A Memory of Wye Sixty or Seventy Years Ago – By one Who Lived There

The Gallaway Memoir

A Memory of Wye Sixty or Seventy Years Ago – By one Who Lived There [1]

The first thought that crosses one’s mind “Has Wye and its present inhabitants altered much since those times”? If we look at Wye itself the old town remains much about the same except for the houses recently built on its outskirts. Taking a walk from Boughton Corner to the station you would have noticed a large hop-garden on the right hand side now converted into an orchard also a smaller hop-garden lower down on the opposite side of the road and Bramble(s) Farm was the only house there until you turned the corner towards the station where there used to be a village pound opposite the present house then inhabited by a Mrs. Pearce, a grey-hound trainer.

Mr Pearce, greyhound keeper

As to the station itself it has not altered but very little though there used to be a hut as a shelter for a gatesman who I remember used to dash out and frantically ring a bell when a train was approaching to warn the prospective travellers to hurry up. Now we come to the Bridge it was very narrow York stone built walls and not room for two vehicles to pass and woe the pedestrian who ventured to cross when a cart or wagon was crossing for they stood a good chance of getting their toes crushed besides having some mud splashed over them. This bridge was widened something like it now stands about 65 years ago. The old Water Mill still goes its ceaseless round creaking and groaning but those huge buildings adjoining are of quite recent erection and as you started to walk up to the town you were soon, even if you could not see it, that you were in the vicinity of a gas house (holder) which odours soon assailed your nostrils in no uncertain manner. This has since been done away with; now we pass on up Bridge Street where alas no wind-mill now stands out in bold relief against the sky. It like many others throughout the county has had to close due to the roller mills of today. Where the school now stands used to be a small meadow.

view of Wye – the Bridge, The Windmill, The Church

Near the road was a small cottage this was pulled down many years ago. No longer do we hear the ring of the anvil at the old forge and nearly opposite if you looked up a small passage you would have seen a donkey going round and round a small part in the manufacture of whiting, this was discontinued years ago and the product turned from white to black, I expect the donkey died though I never heard of its decease. But I quite think if you apply to the present owner of the premises full details will be given if it came to an untimely end or not.

Close to Taylor’s Garage was a public house viz. The Swan.

Taylor’s Garage, Bridge Street (Thanks to Ann Sutherland)












Just a place for a “quick one”. You would probably notice one of your neighbours coming down the street and then suddenly disappear down the passage. This house was also closed years ago.[2]

Wye March passes the Swan

Right at the corner leading to the Egg Station[3] stood a very old house inhabited by an old lady I cannot recall her name[4]. The house was demolished about 70 years ago[5].

The old cellar connected with the house is still there[6]. It could tell if only it could speak a grim and sad story of the days of Queen Mary, by the way I saw an Elizabeth half-crown dug up there when I was quite a young school-boy, I should not advise any of you to go (to) the cellars as the steps are very narrow, damp and musty at least they were in the days gone bye.

The Undercroft (the cellar

The old Town Pump stood at the corner close to the Wesleyan Church. The inhabitants of the houses surrounding had to obtain all their drinking water from the same source as (there was) no pipe water in those days.

The Methodist Chapel – behind which was the Egg Packing Station

As you went further up the streets you came to Oxenturn Lane only the five cottages graced that road in those days the palatial houses lower down are of recent construction. Going back we go up Cherry Garden Lane what an alteration here, there on the corner stood a Wheelwright shop what a craftsman the wheelwright was one of the old school who knew how to build a wagon, cart or wheelbarrow that would last a lifetime in fact I know of one van that had been built by the then proprietor’s father that was in good repair and still running and after 80 years on the road would put to shame many of the modern vehicles. All this has been done away with there were no houses beyond this house and shop in those days.

The Flying Horse still appears about the same but a few houses have been built nearby where some cottages used to stand. Very little alteration has taken place in “Golden Square” it used to boast of two forges but one was closed down many years ago.

Golden Square

As we turn up Scotton Street its much the same until we come to the Yew Tree house which in my time was partly tumbling down and was supposed to be haunted by Ghosts or Goblins damned though I never heard of any apparition being seen. The windows had been a good target for the boys’ stone throwing. All the houses opposite and further up are of recent construction. Olantigh Road has been more modernised with a few more houses and the old ones demolished.

