Upcott Barton House, Sheepwash

I am so pleased that the new owners of my birthplace, Diana Hunt and her son David, are going to restore Upcott Barton to its original state.

Upcott Barton belonged to the Coham-Fleming family from Black Torrington, and was rented by my family. It had 210 acres of land with it. My grandfather, Heber Jollow and his wife Emma, moved there from Halwill in 1912 with their two daughters, Maud and Phyllis.

After the death of my grandfather in 1949 and my grandmother in 1952, my mother (Maud) and her sister took over the tenancy. It was an all-female household. because my father was in the Merchant Navy before the war started and was reported missing on 1st January 1943 in Japanese waters, and my cousins’ father, Phyllis’s husband, worked in Cheltenham in a munitions factory throughout the war.

Upcott Barton had five bedrooms, a library and an apple store room upstairs. I was born in 1940, and it was a lovely place to grow up in, with the company of my two cousins, Carole (6 months older than me) and Marion (3 years younger).

We farmed with horses for several years and had two workmen – Percy Jones and Tom Mayne (Brian Mayne’s dad) – who used to keep an eye on some of our escapades!

The Chapel at Upcott was said to be haunted by the ghost of a monk. I didn’t ever see anything, but Diana’s dog doesn’t like going in there, so perhaps she has seen it! The only “spooky” things I have ever seen there were owls and bats at dusk.

With Carole, my education started in 1944 in Sheepwash School when I was 4½ years old. They were hoping to keep it open after the evacuees went back to London, but it closed and we had to go to Peters Marland School in 1946. This involved walking to Filleigh Moor Gate to catch the bus – we actually spent more time walking to school than we spent in the classroom! That school closed in 1950, and we moved to Highampton School. We could ride bicycles by then!

I left Upcott Barton in 1953, when my mother moved into Sheepwash village. It is so nice to return to Upcott as I have some lovely memories of my first home. I am really grateful to Diana and David for inviting my husband John and I to Upcott so often and making us so welcome. I wish them all the best with their very large project.

Rhona Parsons  (now living in Okehampton)

June 2012 (Summer issue)

More Memories of Upcott Barton

As I get older, and see what young people enjoy today, it reminds me so much of the simple pleasures I enjoyed while living at Upcott Barton House in the 1940’s and 50’s.

My earliest memories of Upcott were the use of German and Italian prisoners of war in the 1940’s. Our water supply came from a well opposite the main farm yard entrance. The prisoners of war were in a camp in Holsworthy and each day they came in lorries to the farm where they dug a six-foot deep trench the whole length of the farm yard to the house. As children, my cousins and I were out there every day, watching and probably getting in the way.

The prisoners’ midday meal consisted of two very thick pieces of bread with cheese in between. My mother used to make pasties every day to supplement their meals, and big kettles of tea. In return they made us some lovely wooden toys. They were so appreciative of the extra food, and we received several letters from them when they were repatriated to their own countries after the war.

Another memory is of our visits to Upcott Averil (not by invitation every time!) when Colonel Carnegie and his sister lived there in the early 1940’s. Whenever we roamed up there we were made welcome – homemade lemonade was offered, and it tasted super.

Upcott Averil was a lovely house, with a long entrance passage with French doors at each end, and highly polished, shiny wooden floors. The driveways were so tidy, and trees overhung them.

Following the tragedy, Commander Martin bought the Averil. We used to go there quite often as they had a lovely walled garden, with flower beds edged by low box hedges.

I was up there one day when I was eight or nine, and happened to be wearing a very stripy jumper, which Mother had knitted for me from all the old colours of wool she could find. The Commander had bought a cine-camera (or that’s what I thought it was) and he asked me if I would dance along the paths near his flowers so he could film me. I was so excited, and he showed us the film when it was developed.

I’m so glad that I’m able to remember my childhood in such lovely rural surroundings.

Rhona Parsons

October 2012 (Autumn issue)