My family moved to Bathampton about 1960, when my father retired from the Royal Navy and started a job with the Admiralty, which had offices in Great Pulteney Street and the Empire Hotel at the time. My parents bought Number 1 Dogshead Cottages (the right hand part of the three attached Cottages looking from the road), from Mr and Mrs Goldsworthy.
Mr Goldsworthy was a painter and decorator and we continued to use his step ladders for many years. The house gave us three bedrooms, though the bathroom had been added in a ground floor extension at the back of the house along with a kitchen and store cupboard. Our part of the cottages was not included in the 1921 estate auction – only numbers 2 and 3 – perhaps it had been sold prior.
The centre section of Dogshead Cottages (Number 2) was occupied by a young family with two daughters (he worked for British Railways at Trowbridge I think) and the other end of the cottages (Number 3) was owned by an elderly retired couple.
I went off and joined the Royal Navy myself in September 1965 and my parents continued living there for another 15 years or so. About 1963 they added a garage at the side of the house and an upstairs bathroom followed later.
The 1921 estate auction included the George Inn, which was run by Ralph Slatter and his wife in the 1960s. Their disabled son Nick was a familiar sight around the village. The pub was bought about 1970, I think, by a Liverpudlian who realised its true potential and made it what it is today – it was the start of more exciting bar food – ‘chicken in a basket’ being the then equivalent of today’s ‘gastro’ pub food. Prior to that it was very much a local pub for local people, as they say.
The Kennett and Avon Canal was disused at the time but the towpath was available for walks along to the Dundas Aqueduct or into Bath the other way. The A4 still went through Batheaston ‘village’ and Bathampton Mill was a tearoom. It was later transformed by Keith Johnson into the Keel Club, which was an amazing venue for DJs and live music, and was conveniently within walking distance of home.
I was pals with local farmer Peter Candy’s older children Jim and Pauline. Jim now runs an organic farm in Cornwall. ‘Kiki’ Matthews and her son and sister lived nearby on The Normans along with the Hunt and Lye families in the two modern bungalows further up on the left. The Dolman family lived down the High Street and I did a paper round for Fred Curnow and his wife who ran the little paper shop further down the High Street, past the grocery shop.
I delivered papers all round the village down to the retirement home (Bathampton Manor) near the river and the farm over the level crossing where there were several permanent residential caravans parked. The kind farmer showed me how to use a rolled up Chronicle to deal with a particularly fierce goose that patrolled the site.
The first (modern) house to the east of the canal bridge was occupied by the Kay family. Martin also went off to join the Navy a year or too later and he too became a helicopter pilot, then later a publisher.
One day, down by the canal bridge, a large black car drove past and a little lady waved to me from the back seat. I nearly fell off my bike and only convinced my parents that I’d seen the Queen Mother when we read in the Chronicle that she was visiting someone in the area.
One of my ‘A’ Level subjects at the City of Bath Technical School was geology and the footpath leading up to The Downs above Warminster Road was a rich source of Jurassic fossils, especially after heavy rain had washed them out of the soil. I still have some today though most have been passed on to the grand-children.
Finally from 1963, in those pre-central heating days, I was woken by my father with a cup of tea and the news that there had been a heavy snowfall overnight and that Harbutts was on fire. I scraped the ice off the inside of the bedroom window and found it was true! How I managed to sleep through the noise and flashing lights I don’t know but the old mill building went up like a Roman candle with all the wax crayons stored inside.