Where the College now stands was the National School presided over by a Mr. Herbert would that we had more schoolmasters of his type he never spared the rod and I expect some of the old boys have good reason to remember, he was also organist and choirmaster, besides being a good chessplayer. His wife took charge of the girls school adjoining. There was also another school viz. Wye Grammar School, the school room is there to this day close to the road, a worthy gentleman named Mr. Holmes was headmaster then ably assisted by Mr. Lewin, whom I imagine most of you remember.

Wye Grammar School

I cannot speak too highly of this gentleman both from his integrity and willingness to assist any deserving cause and for the years he was the mainstay of the Cricket Club. His son still lives I am pleased to say in the town and I hope for years to come.

Now we come to the Church, still stands full square to the winds of heaven in spite of the bombing (Editor: During WW 2).

As you turn to go down Churchfields there used to stand a low-built cottage inhabited by an old lady playfully called Granny Price[7] who passed away when she had reached the age of 98.

What a convenience it was to live so close to the church for weddings and christenings and when you happened to die as you are bound to do you were right on the spot, the garden attached to the cottage was taken in to enlarge the burial ground.

On Monday mornings if you took notice you would have seen a venerable old gentleman in a smock driving a flock of sheep into the Churchyard to feed and keep the grass down, they were duly taken out on Saturdays so as not to impede the progress of the worshippers to Church. (Editor: Doubtless this was Thomas Post, not only  a shepherd but a poet, bell-ringer and fervent Christian)

Church Street remains much about the same with one or two minor alterations, (except for the vacant space near the Church.)

The most startling event that happened to Wye was the fire that burnt the brewery down which occurred one October[8] evening 60 years ago. What a night it was, I myself saw [9]the smoke curling through the roof in the centre of the building and everyone who saw the sight was sure that the place was doomed being of somewhat old construction and no one on the premises. One tradesman with commendable promptness sent a telegram to Ashford Fire Brigade, Wye being without one in those days and they arrived in about an hour. The flames had then taken a big hold of the place and were engulfing the adjoining properties and drapery shop and dwelling house owned by Mrs. Clarabuts. Pumps and wells in the vicinity by willing workers soon sprang into action with creaks and groans, buckets of water were passed from hand to hand to fill the tanks. Nobly the old town pump responded to the call and poured forth a ceaseless stream of aqua pure.

The Star Brewery
The Church Street Fire

[1] These recollections were most likely written by Benjamin Gallaway who was born in 1874 and died in 1964 and was the grandfather of the Ben Gallaway known to many older town inhabitants. This piece was probably written in1949. The paper upon which it is written looks like a cashbook and is yellowing so the paper could easily be 63 years old. Thus we are looking at recollections of Wye about 120 years ago.

[2] The Swan was at the site of Mary Hemsley’s shop and appears in the photograph of the Town Band and Parade. It was also the location of one of Wye’s several ghost stories.

[3] Now Stonegate Estate and memorised by the weekly siren that used to indicate the start of the working day.

[4] Possibly Mrs Elizabeth Morris or her daughter also Elizabeth or Lydia the other daughter. Dr William Morris did not appear to have married.

[5] Anecdotes have it that the old house was demolished in 1875 but Benjamin would then have been only 1 year old-highly unlikely. If Benjamin really did know that a very old lady lived there then on the basis that he was 10 years old at least to remember these things then the house may have been demolished in 1884 or there abouts. It is therefore possible that the Morris painting actually contains an image of this house.

[6] This must be reference to the Undercroft presently being restored and in the possession of Mr Patrick Keegan.

[7] This was probably Mrs Elizabeth Price (nee Johnson) who had lived in what was, in 1881 called Church Yard and had been known earlier as Church Cottage. Before her death in 1882 (she was born in about 1785) she lived with her daughter Jane Price. Jane Price was a nurse (midwife). Elizabeth’s husband was Daniel Price, whom she married in 1815, was a Clockmaker and Repairer. He pre-deceased Elizabeth in 1878. Perhaps Daniel had something to do with the Wye Church Clock?

[8] The Star Brewery, in Church Street, was burned down on October 20th 1889. Extensive damage was caused to adjacent buildings including The King’s Head Hotel and The Drapery Store. The fact that there was plenty of nearby water – village pump, wells and River Stour – was itself insufficient to prevent wholesale damage and finally, in 1908, Wye Fire Brigade was formed. The Merryweather Steamer under the charge of Captain Frank S. Hart arrived at 19:40.

[9] Another eyewitness account was given in1970 by Mrs Shaxted (nee Coulter) who was 91 years old and thus 10 years old in 1889 – just 5 years younger than Benjamin Gallaway. Her account is remarkably similar.