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Major works at Ogbourne Maizey's famous training yard ahead of Emma Lavelle's arrival

Emma Lavelle and works for the new all-weather gallopEmma Lavelle and works for the new all-weather gallopWithin the next couple of weeks - or so - the National Hunt trainer Emma Lavelle moves into the Bonita Stables in Ogbourne Maizey she has bought from Peter Makin, who has retired after 48 years as a trainer.

They say that moving house is one of the most stressful things you will do in your life. Moving training stables - with sixty valuable horses - should be even worse.  But what if you are moving into an ambitious looking building site?  

Emma Lavelle is utterly calm and apparently completely unstressed.  The day before I visited Bonita her builders had lost a day to incessant rain. When I arrived her assistant trainer and husband, Barry Fenton, was painting the new tack room and cement trucks were delivering special concrete for the base of the new horse walker.

Twenty-five of the loose boxes in Bonita's original red brick have been refurbished from the roof down and new drainage put in.  But twenty new boxes in the middle of the yard are so far represented by a concrete base and steel uprights. 

And another set of new boxes just outside the main yard do not yet have all their steel uprights in place.

The work is being done to very high standards - so they have carefully re-used the old semi-glazed black bricks that now edge the yard and its new drainage and the new boxes will use red brick to match the colour of Bonita's early twentieth century stabling. As Emma Lavelle puts it: "The aim is to keep it all as authentic as possible - just making it more practical."

Some of the 24 refurbished boxesSome of the 24 refurbished boxesThe boss's bungalow - with paddocks beyondThe boss's bungalow - with paddocks beyondThe long gallopThe long gallop

The Bonita yard is horseshoe shaped.  In the middle is the main house, which was not part of the yard's sale and will still be lived in by Peter Makin and his wife.  One arm holds the main or upper yard where the horses will be and all the offices and the two horse walkers (one for five horses and a new one for eight horses.)  

The other arm of the horseshoe, down the hill, is the lower yard.  This will be mothballed for the time being - except for a couple of quarantine boxes. But the lower yard is the site for new staff homes: two 4-bedroom houses and one bungalow.

Emma and her husband will be living in the bungalow that is nearly at the apex of the horseshoe.  Nearby is an annex where owners can stay the night.

It's a work in progressIt's a work in progress

With so much work to be done and time and the weather against her, why is Emma Lavelle so calm?  It must be because she is so excited by the potential of Bonita: "It's just stunning. It's the most stunning place."

She is moving from Cottage Stables at Hatherden between Newbury and Andover where she has been training for eighteen years.  She has been renting there and wants to develop her own yard and when Bonita came on the market she seized the chance: "It's a long process that will be perfected over years."

She feels very privileged to have such extensive facilities with such a history.  Bonita stables were set up by the theatrical impressario George Edwardes in the 1890s.  Before Peter Makin came to Ogbourne Maizey, other famous racing names associated with the yard included Bill Marshall, Sir Gordon Richards and Bob Turnell.  

Emma Lavelle is installing an all weather gallop.  When I was there it was a deep trench waiting for drier weather to add its layer of washed limestone, a membrane and then the all-weather surface.  

Emma Lavelle at Worcester Races (September 2015)Emma Lavelle at Worcester Races (September 2015)That will be a major investment for the future.  I certainly got the impression that she believes her new facilities will be really good for her horses.  Over the past five seasons her horses have won £1,511,840 in prize money - it will be interesting to see what Bonita does to the next five year total.

It is widely agreed that Bonita's gallops are some of the best in the country.  As we drive up to see them, Emma Lavelle is openly thrilled at the thought of getting her sixty horses out on the Marlborough Downs' grass: "It's such a privilege that this is ours...though really, of course, we're just its caretakers."

There are three grass gallops.  The longest and most spectacular can be used with a mile-and-a-half or a mile-and-a-quarter finish - Emma is delighted to find that it has just been mown and is looking its Spring best.

There is a mile gallop known as the Bungalow Gallop because it passes in front of the bungalow that Sir Gordon Richards lived in when he trained at Bonita for nine years.  And finally there is an oval-shaped gallop: "We've even got our own racecourse!"

She smiles when - prompted by these amazing gallops - I ask whether she will stick to training only for jump racing at the Bonita yard: "It certainly lends itself to training flat horses as well.  We'll see."

The gallops aside, she also has 45 acres of paddocks.  She has sixty horses to move of which half will have already been turned out at the end of the jump season - leaving about 25 still in training for summer jump meetings and needing loose boxes.

When it comes, she thinks 'moving week' will be a 'gentle process'.  She will need a lot of transport and horseboxes.  But her brother runs a transport company so she is hoping it will be straightforward - and that she will get 'sibling rates'.

As she moves off to talk to the builders, Emma smiles broadly and says: "Next time you come there'll be horses here!"

NOTE: Marlborough.News visited the Bonita yard last Tuesday (April 12) - by now it will be looking very different. [Click on photos to enlarge them.]


The very Independent Wiltshire Councillor Jeff Osborn - an appreciation

Jeff Osborn (Photo courtesy The Western Daily Press)Jeff Osborn (Photo courtesy The Western Daily Press)With the sudden and shocking death of Wiltshire Councillor Jeff Osborn, the Health Service in our county has lost a constant champion. Jeff died in the Royal United Hospital in Bath on April 1, a few days after suffering a severe stroke. He was 73.  

Jeff was a long serving member of the Council's Health Scrutiny committee, where he was a vigilant critic of the new world of fragmented and commissioned health services, while at the same time speaking up for those who are trying to make and keep the NHS free and fairly available to all those who need it.

