Ann Partington



JC  Ann is a born and bred ‘Beaminsterian’ who has agreed to talk to me about her memories.  So, Ann, can you tell me when you were born and who your parents were?

AP  I was born in May, 1934 and, of course, my name then was Stiby and my parents were William Stiby and Ena Stiby.

JC  And whereabouts did you live?

AP  In East Street.  No. 1 East Street.

JC  And what did your parents do?  Was your father working in the town?

AP  My father was a solicitor working for Kitson & Trotman.  They encouraged him after the war, to become a solicitor.  He had been a solicitor’s clerk prior to that and he went and took exams and became actually a solicitor.  My mother never did anything except look after the house and feed us well.

JC  Did you have brothers and sisters?

AP  No.  I’m an only child.

JC  So you were the only one at home.  How old were you when you went to school?

AP  Five.  

JC  And you went to school in Beaminster?

AP  Yes.  I went to the Infants School initially and then I passed the exam and went to the Grammar School.

JC  So, obviously, you were in the Infants School still when war broke out?  Do you remember anything about that happening?

AP  Not really, except that I think, if my memory is right, that as a family we were on holiday in Weymouth and when we heard that war had broken out we came home immediately.  But I don’t actually remember it.  This I think I get from what my mother probably told me.

JC  And did you have a gas mask as a little girl?

AP  Oh yes.  And a box to carry it in.

JC  Oh really?  And were those taken to school with you every day?

AP  Oh yes, definitely.

JC  So what was the Infants School like?  How many children would have been in the school?

AP  Well, there were, I think, three separate classes and I would have thought probably about 15 to 20 in each class but I really don’t know for certain.

JC  And in your class who was your teacher?

AP  The teacher in the junior class was Miss Rogers and she was vaguely a relative except that she wasn’t.  She was a relative……… her brother married one of my mother’s sisters.  And so there was a family connection there.

JC  And as a young child either when  you were in the Infants School, or when you went up to the Grammar School, you must have had some memories of life in wartime Beaminster.  I think you mentioned to me for example that you had soldiers billeted with you?

AP  Yes, initially, one of our rooms at 1 East Street was taken over by some soldiers who were billeted there and slept there and then went off during the day I imagine to some sort of ………… telling them what to do if the war came.   But they didn’t stay long I think.

JC  What sort of sleeping arrangements did you have to make for them?

AP  Oh no, I think they did their own thing.  As far as I remember they slept on the floor on palliasses and things like that but my mother tried to keep me from going in and bothering them too often.

JC  And did you have anybody else staying with you during the war years?

AP  Well, later on, we had a mother and daughter who came from Newcastle and they had one of our rooms and a bedroom and they stayed – and stayed in Beaminster after the war because Miss Laws was a teacher at the Grammar School and when I went to the Grammar School she was my History teacher who said I could write a history essay with no dates in it whatsoever.  And I was the only person she knew who could do it.  (Laughter)

JC  So clearly you, and all the other young people in the town would have had to have very much made your own entertainments and so on during the war years?

AP  Yes.  I don’t remember.  I feel we went to school, we were taught, and we went home again.  And most of us went home at lunchtime because it was within walking distance and then came back again afterwards.  The children in my class would have all lived very locally and so we would have gone home and had our mid-day meal and then come back to school and then gone home.  We used to go down to the fields, down towards Netherbury, and play climbing trees and that sort of thing.  Swinging on the trees.


JC  Did you belong to any organisations when you were young either through churches or…………

AP  I was a Brownie and I …………….. that was a very nice little group.  Looked after by the Miss Trotmans in a house down in Shadrack Street.  We used to go and I was a Pixie and I remember, during a cooking exam, my making a rice pudding at home and carrying it very carefully all the way there to have it looked at and passed by the Miss Trotmans.  And I think probably I took it home because with the rationing at the time I expect we ate the rice pudding.

JC  Yes, because you probably wouldn’t have remembered very much about the period before rationing so the whole of your childhood life would have been at the beginning under rationing, under the wartime restrictions that were taking place.

