Cuddington | Buckinghamshire

Lives Remembered




In memory of Nick Parkin

Nick was a gardener who looked after several households in Cuddington for some years. He was suddenly taken ill and died in February.  He was gentle and kind, and will be sadly missed.

Here is a message from his family:


Kenneth David Cooper

31st December 1924 – 29th March 2011

Born in Wandsworth, and growing up in Battersea, Ken attended school in London, where one particular master saw his potential with a camera and encouraged this.

When he left school war had broken out, but he was too young to join the Army and so he found work at Shepperton Film Studios.  When asked about his job, very tongue in cheek, he always used to say that he swept the floors there!

As soon as Ken could he joined the Army, and at the enlistment told the officials that he was working in film.  After training in Kent, he found himself galloping around India on horseback and, very young in life, was promoted to sergeant.

This gave Ken a lifelong love of India, particularly Simla.  Before war ended, he was recalled back to London to work in the War Office.  It was here he met his future wife Daphne who was in the WRAF.  Through mutual interests love blossomed, they were married in 1946 and made their first home in Battersea.

Soon after, Owen their first son was born, followed by Martyn two years later.  Ken remained in Government related work and initially worked in a department where he pioneered the creation of micro dots, a photo-optical process that enabled agents to post secret information to their base without detection.  His work and research gave many breakthroughs for the country and the world as a whole.  Ken was the first man to take a photograph inside another living mammal and was crucial to the development of the endoscope.

From the 1960s, Ken became a scientific photographer at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell.  The photographic department at Harwell contributed a very important element of the scientific research that took place there.  Among the state of the art photographic techniques employed was high speed photography.  Using specially developed, very high precision cameras capable of filming speeds many thousands of times faster than a conventional cine camera, they were used to study, in great detail, events that lasted for a few fractions of a second.  These could be viewed as either cine or a sequence of still images.  It required a deep knowledge of photographic science and optics.

Many of the techniques and cameras were being developed and manufactured by John Hadland PI Ltd, a family company with an excellent reputation around the world.  Customers ranged from government defence and energy research establishments to industrial clients such as motor manufacturers with the now very familiar vehicle safety crash tests.

Early in 1962, the company founder John Hadland and managing director Geoff Foster met Ken during visits to Harwell, and shortly afterwards he was invited to join the company as the sales manager.  Ken’s combination of technical knowledge, charm and fun communication skills played their part in helping the company to go from strength to strength.  Later he was appointed as sales director when the company moved into new premises in Bovingdon.

Ken left John Hadland PI Ltd in 1973 to set up and become managing director of International IMC Ltd, which was a jointly owned company of Photo-Sonics Inc of Japan.  The company was based in Thame and was responsible for the marketing, sales and service of the parent companies’ products throughout Europe, the Middle East and India.  One of Ken's achievements during the 1970s and 80s was the successful introduction of the first practical high speed video system for industrial applications.

He and Daphne travelled extensively to all these countries, and as such made many friends across the world and visited them on holidays as well as for work.  Some of his trips, particularly those to Russia during the Cold War, made for interesting anecdotes.

By the end of the 1980s, IIMC had more than 20 staff and it was one of the leading suppliers of high speed imaging equipment in Europe, as well as further afield.  In particular, Ken's experience of India enabled IIMC to become a major supplier to the Indian Ministry of Defence.

To extend the product line into ultra high speed imaging, Ken worked with NAC to set up a design and manufacturing company called IMCO, based in Basildon, Essex.  Several new developments in ultra high speed image converter cameras came out of IMCO at this time.

In 1991 the partnership between Photo-Sonics and NAC came to an end and two new companies were formed.  Ken remained with NAC, continuing to lead IMCO and NAC Europe throughout the 1990s until his well earned retirement.

Throughout this long and varied career he and Daphne were raising their two sons.  He was very proud of them, and gave them both a wonderful childhood, full of fishing trips and shooting days, hunting pheasants and rabbits and camping.  He left both Owen and Martyn with wonderful memories.  Martyn suffered from haemophilia, and Owen carried the gene, so life at times could be extremely difficult.  Especially so for Martyn, who endured the full wrath of this horrendous condition.

