top of page

A Blagdon Childhood

This is a section that stems from a meeting of the Blagdon Local History Society (8th Nov 2023 - see right),at which Society members were invited to talk about their lives in Blagdon as children. Such an incredible amount of change in Blagdon was so apparent it seemed essential to record as much of this information of day-to-day comings and goings and the habits of the local countryfolk before it is forgotten. The  the meeting  featured the memories of John Lyons, Marion Ball and the sisters Alison Johnson and Elaine Weaver. The transcript of Mike Adam's article on the Weaver sisters' talk follows.

Screenshot 2024-02-20 at 15.39.19.png

Four of Blagdon’s present and past residents gave us an insight into life in our village spanning the 1940s to the present day.  


Alison and Elaine attended Blagdon School when Mr Bax was Headmaster. For school competitions, pupils were divided into two houses depending on which side of Bath Road they lived; Blackdown House if they lived on the upper slopes of the village but Yeo House if they lived on the valley side. During their childhood, Alison, Elaine and their brother John lived in both the Yeo & Blackdown sides of the village.


 “First, we lived with our parents, Keith and Ruth Weaver at Greengates, at the bottom of Church Street. Our grandparents Ernest and Charlotte Weaver ran Lower Ellick Farm at the top of Burrington Combe, a mixed farm of 120 acres with fields on both sides of the road. The tenancy included grazing stints on The Ham for livestock and also rights to gather bracken on Blackdown for animal bedding. In the early days they took in paying guests. Lottie used to joke that she made more money from this than Ernest did from the animals.


“We always enjoyed hearing memories from our parents. Dad and his sister Gwen walked from the farm to Blagdon School. dad enjoyed gardening lessons & learning  the violin after school, in the Live & Let Live pub. He left school at 14 and started working with his father Ernest. He recalled riding his pony up to Blackdown and seeing yellow rattle, green orchids, skylarks & lapwings. Mum told us about her very urban upbringing in the heart of Manchester, enjoying poetry at school as well as being in school plays. Later she volunteered to join the Land Army and was posted to rural Butcombe.”


In the 1930s, Ernest received such a low price for the milk that he decided to try & sell it directly. The Gallop family already had their milk round in Blagdon, so they decided to set up deliveries in the Redland, Cotham and Clifton area of Bristol. Ernest and Keith delivered milk into Bristol each day for almost ten years, until 1941 when bombing raids caused the loss of many customers and passage along the streets was difficult. They then took on the Gallops’ round in Blagdon and expanded it to Butcombe, Burrington and Rickford.


“In the 1950s, when we were children, there were lots of other door-to-door deliveries in the village, including the Parsley Brothers from Wrington selling household items, especially paraffin and ‘Tacker’ Morris from Langford selling shoes. Our Aunty, Gwen Edwards sold eggs & seasonal chickens. There were also fish, bread, Tizer and meat deliveries.


“A vivid memory of living down in the village was that we walked everywhere: to visit friends; go to school, the Methodist Chapel & Sunday School, also Brownies in the club; for appointments with Dr Bell; to the shops, the lake and for piano lessons. We sometimes walked to the cemetery at the bottom of Grib Lane which was a ‘calming’ walk before a new term at school! Other seasonal activities we remember: sledging down the slopes above Timswell on snowy days; visits from the Mendip Carollers in their Dickensian costumes; and building a model Guy Fawkes each autumn. In summertime, the Flower Show on the Mead was very popular and we were encouraged by Mum & Dad to take part in all the garden & handicraft classes for children. We especially enjoyed the fancy dress event and the fairground rides. In the summer holidays dad would sometimes finish his deliveries early, scrub out the milk van, throw down blankets and we’d bump along to local sites, such as Clevedon, Weston & Bristol Zoo.


“Grandad Weaver died in Spring 1962, so by the summer our family had moved up to live at the farm. Being older then, we could help with a lot of the jobs that needed doing, like feeding calves and hens; collecting & sorting eggs; bottling milk and washing equipment in the dairy; as well as being more helpful on the milk round. Mum learned to drive and soon passed her test, so she could then drive for family occasions as well as on the milk round. Later in 1962, the Big Freeze ‘hit’ and lasted well into February 1963. For us children the heavy snowfall was fun, although the adults had to cope with power cuts in the cow sheds, freezing pipes in the dairy and snow drifts making roads impassable. Milk still had to be sold, so crates would be loaded onto the tractor and deposited at different locations around the villages. We then helped drag milk crates around the streets, using our wooden sledges. Some customers walked to key points to collect milk”


During term time the sisters went to school, walking across the fields and along Luver’s Lane to meet the school bus each day. They remember Mrs Bax’s recorder lessons, sports day, country dancing, lessons on the radio such as Singing Together & Music & Movement and putting on school plays. Mr Tyson used to entertain his class by reading Winnie The Pooh with different voices for each character. At Christmastime, Mr Bax organised a group of older children to go Carol singing around Blagdon to raise money for charity.


