Catbrook House, Tytherton Lucas
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Rex Grimshaw at Catbrook House
Rex was born in about 1930 in Bristol. His mother, Bertha came from Somerset and moved to Lowden in Chippenham where she had a general food store near the railway bridge. His father, Fred, had Hardens Farm at Calne1. They moved to Gaston’s Cottage2 at Tytherton Lucas, which was then called West Tytherton, when Rex was aged 9, just before the WW2. Fred had part of Curricombe Farm which was then a Council owned farm let to him as he was an ex serviceman from WW1. He had been to France to look after the Boer soldiers. He also rented 2 fields from Mr Whole who had Barnbridge Farm. Later on Col and Mrs Eyres bought Barnbridge Farm and they bred horses.
Rex went to the primary school at East Tytherton until he was aged 13 years. Towards the end he went to Chippenham by bus each Friday to learn woodwork. From age 13 he worked for his father on the farm. They had about 60 acres with 50 mixed breeds of cows, pigs and hens which were kept for their eggs. A lorry used to come and collect trays of eggs. The milk churns were taken to Stanley Halt railway station and went on to London by train. Originally Fred took the milk churns to Stanley Halt with his horse and cart. Later on they were picked up by a truck that came from East Tytherton. The cows were milked with teat cups and a collecting churn. Rex remembers an outbreak of Foot and Mouth in the 50s but it didn’t affect their cows. They also had 4 acres of corn and kept 2 plough horses as well as having 2 old flat tractors.
John Cleverley lived in the Curricombe Farm house and had the remaining 70 acres. He used to bicycle to The Langley Tap and drank a lot! He once fell into the ditch in front of Gaston’s Cottage on the way back. Rex remembers his brother, Nelson, picking him out of the ditch and helping him back on his bike. Another recollection relates to the water trough, which provided drinking water for John Cleverley’s cows at Curricombe Farm. A chap working for Rex’s father had been told by John Cleverley not to wash his hands in the trough. When he was caught with his hands in the trough, Rex’s father hit him so hard that he flew over the water trough and landed in the cow dung in the yard on the other side.
Rex’s family lived at Gaston’s Cottage (now called Curricombe Cottage), which looked pretty much as it does today except that the walls let the damp in. He had one brother, Nelson. He played the organ in St Nicholas Church and “he could get that old harmonium to play like a pipe organ – he was very skilled”. He went on to Bristol University to study electrical engineering. He played the pipe organ in the University Hall. Because of the war the Government sent him to N Ireland to do electrical engineering work on the big transport aeroplanes. Unfortunately he committed suicide before he finished his degree, possibly bought on by the war.
Several bombs were dropped near here in the war by bomber planes flying back from Bristol and dumping their load on the way home. Four of them never exploded including one near the road in his current front garden at Catbrook House and 3 under the stables that Mike Chapman and Helen Smith have built across the road. An oil bomb landed in the lake at what is now Cherry Tree Farm. One day coming back from school they had to take cover in a ditch as a bomber flew low overhead. Later, they heard that it had been shot down near Salisbury.
At one point in the war there was a search light in father’s field and half a dozen soldiers. The search light was used to look for the planes. Then there was a camp with 50 soldiers in Mike and Helen’s field. As children they played at swinging the search light around. He doesn’t remember the pill boxes by the river Avon being used much. Soldiers went in there with their rifles but there wasn’t much to shoot at.
The millstream which comes off the River Avon was used to power a mill further down. There were a lot of mills around here including Scott’s Mill, Hazeland Mill and Kellaways Mill.
Rex married Shirley whom he met at the “big house”, Barnbridge. She came from Bromley and was a wartime evacuee that the Ministry had relocated to the country. Other evacuees came to Toby Ferris’ house on the corner (which now belongs to Julie Hoskins). He had lived on his own and just got rid of his housekeeper. So he did very well out of it because the evacuees helped to look after him. Rex and Shirley bought Catbrook House for £900. They had 2 sons: Ian who lives near Kellaways and is a local farm contractor and Keith who lives in London and is a car dealer as well as having several sublet flats in Bath. Shirley died some 15 years ago from multiple sclerosis.
Rex’s hobby was to reuse old lorry chasses to build hay wagons. Until Manor Farm was sold in 2008 there were 2 of these old hay wagons in the cartshed by the road. His friend from Steamer Cottage, formerly called The Steamer Inn because it was used by railway workers, which is on the other side of the railway line going to Langley Burrell, made use of the lorry engines. Rex remembers that a steam traction engine was used to repair the road.
When Rex’s father retired, Rex became a farm contractor, driving tractors. He didn’t take over the Curricombe famland from his father as his wife Shirley was unwell and needed looking after. Curricombe Farm was then let by Alan Hutchins.
Fred Bryant lived at Gaston’s Farm in the war. It was later sold to Bob Davis’ father who was a property developer and lawyer from Wales. He had already bought Manor Farm. Bob Davis moved the milking from Manor Farm to Gaston’s Farm. They were Ayrshire cattle. Ruby’s3 father, Ely Baker, used to do the milking. Rex told a joke that one day the wall at the end of the cowshed fell down and the cowman rang Bob and said to come over and bring a bottle of whisky with him.
