage in Evesham Road. This spot is also called "Woddons Hole" and is the Gotherington boundary. The Gylowe Brook flows under road, at this point and is the parish boundary. The railway bridge in Station Road separates Cleeve from Woodmancote in an easterly direction. Old Bishop's Cleeve then comprised, Cheltenham Road, Evesham Road, Stoke Road, Station Road, Priory Lane, Gotherington Lane, Pecked Lane and Two Hedges Lane which only extended about 200 yards from Cheltenham Road to a stone house called "Farndale". This was the Woodmancote boundary. Postal correspondence was addressed to the person concerned, Bishop's Cleeve; no numbers were used as everyone knew everyone else. Millham Road, Longlands Road, Tobyfield Road, Orchard Road, Sandown Road and Bishop's Drive did not exist. Fieldgate Road was an overgrown track with orchards each side and was known locally as Velvet Lane. Pecked Piece Lane, beyond Fieldgate Road, had one solitary farmhouse, known as Pecked Piece Farm - now demolished. Alongside Pecked Piece Lane flows the Rushing Brook which was the Woodmancote boundary. It runs into a culvert under Pecked Lane where there is a diversion stone. The one lot of water flows at the back of the house in Fieldgate Road and can be seen at a waterfall in Priory Lane. It is then piped, and is not visible again, until it is seen flowing down the Evesham Road. The other diverted water flows down along the side of Tobyfield Close, until it is piped under Tobyfield Road and is not seen again until it runs under the Cheltenham Road below the Police Houses at No. 29. It then runs into the ditch on the opposite side of the road, which runs parallel with the footpath to the top of Stoke Road, where there was a large pool, known as "Town Pool". Here horses used to drink and have their hooves and feathers washed off after ploughing. It was on the corner of Stoke Road, where the large patch of grass now is. The water was then piped under the road into an open ditch on the other side, which ran all the way down Stoke Road. This has all been piped and a footpath made over it. The pool was filled in about 1935. Other new roads, which now connect to the old village, are Sandown Road and Tobyfield Road. Meadoway used to be Gay Lane, there being two farms at the bottom end of the lane and two cottages, one since demolished, and the lodge at the top end of the road. Tobyfield Road, as it is known today, only extended as far as "Gateway" the supermarket, except for two cottages in Tobyfield Lane. One being called "Little Croft"; the other one has since been pulled down. Beyond this point it was open fields. A footpath across these fields came out into Two Hedges Lane at the side of No. 28. Where the supermarket is now, was Bill Edgintons Bakehouse, the village baker, who baked the nicest bread you could wish for. He employed two bakers and three deliverymen. Opposite here, where there are now three pairs of houses, used to be an old building known as Tobyfield Farm. To gain access to the back door, you had to go through an earthen-floored shed, which housed the cider mill and press. Coming back to Church Road, where the War Memorial is now sited, used to be four cottages. They were pulled down to make that part of the road, which connects up with Pecked Lane. Before this alteration, the road went round the back of memorial site. There were kerbs in the village, but the footpaths were just stones put down to fill up the puddles and had to be trodden into the mud. There were a deal of thatched cottages and two thatched barns - now being demolished. There also being a family of thatchers, Bill and Ben Etheridge. A lot of the cottages had boot scrapers at the side of the doors where you scraped your boots before you entered the house. Most of the cottages in the village had large gardens and a lot had orchards. A deal of cider and homemade wine were made. There were six cider mills and presses when I came here. There were four farmhouses where you could obtain milk, otherwise your milk was delivered by a cycle with a bucket by Alan Roberts, who supplemented his income with market gardening. Milk could also be got from Alf Webb, who also retailed coal, or Miss Rigbey, who did the most trade. The Home Farm also used to do a delivery on a bike. The tree on the School Road and Station Road is called the Browning Tree.
