Personal memories of Combe Down

I have long wanted to introduce some personal memories of Combe Down into the site. The article written by Jackie Carr, wife of Dr David Carr about the history of Combe Down surgery was a step in this direction.

J C Wilcox, Combe Down baker delivering at Southstoke early 1900s

J C Wilcox, Combe Down baker delivering at Southstoke early 1900s

Serendipity has struck with the memories of Frank Sumsion who was born on Combe Down in 1926, meaning he’s now into his 90s. He published these on Bathonian’s past and present memories on Facebook – a closed group for Bathonians and their families. I loved them and they had a great response from members. Thinking they deserved a wider audience, I contacted Frank and asked whether I could publish them here. Luckily he said yes, so they have been added.

Frank’s personal memories of Combe Down are about his childhood years in the 1930s. You may be interested to know that in his work life he joined Sparrows International Crane Hire in 1957 and became  Managing Director of Sparrows Heavy Crawler Cranes Ltd. He has a personal website about Sparrows.

Frank’s writing  about his personal memories of Combe Down brings out what life was like nearly 100 years ago, here’s just a taste of what he says:

"My first vivid memory as a four or five-year-old child was moving home with my dad, mum, two brothers and sister into an almost derelict cottage in Byfield Place, off Summer Lane, Combe Down. I clearly remember walking into a very dark room with one gas light in a corner, a stone sink and an iron fireplace with a hob and small oven...."

"My memories of Combe Down are still quite clear in my mind, it was all so different then. As children, we wandered everywhere and people seemed to notice you and talk to you more...."

"Another 50 yards or so brought you to Mrs Colmer’s sweet shop, a favourite of ours. Mrs Colmer ran the shop, and Mr Colmer, the local shoe repairer, worked in the cellar below. We wore boots most of the time, the soles covered in studs to make them last, my dad repaired them...."

"Towards the right-hand side of the Firs Field was a ‘light hole’, approximately 20 feet in diameter, it serviced the underground stone mines, it was surrounded by a dry-stone wall three or four feet high. We were told never to climb over the wall...."

"I vividly remember vast numbers of the once-common lapwing (the peewit). Before the Second World War lapwings would flock at Foxhill. There were no houses only fields, owned by Springfield Farm. Part of my evening paper round involved delivering to an old farmhouse, at the outset of war it was taken over by the Admiralty. During what must have been early summer, I would spend an hour or more sitting perfectly still in the fields, surrounded by hundreds of these birds. Also there always seemed to be a skylark, high in the sky, singing clearly..."

"I previously mentioned our return to Combe Down School. My first teacher was Miss Condy, she taught juniors and came from Claverton. She was kind and caring. I soon moved up the general classes and remember most of the teachers names...."

Please do read Frank’s personal memories of Combe Down, I promise you that it’s well worth it.