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An account of Saunders Green in the 1930s and 1940s by Brian Coldrick.

SAUNDERS GREEN in the 1930's and 1940'S

Having read the exposition on Brockhollands by my nephew Roy I feel the world would benefit by learning about life of the people inhabiting its nearest neighbour, Saunders Green, (A. K. A Darkhole) during the 1930s/40s.

The GREEN contained about 22 homes, there was no electricity supply, that did not appear until the 1950's. Homes were lit by paraffin lamps, the radio was powered from an accumulator which needed a regular recharge which involved a trip Browns at Whitecroft as did the use of the telephone service.

The Brickworks, which started operating in the 30's to utilise waste material from the Princess Royal Colliery tip, was the only industrial unit, a site which became an adventure playground for the local children. Dens were built in the brick stacks, potatoes baked on the kiln fires, no doubt they had blackened skins but as far as I recall were delicious on the inside, or maybe the memory is fading. Another adventure was being allowed to accompany some of the truck drivers when delivering bricks to customers around the district and of course there was always cricket and football on the green, albeit on a bit of a slope. Sadly today some of these activities would fall foul of the Health and Safety rules.

An old photo of Saunders Green showing the Brickworks - home of PRC bricks.
Saunders Green showing the Brickworks - courtesy of Beryl Jones..

The Green was conveniently situated for shopping at Whitecroft or Bream, Dentists and Doctors could be found at Bream and Lydney, Mr Butson (Kears bakery) regularly delivered bread. Williams and Cottons sent someone each week to collect the grocery order, Eddy Ruck the packman came on his weekly round to serve just about everything, if it was'nt in his box he would bring it next week. Rowlinsons from Cinderford regularly called to supply shoes for the family at a moderate weekly rate, you could get your horses shod at Parkend, and if the cart was attached you could call in and get a load of coal from PRC on the way home through Knockley wood.

Every year there were social gatherings at haymaking and thrashing with a good supply of bread and cheese and cider for those who assisted. Although life was hard for some, it was quite simple and at the end of it all Mr Morse was available to tuck one away to rest in a hand crafted box. What more was needed, everything from the daily milk, delivered and measured from a pail (plus a drop for wastage) to your final resting place.

In the 30's/40,s three tracks gave access to the Green, two from the Brockhollands road and one from the Bream road ,opposite the PRC, as this has become the only metalled road today we will start the tour from there.

I now discover the first mistake of the tour in that I recall very little about the family that lived in the first house encountered. Their name was LUNN but nothing else known about them,in fact I do not recall ever seeing anyone at the property during the time I lived on the Green. (Sorry folks should have started from Brockhollands.)

The next two houses on the left were occupied by the THOMAS families, grandparents and the next two generations, I think Mr Thomas (Jr) was a baker, the daughter was named Muriel.

Mr and Mrs WILDING and family lived in the next house which I remember had beautiful gardens, lots of tulips. There were two sons, Sid and Lloyd and a daughter Dolly. I think the sons were miners , I know Sid worked at the PRC and in later years was one of the guys who moved the loaded coal wagons a short way down the line to the marshalling area to await transfer to Lydney, no doubt some of the coal continued its journey on barges. Occasionally these full wagons would break free of their moorings, or the sprocket man, and head off down the slope at a fair rate of knots, usually jumping the track before reaching Fryers Level, the grapevine soon clicked in, news of the derailment spread quickly, free coal for all. I can only imagine the reason why PRC did not succeed in recovery was A) they were not told in time or B) they were just not quick enough. Without doubt some cottages were warmer than usual during the following winter.

To continue the tour, the BOND family lived in the next house, I believe there were three sons, Eli, George and Ray. I'm told the Shallcross family were the previous occupants and the house was named Well Cottage.

Next door again, adjacent to the brickworks, lived Mr and Mrs Horace LEE and family, I believe he worked at the brickworks and they had two or three children*. Was the eldest boy named Brian? I can't recall any further names.

Moving across the green to the cottage off the centre block which was occupied by MR GEORGE EVANS and his wife NANCY ( nee Gwynn, see later). I believe George was a member of the Pillowell band. I remember a large instrument case, could it have been a Trombone? The cottage was linked to a barn which in turn adjoined the big house in the centre of the green.

An old photo of the Big House Saunders Green
The Big House - courtesy of Beryl Jones.

Rumour was that this large property was intended as an hotel when plans were to build a housing development nearby and to extend the rail link up past the PRC into the Forest .The rooms were quite large and plentiful with an adequate cellar space for whatever one stores in the cellar of a hotel! Plans were changed for some reason and the line was routed through Whitecroft with a branch through Pillowell and Moseley Green. The change may have contributed to the bankruptcy of the development company which had started work on a housing project on land at Paisley in Brockhollands in about 1900. One can still see evidence of the initial ground work in Paisley field where the contours of the three roads that were driven in are still identifiable.
The big house was subdivided and inhabited by two related families, Mr and Mrs LEWIS with their daughters Lilian and Virtue and son Ralph. Lilian moved away but retuned in later years when she and her husband bought Saunders Green farm, I believe Virtue and her husband ran a shop in Bream and Ralph became a supervisor at Watts of Lydney.
The other family at that location were Mr and Mrs PREEST and their daughter Joyce, who worked for the Post Office in Lydney. Ralph and Joyce are still living in Lydney. Mr Clarence Preest owed a flat tanked motorcycle, I can't recall the make, it was garaged in one of the outbuildings. Would be prime entry for the Antique Road Show today.