It is only since about 1954, Church Road and School Road has been so named. On the north side of Church Road where it joins Cheltenham Road, were 3 thatched cottages and a house set back at the side of these houses. They are all demolished and Nos. 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 Church Road now occupies this site. There being no other dwelling until you get to No. 25 Church Road, the garden ground in between being gardens. You next come to Tarlings Yard and Nos. 27 and 29 Church Road. Harvey's Cottage, already mentioned, occupied all that piece of ground up to the Churchyard boundary wall. On the south side of Church Road where it joins Cheltenham Road are now public toilets built about 1947. Oldacres Mill was there in 1927. Large premises in front of the mill, adjoining the road, is where the stables used to be. Beyond this, also set back from the road, was the Mill House, now demolished. The rest of the development, up to Cleeve Motors Showrooms was on the garden of Mill House, the only other change on this side of the road. I have already mentioned the demolishing of 2 cottages and a thatched barn at the back of one of the cottages to make way for the car park. The 3 business premises beyond the Royal Oak were all private residences. The site now occupied by Nos. 12 and 14 School Road was where a thatched barn used to be and at the back of No. 14 in the corner against the school wall was also another thatched cottage. Other thatched cottages since pulled down, included one at the back of the Police Houses on the Cheltenham Road and another at the side of the brook at No. 29 Cheltenham Road. About 20 yards below this cottage, was another thatched cottage known as Corsican Cottage and there was also another next to the blacksmiths shop on the Cheltenham Road. One of the houses demolished to make the road extension by the War Memorial was also thatched.
The village school in School Road, is now defunct. It was supervised by Mr. Stanley Boardman and staff, where the pupils went from 4 to 14, unless they won a scholarship to the Cheltenham Grammar or Technical Schools.
The village boasted two Railway Stations. The Great Western station was in Station Road on the right hand side of the bridge going towards Woodmancote. It is now all built upon and is known as Pine Bank. The other station was in Stoke Road in Stoke parish. The railway then known as the London Midland and Scottish Railway known as Cleeve Station. The return fare to Cheltenham being 6d. Most people cycled to Cheltenham or walked, mothers with children in prams especially, as there were no other means of transporting a pram unless you went by rail. The Bristol Bus Co. used to run about four buses a day and they were then painted blue and were known as the Bristol Blue. The fare was 4d each way. There was also a private bus called Martins. He ran twice a day to Evesham. His fare to Cheltenham was 3d. There was still a deal of horse drawn vehicles on the road at this time. Thursday was the busiest day for traffic, as this was market day in Cheltenham. You would then see the farmers and market gardeners from as far away as Kemerton and Alderton, taking their produce to market. Some used to take their wives with them, who went to do their shopping. There were not many cars owned locally.
The village at this time in 1927 comprised approximately 580 inhabitants and 170 dwellings. There were a few large houses that employed staff: The Grange had two gardeners, one groom cum chauffeur and four maids in the house; The Rectory, which is now Cleeve Hall, had two gardeners and three maids; Cleeveland House, now Cleeveway House Hotel, had a chauffeur, two gardeners and four maids; Lake House had one maid and one gardener (house is in the Stoke Road); Southfields, Station Road, had one gardener cum chauffeur, one maid and a daily help; The Manor House, Station Road, had one gardener handyman and one maid; The Priory had one gardener, one maid; and The Old Farm, in Station Road, employed one maid. The latter was a horseracing establishment conducted by Mr. Arthur Saxby. He employed as many as five lads. Bishop's Cleeve at this time was well connected with the racing fraternity. There being Billy Stott, Billy Speck and J. Hamey, the well known jockeys. Living here as well was George Roberts a jockey valet. The railway was used a lot by these people to take their horses to the race meetings.
There were a deal of footpaths used at this time. Some are now developed on and others are diverted. Coming from the bridge in the Station Road at the back of No. 89, a path goes to Gotherington. It also links with what is now Oldacre Drive, and goes under the railway line at a cattle creap into Butts Lane, Woodmancote. There is a path that goes to Gotherington across the fields between Nos. 54 and 56 Wellbrook Road. If you bear left at the stile here, it brings you into Evesham Road. If you turned right at this point, it used to bring you into Gotherington Lane. This path has since been built on.
Another path in Evesham Road is opposite Cleeveway House Hotel, which takes you to Gotherington Fields and connects up with a path to Tewkesbury. Another path in Evesham Road is opposite the two cottages on the corner of the sharp bend. It connects up with a path that runs alongside the wall of Cleeve Hall, and links with the alleyway opposite the Kings Head on the Cheltenham Road and the back of six cottages in Stoke Road.
Where Longlands Road joins Priory Lane, there used to be a path into Pecked Lane. If you crossed the brook opposite into the Cow Ground now Linworth Road. You entered Two Hedges Lane through a kissing gate, opposite what is now the Comprehensive School.
