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Red kite




Red kite
Lacey Green & Loosley Row Lacey Green & Loosley Row
Bodgers in action, Lacey Green
Mosh Saunders

Maurice ("Mosh") James Saunders was born in 1923 in Lacey Green, a small village in the Chiltern Hills of England. He died in 2006.

He painted in oils and pastels, holding his own exhibitions. Some of his paintings have been used to illustrate this book.

He had been writing poetry and prose since his return from the armed forces in 1945.

This book records his early life with his twin sister, Millicent, in the world of the bodgers, craftsmen who made chair legs in beech woodlands by hand, using pole lathes. This craft continued until the early 1940s.

"Thank you for helping us preserve our heritage" - Agent for the Copyright Libraries. Maurice James Saunders

St John's, Lacey Green

Millicent and I at that time

St John's, Lacey Green

My Grandfather, Owen Smith was his name, was a great Liberal, a man of spiritual wealth, and a Superintendent of his Chapel for many years.

My story is a history of my early years with my twin sister, Millicent, and the happy days we spent during our holidays with our Grandfather in the Hampden woods with the bodgers, men who produced turned chair legs in a primitive manner for the chair industry in High Wycombe.

The bodgers were a cheerful and kind body of men. The kindred spirit that prevailed within the vast Hampden woods at that time was a joy to behold, and many moments of sheer delight were witnessed by two very small children.

I hope this story will illustrate to children in the local area how man and nature survived in what was then a considerably hard life. I commend this especially to my children within the family and to my grandchildren, and wish them many happy years in our wonderful country.

To tell the story some of the incidents are fictitious but are a true record of life at that time.


Bodgers working in the woods in Hampden, Buckinghamshire

Bodgers working in the woods in Hampden, Buckinghamshire


Mosh Saunders

From a book by Maurice ("Mosh") James Saunders

Reproduced by kind permission of his family

Photographs by permission of Wycombe Museum and Chiltern Open Air Museum where indicated

Others by Norman Tyler, including those of paintings by Maurice James Saunders

A furniture gallery display, photos and films of bodgers working in beech woods of the Chiltern hills can be seen at Wycombe Museum, High Wycombe

Copyright © 2001 Maurice James Saunders

The right of Maurice James Saunders to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988

Original book produced by Norman Tyler

Link to another short Bodger Story



It is Friday and we are looking forward to a whole week at Parslows Hillocks, a name and dwelling we would remember in our later years.

Home of the Saunders family at Parslows Hillock

Our home at Parslows Hillocks


Lacey Green School

Lacey Green School

The long, busy day at the village school and the long-awaited evening prayers over, we couldn't contain our excitement at the thought of rushing home and preparing for the walk through the Village past the bakery with Sidney Janes and his father Hezzy standing at the door covered in flour, hoping they would be bringing down the sacks of flour from the ladder above, the aroma of baking bread and the cart awaiting the horses for transporting the delivery of bread around the villages of Lacey Green and Loosley Row.

Sydney James with Horse and Cart

Sydney James with Horse and Cart


And so on past the windmill now majestic in the evening sun, a smock mill that we were very fortunate to have in our village.


Lacey Green windmill is now 350 years old

Lacey Green windmill is now 360 years old

Church spire in Princes Risborough

We arrived at the cottage, having enjoyed our walk along the Chiltern Escarpment, a view covering three counties, the church spire in the Vale of Princes Risborough very prominent in the evening sun.

Granddad was entering the gate by the pond, a source of attraction to me, having fallen in three times in my very best Sunday clothes! It had a walk with slatted timbers to the very middle of the pond, and my young mind was drawn to walking backwards along it and thus falling over the end into the water.

Loading a Timber Bob

Loading a Timber Bob

It was during the summer holidays we first remembered visiting Granddad in the woods. He was working some five miles from the cottage at an area known as 'Jack Ass Bottom', a name that reflected the humour of the Hampden countryside. 'Solinger', 'The Hangings' and many others defined areas associated with the bodgers' workings, as they were called.

Having previously visited the workings, it was decided that we would be allowed to venture forth in the morning to take the milk from Lily Bottom Farm to be handed to the respective workings.

Lily Bottom Farm

Lily Bottom farm

Sitting around the fire in the snug, warm living room Sis and I had discussed the day's excitement to follow. Our Aunt, who worked at the large house nearby, would not be escorting us - it was to be our first unaccompanied venture into the woodlands.

Lily Bottom Farm


"You sure you know the way?" Granddad asked for the fifth time, between mouthfuls of his favourite vegetables, namely cold broad beans washed down with dandelion wine. He was reflecting the anxiety of Aunt Jess, who was doubtful about the whole project, and warned us once more of the dangers of losing our way.

Granddad spoke to us on the subject that I confess frightened us more than anything. "And if you see her, keep out of sight". He was referring to the recluse who lived in the woods, the Old witch, Betsy Kitson.


At this time, two recluses lived in the woods, a tall, tough character named Stoney, who was deaf and caused much excitement with the young girls who walked through the woods with their boyfriends. Stoney would follow them and suddenly appear from behind a tree. He would sidle up to them and say: "A very pretty girl and very well dressed". Needless to say, they were soon making a hasty retreat, but we knew it was his way of making conversation, and quite harmless.


Children playing with deaf recluse Stoney

Children playing with deaf recluse Stoney

One particular day I remember very well. We were to visit Granddad, who was working some four miles in the wood. He had moved his hut to the new workings.

As timber was felled, it was brought by the chair factories, and the bodgers were then employed by an agent responsible to the factory for producing the turned chair legs, so that as the timber sales were completed, the area of new felling would necessitate the movement of the bodgers' huts.

As this was a new working, my sister and I were instructed on how to find it. Footsteps familiar to us now led on to a new area, and we would hear the workings and the sharp reports of the axe. They were shaping today and there would be much noise and conversation between the bodgers. Shaping was the time spent splitting the beech, trimming to the desired widths and then turning on the lathe.

As so it was that we set forth with the milk jug to the farm. Lily Bottom Farm was some half a mile below the cottage and we were soon laden with the milk and on our way to the workings. It was our first time making our way from the farm to the footpath that we knew, and it was soon pretty obvious that we were becoming lost. This realisation soon became a fact and Sis began to cry. I knew that we were going to have great difficulty finding our way. We both stood very still and listened, the usual voices of the bodgers and the ringing of axes could not be heard. The forest was silent. We sat down on a felled tree trunk. I remember reassuring my sister that we would find our way when we were rested, but in my heart I knew that we would probably walk many miles, and the thought that we may not find our way to the cottage was in my mind.

