Stoke St Gregory History Pages
Pictured on the left of the photo is Detta Doreen Loveridge. She was born in 1912 (two years before the Sacre-Coeur Basilica in Paris was completed!), and she always liked to be called Dett. Her grandparents had the Old Angel, then a beer house in Woodhill, and her parents lived in the cottage opposite. Her mother became an invalid, so her father had left his first job in the police force so that he could work from home and look after her. He was a small farmer - half a dozen milk cows and other livestock, with some land rented from other family members. She left the village school in 1926 aged 14 having been taught by Mrs Hector (Nigel’s mother). Doreen was a keen Girl Guide and enjoyed the things you could learn by being part of the movement. As a child she was also an avid reader, although her parents thought that books were a waste of time and that she should be applying herself to jobs around the house. Her close friends growing up were Kath and Connie Hearn, and Kath Barnett (Hazel Patten’s sister).
After leaving school she spent some time stripping withies and did general work around the house and garden for her parents. Doreen’s father bought withies from local growers, and these would be hand stripped by family members and sold on to the village basket makers. She enjoyed the work but wasn’t struck on the employment package her father offered. She basically worked for her keep and the only way to get some money of her own was to pick blackberries during the summer months. The more you picked the more you got paid. The fruit was sent from Athelney station in containers provided by the buyers, who were mainly in the dyeing trade.
Another source of income was pumping the church organ for her brother Ken. There was no piano in the family home so Ken had to do all his practising in the church, and was quite willing to pass on the few pennies he received to Doreen for her services.
In 1934 Doreen moved to Middlemoor, Curload, to take a job as a live in housekeeper. Mrs Hearle had died and Sid and Winnie needed looking after. Mr Hearle was a teacher so he was out all day during term time. This worked quite well because she could keep the house and garden going and still do some withy work which paid for her cigarettes. Doreen smoked 4 cigarettes a day. Doreen liked to save her money although there were temptations in the early 1930’s. A chap with a light aircraft used to tour around offering flights at a cost of half a crown (12½ p). This would have been a wonderful treat but she decided to hang on to her money. Brother Ken however was up there like a shot!
When the war came Doreen worked for Gilbert Musgrave in one of the sheds behind Withygrove House. She trained to make panniers and then all types of baskets. Doreen now had two jobs and was earning very good money, up to £3 a week on piece work, when many people were only 10s (50p per week). She continued to save, indulging herself in an AMES motorbike, pictured here, and also bought Woodbine Cottage in Woodhill for £300.
Being a keen gardener, vegetables were always plentiful so the family didn’t go hungry. Clothes were purchased from Stoke shop and the groceries from Arthur Patten’s shop in Curload. She loved the songs that Gracie fields and Vera Lynn sung and generally had a lot of fun during the war years.
She remembered the G.I.’s from Westonzoyland cycling along Curload. They were always keen to give the young ladies sweets and chocolate. Unfortunately Doreen didn’t manage to obtain any nylons. The young Americans were heading for the village pubs and the dances that were regularly held in the village hall. The G.I’s used to park their bicycles outside and while they were inside dancing the night away the local kids would be taking it in turns to ride around the village. She also remembered the terrific bang and how the house shook when land mines(?) were dropped in Northmoor. She and a group of friends cycled over to see the craters the following day.
After the war Doreen continued making baskets for Musgraves, and then for Norman Upham. In her spare time she enjoyed her garden and continued teaching Sunday School at the Parish Church completing over 40 years service. When Jean Hembrow and Brian David married they moved in with Doreen. Jean died in 1985 so Doreen stepped in and cared for Brian and his two children Jonathan and Janice.