Walter Cecil Poole (1903-2009)

Walter Cecil Poole 13th September 1903 – 23rd February 2009

We have two seperate recordings of Cecil Poole as he was known, one from 1999, and the other from 2004. The Museum has a collection of his business records and some of his machinery. He is also referenced by others in their oral histories.

“1999 Audio courtesy of Dorset History Centre document reference number D-DSA-192-1-1″

Audio File Below. Click the triangle to play.

1999 Recording with Robin Pearce

2004 recording with Ann Hudson

Cecil, who lived his entire life in the town, rang regularly at St Mary’s for 60 years until the numerous steps to the ringing chamber proved too much for him, but he continued with hand-bell ringing, teaching young folk and giving concerts as a result well into his 80s.

Ringing was Cecil’s foremost interest in life and ringing runs through his family. Grandfather Samuel was ringing in 1836 and taught the skill to his sons, Jim, Henry and Charlie, and three grandsons Fred, Jim and Cecil. In turn, Cecil passed this knowledge on to his cousins and eldest grandson.

Cecil had an incredible memory and so had no problem in recalling the highlights and the many fascinating incidents throughout his long life. Cecil would fondly recall seeing the first motor vehicle to appear in Beaminster in 1909 and the interest it caused to himself and his young playmates; also of the local doctor carrying out amputations on a kitchen table in a cottage in the town.

Cecil’s other great interest in life was sport of any description, with the exception of cricket, and winning a score of medals for his football skills. Also he was a special constable for 25 years, was in the police war reserve with 75 specials under his supervision, served on the town council for 25 years, was a scout troop leader, a chorister, a Mason and connected with most aspects of local life. In WW2 he was one of the first on the scene at the Heinkel crash at South Buckham Farm depicted in the model upstairs.

Cecil could trace his ancestry in Beaminster back to 1685 when a Simon Poole from that town and 18 others were sold into slavery and shipped to Barbados after judge Jeffreys found them guilty during the Monmouth Rebellion. The ship transporting them hit stormy weather, flooding the hold where Simon and 12 others, still chained, were drowned.

Cecil’s grandfather was a ‘planker’, sawing planks from trees, and operated from a now demolished mill in Town Square. Cecil took over his father’s building and decorating business in 1932 and became a sign-writer as well.




RP This is Robin Pearce on the 21st July, 1999 recording in Beaminster. Right. Could you tell me your full name please?

CP Walter Cecil Poole

RP And do you mind telling me when you were born?

CP September 13th, 1903

RP And where did your parents live when you were born?

CP Fleet Street in what was the old Flax Inn. The Flax Inn in Fleet Street. It wasn’t going then because it was shut down. Fleet Street was called Flax Street then instead of Fleet Street.

RP All right. And where did you go to school?

CP Beaminster Boys’ School in East Street.

RP And how old were you when you left school?

CP Thirteen.

RP And what subjects do you remember studying at school?

CP Painting. I always had 10 out of 10 for painting. Arithmetic, I was very good at, and History. (?History) (unclear text)

RP And did you have any other lessons?

CP I was interested in sport. I was always playing football, rugby, boxing, darts I think the other was. That was my sports. That was my subject. I was always keen on football.

RP Right, and what were the teachers like? Do you think they were good teachers?

CP Well, they were bad. Fletcher was the Headmaster. He’d give you the cane for anything and the fellow that taught us, Collingford, and if you did anything wrong he’d turn your hand over and knock across your knuckles with a rule. (Laughter)

RP And were there any other schools in Beaminster?

CP Beaminster Grammar School and the Girls School and the Infants’ School. The Infants School and Girls School was in Hogshill Street and, of course, the Grammar School was a little further on which is now closed you see. And then it closed and they got the new school at the Comprehensive School in Newtown.

RP Thank you. Can you describe the Square in Beaminster as it was when you were a boy?

CP Yes I can. The Market House wasn’t there. Mr. Robinson of Parnham House had Julia built there for his daughter who died at the age of 13. That’s why, the monument, they call it Julia. In Beaminster Square, it was the monument that was built in memory of Julia. Regards the shops I suppose were about the same as they are now. In the olden days of course it was worse than that. When my grandad lived in the Market House Inn there in Beaminster Square. And then in front of the Market House Inn there was three, four, two were women and two were men used to hold stocks and when, ladies were the worst there, and every time they did shout and cry and holler by night he used to come out with a bottle of water and throw over them. I don’t remember that, it was before my time.

RP Was the Market House where the Julia is now?

CP Yes

RP Where the car park is. What about the kind of shops that were around the Square?

CP Well, there was Frampton’s, which is still there now, a sweet shop was there and there was Crocker’s the Drapers, Hine’s the Chemist, Richard Hine who was a great friend of mine and there was the grocer’s shop, the Lloyds Bank was there near about the same as it is now. No Midland Bank there, there was only Lloyds Bank in the Square. Greyhound and the Red Lion was there.

RP And was there any open water, any streams flowing through the Square at that time?

CP There was at that time. There was one running down across from Fleet Street. There was an old river in Fleet Street and that ran across by what is Pickwick’s, now straight down towards St. Mary Street down to Duck Street river. This was an open river then flowed right through St.Mary Well Street, what they used to call Duck Street because the ducks used to float about in the river. It was an open river right down through Fleet Street.

RP And were there many horses going through the Square when you were ……………….

CP What?

RP Horses? When you were young?

