Warmley & Siston Chronicles 1940 - 1959
Warmley & Siston - One Hundred years of history - Part 4 of 7 - 1940 - 1959
The Phoney War was now over and the real war was raging in earnest. With more and more local government controls, the Union Offices in Stanley Road were abandoned for more spacious accommodation in Warmley House. Power and fuel rationing were organised from the home of Ernest Williams at 10 Station Road, but food rationing still came from Stanley Road.
All the scrap metal was collected, old vehicles, metal fences and even the First World War field gun was taken away for the war effort, saucepans were turned into Spitfires!
The second year of the War saw the heaviest bombing in the area. The Magnal Works drew special attention from the Germans, although only incendiary bombs were dropped. During one raid Ernest Williams had gone down to see the damage to Magnals. He later explained, 'I couldnt miss that, it was just like fairy land with all the incendiaries blazing away.'
Kingswood was also targeted that night, one young lad exclaimed, 'Its terrible, the whole of Kingswood is on fire!' On the 6th December the worst civilian casualties in the area occurred when a German paramine made a direct hit on an air raid shelter to the rear of the Ambassador Cinema killing three and maiming many others.
Had the bomb been forty yards to the west it would have hit the crowded cinema perhaps killing hundreds. Warmley and Siston were directly under the flight path of the Luftwaffe on its horrific raids on Filtons airplane factories.
In September the people of this area were treated to the spectacle of one of the fiercest dog fights over Bristol as nine Hawker Hurricanes of 504 Squadron, RAF., fought off what seemed like hundreds of bombers, forcing them to return the way they came.
As the retreating pilots passed overhead for the second time that day the area was lucky not to have the remaining contents of the bomb bays emptied here so that the fleeing planes could make better progress on their way back home.
If the death and destruction of the war were not enough, everyday tragedies were still occurring. In June of this year Ernest Stone, aged only 10, was swimming in the quarry pools near the brickyard on London Road. The day had been hot and the water looked inviting but the sides of the quarry were steep and just below the surface the water was icy cold. Ernest soon found himself in great difficulty and in no time was sucked under and drowned.
Queen Mary had moved out of London, and was staying with the Duke of Beaufort at his estate at Badminton for the duration of the war. The Queen made several good-will tours of Carsons Factory and to Douglas Works in Kingswood, to boost the moral of the local workforce.
During the Blitz of Bristol in 1940 and 1941, every single fire fighter was called out to assist. Captain Knee and the rest of the Warmley A.F.S. often found themselves in the centre of Bristol helping the Bristol brigades to put out the furnace that was burning the heart of the City Centre.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbour, the Americans were dragged into the War. Just over the Siston border, opposite Fisher Road, the Americans set up a military camp. This was the first time many local people from this area had seen a real Yankee rather than the actor on the silver screen.
When the Americans ventured out for an evenings entertainment it was a great novelty, especially for the girls, to see them in the local public houses.
The camp was set up by a black labour unit and these dark skinned G.I.s were then a cause of great curiosity. A little later, the U.S. 1st Army Medical Corps took over and stayed for about two years while they prepared for the big push. In 1944 this unit was involved in the D Day landings and a large number of the men lost their lives.
Meanwhile, the Home Guard, part of the 6th Gloucestershire Battalion, were becoming a co-ordinated fighting unit. The most dangerous period had passed. Had the Germans landed in force in 1939 or 1940 the Home Guard would have had little chance to repulse them as they were lacking good weapons and training.
With the leadership of Fred Brain and Old Contemptibles like Sergeant Gibbs and Corporal Bill Johnson, the men quickly began to shape up. Weekend manoeuvres and night exercises all helped and on many evenings, the Warmley Home Guard would find themselves attacking units from the surrounding villages, training for the real thing.
On 15th December, the Vicar of St. Barnabas, the Reverend Hen John Say, passed away aged 71. Just prior to his death, and as a mark of appreciation for his long and faithful service to the Diocese of Bristol, The Reverend Say was made an Honorary Canon of Bristol Cathedral.
In his memory, his sister and fellow parishioners placed a beautiful stained glass window in the south east nave of the St. Barnabas Church where he had served for seventeen years.
