Back in Burrowbridge

Nov 18th, 2009 | By | Category: Personal Columns

Getting ready to head out into the darkness for a diocesan committee meeting, the years slip away to a moment recalled here previously.

The drive on that evening in the early 1970s was not a street lit, traffic-filled dual carriageway, but a winding unclassified road through a very rural part of Somerset. The headlights lit up the steep banks on either side of Turn Hill  There were coloured lights on the dashboard of our old Austin Cambridge; the only one that was easy to understand was the blue light that told you whether your headlights were on full beam.  The hill has a hairpin bend, we probably drove down at no more than 20 mph.

It was 4.40 and we were going out for our tea before going to the Christmas bingo at Burrowbridge village hall. No memories of the tea remain, but the bingo night remains vivid. There were lines of wooden folding chairs with an aisle up the middle and on the stage one of those machines that blew ping pong balls around in a rectangular glass box. There was an opening in the top through which the caller would push his hand to take out the numbered balls.

The men running the bingo (they were all men) were big countrymen. Solemn as undertakers, they all dressed in suits and conducted the whole evening with a great deal of gravitas, as though levity might in some way call into account their integrity. A book to play the ten bingo games cost twelve and a half pence. Everyone would have bought tickets for the raffle as well. Each game came in two parts – there was a prize for the first person who completed whatever line they might call out – top middle or bottom and then a bigger prize for the first person to complete the card.

The prizes were brilliant, there were turkeys and hampers and bottles of sherry and boxes of chocolates. It was no wonder that the hall was filled to capacity and the overflow sat in the kitchen where the serving hatch was open so that people could hear the numbers.

The air was electric as each game approached its conclusion. To be able to shout ‘house’ seemed to generate as much delight for a winner as they would have felt if they were lifting the FA Cup. There would have been a huge wave of conversation as the winner’s card was taken to the front to be checked. Once a person had made a false call, a number had been misheard; beetroot would not have described her colour.

We were rustic and unsophisticated and easily pleased, but no night in the West End, no dinner at the Ritz, no dancing to an orchestra, could have matched the excitement of Christmas bingo in Burrowbridge village hall.

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  1. Ian another wonderful personal memory, I can remember coming home from Middlezoy one night in the summer, mid 70’s pushing my bicycle up Turn Hill wondering what the glowing in the verge was…….the one and only time I have ever seen Glow-worms!!!!
    On the subject of village halls, do you remember the fantastic childrens parties, held about every February in High Ham village hall ??

  2. I looked out the window with the car lights going down the dual carriageway and thought of the trip to Burrowbridge – when I did a serach I found that I had written about it three years ago, but that’s a thousand posts ago!

    Turn Hill always fascinated me – it was like a cliff face in the middle of very gentle countryside. Someone must have given it to the National Trust at some time.

    I used to love those parties in Ham hall. There were great games and a huge tea. I remember going to the hall for Sarah’s 18th birthday party in 1982 and the place had shrunk!

  3. Ian, I think I have got this right…….I believe that Turn Hill was given to the National Trust along with Stembridge windmill (the only thatched one left in England) by Prof Hugh Bellot who owned them both…I will need to check this out for sure,,,,

    I too have been to the Saturday market in the tiny village hall too….yes it has shrunk, and thats with the old stage removed………must have been removed to stop people falling over the edge….(‘elf and safety gone mad again) I wonder what H&S would have made of the hockey game we used to play at the childrens party…..the tied up sack we used to beat back and forth with the ‘hockey sticks’ cut from the hedge !!!! mmmm I remember the egg sandwiches and huge creamy trifles……

  4. I have never heard of the professor before!

  5. Professor Bellot left the Windmill, cottage and garden to the National Trust in his will in 1969….I have had a search but cannot find reference to Turn Hill being given to the Trust by Prof Bellot, but I am sure it was….I dont think I ever saw the prof, he must have been around when we were kids though…….I can remember my Mother and Gran making mention of him….It was probably due to his bequest to the Trust…….I seem to remember the Mill was in a sad state then the National Trust did it up and put the sails back on……I’m now like a dog with a bone I need to find out if Turn Hill was given to the Trust by the prof!!!!

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