Jeff also saw very clearly what is happening to the NHS as a result of the Coalition Government's Health and Social Care Act, one of the reasons why he (and I) couldn't continue in the Liberal Democrats.

Jeff cared deeply about the NHS, but that was one among many of the battles that he fought. He was twenty years a Councillor in Wiltshire, first elected as a West Wilts District Councillor in 1996 and then to the old County Council and as a Wiltshire Councillor in 2009.

His political journey included membership of the Labour Party, then the Lib Dems, and then becoming an Independent. He always insisted his values hadn't changed, others had. He stood up for his people in his Trowbridge ward, and was so well respected there that he was re-elected in 2013 (now as an Independent) with a huge 700 majority, and an extraordinary 86 per cent of the vote.

He served twice as the Town's Mayor. Most recently he supported Trowbridge residents in their fight against excessive development (though he was a strong supporter of building more affordable homes), and campaigned against government plans to impose fracking on the Trowbridge area. He also cared about the town's wartime heritage and was a leading light in the campaign for a memorial to the Trowbridge factories' construction of Spitfires in the Second World War.

I first got to know Jeff when Chippenham Hospital was threatened with closure.  He supported the successful local efforts to keep it open by arguing the case on the then County Council scrutiny committee.

Later we became colleagues in the unitary Wiltshire Council, first as Liberal Democrats and then as Independents. We shared many values, including a belief in the positive contribution of local government and the public sector, which seems all too often to be under threat these days.

One of Jeff's most recent and high profile campaigns was to keep the Hopper bus service to the RUH in Bath. He saw cutting it as a glaring example of how the needs of a vulnerable few were seen as dispensable in the name of the austerity programme to which he strongly objected. It is a sad irony that the last email I had from him was about his visits to the RUH, proudly travelling on the Hopper.

It is extraordinarily sad that his wife Helen, also a Wiltshire Councillor, was in hospital after a serious operation at the time of his death. They were an inseparable pair, and our thoughts are with Helen at such a difficult time.

In public, Jeff came across as bluff and genial, usually seen of late in his signature greatcoat.  He was a very effective public speaker, with his own very individual style. One of his great strengths was his deep understanding of the system, and an uncanny ability to get it to work for the causes he cared about.

He was well respected across the political divides.  He was rather a private person, and others will have known him better than I did, but he was also a genial and, when necessary, a critical friend, always supportive when needed. When I challenged the established view that all was well with Wiltshire Council's care in the community, Jeff was always there to back me up.

Personally I will miss him terribly. I know many others will too - deeply and genuinely, over and beyond the many public expressions of condolence. He is a huge loss also to progressive politics in Wiltshire. It is a sometimes an overused expression, but I believe it in this case to be true:  I don't think we will see his like again.

Councillor Chris Caswill represents the Monkton Division of Chippenham on Wiltshire Council.


Obituary: Bob Wise - widely respected and long-serving local journalist and horseracing expert

Bob WiseBob WiseOne of the country’s longest serving local journalists, Marlborough father of three Bob Wise has died at the age of 92 after an amazing career of over 70 years broken only by his war service.

Mr Wise, who was married to his wife Elsie for 57 years was editor of the former Marlborough Times, worked as sub editor on the Swindon Advertiser and as a racing correspondent and tipster for the Wiltshire Gazette.

His wife was at his bedside when he died at the Miranda nursing home in Royal Wootton Bassett in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Home for most of his married life was at Upper Churchfields in Marlborough where he and his wife celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary seven years ago.

He is survived by his wife, three children, Rosalind, Roger and Robin, and by two grandchildren, Cecilia and Samuel.

There will be a burial service for family and close friends only on Tuesday (August 11) at Marlborough Cemetery in Frees Avenue followed at 2.30pm by a service of thanksgiving for his life, in St Mary’s Church.

Mr Wise was brought up at West Overton, not far from the famous racing stables at Beckhampton and Manton that were to be a major feature in his life.

His family believes his love of racing probably started when a favourite uncle used to let him race snails on their doorstep!

He left Marlborough Grammar School at 16 to be apprenticed as a reporter on the former Marlborough Times and he was midway through his training when he joined the Home Guard before being called up into the Royal Air Force.

He worked in the RAF wireless communications section and his service took him to the Far East where by an amazing coincidence he bumped into his only brother, the late Alan Wise who died five years ago, who was also in the armed forces.

When peace returned in Europe, Mr Wise returned to reporting on the local paper meanwhile building up his contacts in the world of racing that enabled him in later life to become a widely respected racing correspondent and tipster.

He moved to the Swindon Advertiser and enjoyed the cut and thrust of daily journalism for some years before returning to the Marlborough Times as its editor, a position he held for many years.

Bob, as he was generally known, was interested in all aspects of sport and played soccer for his village side as a youngster and it was while playing tennis on the old grammar school courts in Elcot Lane that he met Elsie. In later life he became one of the leading snooker players at Marlborough Conservative Club.

Mrs Wise said: “Bob loved all sports but racing was the thing he liked most.”

He wrote a weekly column for the Handicap Book for more than 30 years and after retiring continued writing a weekly racing column for the Wiltshire Gazette well into his eighties.

As a Gazette journalist, Nigel Kerton worked alongside Mr Wise in Marlborough for almost 50 years.  He told Marlborough News Online: “Bob was the old fashioned journalist who had a network of contacts in every village, always researched his stories thoroughly and was well respected by all who knew him."

