Interview with Peter Parsons

Peter Parsons is well known in Burton Bradstock as the person you go to for most jobs that you need doing. He can turn his hand to many trades and it will become apparent when you read the narrative below, that Peter has always used his initiative and taken on many jobs and challenges.

“I lived in a cottage where Wedge Cottage is now in Grove Road. One day I was in school when we heard fire engines in the Village. I ran up the road to chase the fire engines and found it was my house that was burning down. This was in 1952-3 and we lost everything. After the fire, the family had to split up for a time and I was sent to live with the Stormonts who lived in the cottage where the Post Office is now. The family was reunited when we moved to the cottages facing Shadrach Farm where we stayed for a year. We then moved to 35 Grove Road, now Tinkers Cottage, and we lived there for 26 years until moving to Lower Townsend in 1967. My dad, Stan, worked for Rob Gale who leased 35 Grove Road from the Estate and rented it to us. In the Sale in 1958 Mr. Gale bought most of Grove Road (including Number 35, The Butcher's, Minnie's Cottage and the land where Meon House is now) and we continued to rent from him. Number 35 had a big garden which included the land where the Southgates now live. In the 1950s and into the 60s, all the cottages had outside toilets, some about 40 yards from the door and three cottages shared a water tap outside.

Dad used to put the tractor and hay in the stable where you (Susan Moores ) live now [D1]. He and Mum had moved from Shaftesbury in 1949 and he worked for Rob Gale for all his working life in Burton Bradstock. He was mainly a Cowman, but he did hedge laying and tractor driving and thatched the stable and the hay ricks for Rob Gale. He used to drive the tractor at 4 mph through the Village. As kids, me and my brother helped put the hay bales on a trailer and I was the main trailer loader. I had quite a lot to do with the cows because Dad took me out of school every day at 2.00 pm to help him bring the cows in [D2]. I got back to school at 3.30 pm just as school was finishing and I am still surprised that Mr. Starkey let him do this. Rob Gale rented fields on Bredy Road and on the cliff. Dad took the cows from the milking parlours in Grove Orchard past Townsend Farm, passed the Church and the Post Office where he would turn into the High Street, and past the Garage to Bredy Road or up Cliff Road. He took the cows to the fields each morning and back to the parlour each evening 365 days a year.

On a Saturday, me and Pete Pattinson got 2s 6d between us for helping him and for cleaning the cow stalls at Grove Orchard. On Saturday evening we would ride our bikes into Bridport, go to the pictures, have Fish & Chips and Ice Cream, all for the 2s 6d we earned that morning. I did a paper round, morning and evening (the Echo) from the age of 12. I worked for Mr. Hargreaves who took the shop after Mr. Mullins and I got 2s 6d a week for this. In 1957 I got a job collecting the eggs at Shadrach Farm for Barbara Bishop every evening after school after the paper round. I had to collect and wash about 150 eggs and then go back later in the evening and shut the hens away. I got 2s a week for this. One day, when I was about 10, me and my brother were playing in the river at Freshwater and a lady came up and asked if she could take our photograph for a toothpaste Advert [D3]. She did, but I don't think I got paid for this! I did gardening for Fred Mullins and Stan Williams and they each paid me 2d or 3d a go. While gardening I found a lot of silver threepenny bits.

When I went to school, Mr. Starkey was the Head and Mrs. Rodford was the other Teacher [D4]. Mrs. Rodford lived in Furzey Corner in what was little more than a wooden shack. When she died she left the land to the Rodway family and three houses were built on it in the 70s - Rob Rodway built two and Phil Hutchins built one. There were two classes in a big divided classroom and pupils came and went because farm labourer families moved about quite a bit. As far as I can remember Mr. Starkey taught me all the time. I didn't want to start school and on the first day I crushed my hand in the School gate and immediately had two weeks off. I carried on hating school and spent more time fishing in the sea with Dennis Bullock and Phil Hutchins whose dad had a boat. We were fishing for mackerel and salmon. There were lots of salmon then and they used to jump up through the Hatches, which were at the back of Mill Gate House in Annings Lane. A lot of the boys would skive off school to go sea-fishing and sometimes an Inspector came down to check that no salmon were being caught. When the Seine Net came in, if it had salmon in it, the Fisherman used to dig holes In the sand and drop salmon in, telling the boys to cover them up to keep them cool and say nothing to anyone including the Inspector. We had no idea it was illegal; the Fishermen just said that if you uncovered them it would destroy them and they wouldn't be fit to eat! Sprats and mackerel were put in boxes on galvanized sheets and were towed off the beach by car on long ropes. In 1958 a winch was put in by the Beach Cafe to do this job.

