Growing up in the 1940s
A few years ago I spent a very happy afternoon listening to the reminiscences of Hugh (known as Sam) Abbott, who was born at Lyndhurst, Ashburton in 1935. Afterwards I wrote up all that I could remember of that meeting. Sadly, Hugh died in January 2011 - but I think he would have enjoyed sharing his memories with a wider audience. I have written it as closely as possible to his own words.

Following this are memories from: Margaret Hawkins, Lot Sutcliffe, Ernie Smerdon, Margaret Ledbury and Mary Reeves, Pat Blayney, and June Labdon.


From Hugh Abbott:

'Harold Abbot was at Lyndhurst first * He came from Bowdley Farm.

Lyndhurst was left by Harold to his daughter Margaret, but it was effectively in the hands of her three daughters, Frances, Pamela and Ann. Incidentally, Margaret married a Perryman, a farmer at Yeo Farm: he was the second in Devon to have electricity, the first being Drogo Castle. **                                                                    

Above: Lyndhurst, circa 1960s
From my own collection

Francis William Smerdon (Frankie) Abbott, my father,  lived at Lyndhurst. The building opposite the house was stabling for a horse and carriage. There was a kitchen and scullery, with a larder and a copper. I remember huge bowls being hung on the back wall. We had a piano in one room, and a grandfather clock in the hall. There was a bathroom upstairs, but the hot water had to be carried up for it in large watering cans with lids.

I heard a story that the bottom newel posts in the hall had, at one time, glass globes on them, like upside down fish bowls. One day the sun shone through the hall door and through a globe which acted like a magnifying glass. It caught the stairs alight.

Frankie owned Rew Lea Cottages, and eventually moved to Woodawray. My grandmother lived with us. There were evacuees in the house during the war - my mother used one of the bedrooms as a food store, and had food piled from floor to ceiling. Frankie was a Special Policeman at this time.

I remember someone called Roberts at Cartlands - he had Raj connections. Miss Manlove was at Moorlawn. Colonel Rendell was at Torns - the hunt met there.

A Nosworthy ran the newsagents - I think Harold's wife was a Nosworthy.*** There was some connection with the Langler family, who owned what became Webbers and Christophers' yard.

The three daughters then sold Lyndhurst to a couple from the Belgrave Hotel'.

*William Henry Abbott, first owner on the deeds. In the Devon Kelly's Directory for 1914

** Wallace John Perryman married Alice Margaret Abbott 30 Dec 1919, Ashburton. (Western Times 3 Jan 1919 p 4 col 5)

***William Henry Abbott married Alice Nosworthy Rowe 18 Apr 1892 (Silver wedding reported in Western Times 20 Apr 1917 p4 col 4)

From Margaret Hawkins:
I was born at Stormsdown in the 1930's and moved to East End Terrace when I was eighteen months old. I lived there until 1959 when I married and moved away; my parents lived at East End Terrace until their deaths. During the war my father, William Aggett, worked as a lorry driver for M Caunter, who owned the mill under the arch close to the Bull Ring when it used to be in the centre of the town. He delivered cattle feed all over Dartmoor. He then went on to work for Mr Caunter's brother at Bickington. He was in the Home Guard, and used to have to sleep on Rippon Tor each week or so.
My father used to M.C. the whist drives in the town and and after the war he was a driver for Gayton's coaches - he was quite well known.
A house in Eastern Road opposite the Cottage Hospital was owned by Mr Gayton but was lived in by his daughter Mrs Salter and family. Billy Salter, his grandson, used to be an old boyfriend of mine. There was a house in West Street owned by Brian Baker and his wife who was a granddaughter (maiden name Jean Salter) of Mr Gayton. The garage business was sold during my father's time there to a Mr White who had a house built next to the Gayton Coaches site, below Big Lenny Hill. Previously he had lived in East End Terrace.
I so enjoyed living in Ashburton and had an extremely good upbringing there. I joined in all the activities and was even the Football Queen when I was about 15 - 16 years old.
Above: Old Exeter Road, where Gayton's Coaches used to operate.
Photograph R Bligh 2020
I started at Ashburton School and then passed the scholarship to go to Totnes Grammar School. My mother used to work in the canteen of the Ashburton School. I still remember all my old teachers - I was so happy there.
I used to play in the quarry pond at Big Lenny as we called it and the marble quarry next door during the mid 1940's. During the war the American GIs used to stop down the bottom of our terrace on their way to Holne Park and give us chocolates and candy. I remember the big party they arranged for us at Holne Park, especially the gorgeous food. They were there because they were rehearsing for the D-Day Landings and unfortunately about 3000 men lost their lives at Slapton Sands when they mistook German E-Boats for British ships. It was extremely sad but of course nobody knew at the time as it was kept secret for 50 years. After the war I used to go to Slapton Sands, where the galvanised fencing was still up, with Mr and Mrs Cartwright, neighbours of mine, for picnics. Mr Cartwright was the engine driver of Bulliver, the train that used to run from Ashburton to Totnes: it used to take me to school at Totnes High School for Girls which used to be for both day and boarding pupils. The Head Mistress was a Miss Briggs.
I grew up during the era of Mr Truscott being the Portreeve and I remember dancing the Floral Dance with him. One of my friends, Cyril Bowen, was the mayor after I left Devon but while I was there we did not have such a title.
Another friend, Elizabeth Matthews, lived at Place Farm off Balland Lane, and worked in the Paper Shop until she started her nursing training at Exeter Orthopaedic Hospital.
With many thanks to Margaret
From Lot Sutcliffe:

