Valley Wives February Report

Fron Norma Hill

Jill welcomed us all to the meeting but then had to give the worrying news that our treasurer, Josie Hutton, was very poorly in hospital. Josie works tirelessly for the group and our thoughts are with her and her family.

Our speaker for February was Pam Smith and her talk was entitled ‘Bits and Pieces’. Pam has lived all her life in Naphill and started researching her family history many years ago. She has unearthed so much information about past relatives that the many books and photo albums she brought along covered two trestle tables. So many familiar local surnames names appeared in Pam’s talk, perhaps one of the most famous was her great grandfather Walter William Newall, a well known marathon runner in the late 1800s. There is also a family connection with Eric Gill, well known for his sculptures, engravings and type fonts, who lived at Pigotts, Piggott’s Hill near Speen.

As well as being fascinated by Pam’s family history, we also learned much about Naphill, Walter’s Ash and the surrounding area. Naphill Village Hall was built in 1928 on land donated by Coningsby Disraeli. In 1841 300 people lived in Naphill. Naphill had two forges, a poorhouse and all the houses had wells until mains water was connected in the early 1930s. There was a large poorhouse in Saunderton, where The Clare Foundation is now sited.

The three main industries in Naphill and Walter’s Ash were brick making, stone cutting and chalk mining. There were many chalk pits in the area between Forge Road (formerly known as Short Road) and the Bradenham Road. Once the men finished extracting the chalk a tree trunk was lowered into the hole, unfortunately, over time these have rotted away allowing voids to occur. In the past week one such chalk pit in Main Road, Walters Ash opened up and swallowed a car, luckily no one was hurt.

Our next meeting is on 7th March when our speaker will be Philip Littlejohn whose talk is entitled ‘Titanic – A Survivor’s Story’. This is an open meeting so all are most welcome.