Olive M Crabbe (1919-2011)


DATE UNKNOWN (Could be 2005 as that was the year most of the interviews seem to have been conducted)



I   Would you like to introduce yourself and tell me your date of birth and where you were born.

OC  I am Olive Crabb.   I was born at 28 Fleet Street, where I still live, in January, 1919.  9th January, 1919.  

I   And your father was a carpenter?

OC Yes, my father was a carpenter and joiner and he worked for George Symes the builder who lived next door.  Well, he worked in various places around the town obviously, and he did an awful lot of work at Mapperton House for the restoration of the house during the time of Mrs. Labouchere.

I  She was the lady who laid out the gardens?

OC   Yes that’s right.  Because the masons who worked for George Symes did most of that.  I think their names are on the………. edged in the …………………

I  I think there’s a plaque isn’t there.  I think you told me you went out there when you were a child……?

OC   Yes, at Christmas, Mrs. Labouchere gave a party for all the men who had worked there during the year and their families and, as with my mother and father, I went to the party, and I can remember this beautiful, lovely Christmas tree in the hall.  Huge Christmas tree in the hall.   And we each had a present off it.  It was a wonderful evening.

I  So did you go more than once?

OC  Yes, I think I went twice.

I  How lovely.  And were the gardens really beautiful?

OC  Oh yes, they were.  Well, I think they still are but they’ve been altered no doubt.

I  What about you, yourself?  You lived here in Fleet Street and you went to school……………….?

OC  I went to the Girls & Infants’ School in Hogshill Street until I was 11 when I won a Scholarship and went to the Grammar School.

I  And the Grammar School was……?

OC  It was just further along in Hogshill Street.  So I wasn’t far from school.   I could always come home for dinner and back again.

I  Can you remember any of the teachers at the Grammar School when you were there?

OC  At the Grammar School or the……………..?

I  Well, either really.

OC  I mean, at the Infants’ School there was someone we used to call, I think her name was Miss Gale, but we always called her Teacher May and then there was a Miss Guy from Stoke Abbott, Dorothy Guy and Miss Wills who was in charge of the Infants section.  Miss North was in charge of the older girls and with her were Miss Rogers and Miss Allan.

I  Miss Pim wasn’t there in those days?

OC  No, Miss Pim didn’t teach at the day school.  No, she taught cookery for all the schools around the area.

I  Did she teach you?

OC  No, she didn’t.  (Laughter)  She always thought she did, but she didn’t.

 I  And then you told me about the Sunday School.  How did you get involved in that?

OC  Well, I always went to Sunday School like everyone else as a child I suppose.  Most of us went to Sunday School.  And when I was about 14 I suppose, the people who went to the ordinary Elementary School left school at 14 and, of course I was at the Grammar School and not going to leave school and Miss Newman, who was the Superintendent, asked me would I like to help.  She had about….. a few little boys,about six little boys, who she felt were too old for the infants class but not old enough to go with the big boys.  And she thought perhaps I could look after these little boys.  And I used to go to her house each week and have a lesson prepared by her, and with her, so that on Sunday morning I could see to these little boys.  And so I kept going.  I never stopped going to Sunday School and I mean, all my life after that, I just kept going and eventually taught older girls.

I  How old were you when you started teaching these little boys?

OC  Well, about 14 or 15.  

I  And Sunday School was actually in the church?

OC  No, no.  It was at the Girls School.  The Girls & infants’ School and we met at 10 o’clock on a Sunday Morning and then went to Holy Trinity Church for a service at 11 o’clock.  Not a children’s service, a complete Matins which other people from the town used to attend and then, once a month, they had a sung Eucharist there which we used to sit through.  We were………….  So, we understood a church service completely and then, in the afternoon, we met at 2 o’clock and then we’d go down to the Parish Church for a children’s service at 3.  It was all day sort of thing.  We were quite happy to do it.