AP  And I think we didn’t think much about it because we weren’t aware of anything else.  I remember my first banana which was brought back by Mr. Trotman, young Mr. Trotman who was away at the war, and he brought back bananas for his two children who lived next door to us and one for me.

JC  So what did you make of it?

AP  I wasn’t terriby impressed if I remember rightly.  Because I didn’t remember having one before the war.

JC  And did you go to any of the children’s parties.  I’ve read that occasionally parties were held certainly for evacuee children.  Did you have any evacuee children in your class.

AP  I think there was at least two who I think were evacuees.   Well, the Women’s Institute used to put on children’s parties particularly around about Christmas because the W.I. members then were somewhat younger than they are these days and they, or most of them, had children.  My mother being a W.I. member, as a child I went to the parties that they put on for W.I. members’ children and anybody else I think who was invited.

JC  So those were sort of things that added to your entertainment during the year.

AP  Stood out in memory.


JC  I think you mentioned to me that you also remember seeing Barrage Balloons around the town?

AP  Yes, they were let up from the Downs.  They were, I presume, kept up there but when it looked as though there might be air raids at night they were sent up into the sky (and tethered down of course).  And when the raid was, perhaps, over they were pulled down again.

JC And do you remember the air raid siren going off during the war?

AP  Yes, yes I do.  And sitting under the stairs.

JC  Really, so you took protective actions.

AP  I think that was only sometimes.  If  you thought it was possibly close.  I was always put under the stairs and I remember mother also being pushed under the stairs.  There was not an awful lot of room.  I can visualise Grandma sitting outside in the kitchen, not protected, but just to be there I think.

JC  So your Grandparents also lived in the town.

AP  Yes.

JC  Was that both on your mother’s and your father’s side?

AP  No only on my mother’s side.  My father actually came from Bridport so his family lived in Bridport.

JC  Now I notice that the Museum has weather records in its collection and your father’s name, a pen signature, appears on them.  Can you tell me about that?

AP  Yes.  I’m not quite sure when he started doing it.  It had been done in the garden next door by old Mr. Trotman and when he didn’t want to do it any longer, it was arranged with the Meteorological Office that it could be transferred over the wall into the Stiby’s garden.  From then on father did it religiously every day.  Measuring the rainfall, if there had been any, and also taking temperatures, maximum and minimum, and writing them in these great big books.  And also filling in cards for the Meteorological Office which he sent up every month so that their records also were added to.

JC  And they were also published in the Bridport News?

AP  Yes, they used to ask, I think once a month, for the back month’s rainfall – particularly the rainfall – and temperatures.

JC  And you moved away from Beaminster for part of your life.  How old were you when you went away?

AP  Well I went away, initially, to college.  So I was 18 when I went to college in Bristol and then I stayed away when I’d passed my exams as a pharmacist and then I worked for a while in Dorchester Hospital and then I moved, after that, to London.  I fancied the bright lights of London and I went to work at St. Thomas’s as pharmacist.

JC  And what brought you back to Beaminster?

AP  I came back initially, to Sherborne partly, being an only child and my parents getting older, I wanted to be nearer them to help but not right on the doorstep.  I was able to come over if they needed me or, probably most weekends at some time, to see them to make sure that they were all right.

JC  And did you practice as a pharmacist when you moved back to Dorset.

AP  Oh yes.  Sherborne.  I went to Sherborne Hospital and was a pharmacist there under……….. that comes under Dorchester Hospital and the Chief Pharmacist I worked under initially, before I went to London, was still here so when I applied for the post I think I had the ‘in’ there.  (Laughter)

JC  And when did you move on down to Beaminster?

AP  Well, when I came to Sherborne I wasn’t married but I got in touch………… well, he got in touch with me again after his wife died and wanted to meet up again.  Somebody I knew in London and so we got together again and decided to get married  now, nearly 20 years ago.   We lived in Sherborne initially and then, I was still working in the hospital then, my father died and I decided that it was high time I gave up work so I took up early retirement and so we moved to Beaminster to be supportive of my mother when she was on her own.  

JC  And here you’ve been ever since.

AP  Here I’ve been ever since.

JC  That was absolutely smashing Ann, thank you so much for talking to me and I really enjolyed it enormously.  Thank you very much indeed.