“As an editor he encouraged numerous young journalists into their careers and although I worked on a rival paper he gave me a lot of help in my early days and we became lasting friends.”


OBITUARY: Tony Bryant - court clerk, gardener and leading light of bowling in Wiltshire

Tony BryantTony BryantOne of the founders of Marlborough Gardening Association and a stalwart of the town’s Bowls Club, Tony Bryant, has died at the age of 82 following a long illness.

Mr Bryant, whose home was in St John’s Close in Marlborough, spent the last six years of his life in Merlin Court nursing home where he died on Tuesday last week.

The funeral takes place at St Mary’s Church, 12noon next Tuesday (August 4), and will be followed by cremation at the West Wiltshire Crematorium.

Mr Bryant was born in the village of Vellow near Stogumber in West Somerset and was the first child from that school, and from his family, to win a place at Minehead Grammar School.  He worked for solicitors in Minehead before he did his National Service in the RAF and served in Egypt at the time of the Suez crisis.

He finished his National Service at Yatesbury camp and decided to make his home in Wiltshire, joining the magistrates courts office in Swindon as a clerk.

One of the highlights of his military service was being on parade for the funeral of King George VI.

Mr Bryant served as a court clerk for 38 years until his retirement.  He and his wife Sheila were together for 48 years and he doted on their daughter Tracey and his three step children, Robin, Christopher and the late Denise.

Mr Bryant, who had a garden at his home and an allotment, was one of founders the Marlborough Gardening Association in the early 1970’s and served as its treasurer for 30 years and also as its president.

Mr Bryant was a keen bowler, a member of the Marlborough Bowls Club and as its president he steered the club through the development of its new clubhouse.

He was also a leading member of the Wiltshire Bowling Association, playing on numerous tours and he served as its president. Mr Bryant was made an honorary life member of the Marlborough club in 1995 and of the county association in 2001.

As a boy he was a Scout and became a lifelong stamp collector.

In 1982 he received a commendation from Wiltshire Police after disregarding his own safety to help rescue a neighbouring pensioner who was injured in a gas explosion at her home - she later died.

Daughter Tracey Barnett said: “Dad loved his family and his home and his dogs throughout the years.”

Mrs Bryant said: “He loved his scouting and was very much into it as a boy.”

At Minehead Grammar the school hymn was Praise My Soul the King of Heaven which will be sang at Tuesday’s funeral. During his RAF service in Egypt he helped run the camp cinema and his favourite film was the Glen Miller Story so the music when the funeral ends will be Moonlight Serenade.

His family has asked for donations for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and for cancer research, care of Thomas Free and Sons funeral directors, The Parade, Marlborough SN8 1NE.


A personal appreciation of the life of Harry Beckhough: how I will remember probably the most remarkable man I ever met…by Nigel Kerton


Harry Beckhough at the 2013 Town Hall Christmas lunchHarry Beckhough at the 2013 Town Hall Christmas lunchIn my career as a journalist covering five decades I was privileged to meet many remarkable men and women from all realms of life, but one character stands out as the man who did most in his life, Harry Beckhough who has died at the age of 101.

Dr Beckhough – he had a PhD in languages although he rarely used his title – kept working for 30 years beyond his allotted three score years and ten. In other words this diminutive man, who was a giant in so many ways, never retired.

While most pensioners occupied themselves with R&R (rest and recreation), Harry kept busy with W&W (work and more work).

When he was not working in the High Street offices of his beloved Devizes Constituency Conservative Association, he was researching for the books he wrote on a number of subjects ranging from the Old Testament to what he called the Fourth Reich, German’s domination of the Western world economically after its attempts to use brute force led to two world wars.

This cheery centenarian could well have written his own epitaph in the title of his autobiography Thinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - a play on the words of the children’s pudding game with cherry or prune stones!

He was a thinker, a lifelong philosopher; a tailor who started his own clothing companies including the famous Double 2 shirt brand; a soldier who fought through World War Two with the Eighth Army achieving the rank of colonel; and a spy because he was invited to join Britain’s code-cracking team at Bletchley Park whose work in breaking enemy codes was credited with ending the 1939-45 war years earlier than it might have dragged on.

Harry was fascinated with the German psyche and that nation’s unrequited bid for domination of Europe, and probably the rest of the world, initially by military might but since peace broke out in 1945 through its economic supremacy.

In some notes I have written by Harry before giving a public talk, his dislike of the European Union is obvious and he refers to “the treachery of our Leaders selling Britain to unelected ill-intentioned strangers”, “the European Union under Germany’s running lies” and “Has England a future free from EU dictatorship”.

Born in Bristol where he attended the same grammar school as actor Cary Grant, he had a natural aptitude for languages and his studies at the University of Bristol involved stays in France and Germany developing his understanding of not only the German language, but also the Teutonic desire for domination.

His wartime service as a soldier and code breaker – which also involved helping develop the world’s first computers – was the sort of thing that should inspire authors and film-makers, let alone the myriad other things he crammed into his 101 years.

He was possibly the oldest and longest-serving member of the Conservative Party and became a friend and confidante to top Tories over the past 30 years.

While living in Yorkshire developing his clothing industries Harry was not enamoured with the preparatory schools available to his son Nigel and daughter Jennifer, so in true Beckhough style he started his own, Cundall Manor, which still flourishes 55 years on.

Following the death of his wife Joan in 1996 Harry decided to return from Yorkshire where he had lived for much of his adult life to his beloved West Country to be near his barrister daughter – who is the wife of the President of the Family Division of the High Court – who lives near the Manningfords.

