Florrie Stephens (nee Bugler)




DH  How old are you Florrie?

FS  84

DH  84. So when did you live in Hooke?

FS  When I was about 5 years of age.  And the second time about 11 years of age.

DH  So, what was Hooke like then?

FS  Very small hamlet.

What did most people do for work?

FS  Agriculture and, of course, Mr. Goddard I believe.

DH  How many brothers and sisters did you have?

FS  A brother and sister and five half-brothers and sisters.

DH  Quite a family.  And were they older or younger than you?

FS  My sister, my real sister, was younger than me.  But all the rest older of course.

DH  What was home like?  Where did you actually live in Hooke?

FS  We lived in the Mill House to start with.  That was where we started our life at Hooke. And from there – I don’t know if you want to know any more about Hooke.  I went to school there.  I can remember, something that stands out in my memory that I think I should say.  I’m going to school one day, I was petrified, literally petrified, because the whole road for about a hundred yards – and I’m not exaggerating – was alive with toads and frogs.  And I was so petrified I couldn’t walk because they were so thick I couldn’t walk between them.  I decided to go back round and go over the meadow.  Only to learn about 60 or 70 years later my brother-in-law said ‘I was taking them for a run, I can remember coming along this road once’ and he said ‘You couldn’t move for frogs and toads!’  How funny.  And that was when I was little.  They were all moving you see.  (unclear text)

DH  Were there a lot of children in Hooke then?

FS  I can’t remember any children in Hooke.   I can remember the Blacksmith and the Post Office, Paul’s,

I can remember Stella Paul and I was quite friendly with her but apart from school we went home and……

DH  So how many were there at school?

FS  I don’t remember.  I suppose 19 / 20.  From infants to leavers.

DH  What was home like in terms of food, washing, the general basics of life?

FS  Well, at the Mill I can remember there was an outside toilet which I hated to go in.  I can remember that loud and clear.  I can’t remember where the water was but I’m sure it was outside . A tap.  

DH  What did you mainly eat?

FS  A Mr. Price used to deliver the bread from Maiden Newton I think, two or three times a week from which my mother used to have twelve or thirteen loaves of bread so you can, don’t need to ask any further, our main diet was bread I should think.  Bread, rabbit, cheese.

DH  Who caught the rabbits?

FS  Oh, the boys.  On the……….. and………..

DH  Was that trapping or shooting?

FS  Oh they’d be trapping, wire and, yes, trapping.  They weren’t shooting.  They had no guns.  They were very good at the wire, you know, snares they call them don’t they?

DH  And so, obviously, there’s quite a big age range here in your family.  So who did you play with?

FS  Well, nobody really, other than my brother I suppose.

DH  And so you just played locally?

FS  Yes.  We had no friends, we weren’t there long enough to have friends.

DH  So how long were you in Hooke the first time?

FS  I don’t remember, but I don’t suppose we were there two year?

DH  Did you go to Poorton from there?

FS  From there we went to Poorton.  Top Hill, Poorton, which would be South Poorton.  There’s a nice house up there now I believe, a very, very smart house up there.  Do you know where I’m talking about?

DH  Well South Poorton has a whole set of cottages.

FS  Yes, well, you go down the lane as if you were going to Powerstock, down ………..

DH  Yes, the left hand side………….

FS  And then you go up another lane back there and we were up in there.  I think he has a really elaborate place up there now.  Very wealthy I think.  Very elaborate place.  I’d love to see it.  And that was where I remember and I had to walk to Powerstock School which I was very unhappy about.


DH  Was that a bigger school?

FS  It was a bit bigger school.  Yes, there were more children there than there was at Hooke.

DH  So you walked along that lane?

FS  There were more teachers you see.  There was only one at Hooke.  Yes, I walked along the road down to Power……….. Because we were so unhappy that my mother moved us back to Hooke School which was a long walk from there back to Hooke and I was only about 6 or 7.

DH  So what do you remember about these teachers?  You obviously didn’t like the ones at Powerstock?