In his Will, Canon Say had left 500 pounds toward the construction of a Church Hall for the Church and its parishioners. Another five years passed before the hall was built, which gave an enormous boost to the social life of the Church and proved to be a tremendous asset to the School as an assembly hall and home to the local Scouts.
The role of the Vicar of St. Barnabas was filled with the arrival of The Reverend R. Down. During his incumbency the Church, which by now was nearly a hundred years old, was in need of many expensive repairs to its roof and other structures. Large sums were raised to fulfill these needs as well as completing other projects.
In the summer of 1944, strange accents and foreign languages were heard in the locality. An Italian P.O.W. camp was set up in Wraxall Road with about seventy prisoners brought in to help on the nearby farms.
The Italians were given non-political status and as such were considered harmless. Only a handful of guards were needed and during the evening after a hard days work, the P.O.W.s were allowed out of the camp. It was not an uncommon sight to see several men in their chocolate coloured uniforms strolling the nearby lanes or hear them singing at the tops of their voices in perfect harmony.
The end of the war was now inevitable, it was only a matter of time. On 9th May, Hitler was dead and Germany had capitulated.
There was great excitement and many street parties were organised to celebrate the end of the war in Europe. But the war in the far east was still raging and it wasnt until Victory over Japan (V.J.) Day that the people really let their hair down.
The lights were finally turned back on, illuminating the shops and houses surrounding the Memorial Park. There was dancing in the streets and everyone was singing and laughing. An impromptu party began with the musical accompaniment of the 'Warmley Wonders' Clive and Terry Whittock.
Soon after, trestle tables and chairs were arranged in the Park in several rows and all the children of the district were given a picnic and party, the like of which had never been seen before. All the stops were pulled out to give the kids a day they would never forget.
It was not all joy in this year, there was a price to pay for victory, another eight names had to be added to the list of heroes from our district who made the supreme sacrifice.
Only one or two people in each century stand out in local memory. At the tail end of the 19th century, and for nearly half of the 20th century, John Lloyd Vaughan Seymour-Williams could be described as the man who put Warmley firmly on the map.
Born in 1868 and educated in Bath, he later joined the firm of solicitors under Mr. W.E. Lawrence, eventually becoming sole partner in the firm of Lawrence, Williams & Co. He was a very energetic and enterprising man, involving himself in many forward looking ventures which were to benefit the area.
In recognition for the excellent work he performed, John Seymour-Williams was made a Knight of the British Empire and T.D ,For six years he was on the Gloucestershire County Council and had been on many committees including the Royal Commission on Local Government and the Council for the Preservation of Rural England.
He was also on the Council of the Coroners Society and he represented this area as the Coroner of the Lower Division of Gloucestershire. Sir John Seymour-Williams became Clerk to Warmley R.D.C. and Warmley Guardians Committee in 1897. He was responsible for guiding these bodies for forty-eight years.
When the estate of Louisa Haskins, widow of Joseph, was sold in 1918, Sir Seymour-Williams was in a position to purchase the Pottery and became Chairman of Haskins Ltd. Warmley Pottery. Sir John lived for many years in the Old Lodge opposite Warmley House and after his death on the 24th January 1945, his widow, Lady Williams, then of the Old Rectory, Siston, made the gift of a splendid pair of gates for St. Barnabas Church, in his memory.
In the post war years, there was an air of optimism, which been kindled by the solidarity shown through the darkest days of the Second World War.
A decision was made to form an Old Boys Association of the Warmley National School.
Its first President was the headmaster of the school from 1913 to 1936, Mr. William Moore. Its aims were to promote and maintain cultural, social and recreational activities amongst the members of the association.
In the early days, the organisation flourished and the first year ended with a carnival on Siston Common. Money was raised, some of which went to a special prize to be presented at the School Prize-giving for the child with the best character. The early days were the high days and this organisation, that had such potential, eventually faded away and was disbanded in 1953.
To commemorate the fallen of the Great War, the people of the district marked the occasion with the erection of the stone column and the laying out of Warmley Green as a Memorial Park. A suitable tribute to the men lost in the Second World War was needed and even before that war was concluded plans were afoot to establish a hall in the community in remembrance of these men.
After three years of planning and fund raising, the Warmley War Memorial Hall and Community Centre was eventually opened.
