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Roadshow Tuesday 12 March, St. Johns, Winchester

St Johns, Winchester

We used to clean the brass shell every Saturday.The army came and took it away and it exploded in the fields.

The Roadshow team were very excited to meet up with residents of St John’s Almshouses in the lovely little chapel near King Alfred’s statue. It lent a sense of ceremony to the event, but alas caused one or two minor technical hitches due to thick walls and a paucity of electricity sockets.

Never-the-less the presentation of the Heritage100 website got off to an exciting start as many people not only recognised the Fosters Tobacconist shop which is on display in its entirely at the City Museum, but they recalled how they used to shop in the original shop when it was on the High Street. One woman told how one of her brothers even helped move it into the museum in 1980.

“I used to buy tobacco for my father.” Said one woman.

Another added: “My husband was always astounded that no matter how many people were in the shop they were looked after individually with great customer service. We bought the tobacco by the ounce, and people were never brushed aside.”

Everyone agreed that back in those days it was slower pace of life and people were in less of a rush than nowadays. There were lots of other independent shops in Winchester at the time as Fosters Tobacconist was trading. These shop keepers didn’t know what the future held.

The vintage cars and the 1920s Shell Poster prompted talk about when the mainly female group first learned to drive. One woman said she had a scooter in the early 1960s when she was 20 or 21. She drove it until she got married, at which point I was driven.

Another woman recalled how she started to learn to drive through the Territorial Army (TA) and told the story about how she almost got thrown out: “We used to go in the airfield, and I knocked down a little shed. I was driving big lorries with the gears behind.” After that she lost confidence “I made sure I stayed in the back from then on!” she said.

Many of the group recalled days out as a family piling into the car and going off for the day. “When I was a teenager, my father was a land manager,” said one person. “We would pile in with a picnic and we'd head off to Hayling island. This was back in the 1950s. It was all sand back then. The funfair was there and there was Monkey Island. It all seemed so big.”

 

Details

The talk turned to Sunday School trips in Charabancs. “We didn’t have much of a holiday, as we were working class,” said one woman. “So the days out, like the Sunday school treat, were like a holiday to us.”

Someone else talked about summer holidays in a caravan which would be parked in a field down near Hill Head. Her father would still work and visit them all at the weekends. It was such fun yet so simple. “We felt very privileged,” she said.

“Up until the 2nd world war my father, who worked on the railway at Eastleigh, never had a holiday,” said Lewis (now in his nineties). “The only time he ever had off was on the two minutes’ silence on Remembrance Day. Then after the war people were obliged to have paid holiday.”

The group generally agreed that people were satisfied with less back in the old days.

Later in the morning, everyone had a look at the items on the website for themselves using the iPads which we brought along with us. Dan and George from Toynbee School were on hand to act as I.T. Wizards and everyone agreed they were very helpful to have around.

Finally, two members of the group showed their own treasured items and shared the stories attached to them.

Lewis brought along two objects: First he showed a 4 penny piece, which was something his mother gave him but he didn’t know where she had got it from. It is dated 1854 and is called a ‘Bun Penny’ because it shows an image of a young Queen Victoria with a bun in her hair. Secondly, he brought along a name plate from his parents’ house. “Mum and dad came from Glasgow,” said Lewis. “They went to live with my mother’s parents in a block of flats and there were no numbers on the flats so, because he had a new wife, my dad had this name plate made in 1908. It has always been on show in our house ever since I was a child.”

Renee brought along a press cutting and told a hair raising story about a Brass Shell ornament that had been in her family for years: “I was the youngest of the family and when Dad came home from WWI he brought back a lot of memorabilia. This object had pride of place, and one of the jobs was to clean all the brass work. We used to clean the brass shell every Saturday. It was 1918 when he brought it home and it has been through the family as time has moved on. And it moved to my nephew, who lives in Essex. As the house was being cleared his wife wanted to get rid of it. So he took it to the police station – this was the 1960s - and the police were horrified. They put the shell in a police cell and the army came and took it away and it exploded in the fields. We had cleaned that shell every Saturday morning for years. It was live for over 50 years and it was only blown up in the 1960s!”

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