He moved into the Castle Court retirement complex in 1997 where he stayed the rest of his days, handily close to the Conservative office where he could be found working most mornings.

Tirelessly he used his business acumen and life’s experiences to help the Tories gain domination of the local government scene in Wiltshire, at parish and town councils, the former Kennet District Council and Wiltshire's unitary council.

The only really fitting obituary to this man of multi-talents would fill volumes but I sincerely hope my precis of this remarkable man’s life will open the eyes of readers to what he did.

Harry was a small man but he was like the proverbial terrier who would never let go of whatever he seized on if he believed it was for the better for his beloved Great Britain.

He epitomised the old West Country saying that “the best things come wrapped in small parcels”.

For a man who did not move to Wiltshire until he was well over 80 Harry has left a huge indelible mark on the town, district and county.

In 1998 Harry was awarded an MBE for his services to politics, a lowly award considering all he did for the Conservatives at local and national level.  In his typically pragmatic style Harry’s comment when the award was made was: “What took them so long!”



Obituary: Robert Hill

Robert HillRobert HillRobert Hill who was involved with the Hills Group for more than four decades and was a leading figure in Marlborough Golf Club for many years has died at the age of 74 years.

Mr Hill died on Thursday afternoon after suffering a long and debilitating illness and today the club flag was at half-mast out of respect for the man who was a past captain, chairman and president.

Mr Hill, who is survived by his wife Rosie and four sons, Michael, William, David and Jamie, was a dynamic man both in the business world and in his sporting life.

He was at the helm at Marlborough Golf Club from the mid-Eighties until advancing ill health forced him to stand down as president recently.

The golf club issued a statement to its members today saying: “We are very saddened to announce the death of Robert Hill.
“Robert was 74 years old. He and his family business have been constant and generous supporters of Marlborough Golf club for many years.”

Mr Hill joined the committee of the club in 1984 and chaired its development committee which oversaw the modern clubhouse on The Common. His company continues to sponsor the Wiltshire Professional Championship which continues to be played at Marlborough.

He was also a keen bowls player and represented the county.
Ernie Newell, who was the Gazette and Swindon Advertiser’s golf columnist for many years said today: “Robert was a lovely chap and made a great contribution to the club.”

Mr  Hill was a grandson of Edward Hill who founded Hills of Swindon, then a brick-making business, in 1900 and which under the leadership of successive generations of the family moved into the construction and recycling business.

Robert and Rosie Hill with John Cleese and Mike HillRobert and Rosie Hill with John Cleese and Mike HillToday the Hills Group, chaired by Robert Hill’s oldest son Michael, is one of the leading recycling groups in Britain and is responsible for refuse and recycling in Wiltshire. Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Dorset.

Born in Swindon Robert Hill was educated at Clifton College and Bristol University where one of his cohort was John Cleese. Mr Hill was credited with introducing Cleese to comedy.

Mr and Mrs Hill have lived for many years at Eagle House on The Green in Marlborough.


Obituary: Joe Crook, 1920 - 2013

Joe CrookJoe CrookFather of six, Joe Crook, who has died at the age of 93 was a former Marlborough fire fighter who attended some of the town’s biggest blazes including the fire in 1966 that reduced the Polly Tea Rooms to a single storey.

Ronald Victor Crook  -- who was always known by his childhood nickname of Joe -- lived in Cherry Orchard in Marlborough where he spent the majority of his life.

His family moved to the estate when he was 11 years old and latter to the former Sebastopol Square – where ATS Euro Tyres is today – but he later returned to Cherry Orchard after marrying.

He was born on February 11 1920, the second oldest of five children and the last one surviving.

Mr Crook went to St Peter’s Boys School before winning a scholarship to Marlborough Grammar School.

On leaving school he worked for a period as an assistant to the professional Cyril Brooke at Marlborough Golf Club.

Then he went to work at Sunnyhill Farm at Oare but with World War 2 looming Mr Crook joined the Territorial Army and in September the same year, 1939, he was called up into the Wiltshire Regiment.

He was never sent into the battlefields of Europe and instead was posted to India where thousands of British troops were on the ready in case they were needed for the war against the Japanese.

Mr Crook’s unit was sent to several different Indian cities and he later loved to regale his family, said elder son Bob, with tales of his experiences on the sub-continent. He caught Malaria four times which kept him from active service.

After being demobbed Mr Crook went into the building trade and worked for a number of local building companies but in 1975 he became self-employed as a bricklayer.

At one stage he was employed as a maintenance man at Pelham Puppets, the former Marlborough factory that exported millions of puppets all over the world.  He also worked for a while on the maintenance team at Marlborough College.

One job he was particularly proud of was helping build the wall at the Salisbury Road entrance to the Recreation Ground to commemorate the Coronation in 1953.

Mr Crook met his wife Queenie, who died in 1998, at a dance in the Town Hall and they made their home in Cherry Orchard where they raised their family of six.

After his demob from the Army Mr Crook joined the former National Fire Service – later to become the Wiltshire Fire Brigade – and as a retained fire fighter for almost three decades was involved in tackling many of the big fires that have dogged the town over the years.

He loved darts and was chairman of the Marlborough Darts League for some years, and he was a member of the town’s two RAOB lodges.

In recent years, said son Bob, old age took an increasing hold on Mr Crook and he needed carers at his home before finally he was moved to Aldbourne Nursing Home where he died on Boxing Day.

In lieu of flowers at his cremation his family asked for donations to the Jubilee Centre.