I grew up on Forder Green Farm, 3 miles south of Ashburton, so the trip into Ashburton was a regular occurrence. The South Devon Herdbook Society held biannual bull sales, one in Totnes at the old market place, above the Rotherfold, and the other at Ashburton market.
In the thirties my father went into Ashburton in his 4 litre Bentley open touring car, pulling a single beast cattle trailer, to  buy a bull. He set off up Woodland Road, straight over the old A38, and up Whistley Hill. When he got to the steepist bit the bull, through gravity and fear, pressed his rear firmly against the tailgate. The trailer only had a single axle, so this had the effect of taking all the weight of the rear wheels off the Bentley, which ground to a halt in clouds of smoking rubber. So he reversed all the way down across the A38, to the market. Here he recruited two market followers to stand either side of the bypass, to signal when it was clear, and when they did this, he accelerated as hard as he could, and just made it.
When I drive down Whistley Hill today, and see the two lanes of traffic nose to tail at 70 mph, I think back 80 years, and wonder if this is progress.
Another memory was the Great Blizzard of 46/47. After being cut off for three days, we walked into Ashburton, starting at first light and not getting home until evening, when we were absolutely exhausted. In many of the lanes the snow was level with the tops of the hedges, so we had to dig our way through.
This was all largely because my father, Peter, was feeling especially cut off, without any post or papers! Luckily, as we lived on a farm, food was all in situ, and wasn't a problem. It was a real problem, though, getting the milk out to the creamery, as the milk lorries couldn't get through with their churns.
With many thanks to Lot; also to Judy Marshall, of Around Ashburton, who first published Lot's account.

From Cary Bazalgette:
My father ran a community house for conscientious objectors in WW2 - St Bridget in West Street. I was born in the 1940s and we lived there until the end of the war.
A strange array of people came and went at St Bridget: my father used to reminisce about trying to find farmers willing to take eccentric-looking artists from London to work on their land. 
I have a very early memory of lying in my parents' bed, the head of which was positioned against the front wall between two of the windows on the top floor of the house. It is night time, and I am lying close to the left hand side of the bed, and can see out of one of the uncurtained windows. I see what I later discovered were several magnesium flares, dropping from the sky: they produce a brilliant, unearthly lilac light, and fall quite slowly.
The next thing I remember is being out in the back yard with my parents. My mother is sitting huddled in the outside toilet with the door open and I think I sense that she is afraid, or at least that things are not right. My father is standing in the yard and seems to be reaching up or gesturing towards the sky.
My memory then jumps to when I am back in bed, in the same position as before, and I can still just see one or two smaller flares dropping very slowly. My recall of this is entirely visual - I have no memory of any noise or anything being said.

