FROM BIG-CITY BOMB TARGET TO RURAL IDYLL
'Come along then Sunny Jim!' says Charlie.
The big countryman always
calls me: 'Sunny
Jim.' He carries my little
suitcase as we
walk the short distance
from Burford School
towards the church of St.
Mary Burford. We
turn off the main road
and walk down an avenue
of red and golden leaved
sycamores that filter
the pale evening light
into a roseate glow.
We hear the sound of laughter
and pass white-flanneled
figures sprawled in candy
on the rectory lawn. In
a few minutes, we
arrive at the church and
the entry to Burford
At the time of the Doomsday Survey of 1086,
Burford was one of the
larger manors in South
Shropshire. Burford means
the 'burg' or 'fortified
place by the ford and indicates
settlement on or close
to the parish church.
The very way in which Burford
mentioned in the Doomsday
Book implied that
it wasn't a new church
even then. The old
narrow arch, which used
to divide the nave
from the chancel, was believed
by some to
be of a Saxon architectural
The entrance to the churchyard is through
a fine example of a "modem"
erected in 1889 by friends
and tenants of
Burford Estates, in memory
of George, Lord
Northwick. A lych-gate
got its name as the
place where the coffin
bearers at a funeral
rested the lyche (the body
of the deceased)
before entering the church
Later I'm taken to the scullery and given
a good hot bath. Then Charlie says. 'Up the
dancers, first door on the right.'
- ding-dong, ding-dong.
Dong, dong, dong, dong, dong, dong,
dong,dong,dong, dong, dong.
Burford House was built in 1728 for William
Bowles, M. P. for Bewdley and proprietor
of London's famous Vauxhall glass works. The house, which is an excellent example
of Provincial Georgian architecture, stands
on one of the country's most historic sites,
that of Burford Castle, which dated back to Saxon times. It is
recorded that during the reign of Edward
the Confessor, Richard, son of Scrob held
Richards Castle together with vast lands including Burford.
It then descended through the de Says, and
Mortimers to Sir Geoffrey Cornwall who became
the first Baron of Burford.
It remained in the Rushout (Northwick) family
for some generations. When I'm at Burford
House Gardens the property belongs to Lord
and Lady Whitbread of the brewing family.
It was sold in the early nineteen fifties
to John Treasure and his brother.
There's an old wireless in the dining room.
In these wartime years, the wireless is a
very important item in every home that can
afford one. Very few of them are mains electric.
Most of them work by connection to a glass
accumulator and a square battery about the
size of a small handbag. The accumulator
is filled with acid, which you can see through
the thick glass sloshing around the metal
plates inside. It has to be recharged every
After our meal, we go to listen to the news
from London. I'm allowed to listen to children's
hour, and shortly after that, I'm put to
bed. There are plays, music recitals, and
comedy shows. There's Tommy Handley in the
ITMA show with all the funny catch phrases.
There's Mona Lott, the cleaning lady, 'Can I do you now sir?
and 'It's bein' so cheerful that keeps me
goin'. Colonel Chinstrap - 'I don't mind if I do.' There's no commercial
radio at that time of course. We have the
BBC Light Programme, the BBC Home service
and the BBC Third Programme.
'Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run,
Run Rabbit Run - Flanagan & Allen
In Liverpool, 95,000 children
were evacuated from the city as War broke
out in September 1939. 57,000 of these were
school children, and 31,000 were mothers
and children under five years of age. However,
as it appeared that the city was in no immediate
danger from German bombing attacks, around
40% of the children were returned home by
Uncle Charlie has a twelve-bore shotgun. We walk into the gardens of Burford House and then he unlocks the padlock to the gate over the little hump backed bridge across the Ledwych Brook. We walk into the big field and make our way down towards the bank of the Teme where all the rabbit holes are. The field is shaped like a triangle by the course of the River Teme and Ledwich Brook and the tall trees stand like anticipant spectators awaiting the slaughter to come. Charlie takes aim at the distant bobbing brown bodies with their powder-puff tails. His face is a study in concentration. Charlie has been a cavalryman in WWI fighting in France.
Back in the scullery,
Auntie Horton pulls at the skin of the limp
creature, which comes off a sucking, tearing,
plop. She eviscerates the stomach and gives
the offal to Bonzo. The pink-eyed Bull terrier
salivates in greedy anticipation outside
in a kennel, surrounded by soil covered bones.
She cuts the small nude body into pieces
and drops it into a big, black witch's cauldron.
She adds vegetables from the garden, basil,
and thyme from the herbarium . She fetches
a drip pan of stock and pours some into the
huge container over the bloodied body parts
of the dead rabbit. Then holding the curved
handle with a gloved hand, she plunks it
down on flames of the Aga cooker and rakes
the coals beneath.
The first time I refuse meat they're very
perplexed and vexed. They assume I'm sick
and consider calling the doctor. It takes
them a long while to understand I simply
won't eat it and I've a natural inborn revulsion
for eating dead flesh. Countryfolk find vegetarians
Things turn out OK though. After all, they
run one of the largest vegetable gardens
in the district. Although the gardens in
peacetime are flower gardens, meant to bring
joy to the absentee owners, Lord and Lady
Whitbread on their occasional visits, the
wartime regulations insist that all cultivatable
land is given over to the growth of vegetables
NEXT - EVACUEE PART THREE