Jim Collins writes...

I would like to respond to Alan's 'Memory Lane' in the February edition of the Parish magazine.  It was Wimmer's father, my grandfather, Albert Simeon Martin, known as Simeon who built several homes around the parish of Waltham St Lawrence.

Wimmer, my Uncle Jim (christened Henry) was Simeon's eldest son, his right hand man and was involved with most of the building work.

One remarkable job was at Landry House in Shurlock Row, the village laundry, it used to be a three story building.   The laundress, Susanna Bailey asked Simeon to remove the top storey.  He raised the roof with a number of car jacks, knocked down the wall to a two storey level then lowered the roof down in stages to its new position.  I believe my Simeon lived there after his marriage until 'Sill Bridge' was built in 1902.

(pic - Back row:  Wimmer, Albert Simeon and Irene Hale.  Front row: Fred and Annie)

Simeon's father, Henry Martin moved into the village in the early 1850's from Kingsclere, Hampshire.  He had met a village girl, Ann Wilkinson Allen and they married on 3rd February 1856 in Waltham church.  They had four children, Simeon was the third child.  The family lived in Paradise Cottages but fell on hard times when Henry died age 45.  They had to ask for parish assistance.

Simeon married Annie Hale on 25th June 1892 in Rangeworthy Church, Gloucestershire, Annie's home.  They met in Waltham whilst Annie was in service at Allanbay Park, Binfield.

They had nine children, two were still born either side of Elizabeth Annie Martin, known as Bessie, (Rachel) born 1896 at Rangeworthy. 

            Henry Martin aka Jim (Wimmer) born 1900 at Waltham St Lawrence

            Irene Hale Martin, known as Rene (Turk) 1902 - Anne Yates (now Morley) mother in law, ex Tower Captain

            Simeon Martin (Cox) 1904

            Ena Mary Martin, my mum 1906

            Evelyn Martin 1909, sadly she only lived for five days

            Fred Martin (Cocker) 1911. 

The names in brackets are nicknames given to them by their father.

Bessie ran off with one of Grandad's workers, Fred Saunders, to Canada in 1913, she was 17 years old.  They raised fourteen children in Ontario.

Wimmer owned the swimming pool where many children from Waltham and surrounding villages learnt to swim.  I can recall children with wet towels over their shoulder shivering as they sucked their orange flavoured ice blocks which Wimmer's wife Elsie made in her fridge, there weren't many with fridges in those days.

He also owned the New Hall where dances were held during the war with many RAF personnel coming from White Waltham airfield and occasionally American soldiers who were based at Stanlake would come causing some hairy moments!

I was born in 1932 at the bungalow in Mire Lane, delivered by Nurse Stone the local midwife, she lived in Milley.  The bungalow was built by Simeon for my mum & dad when they married in 1930 at Waltham Church.

My dad, George Arthur Collins, known as Puffy,  was born in Paley Street in 1898.  We moved into Sill Bridge in 1936 after Granny Martin died.  Dad was employed as a gardener by one of the large houses in the village.  He would cycle to work with his shot gun tied to his cross bar, and he would often return home with a rabbit or pheasant.  He was also a good shot with his catapult which he kept in his back pocket.

I started at Waltham school in 1937.  Mr. Bush was the headmaster with fellow teachers, Mrs. Taylor, Miss Ewart and Miss Annetts.  Mr. Bush and Miss Ewart later left to teach at the Piggott School in Wargrave.  Mr Cudby took over as headmaster, he was a feared character as he frequently used his thick bamboo cane. 

Miss Annetts married Joe Darvill who lived on Broadmoor Road.  Joe was a Flight Sergeant in the RAF based in Lincolnshire and was awarded the DFM for a daylight raid on Danzig.  Mrs. Darvill nee Annetts brought the medal into school to show us pupils.  Unfortunately Joe was later killed whilst on active service.

Another local, Tom Pratt lived in West End and I remember him coming to say goodbye on his way to enlist.  He had joined the 4th Battalion Royal Berkshire Territorial's a few months before and they were one of the first to go into action when war was declared.  A few months later I came home from school to find my mum crying, sadly Tom had died of a wound received at Dunkirk.  He is buried in the church yard, in front of Alex Murray who also died of his wounds, Alex was Bunt and Buller Murray's brother.

Waltham didn't go unscathed in the war, bombs were dropped on to the village.  One landed in a  field close to Martin's Lane.  I don't recall there being any damage to any properties but the next day many children were there searching for shrapnel, another bomb fell in a field behind West End Farm, and one in Surrells Woods along the Straight Mile.

Italian POW's were used to clear The Brook, I believe their camp was around Knowl Hill.   They set up their feeding station in a field next to Sill Bridge, cooking their food on a sheet of corrugated iron over a wood fire.  Mum would barter vegetables for sugar and butter which they seemed to have plenty of.  They were no trouble and were often seen walking around the village in their uniforms with large orange patches sewn on.

Freddie Ayres had a barbers shop in Twyford, he would cycle out to Broadmoor Road garage to cut villagers hair.  You had to sit on a metal five gallon oil drum, bringing your own cushion for comfort.  His hand clippers were so old and could pull out as many hairs as they cut.  He would cut your hair so short that it lasted a long time.

Mr Spackman from Shurlock Row had a lorry with a canvas cover, he was the local courier taking or fetching goods from Twyford, he would collect shoes to take to the cobbler or deliver packages to the station.  To make use of his services a large card with an 'S' on it was placed in the front window, which he spotted as he drove by.....

Dr. McCrae from Wargrave held a surgery in Pedlar Palmers shop at the Post Office in the Street.  Dr. Jacobs from Binfield also held a surgery in the Police House, next to the Church in Shurlock Row.

Constable Hessey was a formidable figure around the village.  If someone was misbehaving they could receive a 'clip round the ear' from him, no questions asked.

At the end of the war a mobile cinema came to the old school in Shurlock Row once a week.  I recall a serial called 'The Clutching Hand' quite frightening for us youngsters, followed by various films, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy and Disney cartoons.  Happy days.

*Sill Bridge refers to the house by the bridge.

James Simeon Collins aka Jim