Above: St Bridget, 42 West Street.
My own photograph, 2023

A factor that might have contributed to my parents' anxiety is that my uncle, my father's younger brother, who was a Lancaster pilot and squadron leader with the RAF, was killed on the way back from a bombing run on a V2 launch site in France. My father was very fond of his brother, but I think they had not had much contact during the war, and there were family tensions because of my father's commitment to being a conscientious objector, whilst both his siblings were involved in war work: my father and his brothers made very different wartime choices.. My uncle Will was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. If this event happened in the late summer or autumn of 1944, my father could have been very disturbed by the flares and what they might have implied for him.

One of my uncle's letters to his mother mentions a family gathering shortly after I was born. The letter makes it clear that he greatly disapproved of my mother and felt sorry for me being the child of such an unsuitable parent. He doesn't specify what the unsuitability consisted of, apart from the fact that she wore 'slacks', though I do know that she was a great fan of the repulsive Truby King*, whose methods probably scarred me for life. My uncle's relationship with his own mother was clearly extremely close and affectionate. Apart from the childcare issues, I do feel proud of being the daughter of a conscientious objector and having participated, at least as an observer, in the Labour election campaign of 1945 (there aren't many people still alive who can claim that)!

I have one other single wartime memory, again of a bizarre and to me alarming sight that I can't have made up or misremembered: this can only have been from when my parents went to see the results of the bombing in Plymouth. My memory is of the window of a jeweller's or silversmith's shop, completely filled from top to bottom with a jumble of dust-covered silver items (cups, vases, bowls, plates etc) which must have been blown into the front of the shop by a blast from a nearby bomb at the rear of the building and piled up in what was presumably an armoured glass window. I was sitting in the back of a car looking out (maybe on someone's lap): the car must have stopped because I had time to look properly at the shop window - I know they did that because they explained to me much later when I was examining a glass object, that they had found in the ruins at Plymouth, that they used as an ashtray. If they were ghoulish enough to do this soon after an attack (maybe poking around in recent ruins was a popular pastime?) then it must have been after the raids of August or November 1943. They didn't have a car at that time, so maybe they were taken by someone else. Alternatively it might have been after the war (if by then there were still plenty of ruins worth rummaging in), when they bought a second-hand Ford. My mother was able to get petrol because by then she was working for the Labour Party in its campaign for the 1945 election.

We stayed in Ashburton until I was 6, when the Society of Friends, who either owned or rented St Bridget, had to either sell the property, or perhaps give it up because the lease had expired.
With many thanks to Cary Bazalgette
See Brian Pollard's account of seeing magnesium flares in Exeter, in April 1942. - accessed 23-01-2023
*Truby King advocated baby care regimes that revolved around strict schedules and detachment - accessed 29-01-2023


From Ernie Smerdon:

 I lived at 69 North Street – my mother was born in the houses opposite (now demolished – these were where the strip of pavement is now). The Routley family lived in no. 92, and the Wottons in 94. Going back the other way The Gill family were in no. 90 and the Endacotts in 88.

Our house was large – we had 6 bedrooms. F J Badcock had lived in it once, and still owned it.* During the war, when we had evacuees, there were 14 in the house altogether.




                                                          69 North St today


We used to pick flowers and berries and sell them house to house. First of all in the year it was snowdrops, then daffodils from Lent Hill and primroses from Goosible Lane (sp?)** Later in the year we collected 'urts and chestnuts. Bluebells were no good for selling – they didn't last.

I used to save with post office savings stamps – they were 6d a time.

In those days it was considered OK to have a birds' egg collection – I made a box for mine in school.

Shiner Shelton*** married one of the Leaman girls. He was a barber at 2 North St, and then later at 40 North St. He used to ask us teenagers 'Anything for the weekend ?' We hadn't a clue what he was talking about.

Smerdon's was at no 4 North Street.

The Co-op occupied several buildings – the drapery shop was at 8 North Street, (this later became the pet shop) and the bakery was at no 30. The Co-op butchers was next to it, and the main grocery department was opposite at number 19.

Minnie and Mabel Butler had a haberdashery shop at 14 North Street – one of them used to give piano lessons upstairs.

Mr Mann had an accumulator shop at 4 West Street, and a shop across the road at 3 West Street. Accumulators were used for running radios – they were made of glass, and you could see when the acid was going down. You then took them into Mr Mann and exchanged them for a new one.