The path I have previously mentioned which went from Tobyfield Road and came out at 28 Two Hedges Road. If you crossed the lane at this point, it went through Kayte Farm, across Southam Lane and on to Prestbury.
A path now closed was at the side of The Croft in Tobyfield Lane. It brought you into Cheltenham Road where the entrance now goes to Orchard House. There is still a path to Woodmancote, through the garages in Linworth Road. Another path since built on is where No. 105 Cheltenham Road now is, it used to connect up with Kayte Lane.
Bishop's Cleeve was certainly on the map in those days. It had a piped water supply. The water came off Cleeve Hill. Gas was also supplied by the Cheltenham Gas Co. The village was lit by gas. Most houses had gas cookers, but used oil lamps and candles. The paraffin for lamps could be bought at Joe Powers garage. There was also a travelling oilman, Joe Lusty from Cheltenham, who also carried with him, brooms, buckets, bowls, gardening tools etc. He was a mobile hardware shop. The village was mainly sewered. However, it was not sewered down Stoke Road or beyond the Tythe Barn at this time. Evesham Road was sewered, as the sewer beds were on Dean Farm, which is off the Evesham Road. Electricity did not come until 1932. An old villager had the supply connected by the kindness of a relation. After a year the Board were puzzled as to why there was such a little in the meter. On investigation they discovered this old person put the electric light on to find the matches to light the oil lamp.
The villagers were a kind and friendly folk, unless anyone tried to change their mode of life. A lot of the older ones spoke with the Gloucester dialect. Our administration then was conducted by the Winchcombe Rural District Council and the Winchcombe Board of Guardians who administered the poor law, which meant that anyone who was infirm or unable to support themselves was put into the Workhouse at Winchcombe. We had to pay our rates to Winchcombe R.D.C. We had a parish council, then elected by a show of hands. Prospective councillors sat amongst the electorate and could be next to you. At the first meeting I went to in 1931, then being married, the teller was one of the prospective candidates. It was announced that if any two persons present were not satisfied with the result they could object, when it would have to go to ballot. I myself being one of the objectors was promptly asked, "did I realise what I had done?". I pleaded ignorance, and was told I had incurred a ½d rate, which proved to be unfounded. There has been a ballot ever since.
When I came here there were no council houses, despite the need, as villages far smaller than Cleeve had them in the Winchcombe Rural District Council area. The local Parish Council seemed unable to do much about it. However, a Stalwart, in the person of Mr. Allan Peacock, who was a grammar school master and lived at 41 Cheltenham Road, took it unto himself to form a community council. It included the Chairman and secretary of all the organisations in the village, such as the W.I., Football Club, Choral Society, Pig Club, Cricket Club, etc. I attended this meeting, as I was secretary of the Cricket Club. However, our voice was heard by the powers that be and I was detailed to find out who needed accommodation, as I myself wanted a house. I got a list of 10 and was duly approached to present myself to the rural district councillor, who was Mrs Lascelles, who lived at Cleeveland House. On keeping the appointment, I was ushered into her drawing room, whereupon she started to question me as to why these people wanted houses. I suggested she approach the people on my list herself, and they would supply her with the answers she required. Anyway, the results to our labours are the four council houses in Priory Lane, with the dates on the gable ends W.R.D.C. 1932. Although I gave in a list of 10, there was only one on my list who got a house. So it goes to show there was a need for them.
Our medical needs were in the hands of Dr. Lidderdale from Prestbury, who used to hold a surgery at Mr. Tom Harverys cottage, now demolished, where Nos. 1 and 3 Church Approach is now. Also Dr. Soden from Winchcombe, who held a surgery at Mrs. Rigbeys Station Road. If you left a note he would visit. He used to dispense his own cures. No going to the chemist in those days and more often than not you picked up your medicine at the Royal Oak. I have seen as many bottles of medicine on a shelf at the back of the bar as I have seen Arctic Ales on the adjoining shelf. In District Nurses Moorehen and Slade, who lived at 98 Station Road, we had two administering angels, who tended all our cuts and ailments themselves, never sending you to a doctor unless they had to. They were also the midwives for the district, as nearly all the mothers had their confinements at home. In those days Maternity Homes were unheard of. The local despatch department was taken care of by Harry (Nobby) Clark who made the coffins in his workshop at 59 Station Road. He was also the church sexton under the then rector, Rev. N. Morgan-Brown. His curate was Rev. Hippesley-Smith, who performed marriage and burial services also the "Churching" of women. At this time there existed a custom at weddings, when some village youths used to tie the gate or hold a rope across the church path after the ceremony, and had to be bribed with money before they would allow the party to pass. The "Churching" of women was a ceremony performed by the parson to a mother just delivered of a child, who went to church and thanked God for a safe delivery. The woman in question would not be accepted into anyones house until this ceremony had been performed. A woman then was confined for seven days.