It was then that we saw her and fear rose in my heart. I told Sis to be quick and we both hid behind the trunk of a very large beech. The recluse Betsy Kitson was slowly walking in our direction. It was lucky she had not noticed us. She was crouching low and shuffling along, her sinuous arms brushing the dark earth and parting the rotted beech leaves. She was singing a mournful song, each step breaking the note, at her waist she had a drinking mug tied on with sack string. She was so intent on her WORK that she passed quite close and we noticed the pungent smell of her earthy being. Quite suddenly she stopped and commenced digging furiously with her hand. Parting the brown leaf mould with her other hand, she produced a small fork and dug deep down into the soil. Her face broke into a wide grin as she retrieved a small, round object very much like a hazelnut. She wiped it clean with the sacking and placed it in the drinking mug. Later we were to learn from Granddad how to find 'pig nuts', as the bodgers called them.

The realisation that we were lost gradually became a fact, but our curiosity overcame our fear and we decided to follow the recluse who we knew lived in the direction of our cottage.

The bodgers would not receive milk today. Two very tired and weary children eventually arrived home and, although frightened, were relieved that the recluse had unknowingly brought them home. It was evening and our Aunt was worried at our late arrival. The warm cosiness of the cottage and the wonderful aroma of the evening meal was being prepared.

Parslows Hillock Loo outside

Photos by permission of
Chiltern Open Air Museum

Parslows Hillock Loo inside


The cottage at Parslows Hillocks was very small, but it was a joy to two small children. It had a wonderful 'loo' in the garden, a wooden construction with a long seat with two holes, one for the grown-up people and the other suitably shaped for the children.

We would sit in the smelly confines and swing our legs, reading the paper torn from the gardening magazine and cut to the desired size, strung through with string and fixed to a nail. It always took a long time looking at the pictures.

Sometimes we would creep into the special shed where the barrels of wine were kept. Dandelion wine was the staple diet of the working class people and of course the bodgers. We would sit and watch the fomentation as it gurgled and thumped. The barrels were very large, and when matured and ready for drinking would be opened at a bung and a slender bottle would be lowered down and the gurgling would announce that a jug of wine was being prepared.

A jug being lowered into a barrel of home-made dandelion wine

A jug being lowered into a barrel of home-made dandelion wine

Many joyful evenings were spent as the wine took its hold. This usually happened after evening service on a Sunday. The Lord was truly merciful in his provisions!

We would return home on Sunday evening with my parents along the Pink Road, Mother and Father tripping the Light Fantastic. It was always worrying to me because it was known that a ghostly apparition had been known to appear in the form of a horse and carriage along the road by the 'Black Firs' and disappear in the copse opposite the 'Pink & Lily' hostelry. Granddad was absolutely convinced that the hearse had been seen by many people.

I have memories of Granddad during the August Bank Holidays being employed in his spare time cutting corn with his scythe. It was wonderful to see men working their way round the field. The scythe's almost perpetual motion was a joy to behold with its rasping cut and the performance of the sharpening stone when the blade hit a stone. It was often told by my mother of the hours spent 'gleaning' in the fields after the corn had been cut and cleared away, as this was when the villagers were allowed to pick up the remaining corn heads.

Nipper was in his element during the corn cutting, chasing rabbits and any creature that was disturbed or anyone who ventured near Granddad's jacket would receive a white-teeth warning.

A painting of scything

The windmill was then a focal point for grinding and what a wonderful sound this must have been in those hard and difficult days, but the mill was often out of control in the windy heights of the Chiltern Hills.

It is Monday and we are going picking dandelions for the yearly production of wine. Aunt Jess instructed us to just nip the heads of the dandelions and place them in the basket. It is a beautiful, warm summer's day and we are looking forward to an exciting day in the fields overlooking the Vale
of Princes Risborough, nestling quietly in the folds of the Escarpment, the church steeple showing its slender form in the morning's rays. We can see two counties from here, the Vale of Aylesbury and the edge of Oxfordshire, with Brill on the horizon. What a privilege for our young eyes to behold!

It is mid-morning and we are two very busy children nipping the heads of the dandelions. Sis has called my attention to a dark cloud approaching from the corner of the field. We called Aunt Jess and pointed to the swirling cloud approaching. lt was then we could hear the amazing sound of thousands of wings vibrating in a clipping sound. We were terrified and ran back to be told to put our heads under our coats and lay down. The cloud thankfully passed to our left and quickly disappeared.

A painting of swarming hornets

It was shortly afterwards we found the body of a hornet. It was quite large and had a very long spike at the rear from which we were sure a nasty sting would be delivered. It was a most unusual sight and one that we hoped we would never see again. Aunt Jess said she had never seen hornets before.

We arrived back at the cottage fully laden and the tin bath was soon brimming with dandelions, the aroma filling the wood shed and we were amazed to see all the insects crawling over them. The dandelions would be put in to soak for the wine-making - what an exciting day! Nipper and Grunt were pleased to see us - Grunt especially, because we were allowed to prepare his food. It was always a wonderful smell, the copper situated outside the shed, a brick arrangement with the copper inserted in the middle and a hole at the base where the fire was set to boil the potatoes. It was then taken to the sty and poured down the shoot to the feeding trough. Grunt's excited squeals and snorts concluded a wonderful day.

Mosh Saunders


The sun was shining through the cottage window and Nipper had already given us his usual morning's greeting, jumping on the bed and licking us all over. Today is a sad day because yesterday a fox had invaded the chicken run and we were sorry to see six chickens lying in the pen. We had been instructed to collect the eggs. The pen was some way from the cottage and it was always with great excitement we collected the eggs, the broody hens always objecting to our intrusion. But we were adept at placing our hands underneath and retrieving the warm eggs, always avoiding the nasty pecks the brooder would inflict.

We hurried back to the cottage to tell Granddad the awful news. He was very annoyed and declared that today we would find the fox's den and kill the culprit. He was sure that he knew the area the fox worked, and so it was that we prepared to travel the woods in the direction of Kop Hill, a part of the area that was wooded, but also overgrown on the hillside with bushes and small trees. It was in the area called Redland End where the keepers hut was situated. We had our bag of provisions for the day and were going to the hut to stay there keeping watch. Granddad had informed us that we were to stay quietly watching for the fox and he was taking Nipper with him, a terrier bred of course
for the purpose of fox hunting. We were feeling sorry for the fox although we knew that nature was fulfilling its purpose for the existence of these wonderful creatures. Many wild creatures were dependent upon each other for survival, and two rather apprehensive children were deposited in the gamekeepers hut.

Sis had brought books and pencils. We were going to be busy drawing and keeping watch. I said that we could not both be drawing at the same time. I then had an idea. Looking round, I discovered straw protruding from the wooden knot-holes in the timbers.

"We will draw straws to see who takes first watch," I said. This we did and l drew the shortest, that being the conditions.

The hut was rather small and we noticed many hooks round the top perimeter. These we soon realised were for hanging the pheasants after the shoot. Many feathers were lying on the floor and we were pleased to have the advantage of a specially constructed table for the keepers' use. I seated myself on the wooden box and commenced my watch, which we decided to call our 'Fox Watch'.

