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Memories (Barbara de Mornay Penny)
Vey Naughty or High Spirited Person
My name is Barbara de Mornay
Penny (nee Davies). I
was born in the one of the timber cottages next door to
Mrs Thompson’s grocery shop
down in the dell at Gustard Wood
on the 15th of September 1940.
One of my memories of Gustard Wood, apart from picking raspberries and
playing on the common, was the
huge bonfire which I believe was to celebrate the
end of the war.
It was around this bonfire that
we children were handed old hats and into these hats we were each given
a jacket potato to eat straight out of the fire. Delicious it was too.
Moving on to 1946 we
moved to a brand new Swedish
house at 44, Marford Road. Just
across the road was the
Marford Stores where you could buy all beautiful fresh groceries.
It was here I used to see dear
old Teddy Clark with
his push cart which he used to deliver groceries.
The name of Bangs
was written on the side of this cart, presumably the name of the
previous shop owner. The shop in my day was run by a
Mrs Oldfield. Teddy
lived at 36 Marford Road with Mrs Foulds.
now Garrard Way, was where
Jimmy Wright would leave his
horse and cart, I believe he was
some sort of dealer. The roads
were well used with skipping ropes across the road to skip whilst being
turned at each end. Our tennis
courts were Conqueror’s Hill
and the grass bank outside our home. But
it was during the winter when great fun was to be had on the treacherous
slides we had going down the pavement and road on Conqueror’s Hill and
sledging down the same, as well as
Ash Grove and the playing
fields into East Lane.
During the summer months it would be down the meadows by the river where
we would pick gorgeous kingcups,
Dyke of course was a very popular play area.
Here we would pick bluebells,
build camps and slide down the banks. Here
too was a wonderful place to play hide-and-seek. On one occasion who
should be watching us children but
When Autumn approached we
mushroomed on Wick fields
(now Wick Avenue), gathered hazel nuts, sweet chestnuts and of course
blackberries from the lanes all around.
Another fond childhood memory of mine was, when lucky enough, to ride on
the running board of Ena Dawes’
horse and cart as she delivered the milk.
Milk was passed from
churn to jug to jug.
During the late 40s early 50s
Mrs Fletcher (a school
teacher) formed a choir, the
Golden Singers. Derek
Frost also had a small choir and we would practise in his home which
was Jessamine Cottage.
So you see I was not naughty all
was the head master, firm but fair. He
not only caned the boys, he caned the girls too. I know.
He caned me.
Just one stroke.
This was because I was caught
passing/ throwing a girl’s boot across the room.
Occasionally, time permitting,
he would take us for a lesson of his choosing, anything from parliament,
to churches and the structure of, to manners and horticulture.
These times I thoroughly enjoyed
because you not only learnt something different, but he generally
started off on one subject and ended on another.
One boy in particular was good
at distracting him, but the finale was generally a verbal spelling test
with those who answered the first ten spellings correctly being allowed
to go home early.
There were many outings made with the school to museums and galleries in
the Tower of London,
Buckingham Palace, etc.
I remember a tour of the
Houses of Parliament with an
MP named Lord Lingram, after
which we were taken to the top of
Big Ben, and of all places
we walked around the top looking down between the turrets to the
For all of these trips we
travelled by the train from
Wheathampstead station. The excursion of
1951 will always stand out
in my memory more than others. While waiting for the train to go to the
Festival of Britain we
watched as the firemen put the finishing touches to extinguishing the
blaze of the Murphy Chemical
The teachers I remember were,
Miss Warren, Mrs Fletcher,
Miss Crawley (very
Victorian), Mr Price,
Mrs Rowe (domestic science)
and a woodwork teacher. In my
days there were no teaching assistants and class numbers were between 20
and 30 mixed. Our very good school dinners were cooked by
Mrs Lizzie Latchford, and
Mrs Thornton in the school
After school I would go to my father’s office which was next to/ part of
Pearce’s the newsagents and
get 3d. With this I would go
to Mr Hall’s the baker, and
if lucky get a penny worth of
broken tarts! Then on to
Mrs Pateman’s (the
green grocer) and for
2d buy a Lyons maid ice
cream. If I could not get any
broken tarts I would get a 3d
Walls ice cream.
Hall’s bread and cakes were delicious.
My poor Mother never received a
complete loaf if I had to shop for it as I would nibble the crust off as
I walked home. Three times a
week Mr Hall would deliver
bread and once or twice a week we would have meat delivered from
Simons the butcher.
Nurse Smith and the Girl Guides
I was a Girl Guide for a
short while. The guides were run by
Nurse Sally Smith, but due
to my honesty I was banned for three weeks.
We had been to meeting to learn
the language of the deaf and dumb in Harpenden and while waiting for the
bus home some of us decided to play
Knock Down Ginger, i.e.
knocking on doors and running away. The
next week at our guide meeting we were asked who had participated in
this game. Thinking that
everyone would admit to it, I put my hand up, but nobody else did.
For this I was given a
three-week suspension, I never did return due to the injustice.
Assorted village memories
Summer fetes I remember in the grounds of
Bury Farm house, and
Rectory meadow where prizes
of savings stamps were given for races and fancy dress etc.