Grace Denman has died aged 103 - keeping the secrets of her wartime work


Grace Denman in 2012Grace Denman in 2012Grace Denman's funeral will be at 2.00pm on Wednesday, 24 February at St Mary's Church, Marlborough.

Mrs Grace Denman of Riverside, Marlborough died on Wednesday (February 10.)  She was aged 103.

She and her husband Teddy moved to Marlborough in 1985 and she became an active part of the community - especially as a member of the congregation of St Mary's Church.

She was born in the Essex village of Tiptree in 1912: Grace Mary Rosina Southgate. In those days Tiptree had no piped water, no electricity, not gas supply and no main drainage.  It was famous for its strawberry jam and school holidays had to fit with the harvest so children could go with their mothers to the strawberry fields.

1926: Grace aged 14 with her brother Bob aged 71926: Grace aged 14 with her brother Bob aged 7At six she started at the village school and then went to the High School in Chelmsford - a ten miles each way trip on the 'light railway'. Her fees were paid by 'an education grant'.  

Her father died in 1923 - quite probably the delayed result of the 'trench nephritis' (or Bright's disease) he had suffered during the First World War.

We know a great deal about Grace Denman's early life from the pages of a small book published in 2012 - to mark her hundredth birthday. 

Clare Napier interviewed her and the result is a wonderful glimpse of the life of a rural family overcoming the odds stacked against them.  Her recall of the details of those times is amazing.

She was good at French - and hated gym.  When she left school an aunt suggested she might like to become a telephone operator.  It must have slightly surprised her when she was accepted by the Post Office in London - she had never even spoken on the telephone.

There was a delay before she could start the job in London, and she worked as a poof-reader at a printing company in the village.

The 'Post Office' was, of course, the GPO (General Post Office) which handled all the country telecommunications.  At privatisation the telecommunications side of the GPO went to BT - who continued paying her pension.

With her impeccable French she worked on the switchboards of the Continental Telephone Service for eight shillings a week.  And she learnt German.

When the Germans overran France communications were cut and her job ended.   In 1940 she went to work on the switchboard at the headquarters of the Belgian authorities who had sought refuge in Britain.  Then she moved on to work at the offices of the Free French.

Later, as she told Clare Napier, "...I worked with the War Office.   I still can't talk about the work, but it was very interesting. In 1945 the war ended and I returned to the Post Office."

It is safe to say that her war work was important as when the post-war conferences began, she was recalled and worked for two years in Paris - ending with the United Nations conference of 1948.  It is unlikely she was 'merely' an interpreter.

Grace Southgate retired in 1972 - and married her boss, Teddy Denman, who was a widower and fourteen years older than her.  They had seventeen very happy years together before he died in 1990.

They had been persuaded to move to Marlborough by Teddy's younger son Eric, who was an orthopaedic consultant in Swindon.  

In Marlborough Grace Denman ran the Mothers Union, prayer groups and, for a time, the Luncheon Club.  And she put on coffee mornings to raise funds for the Marlborough Brandt Group, St Mary's Church and, when it was just starting, for the Prospect Hospice.

She was a long-serving proof-reader for Tower and Town.  As she put it, she had been doing that work 'for donkey's years' - and was still doing it in 2012.

In January 2013 she took part in Marlborough's traditional Wassail Ceremony - offering the first piece of toast to the robins at one of the trees planted by the Marlborough Community Orchard team.

Grace Denman's interviews with Clare Napier in 2011 and 2012 end thus: "I don't think 'poor me', everyone has gone, nobody remembers me....I feel I am so fortunate to live here in Marlborough where people are so friendly."

This article is based largely on Clare Napier's interviews and her 24-page booklet: "Born 1912".



John & Judith Woodget

John and Judith Woodget, pic courtesy of Anthony SpenderJohn and Judith Woodget, pic courtesy of Anthony SpenderJudith has been a major figure in Lockeridge village life for years and years.

She was a busy lady as she had a garden design business to run, and latterly an important role as granny to her family; this involved frequent trips to Seattle where son Matthew lives and works.  She was a very keen reader - she was a member of a thriving literary group, and for a long period was running her own book club at the same time.

Nonetheless she was a cheerful, willing and long-serving Parish Councillor - experienced in planning issues, particularly those to do with conservation, and an extremely enthusiastic figure in innovative Parish traffic calming projects.  Together we set up a village seminar with an international expert on traffic management, and the village hall was packed out to listen to him. She was tireless in continuing to try every means to introduce his ideas into the village.

Her work as a School Governor to Kennet Valley school was also something that demanded great perseverance and patience as she and her fellow governors succeeded in extending the Lockeridge site to contain what had hitherto been a two-site school, in East Kennett and Lockeridge.  At one stage, even poor John was called in to try to chair an excitable village meeting!  That seems a long time ago now as the school progresses calmly and well. Judith turned to the happier task of designing a “spiritual garden” within the school grounds, recently completed, which will now surely be a lasting memorial to her.

She always supported anything that brought villagers together, and she and John were leading lights in establishing our annual Christmas drinks on Lockeridge Dene. This December will feel very strange indeed without them.

Recently John retired from his heavy job at Intel, and he was looking forward to many happy outings in his pre-war Bentley.  He had been a “petrol head” since he was a boy.  My husband also has a classic car, and John and Judith had for the first time joined us in our trip to an Air Pageant in Oxfordshire, where we had a lovely day picnicking together with other classic car friends.  We had been planning to take our cars abroad to attend  Rolls Royce/Bentley Rallies in Europe, and the usual Woodget enthusiasm was in overdrive as we discussed various exciting alternatives.