Nearing retirement Ken and Daphne moved to Cuddington, where Ken continued to be an active member of the Thame Rotary Club and ran the Neighbourhood Watch scheme for the village.  They loved life here, as well as enjoying many wonderful holidays together.

However Daphne’s health was deteriorating.  She too suffered from the rare form of female haemophilia, and osteoporosis was taking its toll.  Eventually, in 2008, Daphne moved into a nursing home where she died in 2009.

Very sadly, Martyn passed away suddenly in 2010, less than two years after losing his mother.

A series of debilitating ailments took their toll on Ken and finally he was forced to move to a nursing home in Princes Risborough.  He passed away on the 29th March 2011.

Anthony Odhams

Brian and Laura Ewers 

Brian Ewers

1944 – 2009

Brian Ewers lived in Cuddington almost all his life, having moved from Nether Winchendon as a small child.  He then attended Cuddington School.  Brian married Laura in 1966 and they had three children: Mark, who sadly died at the age of six, Amanda and Neil.  They also had a grandchild, Caillin.

Brian spent a few years in the army and, apart from that, his working life was spent in local firms.  He worked for Molins for 25 years before being made redundant and then moved to Thame Engineering.

For many years Brian served on the Committee of the Playing Fields and also of the Clubhouse, and in recent years was a Committee member of the Allotments Association.  Brian’s friendly personality was appreciated by fellow dog walkers who enjoyed chats with him, and many of Cuddington’s older inhabitants appreciated his help in collecting their prescriptions from Long Crendon Surgery.

The photograph shows Brian and Laura in Hong Kong, one of the places where Brian had served while in the army and which he enjoyed re-visiting.

Thomas Frost

Thomas John Frost played a key role in the village during his short life. A few months after his birth in 1881 his family moved to Cuddington and he was associated with the village for the rest of his life until his death in 1911.

He was the only son of Thomas and Sarah Frost who lived in The Chestnuts in Upper Church Street. His father was the Registrar for Births and Deaths in the district. Thomas was an able scholar at the village school. Deciding on a teaching career, he attended a Teacher Training College in Oxford. After teaching elsewhere, in 1907 at only 26, he was appointed Headmaster of Cuddington School, where he had been a pupil just 12 years before!

Thomas participated fully in village life. He was an able musician, becoming master of the Cuddington and Nether Winchendon Robin Hood Band and also a member of the St Nicholas choir. Thomas appreciated the habit of thrift for villagers and was Cuddington secretary of the National Deposit Friendly Society. Subscribers paid whatever they could to provide against sickness, unemployment and old age. He was also a keen advocate of the value of allotments. Later he became secretary of the working party to plan celebrations in the village to mark the coronation of George V.

Thomas’ tenure as Headteacher was short – only four years – but it was both successful and eventful. At this time the village school had more children on roll than before or since. In July 1907 there were 127 children aged between five and fourteen. Thomas was an innovator. He introduced gardening into the curriculum, which he regarded as a vital life skill. A vegetable patch was acquired on the Lower Green and school produce was sold each year to buy more seeds and tools. Thomas also ensured that the older girls learned the arts of cookery. They made the weekly walk to Haddenham to the County School where there was suitable teaching and equipment. Another innovation was an annual essay competition for older children. Each pupil chose one tree and one bird, observed them closely over time and then produced an essay. Thomas was also a believer in continuing education and ran well-attended evening carpentry classes in school.

He encouraged his pupils to celebrate national events. For example, on 24th May 1907 the school was decorated with flags to mark Empire Day. In June 1911 there was a whole week’s celebration for the coronation. Thomas was anxious to maintain high levels of pupil attendance. His Log Book, for example revels that in the extremely cold winter of 1907, many pupils – especially from Nether Winchendon – were absent and the School Attendance officer was called in. Another entry in Thomas’ Log Book reports that at this time the ink froze in the ink wells! Later in autumn 1909 he wrote that some boys had twice played truant to follow the beagle hounds.