And then we used to have an outing once a year.  We went to Weymouth and the whole town used to go.  One of the shopkeepers said they might as well have closed down because there was no-one left. It was always on a Wednesday, probably the first Wednesday in August, and you’d have……there were three coaches for the children.  One for the infants, one for the boys and one for the girls.  And then, I don’t know how many, about half a dozen coaches for mums and dads and grandads, aunts and uncles………

Everyone went I should think, to Weymouth, on that one day.  It was the one day in the year because you never went to Weymouth otherwise.  It was wonderful and then we all, the children, all had a tea at the Dorothy Cafe on the front.  That was a Sunday School outing.  But then, of course, when the war came of course, it all stopped didn’t it.  And then after the war we had one or two outings, we went to.  I remember going to Butlins at Minehead one year and we went to Bristol Zoo once but then we stopped altogether that and we took the older children to Salisbury every other year to the Children’s Festival which was very nice, for them to see the Cathedral. 

We never went to Salisbury otherwise.  I mean, I had never as a child growing up. I had never been to Salisbury.  We knew we were in Salisbury Diocese and that was it.  The first year we went we didn’t have a banner and the children were rather upset because every other Sunday School seemed to have a banner to process and so we came home and said,  you know, about this, and so then Mrs. Stybey and Mrs. Forsey and Mrs. Minto made us a banner which is still in the church I think at the back somewhere.  Yes.  So that next time, and every other time we went, we had a banner to carry in the procession which was good.

I  Tell me about the Guides?  You were very involved with the guides weren’t you?


OC  Well, I was never a Brownie because my mother wouldn’t let me join the Brownies, but she let me join the Guides when I was 11 and I had some very happy times with them.  We met in the Red Lion once a week in the top room and there were four patrols.  There were three big bow windows in the Red Lion.  They’ve done away with one since because of the traffic, they knocked it down so many times.  (Laughter) So that three patrols could have a corner, as they called it, in the bow windows and one had to go the other side of the room.  I was Kingfisher.  That was quite fun and then we used to go on these treks and hikes and things, and we used to go up to Lime Kiln, up at Meerhay, and make little fires and cook sausages.  And then, many years later of course, well I kept going with that until I’d left school and started work and had to stop.  But then I joined the Trefoil Guild when it was formed and I am a Founder Member of the Beaminster Branch.  (unclear muddled speech).  Various offices there, I’ve been Treasurer and various things.  Now I’m just a member.

I  When did this Trefoil start in Beaminster?

OC  50 years ago.  50 years ago this year.  So I remember going down the road, and I was in the Square, and Lady North was the other side of the Square and she shouted across at me ‘You were a Guide weren’t you?’ and I said yes.  And she said ‘Well, we’re having a party at Horn Park on’ (I don’t know which day it was going to be, one Saturday) and she said ‘We’ve got transport to take you up if you’ll come.’  So I went and that was it, I joined

I  And it’s still going strong?

OC  Yes.  

I  One of the things you were telling me……………. I know that your clock here went off when I was here last time and you were telling me that that was given to you…………………. (unclear text)

OC  The clock was left to me by my uncle, that’s right.  It belonged to my Grandparents but my aunty and uncle had no children and every holiday…………. they only lived at Mangerton which is not all that far away…………….. but every school holiday they filled their house with all their nieces and nephews and i was always invited.  We had wonderful times and I felt very lucky that I was able to go on holiday because most of my friends didnt go on holiday.  It might not have been very far but it was fun.

I  You used to walk over there?

OC  Yes, I have walked from home here to Mangerton but when I was about 11 my aunt and uncle moved – they moved to Swanage – so then, of course, I went further.  I still went for my holidays but of course I went to Swanage which was much nicer still.  

I  Another thing you were telling me about before was the Pageant here in Beaminster.  You were very involved with that weren’t you?

OC  Well, not very involved.  But yes.   Because I was very young.  But I can remember this Pageant.  It was organised by Mrs. Ramsden who was the President of the Women ‘s Institute and we had to go up to Meerhay Manor to rehearse for it and I was a slave.  The Pope, Pope Gregory, the story you know of Pope Gregory coming to England?   And he saw these little people and said ‘Who are they’?   And he was told they were slaves and he said ‘They’re not slaves, they’re angels.’  And I was one of these wonderful little angels and Mr. Raymond was the slave master and I can remember so clearly how he came on stage – it was performed in the Town Hall – and he came on the stage and he slashed his whip across in front of the slaves.   It was……… for a small child it was quite exciting really.  But there were all these, lots of older people, and that’s why I was allowed to go because they took care of me walking up to Meerhay Manor and back in the dark.

