Reminiscences from past and present residents


A few years ago  a supplementary meeting was organized by the Fontmell Society at which parishioners were invited to speak on their memories of people and events.

Some notes were taken which are interesting and should be recorded before  memories fade – and the notes get lost! Happily the late Harold and Ida Stainer were present and many of the memories were in tribute to their lifelong contribution to the life of our village

These notes are verbatim as taken down at the time

 Dr. Geoffrey Tapper.  “Harold and Ida were the Chapel and I have witnessed their efforts since 1960  from when I used the Methodist Chapel as my village surgery.

Although by no means wealthy, he has been most generous to village folk.

Bessie  Beck, who with her sister ran the village shop  a long time ago, was still chopping firewood for sale, then aged 90.”

Ossie Morris. “Harold used to come to take part in our film ( Recollections in Tranquillity) in warm clothes despite it being shot in his tailors workroom.. What is extraordinary was the he came attired in clothes – especially a shirt – of a  neutral colour which wouldn’t cause ‘camera-flare’ – he didn’t have to be told about this as many interviewees on film or TV have to be.”

John Enderby showed one of Harold’s waistcoats which was never claimed. “Just look at the fineness of stitching round the buttonholes. A work of art.”

Martin Rouse. “Miss Stoop from Ashmore gave me a tail suit to fit a man 6ft 6in tall”. (Laughter). “Harold took on the job of altering everything to my laterally-expanding 5ft 10in and it still fits perfectly.”

“When I was on the parish council Harold, then in his late 70s, always attended and seemed to sleep through the meetings, lost to the world – but would suddenly come to life with a series of apt and pithy comments!”

A some what  non-plussed Harold was persuaded to add a few words

“Ida always said ‘no’ to my using the front room as a workshop!”

Ida “People knocked on the front door but Harold took no notice – so wrapped up in his work.”

Harold. “The school gets better and better for the children compared to my time. I was glad to leave school but jobs were scarce in Fontmell compared to my father’s day, so I worked for my father until the ’39 war. On return, when father died, I took over.”

“Having been, among normal duties, the battalion’s tailor in the army I could keep my hand in, all through the Middle East, Italy and occupied Germany.”

When Harold was 10, Mrs Hoddinot was schoolmistress. Things improved markedly under her successors, the discipline-concious Gladdis family – Mr, Mrs and elder daughter sharing the increasing workload.”

“People were very busy during those days so deliveries were needed. I did them by bicycle to Ashmore, Sutton, Iwerne ,Compton Abbas and  E. Orchard. Patterns and cuttings had to be taken out for approval too.”

Other contributions from the audience were:-

*In the 1920s cars were a rare thing in the village, although when Springhead was a milk factory lots of carts with milk churns trundled up and down Mill Street all day long. Between 20 to 30 local farmers were involved, making two deliveries in summer, one in winter.

*There were two carriers in the village when the Stainers were young. Tom Still travelled to Shaftesbury once a week  “and was quite expensive – 1/-”  ( 5p, and the equivalent of £2.25 today). The other was Mr Chick – Blandford on Thursdays – who had a wagon with a tilt on it so passengers, goods and livestock had some protection from the weather. “It was a travelling news source and frequently stopped to pick up gossip on the way, to either the frustration or edification of the passengers”. Rather surprisingly “there were two shops opposite the school” but one could have been  Myrtle Cottage, whose extension was Fontmell’s first embryonic garage around the time of the Great War.

John Gadd mentioned the growing collection of village history now in the Village Archives. He also remarked on the number of tradesmen serving the village, for example, in addition to Stainer the tailors and the two carriers, also serving the public were two shoemakers, a blacksmith, a carpenter, the pub, a private front room doubling as the village shop, and a busy baker. No plumber, as even as late as the Glyn sale of the village in 1926, there were no flushing toilets, just earth closets, and few taps as water was fetched by bucket from at least five gravity-fed pumps distributed round the village (one, and half of one , still exist, but not the thatched version in West St. which is a  comparatively recent installation). Several cottages had their own wells – a very fine stone-faced one is preserved under the floor of a more modern cottage and visible through a reinforced glass lid.


Author: John Gadd