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History of Grateley

Part eleven: Between the Wars (1919-1939)

1919 - 1939
It was in this first year after the war that there were the first signs of organised development in the Parish. The Parish Meeting resolved to ask the Rural District Council for 8 cottages under the Housing Scheme. Further research is required to establish how the Housing Scheme was formulated.

Early in the next year the Meeting considered the question of new allotments. It would appear that the existing allotments were very unsuitable; from whose point of view is not clear. Mr EJ Bennett, the owner of the allotments, was prepared to allow the holders to remain until Michaelmass (Oct 11). This was considered fair and the meeting agreed to ask the County Council to buy land as Manor Farm was in the market. Naturally, a committee was formed consisting of WE Boutcher, JE Crook, WN Shearing, LJ Bennett and HG Hoare.

The 1920s were a period of settling down after the war with income tax being reduced from 30% to 20% but beer rising from 1½p a pint to 2p a pint.

Grateley Parish had sorted out the problem of allotments by Shearing purchasing 3 acres of land in the Dell, which belonged to Manor Farm, for £120 and leasing it to the parish for 5 years at £10 per year.

It was also in the 1920s that Cable’s Cottages in Chapel Lane were auctioned in the Plough Inn. The successful bid of £200 for the 4 cottages was from Mr Shearing. It was also at roughly this time that Mr Crook, of Home Farm bought the Grange having lived there for some time as a tenant. It was interesting to note that a footballer’s wage was set at a maximum of £400 per year in 1922. The first FA Cup Final being held at Wembley Stadium in 1923.

It was the same year that 8 women were returned as members of Parliament in the General Election although women did not have the vote on equal terms with men until 1928. A year later, 1923, the Earl of Canarvon discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun.

At this time it appears that the Parish Meeting even determined the hours of business for the post office. The minutes record that half day closing of Grateley Post Office should be on a Tuesday afternoon instead of Saturday.

There is an interesting film in the archives of Pathé News on the internet. It is a film of the “Battle of Quarley Hill” of 1925. The ‘battle’ was between various units of the army, involving infantry, artillery and armoured vehicles. The opposing forces were from ‘Mercia’ and ‘Wessex’; very aptly named for the area. The attack seems to come from the plains of Grateley in an attempt to storm the heights of Quarley Hill. It is quite amusing to see a man and his wife walking the dog in the midst of all of this activity having to run to get out of the way of approaching tanks: a different era.

In 1927 the Rating and Valuation Act (1925) came into force and the rating officers (Overseers), WN Shearing and FC Warren, therefore retired with no others being appointed. Henceforth the rates were to be determined by the Local Council: the beginnings of centralisation?

The dirty state of the road leading to the Chapel was brought up but nothing could be done as it did not come under the Rural District Council. Presumably it was either a private road or unadopted at that time. It was at the entrance to Chapel Lane, just outside the Plough Inn’s restaurant, that Pyle’s Pond was situated. This probably caused a lot of the mess in the Lane as it was, and still is, the natural run draining rainwater from the High Street.

In 1929 there was a move afoot by the Rural District Council to amalgamate some of the smaller parishes. Grateley Parish Meeting unanimously rejected the proposal wishing to remain as it was.

Refuse collection was now being organised through the RDC to encompass all villages in the district, collection of unburnable refuse to occur once in three months. It was also suggested that a dump be provided on one of the allotments on the Dell. I wonder in whose garden it would now be found.

1933 was a difficult time in the country, but is not reflected in the minutes of the Parish Meeting. At this time, nationally, unemployment had reached the staggering number of 3 million, which represented 25% of the workforce, or one in every four men was out of work in a total labour force at the time of approximately 12 million. Applied to the present working population of approximately 27 million it would represent nearly 7 million unemployed today.

There must have been great difficulties even though prices appear relatively low. A ton of coal cost £1.3s.2d (£1.16p). A clerical worker would receive £192 per year compared with a Doctor in General Practice at £1,094 per year and a male farm worker £132 per year. Prices had changed little from the post war period with the exception of petrol, which dropped from the equivalent of 4.7p per litre in 1921 to about 2p per litre in the late 1920’s. Not that the cost of petrol had much effect in Grateley. Whisky stayed at 12s.6d (62p) a bottle, which may have had some effect in Grateley.

By 1935 a teacher earned £480 and a solicitor £1240 per year. Both could afford the Ford Saloon car at £135, particularly with the price of petrol being relatively low. Cigarettes were 1s (5p) for a packet of twenty and a pint of Guinness 10d (4p).

The District Council proposed the advent of a telephone service, through kiosks, for the village in 1935. In the same minutes of the Parish Meeting there is the first mention of the Village Hut when Mr H Hoare was appointed trustee. In the meeting of the next year the hut was now called the Grateley Village Memorial Hall with Mr W Sprackland as trustee. There is no explanation for the change of name. Perhaps it just sounded more impressive as there seems to be nothing of this period that would justify a memorial.

By 1937 the clouds of war must have been gathering as the Andover Rural District Council was issuing information on air raid precautions. More importantly to the village, it was agreed that Mrs Jeayes, Joyce and Pothercary make a house-to-house collection for the celebration of the Coronation George VI. The collection raised £19. 12s. 6d. Mrs Jeayes also undertook to do the catering with the help of Mrs Pothercary, Flippance, Read and Miss Crook. Mrs Flippance was to be sports secretary with the help of Mrs Sprackland, Tuck and Dowling. Mrs Boutcher was thanked for the use of the Park for the activities.

Although there was obviously the threat of war when George VI was crowned the world went on as normal with Billy Butlin opening his first holiday camp in Skegness. The ‘Dandy’ comic was published for the first time and Walt Disney produced his first full-length feature cartoon, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’.

Technology was progressing with the development of the jet engine by Frank Whittle and, at the other end of the scale Mr Lazlo Biro patented the biro pen. I did not know that the 999 ‘Emergency Number’ on the ‘phone was introduced as early as 1937.

Mr Stevens was appointed Air Raid Warden for the village in response to the request from the Andover & District Air Raid Precautions Committee at the meeting chaired by W.T.Crook, son of T.E. Crook who was indisposed through illness. The other pressing problem at this time, it seems, was trying to arrange for the removal of ‘unburnable’ rubbish from the village.  On reading this I had visions of piles of old beds, redundant ploughs and crockery all over the village. One also wonders how many bonfires there were getting rid of burnable rubbish. This topic was continued well into the war years, as was the provision of council houses, which was raised again at roughly the same time.

1938 saw the issue of gas masks to all school children even though Chamberlain and Hitler had just signed a peace declaration.

The world’s largest liner, the Queen Elizabeth, was launched and soon afterwards placed into military service.

Wages remained fairly stable with an unskilled labourer receiving 55s 1d (£2.75p) per week and a miner 61s (£3.05p) per week. Both would have had difficulty in buying the Jaguar motorcar, which was the star of that year’s Motor Show, at £385. Never mind, beer was still about 8d (less than 4p) a pint.

Thus Grateley was to face the Second World War probably not realising the great changes there would be before peace was once again restored.

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