Watching the harvest in progress in fields where now stands the
Dramatic society plays
being staged in St. Helens school hall. Watching my godfather Mr
Westwood shoe horses in his forge in East lane.
My first hair-dressing appointment to have a set was at the
hairdresser’s in Church Street where they cut men’s hair too. The awful
huge looking hair dryers had always put me off going to have a hairdo,
but on my first occasion it was a must due to wedding, so I had to go.
Everything was going well until
ten minutes under the dreaded drier when I noticed steam coming from
under my chair. Having called
the assistant she was most apologetic, the cause being she had switched
the kettle on for their tea just before I sat down.
It was some time before I
ventured here again.
My Bert Cobb and his Serenaders
would put on a jolly good show. He had a dance troupe, of which I was a
member for a short while, but I preferred to watch.
His two comedians,
Johnnie Warner and
Mr Cox, were hilarious and
Bert Cobb himself, who not only trained the girls in their dance
routines and organised the whole show, was a brilliant caricaturist.
Warner was also the village chimney sweep, and it was while at our
house he would tell us funny stories to get us in a good mood so that we
would go out into the garden to check the brush had come out of the
A daredevil pastime on a Saturday morning was, with a friend, to hide
behind the Mill lorry when it was parked loaded and ready for the off.
As soon as the driver got into
his cab we clambered up on top of the sacks and toured the farms around
Kimpton and Codicote unbeknown to the driver until his first delivery.
It was going through orchards
where apples would sort of get knocked off the trees by our heads.
This was the driver’s fee for
My poor Mother had many confrontations with neighbours and friends
parents due to some of the pranks I had pulled, but lucky for me my
Mother for 35 years had been a psychiatric nurse so she knew how to
handle these situations.
We had a youth club in the village run by
Mr Lea followed by
Mr Bob Beckwith. This was in
the two Nissan huts next to
Hall’s bakery. Here we’d jive to old records, play table tennis,
Working at the Murphy Chemical Co.
In 1955 I started work for
the Murphy Chemical Co., in
offices housed in Garden House.
This was just opposite the
railway yard and my office was at the front so when not busy one
could watch the trains. This was
quite an interesting job especially the
I remember when entomologists
were abroad if we wanted to make a telephone call to them we had to book
the call several days in advance, but when we made the contact I was so
surprised how clear the line was. One call I had to make was to
Tanganika. It was if we were
talking internally. Then of
course when meeting our reps it could sometimes be a let-down putting a
face to a caller. Still a bit
naughty even at this stage of my life we did have fun listening in to
some of the calls. On another
occasion whilst making a three-way call for one of the directors I was
told off as it had taken 38 seconds to finally connect up the third
person. Whilst working for
Murphy Chemicals two evenings a week I had to spend an hour with Mr Lea
(organist/youth leader) for shorthand and typing lessons.
Working at the Swan and the Bull
From 1969 to 1971 I worked
as a barmaid for John and Doreen
Underwood at the Swan
public house. It was quite a
different affair when later in
1971 I changed jobs and worked for
Mr and Mrs Rose, who managed
the Bull Hotel. They
succeeded Mac, a very tall
Scottish landlord who would shuffle about in his slippers.
My job here was very busy and
enjoyable meeting many personalities:
Eric Bartholomew (or
Morecombe), Peter Haigh who
later came to live in Wheathampstead for a short while and many more.
Monday was always the quietest night of the week, but as the week
progressed so did the punters, and by Friday and Saturday night it was
really difficult to get to the bar.
Christmas time we had three
weeks solid of parties
booked in for both lunchtime and evening parties, companies using us
from all over. During all the time I worked here I can honestly say we
never had a single spot of trouble. If there was someone a little
unsteady Mrs Rose would see
them safely off the premises. Mr and Mrs Rose were wonderful hosts, both
very entertaining and hard working. It was a good life, like a party
every night, people came in looking all glum but always left cheerful.
During the sixties I brought a mothering [nursing] chair at a one-off
auction in the Memorial Hall. On
seeing this chair at the end of the auction sitting alone outside the
hall I asked one of the organisers if I could have it for all the money
I had left in my purse, “Oh, go on!”, they said. So I bought this dear
little chair which I still have in my possession for the grand cost of
22 and a half pence. When I became a little richer I had Mr and Mrs
Frost reupholster it for me at a cost of £80.
Mr and Mrs Cory Wright
who had lived at Four Limes
for many years eventually sold up and moved to
Mackerye End House. This was
very sad because it was Graham
Dangerfield the naturalist who moved in with his menagerie of
smellies turning the Cory Wright’s immaculate landscaped gardens into a
A few nicknames I remember:
Coates (Ruth), Lefty Wright
(Brian), Polly Shields
(Brian), Wobbler Wright
(Michael), Oddy Brandon (Les
senior and Brian junior), Noggy
Potter (Eric), Lulla
(Valerie Martin) last but not least one name which I know. I was called
was battle axe......?
I do hope this jogs a few memories and will gladly like to hear from any
who have remembered me, good or bad.
After living at 44 Marford Road,
I married Anthony Penny and
we moved to Caesars Road,
Living there for forty years we raised our two daughters
2004 when my husband retired
we joined our daughters in the west. The
girls live in Glastonbury
while we live 6 miles away very happily in
Wells home of my ancestors.