Jack and Ethel Anderson moved to the Home Farm Cottage in 1934 with their children Alf, who was 11 and Iris, who was 7½. Jack was the head cowman to the newly started Hall Place herd. “My father had been farming all his life”, says Alf. “But I never wanted to follow him; up at five in the morning, seven days a week, 365 days a year. They were the red and white cows – shorthorns? Each morning we used to see the Leigh people who worked at Morley’s in London cycling past to the station in their bowler hats. Father had two other chaps with him on the cows plus the others who worked on the estate. Home Farm was run by ‘Mac’ MacPherson. He was Scottish and his accent was so strong, I couldn’t understand him. They made butter at Home Farm in those days but I don’t remember the old tiled, octagonal dairy being used – I think they did it next door to it. Then each day Mac’s son would drive the milk and butter and eggs down to cook at Hall Place in a little pony and trap. Mother was a dress maker – a townie from Brighton. She wasn’t any good at farm work. We went potato planting once – Mum only lasted till lunch. We were lucky at Home Farm: we had running water and electricity”.
“At the beginning of the war, the Estate gave up cows and the Anderson family moved to Charcott. “We lived at 1 Orchard Cottage, which was half of what it is now ‘Jessups’ – although it’s been extended a lot”, says Alf. “Father looked after the cows for Mr Porch but as it was only a small farm, he did a bit of everything. Mr Porch was tall and gaunt and Mrs Porch was round and jolly but they were both very nice people – very easy going”.
“When I left school I started working for Spencer Coates – his friends usually called him ‘Spen’. He had come to Leigh in about 1935, taking over the shop from C. P. Burt. Mr Burt didn’t have his own van – he used the van belonging to the Brickmakers – but Mr Coates bought his own and after the van driver was called up in 1940, I used to drive it. I’ve always loved vehicles”.
“In Morgan Witzel’s book, there is the story of a Messerschmitt which came over the Charcott aerodrome. I was there. It was strafing the gun emplacements when a Spitfire arrived and fired on it. The damaged Messerschmitt landed and then the Spitfire pilot realized he’d run out of fuel and he landed too. I ran over to see if I could be the first to the German pilot but then I thought he might have a revolver or something and thought better of it and left it to the army people”.
“After the War, I joined the local builder, ‘Flip’ Baker, and we did a lot of work on Hall Place for Alfie Houghton. I still come back to Leigh occasionally and look at all the changes.”
Iris Anderson, now Mrs Veness, arrived at Home Farm in 1934 with her family. She went to the Village School and is one of the many who remember Mr Gibbons as “a wonderful teacher. He particularly loved cricket and music was his favourite subject. I loved music and singing too. If we weren’t singing very well in the practices, he’d kick the piano but normally we were good. We used to go to competitions in the Pantiles Pump Room and we always seemed to win cups and plaques”.
“I was lucky. I was fairly bright as well as working quite hard. I was going in for the scholarship exam in Tonbridge and Mr Gibbons gave me a pre-test. One of the questions was a word for ‘to put off from day to day’. I wrote ‘neglect’: he said the real word was ‘procrastinate’, which I’ve never forgotten. But I did get the scholarship and Mr Gibbons gave the senior school a games afternoon – cricket and stoolball – on the Green. Those who didn’t want to play could go home.”
“My brother, Alf, was in the Scouts and I was in the Guides. In the 1930s the Guides were run by Miss Margaret Sturgess who lived in the big house opposite Redleaf. She was always called “Peggy”. She was wonderful. She taught us all about the stars – about Orion’s Belt and things like that. I remember standing outside the back door at home and displaying my newly acquired knowledge to my mother who said ‘They say man will go to the moon one day. Of course, it won’t be in my lifetime’. She was wrong – it did happen!”.
Alf Anderson, three years older than Iris, has his memories of the Scouts who met in the two corrugated iron huts down Kiln Lane. “Miss Walton helped us to get lots of badges and she even paid for two of us to learn to swim properly at the Tunbridge Wells swimming baths. You had to do 50 yards to get the badge. The annual camp at Studland was the big event of the year but we also did plays and, when the War started, we collected paper and sometimes we acted as pretend casualties for the First Aid people. We’d be put around the Green with a notice on us of what our injuries were meant to be. Then the First Aiders would take us to the Village Hall”.
Iris also remembers the Scout plays, not least because once Alf was dressed up to play a woman, and their mother was horrified! “Actually, mother was a very intelligent woman. She had her own books and music scores of The Messiah and Merrie England. She was very much a lady in manner – she never went out without her hat and gloves. Her main interests in the village were the Church and the Chapel, and the WI, but she always put family first”.
When War was declared, their mother, who had lost two brothers in the First World War, said “Oh, No! Not another War”. Their father, who had been in the First World War, became a special constable in Leigh; Alf went into the RAF; and Iris became a Wren. “We were very patriotic and I was proud to be British. We all wanted to do our bit to help”.
Parish Magazine Articles: Aug/Sept 2002: by Chris Rowley