MEMORIES OF OLD ARLE
From interviews by Mrs M. Hyett
Mrs Webb (nee Booth)
When I visited Mrs Webb some years ago she was one of the oldest surviving residents of Arle. She lived in Box Cottage on Village Road and had done so all her life. She invited me into her cosy little cottage. We entered through her scullery, which ran across the back of the cottage, into a cosy kitchen where a fire burned in the old-fashioned range. She was white-haired at that time, and rather deaf but her memory was sharp. She talked of her family - she was the daughter of Stephen Booth, and she knew most of the families in that area - the Parsons, the Betteridges, the Gabbs and the Brunsdens.
When she was a child she had a long walk across the fields to Red Roofs School in St. Marks and on one occasion she recalled seeing the bodies of two men who had died in a grisly murder and suicide on the allotments on Brooklyn Road. It must have been a horrible sight for a school child, but word soon spread and others came to view the ghoulish scene.
She recalled the old Post Office on the corner of Arle Road and Village Road, run at that time by the Voices. Mrs Voice, she recalled, was quite a fearsome character and once told her (Mrs Webb) when, as a child she was sent to collect her father's pension, that "If your dad can get himself to the Cross Hands, then he can come and get his own pension".
Of the original Arle House she knew a great deal, having worked there for Col. Denne and his wife, who she regarded as penny-pinching. Mr Webb and his son used to go to the House early to fill up the tank in the roof which supplied water for the day's needs Mrs Webb's sister also worked there as a cook-general along with other servants.
Mrs Webb lived to a great age and saw many changes but her little cottage has survived.
Mrs Bendall (nee William)
Mrs Bendall lived for a time at The Old School house and worked at Arle House with the Booth girls. She was a parlour-maid and had to get up very early to light the kitchen range to boil water for early morning tea and hot water for washing. After that she had to clean all the grates, sweep and dust and lay the breakfast table - all for about 30/- (£1.50) per week. She was helped in the dairy, which was in the basement - cold and ill lit - by candles or oil lamps.
The rest of the house was luxurious and had many ornate gold mirrors and carved furniture, also tiger-skin rugs, which she believed the Dennes acquired in India.
Well, the original Arle House is no more and yet the modest workmen's cottages still stand on Village Road and where the Denne's Home stood, there is another Arle House - now an Old People's Home.
Mrs Ivy Grace
Mrs Grace lived in Hesters Way Lane from 1927. There was then a small community of thirteen houses. The occupiers were all very friendly and neighbourly, helping each other in time of need. Being near the timber yard, the residents were never short of firewood and could get a whole load for 6d (21/2 pence).
She remembers the lovely lush meadows, the rabbits and even a kingfisher on the barks of the Chelt nearby. She also remembered the two German POW's at Hope Farm and knew of Mr. Rachel, Mr. Fletcher, Mr. Gabb and Mr. Hopkins and watched the Estate growing up around her. Her bungalow is still in Hesters Way Lane.
Mrs Hulbert (nee Kearsey)
Mrs Hulbert of Swindon Farm was one of the Kearseys of Hope Farm. Her parents came from Churchdown and bought land in Arle to build on, but her mother did not like the temporary stay at Browns Cottage, Village Road, which was damp and overrun with mice so she moved in with her sister at Hayden Hill until the house was finished. She recalled Mr. Webb who had lost his leg after he retired and who worked for a time at Swindon Farm. His nickname was "Curly" and Mr Hulbert declared that he was the best rabbit catcher in the district. She believed the contents of Arle House were sold after the Estate began to take shape and that there were many beautiful things up for sale. She also remembered that the Booths, for a time, lived at Elmhurst in Tanners Lane (probably now one of the derelict properties there), but says several cottages were demolished when building began.
Her grandparents had six sons, five of whom served in WWI. All returned safely.