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Last updated: Thu 15 Jan 2015

Interview: Rob Carr

Rob Carr’s parents moved to Nunney shortly after he was born in 1943. He has many fond memories of growing up in the village.

Interview by Jeremy Gaunt

rob-carr001I interviewed Rob (known as Robin as a child) in Percy Hillier’s bakery in Church Street. The bakery is a long narrow room with the bread oven right at the back in the right hand comer.

Rob remembers racing from Nunney school as soon as lessons were over, hoping to be allowed to grease the tins for the next bake. The first two to get there were given the job and rewarded with a small loaf.

Naturally, the older boys tended to win the race, so your first loaf from Percy was something of a Nunney rite of passage.

oven, The George at Nunney

The bread oven in The George at Nunney

Private Percy William Hillier

Percy Hillier
(click to enlarge)

Percy made deliveries all round the village on foot with a large basket on wheels. No Sainsbury’s on line in those days!

The bakery was crowded the day we met, but it has changed a bit since Rob was a child. Nowadays we call it the right hand side of The George at Nunney, but the bread oven is still there.

Blitz

Coventry_bomb_damage_H5600

Broadgate in Coventry city centre following the Coventry Blitz of 14/15 November 1940 (collection Imperial War Museum)

Rob was born in Oxford in 1943, but the family moved to Nunney later that year when he was only a few months old. Having grown up here, he considers it his home village and returns as often as he can.

His father Wilf was a pharmacist with Boots, working in Coventry at the outbreak of the Second World War. His age and profession exempted him from military service, but he served as an Air Raid Patrol and fire warden in Coventry during the ‘blitz’.

Unfortunately, the Boots store was one of the victims of the terrible bombing raids. Wilf was moved to Oxford and, shortly afterwards, was offered the position of manager of the Frome branch where he remained until his retirement in 1974.

Riverside House

Riverside House Nunney

Riverside House (left) and the garden

Wilf and Elsie Carr

Rob’s parents, Wilf and Elsie Carr

The family, Wilf, Elsie, David (aged 6 at the time) and the baby Rob moved into what is now called Riverside House behind the Post Office.

The house came with a large garden where Wilf, a keen gardener, grew most of the family’s fruit and veg. Taking a magnifying glass to the aerial photograph of 1948 reveals regimented rows of veg.

There was a small lawn at the far end, where Rob and David played garden cricket. Rob practiced his hockey skills by hitting the ball against the wall in order to get unexpected rebounds.

Nunney WI play

A Nunney Women’s Institute play on the stage at the Church Rooms (left front: Elsie Carr; centre: Freda Lee; (Nora Lestrange’s mother); right front: Elsie Hall. Do you know who the other two ladies are?

Nunney WI or choir

This is either the Nunney WI or choir.
From front right: Elsie Carr, Miss Derek, Edith Beck, Elsie Hall; back left: Alice Vince (?), back centre: Dolly Gregory (?); centre second from the right: Phyllis Smith (?).
Others unidentified. Click to enlarge.

Wilf and Elsie threw themselves into the life of the community, starting a boys club and becoming founder members of the Nunney Concert Party. Elsie was an active member of the Women’s Institute and Mothers’ Union.

Wilf did many years as a Church Warden and Parish Councillor. He was heavily involved in the Cricket Club, both on and off the field and for many years was an avid member of the village skittles team, the Nunney Jacks.

All members of the family sang in the church choir, where Rob remembers occasions on which the numbers in the choir exceeded those in the congregation.

Nunney WI or choir

Another outing of either the Nunney WI or choir. Left: Elsie Carr, Elsie Hall, Edith (?) Beck; back right: Phylis Smith (?). Others unidentified. The man is probably the coach driver.
Click to enlarge.

In those days, long before the village hall was built, virtually all social activities took place in the Church Rooms adjoining Castlebrook house.

For long periods services were held in the Church Rooms, when the state of the roof made the church itself unusable. Rob remembers films, shows, concerts and dances all being held there.

Riverside House Nunney

Riverside House decorated for the 1953 Coronation

The other social centre was The George. Rob hinted it was a bit rough and ready in those days but did have a ‘clubroom’. As far as he could recall, it was upstairs and probably doubled up as the skittle alley. If so, the noise below must have been deafening.

Rob remembered the church being used as a communal viewing point for the Coronation in 1953. A ‘large’ TV was set up with ranks of chairs for villagers to watch the coverage. Few homes had their own sets in the 1950s due to cost and poor reception in the village.

Village outings

Nunney charabanc

Nunney day-trippers in Salisbury, possibly before the First World War.
The tradition of village charabanc trips continued for years after the Second World War.

