Archive Gems

July 2016: Citizens of Wye in the early 1900s

Can you solve the mystery? Who might have written this? All we know is that he was known as 'Cal'. And he wrote as he talked, without taking a breath.

Here is an extract from his engaging, handwritten notes.

"'Citizens of Wye in the early 1900s, many of the great characters and all gentlemen of that time.'

Mr Erle Drax the Squire a great and kindly gentleman, who then lived at the family house Olantigh Towers. Capt. Reid who was the agent for Mr Drax. A dragoon, whose whisper could be heard from the bottom of Church Street to the Church. Mr William Lewin who had been a master at the Grammar School, then where the College is now, afterward he had his own boys school in Church Street, a cricketer all his life and most of it as secretary of the Wye Club. And Churchwarden, Chairman of the Parish Council and active on any good cause for Wye.

Mr John Tippen. The rate and Income Tax Collector of that time. For many years secretary of the Wye Gardeners Society and of the Oddfellows Friendly Society. Clerk to the Parish Council and another great cricketer. Mr W J Hilly, the schoolmaster, another kindly gentleman and good teacher. He was choirmaster and much respected by his pupils and all Wye people. Mr S R Sutton the returning officer and Registrar of births etc who did a lot of work for the Conservative Association, acting as secretary for many years. An exhibitor of poultry. Mr Alfred Amos farmer at Spring Grove. A well-known hop grower. Interested in local government, and one time a governor of the College.

Mr Dryland the Landlord of The Flying Horse who said he knew the derby winner after seeing the previous week's Punch. Mr Pemble who kept The Swan Inn next Taylor(s) Garage and wheelwright. A Mr Lemon who lived at Cragmore . Mr James Thorp, one of Mr Haughton's workmen who had been down nearly every well in the district. Mr Tom Dodd the Rhubarb King who was never beaten for his three sticks of rhubarb at the Gardeners show a skilful gardener, a good one eye shot and good character of much wit, who I'm afraid took a little too much beer. He and his dog, wonderful ratcatchers, rather a friend of mine. He always called me Cal."

Trudy Sellers

August 2016: Old Mr. Galloway's Tunnel of Gold

The following delightful extract from hand-written notes (1986) by Peter de Morpurgo, relates to the centre of Wye, and underground tunnels. His notes are based on a conversation with Professor Keith-Lucas. "Old Mr. Galloway, whose wife was a prominent member of Wye parish Council, whispered to me someday, that there is gold under Wye. Would I join him to look for it in some underground tunnel. We would have to be very quiet so that people above in houses, would not hear it. I thought it over and explained that the underground passage might cave in and kill us or worse...." At this point our Archive team enjoyed a hearty bout of laughter. We couldn't imagine what would be worse than his 'kill us' anxiety!! ...the tale continues, "also that the gold belongs to the Queen now." We conjectured that perhaps the two adventurers, or prospectors might decide therefore that it wasn't worth the risk! A few days later, so this record notes; "I see Ben Galloway in his garden next to the two police houses. I ask him: 'Your father told me once about tunnels under Wye with hidden gold from the days of Henry VIII. He told me about it. There is (if we are to believe the tale), a staircase leading to a cellar in the egg-packing station (which was near the Methodist Church end of Church Street), from there a passage leads to Wye Church; and from the church one goes to Bilting'".

15th Century brick and chalk drain discovered when a water main was installed The 'cellar' most probably refers to the Mediaeval Undercroft, now being restored in Upper Bridge Street. Make of this what you will! The story may well be linked to the discovery of a sewer tunnel, which led to various theories about the tunnels under our streets. It was common for secret passages to be built linking important sites. This was often around Abbeys, and religious foundations. These were sometimes for safe hiding, but also for the conveyance of secret items. We await further evidence in the case of the tunnels under Wye. And, of course we welcome any light you can shed on these dark, tunnel tales.

Trudy Sellers

October 2016: Wye in the 1600s

This extract is from the Society's Wye Local History publication from 1980 (Vol 1 no.4).

A full set of these are available to browse in the Wye Library. The article was written by G.F. and D.M. Davis. We are grateful to them and others who helped in the research. The information was obtained from wills, probate inventories and parish registers.

In the 21st century, it is hard for us to imagine how life was for People in Wye in the 17th century. Fortunately this research can help us imagine life back then!

People in Wye in the 1600s

"In most cases the houses would seem to have been adequately but not luxuriously furnished, and perhaps even rather cluttered. There is little evidence of floor coverings. Books receive rare mention. The name Coulter is still among us in Wye. John Coulter was a grocer and he died in 1670, and his inventory is fairly typical. In the hall we find a long table and frame, a form, three stools, a little table, a joined cupboard, a glass safe, a screen and cloth, seven chairs, a chest a box and two pairs of andirons. The word cluttered seems right! The hall here probably meant the main living area. The shop goods amounted to £118 out of a total of £412 9s 9d, which was a considerable sum for that time.

The will of Thomas Dan, the elder, was made in 1669 'when he was about the age of eightie years'. It reveals a man of substance. Although described as a 'linen weaver', he owned two houses and lands in Godmersham, and an inn at Canterbury called 'The Cardinal's Cap'. The Dan family were mentioned at a later period as occupants of the beautiful old property known as Yew Trees, in Scotton Street.

