By Tom Gye
Tom’s wife Peggy was the founder of our museum and from time to time Tom has given memories for the museum. Here he writes about the building we now know as …
My first recollection of the Rectory goes back to the mid 1920s. The earliest and most vivid is of the front elevation covered from ground level to eaves by a very dark ivy with ‘cut-outs’ round the windows and front door. The occupants then were a Mr & Mrs. Alfie AIexander. I cannot recall her first name. After their demise during the latter stages of WW2 A governor of Dauntsey’s School took an interest because incoming new staff had difficulty finding accommodation. He arranged for the ivy to be removed, fearing damage to the brickwork.
The first occupant was a Francis Brown, wife and son who moved in after the two-storey extension, ground floor cloaks and bathroom over, had been completed, probably latter part of 1947. Their baby daughter was baptised at the same time as our younger son Johnathan. Jonty was born 29th Nov. 1946 but was not baptised earlier because of the bitter weather. A septic tank had been constructed in the drive area to take the foul water from the new bathroom and cloaks. When main sewerage was installed this tank was by-passed with a connection direct to the sewer. Francis Brown taught at Dauntsey’s.
Apart from that extension the building was ‘L’ shaped with the Queen Anne front forming the main branch and the kitchen area forming the rest, all basically as it is now without the study. The rear entrance was the kitchen doorway, probably a different door and the kitchen connected to the dining room by a door where the serving hatch is now. The cellar and stairway as now. There were steps from the back door area leading up to a path rising centrally in the lower part of the garden. To the right of the path the incline rose from kitchen windowsill level with an ‘air drain’ protecting the kitchen wall. The ‘gazebo’ as it is now known was almost certainly a two-seater earth closet, possibly with a child’s alongside or between. Called ‘earth’ because a hole was dug to receive the bucket contents.
Where the garage block stands there was a two-storey brick and tile barn like building. The ground floor would have held a light horse drawn vehicle (a ‘trap’, shooting brake or governess cart), and stable.
Alfie Alexander kept breeding sows on the ground floor.
On the opposite side of the driveway where the study has been built there was an elongated mound containing soiled straw, ashes, pig and horse manure and the odd dead piglet.
Alfie was an interesting character, very scruffy on working days but on Sundays he would don his best attire to attend the Congregationalist Church where he was a devout worshipper.
I am not sure how he secured an income. The piglets would have produced a certain amount. With his wagon and horse he was employed by the Parish Council to collect refuse at intervals. There were no dust or wheelie bins. He owned a patch of woodland on a sandy slope where he would deposit the refuse and cover it with soil. The refuse then would have included stone jars, which later became popular with collectors. A number remembered Alfie’s dump and collectors searched the area to release stone jars.
He had political leanings there is a shot of him walking In London alongside Winston Churchill
They had a daughter Daisy who married Sam Hopkins, member of a family who lived opposite The Old School. The Hopkins were also keen Congregationalists. The couple were of slightly advanced age and the non-conformist Church were continually praying that Daisy might conceive. Their prayers were answered and they produced a son and daughter.
The Hopkins family were builders eventually owned by Sam and younger brother Ernest. After they retired their carpenter continued working doing small jobs. One day I was talking to him about the Hopkins brothers and he said “Sam was always on the site laying bricks but Ernie he did sit in the office turning sixes into nines”. Judging by the amount of property they were able to buy at the Manor sale, Ernie must have been quite successful.