After an hour, we were soon becoming very bored and wondered how long Granddad would be. We could see Kop Hill from our position and the whole area was very thickly wooded.

"Perhaps he will lose his way", Sis said.

I said: "Don't be silly! Granddad lives and works in this area, I bet he knows every tree."

"How could he," Sis said, "anyway, he couldn't possibly know every tree."

"I know," I said "but he is a very clever man."

It was then that we heard a rather heavy scratching noise accompanied by bumping, and the sound of an animal moaning. I placed my finger to my lips to tell Sis to be quiet, and we both lowered ourselves to the floor hoping whatever it was would not see us. It was with terror in our hearts that we saw the latch on the cabin door slowly rise and the figure of Betsy Kitson appeared leering round the door.

"Well now," she said, "what be your two doing here then?" Her face was creased into a contorted leer, her teeth were yellow. I noticed the long, thin fingers round the edge of the door, her nails like the talons of an eagle, the earthy scent of her body pervading through the now partly open door.

"This be my house!" she shrieked in her high-pitched voice. l could tell she was not very pleased to find us there. Sis was holding my hand very tightly and we were frightened. It was at this moment a scream came from the direction of the scrub wood in front of the hut. We froze, and Betsy hissed to us:

"You be quiet. Don't you make a sound." She crept silently into the hut, her fingers placed on her lips and, pointing to the window, the screaming came again. It was an agonising cry, rising and falling in a desperate crescendo. It was then that the witch crept towards the window. She was swaying in
harmony with the momentum of the terrible screams. We were petrified, but pleased that she was with us. She beckoned to us to come to the window and pointed to a small bush. It was then that we saw a terrible sight. A rabbit was transfixed to a very small creature.

"That be a weasel," she whispered. its shiny back was perfectly erect, and it was swaying from side to side in front of the rabbit. We were just about to shout...

"You be quiet!" she hissed, "That be nature. He be going to kill it". We couldn't watch any more. Quite suddenly the screaming stopped and the witch tore out of the hut. We slowly crept towards the window, the figure of the witch disappearing in the wood, her waistband supporting a very dead rabbit. It was a moment in a beautiful morning when we were to witness nature in it's awesomeness a witch and a lesson in survival that in some way we were privileged to observe. Sis was very sad and was crying. l said that it was nature and things survived, but she wasn't convinced.

We were pleased to see Nipper appear from the bushes and Granddad with his gun, and no dead fox. And so it was that we journeyed back to the cottage, our story being excitedly told to Granddad, who explained that our beautiful countryside had rules of its own, and if we wanted to see wild creatures living freely, then some had to die to this end. It was truly an experience that taught us how fragile we all are in this wonderful countryside. The cottage was a welcome sight as we arrived, the story being told to Aunt Jess who had a meal ready and waiting for two very hungry children. We wondered what tomorrow would hold for us.


It is Wednesday and we are really looking forward to a day in the company of the bodgers. Granddad has agreed that we accompany him to the workings, and it is going to be special because it is Cricket Day, when the bodgers meet on the common in the afternoon to play cricket. We are going with Aunt Jess to see her friends on the common and then meet the bodgers who are arriving from Bradenham and Downley, two villages with many bodgers who each form a side to challenge each other. We are going to the workings and then through the woods to the common.

Nipper is well ahead of us as we enter the woods. It is in many ways fascinating to me because my Father had told me of the work they carried out for Marconi, an up-and-coming inventor who had discovered the rudiments of the wonderful wireless, and they had been employed setting a concrete form in the ground for his experiments. It was positioned on the Escarpment just inside the entry near the 'Pink and Lily'. My father was very interested in the wireless, a new and very exciting means of communication and the crystal set was soon discarded for a one-valve set, the first to be used in the village. We were always very keen to put earphones on and listen to its magical sounds.

It was on one such occasion that we listened to the news of the crash of the R101 airship, a grand sight to see in those exciting days. We remembered it floating over the village in the early morning's mist.

We were looking forward to an exciting day because the morning was to be spent bagging the shavings. Many people were glad the bodgers were in the area because the bagged shavings would be used for the chicken houses and pig sties, good clean litter, and it was always a happy occasion to see the villagers arrive with trucks loading the shavings as indeed they did on Mondays. Some ten trucks would be journeying from Lacey Green and Loosley Row, all trudging along the Pink Road collecting wood for the cottages. Cheerful voices could be heard as the women arrived in the woods. They were allowed to collect timber from the shaped beech trees. A permit was obtained from the Estate Office and it was wonderful to see how hard these people worked.

it is always peaceful to awaken to the sounds of the birds, the 'morning glory' as we called it. It was so cheerful, blackbirds, thrushes and all the small birds were greeting the morn with calls and sometimes screams, as vixen and badger searched for food. Nipper had already licked our faces and was eager for us to get dressed and prepare for the new adventure in the woods.

And so it was that we escorted Granddad to the workings. We could hear the voices of the bodgers calling from the huts and proclaiming "Breakfast is ready". We couldn't believe our eyes as we approached the area. Blue smoke wafted through the canopy of the majestic beeches. Granddad told us to go to the fire and await him. It wasn't long before he arrived with a rather large tin plate and his special shovel. It was then that we noticed all the bodgers had shovels, and a gorgeous aroma was wafting through the trees. We were soon to understand the reason - a side of bacon was carefully being cut into rashers and our eyes popped out of their sockets, especially Sis's, when the rashers were placed on the respective shovels that had been carefully polished and placed over the fire.

lt was an old tradition that breakfast was taken this way. Nipper had experienced this many times and had taken up his position between the bodgers for his share of the sizzling bacon. We were soon offered a rasher and a thick slice of bread, a most wonderful experience we would never forget.

Granddad said if we were good he would show us something really special, but we must be especially quiet as we approached his hut. All the shavings from the past week had been placed around the entrance to the hut, helping to keep out the cold winds that were a continuous problem, and most bodgers were sure that the majority of their pains were caused through this problem.

Granddad was approaching his lathe with his fingers to his lips, and it was then that we saw it. A small nest was immediately in front of the lathe, and four little beaks were pointing upwards. lt was Granddad's special year. He had never experienced anything quite like it. The robin had built the nest and produced four beautiful little birds whilst he was working the lathe, all through the early
Spring. lt was wonderful to see the robin whilst we were there, feeding four hungry mouths. We were told to be very quiet filling the sacks with shavings and not to go near the lathe. Granddad was sure the robin knew him and accepted his movement at the lathe. It will be a story to tell our friends at School.

It was always interesting to walk round the workings. The week's work was stacked all round the huts - four legs square and the build-up alternated to allow the sap to be drawn in the fresh air and sunlight. We were amazed at the height the legs were built. Our favourite fun was to sit by the traps where the legs were deposited from the lathe and try to catch them before they landed. It was wonderful to think they would be transported to the factory in High Wycombe making the Windsor chair, which was so popular at that time.

