Barbara Roberts Remembers
Barbara Roberts, a long term resident of Wereham, talks to Pammie about her life as a milkmaid and a post lady. A fascinating tale well worth a read.
Barbara was born in Wereham and did all her schooling at the village school in St Margaret's Hill where her mother, Marjery English, was the infant school teacher. The school flourished at that time with as many as 100 pupils enrolled and there were over 40 in the infant class -a large class even by today's standards. Barbara's mother is remembered by many of her pupils with great respect and affection to this day.
When Barbara left school she had hoped to study cookery and domestic science, but in the end stayed at home to help her mother who had been asked to return teaching during the war years, and who was not only a busy schoolmistress but the Sunday school teacher as well. So, initially, young Barbara then aged 14, accompanied her father on his milk rounds and together they collected huge milk churns from Mr Lankfer's father's farm on the Stoke Road and would proceed from house to house where they used a measuring ladle to measure out the amount of milk required by each householder.
When the war ended, Barbara met a young soldier named Derek Roberts who had also grown up in the village. They married in 1953 and came to live in one of the prettiest houses in the village overlooking the pond, the Church and the green -which has been her home ever since.
It was during these years to that Barbara had learned to play the accordion and, being musical, greatly enjoyed taking part in village concerts and particularly the Christmas pantomimes, which were written and produced by Fred Baddock whom Barbara remembers as being very talented. She notes that the costumes and scenery were hired from Sam uels in London and everything was done as professionally as was possible. She particularly remembers taking part in Cinderella in which she played Dandini and that Derek played the part of King Rat! The performances, of course, took place in the village hall and were really something for the whole village to look forward to.
By this time Barbara had accepted the position as Wereham's post lady and apart from time off to have her daughters, she remained as the post lady for 25 years.
The village was smaller then and that was before the A134 was built and Church Road was still the main highway-the Beet lorries were quite a hazard especially to cyclists and more than once the White House had a corner knocked off. At that time the Manor House was still a private residence with a lovely large garden and there were only eight houses in The Row. Barbara's, good friend, Doris Clark, was the post lady in Boughton and together they would go to the Post Office which was then part of Chile house (Fred Baddock was then the postmaster) to collect and sort the mail at six o'clock every morning. Unfortunately, there was no sorting room and the only space to sort the mail was outside the kitchen doorwhich at times was hard when it was bitterly cold and fingers were quite frozen. When Fred Baddock retired, and the Post Office became part of the village shop,a proper sorting room was finally built at the back by Ken and Betty English, and Barbara remembers what a pleasure that was! There were two deliveries each day, which they managed easily enough before the villages grew to their present size.
In spite of having to deliver mail in all weathers- sunshine, rain or snow - Barbara remembers having to push her bicycle through at least 2 feet of snow on occasion, and once was attacked and bitten by a dog that had somehow managed to release itself from its chain - she thoroughly enjoyed the years delivering letters and parcels to the village. She really enjoyed her contact with people and loved cycling through the countryside in the early mornings-a pleasure that that dog walkers also share. And no, it was not always easy to get up on cold ,dark mornings. "but there was a job to do" And there can be no doubt that that the "plop" of a special letter through the door and the arrival of an eagerly awaited parcel.. .these are some of life's special pleasures- and these only the post man and post lady can deliver.
Barbara would end with one small plea -to those of you who get irritated by mail that is wrongly delivered -- when a huge amount mail is being sorted, it is so very easy to misread the name and address! So do give your postman or post lady break when that happens please.