Interview with Janet Guppy

Janet Guppy- An Introduction

Janet Guppy (née Jenner-Spier) was 2 weeks old when she came to live in Burton Bradstock. Her Father, a descendant of Edward Jenner, was a Pharmacist and her Grandfather owned Pharmacies all over the Midlands and the South. Her parents lived in Sidmouth and were the Tango Champions of the South West. A diphtheria epidemic broke out in the Midlands and Janet's father was sent for to help. Unfortunately, he caught diphtheria and died just before Janet was born. After the birth, Janet's Mother took her and her brother to live with her sister, Gladys, and husband Rob Gale, in Burton Bradstock. Janet would come to look on Auntie Gladys and Uncle Rob as her parents and Burton would be home until her marriage in 1953.

Rob Gale was the Village butcher [B1] and he was great friends with Frank Bishop, who owned Shadrach Farm and Riding Stables. In the First World War, they had joined up on the same day despite Rob being under age, both joined the Horse Guards and both arrived home on the same day.

Uncle Rob had Livery Stables in Grove Road and let out Hunters. Where 'Stable Cottage' is now were the actual stables [B2]; 'The Stable' was cow stalls! Janet had 2 horses and developed a great love of horses and riding. In 1951-2, Rob moved cows up to Grove Orchard as well. Rob Gale kept a Tractor in a garage where Marion Surry's house is now and opposite were Barns. There are many photographs of Janet on horseback [B3] but just one of her cleaning her Uncle's car [B4]! This photograph was taken by the comedian AI Read, in the early 50s when he used to visit family in the area a lot.

Janet remembers that Darby Lane had grass up the middle and, interestingly, opposite The Three Horseshoes was a Fire Station and Siren. It was only a wooden shack but it was a step up from the hose and tap at the bottom of Donkey Lane, which it had been.

Janet married Geoff Guppy in July 1953. She had 10 days to plan her wedding which horrified her Auntie Gladys but Geoff was being sent to Malaya, where the Emergency was on. Janet got permission to go too and they were eventually re-united in a camp in the middle of Malaya.  There were film shows in the Mess to show the Malays and Indians what life was like in England. At the first film show Janet and Geoff attended, the credits rolled and suddenly there was Stan Parsons, her uncle's cowman, driving his cows past The Shoes [B5].

Janet returned to England in 1956, visiting Burton Bradstock often. Her uncle bought several cottages and land in the 1958 Sale and eventually she and Geoff returned to live in the Village in 1979 when they bought the shop in Shadrach. Janet says she sent Geoff out for bread, milk and a newspaper and he came back with a shop!

Life in Burton Bradstock in the Fifties
As remembered in 2012 by Janet Guppy

I well remember the day our dear King George VI died. It was announced on the radio, and afterwards only solemn music was broadcast, with frequent interruptions and announcements.

That evening we were due to have a rehearsal in our house (Hydrangea House). My aunt, Mrs Gale, who was producing a show called Variety Roundabout, said obviously we wouldn't be able to have a rehearsal that evening out of respect for the King. As everyone lived in the village word soon got around "No rehearsal tonight!” However, at 7 O'clock that evening they all turned up at the door with "Come on Mrs Gale, we've got to have a practice. The King would have wanted it". So once again we had a full house with everyone recalling memories of our lovely King between songs and sketches. The King would have been proud of Burton that night I am sure.

Life in Burton was very different in the fifties. There were four working farms in the centre of the village, Mr. Bunny Lenthall, Mr. Edgar Hawkins, Mr. Rob Gale (who was also a butcher), and Mr. Frank Bishop.

Cows were herded through the village twice daily at milking times (plenty of free manure for the gardens!), and buckets of water would be needed for swilling the doorsteps. Mr. Stanley Williams had a grocery shop in the main street and had a stand outside with fruit and vegetables. Careful as the cowmen were, the cows frequently helped themselves to the odd cabbage, lettuce, apple etc. My Uncle, Mr. Gale, often had to find an extra fillet steak to repay the loss of a cabbage or two!

Food was still on ration, but amounts were increased slightly and practically every cottage had a few chickens. I still love to hear the cockerels crowing, no matter how early in the morning.

Mr Williams came around the village with his van, carrying paraffin oil, vegetables, biscuits, tins of food etc., and if there had been a good catch he would have buckets of mackerel as well. Mr Mullins kept the other grocery shop, The Bridge Stores, and here he had several shelves of books at the rear from which the books could be borrowed at 3d a time, with a strong reminder to return them [B6]. The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, now the library, still had services on Sunday afternoons [B7].

The Post Office, now part of The Three Horseshoes, was run by the Swaffield sisters. Post was delivered twice daily by Jimmer, who also delivered on Christmas morning, especially to houses where he was rewarded with a warming glass of Port!

Bread was delivered daily, all warm from the bakery at the mill where the flour was milled from locally grown wheat. Animal feeds were also produced here. They would also cook your Christmas turkey or chicken in the bakery ovens on Christmas morning if needed [B8].

Our butcher's shop was open every day and delivered regularly in the Village as well as all the surrounding villages and farms. We produced and delivered milk daily, also eggs and butter.

Mr Hawkins also delivered milk daily. He had a pony and milk float for these deliveries. The pony knew the 'round' and moved on ahead of Mr Hawkins and waited outside the next house. This was very much part of the Burton Scene.

Cheney's Garage was always busy and would sort out all your car problems and cheerfully fill up your petrol tank and look at the tyres to see if they needed air. In addition they had a hire car service.

We had our own policeman living in the village. He kept a ‘ready’ beat around Burton and the surrounding villages and farms. He knew everyone in the area and also toured around at night either by car or bicycle. He would investigate anything unusual such as lights on at unusual times in the cottages and houses. Several lives were saved by his vigilance.

There was a regular bus service to Bridport (also Dorchester twice a week). The bus conductor or driver made sure all passengers taken in earlier were on the last bus home if told that they would be using it. (Can you imagine that now?).

Mr Fuzzard from Bridport came regularly in his large van. He had pots and pans, kitchen utensils, garden tools, buckets and bowls, electric light bulbs, candles, paraffin and firelighters; in fact, a hardware shop to your door, which was a most welcome addition to the village services.

The school had a full complement of Burton children, and had their own allotment in Annings Lane. Later, when Shipton School closed, the Shipton children walked to Burton every day.

The church was very well attended, the most popular service being in the evening as nearly everyone's lives were ordered by agriculture in one way or another, so Sunday evenings were their time for relaxation and reflection - also best Sunday hats! There was a good church choir, including some children and we often had a service of Song and Solo organised by Mr. Champ our first class organist. For these services the Church was always packed. Mr Champ's sister was an accomplished cello player and made a welcome addition to this service. The Church looked as it does in this photograph [B9] until the Gravestones were cleared and the Yew trees cut back during 1950.

A doctor's surgery was held twice a week in a room at Mr Mullins' shop. Miss Brewer kept a vigilant eye on the waiting patients to make sure no one jumped the queue.

There were three Public Houses: The Anchor, The Three Horseshoes and The Dove. Mr. Greenham, the licensee of the The Three Horseshoes, also had a taxi service (when he could fit it in!).

Mr Burton, the blacksmith, was very much in demand [B10]. He shod all sorts of horses, cart horses, hunters, ponies, in fact every kind of horse from 18 hand cart horses to 7 hand Shetland ponies. He also mended farm equipment, gardening tools and many other things such as gates etc. He was also needed at our wedding rehearsal, but that's another story ...............

Compiled by Susan Moores - May 2012