It was at this moment we heard the voices and down the track from the workings we could see a wonderful sight. Timber bobs, as they were called, were approaching and the Hatt brothers from Speen Farm were about to move and load a special felling for transport back to High Wycombe. This was a sight that two small children were privileged to see.

Front Cover

Timber bob

There were six bodgers at this working and the arrival of the timber bobs was greeted with handshakes and lots of woodland talk. We were excited because we had never been near six Shire horses before, and the respect the men had for these beautiful creatures was wonderful to see. The brasses on the harnesses reflected in the morning sunlight and the strength and calmness of

the horses. We would smell the horse aroma. Soon we were being introduced to Captain, the lead horse, a magnificent stallion who had been with the group for twelve years. The cricket match was far from our thoughts as we admired and inspected the timber bobs, great wheeled attachments that could be adjusted on the central pole according to the length of the trees. Little did we realise the sad memories we would have of these horses later on, but we were to witness a sight we would always remember.

The bob men were enquiring where the trees were. Granddad escorted them to the felling. We had always wondered how the trees were loaded onto the timber bobs, and were very eager to follow and perhaps watch this process.

Captain led the team through the trees, Granddad walking in front. It wasn't long before we could see the felling, some ten large beeches were trimmed and ready for loading.

Captain was released from the lead and four other horses were positioned by the fallen trees. Very large chains were then produced and set out for the lift, the bob then positioned by the first tree and four very large blocks, some twelve feet in length with steel inserts, were set down by the side of the bob. Two chains were then looped under the first tree and fixed to the horses to the other side of the bob and the command "Pull!" was given.

The tree slowly slid up the rods to the tie beams, one each end of the bob. A steel clamp was then inserted in the holes on the beam to stop them from falling and so this was carried on until some ten trees were loaded securely, fastened ready for the long haul to the factory. It was a wonderful sight to see and the horses were magnificent.

It was some two hours later that we arrived on the common for the cricket match. Aunt Jess had brought tea and cakes and we had a great day watching the play. it was all very friendly, ending with Granddad's team losing by ten runs, it was typical of the bodgers when they toasted each other with a pot of ale, and we walked back to the cottage feeling very tired and elated.


Today we are very happy because we are going to walk in the woods to try and find pig nuts. We have been told to look very carefully in the areas where the trees are not too dense. Sis has obtained two very old kitchen knives and forks given us for our expedition. Expedition it is because we are hoping to find wild life in a very remote part of the wood where deer and badger have been seen.

Our thoughts of Betsy Kitson now quite happy, knowing that her life is part of nature and very much in the natural concern she has for animals. We have entered the area quite near Solinger where stood a disused cottage, now very old and decayed. We have obtained our pig nuts after a great deal of searching, the very fine green sprays of fern just visible above the ground. It is wonderful to think that we are following the actions and life of the bodgers and our tin mugs are almost full. We will wash and eat them when we return to the cottage.

Granddad has promised to meet us at an area some two miles from his hut where four paths meet, and the area that we have grown familiar with on our journeys to the workings. Sis said: "Can you hear it?" l had already heard a strange whimpering coming from a dense copse to our right and was sure that it was an animal in agony and distress. We left the footpath in the direction of the sound, parting the dense undergrowth and bushes and saw a terrible sight. A small terrier dog was cringing in the undergrowth, its back leg covered in blood and it was then we saw the reason for the terrible pain the animal was suffering. A gin trap had snapped onto its leg and had crushed the bone, the leg almost severed. We were so worried and upset we were hoping Granddad would hear our calls and the squeals of the dog. It was a great relief when he approached down the path and could see us through the bushes. He was very angry that someone could be so cruel, especially when he recognised the dog. It was a small cross-bred terrier very much like Nipper from the farm at Brimmers. Nipper was very distressed at the agonising whimpers. It was lucky that we had decided to be in the area. A gin trap is a terrible way of catching animals, the strong spring holding back some terrifying teeth which, when trodden on, are released to snap onto the unfortunate creature. Granddad said that some animals eat and chew their legs to be released from the traps.

It was a difficult task to release the trap and we were wondering how we were going to help the terrified dog. It was then decided to return to the workings and obtain a trestle for holding equipment and tools used in the bodgings. We were instructed to stay with the dog and keep him calm. He couldn't walk so we were able to cover him with my jacket and comfort him. It wasn't long before Granddad arrived with his friend Jack and we transported our injured friend back to the cottage. It was months later that we saw him again very fit and well - his leg had to be lost, but he was racing around on his other three. We were so pleased to have been able to help in the rescue of the terrier and, from that moment, assist in the destruction of those terrible gin traps.

Wednesday is the day we are always looking forward to during the summer because it is the day the timber bobs rumble through the village from the Hampden Woods taking the beech trees to the factories in High Wycombe. Today has proved a sad day in many ways.

It is always exciting to hear the sound of twenty-four hooves gracefully pulling the huge timber bobs. We are waiting at the crossroads by 'The Whip' inn, looking forward to our ride down the village perched on the poles at the rear of the timber bobs, Captain showing his wonderful mane as he leads, head swaying in his usual forceful manner. There are six of us waiting. Sis has refused to ride. We are looking forward to being part of this bodger fraternity, really understanding the privileges it provides, and the acceptance of the Hatt brothers, who know all is well with bodgers' children, and I believe enjoy the energy and happiness we all feel at this time.

It is evening. School is over and we ride down the village. We are very happy and singing in this wonderful movement of strength and the warm smell of the horses wafting back to the rhythm of these perfectly timed hooves. PC Harris has noted our actions and we are behaving in a perfected motion, knowing that he would clear us off the bob. We nod to him and wave, his silver watch chain
reflecting in the evening sun. It is great fun to pass the 'Black Horse' inn where people stand with brimming pint pots cheering us on, down the road past Grymsdyke Farm and so on round the Slad Lane, a very small lane leading to Speen, our rival village.

It is with some concern that we noticed the horses were not in rhythm and to our astonishment suddenly stopped. Three of the lads fell off the pole and we all scrambled down onto the road. Jack had jumped from the driving seat and was pushing past the rear horses. It was obvious something was terribly wrong.

It was then we saw a sight that we would never forget. Captain, our very special friend, was lying on the ground, his hooves scraping the ground, his breathing very heavy and the whole team were in a distraught state. We were just in time to see him shiver and produce his special whinny, and we knew he was dead.

We stood and watched as Jack unhooked the team and led them to the field on the corner - a very special friend had gone. lt was important that we touch him, Jack allowing us to kiss this wonderful face. PC Harris had arrived and we were led back to the village, and six very sad children were taken to their homes.

This is a part of our lives that we have taken along over many years, and a memory the bodgers' children would never forget.

"Have you told Jack?" The words were spoken in concern and the realisation that two small children had brought devastating news to the bodgers, who had returned to the workings to commence bodging for another week. The huts with pole and lathe were always left on Sundays, this being the day of rest as indeed it was for most of the country in those days. Many of the bodgers would walk from their villages, some on bicycles with their axes tied to the crossbar-a very important tool.