CP Yes there was all horses and no cars. The first car came was 1909. Dr. Pim, he had the first car in Beaminster and it was a white car. And he came out one day with his car from The Walnuts where he lived and there was a lot of people by the Red Lion watching this first car that had arrived and a fellow sat beside in the front with a peaked cap and white coat on. A chauffer. And he got so far as the Midland Bank that is now, which was a corn merchant then, and it went off bang and out came a lot of smoke. And us boys went up and laughed at him and he got out of the car and swore at us. But he was very pleased with us afterwards because we boys pushed him off. That was the first car that came to Beaminster in 1909. All the rest before that was wagons and carriages, timber carriages and riding horses.

CP How many pubs were there in Beaminster when you were a boy?

CP Well, the total number, I can tell you that was 38. All round Beaminster. One was where Frampton’s was at the Lamb and Flag, where Lloyds Bank was before it was the Plymouth Inn. There was, Pickwick’s what is now, was the Horse and Coach Inn. There was the Greyhound and there was the Red Lion. All round the whole of Beaminster Square which I’ve got the number of them were 38 public houses. But of course, you see, a lot of them were cider drinkers because people used to grow apple treees in their own garden and grind them down and make cider and they used to call that a public house because they were selling cider. And that’s why there were so many ran, it wasn’t whiskey and beer.

RP Was there much drunkeness?

CP Oh terrible. I’ve seen people wheeled home in wheelbarrows. (Laughter) Yes, I remember when the Swan Inn it were the one. Where the Council House is now it was the Swan Inn there and people used to come in there and get drunk and you could see them come up through Fleet Street. Someone used to go out with a wheelbarrow and they used to push them home in a wheelbarrow ‘cos they couldn’t walk they was that drunk.

RP Was there much crime in Beaminster when you were young?

CP Well, the worst part was East Street. East Street was terrible. You could walk as far as the Beaminster Boys’ School but beyond that there was murders, killing, all sorts going on. It was a filthy dirty street. They used to throw all the dirty water out in the street and there were two or three murders that I know of in that street in my time. From the school to Woodswater Lane. And that was where the worst part of Beaminster was. The street down Church Street, what they used to call Duck Street, where the river was, that was fairly bad down there but the worst was East Street. And they used to have murders up there. It was terrible. They were all wotsies? (unclear text) and rolls? (unclear text) and people like that lived there and they were fighting in the street. Well, you couldn’t go up through the street. Wasn’t alllowed.

RP Were there any police or law enforcement people in Beaminster at that time?

CP Yes, yes. There was – over here where the children do go………..

RP Youth Club

CP Youth Club. That was the Police Station then and there used to be, in my time, there used to be a Superintendent lived there and there were two sergeants in Beaminster and somewhere in the region of about eight or nine constables. They were fully equipped in those days and there was always police at Mosterton; one at Mosterton, one at Broadwindsor, one at Chedington one at Corscombe. There were police all round the villages as well in them days. Of course they used to come in to Beaminster, quite a good mob of police around there then.

RP Was there any lock up or place to keep the criminals?

CP Yes. In Beaminster police station, there were three cells in there used to lock them up. Then, if there were any worse, any bad ones at all, where the Stokewater is houses now, they used to have cells down there to put all tramps and all those peole that done very bad, well, break-ins or whatever it was with people, till their court case came up. They used to keep them down there. Stokewater House it is now.

RP Yes. (I’ll just check that this is …………….. yes, it’s going round.) If there were murders they would be taken to Dorchester would they?

CP Yes, they were tried at Beaminster (confused speech). The Superintendent used to stay at Beaminster and inform Bridport. The courts. They used to try them in Beaminster Court here then they used to go to Dorchester and that’s where they were tried and put away in the prison.


RP Where was the court in Beaminster held?

CP At the police station. At the Youth Centre. The big room up over the top. Big court room there. That’s where they used to get tried first. And there they used to send them straight to Dorchester.

RP And were they hanged at Dorchester prison?

CP Yes, there were some hanged at Dorchester and there was a hangman, I forget now,I have got it in my history book down there, there was a hangman used to live outside of Dorchester. Used to do all the hangings. He was a hangman there, he used to live over there and do all the hangings in Dorchester prison.

RP Right, thank you. When you were a child did you ever go away on holiday?

CP No, never. Couldn’t afford it.

RP No. Did you ever go away on day trips?

CP Yes, used to go off for day trips very often. When we were boys the school used to organise trips to West Bay or Weymouth. Places like that, not very far.

RP And how would you get there?

CP Horse and cart.(Laughter)

RP So it would be a long ride to Weymouth?

CP Used to have a cart, used to have a wagon and put seats across the waggon and you used to sit on these seats and the men used to drive the horse and wagon down to Weymouth and Bridport. Yes, it used to take hours to get to Weymouth.nearly all morning. By the time you got there it was time to come back again. (Laughter) It was very enjoyable. We used to enjoy it ‘cos it was the only entertainments we really had in those days you see.

RP Did you swim at Weymouth or West Bay or what did you do?

CP Never had the time. (Laughter) Took nearly all the morning to get there and nearly all the time to come back from Weymouth. Well, West Bay, used to take us two hours or that to get to West Bay.

RP Yes. And how would the grown up person, an ordinary person, get to Crewkerne or Bridport if they wanted to?

