A view of Bell Hill Lydbrook, Gloucestershire.
Bell Hill, Lydbrook.
This photo was taken between 1920 and 1930 but now due to overgrowth of trees and hedges most properties are hidden from view. The view looks west from the lime kilns where a similar cottage development can be seen. A number would be squatters cottages often one room up and one room down with a kitchen/scullery annexe. Later another one up one down would be built on the gable end. The main road through Lydbrook can be clearly seen. It has been said that Lydbrook valley was two miles long and two yards wide, The piling up of the houses indicates just how steep Bell Hill rises. Apart from the three houses being partly built of brick, the rest are of local forest stone from the local quarry or just picked from the local top soil. The mortar used would be ash and lime (the lime kilns were on the opposite hillside). The un-mettled track runs up from bottom left to a "Y" junction. The left fork leads to the upper homes and eventually to the furthest cottage (top right). The track then continued over the hill with a branch to the right following part of Mr Teague's railway and branch to the left joining the road across Hangerberry Hill (now called Squires Road). On a personal note, two properties abutted (right of middle) one looking left, the other down across the valley. The latter (Mill Cottage) was occupied by the writer for some twenty years. Mill Cottage was a typical squatters cottage from the time of encroachments. The older part of the cottage was on the right. In the roof space could be seen a whitewashed gable end with oak beams protruding ready for the second part to be built therefore completing the two up two down system. The extra wide front door 40-44 inches wide enabled wide loads to pass easily i.e. fuel, water coffins!. Across the track from Mill cottage , the orchard of three quarters of an acre contained the famous Blakeney Red cider pears and one Crab Apple tree. Mill Cottage had its own Mill House complete with mill and press. In the Autumn a donkey would provide the motive power for the milling of the pears, with a small portion of crab apples. There was no piped water until a petition in the 1950's pressed the authorities to act. Prior to this water was carried from the nearby well. Of course there was no bathroom and the privy was down the garden near the burial ground. The very steep hillside had its setbacks. All loads had to be transported up the track by a donkey, the track was not wide enough for a cart. The donkey was hired out by a neighbour and had a character of its own. When transporting coal up from the main road, the donkey would count the bags and would refuse to go back down the hill after it had delivered the last bag. It would then only go in one direction - back up the hill at the fork in the road to its stable. Nor was it possible to add a few extra lumps to the bag of coal. If the donkey thought that the bag was too heavy it would not budge until the extra lumps had been removed. At the top of the steep and arduous climb of Bell Hill was a plateau. This rare flat area was once used by as a Rugby pitch. The story goes that on match day the opposing team arriving at the bottom of the hill would enquire as to the location of the ground. On being told "right up thick thar lane old butt", the opposition would hurriedly climb the hill. Meanwhile at the top the Lydbrook players having already quietly climbed the hill would be resting and gain an advantage at kick off. Bell Hill was always worth a couple of points to Lydbrook. The house on the main road with the Bay Windows was the Bell Inn. Workers from the local wire works would draw a nine gallon barrel of cider or ale for their shift's work. Making wire was very thirsty work. To the bottom right was a bake house, the smell of early morning baking would waft up the hillside, mouth-watering and appetising. As was typical in these times, gardens were cultivated for vegetables to feed the family. No large lawns in those days, wages were low and home grown vegetables were essential. The gardens in the photo were cultivated waiting for the coming spring - Ken W. Sollars
Thanks also to Eddie Bosticco who added (August 2008): "... My particular interest is Lydbrook and Joys Green. I was up on Bell Hill at the weekend (24th August). My mother, Pearl Hunt, was born on Bell Hill in the cottage now called Lime Kiln Cottage. In the 1901 the tenants were Benjamin and Catherine Hunt and their children Benjamin, James, Laura, Mabel and George (father of Pearl and my grandad). Next door lived Benjamin's brothers Thomas and Charles Hunt. All three brothers died within months of each other in 1929".
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