Granddad walked over to Fred, his work friend of many years who had set up his work hut very close by.

"l don't think he has arrived yet," said Fred, "maybe we should give him a shout." Jack had set up his work hut a half-mile from them to finish off small felling that was due for delivery to a new factory. There was much concern at this decision. Maybe we would give him a shout. Our news that his hut was burned to the ground was devastating, and we were to experience yet another moment of woodland life in communication.

Granddad cupped his hand to his mouth and called "Jack!" At almost half a mile's distance back came the reply "Owen! ". It was then we realised that conversations between the bodgers were usually held at great distances in the woods. lt was revealed that Fred had unfortunately left his hurricane lamp on low leaving for home on Saturday and it was thought an animal had disturbed it,
setting fire to shavings, etc. True to form, the bodgers rallied round and helped to build another hut for Jack. Much work and labour was given by the bodgers making new panels to form the hut. Nipper was in his element searching through the charred embers, many holes telling of the creatures living under the hut. lt was decided that the pole lathe could be used and it would be many days before Jack could carry on his work, another sad moment in the bodgers' lives we will remember.

Conditions were very hard during the winter months. Much of the bodging was carried out during the late evenings with hurricane lamps, and the danger of fire was always the great worry. Water was a major problem and it had to be handled to the workings with a wheeled bin. We were always amazed at the independence of the bodgers. The grinding stones were very important to maintain the tools in a sharpened state. We noticed that the bodgers were not very agile, and Granddad said that standing on one leg working the treadle lathe was responsible for the bodgers 'gammy leg' as it was called. The sciatic nerve was very-prominent with them, and the movement of the cut logs prior to splitting with wedge and hammer and the momentum of using cross cut saw was a major factor in the restrictive movements of the bodgers. But the silence and tranquillity for the movement of these men of woodland accord will always be remembered.

The changing scenes were woodland magic and Spring, Summer and Winter were moments of sheer delight. Country folk accept nature's demands and to stand in shadows and be bathed in the warmth of Spring sunshine through the beech-wood canopy 'at peace with nature', and we felt part of God's creation, time and motion await in modern perception. How lucky and fortunate we were.

Hampden Woods

Children in the Bodgers World
Part 2


It is December and we are looking forward to Christmas with all the toys and sweets, and of course Father Christmas. The beech woods are in sombre greys and bodging has taken on an almost peaceful countenance. The view from Owen's hut portrays the wonder of nature's demands - rooks plumbing the depths searching for sustenance following Autumn's cloak of golden memories of the year gone by. Granddad would always recite his bodging verse to us and we would regularly ask for a repeat. He would raise his hands towards the trees and say: "In May the trees be neither green nor grey". How true this country poetic thought was. A good 'Bucks saying'.

We look in remorse at the white markings on slender beech trunks.

"This tree is almost a hundred years old and due for felling", Sis has remarked on the sadness of so many trees that will be as she says "killed"; however, we do realise that nature must recompense us for our rural and country life. l tell her that new saplings will be planted to replace our woodland friends and maybe we will live long enough to see them grow into beautiful trees. We marvel at the straightness of the trunks that will produce the Windsor chairs High Wycombe and Buckinghamshire are known for, and we are privileged to live in the Bodgers' world.

We have arranged for our friends to meet us at the entrance to the woods near Parslows Hillocks where we are going to visit the sinister and empty cottage at Solinger. We wonder how people lived on those far off days but Granddad says they were very self-sufficient and grew all their food, and of course the cottage pig provided all the meat they would need. Our thoughts were back with Grunt and we were very sad, but we were soon busy thinking of the cottage and our day playing Robbers. We are taking sandwiches and lemonade. lt is going to be very exciting, our memories of Betsy Kitson still in our minds. Jack, Stan, Freda and Barbara are meeting us to walk through the forest to the cottage.

It is a very warm day and the sun is beaming down on two very excited children calling to the girls and boys arriving from Lacey Green and Loosley Row. Jack arrived on his tyre-less bike, the metal sound announcing his arrival well before he appeared. It was great fun riding without tyres and he was the only lad with a bike so we were all very jealous of him. I said: "You can't ride a bike in a
wood." He replied: "You watch me!" Little did we know the problem he would be later on.

Stan, Freda and Barbara called to us and we called back that Jack was going to ride his bike in the wood. They were quite breathless as they joined us at the path leading into the wood. Stan said: "He must be daft thinking he can ride a bike in a wood".

"Oh, leave him alone", I said. We were all quite interested in the bike with a rather rusty frame, and it was then we noticed it had no brakes.

Jack said: "You don't need brakes. You stick your toe between the mudguard and the wheel to stop." It was quite obvious this was his method, the mudguard being twisted and not very secure, and the usual practice when riding a bike with no tyres. The roads were very rough, containing some large flints and stones finish with a very rough tar. "I'm going carving", said Jack. lt was our special way of making our presence known. We would select a beech tree that appealed to us, and then carve our name into the bark with our penknives, very small knives with a short blade and sometimes a hook and bottle opener safely folded in the edge. lt was our special way of belonging to the Bodgers' woods and our knives were used in many ways, one being cutting lengths of young hazel wood for spinning our tops and of course fishing rods. Many initials with a heart naming one's special girlfriend would be carved in the back of the beech trees.

Jack strode forward defiantly holding 'Rim Rod' as we decided to call his bike.
"When are we going to the cottage?"

"You ain't coming with us", Stan said, "with that stupid old bike."

"Yea we are," we all cried. Sis, as usual feeling very sorry for Rim Rod, adopted her usual conciliatory attitude.

l said: "How can you feel sorry for a stupid old bike", to which Jack replied:
"Hey, you ain't got a bike anyway". He jumped up onto the saddle and rode straight into a very large beech tree. It was then that we saw him, 'Stoney', the male recluse stepped out from behind the tree and grabbed the bike. He was a frightening figure, very tall and thin with a large white beard and stringy white hair.

"You clear off', he yelled, "see what you've done to my tree". We were all standing close together and frightened of his expression and very threatening stance. We noticed the back of the beech was scarred and a deep cut in the centre where the bike had hit the tree, the rimless wheel now very buckled. It was then that we realised how distressed he was. Jack was lying on the ground his face covered in blood, a small gash on his forehead.

"I'm sorry," Jack said. It was then that we realised how important the beech trees were to this man of the forest. He slowly walked over to Jack and lifted him to his feet.

"You all right, boy?" he asked. "Them trees be my friends". His true Bucks accent was very much akin to our village vocabulary. Jack looked petrified.

"Yes, I'm all right," he said as he slowly edged away from the recluse."

"He be bleeding fast", he remarked. Slowly Jack joined us and we tied a handkerchief around his head.

"You take him home". Stoney slowly edged away from us, but suddenly he stopped and pointed to the trees.

