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A village history in West Sussex


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By John Sexton                                                            Click Here For Photo Gallery

My family history can be traced back to 1863 when my great-great grandparent's Eliza Savage married Benjamin Goodchild, a soldier based at Aldershot in the 24th regiment at Westbourne church. It is thought he was killed in the Zulu war in 1879. My gran's mum Ann married an itinerant skilled carpenter called James Barter about 1887 and he had various jobs around the country with his family. About 1910 he eventually settled down at a little village in South Wales called Bwlch (which means pass in Welsh) on the A40 between Brecon and Crickhowell where his family grew bigger. My gran was still living in Prinsted with her beloved granny Goodchild and didn't want to go to Wales.  Things would have turned out differently if she had gone to live there. However, she went on to get married twice and ended up in Westbourne via Prinsted and Slipper Road, Emsworth. When the family were living at Prinsted my dad Arthur, two brothers, Jack, Ern with sister Win went to the old Southbourne School.  The school was pulled down after the war and the Southbourne Social Club is now on its site. You can still see the school walls along Stein Road. Sadly Uncle Jack died of tuberculosis aged 24 and was buried in Westbourne Cemetery. He died in Auntie Win’s arms. He was always well thought of by everyone. My Auntie Win went on to join The Salvation Army in Westbourne and left home to do her training.  She met a fellow Salvationist called Eddie Watchorn a plumber from Loughborough. They were stationed up in London during the blitz.  They later had two children, Peter and Christine.

My gran, May Barter married Arthur Sexton in 1910 and lived in his home city of Portsmouth where it is believed he worked in the dockyard as a painter. His father, John Francis Joseph Sexton was a boiler maker in the dockyard in the late 19th century. My grandfather joined the Coldstream Guards when WWI broke out but didn't make the grade as his lungs were bad. Maybe they were damaged through his work as a painter.  Later on he joined the Labour Corps, a forerunner of the British Royal Pioneer Corps. Sadly he developed T. B. and was invalided out of the army; he died just after the war ended. I guess they went back to Prinsted to live in its fresh air and my gran missed her beloved granny Goodchild. My gran got married again to Charlie Hamm a stretcher bearer during the 1st world war. When he died in the thirties, my gran a poor widow and her six children ended up in Westbourne.

Before the last war I know my dad took part in gambling up on the common at Monks Hill and they all used to run like hell when the police raided them. He remembered that early in the war decoy beacons were randomly deployed on lorries with powerful lights directed upwards into the night sky. The aim was to divert enemy aircraft away from the airfields at nearby Funtington and Thorney Island. Later when the D-Day soldiers were gathered in the woods above the village they gave away some their possessions to people before moving out to the battlefield. Earlier in the war my dad escaped from Dunkirk by swimming out to a battleship. He threw down a load of cigarettes onto the deck for the lads. His playing in the mud and swimming around Prinsted harbour as a boy made him a good swimmer.  Thinking back to years ago, I must have been about seven; my dad took me down to Prinsted seaside for a paddle. Holding  my hand he walked me out into the sea and I remember the sea came right up to nose and I started to panic a bit as I couldn't swim. Laughing, he pulled me back ashore. Maybe he was remembering his day at Dunkirk.  He did tell me he'd never known such panic with some blokes trying to bury themselves into the beach. In 1944 my dad was in the second wave of Chindits to go into Burma. He said he liked George Formby as he made the troops laugh but didn't like Vera Lynn as she made the troops cry. The West African soldiers used to scare the crap out of the Japs; or words to that effect. We and the Japs used to spend our time sneaking around in the jungle trying to avoid each other.  I dare say that does make sense in certain circumstances.  He always had great admiration for the enemy. I think that helped him to survive. His regiment the Yorks and Lancs were based up at Pontefract Yorkshire. He was billeted out at a house in Leeds where he met and married my mum. My sister Janet was born the following year in Leeds.

