Reminisces of Village Life in the 1940s and 1950s

John Pitman was born at Headbourne Worthy, near Winchester, 71years ago and therefore is Winchester born and bred. An experienced raconteur he entertained the members of the Probus Club of Basingstoke with his experiences of Hampshire village life as he grew up in what he may have considered then was a rural idyll and now appears to be a very basic existence.

He has lived and worked around Winchester all his life and his roots in Hampshire village life run deep being connected with many social groups in his locality. Village Hall committee for 40 years, being chairman for 26 years; drama groups where he has established a reputation for playing pantomime dames and being Vice President of a brass band are some of his interests. He is also chairman of the Southern Water Retirement Association for Hampshire having worked in their finance section based in an office in Otterbourne.

John’s talk on “Village life in the 1940s and 1950s” centred on his family life during war time and the immediate post war ‘austerity years’ and it brought back wonderful memories for many of the assembled members.

With great humour, he meticulously took us through the country seasons as seen through his eyes as a child living in Headbourne Worthy. It was a detail of life before ‘The Good Life’ shop in the village.

During daily life in a farm worker’s cottage on a 2000 acre country estate, he vividly described how he and his parents coped without running water, an outdoor ‘copper’ for washing clothes and an earthen closet loo at the top of the garden. The only electrical appliance in the cottage was a ‘wireless’, powered initially by an accumulator battery and, when electricity came to the village, by an adaptor from the ceiling light. Many of the familiar and favourite family programmes of the period were recollected.

Trip to Kempton Waterworks Steam Weekend

Sunday 28th September saw members of our club visit the Kempton Water Works Museum for one of its “In Steam” open days. An easy drive up the M3 to where it becomes the A316 and the magnificent art deco engine house is highly visible at the side of the road.

This was one of their weekends that included a classic car and motor cycle display with some wonderful examples of engineering of the four and two wheeled type. But this was nothing to compare with the “Wow” factor when entering the engine house and first seeing the gigantic triple expansion steam engines that pumped water to north London from 1928 until 1980. Two engines face each other with space between for the installation of a third one that did not materialise as technological advances meant that equivalent pumping power could be obtained by smaller engineering.

One of the engines has been fully restored and is described as the largest triple working in the world. The other is a static display which allows visitors to climb over the complete engine as part of a guided tour. Several of our members and their wives could be seen at the pinnacle of this wonderful example of British engineering. At a height of almost 63 feet and weighing 1000 tons the engines had to be completely assembled in situ. The three drive wheels each weighing over 32 tons had to be designed in two halves as there was a road weight limit of 16 tons.

Those members that went were completely impressed by what they saw. For those who did not make the trip they can get a feeling of what they missed by looking the web site