Where Are They Now?

We know the Brightwell website has a long reach, because people have written in to tell us. Here you can read some of their letters. Contact sally.dugan@gmail.com if you would like to be put in touch with anyone - or to send us your own news and pictures.
Postings from the latest 3 years are on this page.  For earlier postings, please refer to the Archive menu.

Chairman Hua Visits Mackney

Posted 20th October 1015

Jason Debney has sent us a photo and his memories of the 1979 Chinese visit to Sherwood Farm. Anyone else remember this?

'It was back in November 1979 when Chairman Hua was leader, having succeeded Chairman Wau to the top job in China. During a state visit to the UK the Chinese premier was taken to Mackney to visit a traditional British farm and meet a typical English farm worker's family.

'As the world's press descended on the village, Michael Dart showed Chairman Hua around Sherwood Farm and introduced him to the Mason family who lived in Mackney. Chairman Hua was given a cow and treated to green tea in one of the barns.

'The school was closed for the morning and Mr Heyworth walked school children to Mackney, where they lined the road waving Union Jacks. During the visit, Chairman Hua stopped to talk to some of the children including Michael White, Nicola Carter, Fiona Hitchman, Jason Debney and Robert Abernethy. All in all a very memorable day.'

Mike and Doreen Jones Write from South Africa

Posted 10 December 2014

(Click here to read Mike's Villager article about bird life in South Africa)
It is now 41 years since we left the village. We try to pop in for very quick nostalgic visits from time to time. Three years ago to see Mrs Popplewell at Purbrook and take a photo of the plaque inside the corner shed. It was placed there by the builder in 1712. Two years ago we brought our eldest daughter, Valerie and her husband, and had a meal in the Red Lion. Our association with the village began in 1961 when I was appointed as Skip with the Scout group. Ernie Harvey was my assistant as Kim. With the limits of running a village group we had a very successful 12 years together. Doreen, my wife, eventually took over the Cub Pack as Akela from Margaret Simmons “Topsy”.

Our four children all grew up in the village. Valerie was one of the last students in the old school, now the Village Hall. All four had the pleasure of being taught by Ron Wood at the “new” school in Greenmere. This reminds me that our friends Fred and Joy Heyworth asked me to write something for the Villager. I did and assume that it or some may have been published by Fred. I have unearthed it from the archives and am copying it to send. Although it is undated, I note that it was written 32 years ago and things have changed very considerably since then!

We still have a copy of the village Plan, published by the Berkshire! County Council in 1971. I wonder how the development of the village has changed since then?

I’m enclosing a cartoon drawn by a parent at a going away party that we had with the Scouts and I’ll also copy a newspaper article that I think appeared in the Wallingford Herald in August 1973. I have been looking for photos of the time without success. Are you asking for recent photos of the family, rather than those taken years back? My photos taken in that period were on slides. We had a large number of slides, a film, and prints of the Scouts. These were handed on when we left. I have no idea if they still exist. Is Ron Calcutt, my successor, still around? We have been in touch with Topsy’s family recently and were very sad to hear of the passing of Harold Simmons, who was the District Secretary for Scouting in the 60s/70s. Unfortunately, another of our Scout parents who became the District Commissioner, Ron Quinney, passed away very suddenly in about 1980.

We send our best wishes to all residents in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, especially to those who may remember us.

John Griggs: Living in the shadow of St Agatha’s, 1973–1995

Posted 18 July 2013

John Griggs – whose memories can also be found in the April/May 2013 edition of The Villager online – shares some memories of St Cecilia’s....

Penny Bishop writes of her happy time at St Cecilia. Between her departure in 1966 and our arrival in 1973 lived the Earls. Mrs Earl devoted much of her time to running the Brownies, for we inherited a meeting room big enough for full-size table-tennis, together with rows of coat hooks. Mr Earl was, I believe, an inspector of schools.

A stream ran through the garden, so of course we had to dam it up and make a pond. And on the lawn was an ancient weeping ash, among whose roots it was said that an earlier rector had hidden pennies for his grandchildren to find.

The rector at the time that we arrived was Cecil Hutchings, living, of course, in the other half of the house. He retired and Raymond Hayne’s family moved in. Their two boys and ours hit it off and they soon discovered how you could get from one house to the other without going outside, often to the complete surprise of their respective parents.

Our sitting room was upstairs and, with the windows open, was often used by the judges for the bellringing competitions held in St Agatha’s tower. We were asked not to interrupt their deliberations, except for regular doses of tea.

And, of course, St Cecilia was each month turned into the assembly hub of The Villager, where we trudged round the kitchen in a long line, picking up the next sheet in turn, and stapling the lot together. But then, in 1995 I think it was, we left St Cecilia and Brightwell for new shores in Herefordshire, taking with us so many memories of idyllic village life.

Here it’s different in many respects. There was a slight jolt at first, as if we’d moved backwards in time, to a place where small farms were the norm and nearly everyone had something to do with agriculture in some way or another. I still find it strange to see blackcurrants grown as a crop; sprouts, too; and of course potatoes and apples. You can tell what time of year it is by looking at what’s in the huge trailer in front of you.