CP Bicycle. Tricycles and bicycles. Any amount of them about in Beaminster. Everybody used to cycle them days or else have a horse, horseback, ’twas very slow going. Tricycles was the main things, penny farthings weren’t about then. They were………….. well, I rode on one once I remember. Francis Bugler up there, Rob their father (? unclear text) he bought one for a shilling and with an engineer he repaired it up and put pads on the pedals ‘cos we boys couldn’t reach the pedals (unclear text). So we got on this bicycle, riding round Beaminster Square and I got on up Fleet Street, my turn to ride, and I got up where Pine’s shop is, you know, Pine’s shop in Fleet Stret. Got up there, come down across the Square and the handbrake from the handle was about a foot nearly down – you had to catch on to pull the brake on. Well, I couldn’t reach the darn thing so I made for Dicky Hine’s chemist’s door and I got stuck in Dicky Hine’s chemist’s door. He come out and looked up. What you doing up there Johnny? I said I can’t go any farther, I said. Looking down from the door. (Laughter) (?unclear text) That was the penny farthing.


RP Yes. What were the road surfaces like?

CP Oh, terrible. They used to draw them up (unclear text) the other side of the tunnel there, and some at Beaminster Down, yellow flintstone. And they used to put that on the road and the horses and wagons….There was no steamrollers themdays, see, horses and wagons used to (unclear text ? ride ?) and to ride a bicycle was terrible.

RP So there were lots of ruts and puddles and that?

CP Yes, terrible. Oh, ’twas awful. And if anyone was ill during that time they used to put sawdust all out in front of the house to stop the noise if anyone was ill in that house. And they used to put sawdust all on the road outside ‘cos the waggons used to make a noise, not to disturb people inside.


RP When did the electricity come to Beaminster?

CP About 1919/1920

RP So people would light their houses……… would have gas lights before then?

CP Gas was here. Gaslights were all over Beaminster. Man used to go round and light them up every night, put them out in the morning..

RP Yes. And houses would have gas lights would they or would they have candles?

CP Candles. Candles and oil lamps. Gas was here but electric came about 1920 I expect. round about then. Electric. Then the water came here. That was another thing when they (? unclear text) the new reservoir up the Whitesheet Hill. Water came here about, 1912 I expect it was, just before the first World War that was.

RP Yes. So before that water came, that was piped water, where did people get their water from?

CP Pumped. From wells.

RP Yes. So there were pumps on the street were there?

CP That’s right. Everybody had pumps in their houses or wells. Now up the Square there was a big pump beside the Market House Inn, which shows in the photograph, and there were three big wells in Beaminster Square one where you could walk down steps and dip up what you wanted for water but there were two wells there for supplying the pump and everybody round the Squae used to use that pump for drinking water and what have you. But there was wells all over the place.

RP Do you think the water was always clean?

CP Lovely. Beautiful and clar and lovely Better than the water you get now I should say ‘cos it was lovely, it used to sparkle, it was lovely clear water. But this one other well, used to dip the water out for washing, wasn’t all that clean. See that was just for rough use like.

RP Was there much illness, much sickness in Beaminster?

CP Well, there was quite a bit. Used to be a lot of Cholera. Used to be a lot of that about and children used to get this irritation about the body somewhere. Used to call it some name. but there was quite a bit of sickness about.

RP And so, were there many doctors?

CP Yes. There was……… As far as I can remember back there was a Dr. Webb, Dr. Daniel, Dr. Kitson up The Lodge, Tunnel Road, and Dr. Pim. That’s the three (4?) I remember. Of course, after that there were three in one surgery and three in another. There were six doctors came here, about, just before the first World War. Before that there was about four here.

RP And you would have to pay the doctor if you were……………..?

CP Yes, you had to pay the doctor, never get nothing free.

RP And what about hospitals. Where was the nearest hospital?

CP Bridport. Bridport General.

RP And did they have ambulances, horse drawn ambulances or how would …………?..

CP Well it was kind of a carriage. ‘Twasn’t an ambulance like you see today it was a horse and cart that I can remember. It used to have, it was like a box thing on the end of four wheels and the wagons. And that was the ambulance with a horse to drive, used to take them. Then course, that got out and they got an old Ford van after that. Same as the Post Office that used to come here to Beaminster I remember. They used to come horse, and Royal Mail wagon thing for the mail, before the motor van came.

RP And there was one Post Office in Beaminster was there?

CP That’s right. Down by Hurford’s shop. That’s the first Post office I remember. Mrs. Stembridge (? unclear) was the lady.

RP Right. And what sort of difference did the First World War make to Beaminster. I mean, were there many soldiers here, or……?

CP No-one here during the war. A lot went away and served in the war. Beaminster lads. We had no soldiers here. You wouldn’t think there was a war on in Beaminster . It was so quiet. All you’d hear about was when anyone had been killed. That was what you used to hear.

RP Yes. And what was church attendance like? How many…… ? Did many people go to church?

CP Oh yes. They were packed. Churches very good. Tim (Bott? unclear text) was down here the other day. He told me he looked back, some records, about the churches were full. I told him when I was a boy I used to sing in the choir and the church was packed. Sunday mornings and Sunday nights they were full the churches. Now you see it’s, well, less than half the people go to church he said. Well, its more like a Sports Day now, Sunday, isn’t it? All cricket, and that.

RP And chapels. Were there many chapels?

CP Yes. There was that Weslyan Chapel in Fleet Street and the Congregational Church over here and the Beaminster Church. Churches and the chapels and all that were very full. Everybody……. well there was nothing else to go for then only public houses. (Laughter) Only public houses and churches, that’s all you had. No entertainments here at all.

RP And was there much superstition in those days?

CP Well, I suppose it would be like, call it that in a way, but I don’t know……… didn’t seem to be a lot of them really, I didn’t think so.

RP I mean did people, for instance have any special things to do on New Year’s Eve and that sort of thing?

