The Greencroft in the Twentieth Century

As there was little traffic, shepherds could graze their sheep overnight on the Greencroft before taking them to the Britford Sheep Fair.

The Twentieth Century … as recalled by local residents

Before the Wars, the Greencroft continued to have an agricultural role.

In the 1920’s it was still being used as overnight pasture for sheep that were being taken for sale at the Britford Sheep Fair. Listen to Phyllis Maple, born in 1919, as she recalls the shepherds’ camps.

Betty McGuiness, who lived on the Greencroft all her life, remembers a time when the Greencroft was grassed up to what was then the London Road; pig bins (for food scraps that people threw out) were kept at the top and there were grass snakes in abundance.

World War Two

The Greencroft was quite altered during World War 2.  In September 1938, at the time of the Munich crisis, zig-zag ditches were dug as air raid shelters (anti-blast trenches) by voluntary labourers recruited by a loud speaker van touring the area.  Designed to accommodate 2500 people they were dug in sections ten feet by four feet by seven feet deep and fitted with seats and electricity. In 1939, 30 trench stewards were appointed to keep order.

Provision was made in the air raid shelters for a day nursery for young children. It was placed in the centre, surrounded by large water tanks for the fire brigade to use. Betty McGuiness recalls entering by a slope leading to a door; roofs with air holes, and toilets at the end with sacking curtains.

The shelters remained in place for some time after the War had finished.

Playing on the Greencroft

Many residents have happy memories of childhood games played on and around the Greencroft. Michael Winterman describes some homespun delights:

“I remember that we used to have little trolleys with, with four wheels on with string on the front wheels that you could steer it by and there was almost a competition to have the best trolley in the street . We’d go up on the Greencroft and go down the fast slope down the hill to see who could go the fastest and of course occasionally there would be a bit of a tragedy and one would fall off, and there would be great grazes down the knees and things like that but you pick yourself up and start again really, it was great fun.”

Jeremy Moody also remembers the Greencroft as a place to play:

“I can remember the Greencroft when it was to its maximum capacity and it had a series of stone pillars linked with chain going the whole length of it and the further it got towards Escourt Road it started going up hill. So … a child on a bicycle could actually walk up the tarmac path to the top and go like billy ho down there into the actual play area, which was pretty basic. It had swings and a rocking horse and one of these giant witches’ hats umbrella sort of rock about type ride, but it’s where we all used to play as kids, that was the main area.”

Iris Evans talks about games she used to play:

“But living as close as I did to the Greencroft, we used to spend quite a lot of time up there playing rounders, cricket anything that came into our heads really but that was in the days when we made our own entertainment, of course there was no tvs, no video games, nothing like that.”

 

And then there was Bonfire Night! Click here to read more.

 

 

Transcript of Phyllis Maple audio clip:

When I was a little girl there used to be a Britford sheep fair and…the shepherd walked with his sheep and his dogs all though from the country into the town and made camp overnight into the Greencroft before going on down to Britford for the sheep fair and…they ate the grass… in the Greencroft and rested for the night.  It was very good to see how those sheep were managed by the shepherd and the dog, taking them through the roads”.

Comments about this page

  • There were, I think, 15 air raid shelters on the Greencroft. All were completely underground and one or two communicated with others, producing and exciting exploration in the dark for us youngsters. At each right-angle turn or intersection there was a ladder up to a concrete manhole, and an alcove with a bucket toilet screened by a sacking curtain. I think they were very little, if ever used.

    I wonder if their construction came across any trace of the plague pits. When I was young the story was that the plague pits were behind the east end of St Edmund’s Church.

    By Michael Safe (20/07/2014)

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