Three weeks later, West Overton church was full and overflowing – standing room only – as we said goodbye to them, with flowers everywhere and the sun shining outside.

We will miss them so much.

Mary Spender


 see 'Lockeridge stunned by the loss of a popular couple in a tragic road accident'


From Matthew Woodget's blog of July 24:

When those you love are killed

It’s been five days since they died.  Since they were killed.  Both of them.  My loving parents who I was very close with.  As were my sisters.  As were our spouses.  They adored and were worshiped by their grandchildren.  They are gone forever.  There will be no new memories made.  They are now in the past.

It’s unbearably painful.

Floods of emotion

At first even breathing was impossible.  I learned to do that again.  It’s like that with everything now.

They say time heals all wounds.  It’s hard to believe that at this moment.

What is it like to learn to cope with such a tragic loss?  It is as if all my sadness and fear and tears are kept shut behind a door.  The problem is that all of my memories of my parents are also behind that door. I  crouch down and peak through the key hole.  Sometimes I see sadness.  Sometimes I remember. Sometimes I smile.

Smiling seemed impossible a few days ago.

Sometimes the door get’s kicked open.

Sometimes it’s mum.  Sometimes it’s dad.  Sometimes both together.

They come bursting from behind the door in a flood of emotion.

The thought of dealing with reality right now is unbearable. I’ve become intimately aware that whilst grieving one has to manage things like a funeral and the execution of a will and estate.

It’s exhausting. Literally.

Walking beside us

Wise people have said to me that you never get over the loss of a loved one. In this case two loved ones, lost in one tragic accident.  They say that you learn to integrate the loss into your life.  That it becomes a part of you.  Once I heard it described that as your heart heals you will have them walk beside you.

They will live on through us;  in our DNA and in what we know about them "Dad would totally say that", "Mum would not be happy with that!"  In this future there are there, with us.  Living on through our memories of them.  There are glimpses of this comfort.  Then we slip back into sorrow.

Grief is a journey we must take.  Whilst seeking to celebrate their lives.


If I could be half of what either my Mother or Father were then I will have achieved a great thing.

Their love knew no bounds.  The community and beyond benefited from their warmth and generosity.  The outpouring of grief and support has been a chorus of broken hearts.  We deeply appreciate everything everyone has done from simple "I’m sorry" to hugs to friends going above and beyond to help with everything from driving, cars, airport runs, food, cooking.  I honestly don’t know what we would do without you.

For those kind enough to make a gift we would be honored if you could make it to the charity my father was chairperson of, The Wiltshire Community Foundation – ad specifically to the  "John and Judith Woodget Fund".  They would have been "tickled pink" by any donations that helped them help others despite them not being around to explicitly help any more.  A fitting tribute to their lives.


I love you mum and dad.  I will forever.

Below is a picture of my beloved parents on their 40th Wedding Anniversary in 2013.  Mum is wearing her wedding dress.

This image is from my personal collection and is copyright © Matthew Woodget 2013  all rights reserved and reproduction completely prohibited.  Family and friends of course can contact me for a copyThis image is from my personal collection and is copyright © Matthew Woodget 2013 all rights reserved and reproduction completely prohibited. Family and friends of course can contact me for a copy

Blog reproduced courtesy of Matthew Woodget


Obituary: Sarah Jackson 14.3.47 – 19.1.15

Sarah JacksonSarah JacksonSarah Jackson was a well-known and much loved personality in Marlborough, having lived for almost twenty years in or near Marlborough.

She died on January 19th 2015 in Tasmania, Australia.

She was wife to Patrick (deceased), mother and mother in law to Olivia and Tom, Victoria and Guy, sister to Roger (deceased), Paul and Maria and grandmother to Islay, Charlie and Rosie.

Victoria and Guy are expecting twins very soon and Sarah knew of this happy expectation before she passed away.

Sarah set up the beautiful flower shop, called Primrose Lane, on the High Street soon after her arrival in 1995 and took over The Sun Inn for the last couple of years she lived here, with her husband Patrick.

She did much else in between, including a great deal of voluntary work, often to be found in the kitchen of the Jubilee Centre.

Sarah had an extraordinary international lifestyle, strength of character and totally engaging and gregarious personality.

She was born in Redhill Hospital, Middlesex England in 1947 and as a small infant she travelled by plane with her English mother Elsa to New York where her Norwegian father Eric Lind was to meet her for the first time.

The family then travelled to Central America to live on a remote coffee plantation in Guatemala where she and her sister had the freedom to run and play with local Guatemalans and speak naturally in Spanish as their first language.

When she was nine years old, Sarah found herself on a KLM Lockheed Constellation for a two-day flight via the Arctic Circle to an English boarding school at Godstowe, in High Wickham.

On her arrival she knew no one and had to quickly learn the skills she needed to survive and make friends in what was then, a foreign country to her.

This boarding school experience must have helped her in later life to generate her amazing networks of loyal friends in the UK, Sydney, the southern highlands and in Tasmania.

Sarah’s school holidays were mainly spent with relatives in Henley on Thames or Bergen in Norway with a once a year trip home to Guatemala.

With her English senior studies completed Sarah attended a finishing school in Marlow, acquiring all those aspects of social poise that would become her hallmark down the years.

During this time that she developed her strong affinity for England, its traditional lifestyle, its pubs, its high fashion and its Beatles inspired pop culture.

She was also able to share a trend setting London social life with her twin step-brothers Paul and Roger, both artists who regularly mixed with the “in-crowd”.

