INTRO. CHRONICLES. SOCIETIES. PARISH. VILLAGE. CHURCH. PEOPLE.

A History of YALDING, Kent, England

MEMORIES OF FLORENCE LILY SMITH (ne Ashton)

Florence Ashton known as Flora was born in 1892, the eighth of thirteen children, to parents William George and Rose Hannah, at New Barns by the junction of Benover Road and Mill Lane. They lived in an end cottage that only had two bedrooms, and in another cottage there was an elderly gentleman living on his own, whom mother used to feed, so he allowed her brothers to use his spare bedrooms.

When she started school in 1897, there were three teachers, two using one large room, with another separate. School hours were from nine until four, and after morning assembly they usually had scripture, followed by arithmetic, geography, history or English. Then after the lunch break, for which they took a basket of food, Flora then heated hot Cocoa on the boiler for her brothers and sisters. It was usually sewing or knitting lessons during the afternoon, or on a Wednesday cooking was the routine subject. They had a lap-bag for their materials, to learn hem stitches, herring bone, gathering, tucks, and sewing patches onto flannel. Her school clothes were mainly two home-made pinafores, one started on a Monday, and the other on the Wednesday, both of which were later removed for home clothes, with a bought one for Sundays. Just before she left school at fourteen, Flora was asked to take care of the dunces, which she found very difficult as some were really thick!

At home they had oil lamps for lighting, and a copper for washing and heating water, with Friday night being as usual for most families, bath night. The girls were bathed first and then the boys. With a wide range of ages not all her siblings were home at the same time, but as Flora grew up her mother had also taken care of four grandchildren, and when her mum and dad were out at work it fell upon her to cook family dinners whilst she was still at home. Toys were very limited but they all had hoops; irons ones for the boys, and wooden for the girls. She was never keen on getting to know boys, but often played marbles with them. During the winter evenings the children played various board games like snakes and ladders or ludo, whilst mum and dad played dominoes. As her parents were up at five in the morning, and on the fields by six, they were not late going to bed and the children went up at seven. Even when the older ones grew up, if they were still living at home the doors were locked at ten. Christmas was a special time but they did not expect much, and were delighted to receive an orange, some nuts and perhaps a sugar mouse in their stocking.

They never had a holiday as a family, and like everyone else the six-week school break in the summer was meant for hop picking. During the summer their mum had worked preparing and shaving the hop poles, which were to be later pulled up with the bines attached, not with strings as later hops, and laid across the bins for the eager hands to strip off the hop flowers. Come frost or fog they were all out in the fields by six, with their picnic of pies, bread, maybe salmon, and drinks. Bread was 3 ½d a loaf, and brown sugar 1 ½d a pound. Harvest time meant long hours from early light till dusk, with cider taken out to men in the fields.

Her father was out at work by the age of eight, and neither her mum or dad could read or write, so Flora was often asked to read the newspaper for dad, especially when Queen Victoria had died. She remembers doing that, at which her mum remarked that “she was a disagreeable old woman”, but when Flora repeated that during a school class, she was given the cane. When Queen Victoria died Cheveney House was painted black and white. She had also thought that Colonel Borton of Cheveney had fought in the Boer War, for after the Relief of Ladysmith, the school children were invited to Cheveney for a bun and cup of milk as a celebration.

To start with her father was paid £ 1 a week as a farm labourer, and then later took the position of shepherd, which paid more although it was longer hours. When Mr Chambers the farmer cut down on the amount of animal feed, her father said that he couldn’t do that, and as Mr Reader at Uptons required a shepherd, the family moved down to Lees Cottages.

Sunday was kept for Church, Chapel or Sunday school, and the nearest of these, not far from the Woolpack, was a Baptist Chapel, at which the main families were Worsley, Tompsett and Weston. Flora remembers going on choir outings when she was twelve, but had to make good attendance during the winter months, so that she could be away during the summer from April to September to look after the other children whilst mum was working. She said that “there was a saying in those days you had to have an old head on young shoulders, and you didn’t get a lot of pity if you didn’t do it to their liking”.

Her childhood was very active although she had to work hard and had many responsibilities especially at home. With other friends she joined the Girls Friendly Society, and the Band of Hope, the junior section of the Temperance Society.

One person active with many young peoples groups was Miss Mary Warde of the Parsonage, assisted by Miss Killick, at the time Flora joined. Most of their meetings were held in the Parish Rooms, which was in Swan Place, then next to the High Houses.                                                                                                                                                                    Next

the Parsonage, assisted by Miss Killick, at the time Flora joined. Most of their meetings were held in the Parish Rooms, which was in Swan Place, then next to the High Houses.