FS  The teacher, Miss Humbleby I think her name was, Humbleby I believe, she used to threaten you, with all manner of things, she’d wash people’s mouths out with carbolic soap and, oh, dreadful, dreadful threats of what she was going to do to you.  And it was hardly the  best way to get the results from you because you were too frightened I think.  

DH  And then, from Poorton you went to Mythe did you?

FS  And then from Poorton we went to Mythe from which then we went to Beaminster school.  That lasted only a very short time.

DH  Tell me a bit about Mythe.

FS  Ah, Mythe, we look back on, very happy memories I look back on Mythe because it was freedom and I think the stress of my mother was lifted to a reason because up to this point in time she was depending for a roof over her head with my eldest half-brother which didn’t seem to last very long before he was either leaving a job, or out of a job, and out of house and home.  Now we were paying a rent so this was a little bit more stability.

DH  To whom did it belong?

FS  It belonged to Mapperton House of which we paid rent to the solicitors I believe.  I don’t remember but…….

DH  And you went to Melplash School?

FS  We went to Beaminster School to start with until trouble broke out between my brother and another boy getting into mischief and my mother made us walk then to Melplash School.  

DH  How did you used to get to Beaminster School?

FS  Well, we used to walk up through by the big house across the fields, the big house, and there was always George Hunt.  He used to pick us up with a car, a large 7-seater I think.  We used to call it the School Bus but it was a 7-seater really I think.  And take us down and bring us back in the afternoon and then we walked back home.  But when we went to Melplash School we walked all the way, and a hard walk ‘cos it was like that…………..  and you had no lift.

DH  How big was Melplash School?

FS  Melplash School was only about 24 or 25.  

DH  So a bit bigger than Hooke but the same sort of size.

FS  They had two teachers there that’s all I know.


DH  Who were they?

FS  Miss Cozens and a Miss Newman.  (I expect Sid (? unclear) told you that?

DH  Cozens, then was that the same family that had the Post Office

FS  That’s right.  That was a sister ran that.  

DH  And so which way did you go to Melplash?

FS  Up over Mythe Hill.

DH  Oh, you went over the hill.  Right.

FS  I had to go over the hill.  You had to go over the hill, either that or walk round Loscombe and follow the way round.   That was the quickest.  And down over the hill.  But sometimes we used to go round

Loscombe way.  We had been known to go across the fields out to….  I forget the name, Milton (unclear text) and go across there, not go across up at the bungalow.  Mount Cross.

DH  And were you always good attenders at school?

FS  We were all right till we tried to play truant, and we did that a few times but not too long it didn’t last.  Before we got caught out (Laughter).

DH  And what did you do when you played truant?

FS  We used to hang around in the fields and the hills.  My brother would say ‘we aren’t going to school today’.  There was only us two and he decided.  That was it, we weren’t going to school.  If he said we weren’t going to school, we didn’t go to school.  He was four years older than me. But it was a boring old day looking back because you didn’t know what to do with yourself all day.  And we couldn’t wait for Mr. (?) to call the cows in.  They were called in at the same time we were usually walking home from school so he (FS brother presumably) was intelligent enough to know if we went home when he was calling his cows in we wouldn’t be ever…….. no-one would ever suspect we hadn’t been to school.  And he was right.

DH  How did they find out?

FS  It was along to the Attendance Officer.  He went to my mother to find out why she wasn’t sending her children to school.  (Laughter)  And she argued with him and then found out that, you know, ’twas us, and we got into trouble you know.  I don’t think we did it again but………….  But he didn’t think any of it.  I didn’t.

DH  So you lived in fairly isolated places so presumably you never went to any events or social functions or anything?

FS  No, nothing.

DH  And then I think you went to Hampshire and then you came back to Oxbridge did you?

FS  No, we come back to Hooke again.

DH  Came back to Hooke again?   Oh yes, right.

FS  And then Hooke was on the Park Pond, I expect it’s all gone now, has it?  The Park Pond?

DH  Yes, it’s gone.  There used to be a cottage up there.  

