Southam of Yesteryear - February 2011 - Agatha Christie

Starting this article on Christmas day due in part to being on my own, it was inevitable that some time was wasted on TV programs. I being particularly addicted to anything written by Agatha Christie. The plot of her stories are so intriguing, that until the final summing up; no one has any idea how it will end. Whilst my writing bears no comparison to her wonderful ability; I do have a mystery surrounding a past local inhabitant, that brings a story about her in to the domain of my writing.

Born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller in Torquay on September 15th 1890 to parents who were themselves something of an enigma. On the outbreak of WW1, on Christmas Eve 1914; Agatha Married Archibald Christie an aviator in the then Royal Flying Corps During WW1, she worked as a nurse. Later she worked in a hospital pharmacy. This made her very aware of the influence that poisons had upon the living, and thus played a part in some of her intrigues she was later to write.

So what about a possible Southam link? Some time ago, I said that I had given some assistance to an Estonian author who was writing the history on the establishing of their White Air Force in 1919.When in Southam; Captain CS Emery. RFC. Lived at the Grange, now the Council Offices. It was he, who shortly after the WW1 cease fire; went to Estonia onboard the Estonian-Steam ship Svanholm. His Sopwith Camel aircraft; arrived on board the cruiser Vindictive a few days later. Shortly after, he and members of the Estonian government established the Estonian White Air Force as well as running flying training; he flew on a number of missions with them during their war of independence. He stayed in Estonia until 1926; where his name and method of training, were often quoted with a wry smile. They were aware of Emery paper, and often said; his methodology of training was somewhat abrasive, but he turned out highly polished pilots. My Estonian friend Toyvo Kitvel of Tallin; compares Captain Emery’s exploits to those of Lawrence of Arabia. What a pity no one ever made a film of Captain Emery’s war. I think it must have been akin to the story’s told by Captain WE Johns in his Biggles books. Captain Emery’s stories were actual happenings unlike Biggles, He in fact received the Cross of Liberty on May 12th 1920; by the Estonian government. This being the highest medal ever awarded by the Estonian government to those involved in their war of independence. So after giving this brief account of Captain Emery’s military career, his involvement in the RFC must have been profound. At the time of his joining the RFC, Captain Emery’s father was the Vicar at Bristol’s Emanuel Church. Also in the RFC was Captain Archibald Christie; his marriage to Miss Agatha Miller on Christmas Eve 1914 was at Emanuel Church Bristol, were Captain Archibald Christie and Captain Claude Skudamore Emery both friends, and with Captain Emery’s father a Vicar; was this why the marriage was at the Bristol Church? Although the Rev. Emery did not conduct the service ; the possibility of a personal interest cannot be ruled out.

Before moving on; I wish to mention the fact that Captain Emery’s wife was formerly Elizabeth Sperling ; her father was Sir. Rowland Arthur Charles Spirling who was the British Ambassador in Helsinki from 1930 to 1935. Maybe he was in a junior role there when Captain Emery was in Estonia, he returning to England in 1926. Helsinki being on the opposite shore of the Baltic sea to Tallin, was that where they first met. As no one will ever know, I guess perhaps and maybe is the only answer to that conundrum.

On New Year’s Day my thought went out to the thorny question of resolutions. Should I make a wish list then water it down; or come up with just one that if kept I would deem myself an award prize, after giving the matter some thought, I decided to give up smoking. As I never succumbed to fags, I am hopeful that I will be able to stick to my new resolution. As for reward, as I want nothing, this too will be easy to keep. However, as my step son Mark’s arrival from the Philippines was the miracle inspiration that I needed to fight cancer, my wish goes to him, not only is he my step son, but also my mate.

All those like me who experienced the hardship of life in Southam, pre and post WW2, never had the opportunity to participate in children’s activities as, apart from the boy scouts and girl guides, there were non. Most of our time being either doing some sort of work or gang football or cricket. As head master Mr. Dencer was the umpire for Southam cricket club; this was covered to a small degree at school. However it was not very enjoyable, as his sporting prowess was taught in the same way as the three Rs. That’s to say if a ball on the off was not hit in the correct way, a clip around the ear was a must have. As our one hour a week sport lesson was for the most part played on the school playground cricket pitch, it was not the best way to inspire you to take up sport. We did on rare occasions get the OK to play on Southam cricket pitch; but as that entailed a forced march from School street up to the Old road; and the march there and back was part of the one hour lesson; it left little to inspire you. Hence, my interest being in engineering and not sport; even though I often played football with Mr. Arthur Cox, who eventually went on to become the manager of Newcastle United and Derby County. But his school days were not under headmaster Dencer; Arthur going to school in Leamington Spa.

