This page is written by Les Slade, whose grandparents used to live in Siddington.
These are his memories of Siddington in the 1940s and 50s.
My father was Jim Slade and his sister was Ruth. They lived with their parents in one of a pair of isolated cottages, built in 1837 opposite a large field (now the playing field) that was used for grazing cattle and football (so it was mind where you tread). Matches were played mainly at weekends.
Their address was Park Cottages, Pound Lane, Siddington (now 36 Park Way). Other houses are now built around the cottages in what was, in the 1940s and 50s, my Grampy’s garden.
My Grampy Slade was a well-weathered character, a man of not many words. Granny was a lady, very clean, sweet and with a heart of gold. She kept the cottage spotless.
Their only neighbours were Mr and Mrs George Olan. I can’t say much about them, as I was about six and had little interest in much more than kicking a ball about over in the field with my
cousin, Martin Niven, only son of my father’s sister Ruth Niven, née Slade. Martin is a little younger than me and lives in Surrey
Both of us lost our parents some years ago. I lost my Dad at the age of 61 but have only recently, in 2010, lost my Mother at the age of 98, surviving dad by 37 years. She was a wonderful mum, fit as a fiddle up the last few weeks before her passing.
A little further up the lane from the cottage was a large stonebuilt building with very large doors that was used for storage by the Council.
Next door to it were the allotments (now Pound Close). These stretched alongside the canal as far as the iron bridge (The iron bridge crossed the canal at the end of Pound Close, where the disused canal is now bisected by the footpath that goes from Pound Close to the school). The allotment site was accessed through a central field gate off the pavement, more or less where the road is now, and there were many allotment plots either side.
Besides having a large garden my Grampy had big allotment, the first one on the right of the
entrance gate. The one opposite belonged to my Uncle Jim’s uncle (his father’s sister’s husband) He spent most of his time sitting on the wall watching the football. Like my Grampy, he worked for the Great Western Railway, but in a different depot.
Grampy worked on the railways as a ganger/plate layer (A ganger is the head of a gang of labourers. A plate layer maintains all aspects of the railway tracks). To go to work he would walk down the long cottage garden, pop over or through the wire fence at the bottom, which bordered the rail line from Watermoor Circumference to Swindon, and wait a few minutes for the trolley on the line to come by.
The trolley was a platform built on a bogie that was powered along the tracks with a push up down T handle. It took the workmen to their work depot,
which in Grampy’s case I believe it was in Moredon, Swindon. Once there they would start work, checking the line and securing any lose sleeper fittings.
After the day’s work the return journey was made on the trolley, with each man taking it in turn to operate the up/down T bar. With a day’s work that involved walking up one side of the railway line and down the other, checking railway line security, and this power workout on the way home, I doubt Grampy was a member of any gym.
As they approached Siddington the trolley slowed to a gentle halt just outside The Greyhound where Grampy would call in to collect his scrumpy cider in one of those reddish clay bottles with a cork stopper and a single circular handle for one-finger carrying.
I don’t doubt he may have had a swift one before setting off back up the railway embankment to
follow the line homeward, up the line towards Pound Lane and slipping down the railway bank just after the crossing the bridge into his back garden.
This area has now been built on and is known as The Twenties. I hope no trains come along, as the
houses are built straight along the old railway line!
Though Gramp followed the line home from The Greyhound it was not something the public were
allowed to do. The fine for trespass on the lines was, I think, £5. Perhaps it wasn’t something
employees should do either, but I suppose he was walking home from work.
Once in his garden he would walk past the chickens, ducks, a goat and not forgetting Mickey the dog. He knew when Gramp was due home and chase down the garden to meet him, through the small orchard of apple, pear, plum and greengage trees. They went up the path, high off the road, alongside a small dry stone wall that ran the full length of garden until it reached the flagstone area of the cottage. There it met a large, high privet hedge leading to an iron gate which was part of a simple iron fence that the hedges had grown up through. That was the way into cottage. There was another, smaller yellow privet hedge running to the border, again with the iron fence lost in the middle, very much in line with the plaque on the wall that still says ‘Park Cottages 1837’ to this day.
Looking to his left he would have seen a grassy slope leading up to a field gate, behind which was a small orchard and several goats. I believe this belonged to a villager known as Ran Jefferies, who
also had a small shop at the end of Pound Lane.
As Gramp continued up the path he passed a couple of long rows of gooseberry bushes, interspersed with red and black currant bushes. A row of rhubarb covered with rusting old milk
churns – ‘helps it grow, I think’ – this rhubarb bordered the wall of a large crop field. The ground between was full of all manner of vegetables. Gramp also had huge allotment just up the lane
At the this point there was a small curve in the path which brought it more to the centre of the garden, so on the left was a long flower patch with some big cloches. On the right was a large shed made out of corrugated panels. Inside was a bit of a magical mystery tour of what to me seemed to be mostly junk and lots of gardening tools and a couple of old bikes with funny lights on them. Worth a few bob today.