Other communal social events were fairly minimal, limited to an annual village fete and occasional coach outings to the coast, usually Weymouth, Swanage or Bournemouth, but sometimes Lyme Regis or Sidmouth. They were long hauls in 1940s/50s Crown Tours ‘charas’ !

All ages took part in the inevitable beach football and cricket. Bad weather meant you got wet. Good weather meant you got sunburnt. Life was simple!

Rob remembers lots of singing on the coach and as it entered the village after a long day the final song always seemed to be Now is the hour. He wonders whether anyone else has the same memory.

Youth club

Class of 1948

Nunney School 1948; back row third from the left: Rob Carr.

Nunney First School 1948

Names and dates of birth of the children in the above photo were written on the back.
Click to enlarge.

When Rob was growing up cars and buses were few and far between, but everyone seemed to have a bicycle. Wilf cycled into Frome every day, often with Owen Hillier.

Unfortunately, cycling home one day in 1947, Wilf was hit by a tractor coming out of a field and badly injured. He landed on his head and broke his skull.

This meant a long convalescence and probably led to the untimely closure of the boys club, although a youth club was started in the ’50s. Some of the club members helped on the rota to wind the church clock, which Rob said could be quite an eery experience at night.

Rob Carr

A mystery line-up! Front row: Rowena Beck (pigtails), unknown girl, Rob Carr, John Perry (?), David Carr (?); back row: unidentified, Elsie Carr, Frank Beck, unidentified, unidentified, Elsie Beck. Middle row unidentified but possibly staff from Boots store in Frome.
Click to enlarge.

Most of the time children in the village made their own amusement, with the quarry and the river featuring prominently. The quarry was much more rugged then and often had surprisingly small children scrambling up it, then climbing the’ Jubilee Tree’. Despite the obvious dangers Rob said he had no memory of anyone ever really hurting themselves.

He and his friends walked and cycled miles around the village and near countryside. Most games had a competitive edge, with play fighting sometimes getting a bit more serious, but everyone survived! With so much physical activity and rationing still in place, there were no issues with child obesity in those days.

Mangle

rob-carr003

David (24) and Rob Carr (18) in the garden at Riverside House

The river usually provided gentler pursuits, like catching small fish with jam jars. Rob also remembered they used to ride bikes through the shallows, usually successfully, but not always!

He recalled one incident which must have been on a Sunday, because he had his suit on. This was the only occasion he failed to ride across the river and fell into enough water to be saturated.

Afraid of their parents’ reaction, Rob and David decided the best thing to do was to put the suit through the mangle. This did not improve the situation and Rob spent hours hiding in his bedroom before shouting downstairs that he was tired and going to bed. The fact that it was five o’clock in the afternoon roused his parents’ suspicion and it all came out in the wash, as it were.

Stones

Rob recalled another river incident which took place when he was playing with a friend, Mark Charig, whose family lived on Horn Street. Their garden backed onto the river at a point where it was relatively deep.

Rob and Mark found that large stones thrown into the water made a pleasing sound. Unfortunately Rob threw one stone which caught Mark on the side of the head and the resulting screams alerted Mrs Charig to the fact that her rockery was no longer as extensive as it had been.

Rob thinks he probably was never invited to play there again, but did meet Mark many years later in unlikely circumstances at a club in Manchester where Rob had gone to hear Long John Baldry and his band. The band members were introduced and the trumpeter was Mark Charig, who was building a successful career as a jazz musician, despite the blow on the head!

Mark became one of the major exponents of the trumpet on the British and European jazz scene in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties. He now lives in Germany.

Friends

Sir Stirling Moss and Rob Walker

Rob Walker (right) with Sir Stirling Moss

Whilst at Nunney School and later at Frome Grammar School (now Frome College), Rob earned his pocket money by delivering papers.

His round included most of the big houses in Nunney, so he did very well out of tips at Christmas.

It also kindled a life-long love of Formula One motor racing due to his quickly leafing through the racing magazines before delivering them to Rob Walker at Nunney Court.

At Frome Grammar School he made many friends with whom he has kept touch throughout his life and it was in fact a school reunion that brought him to Nunney most recently.

He was delighted to discover that had a tree planting ceremony in honour of Fred Lestrange and Owen Hillier, both very important figures to anyone growing up in Nunney after the war.

tree planting ceremony

A tree planting ceremony was held this summer to honour Owen Hillier and Fred Lestrange.

Rob enjoyed the opportunity to chat with people he’s known all his life and is very complimentary about the transformation of the quarry.

Education and employment took Rob away from Nunney and marrying a Lancashire lass – the charming Jen who joined for this interview – pretty much sealed the deal.

They both come here often and Nunney obviously has a very special place in both their hearts. My thanks to both of them for their time and patience.

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