Mr. And Mrs. Crease lived in Kingsley Mill, which was still working back then, although not in regular commercial use, Mr. Crease would occasionally use it. I have seen it working on a couple of occasions for I spent a lot of time in and around the mill. Google would suggest to me that I probably wouldn’t recognise the area now. Back then the mill stood in a sort of island as the main river had been diverted to pass through the mill but also ran around behind it as well. Two rivers ran in and around the mill, one came down from Oakhanger across Shortheath and the other came from the north under the road the Oakhanger side of Bakers Corner, and on under the railway line, before joining somewhere just before reaching the mill. Mr. and Mrs. Crease were the parents of Mrs. Chadwick, the then village postmistress.They had some fields to the side and the rear of the mill and some farm buildings on, what I have described as, the island. There were make shift bridges over the river at various points which enabled animals and tractors to cross. Mr. Crease kept a small number of cattle and the odd pig or two. He mad hay from his fields and as stated, occasionally worked the mill. I don’t know what he ground in the mill and if it was for himself or for other people. On a number of occasions I have been fishing in the mill pool when the water from behind the mill was released and it came gushing through into the pool having turned the mill wheel. Mr. Crease would also open the mill gates to let the water through when there had been a lot of rain and the buildup of water needed releasing.
Mrs. Crease was lovely and very kind to me and, I think, the rest of the village children in general. It was the form to knock on the side door of the mill to ask permission to fish in the mill pool. I have done this many times and the routine was almost always the same. Mrs. Crease would open the door and the request would be made. She would then ask whom you were,having given your name,and asked to fish she would say that it was fine. I could never understand why she asked for a name each time for she must have recognised me as I was a very regular visitor. Often she would invite me into the room which was low ceilinged and quite dark. There were a lot of big trees outside and these clearly restricted the light within. Once inside a sweet or two would be offered and then she would ask all about the doings in the village. I think she enjoyed the company and the news being delivered in this way. She always gave her permission for me to fish and on a number of occasions when I intended to arrive at the river or mill early in the morning, (0700hrs ), she would give her permission in advance of the visit without the need to knock. Occasionally she would come out and around the corner to where I was sitting on the big stone block which was right beside the hole beneath the mill where the water rushed through, and ask if I had caught anything. I had the feeling that she had quite a lonely life in the mill on the edge of the village and for this reason she enjoyed a bit of a natter when the opportunity presented itself.
Mr. Crease was quite different, it was rumoured that he had “turns” when there was a full moon.He was, for the most part, indifferent to the little boys that periodically appeared in and around his fields. He did, however, get quite stroppy with us when he found us one day in his hay barn. There were a number of us and caught red handed Mr. Crease demanded our names. I don’t recall all of those present but one of our number was Joey Withers, who when asked for his name said it was Joe Soap. This did not go down to well with Mr. Crease and he began to issue the most dire of threats against us. This resulted in a mass reaction. We all took to our heels and ran for all we were worth. When at, what we thought, was out of his range if he decided to come after us we jointly hollered back all sorts verbal abuse. Followed swiftly by another burst of running. Encounters such as this one were not uncommon between us boys and Mr. Crease. Apart from his milling and farming duties, he also looked after the gardens of Ockham Hall. The gardens then extended to the island in front of the hall between it and the pond and created by the two tracks that pass before the hall. There were also gardens to the right of the hall as you look at it from the Cricketers, together with a small bungalow and these extended right around to the rear of the hall and between it and the cottages opposite where the cadet hut stood. In short,quite a large area of gardens to care for. There were lots of pathways throughout the grounds and we would occasionally wander through them when on our way elsewhere. If we were sighted by Mr. Crease he would immediately burst forth into the most dire threats imaginable and come running after us in order to ensure our speedy exit from his gardens. Mr. Crease was not a great runner and having discovered that he was unable to catch us when the chase was on, the sport of Crease bating was born. We would, in small groups, creep into the gardens and locate our prey. From behind bushes and trees we would call out names at him one group at a time. As he made off in the direction of one group another group would take up the shouting and divert his attention. In this way we taunted the poor man and had him running around in circles. When he went full pelt for a group we simply ran away easily outrunning him. We did not do this very often as readers should remember that Kingsley then had a village policeman and you didn’t mess with him. Even at quite a young age most of us had a healthy respect for the policeman who lived as a part of our community and knew most of what was going on in the village. How things have changed! More about the policemen of the village later.
As mentioned earlier in this article Mr. and Mrs. Crease were the parents of Mrs. Chadwick, the village postmistress. The Post Office was located in the second house to the right of the entrance to Woodfield when viewed looking into Woodfield with the B3004 behind. This building was semi detached with the first house, Church Cottage. Mrs. Chadwick was a great smoker and almost always had a cigarette hanging out of her mouth. Her fingers and the hair on the front of her head were yellow with nicotine stains. I remember that she smoked Turf cigarettes these came in a blue tinted packet. This was the time of cigarette cards and because of her great consumption of cigarettes, Mrs. Chadwick was a rich source of these cards. This was also a time when Great Britain still had large armed forces and in order to maintain recruitment The War Department, as it was then, issued many colorful posters advertising the advantages of being a soldier, sailor, marine or airman. Of course, it was always men that were required, women were not then generally recruited into the armed forces as they are today. Many of these posters feature uniformed soldiers in the many and varied regimental dress of the day. They were much sought after by little boys and having remained upon the post offices walls for a reasonable period, Mrs. Chadwick lets us have them.
Her son Ken also made some very nice stand up soldiers from these illustrations. He had a fret saw and would cut out an image from a poster,draw around it on a piece of thin ply wood and then cut out the shape with his saw. A Small square block of wood would be glued to the base of the wooden shape at the rear and the paper image from the poster would be glued to the front. This would then be varnished and there you had a standing soldier in full military dress. These treasures often appeared for sale at village events and were eagerly purchased for a small amount of money. At a slightly later time, the post office became attractive as a source of income as it was paying money for grey squirrel tails on behalf of the Government. First shoot your squirrel with an air rifle, pop along to Mrs. Chadwick, and hey presto, one shilling was yours. Nice one squirrel!!!. This measure was brought in as part of the Governments attempt to stop the spread of the grey squirrel throughout the country. In and around Kingsley there was still the odd red squirrel in those days. It was widely believed that the grey’s killed off the reds. They, therefore, became public enemy number one. As is now well known, that scheme failed to control the spread of the grey squirrel and was probably too little too late. But it provided, for some time, a nice little income for village people and in the early days of the scheme, incredibly, the tail from the offending squirrel had only to be shown to obtain the shilling.Not that anyone in Kingsley would have taken advantage of this situation, perish the thought! However, after a fairly short while, the tails had to be retained by the post office, most unsporting. More next month.