I have not mentioned the Church as such, as this is something that has been covered by people far better versed on the subject than I am. Chapel Services were conducted in School Road, in what is now the Fisher Hall. Prior to this, the building was the Women's Institute. There was, prior to my coming here, a Countess of Huntingdon Chapel, just inside Pecked Lane. It is now a private residence called St. Annes.
The everyday needs of the villagers were cared for by Bill Edginton the baker and his horse drawn delivery carts, (already mentioned). Mr. A.R. Beckingsale and his son Reg, who were the grocers, delivered by bicycle. They are in Church Road, the trading name still being used. Tom Newell, the butcher had a wooden lock up shop on the Cheltenham Road - shop since demolished. It was opposite the double doors, which go into the farmyard of Home Farm. He delivered meat on a bicycle. A shoe repair shop, which was 20 yards below the butchers, is where I, Ernest Freebrey, commenced business, shop now demolished, and next door to me, was where Joe Powers did cycle repairs and sold petrol. He was selling petrol out of cans for a few weeks when I came, until he installed his first petrol pump. These were wooden premises and are in a state of decay at the time of writing. Mrs. Ted Baylis had a sweet shop in the Cheltenham Road, opposite the Kings Head, by the side of the Skilla alley. Bill Slade was the blacksmith - the shop then being on the Cheltenham Road side near what is now a fish and chip shop. The Smithy has since been demolished. Tom Cook was another blacksmith, whose smithy was in what is now known as Tarling's Yard. Tarling's Yard then being a builders yard owned by Mr. Cecil Minett. Mr. Jack Tompkins was another fine builder who had his premises opposite the Police Houses on the Cheltenham Road. These men's work, still stand as their memorials. The village Post Office was carried on by Mrs. Win. Goring, the business then being conducted in a cottage next to The Old Elm Pub, now a Youth Club. The cottage together with it's neighbour, has now been demolished to make way for entrance to the car park in Church Road. As well as administering post office business, she sold daily papers, then 1d each, Sunday papers were 2d. By the way, postage stamps were 1d, postcards could be sent for ½d. The old age pension was 10/-. Mr Reg Goring was the postman, he also delivered daily papers free. There were no telephone boxes in the village, there being very few phones in existence. If you had need to make quick communication, you had to send a telegram, or, indulging on Mrs. Goring's kindness, she would phone locally for you. A telephone call was 2d. The only other means of communication was to get someone to deliver by hand, a note or letter to a tradesman or anyone else you wanted service from.
Hairdressing was practically unknown with women, as they kept their hair long. The younger ones fancying something different, had their hair cut off into what was called a 'bob". The other cut fancied was called a "shingle". Young fellows who wanted a haircut had to go to Cheltenham. The cost of a haircut was 6d. The older ones got their wives to cut any they had left. There were a couple of village chaps who were handy with a pair of scissors, who would oblige you.
There used to be a carrier from Dumbleton named Beasley with a horse and cart who came through the village on Thursdays and Saturdays. They would deliver small items, as there were no delivery vans, as we know them today. If you ordered any bulky article, it was sent by rail, and you had to contact someone with a conveyance to fetch it for you.
The main employer of labour at this time was Oldacres Mill. They were purveyors of hay, straw, corn, meal, seeds and coal, all delivered in horse drawn vehicles. They also employed women to repair the hessian sacks, which were damaged by wear and rats. The rest of the labour force, if they were fortunate to have work, there was a deal of unemployed then, worked in Cheltenham and around, in various trades and crafts. Some did casual work in the building trade, some seasonal work on the farms. Women never went out to work, unless circumstances forced them, as they considered their place was looking after house and home. It was considered below their dignity. A husband would also be very reluctant to agree.
