"Growing up near Effingham Common"

by Doreen E. Hemus

Doreen was born in 1921 to parents Frederick W. Hemus and Emily (née) Gammage who had married in that same year.


Interviewed on August 2nd 2010 ; recorded and transcribed by Yvonne Shaw

Themes : The Common before and during the War ; Effingham characters


My name is Miss Doreen Hemus.  I was born across Effingham Common in a very nice Farm called Norwood Farm.  My Grandfather moved there in 1912 with his family. They worked very very hard. My grandfather was a farmer and my father was the son, but he didn’t really want to take on farming; it was too much hard work, getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning and milking the cows, and they don’t have to milk them by hand you see, and they’ve got they’ve got lovely hot water and everything laid on; and the farmhouse was facing the farmyard, and the cowsheds were along the side.  Grandfather was very fussy and he did keep them nice and clean or rather his employees did. He employed quite a lot of men from Effingham Village. I went to school in Effingham village, to the Church school and the headmaster was Stewart Adams and his wife was the Governess.  I was in the Governess’ class and they were there for 25 years.  They had no children (of their own) I suppose there were about 30 (children in the school) and they had several classes and a great big fire grate and big lumps of coal like they used to on the railway have with those steam (engines)  - puffin billies we used to call them  they were so big.

It was a lovely farm and it had five bedrooms but of course like all farms in those days they had a well to get their water for drinking, pumping well, no sanitation at all but they had a double one; a little one for the children and a bigger one but of course in those days, farm toilets were called earth toilets.  They used to put special stuff in; they were at the end of the garden.

It was really wonderful! Outside the back door was a great big tree and it was full of walnuts when the season was on and they would hit your head – oh they were lovely.  They had a nice lawn.

Grandfather went there in 1912 with his wife and his family, my father being one of the sons and he was there for 16 years.  He moved from there in 1928, he still loved farming so he moved to Ockham – Guileshill Farm.  This was a modern farm, it had a proper toilet you see.  As the years went on things got a bit more modern and at Guileshill Farm there was a lovely little church in a field, that’s where I was christened.

There was a great big common, Effingham common facing Norwood Farm.  There was a great big pond facing Grandad’s farm and when it was bad weather and ice (silly thing to do really) but all my father's brothers and sisters including him and me because I was the first grandchild we used to go skating on there, so you can see what severe weather we had then because we didn’t fall in.  And I can remember when I was about 6 trying to skate on there not knowing what I was really doing, but it was fun for Grandad’s sons and daughters.  It was in the grounds, it must still be there. But it is covered with a lot of bushes, hawthorn bushes now but Grandma and Grandad in their bedroom when they looked out, they could see the main road because the trees on the Common hadn’t grown then. The pond was between the house and the main road.

It was quite a big farm really and when he walked along the little road to get on to the main road, the pond was facing his farm and well all the boys and girls liked skating there in the severe weather but I suppose they were safe.  None of them fell through!

Grandma used to get up early in the morning and Grandfather would always make a big fire and make toast with a big toasting iron but Grandma would always take one of the boys with her and go out in the field, early hours of the morning and pick mushrooms and then come back and after the milking session had finished they went indoors to have bacon and fried mushrooms.  She loved going out there every day but she always took someone with her.

And then the railway, they could see the train leaving Effingham Junction and going round the line to Bookham and right on to Victoria but a steam train, ‘course the children used to like that Puffin Billy and steam train.  I remember when I was a girl of ten going on a Saturday going to Guildford on my own.  You see, Mother would want something and I would like to see the shops, in the Puffing Billy, the steam train, they had them then.  The grown up fare was only about 10d return that’s going back many, many years. I would have been about ten or eleven, but it seemed safer in those days.

