Dennis Summers was born and bred in Winsham. Pictured here in 1938 he was just eight years old. He lived with his parents in a cottage that used to exist where Garden House now stands. Joyce Hayball (nee Butler) and her brother Eric lived next door. Dennis and Eric were great friends.
He has not lived in the village for many years, but he is full of fond memories of the years he spent in Winsham as a child. Subsequently he joined the RAF Regiment and then spent twenty five years in the Somerset Constabulary and now lives on the edge of Dartmoor.
Below are some of his memories, a fascinating mixture of interesting information and amusing anecdotes...
If you leave Purtington, on Chalkway lane towards Green Lane and Chalkway , on the right there was an Anti-Aircraft battery. In WWII, a searchlight and and aircraft gun was installed in that area of Cricket Thomas Estate which was then owned by Captain Hall. Army Nissen huts were built and a section of the Royal Artillery lived there throughout the war.
The system of searchlights and weapons across the section of S W England stretched from Plymouth to Bristol in a pattern. In the early part of the war with saturation bombing, this was the line of attack by German bombers.
One night in 1942, a 1,000 pound German bomb was aimed at the gun site and exploded in a field close to the road. In that age Green Lane was a Bridleway which linked Chalkway Lane to the main Winsham to Crewkerne Road. I believe that this is now closed off, but in my childhood days it was an exciting short cut.
During the late winter of 1943 and early spring of 1944, the estate took on a transformation.
The time was approaching for the D-Day operation and the whole of South West England was being flooded with soldiers and war machines on a massive scale. The whole of the wooded and grass areas to the north of Cricket House (towards and following the A30 road) was completely taken over by men of the USA 29th Infantry Division. The whole area was a tent camp and well camouflaged by the wooded sections.
A few days before D-Day the 29th started to move towards pick up ports in the South West and South. At that time all the roads into Winsham were, for days, saturated with men, vehicles and equipment moving to take their place on the boats waiting in all the ports and small harbours.
The mention of the 29th Infantry Division is because of its decimation on landing. They were the first attackers on Omaha Beach, Normandy at 07.00 on 6th. June 1944. Sadly, by 12 noon of the same day almost all of the Division had been killed or washed out to sea by the incoming tide. Most had only been soldiers for a few months.
Before Cricket St. Thomas became a theme park it was very much a self sufficient estate - it operated three self contained farms with dairy herds - t had its own saw mill operated by falling water principle supplied from the flow from the lower lake. Most important, the Gypsy Families — Anna Isaacs and Bill Isaacs and their families always wintered in Green Lane, made wooden clothes pegs to sell in the area and in Spring picked the wild daffodils --primroses and snowdrops which grew in abundance. They then toured the villages selling them by the small bunch.
Although they were more or less accepted to camp there, the local farmers were not so happy especially if they had winter crops of kale or swedes adjacent to the lane. It is worth noting as well that on a line south west from the gun site towards the Cricket House - is a fairly large wood and just within its bounds there was a small stone built one seat shelter - this is known as Nelsons Seat - he often came to Cricket House to stay and could see his fleets (apparently) through a telescope in Seaton Bay and the Bristol Channel from the same spot!!
This was the most popular pub in the village, especially during World War II. The Jubilee Hall was directly opposite and sometimes in those days there would be dances on Wednesday and Saturday nights. The locally stationed American troops and our local boys who were on leave would take advantage and enjoy this function. Cider was the popular drink which had disastrous consequences at times ( all types of beer of course were on ration and in short supply).
Well before the start of World War II, the fresh water supply to the top half of High Street, Back Street, Phillips Farm, and the cottages on Chalkway Lane came from a spring at the top of the junction of Broadenham Lane. The clue is the name of the large house on the left of the road, still known as Springhead.
The spring water was funnelled down to a small brick reservoir opposite the farm entrance to Stuckeys Farm from there it was piped into an open brick tank shown near Percy Trott's home in High Street and also to a stand pipe next to the thatched cottage (Butlers) in Back Street. To obtain water from the open tank one had to dip it out with buckets ( I remember it well, I lived just around the corner in Back Street!). Halfway up our garden at Cobblestone Cottage, we had a very deep well with a hand pump, but the water was unfit to use for domestic purposes.