"They understand, you know. They don't like this." He was pointing to the signs we had made on the bank with our penknives.

"You cut your head, boy. Well, you cut these trees, they don't like it." He was slowly rubbing leaf mould over our bark signatures.

Once again, we were pleased the recluse had been near and our thoughts concerning these woodland people now part of our beech wood heritage. How soon we were to remember the concern Betsey Kitson and Stoney displayed in our day at the cottage at Solinger.

Jack walked over to Rim Rod now in a very crumpled and distressed state. We all stood around and realised that if would never travel the roads again. Our eyes went to the deep hole that had been part of the Sawyers domain and many long planks had been produced for the estate and building firm in the area. Rim Rod was slowly deposited in the hole and we were all now very sad for Jack. Rim Rod would always be in our memory.

"Come on, Jack." Stan walked over. "We're going to Solinger, perhaps we'll find a bike there." We were all very concerned for him, knowing that Rim Rod was his only possession and life would never be the same again.

Six very quiet children gathered their possessions, a large food bag, a kettle and water and milk bottles for the journey to Solinger.

"Why don't we sing our song?" Freda said "We can walk and sing our way to Solinger and be happy". And so it was that we made our way down the path to Sots Hole and so on to Solinger, singing our village song entitled 'We are the Lacey Green Boys'.

Village Song
When we're walking down The old Green Rood
Doors and window open wide
We can bat and we can bowl
We can make 'em look like ......
We are The Lacey Green Boys

And The smoke went up The chimney
And The smoke went up The chimney
And The smoke went up The chimney
And The smoke went up The chimney jusT The some

So we pulled The damper' in
And we pulled The damper out

And The smoke went up The chimney just the same
And The smoke went up The chimney
And The smoke went up The chimney
And The smoke went up The chimney
And The smoke went up The chimney just The same

Our voices echoed through woods as we slowly made our way through the escarpment. Our thoughts and feelings very much part of our woodland life, our song telling of our happiness and pride in belonging to the Chiltern Hills and being part of our village heritage.

lt was a good hour's walk to Solinger and we all became very tired, hungry and dry so it was some relief when the cottage appeared through the beech canopy and our joyful day would soon begin. Little did we know that the day ahead would be in our memory for all our lives, a memory of happiness and ending in sadness.

The gate to the cottage was hanging on one hinge, the gateposts rotted and the posts laying on the ground. We were pleased to find the door open and crept into the room. The windows were smashed and glass covered the living room floor. We could see the marks of hooves, we thought caused by deer and badger, all in the dust and leaf mould now very thick and deep over its floor.
We were all very silent and in awe, and scared that perhaps someone would be in one of the rooms waiting for us. A very large rat scuttled across the floor and we noticed that the floorboards were very rotten.

Stan said: "Don't go in 'til we know its safe." Sis and the girls were "never going in".

l said: "Don't be so silly, there's nothing here and anyway we have got our sticks so we can fight anything." The cottage was very small with a living room, kitchen and two very tiny bedrooms. it was completely empty and we were sure many animals and perhaps tramps and vagrants had used it on their journeys through the Chilterns. It was going to be great fun finding all the rubbish people had left behind.

"I don't think we will be playing Cops and Robbers", Jack said, "l want to have a look and perhaps we will find a shovel or maybe a fork. I can then dig a trench and we can play at war." With that, he walked through the kitchen and out to the rear of the cottage. We were busy looking at the old wooden loo, a brick construction with two wooden seats, one for grown-up people and the other
very small for children. It was all in a very decayed and rotten state. The bedrooms were covered in dust and we could see that someone had used the floor to sleep on, an old coat and sacking laying in a ball in the corner. Sis said it smelt old and horrible. "I'm not staying here," she said.

"l wonder where Jack is." Freda was concerned and worried that he had been gone so long. "l bet he's found a shovel," Stan said, "We can then have our war."

"Give him a call", Sis said. Stan called Jack: "Come and see the loo!" There was no reply. We all called Jack, but he had completely disappeared. I was sure he was all right, but everyone wanted to search for him. We all parted and walked round the cottage calling his name. It was then that Sis said: "Everyone be silent. l will call and then we will hear him." We all stood in a ring and listened. Freda was at the rear of the cottage picking flowers that had seeded over the years, poppies and foxgloves very prominent in the morning sun.

It was then Freda called to us: "l can hear him. I think he's in a cave, he sounds very far away". Stan realised something was very wrong.

"Don't move," he called to Freda. "I'm coming round very slowly." We were all very frightened and Jack said: "Don't any one of you move, I'm going slowly round the back. I think l know where he is." He called to Jack: "Where are you?" The ground was very overgrown and Stan slowly made his way to Freda. She said: "Listen." She called: "Jack" and quite quickly came the reply: "I'm here", and it suddenly dawned upon them that his voice was coming from the overgrown bushes and plants. The plants and bushes were flattened and concealing a gaping hole. lt was a well. Slowly Stan moved over it and parted the leaves and bushes "l'm here". Jack's voice came up from the well. "l have fallen down and hurt my arm". The well was very deep and it was then we remembered that Granddad had told of the well being some two hundred feet deep. "Are you all right?" called Stan. "Yes", came the reply. "I have caught myself on some very large roots across the well and am afraid to move. lt is very deep below me and quite dark".

"Don't move," yelled Stan, "I am going to get my matches and find some paper from the cottage so that I can see the depth you are in." Freda came slowly to his side.

"Stay here and talk to him, I won't be long". By then it was midday and we soon realised that help must be found very quickly. We decided to move away from the cottage and all together call for help. Stan said: "After three, everyone call 'Help"." This we did and we all stood very quietly and listened. "Again," Stan said. We called four times but no luck.

Stan cried: "Hark!" A small sound that sounded like 'hoo-aye' could be heard from the forest. It was not very far away.

"I think it's a woman's voice", Freda said. "Let's do it again". Sure enough the reply came back 'hoo-aye' but much nearer. We could hear the bushes moving and suddenly there she was. Betsy Kitson, the other recluse in the forest, had answered our cries, her appearance was the greatest relief of our tiny lives.

"What be wrong?" she called, her voice in a semi-screeching sound, but we were now friends of Betsy and she immediately recognised Sis and myself.

"It's Jack," we cried, "he has fallen down the well!"

"You shouldn't be playing near that house", she said, "it be a wicked place, I knows all about it. They people what lived there be wicked people," her past and present tense, very prominent in her concern.

"You won't be going to call Stoney?" She raised her head high and her voice screamed 'hoo-aye' in quick succession. She looked at six very worried and frightened children, "You wait, he be going to answer." Sure enough, 'hoo-aye' came the high pitched crescendo reply.

"He be coming", she said. "He knows I be in trouble with them words. He be a good man. You look after him and he will look after you."

Jack's voice could be heard from the well.

