Joyce’s father was the village blacksmith in Borden. His family had lived in the village for several generations. His name was George Cecil Sherlock and having married Minnie May Wittingstall from Faversham, he lived in Forge House from 1922 until his death in 1957, when he was in his early 60s. George had been a farrier looking after army horses during World War 1. He was succeeded as the village blacksmith by Mr Austin.
Joyce’s earliest memories are of Cranbrook Convalescent home, because when she was 5 years old she contracted T.B. and was away from Borden for about one year. Her parents visited her each week travelling from the village by motorbike and sidecar. She returned to Borden village school, but missed a fair amount of schooling through illness. Every Monday she had to attend for a check-up at a clinic at the bottom of Borden Lane. Her doctor was Dr. Robson of Hollybank Hill.
Joyce’s older sister, Marjorie, had been born at a house in Chestnut Wood, while her father was working at the forge in Chestnut Street. Joyce was born in 1923 and her twin brothers, David and George, were born in 1927. As the family grew up they would often visit Leysdown on Sundays and search for cockles. These would be cooked on Mondays, while her mother was busy with the never ending pile of washing, which was washed and boiled in the copper in the scullery.
George the blacksmith was also a wheelwright and so he made many of the wheels for local farm carts. These wheels would be put on the plinth, which can still be seen outside the forge. His wife would be called to help stretch the heated tyre over the frame and if the children were about they would run around with watering cans cooling down the metal. Freddie Payne, a local inhabitant, would often sit on the wall next to Rose Cottage and the forge repairing villagers’ shoes, while watching the comings and goings at the forge.
Joyce’s father was kept busy looking after the horses that worked at Street Farm opposite the church and at Home Farm in The Street. His wages were governed by the farmers and he would get 25 shillings (£1.25) for shoeing each cart horse. The farms were busy places with the horses going about their daily work. There was a regular competition between the farms and the horses would be paraded with their gleaming brasses and braided manes.
Forge House was a large house with three bedrooms and a dressing room that was also used as a bedroom. The meeting room for the trustees of The Barrow Trust was on the second floor and ran across the two adjoining houses. There being no main drainage at the time there were five cesspools in the garden of Forge House. Friday night was bath night! A zinc bath was filled with water for all the family to use. Rainwater was collected from water butts and boiled-up in the copper before putting it in the bath. Pears soap was used to scrub the children clean. There were no domestic fridges in the 1930s, but the steps to the cellar were used for storing items that needed to be kept cool. During the Second World War, Joyce’s father put matting on the floor of the cellar and white-washed its walls, so that it could be used by the family as an air-raid shelter. When the doodlebugs flew over, the family would spend the night in the relative safety of the cellar and emerge about 6 a.m. The boiler room of The Maypole Pub was hit one night by an incendiary bomb fortunately causing little damage and there was a searchlight battery in School Lane.
A typical weekly menu at Forge House would be: Sunday roast beef Monday bubble-and-squeak with cold meat Tuesday liver Wednesday and Thursday meat pie (that would last for two days) Friday fish Saturday sausagemeat pads
The village post office was in Barrow House, which adjoins Forge House.
The old vicarage was a large imposing building in The Street. The Mothers’ Union met in the vicarage. Joyce remembers the Reverend D’Espelier and his wife being authoritarian. If children misbehaved during church services, Mrs D’Espelier would ‘clump’ them around the head with a hymn book! There was a large tithe barn at the back of the vicarage, where Sunday School parties were held. The children would line-up at these events and be given an orange, an apple and some sweets. Joyce remembers that she once lined-up only to be told that she had not attended Sunday School regularly enough and so would not receive the gifts! The fact that she had been ill was not taken into account. Two kind boys in the line gave her their rewards!
Villagers always attended church dressed in their best clothes. Joyce remembers attending church twice a day – for the main service in the morning and then returning in the afternoon for the Catechism.
Two stained glass windows from the church were removed to Canterbury Cathedral for safe-keeping during The Second World War, but unfortunately it is thought it would be too costly to reinstate them.
A pine tree in the Vicarage garden was reputedly left standing as it was a landmark for wartime aircraft.
BORDEN CHARACTERS Joyce’s Aunt Vi and Uncle Ted lived at Apple Tree House, which had been the village workhouse in earlier times. Their son, Cecil, would often remind them of the origins of their home, much to their annoyance! Vi was responsible for cleaning the church for many years.
Miss Goodger worked at Sutton Baron House. She walked along the footpath beside Miss Greensted’s shop and carried a hatpin with her as protection on the lonely paths.
Miss Greensted (Caroline?) and her mother owned the village shop (where the bridleway to Bredgar leaves Borden opposite the church). The shop was loved by village children for the range of sweets it sold. Cheese and butter were stored in the cellar and brooms and brushes could also be bought at the shop.
Miss Perkins lived in St. Martin’s Cottage. She grew artichokes in the garden and she would get water from a well hidden under flagstones in her kitchen.
P.C. Pike and P.C. Wignall were two local policeman, who patrolled the village and knew the inhabitants well in the 1950s and 60s.
Joyce remembers the village shop being decorated at Christmas and brimming with exciting goodies. The owners at one time were Mr and Mrs Downs. They had an old oak clock which stood on a sideboard near to the stairs to the cellar. Biscuits at the time were sold separately and you could choose the individual types you wanted. Butter was patted up to the amount you wanted. There was a door from the shop to Mr Giles the butcher. Mr Wood would pluck turkeys.