Mrs Sly was the Sunday school teacher – she lived in a big house opposite the church. Her parents had had a dairy. Dickie Jones was the choirmaster until Maureen Daymond came in 1954 or 55 – he was the husband of  Amy Jones.

Miss Hern lived in a large house just beyond the bridge at the end of Chuley Road. The house was at the bottom of a steep valley, which got filled in when the A38 dual carriageway was built. The house had oil lamps - no electricity. She had an orchard with cider apples, and a large cider press in the barn. We boys used to 'scrump' the cider apples, even though they were horrible.

In those days the quarry excavated black marble - it was quite famous. There is some at the South Dartmoor Community College.

*Frank Jackson Badcock, 'Builder, contractor, timber merchant, quarry owner and haulage contractor - Station Road'

Kelly's Directory of Devonshire 1935

** Goosepool Lane on the 1840 tithe map.

*** Bill Shelton married Rhona Leaman. Thanks to Linda Phillips for this information.

Many thanks to Ernie Smerdon


From Margaret Ledbury and Mary Reeves (nee Jones), twin daughters of the Reverend Prebendary G A B Jones and Mrs E M Jones

1945 - 1962

My sister Margaret and I arrived in Ashburton  at Easter 1945. We came straight from  boarding school to the Vicarage, our new home;  our parents had moved from North Devon while we were away. We were thrilled with the lovely Queen Anne house with its large garden, lots of room for us to play outside and a large bedroom each.  We  were 11 years old  and had spent the first years of our life in a small village, so this was an amazing  change.  Ashburton was a small market town but it seemed quite a large one to us.  Just a few thousand people lived there then, and much more traffic going through than we had known.  There were four main streets  with a Bull Ring at the crossroads,a large stone edifice with large iron rings  set into it on all sides.   It was very old, and presumably used to tether bulls during the cattle markets, for sale or for hire maybe.    There was also a Pannier Market, with many stalls or stone shelters  where people would come into the town to sell their  wares.  I remember a Medieval Fair one year when we all dressed up and processed to the Market and sold  the contents at our various stalls.  Margaret and I dressed up as nuns and helped at a Church stall, my sister sold a lot of tiles she had painted with  Saints and Canterbury Pilgrims! Many years later, long after we had left, it was removed for a large car park, much needed for a rapidly enlarging town.  West Street, where we lived, went out towards Plymouth, East Street met at the Bull Ring and continued on to the Exeter Road.  Across from these was North Street, leading up to the moor and the Ashburton  marble quarry.  Last was St Lawrence Lane leading down to the Cattle Market and the Railway Station.  In that street there was an old building which once had been a Grammar School but in our time was a Junior School and the Library.  The older children went by train to Totnes to the school there..  This Lane became flooded very quickly in torrential rain and the owners of the town houses there all had flood boards,to insert in front of their doors to prevent the water entering their house!

The town had a Portreeve  instead of a Mayor, and was appointed every few years, with an inaugural procession up to the Town Hall  and every year there was a Portreeve's Dinner.

In the summer we danced in the streets a floral dance with a band playing and we danced a folk dance to a particular tune.  We noticed that we lost some dancers as we approached a pub and there were quite a few of those on our route--but they returned later!
Above: The Wool Shop - 1940s? Also in the picture is H. Bracewell's at 2 North Street. A tobacconist and confectioner, the business also incorporated hairdressing.
From my own collection.


 There were several shops, owned by the people in them who were so friendly, we knew them well.  The Misses Butler, two lovely, smiley ladies owned the wool shop with lots of millinery items and their beloved cats were often on the counter.  They were Sacristans at our Church and also ran the Sunday School.  There were about 100 children who came every Sunday to the Church Hall and were given a little book to put a sticker in ( appropriate for the lesson they were taught.) We went of course and it was rather enjoyable.  Every year they all went in a bus for the Sunday School outing to Teignmouth with 6d to spend!  Also there was a Sunday School tea, lots of food  such as large buns with cream and jam and many different kinds of cake with squash, a great treat for us all.  Then each child was given a Sunday School prize, a book for them to take home.  I’m sure most of the food was provided by the large bakery, Barnes, all cooked on the premises.

