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If you have memories of Stratton
even from just a few years ago
and would like them to be
recorded here please get in touch
 
PERSONAL MEMORIES
 
   
STRATTON VILLAGE SCHOOL
by
Annie Lloyd (nee Dunford)
 
   
   
The village school was situated at the far end of the village where the by-pass now intersects the old road and backed onto the railway line. The old school house was a very imposing building and was used for the juniors lessons whilst the infants were taught in the temporary building which was housed to the side of it. The rear of the main building was the headmistresses accommodation and had a very large garden surrounded by a high stone wall.
 
   
In front of the main building was a tarmac playground. A path then followed around the side of the main building to the rear of the school house where the playing field was situated. In the field we would stand by the railings waving to all the passengers on the trains as they made their way by. At this time there was a halt in Stratton where you could catch the train to Dorchester and Weymouth or the other way to Yeovil.
 
 
I was lucky enough to have been educated in this lovely village school from 1958 until I  moved to the Green School in Dorchester in the mid-sixties.
 
   
There were only two teachers throughout the time I was there, Miss D. M. Hudson, the headmistress and Mrs. Anderson the deputy head. The school took pupils from Stratton, Muckleford, Grimstone and Magiston and there were never more than 35  pupils in the whole school (infants and juniors combined) so it was a wonderful family atmosphere. Both of the teachers were strict but fair and we had a lot of fun growing up there.
 
   
The main building housed the lessons for the juniors. There was a porch entrance where we each had a peg with our name on it to hang our coats. At the beginning of each day Miss Hudson would appear with a very large bell which she would ring to herald the start of the lessons. The desks were bench types with ink wells, which at times provoked many ink fights! There was a large boiler in the middle which provided the heating and at the other end long trestle tables where we ate our dinner.
 
   
Dinners were provided by the council and arrived daily in large metal containers which the dinner ladies served a variety of hearty meals from. Mr (Spot) Warren delivered them and  at Christmas would often stay to eat dinner with us after we had greeted him with the customary rendering of “We wish you a merry christmas”. He was a balding man, always very jolly until the day he was delivering our meals and slipped a disc in his back. It became the cause of much concern for the adults and much excitement for us children as he was carried away to the hospital.
 
   
We had the normal variety of lessons, music was taught using the very large old radio that was kept in the main school. Every Monday and Thursday it was tuned to the BBC for singing together and rhythm and melody. The 3Rs were essential and we had weekly mental arithmetic tests, spelling tests and the compulsory daily reciting of the times tables. We also read daily to the teachers. I guess we were lucky that in those days they  were able to concentrate on the essential lessons.
 
   
Nature lessons were given every week. We would  be taken out for walks to learn about the countryside and its inhabitants. There was also competition between the two houses. We were allocated windows in the school and each week we would collect wild flowers to decorate them with the winner getting house points.
 
   
Sport was very important and we were even lucky enough to be picked up by bus once a week and taken to the secondary modern school in Dorchester for swimming lessons.
 
   
At Christmas we would always put on a nativity play for the parents and any villagers that wanted to come with every  child having a part. There was  always a real christmas tree in the school and a small present for everyone at the end of term.
 
   
The highlight of the school year was the Sports day. Much excitement was evident as we helped to put up the bunting around the school field. It seemed that nearly all the village would turn out to watch us as we all competed in the races. How lucky we were to have been able to “take a risk” competing in thread the needle, sack race, three legged races, wheel barrow races and egg and spoon races. There was a cup for the winning house and every child got a prize. This usually took the form of a book (usually a Ladybird one) which would have a lovely inscription in it signed by Miss Hudson. The prizes were  usually presented by Mrs. Pope or later by the local vicar, Mr Maddocks. Refreshments were provided by the Mums who always arrived with an array of home made cakes which we then washed down with  orange juice.
 
   
Gardening was also encouraged and the headmistress opened up her garden to us and we  were all allocated a plot which we had to tend and grow flowers and vegetables in. It seemed great at  the time but I guess it may have been her crafty way of getting her gardening done for nothing!
 