CP Well, there used to be, on New Year’s Eve, there used to be bands that come up in the Square and played, and played the Dead March when the year was going out. The bells down the church used to ring start at half-past six and then again at eight o’clock and then in the evening they used to have a service in the church in the tower. People used to come up. I’ve seen the church packed up there, in the tower, a hundred people. and I used to toll the old year out and I did it for twenty-seven years. And the last one what I did was 73 strokes with the tenor bell. I used to toll the old year out.

RP Did people do anything at the time of the New Moon, with money for instance?

CP We used to have a dance up the hall. New Year’s Eve. All drank New Year in night. And they used to dance all round the Square. And after the New Year was come in used to have dancing all round the Square and have a big dance up the Public Hall same night.

RP You mentioned Richard Hine, can you tell me something about him and how you got to know him?

CP Yes, nice little fellow. I used to ……. Why I got in friendly with him – when I was about 16 or 17 I joined the Beaminster Institute and Public Hall in Fleet Street. And he was the Treasurer of this Institute and the position was there, I had only joined a couple of months, Frank Bugler that I knew very well, that worked at Bobby Leigh’s office, he and me got on very well with bellringing and he said ‘Why don’t we get Cecil to come in to join the committee’. Well, he tackled me about this and I thought ‘Why do I want to join the committee for’? So Dicky Hine, Richard Hine, came to me and he said ‘Your name has been put up to join the committee’ and I said ‘Well I’ve not been here very long’. He said, ‘The point is people got no cheque books these days’ and it was half-a-crown a quarter for the subscription. Ten shillings a year. And they got a job to get subscriptions in. Lot of people wouldn’t pay the money so they wanted someone as subs collector. ‘Cos muggins (Laughter) and ‘course Dicky Hine said would I come to the committee meeting. Well I went to the committee meeting and they proposed me as a subs collector for the Beaminster Institute and Public Hall and I was only 17. So I used to collect this, go round with this book, and collect the money from the members – it was quite a….. more than 100 members there and I used to collect – no-one had a cheque book them days see, it was all money. So I used to collect this half-a-crown from them …….

RP That was quite a lot of money really wasn’t it?

CP Yes. Half-a-crown

RP Half-a-crown, yes. What did the Institute do? What went on at the Institute?

CP Well, there was a card room to play Bridge in, and upstairs two billiard tables and a little fire there and that was about it. Of course in the big hall they used to play with the shuttlecocks…….

RP Badminton?

CP Badminton. And, well, all different things, entertaining in the hall as well, there was quite a (?) about it. And of course I used to collect this money, and take this money up to Dicky Hine every so often, I had so much, and I used to sit in his dining room in a big red carver table, 9 o’clock Mabel his wife used to come in with a great big mug of cocoa. I was only a boy, couldn’ drink it very well. Anyway, used to drink this cocoa and that’s how I come to know Richard Hine. Then, after that day see, I got in with Richard and we started – he wrote that book about Beaminster – and we started doing a second edition of Beaminster History. What happened to it when he died I don’t know. But it went on to a second edition. I was always up with Richard Hine, that’s how I got in with Dicky Hine, Richard Hine. Nice little fellow.

RP And where did he live?

CP He lived opposite the Post Office in Hogshill Street. Lived up there. Used to live over the chemist’s shop in the Square and, of course, I don’t know whether I ever told you that, Dicky Hine used to turn his feet in, Mabel used to turn her feet out. And when they used to walk down the pavement we used to call them half-past two. (Laughter) I don’t know why, where they got half-past two from. He usd to walk like that and she used to walk like that. We used always to say half-past two. Where they got half-past two I don’t know. Course, old people in them days used to pick up things like that.

RP Why do you think he had such an interest in the history of Beaminster?

CP Well, he was a very good man, he was always interested in Beaminster and talking about Beaminster. And his father, before him was a bit of an historian until Richard took it on so it was more like in the history of the family.

RP And he was active in the Congregational Church across the road?

CP He was over here, big man here. I think he was one of the Hines, Founders there with the Daniels. In 1684 when it was built.

RP Right. And were there any other people who had an influence on you like Richard Hine. Any other people in Beaminster?

CP Didn’t seem to be. There was only Richard Hine. If you wanted to know anything you’d always go to see Richard Hine. Like they come and see me now. (Laughter) No,well Richard was a clever little man. He was only about 4ft. 6ins. too. Little old man. He used to ride a bicycle and one time, it was a cruel thing. This river over, there was a bar loose on the river there, some boy went and pulled this bar out in the road, they knew Dickie was coming up the road on his bicycle and course he rode straight into this bar and over he went. Terrible it was.

RP And was he injured?

CP He was injured. Concussion he did. But that was some (? unclear text) boys did it see, pulled the bar out across and they knew Dickie was coming up the road somewhere. He got over it all right. Nice little fellow I did like him. Hours I spent with him. And that’s the book I got there what he gave me, I’ll show you in a minute, about Mosterton.

RP Yes. I think this tape might be drawing to an end so I think I’ll just stop it now.

(Stopped tape – Instructions for listening to the second half)

RP Right, can you tell me what sort of things happened in Beaminster during the Second World War. What differences did you notice?

CP The Second World War?

RP 1939 onwards. When the Americans came, or when the other troops came, you know, that sort of thing.

CP Well, yes, the Americans came. First of all the Welsh army came here first, the Medical Corps. Well after that the Americans. (Interruption of interview) Hello, don’t know who that is waving their hands…. somebody.

