Mildenhall in Wiltshire - The Minal Community Website




Memoirs of Miss Lily Head as Dictated to Susan Monson


Some years ago Susan Monson recorded a number of conversations with Miss Lily Head (1905-1997), who was then in her eighties and had lived in the village since she was two years old. Susan used an old Dictaphone and never found a satisfactory way of transferring the recordings. The tapes were very old so they were transcribed them as best as possible and as near to the original as possible but with some editing, as conversations are different from letters. These memoirs initially appeared in the Parish Pump. Lily Head lived in Honeysuckle cottage when young, opposite where the shop used to be.



At Christmas anyone that had a big family or were really poor were helped. Mr Soames used to go round the village at festival times. If it was logs they wanted or coal for the fire, that was paid for. He would go on the coal wagon or the butcher's cart. They used the charity money that was left years ago to give to people who were poor.

There was a Christmas concert at school; every child in the school had to be in it. Girls wore a white dress, a sash and a different coloured hair ribbon according to which part you were taking. The boys had to have velvet trousers and white shirts. The mothers had made the shirts and pinafores, with a clean handkerchief pinned on and shoes cleaned. It was school songs (some in parts) and recitations, not acting.

At Christmas Mr Soames used to take the boys with him to help get the holly; they'd climb the trees and all sorts. It all had to be things that were living and growing, nothing but that. It was all gathered round the hedgerows without knocking anything to pieces. The children were given things to do and were in charge of finding enough holly and ivy or anything that would decorate the church.

At home we always had lovely books at Christmas: Annuals so we could all join in with them and Nursery Rhyme books for the tiny ones. The boys had wheelbarrows made at the carpenter’s and a doll’s cot for the girls and things like that. Christmas time they’d buy us some new records, new tunes which had come out, anything they’d heard us trying to sing. We could play it and learn it properly.

We got nuts from Thickets Road in September. My dad used to put them in a big flower pot down in the damp ground and that kept them, they didn’t go dry. Then he got them up at Christmas. You couldn’t have afforded those things if you didn’t get them that way.


My mum never had anyone to do the work with but when we were old enough we helped. We came home from school in the dinner hour and helped, watching the baby in the high chair, feeding baby and later the baby fed itself. We played with the baby so it was ready to go to sleep in the afternoon. Mum made dinner ready.

After school, if mum wanted anything like the brass and silver done, she would put it out ready and show us. It depended what she had to do. There might be the baby to look after while she finished off dad’s tea. We were always taught to lay the tea. We couldn’t do the mid-day meal because it had to be ready when we came home from school.

We had to sew our buttons on, she’d teach us to. Evenings in the winter were spent teaching us to make buttonholes and all sorts of things; little bits of sewing - your own mending. The older ones would teach the younger ones the alphabet and the times tables. It was sometimes learning to knit and showing the younger ones. We had big wool and big needles. We all sat at the table so that young ones could learn and join in. As soon as mum had taught us we showed the little ones. Then she’d see if we had done it properly. That’s how we learned to do things, not at school. We did bits there but it wasn’t enough.

On Saturday mornings everything had to be done, nothing done on Sunday as you know. The toilet up the garden had to be swept and cleaned. The doorsteps had to be scrubbed, the front steps swept and all the paths out the back. The roadman was outside and he said “if you sweep all the dust into the road then I’m coming along and I’ll pick it up”. Knives and forks had to be cleaned on the board. You had powder and you had to rub it on, there wasn’t stainless steel then. When my father came home, it was usually early afternoon, he’d go and get all the vegetables for Sunday dinner. If there was anything still to be done he would help.


As you go up Thicketts Road, that first part of the School House was for living in. The school rooms were in the other part. There were three teachers: an infant teacher, a teacher for middle ones and a master. The infant teacher lived where Gill Price lives, which was two or three tiny cottages. Miss Price and Mr Greenham lived in School House. There were a few big boys, which is how there came to be a master – a lot of men on the WW1 war memorial were in the big-ones’ class.

At you had to be at school. Breakfast at We left at ten to, you know how children dawdle! We had to go home for dinner. Everyone went except the ones who lived on the Downs. They were given tea or cocoa or something made for them so that they had hot drinks. They were allowed to be in school in the warm, if it was winter, to have their meal. One of the teachers kept a check on what was going on. (They brought their meal, of course.) When we came out of school and went home we stopped to watch at the Forge and got late home and they’d wonder why!

After every holiday we had to write a letter on our holidays and Mr Soames gave us 6d for the best, 3d for the second and a penny for the third. My brother nearly always won the best one. Well my father used to take him about with him so of course he'd done more than the rest, so of course he had the best chance of writing the best letter. Mr Soames (Rev Soames) encouraged them, 3d or a penny was a lot in those days for the children to get and it gave them something to do in the holidays, to remember what they’d done and write it all down


Our days were quite full all the time. On Saturday afternoons, as a rule, Mum took us to town to Marlborough. We would walk in and then walk back.

If she wanted to buy us anything like new clothes she put money into Slopers every year, she always paid clothing clubs. And in the winter, when she took that money out, she could buy all our vests and pants.

My father always left all the money from the wool sale, that’s when the sheep had all been sheared, to buy us shoes, it was left at Hurds, Mum would buy something for us, those small bars of chocolate, things like that. Oh yes, we got our treats and occasionally a little present, it just depends how the money was going and what was happening. If the farmers had been good and given my dad different money for looking after their flocks of sheep and that, he would have some money to spend. You didn’t expect it like people today, it was just if they were well-enough off they gave it to you.

We didn’t have pocket money, we didn’t need any. We didn’t spend any at school or anything, it wasn’t like it is today. Well, it couldn’t have been afforded. Books was the chief thing they bought us. Bricks were a big thing in those days, building bricks, spinning tops ‘cause you could do that indoors in the winter. The little ones loved that, you’d spin them round you see.

We didn’t usually have bicycles until we were about fourteen. We made dolls’ clothes because we had rag dolls and dressed them in little bonnets, all this sort of thing. There was always plenty to do. We always played Snap with cards, everybody liked this Snap business because of making a noise. We had dominoes because my dad liked playing dominoes with us and Beat-your-neighbour-out-of-doors – all those, oh yes. Then there was the other ones with the dice, you got a six and you started, you had a board – Ludo, Snakes and ladders, everybody liked that.

We had an old gramophone in the end, with a big horn. My people were nothing with the piano, we didn’t even have one, they weren’t musical in that way. I think you have to have that in you to be any good. And then another thing, I don’t think many could afford a piano unless you could get a second-hand one. Usually if there was one piano in the village to take to the old hut that was about as much as we had. Of course there was one at the school but that was about all. Mr Soames had one but I don’t think they were a family that were terribly musical.