Château Brick Hill.

 

People on Brick Hill knew how to forage on the Common. They knew how to gather fruit and flowers, and how to use them – for example for home made wine.

 

Brick Hill had a thriving tradition of home made wine. Many people made it.

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Beer and bottles in the larder. Kitchen in Whittaker’s Cottages, Weald and Downland Museum. (With thanks to the Weald and Downland Museum.)

Lilian Millard produced a range of wines. She was once clearing out her cupboards where it was stored when the curate popped in for a visit. She hospitably offered him a few samples. He happily agreed, merrily sipping them. Then he paused. “After that,” he said, “You’d better give me some coffee.”

Joan Weymouth carried on the tradition, branching out into sloe gin. As she needed to bottle it, she was lucky  to get some gin bottles, still with a touch of gin in them, from one of her clients.

Tony Lovejoy’s mother also made wine. Her rhubarb wine tasted wonderful, but was unexpectedly strong.

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Elderflowers in bloom in Valley End. For Elderflower Wine, “Pick Elderflowers that are fragrant and at their peak.”

The women in Dave Hizzey’s family had skilled hands with wine.

“My great grandma was a great homemade winemaker, as my Mum was. Apparently when my Mum first went there, in the little shed in bottom of the garden the wine was all in proper barrels, draped in wet sacks, to keep them cool in the summer.

“The best wine my Mum ever made that I really liked was a Cumberland Brandy, and that was wheat, and raisins or something.  Then she made elderflower – she never made elderberry, I don’t know why, perhaps she didn’t like them, and broom, with the flowers from the broom. I think you can do it with gorse as well, but it’s a job to pluck the flowers. They were great lovers of dandelion wine.

“I can remember as a kid my Mum used to say, “Oh, your Dad’s gone to get his bottle filled,” because my Gran lived  next door, and my Dad used to go and say goodnight to his Mum every night. But she’d have a jug of wine which she’d made, because she used to make it as well, and a glass, and I don’t mean a wine glass I mean a tumbler, full of wine as well. He’d empty the jug, and you really don’t know how strong that stuff is. He used to come back a bit wobbly.” (David Hizzey.)

 

If you fancy making a  homemade wine, here are recipes from Surrey in the 1930s.

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“For Broom wine -take 4 pints of broom flowers.” Broom blossoming on Chobham Common. (Photograph by Roy Smithers, courtesy of Mark Stroud.)

GRAPE WINE.

Collected from Chobham W.I. in 1932.

3 lbs. Grapes.

3 lbs. Sugar.

1 gallon Water.

Put the grapes in a large pan with the stalks on, and cover with a gallon of boiling water. Leave for ten days, then with a wooden spoon press them to the side of the pan to beak them, strain through a fine cloth, add the sugar, stir well, and leave for 24 hours, stir well again and put into bottles; each one must be filled to the top, as the froth works out fill up again. After about two weeks the corks could be put in but not very tight for a few days – CORKS, not screw stoppers. The grapes should be picked before cold nights come on or they will get mildew.

Or, if you can’t pick own grapes before the nights grow cold, you could try something else.

POTATO WINE.

Collected from Wrecclesham W. I. in 1932.

A half a gallon of small potatoes.

3 and a half lbs. Demerara sugar.

1 gallon water.

1 lemon.

1 orange.

(Use potatoes which would otherwise be thrown away.)

Well wash potatoes, boil until tender but not smash, strain into a pan containing sugar and fruit, when dissolved boil again 30 minutes, when cool add a little yeast and set to work, extra water may be added when boiling to allow for wasting. Bottles or jars must be kept filled up while working.

And if you would like a liqueur

ORANGE LIQUEUR.

Collected from Pirbright W. I. in 1932.

1 gallon Gin.

8 Seville Oranges – the rinds.

8 Lemons – pared very thin.

2 lbs. Loaf Sugar.

Steep the rinds of the oranges and lemons and the sugar in the gin for 6 days, stirring twice a day and then strain and bottle off.

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Pottery barrel and jar, from the Weald and Downland Museum artifacts collection. (With thanks to the Weald and Downland Museum.)

I have not tried these recipes myself, but if anyone uses one please let us know how it turns out!

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With many thanks to David Hizzey, Joan Weymouth, and Tony Lovejoy.

“The Surrey cookery book: recipes and remedies old and new: contributed by 50 Women’s Institutes.” Compiled by Miss Adeline Maclean: assisted by Miss Evelyn Thompson. Guildford 1932.

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Growing up at Brick Hill

The Hizzey family has lived at Brick Hill for generations.

 

“My Granddad had 4 goats, and I think he had more. There were little partitions in the shed and the goats used to go there. My Dad used to go and collect bracken for bedding for them, and then they’d just graze them on the Common. I think they were probably were staked and tied.

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Robert Frederick Hizzey and his goats at Brick Hill. (Photo courtesy D. Hizzey.)

“The old lady round at Vale Farm had cattle. I don’t remember them, that was before my time, but my Dad as a kid remembered a cow’s leg sticking out of the ground. They’d buried it, I don’t know why they didn’t eat it, perhaps they didn’t know what it died of, but they buried it. They didn’t dig the hole deep enough, and he reckoned that for years there was this old dried up cow’s leg sticking out.

“They also had geese that wandered about Brick Hill, a flock of geese, probably 20 or 30 I should think. I don’t remember this either, but apparently all the ditches round here, and I remember all the grass, was beautiful, like a lawn, it was all the geese just nibbling at it and keeping it all flat.