There were no utilities at all at the top of Back Street or Fore Street. My home, for example, had no electricity, water supply or sewer system. None of this was available to us until well after World War II. All waste water from these houses was taken by French drains down to an area in the first field on the right, Coxes Close, where it dispersed over a large area of the lower field.
Our toilet was the well known " Brick ------" and ours was located right at the top of our kitchen garden - I can I leave the rest to your imagination!! A French Drain is something from the past; the system was to dig out a trench about 12inches deep, then fill it with small stones. The turf was then put back on. You then have a good drainage system, providing it runs downhill, taking water waste away.
The amusing thing I remember about that time was the main games (apart from football) that us kids played. One was spinning tops, out on the road. The 'top' consisted of a small two inch high wooden item sharpened into a point with a boot stud at the point. The whip, a length of string, was wrapped around the top. The top was then placed on the road surface and the wound whip pulled sharply and, with luck off the top would spin. You kept it going by continued whipping!
The second time consumer and diversion was the iron hoop. For a shilling, Fred Churchill would blacksmith a hoop in small gauge round iron. With this, he forged an iron rod with a hook at one end; the hook fitted onto the hoop. By pushing on the hook, off one went. Races took place with us children, up Back Street into High Street down Fore Street into the square and back up to the finish! Remember that at this time we had few motor vehicles.
During World War II any boy over the age of twelve (providing that a farmer could use him) was granted 10 days a year from school to help on the land. I had a blue coloured card and Joe Phillips signed it as and when.
In the picture, 'Tiny' Weaver the Village policeman is sitting on his cycle outside Mr. Warren's butchers shop which is visible with a white frontage.
Tiny Weaver took over the Winsham beat from a PC Redaway - there was no Police Station then as such and they both resided as lodgers in Mrs. Courtney's Farm across the road. The first Police Station was across the road from Winsham Shop, but that closed in the mid 1920s. After that the village had to wait another twenty years before a new facility was built. This was located on the edge of the Chard Road at Bakersfield. Joe Burton was the first officer to occupy the new station. Joe was a respected boxer and he boxed on the same program as Freddie Mills, later to become the World Light Heavyweight Champion (1948-50) - in 1945 at the hangar in Denning's Works in Chard (and I was there with my Dad )!
Tiny Weaver was the first officer in Somerset Police to be issued mechanical transport. How many remember the Indian motor cycle? It was a massive machine with a hand change gear stick and coloured maroon. (I still have a photograph of one.)
When I joined Somerset Police Tiny Weaver was the officer in charge of the Bishops Lydiard Beat. and Joe Burton was a sergeant in the Information Room at Headquarters, Taunton.
I grew up knowing all the Butler family well - Molly and Betty were twins and very smart lovely girls, serving in the WAAF during the war. Joyce was next in line and she is still up and running. Freda was next down the line and Eric the youngest. They were always very happy and had a lot of fun. Eric was a few months younger than me but we grew together as a great partnership as you will discover later in these reminiscences.
Jack Butler was the father of the family. He worked for the then Chard District Council on roadwork and the like. He was always in the foreground of the road tar and gritting gang, although in the picture below he is in the back row!
Pat Wheaton was another well known character- larger than life. His presence in a crowd always stood out. But the notes in the Web Museum section showing photographs of Winsham in 1938 are not quite accurate. Ammerham Farm was never owned by Pat Wheaton or Roy Wheaton. (See below. Ed.)
Ammerham Farm was farmed before the World War II by Roy Loveridge and his father, that is the building in the foreground; down the hill turning left into the old lane was Ammerham Mill - I believe the Mill Leat is still there. This was also a dairy farm run by the Pattimore family.
Pat Wheaton bought the house further back towards Winsham (not in sight) which used to be Manor Cottage. He ran his earth moving business from there and owned the fields right through to Winsham cemetery.
In the field adjacent (behind the house) he had a purpose built explosives store. When working on building new aerodromes, he used gelignite for blasting tree stumps etc. Pat was a lad!
He had a business slogan on all his bulldozers etc; "WE WILL MOVE THE EARTH FOR YOU" - they were all painted bright yellow and a soldier who was stationed in Malta during the war sent him a message, by mail I think ,saying - COULD HE MOVE MALTA A GOOD BIT CLOSER TO ENGLAND!!
When Pat married his second wife she brought her father from Cornwall to Winsham and bought the adjoining cottage to our home in Back Street. He was a lovely old man and always wore an old trilby hat.
He visited Pat at Ammerham one day and Pat, in one of his merry moods took his father in laws hat and put it on the inside window sill, loaded his shot gun and blew it to pieces ! But it didn't end there - the blast blew the glass out of the window and shot went across the road and through the window of Cyril Sawyers house!!
The second panic that I remember is when he cleared the George Hotel one night during his "I WILL MOVE THE EARTH FOR YOU" days. He was in the bar and threatened to throw a 4 ounce stick of gelignite, which he had in his pocket, into the fire! The rest one can imagine!
Editor's Note: So much for Health and Safety! The mind boggles! Shot guns and gelignite! These days somebody would have snitched, using their mobile phone, and an armed Terrorist squad would have been there inside ten minutes. Well, half an hour anyway! Things ain't what they used to be - probably just as well! Talk about the Wild West!!
With regard to the 'who owned what' controversy, this was the first time anyone challenged the accuracy of information in the Winsham Web Museum. The original information was also from a reliable source. So I asked if anyone could add anything to settle the matter. Well they did. I had an e-mail from Bob Warren who confirmed Dennis's assertion. Bob used to deliver meat from his father's shop to most of them!
Fred the father was the blacksmith and when he retired then so did the blacksmithing!! He had two sons and a daughter, Ned and Charlie Churchill, and daughter Muriel.
Charlie Churchill never took part in the blacksmith repair/ farrier business. He lived in Church Street, near Warren's butcher shop. He worked as an engineer at Salter & Stokes butter factory and later at the United Dairies Factory where he was in charge of the workshop. Charlie was a fluent cornet player and was bandmaster to Winsham Band during the World War II.
Charlie had a son, Jack, and he was really the expert in the workings of these modern radio receivers. He worked at the Fore Street workshop and was an up to date expert in radio mechanics etc; I have already said that he was the first person to bring television to Winsham and used Peadon's Cider House in Back Street (next to Ivy Cottage and which no longer exists) to bring the first TV pictures. This was via an experiment unit that he built from scratch, I remember the day well- the first TV pictures ever to be received in Winsham.
I remember that my Mum & Dad bought a most up-to-date Cossor radio from Ned and this was a source of great interest to my family except me, although I remember one was the broadcast by Winston Churchill when France capitulated in the early stages of World War II - all of us huddled around the wireless - because of the seriousness of his speech (how many of us remember how serious the situation was?).
Winston said - "WHAT GENERAL WEYGAND CALLED THE BATTLE OF FRANCE, IS OVER. I EXPECT THAT THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN IS ABOUT TO BEGIN..."
I have a vivid memory of what happened as soon as those words were said. My mother kept items of food that needed protection in a small wooden and gauze covered safe (our cottage remember had no electricity and no water supply). She went up to the safe, and brought down a packet of sweets which she had hidden away and said "HERE SON, HAVE THESE, BECAUSE THE GERMANS WILL BE HERE IN THE MORNING". The seriousness of what she said of course never entered my head...
Read more about Jack Churchill and his Radio and TV initiatives
Ned never married; he was a great trombone player in Winsham Band. He seldom did any farrier work-and was in his element with agriculture machine repairs and the then recent innovation of radio and all the related items such as large batteries and secondary electric supply, acid filled accumulators, etc.
Eric Butler and I were great friends. We were aged about 11 years in 1940, both attending Chard Holyrood School. Together we had two small helpful businesses going from our homes. Some of the wooded areas and open wild areas were plagued with wild rabbits and the farmers were pleased to have both Eric and myself to catch them.