A tradesmans wage, such as a qualified bricklayer, was 1/- per hour, labourers were about l0d per hour. A working week then was 60 hours. Farmworkers was 30/- per week, delivery boys on a cycle was 10/- per week. Tea breaks and holidays were unheard of. A girl leaving school at 14 and going into services, got 2/6d. per week. She was only getting £1 10s per month at 21 and over. Shop girls got about 6/- per week, out of that they had to keep up their appearances and be fed. There was no such thing as childrens allowance. Your could rent a cottage for 6/- per week. You could rent a newly built modern house for 12/- per week. You could build a house for around £450. A building plot was £100. Shop hours were 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. On Saturdays, shops kept open until 9 p.m. I was apprenticed for 5 years. My wages in 1922, which was my first year of apprenticeship was 8/-, 2nd year, 10/-, 3rd year, 14/-, 4th year, 18/-, 5th year, 21/- for a 50 hour week. Unless you had served an apprenticeship in a craft trade an employer would not look at you. The usual jobs done by a woman, unless she was a dressmaker, tailoress or any other skilled form, were washing and housecleaning. No washing machines then. At that time there were quite a lot of tramps on the road. They were referred to as "Knights of the Road" also "Fagend Detectives". It was said they had a code of their own. By scratching with a piece of stone on a gatepost or a wall they would leave a sign to fellow travellers to show where they could expect to get hospitality. The tramps at this time walked from one workhouse to another, where he had to sign in before 6 p.m. He was given a meal and a bed in the casual ward. He worked all next day in the workhouse, sawing or chopping wood, breaking stone to repair the roads with, or gardening. At 8 a.m. the next morning he was released to go on his way, and given a piece of bread to tide him over, unless someone gave him something, until he got to the next workhouse, which could have been Stow-on-the-Wold, Northleach, Winchcombe, Tewkesbury or Evesham. I have only mentioned these as they are the locality. The men who travelled between the workhouses were usually clean, as they had facilities for washing themselves. It was those who would not conform, who begged and lay rough and dressed rough, and were usually lousy. I have seen one dressed in nothing but newspapers tied round him. I supposed it would be all right until it rained. I was told it was his only way to get rid of his livestock until someone gave him fresh clothes. When the weather was dry, they would sleep in dry ditches, otherwise they would seek out farm buildings or a shed. They all carried a tin in which they made two holes at the top edge to thread a piece of wire for a handle, in which they brewed their tea, boiled over a fire of twigs and dried wood. One of their ruses was to go to a cottage door and beg a can of water, after being obliged they would then ask "and could you spare a pinch of tea to go in it". They obtained these cans out of the hedgerow. That is where a deal of rubbish was dumped in those days. There was no salvage collection in the villages, as the ashes from the fire were either put on the garden paths, or garden, or mixed with the excreta from the toilet bucket (those without sewerage). There was very little un-disposable rubbish. About the only commodity that came out of tins was foreign fruit, such as pineapple and peaches. There were no tinned vegetables at this time. The tidy householder usually squashed his tins, dug a hole in the garden and buried them.
There were four public houses in the village. The Royal Oak was kept by Mr. Jack Bayliss. It belonged to Inde-Coope Brewery. It had a skittle alley, quoits and card games were played here too. It was not a popular house with the locals. I think it was because the landlord was a (Vorinor) foreigner. He came from Birmingham. This was the headquarters of Cheltenham Cycling Club. The Elm, which is now a Youth Club, was a Cheltenham Original Brewery house and was kept by Mrs. Chandler and her son Dick. They made and sold their own cider at 3d a pint, beer was 6d. This place was patronised mostly by the locals, where tip-it, quoits rings, crib and don were played. The Kings Head was a free house owned by Mrs. Waring, but sold Flowers Ales at 7d a pint. Games were not played here, as the landlady would not allow it. All these houses were alehouses only. The only pub with a full licence, that is where you could by wines and spirits as well, was the Crown and Harp. This was a Cheltenham Original Brewery House. The landlord at this time was Mr. Harry Betteridge. Skittles were the only game played here as there were only 2 small rooms besides, until it was altered.