Since that time, the centre has played a predominant role in the social life of the whole community. In the early years organisations like the Townswomens Guild and the Womens Institute would meet at the centre. There were whist drives and beetle drives and childrens Christmas parties. The centre also held baby shows and carnivals on the adjoining field as well as sports days and bonfires.
Theatre groups, Christmas pantomimes and flower shows have all enlightened and enlivened the community. All of these activities have made the building alive. It wasnt just a centre for activities but a centre for the whole community The Community Centre.
From the very beginning, the committee with its first Chairman, Bill Bowler, has striven to enrich the lives of the community and this great work has been built upon by later committees and chairmen, namely Alan Chubb, R. Minns, Ron Wakeford, Ernie Hall, Keith Williams, Brian Phillips and its present Chairman, Ron Pyle. It must be with much pride that these first far-sighted and community minded men look back to see that after nearly fifty years something very positive was formed from an event that for many was so tragic.
Warmley Community Centre Chairmen
Bill Brown 1947-50 Ernie hall 1978-87
Alan Chubb 1950-60 Keith Williams 1987-91
R. Minns 1960-63 Brian Phillips 1991-93
Ron Wakeford 1963-78 Ron Pyle 1993-
Following the the much deserved retirement of P.C. Charlie Gowing his well worn boots were filled by a succession of P.C.s including P.C. Wheeler. As time went by the old police house in Tower Road was proving unsuitable and by the Late 1960s, when money became available, a purpose built police station with accommodation was built.
This was on the corner of Crown Gardens. It was from here that P.C. Stan Wheeler and his family continued to serve the community until his retirement in 1967 when he, in turn, was succeeded by Doug Hardiman.
On the 14th October, Warmley C.of E. School had received the news that it had been granted controlled status by the Ministry of Education. This led the way to great reorganisation and improvements at the school. By 1951 the senior boys were transferred to a new Secondary Modern School at High Street, Oldland, with Mr. R. Evans a Welshman appointed as its first headmaster.
On the 19th August, the news came of the death of Fred Brain. Frederick William Brain was born in 1885 and was the son of Walter Brain, a corn mill owner of Wick. Walter Brain built a massive flour mill, conveniently situated next to the railway sidings in Chapel Lane, Warmley, employing his sons to run the business. In 1921 Walter went into partnership with Coffins, the Bath Mill owner, and in time the firm became known as James Collins, Sons and Brain.
The trademark was the Camden sign and the product was used in making extra fine quality bread as well as cattle, pig and poultry rations. Later the firm was controlled by the brothers. Alex Brain was the travelling representative and Fred Brain took control at the mill.
In 1918, Fred moved into Warmley House, after purchasing it from the Estate of Louisa Haskins. From the front of the House he could look across the valley to the red bricked mill standing high against the skyline. Throughout his life Fred Brain was a prominent patron of St. Barnabas Church and continued to use the grounds and grottoes of Warmley House as a venue for garden parties and other events to raise funds for the Church.
Fred served as choirmaster at the Church but his great love was playing the organ which he did with passion for 28 years. When the instrument was due for an expensive overhaul, it was Fred who contributed a great deal to the cost.
Another stalwart of the community, who should not be forgotten, was Mr. Joe Clark. Joseph Daniel Clark died on the 18th January 1950 and throughout his life worked hard to improve the lot of others.
Joe was elected to the Siston Parish Council in its sixteenth year (1910), the following year achieving the position of Vice-Chairman. In 1920, the Warmley and District Allotments Ltd., was formed with Joe Clark as its first Chairman.
The aim of the organisation was to provide seed and agricultural implements for the surrounding farmers and other land users. Shares were issued with the added advantage of a 10% discount for shareholders when they made a purchase.
In 1930, Joe became the Chairman of Siston Parish Council, a position he held for a further sixteen years and then, after a short break, he returned to the Chair from 1947 until his death in 1950. Joseph Clark will perhaps be best remembered for his contribution and efforts as a leading member of the team who set up the War Memorial Hall and Community Centre.
This year marked the Festival of Britain and will always be remembered for the return of the famous poet, Minnie Haskins, to Warmley House, her childhood home.
