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I was born in Bredgar in 1926 and attended Tunstall school from 1931 until 1939, when we moved to Rochester, when I first started school I either walked or some times bussed, later we moved to Ruins Barn Rd, no 40 I think, which was anew house.

Thelma's account of the school and its routine was very well described,but I do recall some memories of my own, I always looked forward to the milk break in the morning, especially if I could help giving the milk out, (I think the milk cost half a penny per day for a third of a pint), the gardening session, which took place behind the toilet block, was the high light of the week, and has remained my passion ever since. I can remember receiving a book as a prize from the Rev Midwinter, vicar of Tunstall church for writing a composition (as it was called) about a bible story. I also obtained a scholarship to Borden Grammar school, but could not accept this as my parents could not afford the extra cost involved, I had two younger sisters and a brother at the time, and my father was only a labourer in the paper mill.
One year the school staged a play in the village hall, Little Red Riding Hood and I played the Big Bad Wolf having to wear a gruesome mask, which afterwards I was allowed to keep, and for some reason treasured for many years,my father helped with the stage lighting using some old car headlights as spotlights. Many of the children, including myself and my sisters went home for dinner, taking the path beside the village hall, across the fields to the top end of Ruins Barn Road, I think we had about one and quarter hours for dinner break which was just about enough time to make it back to school for the afternoon session.
Being a C. of E. school we had a close relationship with the church and on ascension day we would go to school, and then walk down past Tunstall house to the church to a service by the the Rev Midwinter, after which we would have the rest of the day off. Many of the children attended Sunday school,and several of the boys were in the church choir, including myself and I remember being paid three shillings a quarter if we attended every service and choir practice, also if we were lucky enough to be asked sing at a wedding or on a very rare occasion at a funeral, we would be paid a shilling. This was the only pocket money I ever had, and made me feel very proud to be able to spend it as I wished. Other church events was harvest festival, when the church was beautifully decorated with flowers, fruit and vegetables and children could bring along small small gifts, which I think were donated to the local cottage hospital, and there was the church fete held in the field behind the vicarage where small events took place, and of course the usual stalls, hoopla,coconut-shies, lucky dip, raffles, refreshments etc. I think the fete was well supported by the village people.
Although the village did not have any shops or a public house we were visited regularly by a travelling van (which we called the U man), painted on the side of the van were the words, Come-To-U-The-Man, which sold a variety of groceries and sweets, being children we were always eagerly awaiting for this van to buy some sweets.
The school summer holiday of four weeks always took place in September,this allowed the children to help there parents with hop picking. The hop gardens at Tunstall were opposite Pond Cottages on the Tunstall Road, where many families spent part of their holiday picking hops, including my own family. I must confess I never enjoyed hop picking, although I realised any extra money earned was a great help, hop bines are rough and often wet on September mornings and the hops stain your hands and it takes ages to pick a bushel, for which you earned six pence. I remember each hop row had a huge basket, as tall as me, they called a tally basked where all your hops were tipped into, and at the end of the day a tally man would record your amount of hops picked and payment made when the hop garden was cleared.
The hops were then tipped into large hop sacks and carted to the oast houses at Grove End farm to be dried before being sent to the breweries.
We had a very good bus service which operated from Cromers Corner, (the bus was very small about half the size of a single-decker) to Sittingbourne, taking alternate routes from the bottom of Woodstock Road,left vie Park Road or right vie Bell Lane, where at the bottom junction with Sittingbourne high street always stood a policeman on traffic duty. I used the bus on Saturday mornings to visit the Queens Picture House, where for two pence entrance we could watch films, and then visit my grandparents who lived in Cockle Shell Walk (I think this has gone due to changes in Sittingbourne.)
I remember Cockle Shell Walk as a terraced row of two bed-roomed Victorian houses with toilets in the backyard, my grandparents lived there forover sixty years and somehow managed to bring up eight children in that small house.


HF 2013

Childhood in Tunstall 

by Hugh Farrington

Memories of childhood
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