Then there was the ironmonger’s Churches, we loved looking round it and you were able to buy just one candle or screw or nail etc.  There was a greengrocer and a grocer's shop, Parsons , who delivered your order to the door and would send up to your house with an assistant anything you had forgotten.  My mother paid her bill at the end of every month. There were three banks: Lloyds, Midland, and the National Westminister, and a Post Office. There were buses going through from Plymouth to Exeter and also to Newton Abbot - so it seemed such a busy  and friendly place to live in. 
A man arrived once a month to the Church Hall with an evening of  pictures to show us.  They were in black and white and silent but we did enjoy it all - Charlie Chaplin, Tom and Jerry, Abbott and Costello, as well as a main film.
When we first arrived in Ashburton there was a slum area. I visited the homes with my father shortly before they were pulled down and new housing built at the top of North Street.
We loved our time in Ashburton  and we still visit from time to time  - to a delightful but very different town  from what it was nearly seventy years ago.
Many thanks to Margaret Ledbury and Mary Reeves

From Pat Blayney:

We lived in a bungalow called Greenside, just above where Janet, Caroline and Robert Dawe lived. Marion and Jim Dawe were their parents, and Marion was Irish–I remember a Monsignor from Buckfastleigh visiting her. The grandparents of the children lived in a farm farther up the hill* leading to Buckland in the Moor, and I remember helping them do some haymaking and perhaps planting potatoes. I was only about ten or eleven then. There was a disused mine shaft on the farm property and my brother Terry and myself were a bit leery of that. I don't know whether it was properly closed or not. When I lived in Ashburton, Wilf Dawe worked on the farm but lived on the housing estate just across the bridge and towards Holne Cross. Wilf was Jim Dawe's brother, and Wilf and his wife had a daughter Pat, and also a son. It is very likely that upon the death of his parents, Wilf and family moved into the farm. I remember that one of the Dawes was a good artist.

The Masters family lived in the Druid area. Shirley Masters came to Toronto and was a nurse; she married a lawyer, I believe. There were two other Masters girls, Jane and Marion. Jane was beautiful and married a farmer. Marion married one of the Armstrong boys–I think his name was Tony. The Armstrongs lived on a farm on the way to Newton Abbot. There were two other Armstrong boys: one was Michael, who was articled at a solicitor's office in Newton Abbot. They were all involved in the Young Conservatives Party, as was I.

Later on we moved farther down to the Hollies and lived next door to the Teagues and the Yellands. My brother, Terry, used to be quite friendly with Gillian Tregonnaugh (sp?)

In those days, there was a burnt down mansion near Greenside, and the grounds there were a haven for us to play in.**

Upon leaving Ashburton High School/Greylands, I worked at H.B. Cook Hairdresser, where I served an apprenticeship. I worked there for just over three years and then emigrated to Canada with my mother.

During the time I lived in Ashburton there was not a lot for teenagers to do for recreation; for instance, there was no cinema and once or twice a week my mother and I used to go to Newton Abbot and sometimes Torquay to see a film or movie as we call it in Canada. There was an excellent tea shop in Newton Abbot called Madge Mellors.
I do really miss those days and didn't really appreciate the beauty of Devon and England as a whole until I left.
*Druid Farm
** Holne Cross
Many thanks to Pat Blayney