RP Were the Medical Corps at Parnham?

CP Yes, they were at Parnham. But the officers, all the officers always stayed at Bridge House. Medical Corps and the Americans as well. That was (unclear text) was near the centre. But the Medical Corps was at Parnham but they were around Beaminster as well here. Then the Americans came and after the Americans went the Welsh, some Welsh Guards, or something came and there wasn’t a lot of difference until the Americans was leaving for the invasion. (? unclear text) But they left here quite a long time before they had the invasion ‘cos they went along the coast didn’t they or something. Camp………

RP Yes. Were there many lorries or tanks……………..?

CP Oh all over the place.

RP Were there any tanks in Beaminster?


CP Yes, tanks and armoured cars. All sorts, all over the place they were. There were some parked up in the Square all the time. Tanks and some armoured cars, they were all over the place here. And of course the big lorries to take the soldiers about.

RP Did they ever do any damage with the tanks, bump into buildings or anything?

CP No, not that I know of. Never heard of anything. They seemed to be pretty good here. They weren’t the biggest tanks, I don’t know what kind of tank it was. There was some huge big tanks and they were like the next size down. Smaller ones.

RP Yes, and did the American infantry behave themselves in Beaminster?

CP Yes. Very well. Very good lot of chaps they were. The only trouble was with the “blacks” at Evershot. I had to go over there with some of the police to get them out. Some went fighting here sometimes in the Square some of the Americans did, I suppose when they’d had a drop too much at the pub or something. Used to be some squabbles going on but not a lot. They was very good really.

RP And did you see much of the German air activity. Were there any German aicrft flying over here?

CP Yes. They was always flying over going down to Plymouth you see. I got a little tiny bit of a machine-gun thing what they picked up in Hogshill Street when I was up there. Well I was on duty that day and they were fighting up over Beaminster area, English and Germans fighting up over, and these things come down at the White Hart, three things so I picked up one. And I got it out there. Little tiny piece of a …………….

RP A bullet?

CP A bullet. And I got a label stuck on it. (Laughter)

RP What sort of work did you do as a Special Constable during the war?

CP Me? I did office work. You see what happened with the Special Constables, I joined the Specials before the Second World War. I was on the Civil Defence Committee. In the Civil Defence, and I didn’t care a lot for that and then Sergeant Neale (? spelling) came here, which I knew very well, he belonged to the Freemasons and he said ‘Why don’t you join the Specials Cecil?’ So I joined the Specials in ’41, no, ’39. And I hadn’t been in there very long when the war started in ’39 and then they started to have a Police War Reserve Team. Between the Specials and the Regulars. Well I joined it, and Sergeant Neale wanted me to join and there were five of us and I was one of them picked out from the Specials to be Police War Reserve. So Superintendent Page (? spelling) of Bridport came over here and he called me and he said ‘Cecil, we want a Sergeant from the Police War Reserve. Would you like to take it on?’ I said, ‘Look, Superintendent, I got a business I’m running as well, I can’t build in a building business with my workmen as well as Special Constable.’ He said ‘It wont be all that work, it will be someone just to keep an eye on them,’ he said. ‘I want you to take over Beaminster, Briport and Lyme Regis.’ ‘Now look, I said, you’re extending too far.’ There were 75 Specials I had under and I had these, all these Police War Reserve. So anyway I took on the silly job. So of course anything was happening I used to have to go to Bridport Police Station, sometimes Lyme Regis (and see to Beaminster) but doing my busy job and I had a son-in-law, a very good lad, a carpenter carrying on the business but he got called up to finish up with and so I just carried on as a Sergeant in the Police War Reserve.

RP And if you had to go to Lyme Regis, as a Special Constable, how did you get there?

CP By car. My car. I had to keep tabs all on these chaps, their boot money and their petrol for their cars. Some of them didn’t know how to write their bloomin’ name I tell you. (Laughter) I had to go in Bridport. There were 75 altogether I had on the list and I said to Superintendent Page about it and, anyway, then I had a letter from Peter Yeates (? spelling) the Chief Constable thanking me for taking the job on and I rang him up and told him I didn’t want to take it as I had a business to carry on as well. And he said ‘well, you wont have your business much longer, ‘cos you wont have nobody working for you.’ I thought (? unclear text) and I did lose biggest part of them.

RP And you got a special petrol supply did you?


CP Yes. So I, my car, and I had to drive my car for the Special jobs. I used to go round and pick up some of the Specials and take them to Bridport for the meetings. Anyway, that gone on for some time and ‘course I used to live, over here, I lived too near the Police Station. Sergeant Neale used to ring me up – ‘Got to go so-and-so, would you come over and man the Station?’ Well I used to take over the Police Station see. ‘Course there was another Constable living at the back of the Police Station, there was one at Netherbury, one at Broadwindsor and I think there was one at Corscombe.. That was all round here. They used to come in and do duty sometimes but then there was the army police. The red band on their arm, they were the army police. They used to come in with their officer……..

RP Were they British Military Police?

CP Some British, some Americans. they used to come with bloomin’ great big things hanging down their sides, you know, …………………?

RP Staffs?

CP Staffs. Bloomin’ great things. (Laughter) ‘Cos what we had, I got mine in there, what we had was about that long but they had bloomin’ great things, nearly three foot, hanging down. (Laughter) I said to one when they come in once when I was on duty, I said, ‘What you going to do with them, I said? You going gardening?’ ‘No’, he said, ‘That’s what we’re all issued with in America, staffs for the regular police.’

RP And did they have white helmets?

