Now and then ………… as we rush about in our busy lives, why not take a few minutes this weekend, grab a coffee and read the Introduction to A Vanished Past. Think about life now and consider life then in Horley with this mid 20th century perspective:
This book is one of four volumes about Horley in the mid 20th century, mainly using the medium of photographs. It has been an enthralling and at times frustrating journey with some epic qualities – the intention and purpose changed, the route changed, and every time I thought the end was in view it was a mirage. The 23 years of my life in Horley provided me with exceptionally rich formative experiences. I daily draw on experiences of sounds, sights and smells, and in particular I watch the seasonal changes. More important is the knowledge I gained of people, their tragedies, achievements, interpersonal relationships and values. They influenced the person I am today. Somebody asked me why I was doing this detailed work. Two reasons: the Horley we knew in the post second world war period has vanished and I thought there should be a record of it, and the people. I also wanted to leave a record of the part our family played in those 24 years.
I was brought up in Horley Vicarage. Living in The Vicarage was like living in a busy customer service office: there were people ringing at the front door, knocking at the back door, phoning, occasionally at the same time, and bundles of letters arriving daily. It felt to me as though we were at the centre of this small world. The rapid way in which my three sisters and I had to leave The Vicarage and Horley on the unexpected death of our father just after Christmas 1964 was shocking. We lost both our parents in rapid succession, and also our home, the community where we had our roots, and our friends and connections in Horley and the Banbury area. I thought we were like the seeds of a dandelion blown to the four quarters of the world. My sister Shân recently said that we were like bits of flotsam thrown about in a storm we could not control. We were given three months notice to leave The Vicarage and by Easter 1965 we had left the village.
Although this was intended to be a short book about the years 1941 to 1965 it has some material from both earlier and later times when it seemed interesting and also relevant to the life we knew. Horley as I knew it had a before and an after. Glimpses of those times put my period in context.
The greatest source of photographs has been the vast chest kept by Alice (Saunders) Bowmaker of her father’s work. John Saunders was a professional photographer of country life and family life. It means that we have some lovely stills of the Horley countryside originally destined for publication in periodicals. The quality of the original was fine. I have worked from tiny proofs, so they are not as quite as clear as John’s beautiful originals.
There are an even greater number of photographs of children playing, cooking, at school, and at leisure involving his own children, and quite a number of other children willing to put aside an hour or more to wait around (sometimes in the cold or wet) while John Saunders got his angle and light meter sorted out. They are sometimes idealised images. Should I leave them in or take them out? In the end I decided that even though they have been posed they also show some aspects of our life of which we would not otherwise have a record.
My greatest regret is that there are few photographs of the interiors of our homes. Nor is there much photographic record of the ordinary everyday activities that filled our time and which have changed so dramatically over the last 50 years: the daily chores of fetching or pumping water, laying fires, clearing and disposing of ashes, chopping sticks with an axe, breaking lumps of coal with a hammer, sieving the slack out, shovelling the coal into buckets, ensuring lamps were filled with oil and the wicks primed, keeping our homes clean without electric vacuums, washing all sheets and clothes by hand, managing the privies, or the routines of producing our food: looking after the hens, the pig, growing and harvesting vegetables and storing them for the winter, and picking a variety of fruit and preserving them in different ways.
There were whist drives, dances, chapel anniversaries, harvest festivals, fancy dress competitions, prize-givings, school plays and a whole panoply of special church services – but no-one even thought of recording them. Cameras were a rarity and a luxury. I have not come across any diaries of the period.
We have the wrong impression if we think that the village population was static. There were some families that had their roots in the 19th century Horley and several for much longer, but any glance through the censuses of the 19th century reveals a constantly changing community.
We, the people who live or lived in Horley are part of a pattern of successive waves. We make Horley our home, play a part in the community, take ownership of the houses and land and make it our own for a time. Afterwards little remains of our existence there, or indeed of the un-named people that were there before us. The movement of population has been dramatic in the last 50 years – a speeded-up version of earlier change but so radical that continuity rests with less than a handful of people and memories have been lost. This book may help to redress this imbalance a little.
I wanted to recreate the web of everyday life rather than the stuff of minutes or formal records, and to hint at the complicated society to which we all made some contribution.
I have consulted where possible and have valued comments and contributions from many. For the final decisions, the omissions and errors, the author is responsible and asks for the readers’ understanding.
Clare Marchant, June 2015
They are available directly from Clare , Shaftesbury House, 15 Circus Street, Greenwich, London SE10 8SN or marchantclare@hotmail or call on 020 8858 8529. Cheques payable to Clare Marchant.
Clare Marchant was born in Horley Vicarage, Oxfordshire in 1941 and spent her formative years there until 1965. She now lives in Greenwich, London
First published in 2015. All rights reserved. The rights of Clare Marchant to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the consent of © Clare Marchant. Copyright for each image rests with the contributor.