Grandad was 16 years at Norwood Farm, he loved it, but a wealthy Russian man, he bought the farm, so Grandad had he known it was up for sale he would have loved to have bought it, but he was just too late – this was in 1928 so he liked this area and he moved with his family to Guileshill Farm.  My father in 1924, I think it was, he wanted to be on his own, he didn’t really want to take orders from his father, if you know what I mean so he went to Virginia Water only for two years, Mother, my Father and I and Father managed a farm for the meat king – Vestey – and I suppose Vestey’s name from one generation still stands because he was the meat king of those days and he had a farm down at Virginia Water and Father managed that for him for two years.  They liked it down it at Virginia Water, but somehow Father liked it here and so they moved back here and of course Grandad wasn’t there (Norwood Farm) then and we moved to New Marsh farm which is just down the hill. Of course they’ve pulled it down now, but it was about 500 years old. And we had a few rooms there.  We were there for ten years and then we moved up here.  And I’ve been here 73 years, I wasn’t quite 16.

But we loved the area.  Not one of the houses in Surrey Gardens was built then.  It was one complete field to near the railway bridge and where the new bridge today is built.  I don’t know whether they’ve given it a name or not, but it was a field from the pub, the Lord Howard, to the bottom of that hill.  It was one complete field and in the middle of it, my father remembers it, was a pond; no houses built in Surrey Gardens then, it was a field surrounded - in the middle was a pond, where Surrey Gardens is. Now, I have heard many years ago and even today somehow they didn’t drain that land, you’ll find even now, there’s dampness.  The foundations still suffer from damp now and therefore that field where the pond was I don’t know the builder, in my young days it was Holfords.  I don’t know if they’re there now.  They were the first class builders in those days and they built nearly all those houses in Surrey Gardens.

It was very nice at Virginia Water. I remember the school I went to when I was five at the top of Virginia Water Hill. My Father came back from Virginia Water and Father didn’t want to do farming any more, so he did a little bit of gardening for a time and then he thought ‘Right I’m going to see if I can be a painter and he liked painting. He used to go round painting the houses, but of course they don’t do much of it now, because you see, these double glazed windows are wonderful you don’t have to paint them every so often.  The sun used to blister the paint – I used to paint the outside.

We came back in 1927/8 and of course Father liked farming and we went to New Marsh Farm which is on the road towards Cobham and we were there ten years. We had a few rooms there, but that was old New Marsh Farm which was five hundred years old. There were cottages and you can see them on the main Horsley road and it’s got the date on when they were built. I suppose they were cottages for New Marsh Farm.  Now they’ve pulled the farm down and built a new one, but part of one field, the farmer has let it out to a nursery. It’s a very small nursery.

We came back from New Marsh to this house on 4th October 1937 when I was nearly 16, and it wasn’t called Old Lane Gardens then, it was called Surrey Gardens, Old Lane.  These bungalows here, the four, three they pulled down in 1980, and of course I wouldn’t move, I own this and I didn’t have to.

I left school when I was 14 and my first job was in the chemists, which is where Budgens is and it was called Ashfold.  And Adams the headmaster at Effingham School, when the boys and girls were 14 he always found them a job in a shop or whatever.  I suppose some of them went gardening. And he found me a job in the chemists shop.  I didn’t work in the Chemists’ shop I looked after the little girl.  She wasn’t in her pram and I used to help the lady, she was very nice and she was trying train me to do housework!  But I didn’t mind, and to be quite honest even today I love housework.  That was my first job, it was only temporary.

[Going to School] My mother used to have a bike and at the back of it there was a seat, a carrier and I had a cushion and the feathers came from Grandad’s chickens and mother used to cycle with me at the back to Effingham School for years.  There wasn’t a lot of traffic in those days and the first bus was a green one.  So once they started running the bus, it only ran about once an hour, it was the most old-fashioned bus I’ve ever seen, then I packed up.  So once the buses started to run, Mother didn’t want to take me any more, it was hard work for her.  When I was about ten or eleven Father bought me a second hand bike from Cobham from a garage for twenty-five shillings, and I had that for years and I had to cycle.  Oh the wind used to blow across that common, and it was so cold!  I was only about ten when I started cycling, and then my mother gave me a lovely job!  Just before it was dark, she would say’ Will you go on your bike and do a bit of shopping?’  And I’m glad she did because up to this day, up to this day, I love shopping.  I used to love to do that and I had an old fashioned straw basket and I think they were only about five or six pennies (new ones) with a handle and I used to throw it over the handle bars full of shopping, and I loved that!  Come home from school going shopping in Cobham.  It was an easy life then, it really was an easy life.