CP Yes. Big helmets. White ones the Americans did. The others had ordinary, the Welsh, the military – not the military – the medical ones they came with theirs and they had black ones. All black helmets. No, I used to do quite a lot of duty then. Then, I’d been on this job for about three year and the war was still going on and the Chief Constable of Dorset, Peter Yeates (? spelling) rang me up and he said………. ‘Course why I got in with them see, I used to run Whist Drives for the policemen and all and of course I got in with all the top brass. Used to run these Whist Drives and collect money. Anyway, he rang me up one day and he said ‘Cecil, we’d like to put you in a Superintendent’. I said ‘I don’t want anything different’. ‘No’, he said, ‘we thought it would be a good idea for you to be made Superintendent then you wouldn’t have so much and get someone else to do your job’. ‘Well, that’s different. I wouldn’t mind that’, I said. But anyway, so I went to Bridport and I put it to the boys in there, the Police Station, ‘We don’t want nobody else Sergeant’ they said, ‘We want you’. So ‘course I stopped put. I got on with them very well and they were very nice too. Quite nice sort of lads. That was my job during the war.

RP And you told me once before that, when the German bomber crashed at South Buckham Farm you went up there as a Special Constable?

CP Because Sergeant Neale rang me up and he said ‘Here, there’s a bomber, German bomber gone in up at South Buckham,’ he said, ‘Could you come on and give me a hand.’ I said, well, ‘Dammit, I suppose I can,’ so he said ‘Put your clothes on and come on.’ So I put me clothes on and two priests was there so the four of us went up and when…… I was surprised when we got there, there were people round on the plane pulling parts off the sides…………..

RP Was this daytime or night time? Was it in the day?

CP Daytime, the afternoon. And the Germans, poor Germans, were dead in the plane and there they were pulling pieces off. So Sergeant ordered them all out of the field and put the policemen on each gate to stop any coming in until the airforce police arrived and the ambulance. Well, then we had a call from the Chief Constable to Sergeant Neale ‘Would you get all the pilots things off these four Germans ‘cos that’s our responsibility.’ Wallets and photos, money, anything and ‘course, I being the smallest of the lot, I got in over the Germans sorting these Germans, taking all these things out. But I couldn’t do much ‘cos I couldn’t get on very well so we waited until the medical chaps came to get them out. But the funny thing, I still think this funny, what I couldn’t understand, we found on four of them was a little leather case. I don’t know if I’ve told you this before? And in that case was a fork, a knife and a spoon. In a little leather case. And we wondered, I dunno, what you think about it, we wondered perhaps they come out of the airplane somewhere out in the wilds and they used this for some food they could have to eat ‘cos they found on the German plane little pots of meat, some stuff that the Germans make I suppose that they could have. So we thought that these little cases of tools was used for them to feed themselves. I dunno, what do you think?

RP Yes, I suppose so.

CP A little red leather case and there was a spoon, a knife and a fork. And the four of them had it, stuck down their jackets.

RP Right. Yes, I suppose it must have been for something………………

CP Well, that’s what we thought. Seregeant Neale thought the same.

RP You saw – you went in and actually got the things out of the pockets? On the bodies?

CP Well, Peter Yeates rang up, Chief Constable, and said ‘Who’ve you got there?’ And he told me, and two other policemen and he said ‘Well, get somebody to get in and get it before any of the medical come ‘cos you don’t know what they might find something and put in their pockets. You can never tell about them.’ So Sergeant said ‘Well you be the smallest Cecil you’d better get in the plane’. Well I creeped in, it was a hell of a job. But I got in and searched their pockets, I found a wallet………….

RP Were they sitting in their seats?

CP Yes, the two was, the two in the front. They were right back down over and well, there was blood running from all over the place. It was terrible, they were smashed. But the two behind was just sat in like gone to sleep. Two at the back. So I couldn’t touch the ones in the front until the medical came I said to Sergeant Neale ‘I’m not going to do anything here’. Well he said ‘See what you can do in the back’. So I got in to the two at the back, I suppose that’s the bombers I suppose would be at the back wouldn’t it?

RP That would be the the Wireless Operator and the …………. (? unclear text)

CP The Wireless Operator. Two of them there. They were in seats at the back. So I found the wallet and this little case on one of them and I found photographs and letters, photographs of their family, wife and the chap and children and different – all things like that. and money and took all this out see. Sergeant was putting this in separate bags with the names of who they belonged to. Peter Yeates said ‘Take it back to the Police Station and we’ll send an officer down to pick it up to bring it to Headquarters and we have to get it back to Germany.’ So that’s what we did. But it was quite a job I tell you.

RP I heard, someone told me, that one of the Germans was already dead. He had a bullet wound. Do you know anything about that?

CP They were all four dead.

RP They were all dead but I mean one of them was dead when it crashed?

CP Must have, ‘cos these two in front was, ‘cos they had their heads bashed to the floor………..

RP No but, what I’m trying to say is that one of them had been shot when he was in the plane?

CP Well I don’t know about that. Couldn’t tell you ‘cos we, all we done, we done what we could and then the airforce chap came, the airforce ambulance and four airforce police come and ‘course as we done all we done they took over. But when the ambulance took them out under and laid them on the ground for we to still search them for their private stuff they were four of them definitely dead. Well, when I got in the plane they were dead. But I can’t say whether they were shot, I never knew that. I don’t know whoever found that out.

RP I think it was a farmer who told me that one of them had a bullet wound.

CP I don’t know, how could he find that out ‘cos he couldn’t……….. ?