There were a lot of railway sleepers stacked around the back of the shed with a wooden sawing horse. Gramp would toss the sleepers on to it so that he and Dad (and me, sometimes) could hand saw them into short fire grate-sized pieces, forming a big stockpile through the summer ready for winter.
This is just over half way up the garden with the railway line now in the distance.
Now we pass the only toilets, tucked up against the wall. Once you were inside the air tight door (I think not) there was wooden construction built at two different levels, one side for adults, the
other for children, each with a respective size hole in the top to sit on and a piece of string holding a lot of squares of torn news paper for the purpose of! This construction hid two large buckets
positioned under the holes in the seats ready for ‘you know what’ to take place.
When the buckets were full, Dad and Grampy would dig a big hole in a space behind the chicken
run to dispose of their contents. Can’t really imagine it these days, can we? But it’s a fact – I saw it happen, peeping from a distance from behind a bush, as I was banned from the garden during
Anyway on past the toilets, the first part of the cottage is reached, this being the laundry out
house, with its flagstone floor. There was a copper for doing the washing, also a big well under the
floor and lever pump beside the wall with a stone trough to pump the cold water into. This was the
only water for the cottage.
In later years I remember there was tap that supplied cold water from a covered stand, with a large button to press hard for water that would stop as soon as you let go of the button. It was set on the path at the centre of the two cottages for each to share.
Almost there as we now pass the front door, leaving the area of flagstones and stepping onto a
smaller flagstone path within a few yards of the back door. Watch you head as you enter, stepping
down into the small but most lived-in room. It had very low ceilings; good job we were all small
There was a cupboard with jars of sweets and tin of biscuits supposedly hidden and out of reach on
the top shelf, from which Granny would get us some treats, but we soon found a way to that top
shelf, yum yum. It was the room where Gramp would take his seat, a high-backed wooden chair.
See them on ‘Flog It’ now – fetch about £100.
On many occasions my cousin Martin and I would stay with Gran and Gramp. The winter time was
very cold but as youngsters joining up with the other children of the village we soon forgot the
cold, chasing each other round the field. When a steam train went by we were like a scene out of ‘The Railway Children’, running and waving towards it. The trains would have passed straight
through what’s now The Twenties, up to Watermoor station and on to Cheltenham. When the train had passed it was soon back to our games, in and out of the old canal, scaling the old and broken remains of the lock gates. These were near the bridge that is still in use today (Upper Siddington Bridge). It runs alongside the edge of the playing field near the lovely children’s play area of today.
Gran would often take us to walk the dog up this lane, past the farm buildings on the right just
over the bridge where we could hear the cows at Chillingsworth’s farm mooing away, on to the end
of the lane. We would turn right and go along to the conker trees a short way up the lane, and
afterwards we would turn back with conkers bulging out of our pockets, some still in there spiky shells.
Sometimes we would see the black and white cows coming over the hump back bridge of the canal
and down the lane, turning right past the allotments, off to the milking sheds. We would stand on the rails of the garden gate but as they approached they seemed to get bigger and bigger, taking up the whole width of the lane, and in passing having a good scratch on our hedges, so by now we had retreated to a safe distance. Once they’d passed the lane was littered with free natural, hot garden fertilizer.
The other walk with Gran and Mickey (the dog), known as the ‘short walk’, was up through the
allotments, crossing the old iron bridge over the disused canal near the Rectory, along to the
school and down the lane, doing a bit of birds nesting or hide and seek – on reflection causing
Gran some distress, I would think. Turning left at the end of this lane takes us back past the
allotments to Gran’s home.
Staying at Gran’s, was very different from ‘sleep overs’ of today; no telly, no xBox, no mobiles, no electricity. So in the winter evenings we would sit round the table not far from the open fire of the range and play board games or simple card games like snap, Old Maid etc. We were both also
interested in stamp collecting, so spent many a happy hour sorting and filling in the Stanley
Gibbons album or building model balsa wood aeroplanes, not easy under the light of Tilley lamps with the smell of paraffin lingering in the room.
Bed time came round about nine o’clock. We didn’t mind as it was great fun. To get upstairs youwent through the front room up a very small, steep staircase straight into the first bed room (no door) and through this bedroom to the only other bedroom.
Getting into bed was the very best bit, making a large deep trough in the middle of a well-filled
feather mattress to snuggle into; better than any electric blanket. But Gran also put a hot water
bottle in the bed as well. Even the hot water bottle bore no resemblance to what we use today. It
was a clay-glazed cylinder with the fill-hole and screw stopper in the middle, wrapped in a towel
and placed at the foot of the bed, just where our tootsies would be.
She would put the potty – or to give it’s nickname, the ‘guzunder’ – under the bed. There was also a jug and bowl on a small chest of drawers in the room for us to wash with. When Gran got up to
see Grampy off to work, she took the jug and filled it with warm water for our morning wash.
Gran and Gramp didn’t have many luxuries but they did have a small accumulator radio. Now we
were tucked away it was time for them to have their ‘me time’.
On our visits we were woken by the Chillingsworth’s cows, Grampy’s cockerel and the dawn chorus but we soon got used to it, as it was in the country, not like the City of Cirencester which seems so far away.