   
There was nothing like a school nurse. If you fell over (which I did for a pasttime) you were quickly cleaned up, usually by a dinner lady who covered the grazed area in lashings of a really smelly yellow iodine paste. If this did not placate you then the final healing was done by Mrs. Anderson who would put the child under her “magic” fur coat which would cure all ills!
 
   
It was lovely time.  
   
Towards the mid sixties the number of children dwindled and the school was demolished to make way for “progress”  the by-pass! The local children were then transferred to Charminster and the heart of the village died.
 
   
I will always remember the school with fond memories and still have the autograph that Miss Hudson wrote me when I left. It said simply: Don’t look at the hill; climb it.
 
   
   
FORTY YEARS AWAY
by
David Ward

   
   
It is now (in 2008) over fifty years since I came to Stratton, and over forty since I left.  A lot has happened during those years. Much would now be completely new to me and also much that I can recall from over forty years ago which would not be known to many of the people now there.  In fact I have since paid two extremely short visits, in 1985 and again in 2004.  Not currently having contact with anybody in Stratton I am dependent on the internet for information, and most especially the excellent www.strattondorset.org site, to know what's going on in theplace of my childhood and adolescence.  I apologise for any errors in the following details which I hope at worst will be very few, and fornot resisting the temptation to include a few personal memories which may have less interest for others than they do for me.
 
   
It was slightly damp on 25th January 1957 when we moved into 56 Dorchester Road.  Actually it was No 3 then.  House numbering in the village was chaotic with numbers duplicated, and not long afterwards the present street numbers were adopted to overcome confusion.
 
   
My father was a tractor driver on Mr Pope's farm and when the grain dryer was built on the other side of the railway line the responsibility of operating that also passed to him.  I see from the map that the dryer has been joined by other buildings by the railway.  Forty years ago the farm buildings were on the south side of the road where so much recent development has taken place.  In those days the road through the village was the main road and the by-pass, which had been mooted for a number of years, was built very soon after we left.  In fact the planning work had been done and when we left in 1967 the route had been staked out on the ground but the real work of construction had yet to begin.
 
   
From our front bedroom window, looking over the main road, a large part of the farm buildings were visible behind two houses which had long gardens extending up to the main road.  One was occupied by a Mr Downton who, if I remember rightly, was the farm foreman.  The farm manager (and I seem to recall the names of Mr Cutts and Mr Burgess) lived further down the village roughly opposite the almshouses.
 
   
Not surprisingly some of my strongest memories are of the village school which I attended from 1957 to 1960.  This has gone now but it stood at the point where the main village street and the by-pass join at the western end of the village.  There were around 25 pupils and two teachers – Mrs Anderson (who had a Birmingham accent and whose husband taught at the Secondary Modern in Dorchester) and Miss Hudson who was the head-mistress and lived in the house attached to the rear of the main schoolroom.  She taught the older pupils in that part and the youngest ones were taught by Mrs Anderson in a prefab building close by in the playground.  Furthest away in the playground was a garage which we could not see into so whether it contained a car or not I do not know.
 
   
Behind the school residence and garden was the playing field.  It was reached by going down a pathway on the railway side of the main building flanked by a border where the children were introduced to the art of gardening on a very small and elementary scale.  At the end of the path was a wired-off enclosure where a few chickens were kept.
 
   
From the start I was too old for Mrs Anderson's class so I was with Miss Hudson for all my stay.  She was a super lady and an excellent teacher, although unfortunately she had long been unsuccessful in getting pupils through the 11-plus.  I achieved it and within the space of a few years about half a dozen others also did or, at least, had interviews.  Fittingly when she retired she did so with a flourish.  I think it is she whom I have to thank for my interest in cricket because one day as an arithmetic exercise she taught us how to calculate batting averages.  I have fond memories of her as doubtless many others who remember her will surely have.  Just before we left the village I used the school playground, the school having now closed, to learn to ride a bike, not entirely successfully it must be said!
 
   
Coming from the school into the village there were no houses until the rectory (which I recall had a tennis court behind it.)  I understand that the present clergyman is based at Frampton so presumably the house is no longer used for church purposes.  Before reaching it there was a rubbish tip which was fairly full before we left.  I once found a copy of the score of Handel's 'Messiah' thrown away on it, but not much else of interest or value.  It looks as though it has now been filled and landscaped.
 