In far more recent times in the 1990s, Rodney Kimber in the village shop is remembered for having a newspaper and a cup of coffee, while he waited for customers in the mornings and changing to a book and a coffee in the afternoons. In the latter days of the village shop, he took an interest in dolls houses and would build them and sell items to go in them.
Long before the Kimbers had the village shop, a Mr Gage would deliver fresh fish in a small white van once a week and there was another man who bought fish and chips to the village in a mobile van.
Mr Hemsley delivered milk by pony and cart. Mr Whitehead from Munsgore dairy also bought milk to the village.
The nearest bread shop was in Neal’s Bakery on the main road (A2) near where The Pines Nursing Home (The Firs) is situated.
Mr Friday was the road sweeper. Each day he would walk from his home in Berry Street in Sittingbourne to Borden. He would then eat bread and cheese for his breakfast and then he would collect his cart for his daily work. He would sweep from the church to Harman’s Corner and he was also responsible for keeping gullies and drains clear and making sure that hedges were kept tidy and in order. Every Saturday he would clean his tools and arrange them neatly in their place of storage, so that they were ready when he resumed work the following Monday.Joyce’s father, the blacksmith, would also spend Saturdays cleaning his benches and windows and sharpening and cleaning his tools, so that the forge was clean and tidy for work at the beginning of the new week.
Old Sedgey, who lived in a large house situated on the corner of Bannister Hill and The Street, would sell pigeons in the morning at various places away from the village, but being trained as homing birds, they would quickly return to him! He had a son Georgie, who is remembered for often hanging over his fence with a bag over his head!
At Bannister Hill there were four wooden cottages, each having just two rooms and a kitchen. One was lived in by a family of six and in another lived Alfie Hills and his mum. He is remembered for his enjoyment at village fetes of frequently sitting in a wheelbarrow while water was poured over him.
Two ghostly appearances in Borden are of a Spanish lady with connections to Borden hall who is thought to haunt its interior. She is believed to have buried a baby under the yew tree that used to exist close to the west door of the church. Close to Posiers, a lady in a crinoline dress was once seen to float across the road.
SCHOOL DAYS The village school pupils were involved with the May Day celebrations. A large maypole was erected in the lower field at The Playstool. The boys would wear biscuit coloured smocks and the girls wore white smocks as they danced around it.
In the 1930s Mr Taylor and Mr McCulloch were the headteachers. The cane was used as a punishment in the school. The toilets were away from the main building and would freeze up during the cold winters. The two Miss Edwards wore their hair up and tied in a bun. They wore the same colour dresses – maroon one week and blue the following week. The pupils would queue for Mrs Parker to give them their daily free one-third of a pint of milk with a Horlicks tablet. They were also given regular doses of cod liver oil to keep colds away. Miss Howes rode a motorbike called ‘James’. She had a big weaving loom in her classroom, which the children used to make mats. Mrs Barrett (Joyce’s sister, Marjorie) was the caretaker for twenty-five years and lived in the schoolhouse.
The pupils would play hop-scotch. They used spinning-tops, which they would whip from the church gate to the shop and they would play with iron hoops.Joyce particularly enjoyed collecting wild flowers from the hedgerows, which were put in 2lbs. jam jars and displayed at school. White mice were kept at school and during the holidays, Joyce volunteered to look after them at home.
Joyce and her friend, Joan Young, would often take a bottle of water and a couple of biscuits and wander in the local farmland, particularly going down the Half-Mile Path to Oad Street, where they would search for newts.
Joyce belonged to the Girl Guides. About a dozen girls used to meet in a house in Borden Lane. They would go camping at Syndale Bottom near Newnham, where she remembers hearing the gypsies singing as they went about their hop picking. The girls also enjoyed charabanc outings to Joss Bay.
During wartime a 6d (penny) Hop was held regularly in the Parish Hall. The hall had previously been an army hut in Sheerness and it was transferred to the village in 1921. Whist drives, dances and amateur dramatics often took place there.
Joyce has fond memories of hop and cherry picking in the local area. She would take bread and cheese and a flask of tea and spend many happy hours picking hops in Cryalls Lane.
She left the village school when she was 14 years old and went to help look after a blind daughter of staff at The Kent Farm institute in Riddles Road. She then went to work for Gobbles shop in the High Street, where Central Avenue is now. They were renowned for hams, but her new employer was a real taskmaster.
PS James was a haberdashery shop near to where The Forum is now. Flannelette for winter shirts would be bought there and the money would be taken in small screwed containers on tracks hanging from the ceiling to a central cashiers’ office.
Close to the Abbey Bank is in Sittingbourne High Street there was a grocery shop called Maypoles. Around the shop were ceramic tiles of rural scenes of cattle in fields. These tiles have recently been rediscovered on the walls in what is now a cafe and so Joyce has been able to admire them again.
A bus to Doddington would pick up passengers from near the forge and take them to Sittingbourne.
Joyce has memories of Borden over a very long time, but she really misses the village shop, which was a meeting place for the local community. Other memories are coming back to Joyce, and hopefully there will be more to write in the near future. F.P.