• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Andrew Henderson - Recollections of Chawton in the 1950's

Print PDF

Andrew Henderson at Carlyle HouseThe recollections of Andrew Henderson of his time in Chawton in the 1950's

Introduction by Tony Day – a resident at Rectory Cottage from 1979 until 2003.
The date is 15th July 2007 and I am with Andrew Henderson (in The Forge, Chawton, by kind permission of Robina Williamson).  Andrew is going to give us his memories and recollections of his time in Chawton.

fAndrew Henderson.

My father bought Carlyle House as it then was in December 1950 for £6,000. It was previously called The Dower House. It included what is now Vincent’s Cottage, Denmead – the thatched cottage at the top end of Wolf’s lane - Carlyle Cottage and 8 acres of land which included a stable block, a paddock and a kitchen garden. The house in those days had 6 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a large dining room, a large drawing room and a kitchen. It also had an annex with 2 bedrooms where the servants - a Mr and Mrs Dixon lived.

Mrs Dixon did the cleaning for my mother whilst Mr Dixon was my father’s gardener from 1950-1958. He was a very good gardener and his products won most of the prizes at the annual fete and flower show. 

Mr Dixon was a full time gardener. My father also employed another gardener, a part time one – a Mr Terry – who worked on occasions and lived in Vincent’s Cottage. Mr Terry was also a butcher in Alton. I’ve forgotten the name but, it was quite a well known one, in Normandy St.

The Hendersons and the Dixons

In the late 1950’s my father fell out with Mr Dixon. I don’t know why but, it was a very unpopular decision in the village because, Mr Dixon was well known. Anyway Mr & Mrs Dixon moved to Bishop’s Sutton.

So my father still had Mr Terry but, he also employed a man known as Old White, who used to live in the council houses, up the other end of the village.

Old White was paid £1 a week, for part time work His wife was an absolute shrew and he would only allow him to keep 1 shilling for himself, the rest he had to give to her.

My mother employed Mrs Burnett, who lived almost opposite us, to cook the meals during the week.
You asked me about other people who lived in the village. Well, there was Mr Faithfull –because he very was a keen cricketer. Then there were and the Curtis children – Wyndham and Hermione, his sister and in Rose Cottage, the Watts-Russell family. Mr Watts-Russell used to travel up to London with my father but, nor for long because, he was a bit of an alcoholic but, I used to have his son to tea and play. We used to play with a Hornby Double-O train, Hornby O gauge train and various dinky toys. We also watched Andy Pandy, the children’s newsreel and Muffin the Mule, on a black and white television.

My father played cricket with some villagers, including Tom Pink in ‘57, ‘58 and ‘59. My father was a good batsman.

Mel, my older sister, who was 15 in 1950 took riding lessons with Miss Kemp and rode a horse called Clonmel. Later father bought Mel a horse called Muffin. My sister occasionally rode with the Hampshire Hunt.

In Alton in those days were Kingdons the ironmongers, the Crown  Hotel, Anne’s Pantry, the Crown Hotel, Julius Caesar  - the barber, Canning & Harris, Kerridges  - the petrol station and garage, Timothy Whites & Taylors, Curry’s, Boots, Ryman’s, the banks – National Provincial, Midland, Barclays and Lloyds, Caesar’s toy shop, almost opposite the hairdressers, SCATS, Fosbury’s the butchers and I remember very well the old fire station. There was a Belisha crossing in the centre of the town and by that was a coffee shop called Macari’s

Regarding the Knight family, I went to Hall Dene Primary school with Anne Knight and I also knew Robert but, not his brother Jeremy. I remember I was absolutely terrified of Anne - I don’t know why.

At school were quite a few people from Farringdon – the Charringtons. Other families
who had children at the school were the Roskills from South Warnborough, the Rowntrees  and the Redmaynes.

In the late 50’s Alton was still lit by gaslight and they had four concrete lamp standards, of course it was all electric eventually -  the same for the centre of Farnham, also my primary school and the village hall.
I remember the Coronation in 1953. The village had a Coronation dance. Ted Bowtell was crowned the village queen! He was paraded through the village in my father’s Land Rover.  We had a Coronation sports day where the cricket club now is and I won a Mars Bar. I didn’t win the race. I was probably given the Mars bar to shut me up!

My father, who worked in the City, used to go up to London each day by train. It was a special  – fast main line train -  and used to have first class compartments and open compartments and it was an electric train. The ordinary stopping train took an hour and twenty minutes.

The Bournemouth Belle would come through Alton, when the Winchester line was undergoing engineering repairs. Also many trains, often troop trains, used the line during the Suez Crisis in 1956.

Traffic on the roads was a lot lighter, than it is now. I remember Ford Populars and Anglias, also Bedford trucks. About every 5 minutes, two or three cars would drive by.

I remember the Miles’s, Mrs Skates who used to go to church and had a loud singing voice. Then there was Mrs Stenning who lived near the pub. One of the young Charlton’s played cricket in our garden. My father was very selectively with whom I should play.
If children played cricket, I was allowed to play with them.                                             

The pub was just a place for people - mainly workmen - to go and drink after working in the fields all day. It was just a boozer.

Most villagers worked for the Knights. A few worked in Alton. Mr Terry was one of them.

Very few people had indoor lavatories. In the early 50’s a sewage lorry would come round once a week to empty peoples’ closets.

Wyndham Curtis, whose family lived at what is now Chawton Glebe, had a model railway. I had one too. We used to take them to bits. We also played in the garden and frequently cycled to Farringdon.

As for entertainment, there was the fete. My father sometimes played host and we had a marquee near the tennis court, bowling for a pig, buried treasure and raffles. People sold eggs and jam.

My elder sister went to a dance in the village hall. The WI met there and my mother went along. The rector was a Rev Burgess – known as Burge. He was a very dull, boring man. Of course, we went to church - quite naturally.

My parents were quite strict Once when my father put out two shillings, for the paper boy, I took the money. My father was livid. He was really annoyed.

Larger images from this article can be found in the photo gallery. If you would like more information, please contact me







December 2017 January 2018
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Support us

We hope you find this web site useful. Will you support us with a small donation ?


Upcoming Events

  • Jane Austen's Birthday
    December 16, 2017 (10:30 - 11:30)

    Free entry day for all to celebrate Jane Austen's Birthday. Join us for a mince pie and a sing song of Christmas Carols around the piano.

View full calendar