Minnie Louisa Haskins was born in May 1875, the eldest of four daughters of Louisa and Joseph Haskins. At this date Joseph Haskins was still trading as a grocer and living in Warmley Hill. By the 1880s the family had moved to Warmley House where Joseph also owned the Warmley Tower Pottery Manufactory.
Minnie was a very energetic member of the Warmley Congregational Chapel and by the end of the century was a Sunday School teacher, leader of the Womens Bible Class and also a founder of the Christian Endeavour Group.
In 1908 she published a number of her own poems in a small booklet entitled 'The Desert'. This was to raise funds for missionary work in India. Amongst the many poems was one entitled 'God Knows', which was written in the Balcony Room of Warmley House and inspired by a gloomy vision she had one cold and misty night whilst looking down the drive of the house.
For the next thirty years, the poem remained almost unknown but in 1938 the words were printed as a private Christmas card, a copy of which was sent to King George VI. The following Christmas the Empire was at war and in its darkest hour, the King found these words comforting.
It was with this verse that he ended his Christmas broadcast. But who wrote this work? No one seemed to know. After much searching it was eventually revealed that the author was none other than Miss Minnie Haskins, by then a retired lecturer living in Sussex.
In 1951, at the age of 75, Minnie returned once more, at the invitation of Warmley R.D.C., to Warmley House. She unveiled a plaque on the entrance porch to commemorate the visit and recalled her long lost youth in the house and grounds where she loved to think and play.
In 1953, when the King was buried in the Royal Mausoleum at Windsor, a stained-glass window was installed in memory of him. At the foot of it were the words of Miss Haskins that he had quoted in 1939.
The message written at Warmley that went all around the world and began:
' I said to the Man who stood at the gate of the year,
Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown
And He replied, 'Go out into the darkness
And put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than light
And safer than the known way...'
In January 1951. Warmley School re-opened after its Christmas break as a primary school catering for 158 infants and juniors.
This was a period of great hope and enterprise for the old Victorian school and by September 1952, with a need to strengthen links between the school and home, the Warmley Parent-Teacher Association was formed. Like all P.TA. groups, the principal aim was to create a better educational institute for the pupils, which this one at Warmley did with great success.
In 1960 Warmley was one of the first Primary Schools in the country to have its own television set and many other items were to be presented to the school, courtesy of the P.T.A. It was not all work though, as social activities were also arranged with educational trips to the theatre, coach outings to places of interest, (usually using the services of John Sparkes Coaches of Warmley) and often returning via an historic inn!
The high-lights of the school year, besides the Christmas concert, sports day and prize giving, were the social evenings and the summer fair, as these were the main source of revenue. The fairs, a cross between a carnival and a car boot sale, were held on the tennis court if dry or in the church hail if wet and were enjoyed by the stall holders and public alike.
The first P.T.A, was chaired by the Headmaster, Mr. R. B. Wintle, and presided over by the Prebendary, C.W. Francis. It would be difficult to name teachers who have influenced the children of the parish the most, however, three names come up over and over again.
The first is Mr. William Moore, who was head from 1913 to 1936 whose legacy was the wonderful copper plate handwriting that a generation left school with. The next is Mrs. G.W. Myers, known affectionately as 'Mini-Myers'; although she seemed to be very stern, underneath she was very loving and cared for her little flock.
The third of this selection has to be Mr. Arthur Deavin. Arthur had probably worked with more head teachers than any other master. He had many opportunities for promotion but passed them over for the love he had for the school and its pupils. The only way to obtained a headship was to move to another school and that was not for Mr. Deavin.
King George VI died on 6th February 1952 and the young Princess Elizabeth was thrown into the role she has performed so well now for over forty years.
The 2nd June 1953 was the beginning of the new Elizabethan era for the country and everyone joined in the celebrations. Food rationing was by now almost phased out and Coronation parties were being organised everywhere.
At the party all the children were presented with their own coronation mug full of sweets. This was a treat indeed! A grand party was held in the canteen of Kingswood Grammar School, to the delight of all who attended. Siston had its own Coronation Queen when Rachel Willmott was crowned. She was the daughter of Lloyd and Winifred Willmott, the newsagents at the corner of High Street and Stanley Road.