Our closest neighbour has some 15 acres or so of grass and a venerable Fordson tractor for haymaking, and has never reseeded or applied fertiliser. Spring has arrived when we see once again the swathes of wild daffodils over the hedge.

Ledgemoor itself is a scattered hamlet where nothing happens very much – and that which does happen takes a long time. Strangely, there used to be two shops here – indeed, a while back our cottage was one of them. The other has since disappeared.

We’re about two miles from Weobley, a little larger than Brightwell, with its shop and its medieval timber-framed market square. And we’re completely content with life here, happily retired and immersed among our adopted, friendly neighbours.

Mavis and John Griggs (children: Jonathan, James and Anne)



Posted January 2013.

Beatrice Gordon

Meet Nicola and Charlie Gordon's new baby, Beatrice, born on Wednesday 26th December, weighing  8lbs 6 oz. Anne and David Hedley are the proud grandparents. 


Posted December 2012

Penny Bishop contacted the website to share some memories of living in the old rectory, next to St Agatha's

'I lived in St Cecilia from 1959 to 1966. We lived in Strangers Place before that. We were the first family to live in the old servants quarters of the rectory. Rev Gibbs was there when we were. We had a great hall that we roller skated up and down, a hand pump in the old soup kitchen, underground well and very old stone window frames.
Mr Heyworth was the headmaster. My first teacher was Mrs Scott, then Mrs Whittaker and Mr Woods did the nature study walks over Mr Everex's farm. Finally years 3 and 4 Juniors were taken by Mr Heyworth in the old school building.

The time I lived in the village were some of my happiest days where we had absolute freedom as children to run and play in the fields, down the rec or go to feed the ducks up at Manor.

Fresh bread from Mr Kew was always fantastic and village children would go after school to try and get a tommy loaf. The WI stall at the village fair always ran a children's competition, great fun.

The names that I recall are from school - Nicola Crickmore and Stephen ?. From village - The Walkers, Jonathan Kew, Christopher Freeman, the Graham's, Joanna and Brenda from the Top Farm, the Georges.

Penny Bishop (parents Bert and Peggie, sisters Sue and Mary)


Stefan Ball, from the Bach Centre, writes in the October/November 2012 edition of The Villager:

The Bach Centre's founder, Edward Bach, only lived in the village for a couple of years. He arrived in 1934, renting "Mount Vernon" in Bakers Lane. He also worked and stayed part of the time in "Wellsprings", just around the corner. He died in 1936 and was buried in the churchyard of St James's.

All this was a long time ago, and we tend to assume that we don't have anything new to learn about his life - at least, not from people who actually met or saw him. But every so often something turns up.

A lady called Carmen Monari is our education contact in Brazil. Most years she comes to the UK and drops in to see us as well as spending some time around Betws-y-Coed in Wales, which Dr Bach visited several times after leaving London in 1930. A few years ago, Carmen was interviewed by one of the local papers in Wales, and she used the opportunity to ask readers who might have met Dr Bach to come forward. For a long time there was no response. But Carmen popped into the Centre earlier this summer on her way back to Brazil and told us that somebody had finally contacted the paper.

The reader's story was that she remembered her parents asking for Dr Bach's advice when she was about 8 or 9, and very ill. Dr Bach examined her and confirmed what her other doctors had said, that all that could be done was being done. But he could, he said, do one further thing: and he suggested one of his remedies, Scleranthus, saying it might help her make up her mind to get better. We assume the Scleranthus helped - whether or not it did, the lady telling the story made a full recovery and turned 90 this year.

Hearing this story set us wondering if anybody now in the village - or once in the village - has any stories about Dr Bach or any memories they can share about the Bach Centre in the past. We'd be interested to hear them! For example, Nora Weeks and Victor Bullen, Dr Bach's friends and assistants, kept the Centre going almost single-handedly during the 1940s and 1950s. We know Nora had a small car and was a bit of a menace in the narrow lanes... stories of close encounters with her would be welcome.

Pop in and see us, or emai lfoundation@bachcentre.com or call on 01491 834678.


Posted 9 May 2012

Frank Green, a climatologist who lived at the house then known as Winterbourne in Church Lane in the late 1970s and 1980s, clearly kept an interest in Brightwell until the end of his life. He died on 31st January, 1983, but his daughter, Frances, found a 1940s document showing village footpaths and bridges tucked away among his belongings in her Belfast attic. 

The list includes a quiet green oasis with a single gravelled footpath running up to the High Road: the area we now know as Greenmere.  Brightwell and Sotwell were two separate villages then, too.

Francis found our webmaster's address on the internet and sent the package to us for the History Group Archive.

If you are interested in finding out more about Frank (F.H.W.Green), his obituary can be found in The Times digital archive. His daughter, Frances, can be contacted at frances.green@btinternet.com


Posted 7 May 2012

Craft potter Jeanne Jackson, a one-time Brightwell resident, has set up a new studio at her home in Horspath. Our illustration shows a typical Jeanne dish – and she has recently branched out into more primitive style stoneware. You can see more examples of her work – and find her contact details – at http://oxfordshirecraftguild.co.uk/ceramics

Updated 13 April 2012

 Amanda Doster (formerly Lane) sent us this photo of Brightwell School pupils in 1967 – and, thanks to  Paul Vaisey and Paul Taylor, we have now managed to fill in all the missing names.

