2020 - Hillview, Oare – Robin Harriman remembers [1941 to 1980’s]

Hill View, Oare. Robin Harriman remembers – January 2020:

A photo of Mrs Pile outside the shop at Hillview in 1941.

Mr and Mrs Pile owned the site prior to Robin’s dad, Bert.  It was the Pile’s who sold off the portion of the land for the council houses which are now neighbours to Hillview on Sunnyhill Lane. Robin’s dad was an orphan who was housed and raised in a house at the bottom of Gas House Brow where Fordbrook Business Centre now sits, in Pewsey. It was possibly a poor house for the parish of Pewsey as opposed to the workhouse which became the Old Hospital. When this property was demolished the children living there moved in with Mrs Pile, she seemed to collect strays and lodgers. Robin’s dad, Bert, moved in with Lil and Reg. Mrs Pile also ran the village shop (the building attached that is now part of Hillview House).  This shop was built around 1920 on the site around of an old thatched cottage, called Rose Cottage built in 1738.

We know this because the stone insert from Rose Cottage now resides in the gable end of its replacement – the old shop. Rose Cottage burned down from a chimney fire in 1910.

Look closely today (2020) and you will see the shop door hidden behind the shrub with the fixings for the bus stop sign still in place. It should be noted that Hillview House has a very large cellar with the original Coal Shoot still in place. This shop served Hatfield Farm and Black Horse Cottages where the Mannings and Edmunds lived (1956). There were two other shops in Oare, the Old Post Office served the north of the Village and the Mrs Hollisters at the Bakery the middle with Mrs Piles shop serving the southern end.  The Blacksmiths was situated just north of the Huish/Cold Blow lane on the Rainscombe Side (there is still a pull in off the main A345 now a private drive), the garage was later situated opposite on the corner of the turn to Huish. Both were but a stone’s throw from the Pub. Billboards advertising Wilts and Dorset buses were visible on hoardings that the Piles permitted near the shop in exchange for two days free travel.

When the Piles moved out, the sale of Hillview took place at Forresters Hall at the Royal Oak in Pewsey.  Robin’s mums Uncle Jack was well to do and lived in Melksham.  He agreed to loan them the funds to buy Hillview, but attended the sale for that purpose.  Bidding against Oscar Peall, Jack could see the price rising too much and shouted to the auctioneer to hurry up and put the gavel down as he wanted a drink.  Surprisingly Mr Pettinger, the auctioneer at the time did and Robin’s parents became the owners of Hillview. I note that Oscar Peall was known as an “awkward customer”, which may have influenced Mr Pettinger’s actions.  At any rate Oscar bought the “managers house” on Sunnyhill Lane that day instead.

Local man Walter Davies of Hatfield Cottages (located opposite Hillview) and Jack Smith from Sunnyhill Lane houses both worked at Hatfield and served in the Home Guard with Oscar Peall on Martinsell Hill, a bleak spot in winter. Another Hatfield farm worker, tractor driver Fred Verney, who lived in a cottage on Rudge lane past the bend near Oare House, now called Verneys Cottage, also served. As did Mr Brooks who lived at Bethnell Green and Percy and Dudley Brooks his sons.  Percy was head tractor driver at Hatfield.

Hillview by the main road 3 March 1952 

and Sunnyhill Lane 1952. 

The fields towards Pewsey from Hillview (South)and those further up on that westside of Sunnyhill Lane used to be Inlands Farm, a name that the Peall’s used at Hatfield Farm up to the 1980’s. Jo House was the Farmer and had a dairy in the hard standing near prospect bend, which was demolished around 1960.  The field called also called Pewsey Common, was then 8 smaller fields and Sunnyhill lane was lined with tall trees, believed to be ash.  These trees where cut down at some point much to Oscar Peall’s dismay.

The Black Horse Cottages were situated where the main road now is just south of Hillview House.  Previously the road doglegged around the Cottages, but following a fatal crash with an army jeep and several other accidents with military vehicles including a Queen Mary RAF Transporter, the cottages were demolished and the road straightened to how you see it today.

1956-58 – Robin shared a picture of the children building snow men with the old Black Horse Cottages in the background.  You can just make out the thatch reaching all the way down to nearly the ground.  This picture is of the caravan site gang, Michael Birks, Barry Murphy, Martin and Malcolm Pyatt and Robin Harriman.

So back in the 50’s and 60’s the common practice for children was to “build” camps. This actually involved excavating dens underground! Further Camps existed along the Huish Lane by the Fir Trees and in the Hollow itself.  These were all created by the village children.

Robin recalls there were three camps in the Inlands ditch.  The area around was wet and muddy and Oscar Peall (Farm Owner of Hatfield 1916 to mid the 1980’s) was forever catching the young men riding their motorbikes over it.  Eventually he gave in and gave them permission to use the land, much to their delight as they built what would now be a motor-cross trail.   The Sunnyhill gang used to have 6 motorbikes some with sidecars.  Robin Harriman, Roy Smith, Colin and Terry Hall, were in this gang, as were the other Hall brothers as they came along (Ian, Patrick and Nick were the other brothers and sons of Gerald Hall who worked at Hatfield Farm and lived on Sunnyhill Lane at what is now Monkey Puzzle House).  Robin recalls buying a bike from Dudley Brooks.  They had SJA’s BSA’s one with a sidecar, AJS 350 and a Lambretta. These motor bikes were buried in the disused camps as the gang members grew up and went to work.

Robin wistfully likened his childhood to the film “Whistle Down the Wind”.

1956 saw the army on manoeuvres during the Suez crisis.  Hillview has long been noted on the military and RAF maps as a point of reference since 1935.  This, he believes, is because his parents invited the RAF to camp on their land in caravans when married quarters were not available during the War.

That was the start of the business as it is now, a site where substantial mobile homes house many people permanently. Robin remembers tanks pulling in to cool overheated engines and conveniently widening the access to the Caravan site, much to the dismay of Oscar Peall.

Sewerage services came before water mains (1976).  The cottages relied on water wells, some of which had expensive and purpose built pumps for Hatfield’s orchards which were situated on the east side of Sunnyhill Lane.  The pump, provided by Whatleys of Pewsey,  supplied water to a water tower which was used to spray the pears and apples.  These orchards have all sadly gone, removed in the early 1980’s, but a row of damson trees remains in the hedgeline. Derek Blackman did the spraying for Hatfield Farm and lived in Kennel Cottage further along Sunnyhill Lane. Frank Harris lived at no 2 Kennel Cottages. Jossy Wells lived in what was the Managers House for Hatfield Farm even further along the lane.

Oscar Peall died in the 1980’s, his wife and one of his two daughters (Belinda Hamilton) remained there until the 1990’s. The house, farm land and many building were sold. Oscars descendants still own some property in the village. Hillview remains as a valued caravan site housing a number of families and offering a site for touring caravans to stay.

R Harriman interview with D Wilson 2020. Pictures all from R Harriman.