I  And that Mr. Raymond was the milk………. had the milk round?   Is that right?

OC  No, his father.  They lived at Chantry Farm.  Mr. & Mrs. Raymond, and Mrs. Raymond was the Secretary of the Women’s Institute.

I  You didn’t belong to the W.I.?

OC  No.  My mother was a great W.I. lady and that’s why I was in it no doubt because she was there and she let me go.  She wasn’t in it, but she let me go and take part.

I  Apart from that, there was a Dramatic Society wasn’t there.  Were  you involved in that?

OC  No, I wasn’t but I always went.  My mother and I always went to the performance.  They did something every year.  And this was rather nice, a Mrs. Rumsey whose husband was the Manager of Lloyds Bank, she was a great musician and her daughters – she had three daughters – and they all played different instruments and they formed a little orchestra which used to play before the performance when you were all arriving and during the interval which made it a little bit more…….  It was very nice.  The Dramatic Society went on for years afterwards without any music.

I  There isn’t a Dramatic Society now is there?

OC  Not now is there, no I don’t think so.

I  One thing I didn’t ask you before is, when I came,you were a member of the Camera Club.  Had you been a member of the Camera Club ever since it started?

OC  No I hadn’t, no.  That was…………. what I did do, I did go to Scottish Dancing classes which I really enjoyed very much and they stopped.  I think Mrs. Cummings gave up taking them and I remember talking to someone in Bridport over the counter at the Post Office who obviously was a keen member of the Camera Club and she said……..  she was showing me her photographs of her holiday and I was sort of being polite I suppose, etc. and she said she went to the Beaminster Camera Club and I ought to come.  I said I wasn’t very interested in photography because I wasn’t.  Anyway, she told another person.  She told Mrs. Gibbs who was a member of the Camera Club that she’d spoken to me and she said ‘I know her very well, I’ll call for her.’  And she called and she said she’d call for me the next week and she did and I went just to see if I liked it.  Anyway.  So I joined but I knew nothing about photography, I didn’t even have a camera.


Was it in the Strode Room?

OC  No, it was at school.  And then they moved down to the Strode Room later when………….  It was a bit difficult at the school, you had to be out by a certain time and that sort of thing.   They found it better to go to the Strode Room.  But I did have a lot of happy times with the Camera Club I will say that.  And I did learn a bit about photography.

I  Tell me about………………. when you left school you joined the Post Office.  Was that here in Beaminster?

OC  In Beaminster, yes, I was a telephonist and that was when I left school and then in 1939, August 1939, the telephone exchange went automatic and so I would really have been out of work but the Postmaster had a young man working on his counter and when the war started, in September, he was immediately called up.  So Mr. Colbourne, who was the Postmaster, said would I like to come and work for him on the counter which I did.  And I was glad to have a job.  And so I stayed there, with him, until March 1941 when they had rung up from the head Post Office in Bridport and said they had a vacancy and would I be interested.  And so, I’m afraid, I went and there I stayed until I retired in 1979.

In those days though, how did you get to and from Bridport during the war because there wasn’t much in the way of transport?

