(Some reminiscences from Richard Stevens)

I was telling a story the other day in the village, it was an old one, and I was surprised that no-one had heard it before. Then I realised that it had happened over 50 years ago. So (as we say now) I decided to write down some memories . . .

Well, in the days when there were four pubs in the village, one of them was called The Fountain. It was adjacent to the King’s Head, and had been run by Cecil (“Sash”) Noble. He had died a short time before I moved to the village. If you said you lived in Whiteparish anywhere in the world someone would say "Oh, you must know Sash Noble", who evidently had been someone big in the timber industry.

Sash was well loved by the village and as his business grew, he decided to move to larger premises. So he announced that he was moving, and that on Tuesday next he would hire a charabanc—that’s what they called a posh coach in those days—and would take all his customers to his new place of business. So many a villager gathered at 6 o’clock (that’s when they opened then) and had a few drinks in preparation for The Journey. At seven pm the charabanc drew up outside The Fountain and Sash and his customers mounted the said bus. The door was closed, the excitement grew, the driver made a smooth getaway—but after seven yards pulled up at the King’s Head and Sash invited all to have a drink with him at his new pub.

Cartoon illustration of a charabanc (with somewhat jolly passenger load . . . )
A charabanc (but not the charabanc)

This is where I met Mabel Noble, a lady who was an excellent publican. In those days there was a wall between the Saloon and Public Bars extending from the chimney breast. As a new villager, fresh from London, living in ‘them new houses at Meadow Court’. I tried to enter the Saloon Bar, and after a few moments Mabel would slide the bolts back and open the door, and I would have a pint in solitary silence. This happened for about ten days, but gradually I realised that in the public bar, ‘villagers’ were having great fun, and on my next visit I entered through the portal of the Public Bar. There finding the friendliest folk.

Photo of Mabel and Sash Noble behind the bar in the Kings Head with equine friend
Mabel and Sash Noble (with friend)

After a couple of days when I asked for a drink, I was told to help myself and put something in the till. Everyone was playing dominoes or Shove Ha’penny and were far too busy to serve me. Some names escape me but to list a few . . .

A guy who worked in the atomic weapons store under Dean Hill (known locally as "Dean Dump").
Clem Collins the cobbler whose shop was in The Street and was never accepted, at the age of eighty, as a true villager as he was born in Salisbury and did not move to Whiteparish until a week later.
Mr Till who had the saddlery shop in the street.
Cyril Taylor who was always in the King’s Head, I think he helped Mabel with the beer, which was sold from the back of the bar, where all those cocktail things are now. The beer was in wooden barrels and poured through a spigot, later the barrels were aluminium. The modern beer may be cooler, brighter, longer lasting, but believe me it is not as good—thank you Cyril! He worked with cattle and suffered for some time with ‘Wooden Tongue’
Mrs Taylor, owner of the grocery shop.
Mr Hadley, the landlord of the White Hart, would pop in.
Mr Steiner who owned the dodgem set-up from Salisbury, who came in with Gerald Parsons of Whelpley Farm. The two of them were always in particularly good form on the way back from Salisbury races.
Mrs Tanner was a regular, she lived in the house opposite, called "Sixpence"—you have to be old to get that one.
Then of course there were the Hammond Brothers who ran the Butcher’s shop adjoining the White Hart, though actually they were Methodists.
Mrs White did not have a shop but ran a newspaper delivery service from her house in Green Close.
The Surgery used to be in Wisteria House—currently being modernised.

We used to park in the King’s Head back yard, now being covered by the conservatory. Occasionally the Hunt Meet gathered in the yard—one can imagine horses, hounds and well-wishers packed in there. This was when country folk did country things. On Boxing Day, the meet was in Salisbury Market Square. Alas all gone.

The village policeman John Barrow used to live on the corner of Green Close and one of his duties was to check that the licencing laws were observed. Now it was the custom in other villages for the local copper to make his rounds at closing time. He would have been offered a cup of coffee, and if he accepted it in a pint tankard, all relaxed and jollity continued.

Then there was Sid the postman who I still see about the village. One day he noticed a strange car following him and when he went into the King’s Head to deliver the post, he mentioned the strange car that had followed him. He was persuaded to get on to Post office security to report the matter. This he did to be informed that there was no need to worry about the strange car as they were doing a security check on the local postman. According to local legend the car spent some time observing the pub entrance as Sid and his bike were bundled over the fence at the back . . .

Mabel used to run the Harvest Festival in the bar which was packed with stooks (you look it up) giant marrows, pumpkins and offerings of fresh vegetables and other more general prizes. Well I asked my friend Barry to attend this once-annual festival and he enjoyed it to the full. We were parked outside and started to load our purchases. Inadvertently he entered the adjacent Fountain Inn and came out ashen, saying that it had all changed—even the bar was in a different position.

In about 1983 there was an enormous explosion. My wife Diana was at home and, seeing the windows shaking, she grabbed the children and covered them with cushions. Some villagers thought a Jumbo Jet had landed in the fields to the North of the A27. Others, not knowing what had happened, took to their cars and drove to West Dean. Meanwhile the folk in West Dean thought there had been an explosion in Dean Dump. (Dean Hill is riddled with passages, and was used as a Naval ammunition dump.) They took to their cars and drove to Whiteparish. Dean lane is not wide. It transpired that the explosion was from the firework factory in the old chalk pit.

Having touched on the Dean Dump, another incident that comes to mind was the night that an atomic device fell off a low-loader on its way to Dean Dump. A friend phoned to say we were in a quarantined area. The roads were in lockdown, but my friend said he knew the way through country tracks, and anyway he was wearing a World War 1 gas mask. It was a pitch-black night. We got very close. I apologise for this ridiculous behaviour. I think it must have been pre the current drink-drive laws.

Nurse Joan Witchell—a village stalwart if ever there was one—used to run the Whiteparish Fete, and somehow or other I found myself the chairman and due to an excess of enthusiasm we decided to have Whiteparish Week: Cricket, Badminton, table tennis etc competitions every night and Coles Fair on Friday and Saturday which included Dodgems and Ferris wheel. The first year we were on the Memorial Ground and the next behind the original vicarage, where Roger Keeley was then the full time vicar.

Richard Stevens

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