The early morning light, as I began walking the London Minstead/Shave Wood loop, gave Hungerford Cottage, in its setting, an idyllic appearance. On Seamans Lane I was approached by a woman, against the light, leading two ponies of clearly dissimilar varieties. I believe I had seen part of this group on 8th December. The difference was that this time the larger horse was a foal, and the Shetland pony had, that time, borne a little girl.
Further along, attached to a hedge, I spotted yet another pair of gloves (see post of 3rd January). These, I left in situ. The sky soon clouded over, as if someone had replaced a clear electric light bulb with a pearl one.
After I spent an afternoon clue writing Jackie produced a delicious meal of slow roasted pork belly which we ate in time for her to drive me down to Minstead Hall for my introduction to the Minstead History Group, following which she came and collected me. This was an unstructured and somewhat loose meeting to which we had been asked to bring, in one e-mail an object of local history interest, and in another a favourite object of our own, and talk about it. I was rash enough to bring both and to compound this by asking for clarification as to which had been required. Like the army ‘volunteer’ who gets to clean the latrines, I was asked to start. Having brought the portrait of Jackie, the subject of my post of 15th July 2012; and a photograph of the alleged Grinling Gibbons mantelpiece described on 9th December, I decided to start with the mantelpiece. No-one could verify the claim of Jeanie that this was the work of Gibbons, although all were intrigued with the problem and enjoyed the story of my knocking on doors in an attempt to discover the origin of Seamans. