Growing up in Neston


Park Lane and Neston School

I was born in the front bedroom of 34 Locks Cross Neston (now No. 8) in 1942 and lived in the house until my wife and I moved to Australia in 1981. The house of course holds many special memories for me and we were lucky enough to be invited to look through it again when we came back to visit Neston in 2012. What an experience that was seeing the inside of the old house after thirty-two years.

Growing up in Neston as a child was a wonderful experience. Surrounded by farms, fields, trees and stone quarries, there were endless places to explore. We all had great fun, climbing trees (giant Elm trees, now long gone), exploring the ‘tips’ (tailings from the stone mines), and crawling through the three foot high grass before it was mowed and making zig zag tracks, much to the anger of the farmer. The smell of freshly mown grass wafting across the village as the sun set on those long summer evenings. I suppose I didn’t appreciate it at the time but looking back they were wonderful days.

Park Lane Quarry was a place for play and adventure. It was at the end of Park Lane, a small narrow lane that shoots off to the left at the ‘Lodge’ at the start of  Neston Common. Just walking down there as a 9 year old was an adventure. Thick shrubbery became even denser the further you went, eventually becoming our 'jungle' complete with hanging vines some so thick you could swing on them. After our 'long' journey the white 'cliffs' of Park Lane Quarry came into view through the thick trees. The tips, as they were called, seemed enormously high and were our 'mountains'. They seem to shine brilliant cream white in the Saturday morning sunshine. We would climb our ‘mountains’ and explore the ‘summit’, which was covered by smooth grass kept short by numerous rabbits. It was the perfect place to play any game that our young imaginations could come up with.

I visited the quarry on several occasions when it was working. The steam crane was driven by a Mr. Frank Bryant, the father of one of my school friends, Sammy. I can re-call the smell of oil and steam from the engine that powered the crane. The huge winch wheel that hauled the rail trolleys laden with cream coloured stone up the slope shaft of the quarry. The thick oily cable straining as it wound itself onto the giant wheel. Three or four huge blocks of stone were then lifted onto lorries for the journey to Bath & Portland Stone Works at Westwells.

The front office of the company was directly opposite the Moore Green end of Jaggards Lane, a cream coloured building built of course with Bath stone. There were tips here too but not as overgrown as the ones at Park Lane and nowhere near as exciting.

In earlier days a rail track connected Park Lane Quarry to Corsham railway siding. It left the quarry on an embankment and set out towards the top of Rough Street running down the right had side of the street as it headed for Potley Rail bridge. I remember places were evidence of the tracks could still be seen. At a point a few hundred metres from the quarry and still up on an embankment the track passed over a bridge which allowed cattle from the nearby Ridge Farm to pass underneath. Exiting discoveries for us kids at the time. Evidence of the embankment now overgrown by the hedgerow is still visible on Google Maps

The stone lorries were a feature of life in Neston in the '50's and would past by my house at Locks Cross many times a day. Small pieces of the stone would occasionally fall off and make the perfect chalk to draw hopscotch layouts and other things on the road.

I went to the small village school at Neston. They were mainly happy days apart from the gardening lessons, which I hated. We had to don wooden soled clogs which were stored in the Coronation Hut. I would try and find a pair that hurt my feet the least. They were the most uncomfortable things to wear. The gardens at Neston School were spectacular in those days and resembled ornamental gardens you might find surrounding a country mansion. Low dry stone walls separated different areas, paths wound their way through the garden revealing different views at almost every turn. There was a large circular sunken garden in front of the Coronation Hut, lined with dry stone walling. The name Hut was a bit of a misnomer as it was quite an elaborate stone building. Many varieties of trees gave the garden height including a walkway with apple trees growing either side and forming a tunnel to walk through. I recall being a member of the school team that tried to remove the apple trees when our headmaster had the idea to turn the lower part of the gardens into a sports field. It eventually came to be and was of great benefit to the school. Even though still spectacular in the '50's the gardens were nothing compared to earlier years when apparently they won awards.

In earlier days my mother and her sisters attended the same school which then had a headmaster with the somewhat appropriate name of Mr. Inkpen. She re-called days of writing on slate boards, no pens or paper then. From her accounts schooldays then were very harsh with Mr. Inkpen wielding the cane with enthusiasm at the slightest transgression.

I manage to avoid such a fate in my days at Neston. My first day there was a short one as we went home for some reason at lunchtime. On my second day I thought the same thing would apply so I walked home at lunchtime. A short time later a slightly older pupil, Barbara Alford, knocked on our door, she had been sent to take me back to school. Never thought I would get use to the idea of staying at school ‘all day’. Shortly after I began school a new infants teacher started, Miss Dimmock who is well know to the village to this day.

Many teachers come to mind. Miss Weeks, Mr. Beverage who taught history; unfortunately he taught in such a monotonous way I found his lessons hard to learn from. He would write blackboards full of notes that we would have to copy before leaving. Just as you thought he was finishing at the bottom of the third board he would get out a fourth board and continue. To this day my knowledge of history is very limited.

In contrast the headmaster Mr. Lewis had a way of making every subject interesting. His specialty was geography and he had a way of teaching it that would make me look forward to his classes. In my later years at Neston School BBC Television started transmitting science classes in the mornings for schools. Mr. Lewis allowed another pupil and myself to go into his home during school time and watch the special science programmes. Not many people had TV in those days and I still think it remarkable that he would care enough to allow us to do that. No coincidence that I find geography and science so fascinating today?

The 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was a very special occasion at Neston School. On the day we all gathered in the front playground and were each presented with a coronation mug by a local dignitary, I think it may have been Christopher Fuller from Jaggards House. The mug was a splendid thing with a picture of the queen on it and the date, 2nd June 1953.

Later in the day we were paraded down to Lypiatt Army Camp to watch a  recording of the proceedings from earlier in the day. Being interested in technical things I clearly remember the large slightly fuzzy black and white picture being projected onto a screen. I still find it amazing that back then they had projector televisions, it must have been very new technology then. As for the mug, I still have it some 70 years later.