Scrapbook existence

Jan 10th, 2012 | By | Category: High Ham and Somerset

In 1965, the High Ham branch of the Women’s Institute produced a scrapbook of village life to mark the Jubilee of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes.  Perhaps this was a national initiative, and each branch made its own scrapbook of the year; if so there are, perhaps, hundreds if not thousands of such scrapbooks in existence.

Someone in High Ham has reproduced that scrapbook, having each page scanned and printed on high quality paper.  Each page of it is a delight, the photographs and the handwritten items providing first hand accounts of the place that was home and I am grateful to primary school classmate Les Plant for a copy.

There are faces instantly familiar, Miss Rabbage our school teacher conducting the WI recorder group brings memories of the discordant  noise we would generate in the classroom. But those most recognizable are those whose work brought them to our door.

‘Nipper’ Knowles drove a milk float for Cricketer Dairies and called six, if not seven, days of the week; the crates of gold and silver topped milk bottles announcing his progress along the road. His passing resemblance to footballer Alan Ball made him easy to identify. Den Legg is pictured with a basket of bread in his right hand. ‘Maisey’s Door to Door Shop’ declares the sign along the side  bakery van he drove which called three times a week with fresh baked bread; loaves that came with thick crusts and which were cut in thick slices with a breadsaw; slices that were thickly buttered (and, if you could not see your teeth marks in the butter, you hadn’t enough). A white-coated man stands with a van from Bryant’s, the hardware merchant from Somerton; the van would call each Monday evening and we would buy paraffin for the heaters from him.

Handwritten notes on the postal service explain, ‘The morning mail for High Ham and Low Ham is delivered by van to High Ham post office. Subsequent delivery was made by Mr Hunt until his illness in the summer, since when it has been done by Mr B. Bown. The Henley mail is delivered direct by van, as is the afternoon mail for High Ham and Low Ham’.  It is difficult to imagine a time when post came twice a day, but Mr Bert Bown is pictured standing beside his Austin A35 van.

It is odd how the trivial and the commonplace can become so valuable, how people to whom one would generally have not given a second thought now figure prominently in the recall. People long dead suddenly become vigorously alive, even their voices can be heard, rebukes and laughter, stories and arguments.

Will there be such a record of the current times? Will people make scrapbooks of village life in 2011? And, if they do, what will they put in them? So much has gone that the pages from 1965 cannot be matched by contemporary equivalents.

There are more pictures to look at, more faces to remember, more names to bring back to life.



Some other High Ham related posts:


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  1. I’m glad you like the book Ian, I am finding it a fantastic reminder of my childhood…….And two things stand out having always been a bit of a petrol/diesel head….one is the picture of Bill Bakers Commer TS3 cattle lorry, when the wind was right at Mothers(can you spot her on the first page?) I could hear that Rootes 2 stroke diesel engine coming all the way from Cooks Hill being thrashed flat out by Roy Wilkins or Dick Winter…..what a unique sound…….(you can hear a TS3 engine on Youtube) The second is the picture of Lionel Cooks old Massey combine with the slide on the side for pushing the 2 and 1/4 hundredweight sacks of corn down, I remember the sound of the petrol/TVO engine singing through the straight through exhaust, and then Fred and Andrew Ford driving the Fordson Major and trailer around the field picking up the sacks of corn … hand!!!!! No manual handling regs then !!
    The side roads across the green in the picture above were much more fun to skid around on on a bicycle then , because they hadn’t been covered in tarmac……progress? I wonder, probably increases the ‘flash flood’ somewhere with the immediate ‘run-off’ of rainwater………
    I eagerly await hearing more of your memories generated by the book……..


  2. Will there be such a record of the current times? Will people make scrapbooks of village life in 2011? Yes, there will be! The 1965 WI scrapbook was discovered when putting together an exhibition of old photographs as part of the parish’s royal wedding celebrations. The success of the exhibition in stirring up interest in the history of the parish and the scrapbook, inspired the decision to have it reprinted, and to decide to create a 2012 scrapbook. The High Ham, Low Ham and Henley Parish Project committee will be holding another exhibition at the end of September, and plan to make copies of the 2012 scrapbook available for purchase some time in 2013. The 2012 scrapbook, along with all the collected photos and accompanying descriptions, will be deposited at the county archives in Taunton.

    A website is currently under construction – it will showcase archive photographs, scrapbook news and other related matters.

    All involved in the project have been delighted that so much interest has been shown in their work. It is exciting to know that we have so much more to discover about the lives of the past and present residents of the parish.

    Thanks for your blog – it was a delight to read.

  3. Dear Ian
    I am a relative newcomer to High Ham. We have lived here for twelve and a half years.
    We’d been in Somerset for some 20 years before this, but the Somerset Levels are a special, very special, community and landscape and we feel privileged to be living here. They inspire the work of my husband and myself. I know Dave and Tina Plant, and feel very blessed to know people from the ‘old’ community. As you know from Amanda’s email, some of us have got together to find out more about recent history in the village and we have found that people whose families have lived here for generations have been very generous in loaning us their photograph albums and telling us stories about life as it was in the parish in recent history. We put on an exhibition of old photos and other memorabilia in the spring of 2011. It was at this exhibition that the WI 1965 scrapbook turned up, Joy Vigar asked if she could borrow it from the Records Office. It caused quite a stir as you can imagine. Amanda got it scanned and we made copies, as you know. This inspired someone to say, why don’t we make a scrapbook today, which is what we are doing.
    It would be nice if you would write something about your life in the village as your remember it. Well you have done this on your blog. We have a little email list which is growing of people interested in all this, would you be happy for us to tell people about your blog.
    Someone who is also fairly new to the village and who is going to get involved in the scrapbook project found your blog, he told us about it. I phoned Dave who said that it was his brother who got the scrapbook for you.
    We are truly interested in the history of where we live, although we didn’t grow up here, what it was like in living memory.
    We’re looking forward to creating our own scrapbook of life now, it will be a great community project and if you are in the vicinity we hope we can meet you! I’m not sure our scrapbook will generate quite the nostalgia that the 1965 one does, but you never know. In 50 years time life will be different and perhaps we will create a document which will evoke words which compare with your affectionate and moving blog.
    It would be nice to meet you when next you visit. We are just near the school, over the field from where you grew up..
    Yours, Kate Lynch

  4. I’m what in Ireland would be called a ‘blow-in’!

    We moved from Pibsbury (between Huish Episcopi and Long Sutton) to Windmill Road in February 1967, when I was six. There are various reminiscences of High Ham on my blog (but as it has 2,500 pages, it would take a while to find them all!)

    Les Plant is a real local (we were born in the same hospital, but two weeks apart) and is good at correcting the failings of my memory.

    I’d be delighted if you passed on details of my blog. I’ll try to find more High Ham pages and add links to them at the bottom of the scrapbook piece.

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