I stayed with the chemists for a few years then he moved. They were lovely people and I only went there to be trained and of course the money was terrible, only a few shillings.  So I did a little bit of domestic work  not a lot and then the war came in 1939 so of course with my age I had to join up.  Well I had such a homely home here, and I’m not really a good mixer, I didn’t really want to go into the forces or anything so I had to join, so I joined the Land Army.  I’ve got such a nice badge, but it took sixty years for the Government to give, us,the Land Girls a badge. My sister saw the advert in the Surrey Advertiser, and she bought it for me. She gave it to me and she said, ‘You were a good Land Girl’, although I never worked on the land, I was lucky there, I did a milk round.

I had a black horse that walked all the way round with me; I was frightened of it but it wouldn’t trot, it was too old and an open float; I used to get drownded.  I did a round round here so I knew all the customers and they liked me and I liked them.  They used to give me lovely Christmas boxes, about 2/6d, some five shillings and one gentleman always gave me £1.00 – that was a lot!  And I was in uniform, and I did the milk round for four and a half years. The dairy was in the middle of Effingham village, where the little chapel is and opposite the little chapel, it was called Home Farm.  And I was there for 13 years.  I did the milk round for four and half years and I’d had enough of it.  To be honest, I liked the milk round, I liked the customers, at Christmas time they used to give me lovely Christmas boxes.  One farmer across Effingham Common  he was a tree surgeon – Mr Estler – well he was very nice and his wife was like a lady and they had a little boy and girl, she dressed them beautiful and every Christmastime, he wouldn’t give me a tip or anything, he gave me a lovely joint of venison – is that deer?  I brought it home and I said ‘Mother, here’s a beautiful roast joint you can do.  I’ve got a piece of venison’ and she said ‘Oh show me’, but every year he gave me a lovely piece for Mother to cook that was my Christmas present.

The dairy was kept by two nice brothers, their name was Curtis. William Curtis he did all the farming at home farm and they were all Jersey cows and they used to go out in the fields with all the buttercups – it was a pretty sight, and his brother Charles, Charlie, he did all the machinery that went wrong for the bottling department, he organised to see all the bottling was done properly.  They also had a beautiful shop in Church Street, Bookham, next to the telephone exchange and he had it built and it was the Dairy Shop and sold groceries and milk.  But they didn’t have any cows and that, we had the cows in Effingham village and it was good trade for them.

(Before I had my illness, every Wednesday morning with the blue bus of East Horsley called the Horsely Community bus. They pick up the elderly people that have no cars and take them to Sainsbury’s in Cobham and we did our shopping.  And they were the nicest shoppers, we were so friendly, no cattiness, they just want to help people.)

The brothers lived down Effingham Common Road and I can tell you where.  Do you know Kinghams?  Two houses down from Birch House and Mr William Curtis lived in an older looking house and he had a big orchard with apples.  When he moved and retired, that orchard, all the trees were pulled up and a beautiful bungalow, Mr Curtis’ niece had a house built.  Mr William Curtis house had a balcony.  His brother lived in the next block of houses was called Windy Ridge and the mother lived to 94 and she lived there next door to the house that got burnt down by the Doodlebug. Mrs Curtis originated in Ewell.  They had farms in Balham in the 1800 and then they moved to Effingham Village in 1933 and William Curtis he lived in a house that is still exactly the same.  He had a live-in cook and Charles Curtis, his brother he lived not at Windy Ridge (but) in the first house of the next block before the school.

India Farm was never a farm and this is what puzzles me.  Not in my day; no animals at all.  During the war years there was Mr and Mrs Sales and he was a gentleman who went to business and they had a little, like a summer house, so to speak and man and a woman, she was the cook and he half the time was ill, lived in the little summer house and they had a garage and the garage was made into a flat and the husband was a gardener chauffeur and they moved to cottages in a turning just off of Old Lane.  India Farm was never a farm, I do know that.  They had a great big tennis court where I suppose they could have built cow sheds but they never did.  But they made the garage into a beautiful flat and when they sold the place in 1973 they moved to the flats over here.  I don’t know who bought it.  It was £90,000 – is that right.  There was never, never any cows, goats or dogs – nothing and I know that because I used to walk across their lawn to deliver the milk to the husband and wife, but he was always ill, in like a little cottage, and a garage and nice flat over the garage.  And the main house was old, but modernised and I knew them as Sales. He was a lovely gentleman. He used to go to business in London. There might have been animals in the 1800s.