"Do something quick. I'm cold and afraid if I fall I shall die. I can't see the bottom and it's wet and slimy." Betsy slowly shuffled to the well and shouted: "Don't you move. We be going to help you." We had made a thorough search of the cottage and surrounding area but could find no rope or any help to recover Jack. 'Hoo-aye' came the voice of Stoney now at the edge of the forest and his slender form walking down the garden to the cottage.

Betsy called: 'There be one of these kids down the well." Sis was relieved to see Stoney and ran to him crying: "Help us, please, please help us." Stan had now found lots of paper and we all pressed it together to make a torch. We lit it and looked down the well. Jack was a long way down. We could just see his body wedged between a very large piece of wood that had fallen down from the disused gantry for holding the wheel that propelled the bucket down the well. It was wedged across the hole and we could see how any movement by Jack could dislodge it and he would be lost forever.

"Did you hear the call?" Granddad was concerned that the Betsy and Stoney call was sounding in the woods. "It sounds pretty urgent". He was busy cleaning the lathe for the week's work, a new pole had been set and the turned legs were neatly stacked ready for shaping on the lathe. Reg was concerned and had walked over from his hut to tell Owen.

"I reckon there's trouble", he said. lt was wonderful how contact could be made in the woods, the voice carrying its usual mile through the Beech trees. It was then that they saw Stoney. He was very disturbed and calling to Owen: "Come quick! A boy has fallen down the well at Solinger."

It was terrible news, both bodgers knew the well was now overgrown and the frame concealed and very rotten. 'That well is nigh on 200ft deep", Owen said. Stony stood shaking.

"He's alive, but l reckon he's going to fall right down. He's lodged on a timber wedged half way down."

'That means 100ft," Owen said.

"Ah, but he be still alive", Stoney said. "I looked down and saw him. Betsy's there with five children and I don't know what to do."

"Be you thinking wot l be?"

Reg said: "The rope and horse's collar. That's it! You bring your rope. I've got a horse's collar. Jack Halt left it after Captain died. He couldn't face using it on any other horse". He looked at Stoney and said: "Give Betsy a hoo-aye". And so it was that woodland lore echoed through the trees and the bodgers were showing their concern. The forest could be a dangerous place and many ankles and knees were injured, the rotten beech leaves covering many deep holes.

It was a great relief when Sis and I saw Stoney, Granddad and Reg hurrying along the path, the ropes and horse collar swaying with their hurried momentum.

"He's very cold and we think he's injured," we shouted to Granddad. Quite soon they were lowering the horse collar down the well.

"Now you be careful", Granddad shouted, "put the collar over your head and under your armpits and hold onto the rope." It was with great relief that Jack said he was ready, and the rope was taking the strain as Granddad and Reg slowly pulled him to the surface. We noticed his knee was very swollen and deep scratches were evident but he was in reasonable health and although very dirty, soon wanted to be on his feet and as far away from the well and cottage as possible, tea and cakes the last thing on his mind.

The news of our day at Solinger and the fortunate help of the bodgers was recounted in the Chiltern villages, Jack being the centre of attention. We all felt very important children.


The school at Lacey Green was cold in the winter months. The very large tortoise stoves were a very important means of heating the classrooms: the Infants' room, the Middle room and the Head's room. Wood and coke were used in ?ring them and many smoky days were experienced on windy days with 'down draughts' as they were called filling the classroom with smoke. It was always a very happy moment when the Headmaster allowed us all to leave the classroom and head for home. This was a part of village acceptance, and we were very fortunate children to be accepted into rural procedures.

One very exciting period was when a note was delivered from the 'workhouse', as it was called at Saunderton, saying that a man was asking permission to be allowed to visit the School and entertain the children. He was a semi-professional conjurer and entertainer. Many displaced persons were given sanctuary in the workhouses on their travels through the shires to London. Tramps was the normal name for these unfortunate vagrants, some of whom were very clever, and we quite often paid tuppence to be entertained by them after School, part of the rural life at that time.

The bodgers' custom or 'Bodgers' Law' as we decided to call it was foremost in their woodland knowledge. It was just such a moment in our summer holidays that we were to remember most vividly. We had all decided to visit Granddad 0wen's hut. We were now very much part of the beech wood and Bodger Law, our concern for the beech trees as demanded by Stoney, and the great respect we now held for woodland knowledge.

"Ah", Stoney said, "you don't ever get lost in they woods". His expression was as ever delivered in Bucks vocabulary: "'Cos you know I be Bucks, I be and there ain't no flies on me". Don't you ever forget that." He was standing in front of six children pointing to a very large beech tree and saying: "Nature knows, you know, I be going to tell you summat that you ain't never going to forget and
you'll never get lost again". He walked to the beech tree saying: "You lot come over 'ere. I wants you all to stand in front of this beautiful tree." He walked slowly round the tree saying: "He be going to show and tell you something. You all looking?" We really thought our Headmaster Mr Aldridge was talking to us.

"Now", he said, "this be the front of the tree. His hands slowly stroking the bark. "Can you see the difference to the back? No, you can't, can you?" He was slowly walking round the beech and trying to look very intelligent. "Ah!" he said, pointing to me. "Yes?" I said, "the front is black and the back is green."

"Well done, boy!" he said stroking the tree, ""and that be very important 'cos the black smooth bark be pointing to north, the green be lichen and won't spread on the north side because it be always cold. You knows where north is when you look at my friends." We were all becoming very interested in this wonderful, kind old man.

"You be never lost with my friends", he said. And so it was that we all remembered and took compass bearings when we entered the woods.

Parslows Hillocks was north-east and we took special note of this, noting the position of the sun in early morning including the eastern sky.


August was always a wonderful time for children in the Bodgers' world. Very early morning sunrise, and a very long day ahead before sunset and we were experiencing new and wonderful moments in the working hours of the bodgers. However, we were soon to experience another moment of woodland work that local tradesmen in the building and farming industries relied on for timber supplies. Sawyers were very important people at this time. My sister and I were very lucky to be present and to take part in the experience of 'timber planting' as it was called. The petrol engine was in its very early days and most of the plants were manually sawn.

We were very interested in the two sawyers - Jim and Harry. As we approached the working, it was to be our first introduction to a very hard and dangerous part of timber production because oak and beech trees were physically being sawn and cut into planks.

We were amazed at the length of the 'cross-cut' saws as they were called, some fourteen feet in length with very sharp and large teeth glinting in the morning sun. Wooden handles were fixed at the ends of the saw, and many sore hands were experienced during the production of planks. The plank was adjusted by slender wedges that allowed the saw to work freely. It was wonderful to see the deep hole that had been dug to form the working area for sawing. Bearers were placed across the hole and reinforcement sides to take the tree that would be set for sawing. The base man with cap and protective glasses from the saw depot, undertaking a very difficult and dangerous job,

being very tiring and demanding work. We were amazed at the strength the men required to produce oak and beech planks. Many of the oak planks were sawn for coffin boards.

