JANET HAYTER - PROFILE
My Mother, Dorothy, was one of three children born to John and Ethel Merriott who farmed at Springfield Farm, Sutton Road, Somerton. When the war started Mum joined the WAAF and it was there that she met Leonard Crocker, a Cornishman, who was in the RAF. They married in November 1943 at St Michael’s, Somerton. I was born in October 1944 at Butleigh Hospital and my sister Pauline was born in September 1946.
We all lived on the farm with my Grandparents and an Uncle (Mum’s elder brother who helped Granddad run the farm). Pauline and I had an idyllic childhood. We loved all animals, especially horses and spent many happy hours riding around on a little black mare called Kit. We taught calves to drink milk from buckets, tended sickly piglets, fed hens and collected eggs, drank the warm frothy milk straight from the cows, helped with haymaking and harvesting etc. Later on we moved into our own house which was only one minute’s walking distance from the farm! Later on, when Gran died, Mum went back at the farm cooking, cleaning and generally helping out. From then on Mum, Dad, Pauline and I spent most of the time at the farm only really going back to our own home in the evenings.
Annual holidays were either spent in Cornwall visiting places Dad knew as a young man and staying in caravans or spending time with our relatives in Yorkshire.
The first school I attended was Chick’s Infants in West End. There were two classes. Mrs Layrum taught the young ones and Miss Hessyon (the Headmistress) taught the older children.
Mrs Layrum’s class was held in the Old Drill Hall, Behind Berry (now demolished). We were marched there in the morning, back to the school for lunch, marched back to the Drill Hall in the afternoons and then back to the school for home time.
Mrs Layrum, whom I liked a lot, was a quiet kindly teacher who taught me during my first year.
Miss Hessyon, who taught me during my second year, was quite a different matter. She looked very stern and was extremely strict. I am sure that she didn’t like me and I certainly didn’t like her!
In September 1951 I moved up to Monteclefe Girls School. There were four classes at Monteclefe – Standards 1, 2, 3 and 4 as they were called. Miss Dorothy Godfrey taught Standards 1 and 2 and Miss Kathleen Bibby (Headmistress) taught Standards 3 and 4. Miss Bibby lived in the School House (no longer there) within the school grounds with her father.
The school day always started with assembly and prayers with Mr Bibby (Miss Bibby’s father) playing the piano. On Fridays assembly was extended so that pupils who were learning to play the piano could bring in the particular piece of music they were learning at that time and play to the whole school. The Vicar visited every week in order to give Religious Instruction and the ‘Nit Nurse’ visited every term to inspect heads and finger nails - woe betide you if you were a nail biter!
When I first started at Monteclefe, school dinners were served in the Parish Rooms for pupils from both Monteclefe and The Boys’ School. Later on a small kitchen area was constructed in part of the cloakroom and central kitchen meals were served at the school by Mrs Sandford and Mrs Townsend. Grace was said before and after meals and the younger pupils were expected to rest on small mats made from coconut matting after lunch.
The Boys’ School garden was over the wall from Miss Bibby’s house. When the boys were having their gardening lessons they would peer over the wall and try to engage us girls in conversation. It was forbidden to talk to the boys – if you disobeyed, the punishment was a number of wacks on the palm of your hand with a ruler. The same punishment was also dished out if you dared to walk home from school by a route other than the most direct one. On one occasion my friends and I walked home via Lower Somerton instead of West Street and got ‘the ruler’ the next day.
There were fourteen girls in my year. This number stayed constant throughout our time at Monteclefe. Three of us still live in Somerton; seven live locally; one lives in Chippenham; one in Australia and two have died.
My secondary education was at Huish Episcopi. I was put in the ‘A’ stream where we were told that we all should aim to take the 13 plus examination at the appropriate time in order to gain a place at the local Grammar School. In fact only one of us wanted to take the exam the rest of us preferred to stay at Huish Episcopi which I considered a wonderful school.
In those days we travelled to school by train which was known locally as ‘The Bucket’. It ran from Castle Cary to Taunton picking us up from Somerton Station and depositing us at Langport East Station. We then walked up the road to school. Travelling on the train (with the boys) was fun and quite a learning curve! It was easy for us girls to keep them out of our compartment if the carriages didn’t have a corridor but it was difficult to keep them out if they did!
After leaving school, in 1960, I went to work for Morlands of Glastonbury in the Accounts Department. After 5 years I moved to Unigate in Yeovil in the wages and salaries department. Later on I became Bursar’s Assistant in a school in Wincanton. I then moved to County Hall, Taunton to the Education Department and my final job was with Yeovil Town Council as a Licensing Officer. During my working life I spent many hard hours in colleges gaining my qualifications.
My teenage years were spent going out, having fun, dancing, boyfriends etc. It was during these years that I learned to bell ring. My Mother was a ringer and my Grandfather had been Captain of the ringers in Somerton before he retired. One day when I was ringing at Barton St David this tall man called John, who incidentally was the son of our Vicar in Somerton and had just started to learn to ring, made a point of talking to me! That was the start of my relationship with my future husband!
John and I have been married for 50 years and have been blessed with two wonderful daughters and two lovely granddaughters also a very kind and generous son-in-law. We have enjoyed many holidays in France, Spain, Italy, Norway etc. We had an extended holiday in Hong Kong staying with John’s sister and family who lived there for 17 years. We now potter around in Britain whenever we can find the time in our motor van with the odd trip abroad every now and then.
I am a member of the U3A Local History Group and the Recorder Group. My interests are reading, history, singing, bell-ringing and amateur dramatics. In fact I am a founder member of Somerton Dramatic Society and I became a member of the Mid Wessex Singers when it was first formed.