   
Next there was the old village hall which always gave the impression of having seen better days.  I do not recall using it myself for any activity. I believe there were regular whist drives but they did not concern me.  Then came two pairs of semi-detached houses for farm workers numbered 58 to 52, (Wallis then Rose, Ward, Mentern and Davis, respectively).  During our stay, civilization came in the form of indoor sanitation which was, of course, a great improvement over the more basic, traditional equivalent!
 
   
The top of our garden was bounded by a hedge inset by a short rail and style over it.  Beyond that was an open scrap of land which contained an open ended building which contained a band saw and there was a pile of offcuts beside it.  I don't think it was used much.  The open end served as a pair of goalposts for me to practice my Bobby Charlton skills.  A little beyond this was the level crossing over the railway line.  From home I could hear the trains whistle and on a good day I could dash all the way up through the garden, over the style and reach the level crossing to win by a yard or two!  There was a track way back from the crossing to the main road passing the Diment's and Phillips' houses on the right.  I recall that my mother took in Mr Phillips' washing after his wife died.  There are new houses to the back of our old house so it is probably impossible to repeat that dash!
 
   
The church and the pub come next facing each other in good village tradition.  I was not of an age to be concerned much about the pub except that crisps, lemonade and Miller's steak and kidney pies sometimes found their way home from there.  I recall the pub, a Devenish house rather surprisingly in a village with such a strong Pope allegiance, was run by the Peebles who were followed by the Irelands (or was it the other way round?)  The Bull Inn car park was laid out around this time in the hope of building up a coach trade which did not materialise.
 
   
The rector was a Rev Teale who at that time served only Stratton and Bradford Peverell.  I believe when he left he went up to Southwark in London to take up some kind of inner city challenge.  He was succeeded by Rev Maddock whose son, Nicholas, followed him into the Church.  Before his arrival I was a member of the church choir for a short period.  I had learnt to play the piano (in a fashion) and now for the first time I had the opportunity to get my hands on a church organ.  Simple stuff of course.  The organist was a kindly lady called Miss Viner and I think she was rather pleased with my interest, but rather less pleased on the odd occasion when I might be pumping the organ. For services it was pumped manually by Charlie Dunn(?) but I sometimes did it for mid-week choir practice.  There was a little weight on a cord which hung down in front of two marks on the wood panelling and I was supposed to pump as gently as I could to keep the weight between the two marks.  It was more fun though to wait until the last split second when the organ just began to 'squeak' and then pump like mad which produced a jerky effect on the volume.  However, I usually managed to resist the temptation.
 
   
The field next to the church was, I believe, owned by Dukes the auctioneers and it had been left to overgrow for some time.  It was eventually built on and I recall the Broughton family, whose two boys joined us on the school bus.  They were the only other boys living in my end of the village.
 
   
There were two school buses in those days taking us into town.  (This was before the village school closed and was replaced by Charminster.)  One bus used to go through to Sydling and the other to Frampton.  I can't remember which one ours was except that it was the larger one.  School changes hit Dorchester too.  In those days most of the kids were bound the Secondary Modern, a small contingent of us for Hardye's, a couple for the Green School (the girl's equivalent of Hardye's – not sure of correct name), a couple for the St Genevieve's Convent School and one girl who went to a special school travelling with her own attendant.  Our bus was driven by Reg Warren who lived at Ash Hill.
 
   
I cannot recall what faced 'Duke's field' but I have a vague recollection that it may have been a stone barn of some other sort or building possibly used in connection with the farm.  Not certain though.  It is likely that some or all of it went to make room for the pub car park. And that takes us along to Mill Lane. Mill Lane descended steeply from the main road and it was on the corner of it that the village shop stood.  That was run by Evy Fost (hope I've got the name right) who was a kindly person.  However, it could hardly be said it was a thriving business, such success as it had being partly due to its ability to 'tick' as well as the clock on the wall.  Even that was not enough to save it. There was a gap next to it on the downward side the reason for which I do not know.  Possibly there had been a fire at one time and the missing building was not reinstated.  The Fosters lived further down the lane, and that just about exhausts my memories of Mill Lane.
 