In four years Thomas Frost had proved an inspiring headmaster. Sadly his potential to do more was unfulfilled. He fell ill and died in August 1911 at The Chestnuts. The death certificate states the cause as “diabetes, coma, exhaustion and syncope” (fainting). His contribution to the welfare and education of the villagers reflected many of the humanitarian concerns of Edwardian England. Thomas Frost was a force for good. Rather like a meteor he seems to have burnt himself out.

Peter Wenham

Lorna Garbett 

Lorna Garbett

1921 – 2009

Lorna Garbett moved to Cuddington with her mother in the 1950s and ever since she immersed herself in very many of the village’s activities.  Along with her friends Ted and Gladys Ferris she joined BLESMA (the society which supported wounded ex-service men.)  Another charity close to her heart was the Ferris Foundation and she was always a very active helper in all its activities.

Until shortly before her death Lorna was a member of the Bernard Hall Management Committee.  She was an active member of the History Society and served on the committee.  The Women’s Institute was another society in whose activities she threw herself wholeheartedly.  Members remember with amusement the entertaining way she gave an account of the problems she had encountered when, as a new recruit to the A.T.S., she met “square bashing” for the first time.  Another fond memory this society has of her is her generosity in bringing to a meeting the cake she had won in a raffle at the village’s festivities to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. (The picture shows her cutting the cake.)

Lorna was a regular worshipper at St. Nicholas’s and a willing helper at many of its activities (few could make the brass sparkle for special occasions as Lorna could).  That other weekly meeting in the church, the Coffee Drop-In, was one she rarely missed.

Possibly Lorna’s greatest interest was her delight in amateur dramatics.  Until its closure Lorna was a most enthusiastic member of the village amateur theatrical society (C.A.T.S.) and many will remember her acting ability, especially shown in the presentation of comic characters.  Acting in Church productions or in impromptu scenes there always showed her enthusiasm and skill.

Lorna was a lady of many talents and interests with a loving disposition which endeared her to all.

Ron Hooper 

Ron Hooper

1922 - 2009

Ron spent his early life in London but, eleven years after he and Olive married, his firm moved him to this area and he and Olive settled in Cuddington where they brought up their three sons.  Everyone knew Ron as a most kindly and helpful person and Olive said they couldn’t have been happier anywhere else.

Ron was a member of the Chinnor Operatic Society for over 20 years, both singing and acting in innumerable productions.  He loved rowing and only gave this up when a river was no longer accessible, at which point he enthusiastically took to cycling.  Another of Ron’s great interests was bell ringing and for 40 years he was a member of Cuddington’s bell ringing team, where his sense of humour and enthusiasm were evident to all.

Ron served in the army for six years and on D-Day he was dropped behind enemy lines by glider.

So many activities and interests made his a very full life, but he nevertheless maintained close family relationships with his sons and granddaughters.

Brian Hope 

Brian Hope

It is entirely fitting that Brian David Hope’s name is engraved on the War Memorial in the churchyard.  He came with his family to live in Cuddington when he was five.  His mother, Ruth, and father, Edward, set up home in a cottage in Aylesbury Road opposite The Crown in 1957.

His mother and father’s beginnings are of considerable historical interest.  Ruth was born in Germany in the 1930s and her parents were persecuted by the Nazis.  Ruth used to tell stories of her early childhood.  Her parents kept to their house as much as possible, for fear that they might be subject to violence and deportation. Their walls were daubed with the Star of David.  Eventually the beleaguered family emigrated to Britain – apparently Ruth’s father had a British passport.

Edward’s family, on the other hand, were part of the West Indian migration to Britain.  His boyhood was spent in Tiger Bay, Cardiff.

Their only child, Brian, attended Cuddington School and, later, Long Crendon Secondary School before leaving at 15.  He was a member of the Dinton branch of the Boy Scouts and eventually became a Senior Scout.  He worked as a forecourt attendant at a garage in Aylesbury and later became an apprentice mechanic with a firm in Haddenham.

Meanwhile his mother worked as a nurse at St John’s Hospital, Stone while his father had various jobs, including working as a groom and a builder.  There is a frequently told story in the village about Brian’s parents.  Ruth became increasingly annoyed by her husband’s long nightly sessions in The Crown, so as a protest one evening she took across his pyjamas!  She was clearly a lady of spirit.

