One resident's memories of wartime Campden

Dorrie Ellis

Dorrie Ellis

Apart from the absence of some of our young men and women to military duties and the loss of those on active service I never felt that in Campden we suffered much deprivation, except from that occurring nationwide, such as food rationing and travel restrictions.

Growing veg on the allotments

Most residents had a rear garden for vegetables and allotments were available to anyone who so desired.  The large area now occupied by the school houses was covered by allotments and was known as The Piggeries (for which they were originally used) and the Big Ground behind Haydon’s cherry orchard in Station Road was owned and run by the Oddfellows Benefit Club and was used as allotments.

Pigs and the Pig Club

Quite a few cottagers had a pig sty at the end of their gardens and reared and killed a pig annually.  At the beginning of the war, George Stowe Snr. formed a Pig Club, operating from the Red Lion, and members could join for a small subscription, guaranteeing them a regular ration of pig food and permission for the killing of one pig a year – officially, that is, though what went on unofficially was nobody’s business!  Laurence and Charlie Ladbroke were much in demand as the local pig butchers and could be relied upon to make it a memorable event for all the family with a good fire going in the yard to singe and dress the carcase and ending with a good feast for all and hams hanging from the larder beams for Christmas!

Bartering and Black Market

There was plenty of bartering and black market activity for anyone with produce to spare – and no questions asked.  Any Food Ministry officials who arrived to inspect and chastise were soon told where to go.  Bill Hobbs ran an agency supplying the NAAFI based at Oxford and would collect any contracted or surplus produce. With the labour shortage, owners of apple orchards were glad to do a deal with Les Brodie and my husband, Lionel Ellis, to shake the trees and pass the harvest on to the jam factory (I think it was Chivers) at Evesham.  They would also take blackberries and rose-hips collected by the children.

Our three bakers had staff either too young or too old for active service and the young sons and daughters kept the deliveries going, although I do seem to remember a flour delivery problem at one point.  Our winderful landgirls braved all weathers and conditions to keep the milk supply flowing – but the biggest disaster struck when brewers were unable to deliver!

Factory owners in Birmingham soon realised that there were opportunities in the Cotswolds to pick up produce for their canteens and so we soon had regular customers keen to exchange canteen sugar and tea for our salad produce.

Collecting the meat

Lionel was in a ‘reserved occupation’ as a nurseryman growing food, and part of his duties was to collect the weekly meat ration from Collins Meat Factory in Evesham and deliver it to our local butchers – Drury’s at Moreton, Balhatchet at Blockley, Page’s at Ebrington and Smith’s and Bragg’s in Campden.  The run was every Thursday in a lorry owned by Jack Horne, a local carrier, which resulted in the useful addition of gifts of the occasional tenderloin or a few lamb chops and sometimes a rabbit.

Harvesting hazel ‘drifts’ for firewood and stakes

A useful facility at this time was arranged by the then resident of Campden House, Captain Naumann.  Section of the hazelnut brakes were divided off by stakes and called ‘drifts’.  The old growth was then pruned back to allow new growth and locals could apply for permission to cut back and use the wood as kindling or garden stakes.  We were able to use our van as the ‘drifts’ lay just to one side of the driveway.  As gardeners we found this very useful and it was a wonderful job to take saw and axe and work among the bluebells and the occasional rabbit on a spring morning.

One person who took advantage of this offer was Nell Brace, then living in Park Road, who would push the pram containing the twins up the slope, hack out the wood and carry it back home straddled across the pram and covering the twins.  I think the Brotheridges and George Stowe also made use of this facility.

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