I can't remember at school that we ever went out of the classroom. I don't remember doing PE, football or cricket and there were no nature walks. At lunchtime we played marbles, hopscotch and talked about girls. A favourite game around the Village when were young was playing Cowboys and Indians. In the mid 50s we'd go to Pooh Club every Friday night at the White House. It was very good and we played games like Hide and Seek and Snakes and Ladders. Ten or twelve of us used to go every week and Mrs. Wratislaw tried to keep us busy with different things to do. When I was ten years old I used to go to work for Mrs. Ryan at The Rookery. Where Roger Poole's house is now was her market garden [D5], and I would rake that and rake the moss from her lawns. I can't remember exactly how much she paid me but I do remember scrumping strawberries and gooseberries. I would stuff these under my shirt and one evening jumped over the wall into the arms of Peachy - PC Peach, the Village Bobby. Mrs. Ryan didn't want to press charges but Peachy insisted that she fine us and I had to take a penny a week to her for four weeks.

Many of the games we played wouldn't get by Health and Safety now. We played Bows and Arrows and whoever was "it' had to get through a hole in the hedge and away before an arrow was shot. Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn't! We used to have Stone Fights with dustbin lids as shields and we would see who could throw a stone highest in the air - there were accidents galore.  There were about 30 kids growing up in the Village in the 50s. If you worked on one of the farms you got free eggs, milk and all the firewood you wanted if you collected it. We'd nick wood from Graston Copse and Bluebell Copse and always got in trouble. When we were older we went shooting animals, particularly rabbits. In 1953 the Bus Shelter was built for the Coronation by Dick Gelpin and us kids used to go and sit in there and chat and smoke 'Woodies' (Woodbine Cigarettes). Sometimes we'd sit in the Bus Shelter with a parcel on a string [D6]. We'd put the parcel in the middle of the road and when the men came out of the pub at closing time, we'd pull the string and keep moving the parcel while they tried to grab it. Fred Mullins' sister, Mrs. Brewer, ran a shop leased from the Estate (where Jayne's Hairdressers is now). If Fred was selling 10 chews for a penny, she'd give 12. We used to tell her anything to get more. The Post Office also sold sweets - Gobstoppers being a favourite comes to mind. Rob Gale would change cheques for Villagers if they bought their meat from him. Bert Crease took over the Butchers and leased it from Rob Gale when he retired. For something to do at the end of the 50s some of us tried to start a band. I played guitar, Phil Hutchins was guitar and singer, Graham Rosamund guitar, Andrew Scarry guitar and Chris Hutchins drums. We stuck with it for about a year but no one would let us practice because of the noise, so we gave up.

I remember the Village Sale taking place in 1958 in a tent on the Playing Fields; some of us boys kept looking under the tent and were chased off. I remember that Dad was offered Number 35 (Grove Road) for £250 as he was the sitting tenant or he could have had Number 35 and all the land around it for £600. He didn't take up either offer. Anchor House, where I live now, was sold in 1956 for £3,250, a lot of money then. It is called Anchor House because the Landlord from the Anchor pub, Mr. Churchouse had it built.”


Peter left Colfox School at 15 and worked for Tony Bishop who offered to train him as a Jockey but Peter didn't like horses. He worked on Shadrach Farm and learned to milk cows. They had 150 cows at Arch Bridges (just before Graston Farm - where Coastal Caravans now is) and Peter had to walk a mile up Annings Lane for the 5 a.m. milking. Cyril Chubb was Head Cowman. Peter then worked for three years at Kennon Farm (on Shipton Lane) for Geoff Derryman, milking cows, bottling milk and tractor driving. He had Thursday afternoons off and one Sunday a month off. He used to borrow the tractor to drive home and back each day. When Peter got married to Pearl he worked on Graston Farm so he could get a 'Tied' cottage and for a time he worked at Burton Mill. The Bakery had closed in the late 50s but the Mill continued under Hamil Barnes's ownership until it was converted into four flats towards the end of the 60s.

Compiled by Susan Moores - May 2012