RP Well, I don’t know. Perhaps one of the medical people told him?

CP Ah, could’ve.

RP So they were laid out on the grass in the garden?

CP On the grass, and the ambulance come, and then the airforce ambulance come and took them away.

RP Down to the mortuary?

CP Brought them down here, to the mortuary down here. I got the doors on my garage. Cut the (several words ? unclear text) for my door. Then they were buried in the churchyard. Then after that they were exhumed and took back home.

RP Did you go to any other air crashes?

CP No. There was one out at ………………

RP At Meerhay.

CP One in your book. Where was that?

RP Well Higher Meerhay Farm. Up on Buckham Down. There was a crash there. That was a British plane.

CP And wasn’t there one at, was it Swanage? In one of your books? somewhere else you had it. I remember.

RP Yes, there was one at Lewesdon Hill

CP There were one or two smashes about wasn’t there?

RP Yes but you didn’t go to any of the other…….?

CP No the only one, the one in Beaminster.

RP Yes. Right. And you said you saw the aircraft fighting and one of the bullets fell down in the street.

CP Yes, Hogshill Street.

RP Did any bombs drop in Beaminster?

CP Yes, up Tunnel Road in the field and killed some cows. That’s the only ones. They used to fly over and back you see, never seemed to touch Beaminster but I suppose he was unloading his bombs, he dropped them in the field and killed six or seven cows.

RP Yes. Did they fly very low, the German aircraft?

CP Fairly. I mean, not very. Fairly low, but you see, what you said, I don’t know whether English planes used to come out to attack them but they used to come out and attack them over Beaminster sometimes. I don’t know where, Yeovil perhaps wasn’t there?

RP Wombwell. RAF Wombwell.

CP Some used to come (? unclear text) Always fighting up over. And then there was Hogshill Street. Walking up through the street on parade and these shots were coming down so I picked up this one, I’ll show it to you in a minute, I got a label on it. You know on the bullet. German bullet. I suppose it might be an English one.

RP Yes. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in Beaminster over your lifetime? what would you say was the biggest change that has taken place?

CP Well, not a lot I don’t see in a way. Only Market House was pulled down and that other place built there. But regards any alterations in Beaminster there weren’t a lot only, at the moment, a lot of fresh people come here and Beaminster people dying out.

RP Yes. I was thinking. So do you feel that it’s becoming a different town with all the people like us coming in. (Laughter)

CP I didn’t like to rub it in. (Laughter)

RP Well, we’ve been here 23 years so that’s getting on a bit………..

CP 23? You’ll be (? unclear text) No, I, well, anyway Norman Welsford (?) told me that he and Ralph Dibford (?) checked up the election last time they had it and all they could count was 125 Beaminster people for the election. That was all. All the rest was………………..

RP Foreigners?

CP Foreigners. (Laughter) Well, you said it. I didn’t. (Laughter) 23. But you, 23 years? Good God. You’ve been here some time then. Cor. Well you must be one of oldest over Mosterton …. (? unclear text)

RP Well, no, there are about six or seven people in Mosterton

CP Yes, but you must be getting on …………(? unclear text)

RP Well, yes, there are a lot of new people to us.

CP I know, there’s a lot here too. They go by here and I don’t know anybody. None of them. No, there’s only thing I’m thinking’s gone is the….. ‘ Course, the things I have seen change was the public house, was the White Hart Hotel built , Lloyds Bank was built, Public Hall was built, all by Chamber’s people, the builders in Beaminster. Those were built before I was born. There’s all new people. I can’t remember much has altered. Only like I say, people in Beaminster. Really place hasn’t altered much. Its about the same. Only ’tis altered now Workman’s has turned into a flat, that big house has gone. Grammar School’s been pulled down, building up there. And they’re making a road up Tunnel Road aint they? Roadway across to the school. How far up is that then? Past there, there’s the bungalows some way up there?

RP It’s about half way to the farm, the first farm on the left. It’s quite a way out. The road to the school. Did they ever drive cattle through Beaminster?

CP Yes, always. (? name unclear) was the chap used to drive them. He only had one eye. (Laughter) Well, used to drive all sorts through the Square. Cattle, lot of sheep, cows, all sorts. All about the farm that’s why I used to see all that there and they used to have a market here every Thursday up in the Square. Cattle market.

RP Oh. Right. So the place was a bit of a mess afterwards was it?

CP Yes. Cattle market. For sheep, pigs and goats and then they had a stall for poultry and then when they used to come there with their (? bread) stalls, dresses and all that all round the stall but they didn’t used to …… That’s the thing that’s coming up now before long. My grandad never used to collect from them because they were Beaminster people but when (? quite a bit of unclear text) he used to collect from them people £2 a night . As long as they stayed there. But Beaminster Square, you see, belongs to Beaminster and that’s what’s happening now with Dorset County Council. I had a talk to a chap on the….. (? unclear text) I suppose you know ’twas coming up about that. Fellow rang me up from Dorset Council the other day about it. He said, ‘I hear that you seem to know a bit about Beaminster.’ ‘Well, a little bit’ I said. And he said, ‘Well I’ve been told you have anyway.’ I said, ‘Who told you that?’ ‘Never mind,’ he said. But he said ‘I hear you know a bit about the Square.’ I said, ‘Yes, my family lived in the Square,’ I said. ‘My Grandad used to collect all the tolls at the gates, used to take the money from all the toll gates around Beaminster, and the money from the (? stalls) that come there, but not anything that Beaminster people used to use.’ He said, ‘How do you know that?’ I said ‘I know the Charter, 1284. I had it in my hands when we had to do the Square.’ I said, ‘And they kept it for four days. And on the back of that Charter was wrote, that this Charter, signed by Prince Edward, somebody or other, I think his name was Prince Edward, or somebody, that this Charter is for, this Town Square belongs to Beaminster people only for the use of selling of cattle or other things and it was on the back of the Charter and my grandad held that in the Square,’ I said, ‘Until Lloyds Bank was built in 1856 and when the bank was built it was put back in the bank.’ And he used to have a big iron safe up in the Museum and keep all the documents there.