The Sexton and Hamm families were living in Westbourne from about 1930 to 1962. My granny Hamm and family first lived at 7 Gainsbourgh Terrace, which was later pulled down, before moving into 4 Lansdowne Terrace. My dad returned to Westbourne in 1952 with his family after being demobbed from the Army. My late sister, Janet, could remember him wearing his demob suit. I know when he left the army after the war he got a job as a labourer on the railways but got fed up and rejoined the army. He said they were going to send him back to India but someone noticed he'd already been there, so they sent him to Germany with my mum and sister. While there my sister started to speak German. In the café the soldiers used my dad said my sister Janet used to shout out ‘schöne Beine’ (lovely legs) if she saw a pretty lady walking towards the café when all the lads would rush over and have a look. In the eighties dad gave me a wooden carving of a dachshund on a base with an inkwell either side and wrote on the back Berlin 1947. After I gave it back to him my brother Arthur went and sold it down the second-hand shop at Westbourne.

They returned to Westbourne when my dad was demobbed in 1952. My sister went in to a local shop and asked the lady behind the counter for a box of matches in German for dad. The lady behind the counter hit the roof! In 1953 I was born in the Northlands Maternity Hospital, Emsworth, since pulled down to make way for part of the A27 motorway between Havant and Chichester. Later we moved to Woodmancote till 1963 when I went to live in Leigh Park. My dad lived in Woodmancote from 1954 till 1991, when he was taken into Chichester hospital where he died aged 77.  Ironic really as he helped build the place.

My Aunt Mavis, nee, Sexton got married to Eddie Gale, a Southampton man, during the 2nd World War. He had an interesting time as he wanted to fly planes but they found he was colour blind so he served in RAF Transport as a lorry driver. My dad jokingly said  that Uncle Eddie spent his time in India and Burma driving around in a jeep.

He became an ambulance man after the war and would bring his work home and park his ambulance opposite The Cricketers pub in the late 50’s, early 60’s.  During the war my Aunt Mavis Gale and Aunt Evelyn Hamm were half sisters and worked at the Emsworth Laundry on New Brighton Road. My Aunt Mavis sometimes had to be a fire watcher with a friend on the top floor during the war. Scary!  Later it was demolished to be replaced by the St Thomas Catholic Church. Also my Aunt Mavis was a cleaner at The Cricketers in the fifties. She said she used to clean up after the Buffalo Charity meetings.

I remember walking each day from my home in Woodmancote to Westbourne School, a mile and a quarter along Duffield Lane then Cemetery Lane, past the Army Camp.  Things were made much worse when I was set upon by a couple of boys from a house along Duffield Lane - I managed to run faster than them. On the way home I decided to walk the long way round - like you do - along Foxbury Lane and right at the old Slaughter House to Woodmancote. Many years later I told my dad about what had happened and he said he would have gone over and filled them in. I don't think he was joking.

 This long daily walk didn’t last for long as I started to stay at my granny Hamm's house in Westbourne during the school week and went home to Woodmancote at the weekends. She only had one gas light in the living room at 4 Commonside and went to bed by candlelight. I remember on a Sunday evening before school next day, sitting in the old tin bath in front of the fire and on the radio would be, Sing Something Simple with the Adams singers and their old squeeze box.

There are fond memories of Westbourne School in the early 60’s, particularly the tasty school dinners - a nice bit of crackling for seconds.  We all had our usual small bottle of milk during break time. I used to think the pint bottles they delivered were for the teacher's break time.  I remember going for my final polio jab with much consternation, only to be given a lump of sugar by the nurse. It was fascinating to watch the house martins nesting under the eaves of the main building.  I often wonder if they still nest there every year. On one occasion our dog Rex, a Welsh collie, followed me from Woodmancote and was running around the school playground playing with the school children. My Aunt Mavis, who lived up the road, had to take Rex back home and not for the first time! She was not amused. One day at school the Head Master, Mr Whiteland, I think his name was, gave a girl and me a lift home in his car through the flood waters of River Street as the River Ems had burst its banks. I used to love watching the swans landing on the river.

  In the late 50’s my Aunt Mavis and Uncle Eddie were members of the Emsworth St John Ambulance Brigade. Uncle Eddie was a professional ambulance driver and would bring home his ambulance from where they were stationed at Potash Terrace, Havant.  They built an ambulance station about 1961/2 in Leigh Park.  My Aunt and Uncle moved to one of the centrally heated flats above the station there, along with my granny Hamm. I was in the St John Ambulance Cadets in Leigh Park, did duties at Havant cinema around 66/68 as well as Hayling Island sea front. I remember going down to Hayling with my Uncle Eddie in an old black vintage ambulance that the Emsworth Division owned about 1965.

Thinking back about my childhood has been like being on a psychiatrist's couch - without a psychiatrist