We worked as a team and kept our own ferrets at home. Once a week we would ferret a chosen patch and the rabbits we caught were very much sought after by households locally. Fresh meat was almost non existent on ration, so we sold the rabbits at a shilling a time. We returned later in the week to collect the skins because Charlie Wooten, who had a greengrocery and fresh fish business in Crewkerne would drive his van down to us once a week and pick up all the skins for a 1d each.! They were sought after in the clothing industry at that time.
Our other money spinner which was more important was that of mole catching. Moles on pasture land at that time were a menace to farmers. We ran two strings of mole traps, one mine and the other Eric's, but we worked as team.
I can remember two farmers for whom we controlled the pests; one was Farmer Knowles, whose farm was on the left down the hill towards Whatley Cross. The other was Herbie Wheaton - his farm was Court Farm at the bottom of Church Street.
When caught, and we used to check our traps daily after school, the tail was cut off the dead mole. A penny a tail was the going price from the farmer. We would then return home to remove the mole skin, nailing them squarely on to large boards or the back of shed doors to allow to dry. This is the important part, we had a small contract with an animal skin merchant, who would buy them. They were then used to line the flying jackets of the pilots of the Lancaster Bombers. All part of the war effort!
I attended Holyrood School, Chard, after the first years at Winsham Primary. We school children were transported by bus into Chard and home at evenings each day. The journey I remember most vividly was on Friday 23rd. October 1942. At about 4pm the bus full of us scholars were journeying down the hill from Street towards Whatley Cross, where some children would be dropped off. In the field on the right as we came down the hill was a farmer (I don't remember who) working in the field with a tractor. At the same time a German light bomber plane came over the wooded area and fired a short burst of gun fire at the farmer turned sharply and flew off in the direction of the coast. The plane was a JU 88 medium bomber.
When we left the bus at Winsham, I turned the corner into Back Street to see my mother in the doorway of our cottage, beckoning frantically for me to hurry. This a good place to say that my father was the cream and butter department manager of the Chard Junction factory, and my sister worked as a packer on one of the butter wrapping machines.
My mother was in a panic and told me that the butter factory had been bombed. Quickly, I got out my bicycle and set off to Chard Junction, some 3 miles away.
On the approach to the factory entrance is a farm with one of its wagon houses located on the left of the roadside. I stopped and looked in. I was shocked to see perhaps ten young women huddled up together. Most of them with their white overall coats covered in blood ! My sister was with them and she had several serious cuts on her face. I remember a piece of glass still embedded in her cheek. Nearly all of the injuries to staff were caused by the shattering of the glass in the partitions that separated the workrooms.
I then cycled into the yard of the factory, and saw the devastation. There was a body still lying on the side of the yard. Almost at once I saw my Dad at the bottom of the yard. He hurried over to me and hustled me away from the scene.
Four bombs were released from the JU88. Because of some fog at the time, the plane was so low that when it released the bombs they followed a flat trajectory. One exploded in the field in front of the factory, the second hit the concrete yard and bounced through a partition into the interior butter churn room, but it had a delayed fuse and exploded when some of the workers were back in trying to establish some sort of order. The third and fourth bombs struck the concrete roof of the factory and flew over the railway line and Chard Junction Station and exploded in the football field beyond Bradford's Yard.
As for the injured, we forget the efficiency and resources of our present Emergency Services. They did not exist on anything like the same scale in those years. Aid would have to be carried out by registered first aid employees of the Company and with one ambulance perhaps in the whole district! The injured would have eventually been transported to the nearest emergency centre by other vehicles. I would hazard a guess that the nearest one was Taunton East Reach Hospital - now closed.
My sister, Noreen, was taken eventually to hospital to remove the glass slivers were embedded in her arms and face. She was off work for a long period, about three months, I think. Part of the problem was loss of confidence in case the same occurred again.
My Dad, to my mind, shrugged it off as one of those things to expect in war. He did not delay in going back to work. Butter production was shut down for months. The greatest problem was the shattered glass that I mentioned earlier. All the butter making churns-there were nine of them, were made from American Cedar. These were peppered with glass particles. This was just one of many problems.
Dennis Summers passed away on the 22nd February 2017.