FS  There was Park Pond Farm and the cottage on the hill.  We moved into the derelict old farm place and there my mother couldn’t get help because she was under her son’s roof and got Mr. Goddard to let us have the two derelict cottages up on the hill so we could live in separate accommodation so that she could get help.

DH  Yes, they’ve gone.

FS  They’ve all gone because I know, I’ve been out there many years back.  I thought it was sad when I went back and saw them all gone.

DH  And then, what did your step-brother do?  What sort of job did he do?


FS  What did he do?  He went out at one point and he went over to Shelburne and lived in on the farm.  But that didn’t last too long.  Not my younger brother.  Ah, which brother are you talking about?

DH  About the eldest brother.

FS  Ah, right.  He worked on the farm so he had accommodation.  He was a farm labourer.

DH  How long were you at Oxbridge?

FS  From about eleven and a half to thirteen.

DH  So it’s still Melplash School then?

FS  Yes, back to Melplash School.

DH  Now Oxbridge, to my recollection is only about three or four houses isn’t it?

FS  Yes.  

DH  Whereabouts was it in Oxbridge?

FS  Up the first lane.  There’s a house on the bottom.  I don’t know what its like now, haven’t been up there for years.  There was a thatched house on the bottom, then up the lane there was a row of houses and further up the lane there was another few houses up the top.  But we were in the first row.  the second one in.  About four or five in a row.  I can’t remember exactly either.

DH  And then, from Oxbridge…………. Did  you go to Beaminster from Oxbridge?

FS  Yes.  I left school there.

DH  What did you do when you left school?

FS  I went out to service.  

DH  Where was that?

FS  I went to the Anchor Hotel, Burton Bradstock.  It was the most horrible place in my life.  Broke my heart.  Homesick.  Yes, not very nice.

DH  And then Beaminster?

FS  Finally, yes.  We moved into Beaminster before I was 15..  Just before I was 15 we moved into Beaminster.

DH  So your mother moved into Beaminster then.  Did she stay there?

FS  In Fleet Street.

DH  Did she stay there then?

FS  Oh yes.  They stayed there.  My mother, she didn’t stay there ’til she died.  She stayed there until the war broke out and then moved into Bridport and moved to Yeovil and then came back to live in the Almshouses, which had been done up then as Church Street.   Almshouses are when you get free accommodation but she paid a rent you know.  It was all done up and done different.

DH  How long were you in Beaminster?

FS  Me?  Well, most of me life.  Took a few years out with remarrying and that, but I come back you know.  I was only out a few years really.  Never away from here.

DH  So we’re talking about before the war to start with.  What was Beaminster like before the war?

FS  Well, better than it is now in my opinion.  

DH  In what way?

FS  Well, I think it was a family and everybody was willing to help one anoher.

DH  What short of shops were there then that you remember?

FS  I remember Mrs. (?) up in Fleet Street, I can remember Mrs. Curtis the sweet shop down in, well I suppose that’s still Fleet Street.  I remember the paper shop on the corner, Sam, Sanders or some name like that?  I can’t remember.  And then there was Frampton the butchers.  I can remember the Tuck Shop I can remember Reynolds and Carter’s, the Post Office that used to be in the Square.  I remember the Greenwood Tree, the (?) and the Pickwick, the shoe shop.

DH  Crockers?

FS  The Crockers were before Reynolds I think.  My sister-in-law worked in there when she left school.  I don’t remember Miss Crocker’s but but Kathleen worked for them I know.

DH  I’ve just seen a photograph today of the Square with Julia, the gun and a telephone kiosk.  By the gun.  

FS  I can’t remember that.

DH  I was going to say did you remember when it was put there?

FS  No.

DH  It’s the only one I’ve ever seen with a telephone kiosk in the Square.

FS  I can’t remember.

DH  You remember the gun?

FS  Oh yes.  Only one I can remember is one then over the Town Hill and the one up by the fire station.  I can’t remember the other.

DH  It was one of the …………………

FS  There must have been one there but I can’t remember.

DH  It’s one of these, it almost looks like……………I don’t think it was concrete but it almost looks like concrete or white on the outside.