From June Labdon:
I was born June Rosemary at No 43 East Street, Ashburton in my name-month of 1933, the youngest of the three children of Florence and Arthur Horrell. My sister Hazel preceded me by nine years and my brother Edward (Eddie) by seventeen. Widely spaced, we never really knew each other as playmates in childhood, though we grew close as adults and remained so through our lives. I lived at '43' until I was married twenty years later; the house looks now as it did then, the front door set two steps above the pavement on the steeply sloping street.
I was educated first at Ashburton Primary School, at that time established in Station Road, where the head teacher was Mr Jan Bawden. He was supported by Florrie Thorne and Lucy Luxton, who I remember as severe disciplinarians of whom I was rather frightened. From the Primary School I went to Homelands Technical Secondary School in Babbacombe; I don't know why, as it was a most inconvenient and lengthy journey for a young girl; getting there and back involved three separate buses every morning and afternoon. Back home, I attended the Methodist Church and Sunday School (now the Arts Centre) at the bottom of West Street. All three of us Horrells had red hair, which helped to make me 'Carnival Crown Bearer' in 1937, and a 'Princess' a year later. The official photographer for the carnival was Mr Ruth, who had a shop in North Street; we posed in the garden behind Barnes' baker's shop in West Street along with the Portreeve, Peter Whitley, who sadly was killed in the war. I have given the original hand-coloured group photograph to the Musuem.
The minister at the Methodist Church in my day, the mid to late 1940s, was the Reverend Brian A Greet, or 'Bags' for short. Brian was good with young people; we had a flourishing youth club meeting upstairs in the schoolroom; we gathered round him like apostles around Jesus, ready for rambles, games or instruction. He came from a noted Methodist family in Bristol, his elder brother Kenneth an even more prominent minister in the church.
My father worked for the local council until he died a few days after VE day in 1945; he was 57 years old. Without siblings near my own age at home, I missed him greatly. Eddie joined the Army in 1939 and spent a largely uneventful war until 'D' Day in 1944, when the 6th Devons fought first in Normandy and thereafter in a series of engagements up through Europe until he was seriously wounded in northern Germany a few days before the fighting stopped.
Eddie's daughter, my niece Valerie, became Ashburton's Portreeve in 2019, as had her husband before her. Hazel became a WAAF during the war and subsequently trained as a teacher, working in schools in east Devon, where she lived mostly thereafter. She is still living in care, in her nineties, just outside Sidmouth. I left home when I married in 1953 and thereafter lived away from Ashburton, contenting myself as best I could with frequent visits to my remaining family.
My father's early death hit us all hard. Mum found work as a cook for St. Faith's, a private school which had been evacuated from Cambridge to the Golden Lion at the beginning of the war. She remarried later in life and lived in Woodland Road until she died.
I 'grew up' very quickly and started work at weekends in Holman and Ham's pharmacy in the Bull Ring, aged 14. I left Homelands School two years later and becane a dental nurse in Henry Dagger's practice in Newton abbot, an occupation I continued after my marriage, first in Plymouth and then wherever we lived until I retired.
My sister and I sometimes sang at concerts in the Town Hall, while Hazel and her husband, Ron, were members of a drama group called The Buckfast Players, founded by Moira Babbington, which met and performed in a small theatre Moira owned, halfway up West Street opposite the church. The three of us were all musical, though completely untaught; Eddie in particular was a gifted pianist and could improvise accurately by ear for hours.
Ashburton in the 1940s was much as it is now, except that the top of North Street has been widened, the old buildings alongside the river demolished and a lighter aspect to the town established from that direction. Back then, it was a dark, rather threatening road until it emerged higher up to turn up over the bridge at Headborough to Buckland and the moor, as it still does. Towards the top end, by crossing the road through an entrance cut in the retaining wall, you could start on the climb up and over Terrace Walk, eventually to descend through the housing estate where my Aunt Emmy lived at Higher Roborough onto the top of East Street and back down to the Bull Ring in the centre of town; Terrace Walk was good for sliding down in snowy weather, but you had to be brave, which I wasn't.
Ashburton by-pass was first opened in the year of my birth, 1933, and successively improved in the 1960s and '70s. New houses appeared around the Old Totnes Road, where my brother lived, and in other locations as the town grew, but its situation at the bottom of a valley surrounded by hills has prevented much 'sprawl', and it is still a compact market town. (without the market, alas). The other major change since my day - a loss in fact - is the railway down through Buckfastleigh and Staverton to Totnes, where one could catch the main line train to Exeter or Plymouth and beyond.A victim of Dr. Beeching, the line was closed in 1962, but after complicated negotiations it was finally reopened as a privately run recreational facility in 1991, but only from Buckfastleigh. In the 1940s the train was a one or two coach unit hauled by a tank engine universally known as 'Bulliver', which took Ashburton students (including my husband-to-be) to their grammar schools in Totnes every day in term. It was a most beautiful ride alongside the river, thought whether it is still worth counting the herons fishing on the margins, I do not know. Unlikely, I daresay.
Though I have not lived in the town since 1953, I'm an 'Ashburtonian' and always will be; my family has been an integral part of the town and still is. I love it, and always will. 
With many thanks to June; also to Judy Marshall, of Around Ashburton, who first published June's account.

