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Impressions of the April 2015 meeting by Colin Jackson

Those present at the Stratton History Group's get-together on Thursday 16th April were treated to ninety minutes of entertaining reminiscences by Mr Peter Paul who was born locally before World War II, has always lived and worked in the area and is now resident in Bradford Peverell.

He began with a virtual 'walk-through' from the Wrackleford end of the parish, actually starting at what is now the Dorset County Council Depot in Charminster. That began life during the war as an American Advance Ordnance Depot where Jeep parts arrived in boxes and were assembled.

Wrackleford House at that time was taken over by Land Girls, most of whom were in the Timber Corps. Mr Paul remembers - I think with admiration - how well these women could swing an axe.

The fields between the A37 and Bradford Peverell (where the A37/BP junction is) were home to an American bath-house with a constant supply of water from the river.

The names of farms and the tenant farmers were recalled. So too were the first residents of Ash Hill and their occupations; Railwayman, Farm Worker, Milk Marketing Board Manager, War Aid Manager. A couple of others were employed at Herrison Hospital.

Mr Paul explained the layout of the main road and how it was changed in 1957 when the railway bridge over the A37 was replaced and the water-course diverted.

Most of the houses in the parish were owned by the Pope family of Wrackleford and the vast majority of the properties were in a very poor state of repair. 'Shacks' was Mr Paul's description.

He remembered Mr Downton who was killed by one of the lorries carrying chippings to Yeovilton during the construction of the aircraft runway, and Mr & Mrs Foster from Wales who were guardians of the Methodist Chapel.

What is now Carpenters Close used to be a long line of thatched workshops. The Popes' employed a full-time thatcher. The workshops - not surprisingly - were home to the Wrackleford Estate carpenters. Coffins were made there too. Mr Paul, whilst employed as a Hurdle Maker, was 'invited' to assist with removing the panel that provides access to the Pope family tomb and to help deal with an incoming addition. An interesting account of what did and did not take place was revealed.

Buildings and the people associated with them were selected as talking points; the Ashley Institute, the six dairies, the watercress packing yard, Grimstone viaduct, Stratton Council School.

Before the war a coach ran into Dorchester on market days. On non-market days the seats would be taken out and the vehicle would be used to deliver coal, or perhaps to move the watercress ready for its journey by train to Bristol.

Back to wartime. The Royal Yeoman public house in Grimstone was used by black American troops. The Bull in Stratton was used by white GI's.

Mr Paul invited questions. His answers led us into some amazing areas. What hurdle makers did on wet days; how a workmate lost his sandwich box when the foxhunt passed by; what you can determine from a sheet hanging on a washing line; some adventures of a union shop steward at Herrison, and best of all; why Thomas Hardy used to cycle to Portland to see Marie Stopes, pioneer in birth control methods.

History can be fun! If you'd like more information about the Stratton History Group, please contact Chris Boulton by email -