Memories of Eastington – from 1920

Megan Timbrell has deep roots in Eastington. Coming from a long line of Eastingtonians, she was born in Cress Green and lived there for many years at what is now Cress Green Cattery . Her mother, Mrs Bliss, now 94, has written down some of her early memories of living here, and Megan has been typing and collating these. This is precious living history, and tells of a time – such a short while ago really – when things were so very very different..

Childhood Memories of Eastington

One of my earliest memories comes from the late 1920’s when as a small child I was taken by my father to a house in the lane from Cress Green to Millend. The detached house was called ‘Fairview’ probably changed by now*. Two sisters and their brother occupied the house. Both unmarried, one sister Kate Cole had only one arm, the result of a cycling accident when a girl, together with her older sister Lucy they looked after their disabled brother Charlie Cole.

Charlie was contained in the most deformed body I have ever seen. To move around he was almost completely doubled over, and could only shuffle along supporting his back against the garden fence as he made the daily trek out into the garden. He propelled himself along by moving what must have been grotesque feet (in specially made boots) one after the other with his equally deformed hands. But this twisted body was crowned with the face and head of a benevolent professor. Eyes always twinkling and ever a smile on his face, this is how I remember him.

He would come shuffling around from the back of the house to his little domain, a collection of small low sheds with a corrugated iron roof which I always found fascinating. It was affectionately known as ‘First Class’ and here Charlie would entertain his friends who visited him regularly. They were mostly the men who had befriended him in his younger days and taken him out in his basket wheelchair. There had been trips to Newnham on Severn over the river on the ferry from Framilode, then walking and pushing back over the 12 miles into Gloucester Railway Station, a train to Stonehouse and the walk home.

It was the custom of my father to visit Charlie on Saturday mornings and he nearly always took me with him. I would sit beside him in ‘First class’ on a low seat on which he had hoisted himself up and I would listen to him and my father discussing football, cricket, religion and world affairs, for Charlie was a great reader and had enormous piles of newspapers, magazines and books on the shelves of his little haven. His deformed body certainly had no connection with his very fine brain and intellect.

I look back on those Saturday mornings not only with nostalgia but with affection and gratitude, for though I certainly did not realize it while a 4 to 5 year old, they played a great part in my education of life. Charlie gave us a quality and richness that no media today could give.

What may seem strange is that I never at any time felt surprise or revulsion at his appearance. I just accepted it, as many of us did in those days, there being no sophisticated treatment or state help for anyone unfortunately to be born with any handicap. There was a care and neighbourliness for those in this situation, so sadly lacking in today’s world – for love and not financial reward.

Mrs Bliss

*‘Fairview’ is the house in Millend that was occupied by Mrs Smith when we came here 30 odd years ago. It has since changed hands a couple of times, been renovated and extended and is now known as ‘Frome Cottage’. Ed