Moving past the land belonging to the big house and turning left as if towards Fryers Level there were two properties which were occupied by the HART and BAGHURST families, only sons named Edwin and Ken come to mind.

Heading back up the Green we hit my old homestead at the farm. My father Howard was the second eldest of the Coldrick family of Brockhollands, He had emigrated to Australia in 1908 returning to England in 1916 to marry his childhood sweetheart May Roberts of Bream. He bought Saunders Green Farm after WW1 and farmed it until 1947.My siblings were Robert (Bob) and Jean. Except for a short spell away in the late 40's Bob remained in the area, Jean married Angus Luker from Whitecroft and moved to Bristol. I also left the Forest in the 50's, initially to Bristol and then to places further afield, finally returning to England in 1989.

Facing the farm buildings were four cottages.
My grandmother Roberts, who had previously resided in Brockhollands, lived in the first.
Next door lived Mr and Mrs Harry Rudge and son Harry, I believe both father and son were quarrymen, they kept a large hound in a kennel in front of the property, never saw it out following a scent trail, it just sat there and bayed a lot, frustration perhaps, frightened the heck out us kids on dark winter nights. Mr Rudge was an early motoring enthusiast being one of the first there to have a car, a green Hillman I recall. What an impression that must have made for it to come to mind 80 something years later. .
The GWYNN family lived in the second house, I think there were four children, sons Russell and Harry and two girls, Nancy (see prior) and a second (name forgotten) who married Ben Wintle, and lived in Brockhollands,
The MEEK family lived next door, I can only recall one son, SAM, who I understand suffered quite badly as a POW in the east during WW2. Moving back along the green again, towards the big house.
The next dwelling housed Mr and Mrs TED HOOPER with two boys and possible a girl, no names I'm afraid but" Bobby" tweaks a bell somewhere.
Further along again lived Mrs Edmonds, I presume there had been a Mr but I don't recall him. I had thought perhaps Mrs Edmonds was a northern lady, I seem to remember her wearing clogs but have since been advised of a connection with the Lunn family.

We now move north, towards Bream, the first of the two houses at the top of the incline housed Mr & Mrs Holes with a son Ernest and I think two daughters, who I am unable to name.

Adjoining them lived Mr and Mrs Cassidy and family, I recall sons Ivor, John, Edmond, Desmond and Michael, most entered the foundry trade I believe, I remember my father expressing he admiration for their enterprise when they set up their own foundry in buildings at Fryers Level . Mr and Mrs Cassidy also had daughters, I recall the names Mary. Sylvia and Sheila (I think)..

In the adjacent field was a wooden bungalow, cannot remember who lived there in the 40's but I believe it was later owned by Mr & Mrs Ken Kear. Ken was a native of Brockhollands, and a prominent member of Bream church. This property had a fair amount of land and I believe has been extended considerable since those days.

Moving across the edge of the wood would bring us to where the Mr & Mrs Knight lived with their two daughters , Marion and Iris, also a not too friendly dog which took a slice from my rear end when I delivered milk, one of the hazards of the job I guess.

Further into the wood there were two more properties but sorry folks but other than perhaps the name WILDING stiring the grey matter I cannot recall who lived there.

That just about covers my recollections, I guess there are errors with some name and other omissions for which I apologies, if anyone can fill in the gaps or correct errors please do so.

One further point, not entirely relevant, but I recently saw a notice advertising a Bungalow for sale at Saunders Green for £380,000, I'm not aware of its location but I could not help thinking that during my seemingly short lifetime 30 to 40 £K would have purchased all properties on Saunders Green, with change. Guess that's progress folks

Brian Coldrick January 2012

* thanks to Nicola Lambert who added (March 2013): "... Mr and Mrs Horace Lee had 6 children Brian, Kath, Donald, Jackie, Pauline and Glynis".

Beryl Jones added (February 2017): "... Reference the people living in the Big House during the 1930's. My grandfather Samuel Preest who did not die until 1938 and his wife Edith Preest owned the home and were still living there. Also it was my mother's home although she was away in service but her twin brother Francis Ridgeway Preest (Jack) lived there all his life until his death in the 1950's. I agree Clarence Preest lived there and Gertrude Lewis nee Preest both my mothers siblings".

Graham Swindon added (July 2017) "I wish to trace any surviving family of a Mr James Williams who died whilst resident of Saunders Green, Whitecroft in 1990. He was born in approx 1919. I am researching an incident that occurred during WW2 and I have reason to think that he was involved".

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