There was a huge increase in the sale of television sets this year and for many this was the first opportunity to see 'the magic box'. That wet June day was spent with most of the neighbours watching the flickering black and white images of the Coronation followed in the evening by more celebrations.
Mervyn and Bertha Whittock and their sons Clive and Terry have entertained the local community for over forty years. During the second world war the family, who were then living in Stanley Road, were often called upon to entertain both British and American troops.
In one year they performed two hundred shows as well as dinner hour concerts at factories. It was therefore not surprising that they were better known by their stage name of the 'Warmley Wonders'. Clive was the star of the show and had appeared on the same bill as Bing Crosby. He also made broadcasts for the B.B.C., on 'Workers Playtime'.
Although the family moved from Stanley Road in the early 50s they still found time to serve on the Entertainment Committee at the Community Centre and to produce concerts like the 'Black & White Minstrel Show'. Even in her 90s Bertha has kept a strong link with the Community and has been Vice Chairlady of Warmley Golden Hour for many years.
Crown Farm has stood for several hundred years on the east side of Tower Road North, Warmley, adjacent to the junction with Station Road. A 1610 map of Kingswood Forest shows a building called Jeffrayes House, this was possibly Crown Farm. The Jeffrayes in the area greatly upset a Siston parish priest, for in a memorandum of the parish registers for 1625 he wrote, 'Ye Jeffrayes and Tukers of Warmley are rogues, whores and thieves and WT not YT is wicked.'
Records show members of the Jefferies family were living in Crown Farm into the 19th century. In the early part of that century the property was purchased by George M. Davidson of Warmley House and subsequently was owned by the Haskins family.
At one time Crown Farm was divided into several dwellings. In the late 19th century Crown Farm became the venue for the local Council meetings. This continued until 1900 when the new council offices in Stanley Road were built.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Luther Hamblin lived at Crown Farm. He was a haulier and would take leather from Avonmouth to the Kingswood boot factories then return with boots for export.
When Mr. Hamblin moved out, Cyril Turner became the tenant of Crown Farm. Farmer Fred Bryant was the last occupier of Crown Farm and after he moved away on Michelmas Day 1955 the buildings rapidly deteriorated and became the target of vandalism. The farm was knocked down in 1956 and the site left for many years. Factories now cover the fields and the site is owned by Mardon Son and Hall.
The land around Crown Farm which for so many years was used for grazing now produced a very different product. The head office and factory of the Lawson Mardon Group, Wincanton, Mothers Pride Bakery, Motorway Tyres, Ian Williams Limited, decorators, and Dinky Heel Ltd., fill the site.
After the reorganisation in the education system in 1948 secondary schools were required for children of eleven years and above.
The boys were transferred to High Street, Oldland but it would be several years more before the girls school would be completed. The girls eventually went to a separate establishment in North Street, Oldland, which was to be known as Oldland Secondary Modern School for Girls. This was officially opened in September 1956 with Miss Nicholls as headmistress.
early part of the century, the area was supplied with bread from a few small bakers, two of which were in Chapel Lane.
The older belonged to George Lacey, built around 1905, and was opposite the flour mill. The second bakery was owned by Percy White and his home and ovens were opposite the Congregational Chapel.
For over half a century these two men produced most of the loaves needed for Warmley and Siston, and all around the district. At the top of Hill Street, Kingswood, Henry Attwell also had a high-class bakery and bread shop which stood opposite Woodstock Road. However, the days of the small baker were coming to an end.
In 1957, Christopher Bell Ltd., a member of the Hovis McDougall Group, opened a massive bakery at the far end of Crown Road. There was nothing like it this side of Bristol.
Bread, cakes and many other kinds of confectionery were produced and were sold in shops all around the region. At this time the customer could have bread delivered daily to his door and scores of the familiar red and white vans could be seen passing to and fro from the factory. The little Chipmunk on top of the vans became the Christopher Bell trade mark.
In the 1960s Rank took control of the bakery and Mothers Pride bread became the main product. Bread is no longer baked at Warmley and the factory serves only as a warehouse for the container loads of bread brought in from the Midlands.
Bit by bit all the fields that were once part of Crown Farm have been covered with warehousing or factories. This year saw the opening of another distribution depot for the confectionery trade.