“July 1968 saw the ‘Great Mendip Flood’ when the farmhouse and farm buildings were inundated with three or four feet of muddy water. We remember being brought home early from boarding school to help with the big clear up. Of course, the animals still needed attention and milk needed to be bottled & delivered each day, in spite of the mess everywhere.”


The Weavers continued producing and retailing milk until Keith & Ruth celebrated their retirement in 1991, had a farm sale, sold the milk round to Unigate and moved to Lower Langford.

Weavers family collage B 2.png

Above: A mottage of Weaver memories

John Lyon's childhood memories

My dad was born in Combe cottages , later moving to Walnut Tree House with his dad Bill and mum Florence.  Mum had moved out of Bristol because of the bombing with her parents and mums Auntie Edie.  Aunties husband was killed in the last week of the war. They had taken the lease on the Live and Let Live pub opposite the School. Mum and dad married in 1940 and took a flat in Mr and Mrs Hope's house Hannah More House where I was born.  On dad’s return from the army we moved to Laburnum House on the Bath Road.


Two of my memories of Blagdon School are firstly having a hygiene inspection every morning ie . clean hands and fingernails, also having the slipper over Mr Bax’s desk. I played in the garden with my brother Andrew, mostly Cowboys and Indians. Gran Lyons made me a chieftains headdress that went right down my back. Mum took me to see Davy Crockett at the Alamo in the Odeon Bristol, then gran made me a beaver hat with a tail, actually rabbit fur. Several of us lads joined Redhill Cubs where we worked for our badges and played wide games in Canada Coombe.


Another pastime we loved was caving and climbing in Burrington Coombe. We spent many happy hours in Goatchurch Cavern,  Sidcot Swallet and East Twin Cave. We would wear our old clothes and wellington boots, take our battery lights off our bikes and venture forth into the dark. Goatchuurch has a long tunnel very much like a drainpipe only larger which we would squirm through into a cavern big enough for about ten of us. Only problem was the only way out was to return along the tunnel again. Quite deep in Sidcot Swallet was a Somerset road sign-post pointing to Blagdon, Churchill and Langford, it must have been quite a challenge getting it down there.


When I was about fourteen Pete Ryley took his three sons Martin, Norman and Nicky plus David Hall, myself and Norman Ebdon and we drove to Cardiff in his Ford Van. We picked up three canoes plus my two seater which was already on the roof and we drove to Monmouth, camped the night, then in the morning we all helped make ourselves breakfast before starting our trip canoeing down the river Wye. The trip took us three days , camping overnight then setting off again early mornings. We would take a packed lunch with us in a waterproof bag while either Norman Ebdon or Pete would drive to the next camp-ground. Pete gave us all a safety talk before we started and we all had life jackets. One thing he said was to stay with our canoe if we capsized and await rescue. Pete was a rather portly man and unfortunately was the only one to capsize having hit a rock just under the surface which turned him over.  We all waited for him to surface not realising that he was jammed in his canoe. Fortunately, he suddenly broke surface taking huge gulps of air. We were all very scared and much relieved.


Pete also acquired an Austin Seven which he serviced and gave to us lads to learn to drive on. With Farmer Gallops permission we would take it in turns driving up and down the track at the end of Garston lane.  Norman was the scariest driver going around the S bend at the bottom almost on two wheels. Many firemen who served with Norm will tell you that he regularly drove the fire engine around corners on two wheels.  Fortunately, we all lived to tell the tale and were fairly competent drivers by sixteen.


Because mum and dad were very busy in the Butcher’s shop I spent quite a lot of time with my grandparents, playing with the boys from the east of the Village whilst at Gramp Stokes’s, then my other mates when staying at Walnut Tree.  We played mostly in the woods, building dens and small houses in clearings we had made. I also spent a lot of time in the glen with Robert Hancock and Michael Duck or played with Martin and Norman Ryley, Terry Hemings and David Hall playing armies in Mr Ryleys garden or riding our bikes along the railway line and playing hide and seek in the abandoned station buildings. We also discovered an abandoned train on tracks hidden on the right of the lakeside road. Dad said it was used when they were dredging the lake. 