We were pleased to be part of the woodland scene. Many trees were felled and left for two years for the sap to drain and the grain to set. Bodgers and sawyers were part of the shire history and the villages were part of the main employment in this respect.

The rural villages in Buckinghamshire were very independent and the horse and cart a very important means of transport. In this respect, most of the household supplies were delivered to the doorstep. Bread, milk, fish, coal, groceries and meat, all delivered in a warm and personal manner, clothing orders taken and delivered. It was part of the local country way of life. The bodger fraternity was very much dependent upon these supplies.
One very much looked forward to annual event was the 'Sunday School treat' as it was called. The anniversary was part of the Methodist Chapel celebration and the treat was for the children and parents.

One such outing was arranged by Owen, my Granddad, who was Superintendent and organiser of all the games. One special event was provided by the Bodgers, who were working in the area of Whiteleaf Cross, where many exciting dells and trenches were ranged over the cross and beech woods. The trenches had been dug by the army practising for the terrible years ahead of the First World War. So it was that four hay wagons, as they were called, were waiting to transport the parents and children to Whiteleaf Cross for the annual treat. Trestles were placed in the wagons and great enjoyment was experienced by some twenty very excited children as we sang our way along
the Pink Road singing our old hymns. What a memory for the Bodgers' children.

We were all eagerly awaiting the sweet throwing that Granddad had arranged.
We would all scramble and pick up as many sweets as we could.

The parents also usually had games. One we eagerly awaited was called 'Kiss in the Ring', a very intimate game that the children would watch with awe and perhaps a little embarrassment, but one all looked forward to. Memories recalled in those wonderful years of the village of Lacey Green, with
independence, respect and consideration a great asset in our village community.

The day would provide tea and cakes and we would all be given an orange, a very special gift in those hard and barren days.

The 'Saturday penny' was also a much looked-forward-to treat and we would eagerly await Saturday morning, when we would accompany Grandfather in the horse and trap to Princes Risborough to collect the wages for the workers. This would always involve our visit to the butchers shop, where we would be given a pig's bladder to blow up and play with. There were not many footballers in
those days and it was a very special day for us to look forward to.

More of Maurice's paintings and of photographs

Painting - Work horses

Work horses

Painting - Collecting firewood

Collecting firewood

Painting - Can I have some?

Can I have some?

Cottage interior

Cottage interior
Photograph taken at Chiltern Open Air Museum

Splitting logs into chair leg making size

Splitting logs into chair leg making size

Roughing out chair spindles prior to being turned

Roughing out chair spindles prior to being turned

Roughing out chair spindles prior to being turned

Turning a chair leg on a pole lathe

Turning a chair leg on a pole lathe

Some different chair legs

Some different chair legs

Above four photos also by kind permission of Wycombe Museum

The old Bakehouse, Lacey Green in the twenties by Miles Marshall

The old Bakehouse, Lacey Green in the twenties by Miles Marshall

Hampden Woods


by Doug Tilbury long-standing friend of "Mosh" Saunders and very experienced in the bodging world

Gangs of chair bodgers, or wood bodgers as they were sometimes called, were known locally as "pardners". They were usually in groups of three or four. One of them had to be capable of doing sums, and would have passed the school leaving certificate. This could have been achieved at any age between 12 and 14 years. "Sums" consisted of arithmetic, fractions, addition and subtraction.

The leader of each group of pardners did the inspection and buying of a "fall" of timber (area of trees). Around Lacey Green these were all owned by the Hampden Estate. The local woods were Monkton Wood, Keepers Wood, The Hangings, Klngsfield Wood, Sutes Sol, Solingar, Dirty Wood and others. When the pardners had decided which fall of trees to purchase, they would attend the annual sale of lots, which was held in Great Hampden Village Hall. The lots were sold by auction to the highest bidder. The trees which grew on the most fertile soil, generally Monkton Wood off the road towards Bryant's Bottom, fetched the highest price and were the easiest to work. Those who could not afford the best would buy cheaper trees like those in Keepers Wood on the opposite side of the road. This wood was hard to work, and it would take longer to make chair legs from it. Inevitably, their income would be less.

After the trees had been felled, the tops would be cut off and sold. The trunks were left to lie on the ground for about a year Brambles would grow over them, which would shield them from direct sunlight. This allowed the sap to dry out and the trees to become "mellow", and suitable for use.

Chair bodgers worked from Tam to 7pm. Those working in the woods above Whiteleaf knew the time, as they could hear the sound of what was known as the "Aylesbury Hooter"; a steam powered twin ship's siren in the Tubular and Bifurcated Rivet Co. *the Rivets" factory on the road into Aylesbury just past Stoke Mandeville Hospital. The hooter also sounded at 12.3O.and 1.30pm. for
the midday break. During winter months, if it was very dark; the men would lay a trail of wood shavings from their hut to the roadside. To avoid getting lost, especially on foggy nights, they would hold a hurricane lamp near the ground and follow the trail. Sometimes they could hear the steam trains on the Risborough-London line, and that would help them find the way home.

Every week, usually on a Monday, the group leader would take the chair legs to WH Mealing in High Wycombe to be made into Windsor chairs. The money collected would then be distributed to the other bodgers. This normally took place at Sutes Sol, in a pub called the Rising Sun at Cadsden. Needless to say, a great deal of their earnings was spent on drinks before they went home. Often the family went short, and their wives would have to supplement their income by making lace, doing domestic work, laundry etc.

At 10am they would stop for breakfast, usually what they called a "rasher on a stick". They made a small fire from pieces of deadwood fallen from the beech trees (about the diameter of a broom handle). The fire was lit using wood shavings and it took about an hour until this had been reduced to a large heap of glowing embers. Then a green beech branch about the size of a walking stick was cut. The end was scraped clean with a penknife to the sharpness of a knitting needle. Onto this was woven a large slice of back bacon, and it was held over the hot embers to cook. When it was sizzling, the hot fat was allowed to drip onto a thick slice of bread held in the other hand. Then the two were
eaten together. Delicious!

At the midday break they would eat another large slice of fresh bread with cheese or bacon, and maybe an onion. 4pm was "brew up" time for tea. They had no milk. How would they have kept it from going off?

Every so often the bodgers would move their huts to a new position, where they had better access to logs for splitting, shaping and turning. Unfortunately, it was common for Jenny Wrens to nest in their huts, so they would try to relocate the nests to a suitable spot near to the original nesting site.

Owen was the Superintendent and Sunday School teacher at Lacey Green Methodist Chapel. He loved to be in the company of children, and they very much respected him and his teachings. Having turned a chair leg on his lathe, Owen would put it through a hole in the wall of the hut. The local children loved to pick them up and pass them to him to be made into a stack to dry out. They always asked if they could help, and he used to reply, "Of course you can". Bodging declined in the early 1940s, when automation took over. Owen had retired by then and lived with his daughter Jessie Boorman along the Pink Road. He passed away in 1968, sadly missed by all, especially by the children.


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