Thursday, 18 February 2021

The Drang

 In my childhood there was a narrow alley way besides the Cottage Hospital that my family called the drang. For fans of Hot Fuzz, it is where PC Nicholas Angel leaps over a wall and catches up with shoplifter Pete. 

Drang is not a word that I ever recall hearing outside of the family though, and I often wondered if it was something they had made up. Googling it many years ago I found a reference to it used in Newfoundland, with a variant drung which I have seen in a map of Croscombe. It is also used in Pembrokeshire.

My best find though came today when I found this map of Wells.  ca. 1835  Robert Creighton,  engr. J.& C. Walker for Lewis' Topographical Dictionary.

Notice Drang Lane exactly where the drang is! 

Worth noting on the map are alternative / misspelled names, such as Kenward, Stowborough and Birrel Lane. Back Lane, now North Road, I have seen on other maps and also in the Journal, so it probably correct.

Update: This Facebook post got a lot of positive responses and drangs all over the place.

Monday, 15 February 2021

The Broad Close prefabs, Wells

 I spent the first 15 months of my life in a post-war prefab in Wells. My parents seem to have moved in as soon as they became available and stayed until early 1958 when they bought a house nearby on Bath Road.

Twenty five prefabs were constructed and the council received 180 applications for tenancy. The rent was proposed to be 11s per week, plus 3s 10d rates. (WJ, 05 July 1946, p5)

The bungalows, erected by Messrs. Melhuish and Saunders, were the Arcon, Mark V. type, with two bedrooms. The first five tenants moved in on 4 September 1946. (WJ, 06 September 1946, p1).

The tenants selected comprised 21 ex-servicemen, 2 war workers and 1 member of the N.F.S. and one on-service man. Of the 25 tenants selected, 22 were at present occupying rooms, 8 of them had 2 children, 14 had one child and 2 were without children. The site was known as Broad Close [the name of a field], and in order to perpetuate the name of the field it was recommended that the bungalows be known as Nos. 1—25 Broad Close, Bath-road. (WJ, 06 September 1946, p1)

There must have been an adjoining children's playing field as it wasn't long before one irate person wrote to the Journal complaining about the long grass. (WJ, 02 July 1948, p5)

By the 1960's the prefabs were coming to the end of their useful life. One letter to the Journal talks about "not to be able to open or close windows, for carpets to get wet every time it rains, fireplaces to be cracked, sides of houses to sway in the wind, lights to stop on when switched off." (WJ, 23 April 1965, p13). The next month a councilor says that the bungalows are like corroded sieves and they are considerably below standard and are virtually slums. (WJ, 21 May 1965)

Aerial view of the Broad Close prefabs

The prefabs were designed by a small group of architects and industrial designers who formed the Arcon company. The bungalows were manufactured by Taylor Woodrow from 2,500 components delivered by 145 suppliers. They were constructed with corrugated asbestos cement walls and roofs on a steel frame. You read more and see better pictures here. (pdf)

The interior was of pre-fabricated timber-framed panels faced with plaster or building board and insulated. (Northampton Mercury, 30 November 1945, p1). 

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Wells Library

 I recently had a very vague memory of visiting the library as a child at locations in both the market square and the old blue school at the bottom of Chamberlain street so I thought I should do some research to see if I could find anything about these locations. The Wells Journal is available on the British Newspaper Archive, and after a lot of searching I found the following.

Way back in 1900, it was noted by a visiting speaker at the Annual Meeting of the Wells Student Association that there was no free public library in the town. (WJ, 15 February 1900). 

A letter by EWW Goold, (WJ, 10 January 1930) noted that the County Rural Libraries Scheme provided a small number of books to a library at the Central School, but this was not widely publicized. In the same issue it was reported that the Corporation was considering a library in conjunction with the County and the East Room [of the town hall] be used for this purpose. The county would provide the books, the council would be responsible for accommodation, storage and distribution. The library opened on 21 February 1930 and would be open every Friday from 6-8pm. (WJ, 07 March 1930).

The library proved very popular in its first year, outgrowing its original space and was moved to the Small Hall in April 1931. (WJ, 06 March 1931 and 20 March 1931). In 1938 it moved again to the former rating office on the ground floor (WJ 06 May 1938). It should be noted that it had been run by volunteers, and that was now managed largely by Toc H

It remained in the town hall for twenty years. By 1957 some 80,000 books were being borrowed a year and library could only shelve 2000 (WJ, 13 September 1957). There were also plans to renovate the town hall, so other premises were sought. A number were considered, and after much bickering the front rooms of the two upper floors of the former Bekynton Cafe, 21-23 Market Place, were leased from the Church Commissioners, despite the difficulty this might present to elderly clients. The new facility was opened in April 1959. (WJ, 1 May 1959)

In 1966 the journal reports that the owner of the building would not extend the lease. City council likely to buy the former boys section of the Blue school and let part of it to the county for the library. (WJ 25 November 1966). The library had moved to the old Blue school by March 1967 on a temporary basis until the new library opened in Union Street in 1968.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

A cider making family

Cider has been a traditional drink associated with Somerset for many years. Here is an interesting story from the Western Daily Press about the Hecks family and how their business has changed over the generations.