From Hilary Ball:
Whenever I come home to Devon, I always pick up Around Ashburton and am interested in the exciting initiatives that Stuart and Jackie from the Post Office have planned for Ashburton as I was born at the Post Office 80 years ago.
My first recollection of the town was being taken across the road to Dawes grocery store, where there were large square tins of biscuits in front fo the counter (very tempting for a small child) and behind a large slab of cheddar cheese on a marble slab. This was cut with a wire, the size and weight to be accurate because of rationing.
I was a very reluctant pupil for school, with my mother trying to get me to walk down St Lawrence Lane, when Miss Luxton (Deputy Headteacher) came by and said that she would take me. I stopped crying when I reached Miss Simpson's classroom where, to calm me down, she allowed me to ride on the beautiful grey rocking horse that was at the front of the classroom. 
I never cried about going to school again.
The next year my teacher was Miss Holwell and at the front of her class was a toy shop made from cardboard boxes with little packets and boxes of pretend food so that we could learn words, numbers, weights and measures. Our books and pencils were kept in green cotton bags attached to the backs of our chairs by loops. These were sometimes in the way when, for deportment, we had to sit with our arms folded behind the chair. The headmaster was Mr Bawden and other teachers were Miss Brimicombe, Miss Blackler, Mrs Thorpe (for singing) and Mr Scragg. Miss Luxton looked after me when my grandmother became ill and became a friend for life. Although strict and a disciplinarian at school, she was a very kind and special lady.
Occasionally there were visits from the school governors, Amy Jones and Tom Cox would bring oranges that had been cut into 8 pieces, one piece for each child.
We had an all round education that covered, for exerecise, team games, country, folk and maypole dancing, always wearing our different coloured bands, but best of all, in the summer was swimming at the Golden Lion Hotel and sports day at the recreation ground. The grass was cut during the week and white lines painted for the lanes. Everyone was included as the races were varied: egg and spoon, three-legged, wheelbarrow, skipping, running and relay. In 1953 at the Coronation Sports Day I won the silver cup for girls of 11 and under.
In the last year at the primary school a trip was arranged for us to go to Windsor by train. We went on the river as well as looking around the castle - for a nine year old in 1951 an amazing adventure.
As well as school during the week I went to Sunday School in the Church Hall in West Street. It was run by Minnie and Mabel Butler, two sisters who had the haberdashery shop in North Street.
One would tell us stories from the bible and the other would play the harpsichord. We were given little collectors' books and each Sunday we attended we were given a coloured stamp of the story to stick in them. Now and again for a special service, like Advent or Easter, we would walk down the little patch to St Andrew's church to be greeted by the vicar, the Rev G A Jones. The organist was Mr Jones, husband of Amy but no relation to the vicar. He was replaced later by Miss Maureen Dymond. I used to watch the choir come in as my aunt, Mrs Lily King, was in charge of the surplices. They were all washed by hand, starched and line dried by the wind and then ironed by flat iron heated over the fire. They always looked immaculate.
I always enjoyed harvest with the church decorated with the wonderful flowers, fruit and vegetables so freely given. The centrepiece was always a sheaf of corn made of bread from one of the bakeries in the town.
A little later, moving down St Lawrence Lane, I was always fascinated by our town crier, Fred Wills, coming around the town proclaiming any news. He would stand on the Grammar School steps, ring his bell and then put it on the hook that had replaced his left hand. He would unroll his scroll and shout out the contents.
Having heard many town criers around the country I still claim that he was the best. One announcement always acted upon quickly was the one telling us the River Yeo (as it was then known) was going to flood. The majority of houses had flood boards which were fitted into U-shaped slots that had been screwed to the bottom of the door jambs. These were reinforced with putty closing up the joins. You then stood by with cloths and buckets 'Just in case'. The railway station being at the bottom of the town meant the water naturally flowed that way, and I remember St Lawrence Lane looking like the river itself with bits and pieces 
floating by. Despite modern technology we didn't get caught as people seem to these days.
Market days were always fun with cattle herded though the streets as well as being transported by lorries, trucks and trains. The cattle were penned up and then auctioned by Mr Sawdye shouting the prices loudly and at a speed, as a child, I could not follow. 
The blacksmiths were just up the road from the Grammar School and it was fascinating watching them shoe the many horses from Suffolk Punch to Shetland, feel the heat of the brazier, hear the clang of the hammar on the anvil and smell the burn of the shoe on the hoof. 
Our milk was delivered by Mr Stanbury who had a dairy at the bottom of Woodland Road. We never needed to lock our doors in those days so a jug and cover were left on the hall table. From his horse and cart Mr Stanbury would use a milk copper measure filled from the churn and fill up the jug.
We lived next to the funeral directors, Webber and Christophers, but other people in St Lawrence Lane were Michael Roberts, Pauline and David Woodley, Mrs Thorne, Miss Luxton, Maureen Dymond and Thelma Webber. Around in Ladwell Square were Maureen Morgan, Evelyn and Sally Potter and Elizabeth Naylor. 
Another shop near to the blacksmith's was the Misses Mann's sweet shop. As teenagers we went there for a gassy red or green non-alcoholic drink and a 3d packet of Smiths crisps complete with the salt in a screw of blue paper. It had a separate closed cubicle with a table and seating for four people. We felt very grown up.
As well as street parties for VE and VJ days the town arranged one in 1949 when Jack French returned to Ladwell Square, a hero from China. He was the only telegraphist left alive on HMS Amethyst after coming under fire and then being trapped in the Yangtse River. To keep communication lines open he went without sleep for six days, aided by Benzedrine from the doctor and, I believe, sardine sandwiches. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. The incident was made into a film, Yangtse Incident, which starred Richard Todd.
Mrs Coole from the Wool Shop in West STreet was an asset to the town and a great organiser. In the early 1940s there was a large American Services Camp set up in the big field opposite the entrance to what is now the River Dart Country Park. She arranged talent shows and concerts for their entertainment. Then she started 'mannequin parades', first at Barnes Café and later at the Town Hall. 
Above: One of Mrs. Coole's fashion shows at the Town Hall, 1959.
Bridesmaids (left) Evelyn Potter and (right) Hilary Webber.
With many thanks to Hilary Ball.