One evening several of us were hidden in the woods by the fishing lodge waiting for Frankie Vaughn and friends to come off their boat so that we could get his autograph.


The Winter of 1963 was my first memory of really deep snow and Dad asked me to accompany him on his butchers round on the Mendips. Dad managed to get to the top of Two Trees where we left the van and proceeded to pull my sledge, loaded with two rucksacks full of various meats, over the fences and hedges until we reached the Charterhouse to Shipham road, where we served the houses as far as Long Wood Farm. Because the snow was so deep we had to serve all the customers through their bedroom windows. On our return to the van we were completely bushed.


I can remember as a child Blagdon having many businesses, starting at the New Inn there was a saddlers run by Mr Buff Carpenter, while further up was Cherry Trees gift shop, selling Tonka and Matchbox toys among other things. Next a shop where Gilcombe House now has a studio annexe. On the Bath Road there was Mr Horace Gooding's general stores, then at the bottom of Sladacre Lane was a cobblers run by Mr Saint. In the dip by Eldreds Orchard was a filling station run by Bob Lyons his wife and son Gordon.  Later there was a vehicle repair shop up the drive run by Dick Shipsey and Norman Ryley. Just up the rise was Cecil (Sammy) Sampson and his wife Ann's newsagent‘s shop. Plus Sammy did haircuts in any style you fancied as long as it looked like a basin cut. Then there was Baker Cole’s Bakery where I would be sent to buy scrumptious freshly baked loaves of bread and rolls.  Mr Tom Brunt lived in the cottage in the fork of Liberty lane and Bath Road. He was a skilled Cabinet Maker and made a nest of tables for my and Naomi’s wedding, which we very much value. Next on the right was Robert’s garage, run by Mr Harold Bruton. They sold most car and bicycle parts and did mechanical repairs and bodywork. Dick Shipsey, Pete Ryley,  Neil Stone and Claude Skillman all worked there at some time. Down the hill we had Redwoods Stores, later Cole’s Stores. Opposite the Village Club was Mr Vernon Chummy Ash’s cobblers shop and next door, Reg Wigleys Butcher’s shop, where my dad worked with Mrs Wigley,  Reg having had a serious motor bike accident on one of the Butcombe crossroads on his way to play football for Bristol City leaving him unable to ever work again. 













Blagdon Post Office run by Frank Light was next, they had a dog called Sugar who guarded Post Office Lane and would try to bite anyone venturing past. The aforementioned Pete Ryley told us one evening around the campfire on our canoe trip that he was from Liverpool and with his best friend served in the tank regiment during the war.  He said that they had made a pact that if either one was killed the survivor would visit the deceased girlfriend to tell how and where they died.  Well Pete’s friend came from near Blagdon and his girlfriend was one of Mr Lights daughters, Frances.  He said they fell in love and set up home in Blagdon, luckily for us. 












Lastly on the left was Blagdon Co-op run by Mr Currel and Mrs Wiffen plus another lady who’s name I forget.
















Opposite was Mr Need's Sweets and Ice cream shop. You would enter the shop and the bell would ring in the cottage behind, then either his wife or he would climb up the steps into the shop to serve you.

Directly opposite the Co- op was Marsh’s garage, originally run by Mr Marsh then by Bert Young whose wife Betty did hair dressing in the house below.


We then proceed up Rhodyate hill where Cecil (Chappy ) Paynes' builders yard was on the right, later Taylor’s Patios although the property was now owned by Oliver Lyons, who owned the Coach Station called Blagdon Lioness where Michael and Nicky now live.