RP You mentioned toll gates. Were there any….?

CP There were five.

RP Were any here when you were alive?

CP There was one. One up Toller Down Gate. There used to be one. That’s the only one.

RP Was there a toll house as well there at Toller Down Gate?


CP Toller Down Gate. Then there was another one down Toller Road here, at Whitcombe Road, called Toll Bar, little cottage there, there was one the other side of Toller which was the house they pulled down, along there. There was one up the end of Broadwindsor and Stoke Road across there and there was one at Bridport Road called South Gate. There was five and they always took the money they used to take and bring it to my grandad and he used to collect it and then Sam Cox up the Manor House he used to have to take it up the Manor House but nobody ever knew where the money went. (Laughter) Crafty devil. ‘Cos Cox’s you see, used to own all North Street, all Fleet Street, New Town and Shortmoor. All part of that place. Big people.

RP The Manor House, they were……. were they the most important people in the town?

CP They were, yes And up to 1909 or 1910 that was the only place that had a bathroom. There was no bathrooms in Beaminster. ‘Cos Trotman, his grandad, Fiennes Trotman when he lived in Hogshill Street, he used to come down by my dad, had the workshops and yard up Hogshill Street, and he used to say ‘Harry’, he said, ‘I got two baths for you to paint’, he said. ‘One hip bath and long bath.’ That was Trotman. And up in our workshop used to be full of nothing but baths about May and June, April and May, painting them for the Summer use. You had to use cold, put cold water first before you put in the hot water. Special bath paint. There was no baths in Beaminster, only one, Manor House. I remember that.

RP The baths were …………… you could carry them around then could you? You could carry the baths around?

CP Well, you know, big hip baths. Yes.

RP They were metal, galvanised were they? and you used to paint them, what, white or….?

CP Paint them whatever colour they wanted. Some was green, some was blue, some was white, some was yellow. They were all colours.

RP Right. What about toilets in the houses in Beaminster.

CP Well, never had no toilets. Had to go up the back garden. No toilets in the house.

RP None at all?

CP No. Everybody had to go up the garden. (Laughter) I’m going to have a cold night. (Laughter) Yes, I tell you it was cruel I reckon. Terrible I reckon. Them days. It was bad, it was very bad. Right up to until about after the First World War then altered after First War. Things started improving. People started having baths put in and toilets were put on. ‘Course then the water come from the spring up Whitesheet Hill and new reservoir got put in, built and put in there. And the streets were all covered in, putting the pipes in for all the water.

RP Before the First World War then, when you were a boy, with all these animals coming through the town and the horses and people not having baths, and that sort of thing, was it a very smelly place?

CP I should think so. (Laughter) You’d never (? unclear text). You wanted love and distance out in they days (? unclear text) (Laughter) Terrible.

RP People wouldn’t be able to wash their clothes very often would they?

CP Well, no I …….. ‘cos they used to have the water from the wells or the pump, see, pump and the springs that run down the Downs and these wells in the Square. Honestly the streets was terrible. The horses going about. There was cows being driven through, the sheep driven through there.

RP Any pigs driven through, or ………………..?

CP Pigs? Yes, pigs. One used to escape, used to have to run after it all round the street.

RP Any geese? Did they walk, send geese through?

CP Yes, I suppose. Poultry still. But honestly speaking, nobody can realise what our roads was like then. Filthy. Disgusting they were. That’s how I’d put it.

RP Did you see, did any of the farmers, when you were young, wear smocks?

CP Yes, they did. White smocks and a red handkerchief tied round their necks and a great big slouch hat. Used to see them walking, come down to the market and walking about. Coming down to the bank. Very often with his white smock on.

RP Yes. And they all….. did they wear all the same colour or were some smocks a different colour?

CP Different colours. Some was cream while some you couldn’t tell ‘cos dirt ………. (Laughter and unclear text). They was filthy, some of them were.

RP And what sort of dresses did the ladies wear?

CP Well great long frocks then. And boots, never see them with shoes on. Great big heavy boots. The men used to wear big hobnails and all that. Oh you can’t compare with things today really. They used to wear a lot of these big slouch hats. Lot of them used to wear them. Women and the men. I don’t know, used to be terrible. Well, I don’t know. It’s a big difference, I can tell you more, I can see a lot of change. And the roads was never rolled by a steamroller ‘cos there were no steamrollers about. the wagons had to roll in all the stuff on the road. Well, they used to bring it from up the other side the tunnel from Beaminster Down. Lot of the kilns were, stone kilns where they used to draw the stone. There was one up Whitesheet Hill, another one, several places they used to draw the stone from. And there was one at Broadwindsor. Look at all this stone here, it was all Beaminster stone though.

RP That comes out of the quarry at Broadwindsor?

CP Broadwindsor a lot of it. ‘Cos that’s lovely cut stone what’s there. (? unclear text, several voices)

RP Well, anyway, I think you’ve spoken a long, long time. your voice is getting a bit dry now so I think we’ll draw it to a close. Thank you very, very much.