Many of the inventories show that a deceased was owed money. Richard Epesley, the tanner, kept one horse, one mare and several pigs. So, people were pretty self-sufficient. Happily this is a trend returning. All credit to Allotment holders! Richard Epesley had goods in his tanyard, (perhaps near the bridge over the river, giving its name to an earlier 'Tickled Trout' as 'The Tanners Arms'?), worth £97, and other goods to the value of £34. Yet at his death the value of his clothes, plus his ready money, amounted only to £2 10s, with debts owing to him amounting to £30. (Again, this is reflected in modern times with debt, credit or loans being part of the way of life.)

Finally, a note about Henry Spratt, who died in 1667, worth £23 4s 6d, yet his funeral expenses ran to £17 12s 2d. Quite an occasion! We wonder what was his occupation."

Many of the houses inhabited by these people will be still standing, and it would be wonderful if we could put any of the names to an existing house.

Trudy Sellers

November 2016: Bakers of Wye

This month tribute is paid to the Bakers of Wye. Over the years there have been a considerable number, at various premises. Fortunately, we still have a baker in Wye to this day.

On unearthing documents in the Archives, we came across an inventory relating to a baker's shop which was selling everything. This was in 1868. Try as we might we cannot discover the whereabouts of this particular bakery. Should you have any leads, do please get in touch.

There was one in the High Street, which was a bake house, where people brought their dough, and pies to be finished off in the 'communal' oven. This practice was very common, here, as in other countries. Another bakery, which some of you will have heard of was Brenchley's at 1-3 Scotton Street.

This charming plan is from the Autumn 2005 Wye Local History publication.

Reminiscences of a Local Resident

Sandra Reynolds (nee Small) has kindly penned some memories of her childhood, and youth in the Church Street bakery, owned by her parents James (Jim) Small and Dorothy between 1960 and 1979.

"We moved to Wye bakery in July 1962. The bakery was very different then. The large ovens were fuelled by coke-(coal!), which was stored at the back of the bakery, shielded by a wall no more than 4 ft high! Dad and his fellow baker, Les Drake, would interrupt the baking to stoke the ovens with coke, wash hands, then back to the baking! It wasn't long before the coke was replaced by a cleaner, more efficient, oil burner. Bread was loaded in and out of the vast ovens by the use of a large, long-handled wooden paddle, known as a 'peel'.

The area at the end of the long passageway, now used by the current owners for selling bread, was the washing and storage area. Beneath the window was a large sink where all the bakery equipment was washed by hand. Opposite was a very low-pitched area used for storing bakery provisions - yeast, sugar, fruit, marzipan etc. Over this was the four loft, accessed by a wooden adder which was put in place and attached by hooks when needed. Flour was delivered by Pledges of Ashford and the deliverymen would carry 1cwt (approx. 50kgs) sacks on their backs from the street to the bakery, climb the ladder, which had no handrails, and up to the loft. My dad would climb this ladder every time he made a batch of bread, and carry the sacks of flour on his back.

No health and safety in those days, yet he never had back problems, nor had an accident!"

The Society is fortunate to have a number of such memories in the Archives, and in the Wye Local History booklets. These publications are available for you to browse through in Wye Library. There has also been a project to record oral memories.

Trudy Sellers

December 2016: Wye Welcome Home Fund

This month's item seeks to celebrate the spirit of Wye, as a village and a community. And to commemorate service and sacrifice in times of War. By taking a peep through the archives, we find a rather special pack, (archive ref 20120252), relating to the post war Charity 'Wye Welcome Home Fund'.

Then, as now, local people worked together in challenging circumstances, to value contributions made, and to make a difference. The documents in this particular batch, clustered together, eventually tell a stirring tale. The narrative which unravels as you sort through is one of committed leadership (amongst these Mrs Barnard, H.G.Halls of 'Thornleigh', H.H. Sutton, J.C.T. Earll, J.Wyllie, Allards and Leppers), also of generous voluntary offerings (the sum of £164.10.9 was raised quite rapidly), and a hearty set of supporters who were determined to show gratitude to the 140 service men and women returning home to Wye.

The charity which was formed set out to raise monies, with a target of £300, to buy gifts for these members of the forces.

In this pack of documents we find a programme for a Fun Fair and a Sports Event, to swell the funds. And there is a fine original poster to publicise the 'House to House' Collection for the fund. Gifts were to be chosen for both men and women in the services. Today we might raise an eyebrow regarding certain items suggested by large stores, in this curious collection of well-intentioned gifts! Lists of suggestions are preserved here from Selfridges, Gamages and the Civil Service Stores.

These include:

  • Sadko large eau-de-cologne, Powder cases, Glass cruet set and stand, Fancy brass ash trays, Cig-Ex, (a cigarette extinguisher), Books ends, Card packs, Dart boards, Photo albums, Chest expanders, Five year diary, Hand-painted jars of bath salts, Jigsaw puzzles, Tennis and cricket balls, Leather tobacco pouch.

    Based on the letters received, it seems that the Wye committee chose well, and purchased useful gifts. A collection of a dozen letters expressing gratitude from the recipients of the gifts, include such comments as:

  • "most useful gift...which will always be amongst my most treasured possessions", "the most excellent wallet", "delightful card and the most acceptable present" "To give a party to home-comers is a very kind thought, but to add a very useful gift to the welcome is indeed generosity." "I shall treasure this gift, which I feel sure is more than I deserve for the small service that I was able to render during the war".

    Several of these letters are from men and women who had moved away from Wye after their return.

    Some of the family names are still present in the Village today. It is heartening to see that the village continues to pull together for the common good. These archive records are a tribute to the villagers of that period, and an incentive to us all today to keep up the good work.

    Trudy Sellers