If you were part of the class of 1967, perhaps you would like to check to see if you agree?

Back row l-r : Hatty Rickards, Ian Tame, Caroline Shears, Martin Dudley, Lindsey Saunders, Robert Saunders, Amanda Lane, Gary Aked, Hazel Jones, Paul Bond, Ginny Newman, Paul Dudley and Susan West.

Middle row l-r: Vincent Bland, Diana Owen, Diane Greenough, Laura Brown, Karen Bland, Mrs Moore, Rowena Ansell, Wendy Turley, Rachel Shuttler, Sarah Humphreys, Paul Taylor

Front row l-r : Guy Higgins, Steven Groom, Timothy Pocock, Paul Watkins?, Thomas Martin, Francis Thorn, Simon Flowers, Paul Vaisey, Mark Whichello, Simon Miles

The teacher's name, according to Paul Taylor, was Mrs Moore. Amanda Lane also remembers that the school secretary was Mrs Munday, who lived in a house at Wellsprings and had a large collection of antique dolls.



Posted January 4, 2012

We have been sent these memories by Keith Lewis (born Keith Willey), who now lives in Cornwall. He remembers his father running a Transport Café from about 1948 to 1953. If anyone else remembers this, or has any pictures, we’d love to hear from them.

In this 1950 class picture from Brightwell School, Keith Willey is fourth from the right on the bottom row.

'I was born in The County Council Emergency Hospital Wallingford in 1944 and was taken home to live at Rosebank in Big Lane where my mother and father and brother Ken lived. My father Ted was a jobbing builder. When we lived there with my Gran it was too small so my dad bought an old railway carriage and put it in the garden for extra accommodation.

'Our milk came from King’s Farm opposite and bread from Kew’s bakery in the village. That bread was wonderful! It looked like cotton wool when you broke open the crust and could be eaten without butter. Later, when milk came in bottles, it came from Everex near the church. I was christened Keith Rodney Willey by Reverend Walton at St Agatha’s. When I was about 3 or 4, we moved up to High Road to a bungalow called "Orchard End" which my father rented from Miss Hyde. When he made a bit of money he bought the property and turned it into a Transport Cafe. Everybody mucked in, including my mother Phyliss and my Gran Maude Jones. Dad made doughnuts and cakes and Mum and Gran and Vera Palmer and another lady (I think her name was Mrs Newton) baked pasties and prepared meals. Sometimes people called at the side door to buy Oxos or tea or sugar to save them the walk down to Hollowell’s shop. Greenmere was still being built and I can remember playing in the sand heaps.

Movies at the Village Hall
'My brother Ken being 10 years older than me had a bike which he rode into Wallingford to visit the cinema whilst I was content to go to George Burnham’s Mobile Cinema and sit on hard seats at the village hall.* It always smelled of boiled beetrootas the school dinners were served there and beetroot seemed to be a staple at the time of shortages and rationing. At the entrance to the hall was a large walnut tree by Mrs Wichelow’s house and on the other side was PC Burdett’s police house. When we lived at the cafe (Orchard End) I remember a gypsy couple who camped across the road. They had a proper Romany caravan and they were known as Lilly and Harry. They had a dog called Moosh.

'My brother recalls the hard winter of 1947 when dad made a sledge to collect wood from Wittenham woods as coal was in short supply.

'When I turned five I was sent to the village school, which had hardly changed for donkey’s years from what I have read. Most of the kids were poor and wore hand me down clothes and sported boils on their necks. My first teacher was Miss Williams and the other teachers were Miss Whittaker and headmaster Mr Hayworth. Mrs Rumble was the dinner lady and her daughter was named Joy. Heating was by a Tortoise stove and the old bucket lavs were still in operation. We floated sticks in the stream and spent our pennies in Reynolds sweet shop near the Red Lion. Life was wonderful. Then came a big shock when Dad sold up and we had to move away to Wantage.

'It broke my heart to leave Brightwell and although I am now aged 67 and living in Cornwall, Brightwell will always be my spiritual home and the place where I return to time and time again if only in my dreams'

*From the description, this must be when the village hall was in the wooden hut behind the Stewart Memorial Hall, now a private house.

Keith also sent us the following poem:


The leaving of Brightwell


When I was just a little boy too young to understand

My dad decided we must move away

Away from all my friends down at the village school

And the secret places where we used to play.

The cornfield next to Orchard End  Dean Inge’s private moat

Jumping puddles in the rain sticks in the stream to float.


The cricket field in Mackney lane where we would hide away

Behind the old pavillion as hide and seek we’d play

Sticky sweets in tall glass jars, games of "Whip and Top"

Licorice and barley sugar washed down with ginger pop.

All these things I must forget as I was swept away

And though my heart was breaking, no longer could I stay


And so goodbye dear Brightwell from a broken hearted boy

Who wished for nothing more than what he had

But in my dreams I travel back there and once more

I am that happy little village lad.

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