Mallaby-Deeley had Slaters Oak and one side of the house was a field and they had donkeys for the children to play on.  He did have a title he was Sir Mallaby-Deeley and his mother was an old fashioned lady and she always wore a black ribbon (round her throat) and I do believe she was Lady Mallaby-Deeley and they had a simple boy and the mother lived there as well and they used to walk this poor simple boy up to the station, it was so sad.  I suppose he might have been about 14 or 15, but they were titled.  And they had one side of the house as a great big garden and they made into an orchard and it was the most beautiful sight in the Spring, full of daffodils, oh it was beautiful!  They were kind to me because they had quite a long path to get down from the road to the big house and they used to say to me, just open the gate by the side of the road and put our milk behind a tree, which was nice.

Mr William Curtis was great friends of the Lord of the Manor really great friends and Mr William Curtis, lived near Birch House so he was more involved.  Mr Charlie Curtis before he came down here, he was a director for United Dairies of Streatham, but before 1933 all the Curtis lived at Ewell and had farms there, but all the land is built up now, but their grandparents had farms in Ewell West, but they decided they wanted to come here and had the big dairy built and all the offices, nice offices and we used to look out the windows and see all the cows in the fields and the buttercups – really nice! After four and a half years when the war ended, I said to Mr Curtis ‘I’ve done the job properly, but I didn’t like it, because I didn’t like the horse I wasn’t used to horses, but they gave me an old one to walk round so I said, ‘Well now I want to leave’.  But they didn’t want me to leave so they said would I go in the office?  So I went in there for thirteen years and I left in 1955.

I delivered to Mr Estler and he had a housekeeper and I suppose I ought not to say this, but he had a most attractive wife, she was like an actress, and a little boy and girl about 4 or 5 and she made up nicely and dressed beautiful, but he dressed for the farm and something went wrong and she left him.  She left him for an officer in the Second World War and took her children with her.  He spoke beautiful, he was a tree surgeon and I do believe he was something or a relation – there was some German blood.  He had a brother.

Effingham Lodge had a swimming pool and what was nice, but I was frightened of water,  all the children and the headmaster, Stuart Adams, every Monday he had permission to take the children there.  But I was nervous of the water so they said well you stay in the school and do your lessons.  That was very nice.

He built the Catholic church and the gentleman who built it lived over in foreign lands and he built the Indian Railway and after that he came to live in the Lodge.  So he originated from a foreign land and he had built that Church which was the Roman Catholic church.  It was a good little village because they had the Roman Catholic Church and they had the big church, St Lawrence and then they had a little chapel.  They had everything, they had the blacksmiths, because Curtis’ had to have their horses done, it was very convenient and next to that was a shoe menders.

Nearly opposite the church, there are some houses that are built not facing the road, and in the very end house, his name was Payne, and he bought a great big shed and put it on his lawn and that was the hairdressers’ shop. And the lady that cut the hair, well she was very young, I suppose she was a teenager and she was trained and she came down and she cut the ladies’ and the gents’ hair, not the real ladies, but the parents and the schoolchildren used to go in our lunch hour and it was sixpence and it was a big old shed and he had it painted, he kept it very clean and it was the very end of that little old path.  They did very well, because there was no other hairdresser, I don’t really think there was a hairdresser in Bookham not in those days.  He must have made a lot of money, and us children we used to go in our lunch hour and it was sixpence.  It was a bit primitive, but it was the only way.  They have two pubs, I don’t know why they wanted two.  But the Douglas Haig , the name was altered in the first world war, the pub had a German name so they altered it.  My father used to go in and have half a pint – they didn’t drink much in those days.

They had two pubs the other one was called the Plough in Oreston Lane.  There was a nice farmer down there and my Father used to go there in a nice friendly way to play cards, although not for money.