Made in Fifield

My maiden name was Hilary Pritchard.

Idbury School class photo 146/47 Mrs Fletcher on left and Miss Bachus on right Second left front is Hilary Pritchard (later Hilary Allen)

I was born on Christmas Eve, 1942 at Elmdene, Fifield, my grandparents house at the bottom of the village, to Ethel (nee Gorton) and Albert Pritchard.

My earliest memories are of living at Holly Tree Cottage in the High Street are that it had three holly trees bordering the road. At Christmas time, the locals would climb onto the stone wall and pick the holly for decorations, not knowing dad was behind an old oil barrel in the garden shooting air pellets into the air to frighten them off!

One day an area in the cottage had a flush toilet installed with a window opening directly into the cow yard where the cows would poke their large heads through the open window. At least we did not have to use the ‘carsy’ anymore, although the tin bath was still a weekly event.

I remember walking with dad up the Stow road to the Merrymouth and he showed me an unexploded bomb lying under the hedge.  He said, “you must never touch those if you see any my gal.” Dad worked up at Little Rissington aerodrome as he was in ‘the only Army that never retreated’- as he would say- it was of course -The Home Guard!

At aged four and a half years, I started school at Idbury. Clutching a 2/- coin (florin) for my week’s lunch, we were told to walk between two telegraph poles and run between the next two, until we got to school. Teachers were Head Teacher Mrs Fletcher and a Miss Salter. I was a bit of a teacher’s pet as Miss Salter had taught my mother at the same school.  I can still smell the school dinners being brought into school in large canteens, smelling of boiled mince – yuk!

Playing in the playground one day a plane flew over and exploded right above us. The burning fuselage fell down around and set a wooden bungalow opposite us on fire. We saw the pilot eject, float down by parachute and land in the garden of Robertson Scott’s house. At first, we were told to lie spreadeagle on the playground and then quickly ushered inside.  I remember cowering under the seat in our front porch at the cottage, petrified by the loud bangs from the planes that were attempting to break the sound barrier. Mrs Neville came across the road with the largest strawberry I had ever seen to tempt me out!

In 1947, Fifield was cut off from the surrounding villages by the heavy snow and grandad, Frank Gorton, dad and other locals helped to dig a passage through the snow to Milton.

Grandad had an allotment but also worked for Mr Cameron in his large garden which stretched from the top of Church road, by The Vicarage and down to the spring at the bottom where the watercress grew. By the side of Elmdene, one could walk past Mr Ferriman’s house to the field where grandad played bowls and mum and dad played tennis on the courts there. I could smell the scent of the wild cowslips, but nowadays there are none to be seen.

After the war many new council houses were built and gran and grandad Gorton moved to a bungalow at St Michaels Close at Shipton under Wychwood. In 1949, we moved to The Sands in a newly built council house at Milton under Wychwood; by this time, I was seven years old.

(to be continued).

Hilary Allen

February – March 2022