Early Years

I lost my parents in the first war before I was two years old. My aunt took me in and I always called her mother. She’d got three daughters and she said that one more wouldn’t make much difference. She lost her husband around the same time. I was lucky; there was plenty of food and drink. There were cows, horses, pigs, chickens, geese, turkeys, you name it, we’d got it.

When I first went to her it was at Lower Penn, right down the bottom end as far as you can go, at the bottom by the church. There wasn’t a school at Lower Penn and so I went to "Wynn School" at Springhill. It was like a church school. I didn’t go there very long from Lower Penn because we soon moved to Penn Common. After we had moved I still had to go all over the common on my way to school. I never used to think anything of it; I used to skip along, singing on my way. I knew the common inside out; I saw a lot of changes. There were very few trees on the common when I was there. It was mainly gorse, grass and sedge.

Penn Common

It was very isolated. There was a cottage right past, which belonged to the Ferguson family. It was one of the old gatekeeper’s houses for the Wodehouse, I think. Then ours was on its own. There were woods there by Chamberlains Lane and one of the cottages by the old brewery had a brook going straight through the back yard and you had to go over it every time you went to the back door.

Alton cottages behind the old brewery.

There was a cottage up from us on the left-hand side of Chamberlains Lane where the Jowett family lived. It’s been pulled down now. Jeff Timmins lived in "Bug’s Hole" by the brook. We used to call him "Old Pear Pie" because he used to say, "I love pear pie".

There used to be watercress beds on the common down by the spring. They went right up to the "Stag" pub. Mrs. Leeks had the house by the "Barley Mow" and she used to sell chocolate in the cellar.

Old Mrs. Dickinson had a sweet shop by the brook at the top of the common by the pool and the "Turf Tavern".

My aunt was always into farming and when we moved to "Brook Cottage" she had more space, so she had more cows, about 24 cows. We used to sell milk. Her daughter and husband lived in the next house, they used to take the milk out and then her other son from Lower Penn had a place built next door to us.

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