A Snapshot in Time

Most of us are fascinated by our ancestors. We completely forget that we too will become ancestors. Because we live in such a diverse village I thought it would be a really good idea to collect together an Archive of the Parish of Cutcombe at the present moment in time. The reasons why we have come to this village from “outside” are varied and often, funny. As is the habit of the “farming families” house musical chairs. All of us have a story to tell and here is the first of them.

Mrs Eileen Webber’s Snapshot in Time

I was born Eileen Colman, 30/6/24 at Higher Crosses, Exton, daughter of Edward and Emma Colman(nee Quartley). We had larger families in those days I was one of 8 not unusual and being the 2nd eldest of a family of 8; my family consisted of twins 5 sisters and 2 brothers my grandmother had 21, she started in 1877 and was still having babies in 1905. 

My dad was a carter, who ploughed and sowed the fields with 2 horses and did all the other farming jobs as well. He worked really hard for 24 shillings a week. He was charged tuppence a pint for skimmed milk, separated it was, no cream in it. We used to eat a lot of rabbit, don’t know if they were charged for catching them! My parents kept several chickens and also a pig for killing; not a bit of it going to waste, sausages, chitterlings and brawn. She used to stuff and roast rabbits, lots of stews too, probably why I can’t eat rabbit now. We really enjoyed them when we came home from school. She cooked on an open fire with a 3-leg crock-pot and a kettle. Mum used to sit and fry on a “Brandice” they were called, a really hot job, especially in summer. She used to brown the cakes by putting red hot coals from the fire on top; it was a big shallow pot with 3 short legs. I remember her lovely treacle pudding, always something hot and filling for when we came in from school- we didn’t starve. For school dinner we had pork or dripping sandwiches with butter scrapped on. Sometimes our lunches were stolen from our satchels by the Hollands, that used to live in an old shack at the very top of Exton Hill about ¼ mile from Exton Cross. We used to walk the 3 miles to school in all weathers and were never late once. The Short cut was through Kendle Green Farm, but if it was wet we had to walk to Stolford Cross & up to Exton Cross to keep our shoes or hob nail boots clean and dry for School. Our teacher, Mrs Burge a kindly soul, would warm us up something to tide us over when our sandwiches were stolen. I used to clean for her on Saturdays to earn a few pennies.

On Sundays we would go to Exton Church Sunday School, taught by Mrs Ladds, a real Christian Lady, in the afternoon we would walk to Gupworthy Chapel, about 2 ½ miles, it didn’t do us any harm, I would like to be able to walk it now! My mum was from a family of 21, she was the 13th child, always worked hard, and was a very good needlewoman, knitted lots of jumpers for us. She used to go to jumble sales and alter things to fit us. My granny lived until she was 92, what a great age then, she used to work so hard and used to go up to the farm to do all their dirty washing.
My dad used to take us up in the field and make us do races, we ran and jumped. We had no radio even and played cards, whist, and draughts – my dad liked draughts best and was really good. He used to play his mouth organ and dance with us. We lived a very happy life all together. I left school at 14 and went to work for 7/6 pence a week. I have a photograph of Exton School 32 children and 2 Teachers around 1938. Exton School was closed around 1965/66.

My first job was at Brushford and I came home every other week on my 3-geared bicycle. Dad had a big garden and supplied all our vegetables. We sometimes used to walk through Kendle Greens Farm fields, where Robert & Pauline Takle now farm. The people who lived there were Mary, Winnie and their brother Arthur Lock. I remember, Mary was married at Exton Church, they walked back to Kendle about 5 or 6 yards behind each other, and we thought this was quite funny! And she didn’t get dressed up for it! We used to take eggs, cream and butter to their customers in the village. One day my sister, Ursula, dropped the eggs on Exton Hill and laughed and sang as they rolled all the way down the hill. I think she said she was sorry.

In 1944 I was married to Sydney Webber at Cutcombe Church. We took Watercombe Farm and lived there till 1947. When Arthur Webber married Nora Kennely they wanted to start on their own, so we moved into Dunkery View with Sydney’s mum, dad, sister Betty and brother Edgar. Betty was a good help with the twins Roger and Jennifer, and Richard. Susan and Angela were born 6 & 9 years later 5 children in all.

I have lived here for 60 years now. We have farmed turkeys, geese, ducks, chickens, pigs and ran a dairy herd until I was 73. The poor price for milk and the insurance, forced us to close the dairy in 1999. I milked cows and fed the calves, sometimes fetched them from the field. Our milk was green top milk and I hand-washed the bottles. We still grow our own vegetables and I still feed the family every day.

Sydney died in 1993, sadly missed. He was Chairman of various charities and on the Rural District Council for many years. He was School Governor here and at Minehead and NFU Chairman; PCC secretary for 28 years at Cutcombe, all this and more and farmed as well.

Wheddon Cross has changed over the years, this house and Exmoor House next door, were once Tailor’s shops and my husband learned his trade as tailor with his dad. His mother came from farming stock and that’s how they came to buy a couple of sheep, a cow and calf and over the years, built it up to what it is today.

My son Roger now runs the farm, he left school at 15.

Charles Woolmer’ Story

Born 16th August 1954 during a hurricane in Boston, USA. His mother Kate had rushed from Singapore to America so he would have American nationality (how things have changed) His parents Stanley an Architect and his mother, a teacher met and married in Singapore after the 2nd WW.

Stanley had been a prisoner in the notorious Changi Prison and the building of the Bridge over the River Kwai. Kate had escaped out of Singapore (Japanese hot on her heels) through Indonesia, to South Africa on the famous ‘Exeter’. She spent the remainder of the war in America as a journalist. Stanley helped rebuild Singapore after the war and built ‘low cost homes’ for 4 million people!!
When Charles was 6, Stanley was asked to go to Ghana by our government, but this only lasted 9 months. Stanley then became Island development Officer in Jersey, Channel Islands and wrote the planning law! The family remained there until Stanley’s death in 1974.
After Manchester University, Charles spent the majority of his working life in the developing commercial computer industry in Central London. He married first “Carla” his Indian wife and secondly “Mully” who was keen to leave London yuppydom. As an early practitioner of home working and with developments in rural communications, these have enabled him to move to deepest, darkest, rainiest, windiest, sunniest and loveliest Exmoor.