FS  Was it?  I can’t honestly remember.

DH  It looks very much like the one that was in Hooke in 1937.  

FS  I honestly can’t remember.  

DH  And, presumably when you came to live into Beaminster you did get involved in the social life?

FS  Not much, no.  I don’t now. (Laughter)

DH  So you talk about people supporting one another.  If you didn’t meet them anywhere how did you ………….?

FS  You did, you seemed to know them.

DH  You met them in the shops?

FS  I think you did.  Yes.  You had children and you met up with the children.  I did go to British Legion but that didn’t last long.  I went to the (unclear text) class classes but I didn’t like, I don’t do/like that sort of thing.  I hadn’t been used to all my life you see thinking about it (unclear text) it’s me today, I don’t go to anything.  I suppose I had an isolated life, you don’t look for it do you.  If you haven’t been brought up with it in the family and the home and your mum don’t do it, you don’t do it.  Or you don’t do it probably as much you see.  I mean I used to go and play in a whist drive and that, but got fed up with that, packed that in as well, so it really wasn’t me.  i never went to dancing, my partner wouldn’t go dancing so I never had a dance.  So I never had any entertainment, no good asking……………(Laughter)  My entertainment was up round Beaminster Downs catching rabbits (?) with a little dog.

DH  Now, what do you remember from when you first came to Beaminster?  What Yarn Barton was like?

FS  I can’t remember.

DH  You remember it being made into a car park, much later presumably?

FS  I can’t remember it being made into a car park because that was done in one of the times I was away, but I do know there was allotments in there.  I do know that.  That’s all I can tell you about.  Allotments. When we had an allotment in there.  My mother had an allotment in there.  My brother had one over there.  If that’s what you wanted to know.

DH  I just wondered what you remembered.  So that’s it.  It’s allotments.  And, of course, quite a lot of building you must have seen happening in Beaminster?

FS  Oh I have, yes.  There was always a lot.

DH  Was this up here?

FS  Nothing.

DH  It was fields, presumably.

FS  Yes.  I started off in East Street in 1940 and there was nothing.  The one bungalow up the top here was the only one (?) the farm opposite, that was the only two there.  And that bungalow was built when I was 15 years of age and I know that because my boyfriend was up there working.  I used to walk up to see him.  That’s how I remember that one.  And that’s where Martin White lives now.  But there was nothing else up there.

DH  And then, going up North Street, there was nothing up the top end there presumably?  Other than farms?

FS  Apart from where are we talking?  Were we saying North Street?

DH  If you go up North street, go up past the Manor House…….

FS  Yes, well then you got to The Green didn’t you? After the old thatched cottage, the last one on the left, my half-sister and her husband lived in there for about 60 year.  60-odd years.


DH  And where the Council estate was, that was fields presumably?

FS   That’s right. 

DH  And then the……. were you here in the 60s?

FS  Yes.

DH  Do you remember the flood?

FS  Yes.

DH  Tell me a bit about it.

FS  I can remember that we were washed out.  Everywhere in the town was washed out.  Everything was going down through, cars and all from the Square was going down over it.

DH  Had it been torrential rain for a short period of time or a thunder storm?

FS  I think it was a flash storm I think.  

DH  So you’ll remember the flood protection scheme being put in.

FS  Yes, that’s been put here since I’ve been here you see.

DH  When was that?

FS  About 9 year ago?  I’m guessing, 9, 10, I don’t know.  I was here.  And I think its made a great difference.  Because when I came here first and we had terrific rain, or thunder storm, I could stay in here and I could hear the river roaring, literally roaring, and when I would go down I mean along the road it wasfour or five foot high, you left all the rubbish on the twigs.  But now it don’t go up to anything about, like a foot, two foot, at the most I suppose.

DH  Because it’s all held behind that dam.  And when you first came to Beaminster was it mainly ………

FS  Gas light.

DH  Ah right, it was gas light.  

FS  And they were put out, they went out at 10 o’clock I believe.  Yes, they went out 10 o’clock at night.

DH  And buses?