United Biscuits, whose products include Jacobs Biscuits, moved to the lower section of Crown Road, bringing much needed work to the area. The company has had a number of structural changes since the 1950s and the depot at Warmley is now the regional distribution point for the Jacobs Biscuits Group of Companies. Before the decade was over Motorway Tyres and Kraft Products were to set up business here.
Many things in life we take for granted and some institutions seem always to have been around. Yet a basic service like the Library has had a relatively short history.
Warmley Community Centre was set up about fifty years earlier as a Reading Room for the people of the area. Books were in short supply and in great demand. About the same time a lending library was in existence in a shop opposite the Kings Arms in Kingswood run by the two daughters of Isaac Green of Stanley Road.
Siston and Warmley has never had its own official library but with the growing population in the Warmley district of Parkwall, a purpose built library was planned.
On 4th July 1959, Cadbury Heath Library in School Road, was opened, the first of the new libraries in the area. Prior to this, boxes of books were allocated and distributed, mainly to schools, from Shire Hall in Gloucester. As our parish was almost at the southern-most end of the County and Bristol dealt within its own boundary, the selection was extremely limited compared to the wide range of books and activities offered today.
A Woman Inspired by Joyce Gale 2004 Warmley.
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,
Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown
And he replied:. Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand
Of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
Many of us will have heard the above words at some time in our life, written by Minnie Louise Haskins in 1908. Much later to become famous by King George VI reading it as part of his first Christmas message to the nation at the start of the second World War.
Minnie was born on 12th May 1875 to Louisa and Joseph Haskins the eldest of four daughters. Her father was then trading as a grocer. By 1880 the family moved to Warmley House and Joseph by now owned the Warmley Tower Pottery Company. Minnie attended Warmley Congregational Chapel becoming a Sunday School Teacher and leader of the Womans bible class and Founder of the Christian Endeavour Group.
It was whilst at Warmley House where standing at the upstairs balcony window and looking down the illuminated driveway to the gate that Minnie was inspired to write the words of God Knows which for a while was put away and forgotten.
From 1918-1920 Minnie studied at the London School of Economics. Gaining a Social Science certificate and distinction, also a diploma in Sociology with distinction in Philosophy in 1920. She joined the staff of LSE in Social Science Department becoming a tutor in 1934 retiring in 1939 reappointed and continued until 1944.
In 1933 she was described as a woman of unusual capacity and character with a rare understanding and sympathy with great love and interest in people Privately Minnie printed her poems and verses The Desert later Through Bed of Stone (1928) A Few People (1932) her other articles and pieces were mainly on industry.
King George VI was introduced to God Knows by the Queen mother which was sent to her in a Christmas Card. Minnie was astounded to know her poem was broadcast, although she never heard it herself. The subsequent royalties Minnie donated to charity and by then was living in Sussex.
In 1951 aged seventy five Minnie returned to Warmley House, (which was then owned by Warmley Rural District Council who had purchased it in 1940) to unveil a commemorative plaque during the Festival of Britain. This plaque still remains to this day.
In 1952 King George VI died and was buried at Windsor Castle and at the foot of a stained glass window in his memory are Minnies words the King had quoted in 1939.
Minnie never married and is thought to have died in Crowborough, Sussex in 1957
In 1967 the poem was set to music by American Classical Composer Elinor Remick Warren, called The Gate of the Year
I said to the man, who stood
at the gate of the year
Give me a light that I may
tread safely into the unknown
And he replied Go out into the
darkness and put your hand into
the hand of God. That shall be to
you better than light and safer than a known
Way So I went forth, and finding the
Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.*
And He led me towards the hills
and the breaking of day in the lone East.
So heart be still
What need our little life
Our human life to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low,
God hideth his intention.
God Knows. His will
Is best. The stretch of years
Which wind ahead, so dim
To our imperfect vision,
Are clear to God, Our fears
Are premature; In Him
All time hath full provision.
Then rest; until
God moves to lift the veil
From our impatient eyes,
When, as the sweeter features
Of lifes stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise
Gods thought around His creatures
Our minds shall fill.
Joyce Gale 2004 Warmley.
Source of Research (Memories of Warmley)
Daily Telegraph 2002.
Pastor Ken Van Schelven USA.who got me on to the research.