Sarah moved to Australia twice. The first time she came with her mother and her new English stepfather “Doc” Rylance, first class on the Achilli Laro and the second time, two years later in 1970, with her English husband to be Patrick, where they soon married and began their own family life.

It was after their daughters completed their schooling that Sarah felt the pull of England again, returning in 1995 with Victoria, whilst older sister Olivia embarked on her own travels.

Sarah and Patrick’s last assignment together of running a busy market town pub was the most testing of all for her. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, had had surgery and chemotherapy and then within five years took on the exhausting and relentless task of managing the hotel side, whilst Patrick, now unwell himself, ran the dining room.

In December 2012 Patrick lost his battle with cancer and in early 2013 Sarah sold the pub and visited Olivia and Tom, her grandchildren and Hobart friends for some well-earned down-time.

By the time she had arrived she was unwell and shortly afterwards underwent surgery for a brain tumour. Within a month there was a second surgery and again Sarah pulled through with an amazing display of courage and determination.

Recovering sufficiently to travel, she returned to England in October 2013 and settled in a cottage in a seaside suburb of Deal. The following year of convalescence further underlined the importance of family in Sarah’s life.

It was only possible with the continuing support of Victoria, her husband Guy, his parents who were close neighbours and her English cousin Jane.

The middle of 2014 saw indications of a return of the tumour and Sarah although unwell, elected to return to Hobart for treatment bravely undergoing a third round of surgery plus radiotherapy.

Sarah died peacefully and will be greatly missed, but also greatly celebrated by all her family both here and overseas and her many, many friends.

In Marlborough, we will not only remember Sarah for running successful businesses, but also for her capacity for volunteering and treating all with great kindness. The Jubilee Centre was one of her favourite places to use her skills, brightening up the day for staff and clients alike.

Sarah was unable to walk down Marlborough High Street without bumping into at least half a dozen people who knew her. Always smiling and always effervescent – Sarah simply brought sunshine into everyone’s lives.

  • Friends and neighbours of Sarah would like to remember her in Marlborough – perhaps by planting a flowering tree with a small plaque, in Priory Gardens, if permission were to be given.

If you would like to contribute to such a living memorial, donations can be left at either David Dudley (Jewellers) or the Jubilee Centre.

Please put your donation in an envelope marked “In memory of Sarah Jackson”. Please make sure you put your name on the envelope so we can give the family a list of her many friends.

Should there be any excess funds we will split the donation between the Jubilee Centre and Prospect Hospice at Savernake, the hospice who gave such good care to Patrick in his final days and provided support for the family.



Anne Johnson

Alfie and Annie JohnsonAlfie and Annie JohnsonMarlborough Town Crier Alfie Johnson said he had lost his soul mate and his former teenage sweetheart after his wife Anne died on Saturday at Great Western Hospital.

Mrs Johnson, 68, died about 18 hours after being admitted to the Swindon hospital last Friday after her health began to deteriorate rapidly at Coombe End Court nursing home where she had been cared for over the past 16 months.

Her husband and their daughter Diane were at her bedside when she passed away.

Mrs Johnson, nee Fraser, who was born and brought up in Ogbourne St Andrew, had been confined to her bed by failing health in the months before her death.

She was educated at the former Ogbourne St Andrew village school before attending Marlborough Secondary Modern School which was on The Common at the time.

After leaving school she went to work for the former Pelhams  Puppet factory in Marlborough which during the Sixties and Seventies was one of the town’s largest employers.

She was still in her teens when mutual friends arranged a blind date with Mr Johnson who was at that time as employed as a shoe repairer after completing his National Service in the Army where he was a bandsman.

Mrs Johnson, who outlived her two brothers, was married in 1967 in St Andrew’s Church at Ogbourne and the couple honeymooned in Southsea before moving into the London Road cottage that was home for the rest of her life.

Their wedding invitations invited guests to the marriage of Bubbles and Yop.  She was nicknamed  Bubbles by her workmates  because of her smiling personality and Mr Johnson had been called Yop by army mates.

Mrs Johnson continued to work for Pelhams after the birth of their daughter and her pastimes were knitting and sewing.

She was a great supporter of the town’s former carnival, made costumes for some of the entries and acted as chaperone for carnival queens for many years.

Most of all Mrs Johnson was known for her support for her husband’s role as town crier and he rarely turned out without her.

Mr Johnson, 15 years her senior and town crier for 21 years, said: “She looked after me 150 per cent as town crier.  Anne would always make sure my costume was smart and that my bell was polished.

“Not only did she accompany me everywhere, she also acted as my official photographer.”

After leaving Pelhams Mrs Johnson became a volunteer helper at the Jubilee Centre for some years until a debilitating condition left her virtually housebound.

Daughter Diane said: “Anything to do with animals or babies then Mum was in her element.”

At the time of publication details of the funeral arrangements have still not been finalised.


 At the start of the Town Council meeting on Monday evening (December 15), Mayor Marian Hannaford-Dobson invited councillors, officers and members of the public to stand for two minutes silence in memory and in honour of Annie Johnson.



Tributes pour in for the late Ann Harley, one of Marlborough’s citizens of the year

Anne HarleyAnne HarleyMother of three Ann Harley, who has died suddenly while undergoing treatment for cancer in the Churchill Hospital, Oxford, was Marlborough’s Citizen of the Year in 2010.

Tributes have poured in for the community minded mother and grandmother, who died last Friday March with members of her family at her bedside.

Ann Harley, who was born in Marlborough, was one of those people who could never say 'No' when asked to do something for her community.

