Enmore Green residents regularly share stories from the days when their community felt like a village, separate from Shaftesbury. Alfred attended ‘Tea and Memories’ as locals reminisced about a pop-up chip shop, more relaxed pub rules and a visiting Hollywood star.
In August 2018, St John’s Churchwarden Elizabeth Preston helped arrange an exhibition of Enmore Green history to mark the 175th anniversary of the church. Mrs Preston came up with the idea of the memory-sharing sessions. “It started because we had a couple of funerals in St John’s and afterwards, we got chatting over cups of tea. I said we really needed to get together when it’s not a funeral,” said Elizabeth.
I headed to one of the afternoon events at St John’s Church Hall. The room was fairly full, with approximately thirty people sitting on grey plastic chairs around a low table laden with cakes and cups of tea. The attendees were chatting in small groups, some were passing around photos. “We’ve all got a connection. Some of us still live here, some of us were born here and went to school here. There’s all sorts of little memories,” explained Elizabeth.
Former Enmore Green resident Wendy Vulgar was driven over from Sherborne to attend, so she could share memories and stories. A keen poet, Wendy read out her verses inspired by her 1970s home of Saro Cottage on Sally Kings Lane. “I love Enmore Green and never forget Saro Cottage,” she said. Wendy began reading her poem, “Down the hill to Saro, When the time is spring, The valley seems just filled with hope and every precious thing…,” her voice cracking with emotion.
Many of the residents told me that Enmore Green has changed, like many Dorset communities. “You just got to know everybody but now I don’t know half the people in Enmore Green, but it’s still a village to me,” said resident Phyllis Jeanes. The community felt the impact of the closure of the school in July 1987. “The heart went out of the village when the school closed because you knew everybody. I only lived next door, so I just sent the children across the road,” she added.
The school was one of the topics for discussion. Elizabeth introduced local resident and keen photo-historian Chris Corner. “Mr Corner has got a photograph of the school group in the early 20th century and he’s trying to find the names of all the children,” announced Elizabeth. “I have got a copy of the school register of that period.” It is hoped that resource will be useful in identifying people. “Every so often somebody new comes along and they produce a photograph of when they were at school and people say, ‘Oh, who is this?’” said Elizabeth.
As the pictures were passed around, group members attempted to identify faces on the photos. The discussions quickly evolved into different topics and tales of Enmore Green’s past. A pub can be as important in creating a sense of community as a school. The conversation quickly turned to The Fountain Inn, which is set to open next year.
Phyllis and Eileen Tucker recalled the ‘Jug and Bottle’, a sort of off-licence in the porch of the pub. Eileen used to call in on landlady Mrs Hill and collect a beer for her husband. “My husband used to say to me, ‘Get the pint jug and take it up and buy a pint of beer’. I used to take my Denbigh jug. He was out in the allotment digging, so when he came back, he could have a drink,” said Eileen.
The pub layout was different, too. “There were two rooms, one on the left and one on the right. In the wintertime, she had a wonderful fire going in there and the men would all sit around the fire,” she added.
One of the rooms was considered posh, the second space was less refined. Phyllis wasn’t a regular at The Fountain, but she knew which room was which. “You just opened the door to see which was loudest,” she laughed.
The chat then moved on to memories of the many services once provided in Enmore Green, where there were some corner shops. “There was one up the road, Mrs Davison and Mrs Love. It was a general grocery shop. They sold paraffin,” recalled Eileen. “Mrs Davies used to have a big bicycle with a basket on the front and she did orders and went all around St James at the end of the week. Mr and Mrs Clark ran the shop down Well Lane. She also had the Post Office there. Mr Clark worked for the Southern Electric board and in the evenings, he delivered groceries from the shop.”
83-year-old Stan Toogood was introduced to me as ‘the village’s oldest resident’. “If you went back up towards town, there was a sweet shop,” he contributed. “If you went up Sally King’s Lane, there was a delicatessen where we used to get our bacon and eggs from,” said Stan. “It was useful, especially when it snowed,” added Phyllis.
Stan remembers having his hair cut by Mr Stacy who operated a barber’s from premises near the crossroads. There was also a Friday treat, Enmore Green’s own pop-up chip shop. Eileen’s mother-in-law ran that, although she doesn’t remember it herself. “In The Barton, Mrs Tucker used to cook fish and chips on a Friday. I’m not sure whether it was in the kitchen or the lounge, but you had to knock on her window and she would serve you. It was absolutely wonderful fish. She moved down to St James’ and made a little shop there. She was a lovely lady,” Stan recalled.
Enmore Green was a thriving community and although many conveniences were on hand, I quickly learned that fifty or sixty years ago, residents thought nothing of travelling long distances for entertainment, often on foot.
“Saturday night was the big night and we used to go dancing at Marnhull, Gillingham or Wincanton. We used to catch the bus at the Town Hall to go to Wincanton and then have to figure out how we would get home. Nine times out of ten, we used to walk back,” said Stan.
It would take over three-and-a-half hours to cover the eleven miles back to Enmore Green as a pedestrian, but Stan said they sometimes called a cab when they were nearer home. “We used to phone Bob Croxford, who had a taxi business, and ask him to come and pick us up. He was our resident taxi bloke,” said Stan, who used to walk long distances for fun.
He remembers a neighbour who walked over for three-and-a-half hours for her church duty. “The woman next door to my mother at 7 Breach Lane used to play the organ at Bagber and she used to walk there and walk back. I can remember that as clear as day.”
Stan was keen to share his memories of childhood misbehaviour, scrumping in the summertime. “At the Hayter’s’ Farm, we’d go and pinch the apples and plums off the trees and take them to Weymouth for a day outing, to have a good munch,” said Stan. “It was very healthy,” he added. There was a policeman in Enmore Green, a fact Stan recalls because of his sister’s driving mishap. “It was on Well Lane and he told her she had better stop the car, but she accidentally ran over his toe. That was exciting.”
But one of the most exciting moment from his youth was the arrival of a Hollywood star up the hill in Shaftesbury. “My brother came running home and said, ‘You had better get uptown. Clark Gable is in King Alfred’s Café having a cup of tea’. He had come in there with a big car,” recalled Stan, who described how crowds had congregated.
I enjoyed my afternoon. If you’re fascinated by Enmore Green’s recent past and you would love to hear local people bring those events and occasions back to life, look out for information about the next tea and memories on the Shaftesbury Church of England website notices at ShaftesburyCofE.org.uk.
“It’s not a village as such, but it feels like a village and there’s a great community spirit and it’s good getting people together to chat,” explained Elizabeth. She added that the sessions will start up again in the spring. “It is a bit irregular because we don’t tend to meet much in the winter,” she said.