In 1969, much against his mother’s wishes, Brian enlisted in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.  He signed on for six years hoping the training would be useful when he returned to civilian life.   After being stationed in Dortmund in Germany for two years, in July 1972 Brian’s regiment was posted to Ireland for a four month tour of duty.  Tragically, on 14th August, he was killed by a booby trap in Andersontown, Belfast.  He was just twenty years old.

His remains were buried in a grave in Tring Road cemetery, Aylesbury.  His mother and father’s ashes lie in a family grave with their son.

Thus Brian’s life was shaped by two significant events in the twentieth century – the rise of Nazi Germany and West Indian immigration.  Sadly his death was the direct result of another significant event – the violence in Northern Ireland.

When the landlady in The Crown was interviewed shortly after Brian’s death she said, “You read in the papers about these things… but it really comes home to you when you know someone it happens to.”

Leslie Jole

Leslie Jole moved to Cuddington in the 1970s and immediately involved himself in local concerns.  He served on Cuddington Parish Council from 1983 to 1986 and was then elected to represent this ward as a Conservative District Councillor, later becoming a County Councillor.  He served on many committees and was a School Governor for Sir Henry Floyd and Waddesdon Secondary Schools.  As a committee member his expertise was greatly appreciated.

Different people in Cuddington will have different memories of Leslie: those who were there will remember his opening of the Village Fête in 1989, along with Ted Ferris – two ex-service men representing respectively the Royal Marines and the Royal Navy – on the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of war.

Others will remember Leslie year after year at the Remembrance Service in St. Nicholas, wearing the line of medals which included his Military Cross, as he read the lesson and then distinctly called out the names of Cuddington's fallen.  On these occasions his presence gave a particular significance to the service.

Then again, members of the Local Conservative Association have memories of a loyal member and energetic worker.

Walkers in the fields round Cuddington, without knowing it, have to thank Leslie, as during his membership of the Parish Council he surveyed all the stiles in the Parish and organised a working party to carry out repairs and replacements.

But above all Cuddington owes a great debt to Leslie for the massive tree planting in the village from 1985 to 1989.  This project was the brainchild of Leslie and he it was who planned the whole scheme and masterminded it throughout.  Now all comers of the village have trees coming to maturity and providing pleasure for the inhabitants.  Two of Cuddington's long-standing residents described what delight the flowering cherries gave to them each year and how much they appreciated what Mr. Jole had done for them.  In February 2011 an oak tree, to be known as “The Jole Oak”, was planted in Tibby's Lane in his memory.

Leslie left the village in August 1999 to live near his relatives in Dorset where, sadly, he died just fourteen months later.

Adapted from an article published in Village Voice in October 1999 and reproduced by kind permission of the Editors

Ruby Small 

Ruby Small

The Cuddington Sunrise Walk is a village tradition. It was in June 1970 that Ruby Small led the first walk from the Lower Green to the Winchendon Observatory at 4 o’clock in the morning. After their exertions the walkers were treated to refreshments made and served by ladies of Cuddington Women’s Institute. This walk illustrates many aspects of Ruby Small. She was an effective organiser, a keen rambler and supporter of the countryside and a staunch member of the Women’s Institute.

Ruby was born in the village in 1907. She was the eighth child of Sidney and Annie Dunkin. The family lived in a cottage in Upper Church Street where the Bernard Hall now stands. Ruby later described the house in which she was born. Cooking was done on an open fire, water was drawn from a well in the garden, where there was also an earth closet. There was no electric light. Brothers and sisters had to share beds. Ruby left the village school at 14 and went into domestic service in Aylesbury. She thought nothing of walking the six miles to Cuddington and back on her half days off. In 1927 she married Ernest Small who had been a fellow pupil at school. They set up house in a cottage in Aylesbury Road opposite ‘The Crown’ and had four children, although one child sadly died.