FS  Yes, there were the buses.  Yes.  I don’t know of them but there were the buses.  Which I think it was reasonably often enough.  If you know what I mean, it wasn’t like twice a day.  It was quite often.

But then we always cycled everywhere, we didn’t have money to go on a bus you see, you had to cycle everywhere.

DH  And that would be down to Bridport.

FS  Or even to work.  Or wherever you went you cycled. 

DH  So where’d you go to?  Market?

FS  Bridport.  Bridport or Crewkerne the other way.  I never went to Crewkerne but I mean that was the nearest you know.   Easier Bridport.  But the road would be, you could get 30 or 40 bicycles on that road going to town, going and coming home from the cinema. 

DH  Because there weren’t many cars.  (Laughter)

FS  Masses of cyclists you know, and you knew them all.  You see, this is what I mean, you knew them all. But big houses down by Beaminster now and nobody would know them all.

DH  And yet the population hasn’t changed that much.

FS  Well, the population comes to adults, but there used to be a lot of kids I expect. 

DH  Because if  you think the population now is not dissimilar to about 18……….

FS  You’ll find it’s adults now whereas it used to be mainly a lot of children.

DH  It used to be an average of 11 per household.  Whereas now we must be about two.


FS  Well you see, when you’re talking about that you’re restricting the older people to be a few but now it seems a lot but you’ve got to adapt that a bit haven’t we.

DH  So, do  you remember any of the celebrations like George Vs Silver Jubilee?

FS  Yes, well, that was ’35 wasn’t it?   Yes well I was down at Oxbidge and we had that at Slape Manor House.  And that was before I left school at the Christmas.

DH  And then, the end of the Second World War. Were you here then?

FS  Yes.

DH  So what sort of celebrations went on then?

FS  Well it was done for the children.  It was a celebration mainly for the children.  I can remember we had a ‘do’ up at the….. I don’t know if that was the same year because they’d had to go through quite a while before they know what to do with the money that was spent, that had been raised for a memorial of some sort, the Memorial Playing Fields, so I don’t know what happened immediately.  I don’t suppose anything happened immediately. When the war ends you can’t get food immediately.  So it took two or three year then we had then, you see the money was put for the Memorial Playing Fields.  And then Sammy Gibbs was very good and he organised lots of things for the kids and parties.  And that’s when they had you know…………….

DH  So that’s Sam Gibbs’ father is it?

FS  Yes.  

DH  Was he the one that was a butcher as well?

FS  Yes, he was a butcher.  He did quite a lot for the local people, especially the children.  But that’s all I can remember you know.  I wasn’t one who went out to a lot.  Never went (unclear) he was under suffrance with the kids……….   Didn’t go to any dancing.  If a fair came we went down with the children till they came home…………………. (unclear text)

DH  The fair in the Square was it?

FS  Yes.  That was an event twice a year.

DH  Twice a year was it?

FS  Yes but then you see,again you went because you had children.  And when they got old enough you ‘d say here’s your money now you go off down to the fair but you get back (unclear)………..

DH  So when did the fair stop coming?

FS  I don’t really remember the year it stopped but it must have been in the…….was it the late ’60s, 70s?  I don’t know. Couldn’t swear on that.  Of course I suppose the traffic was beginning to get, I don’t know.

DH  They still have one in Crewkerne……… and (?) the traffic.

FS  Yes.  There you are.  It was a sad day when that ended.

DH  We’ve been looking for a photograph of that and haven’t found one yet.  Townsend’s Fair.

FS  All the caravans were beautifully kept.  They gleamed.  They were a nice family actually.  Yes.  You got to know them.  You know what I mean?  You’d go.   All the kids grew up and you’d say ‘Oh, there’s….. she’s grown, hasn’t she got some nice…………..’  Always well cared for and looked after they were.  Very well cared for.

DH  And do you remember a cattle market being held in the Square?

FS  I can’t.

DH  No, before your time.

FS  Before my time.

DH  I think the last ones were probably in the 30s as far as I can see.  The last cattle markets.

DH  Right. Well, thank you very much indeed.