Nick Eyles - September 2004
|Recently I received an email from Nick who left the village,
aged 10, in 1984. After a gap of 20 years he had returned to make a sentimental
journey and kindly agreed to write this about his experience. If anyone
remembers Nick or his family and would like to get in touch, let me
|In September I visited Burbage for the first time since I left the village twenty years ago as a child of ten years old. It was amazing how the memories immediately flooded back. I first visited Smithys Lane where the Old Bakery used to be. This had been converted into a house before we left in 1984 but used to sell extremely nice cakes - especially those with the pink icing if I remember correctly.|
|I then moved onto the school. What a shock I had to see that the old school had been converted into houses. This was before the new school was seen. I will always remember where the new detached house to the left of the old school buildings was built used to be two demountables painted in grey pebble-dash paint. Year 1 was to the right as you looked at it from the road and Years 2 and 3 were to the left. Mrs Stenhouse was my first teacher and Mrs Cooper my second teacher. The playground used to be surrounded by a fence and used to be a hive of activity especially around the climbing frames just by the oil tank. Mr. Richardson when he was on playground duty would stand by the games shed smoking his pipe noting everything that was going on.|
Then I went into the main school building that is now two houses. The house on the left was Mrs Bashalls classroom for Years 4 and possibly 5. The school bell used to be in this room and a frequent sound was the school bell ringing just before the start of school and me running up Eastcourt Road. Next to this was Mr. Richardsons classroom and this was for Years 5 and 6 (10 and 11 year olds). The heater that used to be a godsend in the winter when we piled it up with wet wellington boots, coats and gloves dominated this room. During the winter the boys had the added discomfort of the outside loos - although there was an indoor demountable toilet for two or three lucky people! I remember when I was in Mr. Richardson's class that one playtime there was extreme excitement when a chimney fire was discovered in the Headmasters house. The fire engines came but all I remember was the sparks and smoke from the chimney. I also remember that in my final year at Burbage Mr. Richardson bought his cottage and we did a big project on wattle and daub building construction. We used go swimming at Pewsey once a week and I really enjoyed the coach ride. We also went camping at the Mumbles. Two other things was the motto of the school which was "Feed my Lambs" and the black taxis which Mr. Richardson accumulated in his driveway along with a green Rover saloon which hadn't moved for some time. It was nice to see that the Church Hall hadn't changed that much - I remember PE lessons were held there as was Sunday School. I also remember the church where we held our harvest festivals with each window ledge being full of produce and the occasional school play - especially at Christmas. School plays were also held at the Village Hall - where we held the play "The Tale of the Durley Dragon" or something like that. I still have the programme for that in my "things not to be thrown file"!
Discovering the new school was an amazing sight - as a teacher I can fully understand what a relief this must have been for staff and children. As a teacher who is based in a demountable I also understand about the miscalculation in the numbers. This I think must have been built on the sight of the playing fields where we used to play rounders during the summer with Mrs. Hawke amongst the teachers who took us out there.
Walking away from the school I walked past the house of the Nutleys who my mum knew though her being the clerk of the Parish Council. I still remember his blue Austin Allegro and I thought it was a nice touch when the sign for Nutley Close was seen.
Walking down Eastcourt Road it was amazing how little had really changed - although it all seemed so much closer to the school. I suppose that at the age of 4 through to 10 the walk must have seemed that much longer with little legs! At over 6ft I was seeing it in a new way. Walking past the Royal Legion and Village Hall brought back memories of the annual Garden Show. We had a wonderful garden at Burbage and my mum used to show all sorts of things from Apples, Onions and Runner Beans to Dahlias and Roses. Once, when she exhibited her cakes and sweets as well she was Show Champion I think. Mr. Richardson used to have a stall there as I remember his taxi being fully laden on the roofrack with metal stall frames. Easter time was another show as my dad and myself used to run the Easter Egg stall that started my addiction to pink candy shrimps. We used to go to the cash and carry possibly in Hungerford in a Transit van belonging to where he worked to buy in bulk various types of Easter eggs.
Having reached East Sands - the road where I used to live - I was amazed at how little had really changed. The shop which used to be a VG store although had just changed to Londis before we moved was still there and our house had changed very little although the greenery in the front garden had grown much bigger. I was sad to see that the Red Lion had closed - this was always a popular hostelry after the village Cricket matches that my dad used to play in. The son of the landlady was a friend of mine at the time. The cricket field hadn't changed at all. I still remember the cricket matches with the old black board and slate numbers which were pegged onto the board. The lady who did the scoresheets lived off Aylesbury Way but I can't remember her name off hand. I also remember the old tug-truck type vehicle that used to pull the roller - when this ran it seemed to be continually enveloped in a cloud of grey/black smoke. A ditch that provided the base for a number of dens which my friends and myself used to spend hours playing in also surrounded the field.
Seeing the sight of Mundy's Coalyard also brought back memories. Where the visitor's car park is now, there used to be piles of sand and gravel which were the height of the surrounding wall if not higher. These were ideal adventure sites - and regularly in the summer evenings we would ride our bikes over these or scramble over the gravel piles, regularly sliding down! I was always interested in the coal lorries and trailers that often also parked outside as well as the big yellow digger that used to be inside the yard.
The sight of the Scout Hall was very upsetting. I was a member of the cub pack there and we regularly used to go on walks following various cub signs as well as tying the flag at the far end of the hall. One particular cub night will always stick in my memory as this was the evening when Channel 4 started and I was late because I didn't want to go before the end of Countdown - the first programme on Channel 4!
Moving onto Suthmere Drive again very little had changed as was the case in Aylesbury Way and Webbs Way. What did surprise me was how the names of all my friends when I was there came flooding back as I walked past their houses. Walking down Webbs Way I was surprised to see W Mundy & Son now owned what used to be Holts Hardware store.
From Suthmere Drive I walked onto the Post Office which hadn't changed a bit - this was a regular walk from East Sands especially when my mum was Clerk to Parish Council. What struck me was how on a Sunday afternoon I was virtually able to walk in the middle of the High Street - especially compared to how busy it seemed when I lived in the village.
Although we rarely if ever went there it was nice to see that the White Hart still there and I remembered the Bullfinch although this was no longer there. The Three Horseshoes at Stibb Green used to be where we went on a Saturday. What confused me was the disappearance of Cady's Garage where we used to fill our Vauxhall Chevette up once a week.
Moving away from Burbage I was amazed at how little had changed in the surrounding area. Cadley Garage had barely changed - in fact the whole journey through the Savernake Forest had barely changed including that really old tree that virtually sticks out just out of Cadley. Marlborough High Street hadn't changed either and my family was amazed as I reminisced about Ducks Toys, Pollys Tea Rooms, Waitrose, The White Horse Book Shop and the town library - none of which seemed to have changed at all. What did impress me was the row of shops to the side of Waitrose that used to be a timber merchant where we used to get sawdust for our chickens! I was surprised to see that the Savernake Forest Hotel appeared to have closed - this used to be a calling stop for the car treasure hunts that were a feature of the village at the time.
It has amazed me how many memories came flooding back during my visit that day and I'm not letting it get to another twenty years before I visit again.
©Nick Eyles & Colin Younger 2004