OC  There were hardly any buses, no.  Nothing at all.  And there was a rule the Post Office had that you had to live within three miles of the office.  They were determined you would be there whatever the weather.  Three miles.  So any rate, I had to lodge in Bridport and I used to come home at weekends.  You worked all day on Saturday as well in any case, so really it was only home on Sunday.  Sometimes I could manage to get a bus home and sometimes I couldn’t.  I did the best I could.  I don’t think I ever walked all the way.  I did find people who would perhaps give me a lift home.  The organist here, Mr. Gill, at the time because I had learnt music from him, and he used to take a class in Bridport on a Saturday afternoon and he would sometimes – Saturday afternoon and evening I suppose he had more than one pupil and he’d go from one place to another – and if I’d finished by a certain time he often brought me home on Saturday evening.  No it wasn’t easy and sometimes I couldn’t get home on Saturday evening. I’d set out on Sunday morning and walk.  And if I got as far as Gore Cross I could usually get a lift.  Various people.  The man who kept the garage at the bottom of the town, he used to take Mr. Lee, the Solicitor, fishing every Sunday morning so, after he’d dropped him he could pick me up and bring me home.  Or, Dr. Hope Simpson often gave me a lift home on a Sunday morning.  He’d been perhaps to …………. he’d pick me up, he’d see me……….. he’d been to Powerstock to see a patient.


I  Is that the garage where it is now?  Where Mr. Motor is?  Tell me.  The changes you’ve seen in Beaminster over the years are enormous, but can you ………….. what do you think the change in having so many incomers like myself have made to the town?  Do you feel that has made a tremendous difference or do you think they’ve just been assimilated really?

OC  Well, I suppose they have really, but you know the town’s expanded hasn’t it so much with so many new houses and people moving in.  The majority of people who move in are elderly aren’t they?  Retired.  Well, I don’t say they’re elderly but they are mostly retired people.  I don’t mind them coming, I’m quite happy, but I do wish they wouldn’t want to change everything.

I  What changes do you think have been entirely dependent on ………………

OC  Oh I don’t know.  I wouldn’t like to say………….. but things seem to alter a bit and you think, oh, you know, those newcomers again.  (Laughter)  No, they don’t really……. they don’t worry me.  I think most people do sort of mix in all right and you wouldn’t realise.

I  Since you were a little girl here in Beaminster obviously there’s been enormous changes haven’t there, what do you think is the one biggest change that you think you’ve seen in the town?  Is there anything that particularly stands out in the number of years since……….. You’re 87 now aren’t  you?

OC  Yes.  I suppose all the traffic really isn’t it.  The traffic is………. When I was small there weren’t any cars, there was no-one with a car.  Mr. Symes had a car afterwards but the first one was just the van from the egg depot in East Street.  And that was all and then Mr. Symes got a car.  He took me for my first ride in a motor car.  With his niece.  I suppose really it’s the traffic……..  I mean, it was quite all right, my mother could see me – well she didn’t really need to see me across the road – I’d get on the pavement over there when I was quite small and run down to Pines the Grocers.  That I still miss.  Pines.  It was a lovely shop.

I  And that’s where the National Farmers Union office is now?  When you were younger there were far more shops obviously?

OC  Oh, lots more shops.  Yes there were.  Which seems a shame really.  That is one change.  And there was a little sweet shop which we all used to run to down the road there.  I didn’t have to cross the road I could just run down here but, yes, Miss Curtis sweet shop.  We all went there.  But no, there were plenty of shops, grocers and butchers and a drapers.  There’s nothing like that now, a draper.  Which was very good.

I  Where was the draper?

OC  No. 21 in the Square.  That was Crockers when I was small and then Reynolds were in Hogshill Street where Peter Brooks the Estate Agent is.  There were two of them.  Either place you could get what you wanted really.  

I  Just as well because if the transport was so difficult to go anywhere else.  Would Bridport be the main place you would have gone for anything that you couldn’t get here?

OC  Well, yes, I suppose so but you didn’t really need to go there, to go anywhere, you were quite self sufficient if it came to that.   You had two bakers and I don’t know about how many butchers, about five I should think, yes.  All these grocers.  And Tollman’s were the ironmongers.  You didn’t have all these gift shops that you have now.

I  Ever so many thanks Olive for talking.  I’m absolutely delighted, it’s been an absolute blessing I think.

OC  Well I hope it’s been helpful.  

I  I’m sure it has, and we do hope that this time it’s on here.  (Laughter)

(Presumably a previous attempt had been made at an interview)

OC  Well I’ve been very happy living in Beaminster in any case.  I always have been, I’ve not wanted to go anywhere else.

I  Lovely, thank you.