As my grandmother was a seamstress she would help on these occasions, and then became involved with Carnival and then Medieval Fair costumes.
That was a fantastic week with so much going on. At that time we still had the original market behind the Town Hall, complete with its wooden stalls with shutters and the old town stocks. Woe betide you if you did anything wrong as you were put in these.
There were parades, various enactments of events, a mock trial, archery in the Rec, to name a few. Then in 1951 the Roboroug Hall was built as a community centre for the top part of the town and the opening was celebrated with a concert and cutting of a cake.
Above: The opening of Roborough Hall c 1951. The photo includes Mrs Coole, Mr Arscott and Mr Gamer. Hilary Webber is blowing out the candle.
With many thanks to Hilary Ball.
I remember the 1/3rd of a bottle of milk at school playtime; the river at Stone Park; the horse chestnut trees in Parish Road that produced the most fantastic conkers; the ride on Bulliver to Totnes for school when I was 11 and its whistle to let everyone know when it was about to leave; the older men gathered around the Bull Ring; the friends' walk and picnic up at Buckland Beacon; running home at night around the churchyard after my piano lesson with Amy Jones; playing games in the Rec; the bread weighing and ale tasting; dancing the 'Furry Dance' in and out of the houses; and the air raid siren on top of the Grammar School going off to summon the volunteer firemen to the fire station, no phones or mobiles in those days. Many many happy memories, but the things I miss most are the church bells ringing and the sound of a fast flowing river. 
I feel extremely privileged to have spent my youth in and around Ashburton: we had friends and freedom, Brownies, Guides with Miss Harvey, St John's Ambulance classes, Sunday School outings in the summer to Teignmouth or Paignton, and British Legion outings in the winter to the pantomimes in Exeter or Plymouth. There was always something going on.
With many thanks to Hilary Ball, and to Judy Marshall who first published Hilary's memories in Around Ashburton