Ruby was committed to village life. She was a founder member of Cuddington Women’s Institute formed in 1949 and served as President from 1965-1972. In March 1973 she organised and led a memorable ramble for her colleagues to Ashendon. She had cooked scones before setting out and these, together with coffee brought by her husband, refreshed the walkers at the end of their nine mile ramble. In the same year Ruby undertook a 20 mile sponsored walk on local footpaths organised by the Bucks branch of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England. She received a letter of congratulation, as she was at 66 the oldest person successfully to complete the walk.

Ruby attended St Nicholas Church and regularly organised the flower rota.  Whenever there was a village fund raising function in the Bernard Hall where cakes and drinks were needed, Ruby was invariably on duty. She must have poured thousands of cups of tea in her lifetime!

Ruby Small had enjoyed a fulfilling life in Cuddington. She had a healthy constitution and a purposeful, but unruffled air. She did things at her own pace and seemed unflappable. She has been described by contemporaries as “warm, but determined”, as “walking majestically” and “a lady in the real sense of the word”. She was undoubtedly practical and she was a fine cook and dressmaker. On rambles she carried a survival kit – matches, scissors, string, paper bag, penknife, as well as items of first aid. She was one of the diminishing group of people who was born, married and died in the village. It is pleasing to record that her legacy – the Sunrise Walk – is still safe with her successors in Cuddington.

Peter Wenham

William Webb 

William Webb

William Webb must be one of the most unfortunate men ever associated with Cuddington.

William came to the village from a Church of England Home in London in 1918 when he was seven to be fostered by the Oakley family. William seems to have enjoyed country life. He attended Cuddington School and was a choirboy in St Nicholas Church. However at 14 he had to return to the Boys’ Home in London.

Eventually he was sent to Ontario, Canada, to work on a farm. At 21, he could make his own decisions, so he returned to England and Cuddington. He worked in a local dairy and later as a clerk with a construction company.

However, in 1941 he was called up with the Royal Artillery and took part in the North African campaign. He wrote home in July 1941 that “Cuddington will always be my home after this”. He was captured at Tobruk and sent to a Prisoner of War camp in Italy. When Italy collapsed he escaped but, unfortunately, as he reported in a letter home, after celebrating on Italian wine, he was recaptured by a German patrol.  Eventually he ended up in a Prisoner of War camp in Prague.

His adopted family in Cuddington became very anxious. His letters had ceased and although the war ended in May 1945 William did not return home. This was particularly galling as repatriated prisoners of war were being flown into nearby Westcott on a regular basis.

It was not until January 1947 that a letter from the War Office stated that “it is thought possible” that Gunner Webb died in a traffic accident about May 10th 1945 in Czechoslovakia. A further letter in October 1947 reported that he was buried in the British cemetery in Prague. A letter from a fellow prisoner of war, Harry Fenton, declared that William was “in the best of health and spirits” when he last saw him on May 7th 1945 in the camp. He confirmed that William had stayed in the camp on the orders of Captain Earl Haig, the senior British officer, while Harry disobeyed and travelled westward towards the US army. He eventually arrived home safely by aeroplane from Regensburg on May 17th. Meanwhile William’s fate may be surmised. The date of death on his tombstone in Prague is May 8th 1945, which is the day of the end of the war in Europe. We know at this time the area around Prague was in turmoil with German troops retreating from the advancing Russian army. The Daily Mirror carries an article reporting “a final burst of fiendishness” by S.S. troops in Prague who refused to recognise the armistice and committed atrocities on the civilian population. These troops may have regarded enemy prisoners of war as legitimate targets too. One theory is that William was en route to the airport when his lorry was attacked.

William died at 34. His life had been short and very unlucky. He was the victim both of the culture and events of the period in which he lived. Let us hope at least that his days in this village were happy.

Peter Wenham

Walter Welford

A memorial window in St. Nicholas’s Church, Cuddington, reads “Walter Welford 1877-1967 Church Warden 1927-1947”.  He is also remembered in the street name of Welford Way, completed in 1970.  He was a well-respected character in the village.  His father was Amos Welford who had a strong religious faith, worshipping in the village church as well as in the Wesleyan Chapel, where he was a Sunday School teacher.  He had been an agricultural labourer but was listed as a farmer in Kelly’s Directory of 1899.