The name of Bishop's Cleeve was well known for a 30 mile in 1927, as this is where the organisers of Sunday School treats and other functions brought their children by train to enjoy them- selves at the Eversfield Pleasure Gardens, run by an enterprising personality, Mr. Alec Denley and his wife Edith. The children had the run of the orchard, where organised races were held. They had the choice of swings, slides, see-saws, helter-skelters and coconut shies to occupy their interests, after which, they sat down to home produced bread, butter and cakes, all made by Mr. Denley and produced on the premises and set out in Eversfield Hall, which is now a factory, and is now 54 Station Road. The charge per person was 9d for a child, 1/- for an adult. The sportsfield then extended from 56 Station Road to No. 98, the other boundary being Priory Lane, which runs parallel to Station Road. Mrs Denley also conducted a retail business, where she sold their own baked bread, cakes and delicacies, sweets, lemonade etc. Their Pleasure Garden season opened from Easter to the end of September. The parties came from Stroud, The Forest of Dean, Stratford-on-Avon, Gloucester and Cheltenham. The parties came every day throughout the season, Sunday excepted. The Eversfield Hall was also looked upon as our Village Hall, as this is where we held our Whist Drives, Dances and other functions. The only time the Tythe Barn was used,was for Cleeve Flower Show, it being unlit, unsewered and unheated and in the interior, stretched from the floor to a leaking tiled gabled roof. The sports section of the Flower Show was held in the field opposite on the corner of Stoke Road. A fair was always in attendance offering Jenny Horses, Roundabouts, Swings, Coconut Shies and a Fortune Teller.
Most people were in bed by nine o'clock, as they were up before six o'clock. If you were courting a girl, her parents expected her in by nine o'clock. If you stayed in at night in the winter, you either read, played games or cards. Television had not been invented and wireless was in its infancy, with the cats whisker set being the most used. To do this the listener had to wear a pair of earphones, and everyone in the house had to whisper or you could not hear as the signals were so weak. If you had a valve set there were three and four valves. You also had a separate speaker with those sets. If you wanted to show off, you invited the neighbours round to listen and mother would brin9 out the homemade wine.
We were kept in order by Mr. Harry Haines, the policeman, the Police Station then being at Church View, No. 6 School Road. The Police notice board was erected across the road in what used to be the Village Pound. This was a walled enclosure where straying animals such as sheep, cattle, horses, pigs or donkeys were impounded, and were released on the payment of a fee by the owners. A garage now occupies the site, it is behind double doors at the end of a garden at No. 7 School Road.
The village also had it's own Fire Engine and crew of four - not quite so efficient as they are today. The engine when I came here was nearly a hundred years old, and was inadequate. It was a manual machine. It was housed in a lean-to shed, built on the side of a thatched cottage, of what was known in recent years as "The Cottage Loaf", now demolished. This was known then as the Engine House. The site is now Cleeve Motors Showroom. The man who lived here was Mr. Charlie Trapp, who was in charge of engine and crew of four. When a fire was reported to him, it would be by word of mouth. He would have to muster his crew, no sirens here, by going to their houses, and would be told where they were likely to be. He then had to catch his horse, which used to graze in a sand pit at the back of the cottage. He then had to harness it before they could start off. The only fire I saw this engine perform was in 1930, when Oldacres Mill, which was next door, caught fire. The engine was manhandled out of it's shed. The machine was found inadequate for this blaze. The Cheltenham and Gloucester Fire Brigade were sent for but refused to come because Cleeve Parish Council did not subscribe to their maintenance. It was left to the Stroud Volunteer Fire Brigade to oblige, who did an excellent job. It took 2 days to clear it up, damping down, as there was so much combustible material. The Parish Council donated to Cheltenham Brigade after this, until the Government took over control of the Brigades. The old fire engine finished up in one of the out buildings at the Tythe Barn. The engine was offered to several museums. Cheltenham had not enough space. It was left out in the elements and Mother Nature did the rest.