Frank Cottle lived at Manor Farm during the war. He had come from Steeple Ashton on the other side of Melksham and part of his farm there had been taken over to build Keevil aerodrome. He moved back there when Manor Farm was sold to the Davis family. His son still runs the farm.
Bob Davis met and married Ann who came from the Phillips family. They were in partnership with the Rawlins and were big local merchants for grain and seed. Barbara Phillips, Ann’s sister in law, bought Scott’s Mill from Henry Bryant’s family. Henry had lived in Gaston’s Cottage and moved out just before Rex’s family moved in. Henry had blown his head off by the hay rick at Scott’s Mill when the war ended, so only the women were left. Gilbert Wheeler found his body. Gilbert lived at Home Cottage and worked on Manor Farm. There was another farmer, at Kellaways, who also committed suicide at the end of the war. The mill on the other side of the Marden River was already derelict before the war. Ann’s brother lived at Scott’s Mill and their land extended to the other side of the road. One of the Phillips family moved to Bath and another to Devizes where they had a tree plantation.
Bosmere Farm belonged to Mr and Mrs Cottle in the war years and the fields reached down to the Marden River. He was related to Frank Cottle at Manor Farm but they didn’t get on. The Vanzillotti’s lived at the No 2 Bosmere farm cottages. Mr Emilio Vanzillotti came from the South of Italy and had been captured as a prisoner of war and set to work on Bosmere Farm. He stayed on after the war. Tina, his fiancée, travelled from Italy to England after the war and they got married. She has recently died (Feb 2014) and is buried in the St Nicholas churchyard. They had 2 daughters. One was an air hostess, being bilingual. She was very good looking. The other married and lived in No 1 Bosmere farm cottages. After the war Queenie Cottle bequeathed the Vanzillottis a ruined farmhouse and land at Stanley Bridge on which they built a new farmhouse4 and grew asparagus. After the Cottles, an ex mining engineer from S Africa bought Bosmere and grew vines. Rex used to help pick the grapes. Some were sent to S Wales to be pressed and the rest were taken to the Sherston vineyard.
Brookside Cottage used to be 2 Cottages. The one at the back is the older and just one room on each floor. Bill Carter lived there with his wife and 4 children. He used to work for Rex’s father. Mr Cuzons lived in the front cottage. He was a war veteran with a motorbike and side car. His wife used to cycle for miles and used the cottage as a Post Office. Rex remembers the counter with mesh above it. The door to the old Post Office has recently been blocked up.
Mrs Lamb lived at Coggswell with her 3 daughters: Serena, Cordelia and Listra Mary. Cordelia, who had gone to University, has since died of cancer but the other 2 daughters are still alive. Listra Mary married Boxer who worked for Frank Cottle. They used to meet under the bridge over the River Marden – you can still see their initials carved into the stones there. Boxer used to drink Mrs Bryant’s dandelion wine and if he wasn’t sober enough to get home he would sleep under a hedge. Serena moved to Cherhill near Calne. Their land was turned into a dump5. Brig. George Powell moved to Coggswell in about 1962.
Jack Welsh farmed at Westfield and kept a lot of pigs. Rex used to help feed the pigs and was driving his father’s van from the age of 12. He also remembers that the Dutch barn behind the thatched cowshed caught fire and burnt the cowshed roof. This now has an asbestos roof. Jack Welsh used to like mending farm machinery and converted parts of an old car to pump water from the well in the field behind the cartsheds. Then Commander Dixon lived at Westfield House. Rex remembers that the granary annex used to have a thatched roof but it was taken off by Dave Elliott from Foxham, and replaced with a stone roof.
Miss Livingstone lived at Broome Corner, now Lucas House. She was a vicar’s daughter from Brinkworth and a spinster. She had a sports car and used to give the youngsters, like Rex, rides. She used to race her car. During the war she drove an ambulance in London and had evacuees at Broome Corner. Rex remembers that she had a deep croaky voice and was later diagnosed with throat cancer.
Mr and Mrs Connolly lived in 1 Stokes Croft Cottages during the war. He was in the army and then worked at Westinghouse.
Mrs Tarling lived at 2 Stokes Cottages and is slightly older than Rex. She now lives with her son David.
Percey and his son, Gerald, used to cycle to work in Chippenham
POSTSCRIPT: Rex Grimshaw died 21/5/2018. His funeral service was at St Nicholas church and he is buried at the cemetery on London road.
Rex Grimshaw was interviewed by Helen Stuckey and Dr Christopher Kent
These typed notes were read back and agreed with Rex for inclusion in a village history book
- Hardens Farm was in Calne rural area but is actually closer to Chippenham
- Gaston’s cottage is now called Curricombe cottage
- Ruby was Christopher Kent’s mother in law
- Riverside farm
- Hills Waste recycling centre at Calne