Walter seems to have been a gentle man with strong religious conviction.  He was slight and spare and frugal in his lifestyle.  He enjoyed a reputation in the village for kindliness and charitable works. He played the violin – hence his nickname “Tinny” – and was noted for accompanying carols in the church at Christmas.

Walter married Florence Annie Adelaide.  They began life together in Owl Cottage and were a devoted couple, but they did not have any children.  They had a large brown sheepdog that used to howl when the church bells rang.  Florence was a Sunday School teacher.  Her pupils could be mischievous: for example they used to cook apples on the church stove during Sunday School sessions and some boys carved their initials on the wood casing of the organ.  Florence also organised a charity and Dodge Walker can remember collecting for it as a child.  Florence died before Walter in April 1963.  On her tombstone is engraved “She hath done all she could.”

Walter was a carrier by trade and his horse and covered wagon plied between Cuddington and Aylesbury.  After moving from Owl Cottage, Walter and Florence lived in Tyringham Hall in the part of the building which is now the kitchen.  He had become caretaker of the village club which was based there.  It was owned by the Bernard family and a billiards room was donated to the men of the village after World War I, while the Girl Guides met in the room above.

When Walter retired, probably in 1942, he and Florence moved to No. 2 Great Stone Cottages.  This property had been lived in by various members of the Welford family for some time.  Walter was a handyman and used the derelict Methodist Chapel at the bottom of his garden as a workshop.  When Florence died Walter as looked after by the wife of his deceased brother – another Florence.

Walter was a man of simple tastes and good works.  He was well known for his role as churchwarden and verger.  He read the lessons – not without problems as he often misplaced his aitches.  His loud “amens” at the ends of prayers were very emphatic.  He was noted in the village for riding his “sit up and beg” bicycle.  His life centred on his faith and his wife.  Walter died in the Victoria Cottage Hospital, Thame, on 11th December 1977, aged 90, and was buried in the churchyard next to his wife.  It is fitting that the inscription on his tombstone reads “Faithful unto death”.  As far as we know he left no relations in the village.

Peter Wenham

Thanks to Lil Arnott, Nan and Peggy Cattell, Ivor Healy, Lil Tomes, John and Joan Underwood and Dodge Walker for their help in writing this article

Edith Wilmot 

Edith Wilmot

Although Edith Wilmot was born in Australia in 1917 and died in Ireland in 1997, she lived in Cuddington for over 40 years and made a substantial contribution to village life. Edith and her husband, Chester, moved to Dadbrook House with their family in 1952. Sadly they were not to live long there together. Chester was a prominent news reporter, not only during the Second World War, but also in peacetime afterwards. He commentated on the Queen’s coronation in 1953. In January 1954 he died in the Comet air disaster.

Edith played a key role in Cuddington. The grounds of Dadbrook House proved a very attractive venue for the annual Church fete for over 20 years until it was relocated to the streets of the village. Village participants have spoken of the Dadbrook fete as “homely” and “like a garden party”. She was also responsible for establishing the Sunshine Club for seniors in Cuddington, Chearsley and Nether Winchendon. The Club, her major legacy, still provides an enjoyable and useful service to villagers today.

St. Nicholas’s Church played an important part in Edith’s life throughout her years in Cuddington and her family gave a very generous donation to the 2004 Organ Appeal in her memory. Edith was also interested in the environment and was a prominent member of several societies in Aylesbury Vale. She was a prime mover in the planting of sycamore trees on the Playing Fields, which sadly have since had to be felled. She was also a member of the Cuddington Women’s Institute and the first woman on the Management Committee of the Bernard Hall. Further afield she was a County Girl Guide Commissioner, a leading member of the WRVS and a JP.

Edith is remembered with great affection and respect by villagers. Residents have described her as “gracious”, “delightful”, “modest” and “approachable”. This was manifest in July 1997 in a crowded thanksgiving service in St Nicholas Church. It is entirely fitting that the memorial stone to Edith (to the left of the path just past the entrance) lies in the churchyard of the village in which she spent over half her life and to which she contributed so much.

Peter Wenham