When I came here, there were the seasonal smells, such as hay, the smell of lime blossom, cider making and at night woodsmoke. There were few teenage girls around at night as their parents never let them out, unless it was to go on an errand. Most of them were put into domestic service, on leaving school. The only time they got off was half a day a week and every second Sunday and had to be back in by 10 p.m. In season the youths played cricket or football. They went rabbiting with ferrets and nets, some went shooting, also ratting with ferrets and dogs and Fox hunting when hounds were about. Some used to go Badger digging. They also went eeling in the brook. In winter if the lake in Stoke Road was frozen, there was sliding and skating with the permission of Mrs. Brotheridge. There was also sliding on the rectory pond. This was in the far corner of the Pulla, the new Bishops Cleeve football field in Stoke Road. This pond has now been filled in. The children amused themselves playing hopscotch, tops, hoops or marbles. In the dark evenings, for devilment, the youths used to tie the door handles of two adjoining cottage doors, knock on both doors and run. The occupants being unable to get out. If a new lad joined the gang he would be initiated by playing Shoeing the Wild Colt. He would be led to someones door, which had a boot scraper outside, then one of the lads picked up one of the victims feet and pretended to shoe him as a smithy does, with the leg between his legs. While this one was holding on, the victims other leg was tied to the scraper. When he had been secured, someone knocked on the door and left the victim to do some explaining. Another popular game, was to make up a shoebox into a parcel, attaching a length of string to it, they would place it out in the road by Skilla alley and conceal themselves over the wall of what was the Old Rectory. When someone came along and picked it up, they would tug on the string. This game was always played in this spot as it was used by pedestrians and it was illuminated by a gas lamp on the corner. It was a good place to get away from if chased, as that was what they were expecting. There was no vandalism. Everyone knew that if anyone was caught vandalising it was police court case. Money was scarce, so the lads made their own pastimes. To walk to Southam, up onto Cleeve Hill and down one of the lanes, was a regular route. Some used to go cycling, a distance of 12 miles and back, was looked upon as a normal run. There were several men about here who used to ride tricycles. It was said they were nervous of trying to balance on two wheels. One such character was Mr. Bill Aldridge. He lived in Cheltenham. He told me his wife refused to live in Cleeve, so he had to travel everyday to his mothers farm in Pecked Piece on his trike. For years after the farm was sold in 1934, he still came Out everyday to the new owners. In all weathers, he could be seen of and evening going home, pulling his trike up the Park Bank with his can of milk on the handlebars, and a bag tied on the back with potatoes or swedes or turnips in. He was still doing this when he turned 80.
The first week I came here there was a dance, and I had to come away without a razor. Someone suggested that I went up to an old cobbler who lived in a cottage, now demolished, where the war memorial now stands. This old fellow did a bit of cobbling and barbering and I can tell you he was rough at his jobs. His name was Bill Paish, known locally as Bent Axle. However, I knocked on the door and I told him my requirements. He invited me into the room off the street. The room was about 7ft x 6ft, in the corner of which was a gas stove. He sat me down on a kitchen chair, put the kettle on the gas, put a stinking towel round my neck and disappeared. I held my breath in spasms as long as I could. He eventually came when the kettle boiled. He then proceeded to lather me, that went all right until he got this cut-throat razor into operation. Tears were coming to my eyes, he had then got my head back and was drawing the razor up my throat, whereupon he exclaimed in the Gloucester dialect "By unt you that young shoemaker chap?" I admitted I was. When he says, "It's all right, it's all right, don't get the wind up, I byunt a goin to cut thee thrut". I wasn't scared of the razor, it was the stinking towel I didn't like.
Another character, was Bill Washbourne, from Gotherington. He worked for a farmer and horse dealer, who used to take him to Gloucester Market every Saturday in a horse and trap, where he bought these horses. He would then set Bill on his way home with these horses. There were 6 to 8 horses in a string, with each horses halter tied to the tail of the horse in front. Bill had to walk from Gloucester to Gotherington. He was a very nervous man. You could here him approaching a quarter of a mile away, shouting and cussing at any approaching vehicle, who he thought was going to disturb his charges. It was always between 5 and 5.30 p.m. Winter and Summer, no lights, and he had often got unbroken colts among them. But, by the time he had done the 12 miles between Cleeve and Gloucester, they were fairly settled down.
Christmas time brought out the carol singers. They were always well mannered. If no one came to the door you went away. It was considered offensive to knock on the door. There were also the hand-bell ringers. How lovely they sounded on a clear crisp night. The working class mans Christmas dinner was either goose, or chicken, home-reared and fattened, sometimes pig meat, as nearly everyone kept poultry for eggs and table. If you had a pigsty and kept a pig, this is the time you killed it, as it was just the right weather for curing the beacon and hams. If your goose was too big to get in your oven at home, you took it up to Bill Edgintons bake house, where the baker, usually Percy Moore would cook it for you for a tip. You could also take your own lard and dried fruit. He would supply the dough, mix it and bake it. There you were with a lovely dough cake. He charged you one shilling.
Bishop's Cleeve as it is today, has encroached on the neighbouring parishes of Southam and Woodmancote since the boundary changes. Gone are the days when Cleeve was a typical Cotswold village.