   
I don't recall the houses opposite the turning into Mill Lane very well.  There were a few.  A little further along on the south side of the street there was a small derelict cottage which was an eyesore and presumably did not survive subsequent development.  On the north side there was the police station, and a pillar box.  The local copper was PC Tilley and then there was PC Grant.  There was even a police cell!
 
   
Next to the police station was the Methodist chapel, where for a short period I struggled three-handedly with the harmonium – one hand to hold it together, and the other two to play!  Now, I regret to see, the last hymn has been sung there.
 
   
We have now reached a right hand corner.  At that time apart from Mill Lane and the Manor House behind the Church, there were no houses or streets off the main road.  When we left there were plans in the air for building houses roundabout but they were to come later. There was a fatality there. I apologise if I remember the name incorrectly but I think it was a Mr Lambert who had a dog called Shep?
 
   
Directly around the bend on the south side was the post office in the charge of a Mrs Oliver.  (The post office had originally been sited at the eastern end of the village more or less opposite the farm dairy.  Why it moved I do not know for certain but it may have been redeveloped.)  Then followed a row of houses in poor condition so tight to the road that the roofs were frequently damaged. I am inclined to think they might not have been occupied in view of the danger.
 
   
On the north side just before we come to the almshouses there was a little house set back a few yards from the road where Charlie Richards lived.  This turned out to be quite a surprise for my mother who unexpectedly found they were related (second cousin?)  Roughly opposite the almshouses was where the farm manager lived and I see there has been considerable development to the south of the road at and around that point.
 
   
Towards the eastern end of the village to the south of the road was the farm dairy.  Working on the farm we were entitled to get our milk from there each day (I forget how much).  Also the farm workers were entitled to a row of potatoes (or more depending on size of family) in one of the fields.  Depending on whether it was a good year we could get anything from 6 cwt to 15 cwt of good Majestic spuds to see us through the winter.
 
   
I do not remember so much about that end of the village, but I do recall there was a footbridge over the Wrackle about half way between the last house and the railway station.  It made quite a nice picture (which I have probably lost) one of only a very few which I hope may come to light one day.  Also I should have the annual school photograph somewhere but I greatly doubt if any of these pictures will turn up now.
 
   
Mentioning the railway station brings me to transport.  Sadly the trains have not stopped since 1966 and the expanded bus service which was meant to alleviate the loss of trains did not survive very long.  I think there had been four or five trains a day (something like that.) There was basically one bus a day each way (direct to Dorchester) and as far as I can make out it is much the same again now.  That was operated by Pearce's whose fortunes declined leading to the eventual end of the firm  following subsequent regulatory changes in the provision of bus services.  There was also a Bere Regis bus service of sorts but I don't think it ran every day, and when it did it was less comfortable and took longer, going through Bradford Peverell and Charminster as well.
 
   
In all, these were happy days for me but it ended when my parents left and I did not have a job good enough to stay behind for. We moved to the New Forest in 1967, and I subsequently worked in Southampton and Portsmouth before marrying late and moving to Yorkshire.  I have many happy memories of Stratton and some name springs to mind or a news item reminds me of my years in Dorset. The North has claimed me now but it is not impossible that I might drop in again some day. The last time was when my wife had a school reunion in Southampton which we combined with a visit to one of our customers in Martinstown followed by a whistle-stop tour of various other places in the west country which I wanted to show her including Stratton.  Unfortunately it must have been the wettest day of the year and we had very little time.
 
   
A few years ago I was able to look through the Stratton voters' list. I recognised three or four and some others but they seemed less familiar. The population has roughly doubled and local business names have started to appear in directories. The expansion of housing and a new heart to the village on the old farm site on the present scale could hardly be dreamed off fifty years ago but the idea was taking shape even then. I remember my dad mentioning his extreme reservations about building near to the river. I remember looking out of the front bedroom window at what is now the village green, and wondering what might happen if those suggestions were to be implemented.  It seems they have. Might it just be possible that the trains could stop again? Perhaps that might not be too much to hope for after all. Who knows?
 
   
Would I like to come back?  Mixed feelings.  Yes, because of what it was, but things change and memories are most precious when left intact.  So, perhaps, No. Stratton was a great place for me.  I was happy there.  Treat her kindly.  Keep the happiness coming.