Her community work, fundraising and generosity was legend said former Marlborough mayor Stewart Dobson.  His mayoral ball was one of many at which Mrs Harley volunteered to run the tombola in aid of charities, usually local.

Councillor Dobson said: “She did so much for the town for many, many years.  Whatever function you put on you could ask Ann Harley to help and many mayors like myself relied on her to organise the tombola at their mayoral balls.

“She was able to combine a very busy working life while doing so much for the community.”

Another former mayor, Councillor Peggy Dow, said:  “She raised so much money for me at my two mayors’ balls…she couldn’t do enough for Marlborough.

“She was a workaholic but she loved Marlborough.  She thought so much of our town and cared so much for Marlborough.”

Mrs Harley had helped organise the annual Christmas Day lunch for the town’s senior citizens over the last 10 years raising money towards them and helping run them in Marlborough Town Hall.

She ran the town’s oldest taxi business Marlborough Taxis, formerly called Harley Travel, along  with her husband Ray.

Town councillor Justin Cook who also runs a taxi business said:  “Ann was a pillar of the community.

“Ann was tough but also very sweet at the same time.  We had our ups and downs but if I ever needed a job covering Ann would always oblige and vice versa.”

Ann Harley was born in Marlborough, daughter of the late Dick and Hilda Milsom and her childhood home was in Chiminage Close.

She attended St Mary’s girls school and Marlborough Grammar School leaving at 16.  From the age of 19-22 she was a telephonist in the town’s telephone exchange behind the old Post Office in High Street.

At the age of 16 she joined the Territorial Army where she learned to drive, leaving shortly before her marriage.

Mr and Mrs Harley made their home at 117 London Road where their three children, Joanne, Susan and Jonathon came along.  Eventually the couple had six grandchildren, Christopher, Elizabeth, Thomas, Catherine, Harrison and Fraser.

Mrs Harley always supported the town’s carnivals and at the age of 17 was a carnival queen attendant.

Carnival stalwart Ian Philpott said of her death:  “This is a sad day for Marlborough…she did so much for the town.”

It is expected that St Mary’s Church will be packed for a service of celebration of her life next Friday (April 11) at 11.30am. C remation attended by members of her family only will have already taken place at Kingsdown Crematorium at Swindon.

Her sons in law Steven and Simon and two of her grandchildren, Christopher and Thomas will be pall bearers.


Mary Gray, a former mayoress of Marlborough

Mary and Tony GrayMary and Tony GrayTown councillors at Marlborough stood in silence on Monday in memory of former mayoress Mary Gray who died on Friday at the age of 73.

Welsh-born Mrs Gray who was one of 15 children died at Hungerford Newtown Nursing Home where she had been looked after since August last year as the dementia she had suffered for seven years worsened.

Previously she was looked after at her High Street home by her husband Tony helped by their daughter  Vicky, son Jerry and his wife Julie.

Her death was the third tragedy this year for former mayor Mr Gray whose daughter Vicky Philpott, 48,  and mother Sylvia Gray, 96, died within 24 hours of each other in March.

Mrs Gray was mayoress twice, in 1972/73 where her husband was last but one mayor of the former Borough Council and again in 1990/91 when he was mayor of the successor town council.

She also supported her husband when he served on the former Kennet District Council for many years from its inception in 1974 and was as its chairman for four years.

Mother of two Mrs Gray had the distinction of being the only person ever to be mayoress of both the borough and town councils and also the wife of a Kennet chairman.

Standing at a diminutive 5ft 1in Mrs Gray was a tower of strength for her husband in his early election campaigns and he said that when he was first elected to the borough council in 1966 it was largely due to her persuasive canvassing.

“She delivered my election leaflets up and down Cherry Orchard and Orchard Road pushing Vicky in a bog coach-built pram and very heavily pregnant with Jerry.

“I think people felt sorry for her and that was probably why they voted for me,” said Mr Gray.

Mrs Gray also played a pivotal role in the family’s former Ducks Toy Shop in High Street, managing it virtually single handed for years while her husband was busy with council activities.

Mr and Mrs Gray were married in 1964 in the village church at Oare where her husband’s family ran a garage and taxi business.

In was due to an accident Mr Gray suffered when driving from Oare to Marlborough that led to their meeting.

Mr Gray said: “I had a car accident at the top of Granham Hill when I was hit head-on by a lorry which put me in Savernake Hospital for a month.

“Mary was nursing at Savernake Hospital in those days although when I arrived she had been sent to work at Princess Margaret’s Hospital in Swindon for a few weeks.

“She returned to Savernake Hospital and I can remember sitting at the end of a long ward with my leg in plaster up to my hip waiting for an x-ray.

“I saw her walking towards me and all I could think was that she looked like an angel.”

However she did not reciprocate his feelings at first and it was after meeting several times at dances in the town at which nurses were in great demand that they started courting.

Mr Gray said: “We still have a cutting from an old Marlborough Times with the headline Nurse Marries Local Man!”

Daughter Vicky was born while the couple were living in Oare, and after they joined the family toy and cycle business in Marlborough they moved to live over the shop where Jerry was born.

One of the few perks Mrs Gray had for her hard work as a mayoress was being invited to a Buckingham Palace garden party where she was thrilled to meet the Queen.

On a second visit to a palace garden party when her husband was chairman of Kennet District Council, Mrs Gray took daughter Vicky with her.

Mrs Gray is survived by her husband Tony, son Jerry and his wife Julie, by son-in-law Ian Philpott and her four grand daughters, Kim, Jo, Mollie and Harriet.

The date for her funeral which will be in St Mary’s Church has not been confirmed.