Finally on the left was another sweet shop and general stores run by Mr Lake and family in my time, but previously by a Mrs Lyons, Oliver’s mum

25 post office.JPG
26 Coop.JPG
27 sweet shop.jpg
29. Mendip Garage Street End.jpg
28 Lyons shop.JPG
             Memories of A Blagdon Childhood
by Marion Ball  

 I was not actually born in Blagdon, but both of my parents were born here, my mother in 1912 in the cottage above Fir Tree Farm, and my father in 1913 in Gilcombe House, where his father ran a bakery and his mother had a sweet shop. (see below)






















We always visited Blagdon during the war years as both my maternal and paternal grandparents lived here.   My father, who was in the fire service in Bridgwater and Taunton came back whenever possible to help my grandfather, Baker Cole, who now owned the village bakery opposite the Mead (see below). On Christmas day villagers would bring their turkeys in trays to be cooked in the bread ovens. This was a free service although my grandmother would put out her Barnardo's collecting box for donations.                                                                                       













My maternal grandparents, Mr. & Mrs. Cooke by then had moved to Highfield in High Street.   My grandfather originally came to Blagdon as a carpenter to the Wills estate.   My grandmother ran a bed and breakfast and took in fishermen.










































I remember being very frightened one night travelling back to Burnham-on-Sea where we lived to be stopped by a soldier at a checkpoint who could not find our name on the ‘list’.


We came to live in the village in December 1945 when my father, with my grandfather, bought the village shop – where the post office and stores is now.                                                






























A member of staff, of which there were about 5, drove to the outlying    villages, sometimes with a bike, to take grocery orders from customers. These orders were assembled in the shop and delivered by a large van next day.  Orders were collected from Butcombe, Nempnett and Charterhouse on a fortnightly basis.                                                                 





















We had a shed at the top of the garden where dry goods which had been bought in bulk were stored and subsequently packaged. Dried fruits, sugar and butter in particular. Dad used to bone out a whole side of bacon and also skin large cheeses, the cheese cloths used after washing as dusters.   One of my jobs was to sort and count the coupons from Ration Books, a tedious job, they were so small.                                                                     


In 1965 Dad changed the shop to self-service, assuring all of his customers that he was there at all times to help them if they needed help.   This transformation took place over a whole weekend – I remember it well, I had a young baby and was sleeping for the night on the floor right over the shop.                                                                    


I went to Blagdon School where I remember being very frightened of the Headmaster. He always kept a cane on his desk, mostly used on the boys if they misbehaved – how things have changed. Aged 10 I was sent to boarding school in Weston-Super-Mare, coming home only for the holidays.   Weston seemed a long way from Blagdon in those days.


One of the things I dreaded as a young child was the walk to Sunday School on a Sunday afternoon.   The Church Path was not tarmacked as it is now and it was easy to slide from the top of the hill to the bottom on the way. Sunday had to be a quiet day, no playing outside and never chores like washing done by my mother.

As a teenager we attended Blagdon Church, where my father was a Churchwarden and I went with family and friends.   I was a bell-ringer, a hobby which I was able to enjoy until quite recently.


As teenagers we organised dances in the School Hall – it was called the Parish Room in those days.   I also helped to run a Brownie Pack.                          


Our main social meeting place was the Village Club where we played table tennis in the evenings and worried the life out of the resident Steward, Henry Buxton.  There was also a library in the Club for many years.  My father now had a manager in the shop, Jimmy Leach, and the family had moved to Grib Lane. It was a scary walk home in the dark through Church Path.


We are very lucky in Blagdon, I do not think that the village has changed as much as some villages.   Maybe it is because in all of my life I have only lived out of the village for 12 years – 6 years at the beginning and 6 years when were first married, 63 years ago, and could not afford a house in Blagdon.   I love it when people say what a friendly place it is to live in and I could not agree more.

Screenshot 2024-02-20 at 21.55.06.png
Screenshot 2024-02-20 at 21.51.03.png

Baker Cole's bakery above the Mead, opposite the bus shelter.

Gilcombe house as a bakery with a shop. Marion's Dad was born there.

Screenshot 2024-02-20 at 21.43.18.png

Left: The Cooke family when they lived at the last cottage below the Queen Adelaide. Marion's Mum is in the middle at the front, with her  grandparents and two boys that were to become her Uncles.

Screenshot 2024-02-20 at 21.52.56.png
Screenshot 2024-02-20 at 21.46.35.png

Left:The village stores before 'Self-Service.

We had no bathroom when we moved to the shop, an outside toilet. Bath night was a tin bath in front of the fire in the living room being careful not to burn yourself on the side nearest the fire.


Screenshot 2024-02-20 at 21.49.20.png

The shop was very different in those days. (right).No self-service. There was a drapery section in the top end of the building and biscuit tins showing the contents ranged along the front of the grocery counter. 

Screenshot 2024-02-20 at 21.45.03.png

 Left: Bert Shipsey with one of the early delivery vans.

Screenshot 2024-02-20 at 21.40.48.png

Right: Another delivery van, 1950s (?)

bottom of page