Tuesday 19 July 2011

Old Queenie Goddard

As I lay in bed this morning, a sudden image came into my mind. It was the late 1950s and I was playing at the side of our house by the cherry tree. A little figure dressed in black (for some reason I have Queen Victoria in my mind's eye!) came across the road and offered me a packet of biscuits - the sort you could buy in the corner shop, just a little bit of cellaphane sealed around two Malted Wheat or small Digestive biscuits. "Here you are my lovey, would you like these?" Eyes like saucers, for I was convinced she was a witch, because she was old and missing a few teeth I expect, I took the biscuits (always soft and elderly) and the old dear trundled back across the road and through the gate to her cabin.

The cabin dated from between the wars - overlapping panels of creosoted wood with a roof of wriggly tin - and stood back a few feet behind a hedge soldiered by tall fir trees which swayed and sighed in the wind. I vaguely remember the little windows having dark green paint and impenetrable lace curtains and with the trees outside, it must have been very gloomy. It was snuggled between post-war prefabs and the more genteel 1930s houses with their 100 foot back gardens. A double gate at the side led to stabling at the back, where the Goddard boys (her dutiful son Jesse and his offspring) would bring through the horse and cart when they came to tea on a Sunday. If they were just popping in to check on the old lady, Mandy, the stocky dock-tailed dark bay cob mare would be left standing out the front. I suppose they tied her up to the gate, though I don't ever remember this specifically. How they ever caught her without being killed I'll never know, as she was chained (tethered) in one of the fields at the far end of Weston Common, beyond the orchard, and would attack on sight if you went near her.

I have just spent a happy hour researching the history of where I grew up. HERE is a link to an excellent piece on the history of our parish. I am relieved that there is now a walk from Bursledon Road right down to Weston Shore, along the valley bottom where we used to play as children. My friends and I remember the remains of the brickworks (our house used to be the Brickworks Manager's house in fact), and the long-abandoned (wartime?) allotments which still had blackcurrant and redcurrant bushes when we were kids. At this time of year, the (then polluted) stream would be purple with Loosestrife, and despite the pollution, the plop of water voles was a familiar sound.

I discovered that the Goddards (Jesse and his wife Betsy and family) used to go hop picking at Binsted, on the eastern border off Hampshire near Alton. Several of their children were baptized there in the post-1st World War years - Benjamin John and Florence (22.9.1918), and Priscilla Phoebe (what pretty names) on 26.9.1920. followed by Lloyd on 26.9.1926. The pay was good and the living conditions basic . . . I found a link to a photo of one of those old hop picking cabins HERE.

HERE is an earlier post about where I grew up, complete with reference to Queenie and her soft biscuits!

Long after she died, which must have been sometime in the 1960s or early 1970s, a modern pair of semi-detached houses was built on the spot, but always in my mind's eye, the old cabin with its fir trees, still remains.


  1. Neighbourhoods need to have some oddities like Queenie. They help bring colour and contrast to the environment and enrich a childhood just by being. I have many memories of the odd unforgetable old 'character' from around where I lived and am grateful for them, just as you seem to be here.

    Lovely post BB.

  2. What a lovely post - how huge these details are when you are a child, and remembered so vividly. We used to have a man who wore red gloves (the plasticy builder's type) and held his hands at the side of his head and screamed and shouted, we were petrified! Still don't know who he was or what caused his behaviour.

  3. That description of old Queenie and her family, her cabin--what an opening for a longer story! I think of these "characters" who seemed to strike a child as so odd--we couldn't imagine them as any younger. You've brought several to mind from my small town and the church we attended.
    I'll be back to enjoy the links.

  4. Queenie sounds rather a dear, from her grandchildren's ages It sounds as though she was from the Victorian era and as a widow she'd have worn black as a matter of course. I'm glad that I can remember seeing horses and carts still in the streets, in my case it was usually the rag and bone man who drove the one I saw most often.