Last month I concluded as best I could; from the documents on loan to me from Mrs. Nora King, the building that was the fore runner to the work house, that one stood where Mr. Martin’s shop now stands in Coventry street. This in the 1830s being sold and the money raised from the sale going in to the building of the work house on Welsh road. The demolition of which cleared the site for the new junior school. As many now find themselves in the present day equivalent to the work house, called their home ; Southam work house is perhaps worthy of a few details. It was at the time of construction, situated on Welsh Road. However, on completion that part of the road, from Coventry Street to approximately where Teviot Lodge stands, was re named Union Road. Why Teviot Lodge was chosen for the datum point of Union Road may have something to do with Southam’s road layout in 1086.

On that map, it shows the roads coming in to Southam from Leamington down and through a ford at the bottom of the recreation ground, up Wattons Lane which to many locals was always known as Horn’s Lane , then a hard right turn up Park Lane and out to Market Hill. For many, me included; before the St.James council estate was built, a footpath ran from opposite Teviot Lodge down where it still runs, past the Graham Adams, center and when it reached the field known as the Park it ran up the hedge side, down park jetty and out where now the taxi office and co op stands. The hedge line is still visible; but not I guess for much longer, it running up from where new houses are in the process of being built next to the Graham Adams center. The ground where they are being erected being the boys school allotment. The footpath from in front of Teviot Lodge running down to the park, was between two hedges, and I would guess the distance from hedge to hedge was somewhere around 4 yards.

It may have been more or maybe even less, as thoughts of some 63 years ago; when you are about 7 years old; have a habit of not being in proportion to actuality. On the Doomsday map, this was the run of the Welsh road. The route of the road we know today, running down and meeting Coventry Street at Watson’s Corner; was in on the 1776 Southam map. On that map I note the River Stow on Napton road is named as Cuttle brook .So the ground we once new as The Park, and dad and I were the last to plough; must have been an important point in Southam’s past. The horse well was still in existence post WW2; and was used as its name implied Within the Park was a large pond, affectionately called Park Pit. It was here that animals being driven from Wales to London were watered. It was fed from a spring off Welsh Road close to where the mortuary stood. As of now everything has been wiped off the map; no spring no running water toward the park, no pit and no Horse well.The pit was filled in and a block of flats built on top of it. So much for the newts who also had their homes on and around it. I guess it’s no wonder us old Southam fogies grieve at the loss of the Southam we once knew.

As an introduction to next months blast from the past. which maybe, unless I have a mind change ;details I have of Southam folk taken from an 1830 list of Gentry and Clergy; and a list of Southam names from an 1850 directory, I will end again in the work house. Yes I am almost there. As per the names in the 1850 directory; it starts, Union Workhouse Mr. and Mrs. J Parrott; Mr. Parrott Master. Matron Elizabeth Griffin. I did say I was almost there; I hope as she is quite likely to be a family member, she will look after me. Will meet you next month in the workhouse. Kind regards and I trust a not too poverty stricken 2011

From incumbent Bill Griffin


This article has been kindly written by Bill Griffin

> Return to articles

Articles Published during 2011
Article Name Author
> Cardalls Corner - April 2011 - Weddings in the News Robert Cardall
> Southam of Yesteryear - Looking Back - April 2011 Bill Griffin
> Pete's Piece - Down the Garden Path - April 2011 Farnborough Garden Centre
> Pet Corner - Fresh Eggs for Easter - March 2011 Avondale Veternary Centres
> Pete's Piece - Down the Garden Path - March 2011 Farnborough Garden Centre
> Pet Corner - Lost and Found Pets Avondale Veternary Centres
> Cardall's Corner - February 2011 - “Money Matters” Robert Cardall
> Southam of Yesteryear - February 2011 - Agatha Christie Bill Griffin
> Pete's Piece - Down the Garden Path - February 2011 Farnborough Garden Centre
> Pet Corner - Fresh Eggs for Easter? District Advertisers
> Pet Corner - Keeping Pets Safe in Winter Weather Avondale Veternary Centres
> Cardall's Corner - January 2011 - “Snow Business” Robert Cardall
> Pete's Piece - Down the Garden Path - January 2011 Farnborough Garden Centre
> Pet Corner - Keeping Pets Safe in Winter Weather Avondale Veternary Centres

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