Growing up in Neston


My Dad, The Bakery and Neston Feté.

My very earliest memory is the sight of my father in uniform. He was in the Home Guard. He was an intelligent gentle man and could also tell great stories, not only to me as a child but to anyone prepared to listen. I remember the loud roars of laughter coming from the The Plough Inn opposite the house, as my father went through his repertoire. He would quickly have any pub roaring with laughter at his stories. He thought the world of me, an only child after my mother suffered many infant losses.

He was a bakers’ son, his father ran a bakery at Atworth and use to supply bread to the village and surrounding area. The house was an old farmhouse with the end part of the large building use as a bakery. The house is still there today opposite The White Hart Inn and used now as a child care centre.

I remember my father taking me back there and showing me the long ovens that he and his father used for baking the bread. Even the long peels that were use to push the bread to the back of the oven were still there. I always found the old farmhouse a fascinating place. My uncle Herbert (my fathers brother) who lived in the house then had a motorcar in one of the barns.

Uncle Herbert use to hire the car out for special occasions, with himself driving of course. I think it was an Austin 10, a grand old vehicle with running boards and large chrome plated headlights sitting on the front mudguards. In those days of course very few people had cars so to see this shinning vehicle close up was a very special for me. Can’t remember why but I did get to ride in it on one occasion, it was at night time. I remember the many moths flying into the headlights as we drove along looking like streaks of bright light against the black sky. I always like the visits to Atworth and dads old farmhouse.


Climbing trees was almost an obligatory pastime in the Neston of my youth, with mates from Neston school it was very exiting to try and reach the top of some of the giant elms that were numerous in the area in those days. I remember reaching the 'summit' of one near our house only to be spotted by my mother from our back door. I recall her waving franticly for me to come down. I arrived home with skinned knees and remember trying to convince her that it was quite safe, without success. But I always enjoyed being up in the top of those big trees especially if there was a bit of wind blowing, I use to love it as swayed in the wind.

Neston school used the Neston Recreation Field to play soccer and cricket. I never much enjoyed sport and only ever recall scoring one goal in football, it was for the other side in a disastrous own goal! I do re-call a game of cricket when one boy, ‘Ginger’ Parker was hit in the head by the ball. He was fielding at ‘Silly Mid-On’ and collected a ball onto the side of his head. He fell to the ground and laid motionless for what seemed a long time, fortunately he was not seriously hurt. There’s something in the name of that fielding position ‘Ginger’ obviously missed!

I re-call a cricket match at Neston for the adults that was played in the field that is accessed through the style from 'the green' at Neston. During the game a lady arrive with a giant kite, it would have been at least 7 feet across when assembled. She duly let the kite take flight, unfortunately the wind direction took it directly over the cricket match and a batsman was almost injured in an awkward spot when he took his eye off the ball to gaze up at the kite. She was politely ask to wind the kite in before it caused any more trouble, much to the disappointment of us kids.

Much, if not all the houses and farms in Neston and surrounds at the time were owned by the Fuller Estate. One early memory is of my mum taking me down Neston Common in a push chair to pay the rent, not to the grand Neston House but into the farm area. There was a small office in one of the farm buildings which was used to collect rent from the many houses that belonged to the estate. I always found it interesting to look at the farm animals and machinery. I think this was a monthly or maybe quarterly journey.

There was also an annual ‘Neston Feté’ held on the front lawns of Neston House which attracted lots of visitors at the time. Bath Buses would put on a special service to transport people from the surrounding areas. I remember lots of stalls and three legged races for the kids. The adults would ‘Skittle For A Pig’, which, if you  manage to knock all nine skittle pins over you won a young piglet. I remember watching my dad have a try and wondered what we would do with a pig! The actual house was not open to the public but you could go into the large glass conservatory to the left of the house, it was hot inside and filled with what I thought lots of strange looking plants. Neston Feté was an enjoyable day out for young and old alike and I think may have raise money for Neston School. Neston House is a beautiful building and looks very impressive with a large manicured lawn at the front. I was lucky enough to go inside on one occasion, but more on that next time.

Sir Gerard Fuller from Neston Estate was well like with the villagers at the time. He was quite involved with the goings on in the village and would give assistance whenever possible. He was chairman of Neston Memorial Hall for a number of years and I believe it was with his help that the old wooden hall was built with its impressive stone facade. He also attended Neston School Christmas parties in the hall. At one of them everyone else had finish eating but I was still struggling to finish my cake or something, he came over, picked me up and carried me around the room. I remember the blue curtains at one end drawn on a sagging cord covering what would have been a stage if there had been one. Not fancy blue theatrical velvet curtains just plain old blue house curtains. I remember going in there as a child quite often to see shows that local people put on, and also going to rummage sales with my mother.

The Fullers from Neston Park invested in a brewing company in 1829 which untimely gave rise to Fullers Brewery based in Chiswick London. The company is still in existence today and make the now famous London Pride Ale along with many others. Odd I suppose that such a nationally famous beer be associated with Neston House and little Neston. Fullers Brewery have also sponsored The Bath Comedy Festival in recent years.

Around 1952 the estate decided to sell off many of the houses and farms in the area. There was much speculation as to who would buy what. Everyone was thinking how could they raise the money to buy the rented cottage they lived in. It was a major event for Neston and one that some people were very worried about as they didn’t know who their next landlord might be. The Neston Estate was quite good to tenants making sure the houses were kept up to scratch and putting in mains sewage when available, which of course replace the bucket toilet in the little building out the back, which had to be emptied every week. I remember the excitement of having a toilet with a pull chain, very modern. It actually got me in trouble as I was so fascinated by how the toilet paper disappeared so quickly I put so much in the pan it blocked up. I got a good whacking from my father for that. In the end quite a number of people managed to buy their own houses. My father paid £325 for 34 Locks Cross now No. 8. He took out a mortgage with The Halifax Building Society in Chippenham and had to pay about £3.20 a month in repayments, a considerable amount out of his wages at the time. It took many years to pay the mortgage off. The Halifax company is still around today although now known as Halifax Banking.

Life in Neston seemed much simpler then and I suppose it was. Almost everyone grew their own veggies and had apple trees. School clothes were often bought from jumble sales in the hall. Secondhand radios provided entertainment. By todays standards we were poor but it didn’t seem that way. We played happily, ate well and were warm in winter, cooking toast in front of an open coal fire. Good days.