“My Granddad had a pig in a sty at the bottom of our garden. The pigsty was next door to the toilet. When he was a little tot my Dad was afraid to go to it, because the pig was a big black long snouted pig, and it used to go for people, so he was afraid to go to the toilet because the bloody pig would try to bite him.

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Emily Snooks outside her cottage in Brick Hill. (Photo courtesy D. Hizzey.)

“We only had an outside toilet there, at the bottom of the garden, just an earth closet. When you walked down there at night you could hear the crunch as you trod on snails. You didn’t have any light, I remember treading on toads and all sorts.

“These 2 cottages when my Granddad bought them had Common rights, to dig turf and to graze animals, and to cut wood.

“I still pick sticks for the garden. My Dad did more so than me. I’ve bought bamboo canes for runner beans, but he would have just gone and got willow poles off the Common and chop them. He’d have new ones every year. Christmas trees used to come off the Common. They’re a very grotty looking Christmas tree really, because they’re so sparse with branches, but that was Christmas. If you’d had a proper shaped tree it wouldn’t have looked right.

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Brick Hill, with Vale Farm and White’s Farm, and Oaktree Cottages in the background. (Photo courtesy D. Hizzey.)

“I think there was a lot of animal grazing, and beekeeping. Mrs Millard had bees, her daughter Joan Weymouth and Tom had bees.

“As a kid there was a bit of  land that was always called the nursery. My Granddad had chickens there. They used it like allotments really. My Dad’s garden was like a showpiece, fruit, and vegetables.

“There was one telephone, Mrs Millard, Chobham 7176. I still remember that. That was the only phone on Brick Hill. I came home one day and there was a phone box on the Green, and I thought wow, you know, we’re going up in the world, but it was made of wood, and they were filming. Oliver Reed was in it, it was called R3 gas.

“I remember as a kid that the power cables that went across the middle of Brick Hill, the main power cables, were just bare copper. They weren’t insulated. They were just strands of wire. The power lines come across from Sparrow Row.

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The trees at Fox Hill clump. (Photo courtesy D. Hizzey.)

“If as a kid you wanted flowers you’d go to Mr. Broad to get your flowers. If you wanted eggs you’d go to Mrs Anscombe. If you wanted tomatoes you’d go to Johnny Pipkins.

“They had deliveries. We always had a milkman. I can remember that as a kid. Underwoods, which was the ironmongers in Lightwater, used to come round with a van like a shop with paraffin, and anything really, washing powders and things like that. Suttons the bakers used to come up. But he didn’t just have bread he used to have a van full of produce you could have a look through. The Travelling library used to come out onto the Green.

“They used to have horse and cart deliveries too, before my childhood. I can remember Dad saying they used to bump through the ditch in the bottom of this lane. I think my Dad probably saw the heyday of Brick Hill. Their life style was superb.”

With many thanks to David Hizzey.

 

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(Photo courtesy J. End.)

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With many thanks to David Hizzey.

The Wrecked Cabin of Brick Hill.

On the 5th September 1908 19-year-old Henry Taylor and his brother in law Albert Lee unloaded a cartload of furniture at his father’s house, Geranium Cottage, Brick Hill. It was a small place, barely more than a cabin.

After a long day, presumably spent moving in, the two went to bed. Just before midnight, Henry was woken by noisy shouting, which he thought it was a wedding party.

This begs the question as to what Valley End weddings must have been like then, because suddenly a large pole used as an impromptu battering ram broke down the back door, the bedroom door was smashed off its hinges, and the pole landed on the bed where they were sleeping.

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The Wrecked Cabin, Valley End. By Bill Stevens, the Brick Hill photographer. (Photo courtesy of D. Hizzey.)

Henry Taylor jumped up and hurriedly begun to dress, but when the window crashed into the room, complete with frame, he wisely jumped out of the window instead. Barely had he landed when someone hit him, “slightly”, with an axe. He escaped, and ran off to summon the Police.

Albert Lee was left, desperately dressing, and listening to the men being urged on by two women to demolish the house around him.

The attacking party were highly excited. They had brought gallon jars of beer with them, and tackled the house with huge determination. It was all but razed to the ground. The doors were broken down, and walls were pushed in. Furniture was dragged outside and destroyed

This was in fact a midnight visit from a couple of their aunties and a selection of friends and relations. They were fuelled by beer and indignation, due to a family dispute over a will.

Samuel Taylor had left Geranium Cottage to his wife. It was planned that after her death it would be sold, and the money divided between their children. It appears that this did not happen, and this triggered a bitter family dispute as to who owned the cottage.

Samuel’s son John Taylor had sent Henry and Albert to move in. His two sisters, Ellen Mossman and Amanda Brown, had turned up at midnight with 5 other family members to oppose this.

When the case was heard at the Surrey Sessions, it was pointed out that nearly everyone involved was related. The women claimed that they had a right to a share in the house by the terms of their father’s will. They were found guilty, but the jury recommended clemency. The men were fined £5, but the women, who had urged the men on, were fined £10 – significant sums in those days.

This story caught the public imagination and articles about it were published as far afield as Scotland, Nottingham, Gloucester and Cornwall. It’s not surprising; after all, family arguments rarely bring the house down.

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Site of the Wrecked Cabin. (Photo by J. End, reproduced courtesy of J.End.)

Sources.

Nottingham Evening Post. 8th Sept. 1908.“Country cottage stormed.”

Dundee Courier. 10th Sept. 1908. “Family feud.”

Gloucestershire Echo. 10th Sept. 1908. “Night attack on cottage.”

Gloucestershire Echo. 22nd Oct. 1908. “Midnight house wrecking.”

Cornish Telegraph. 29th Oct. 1908. “Wrecking a cottage; a family feud.”

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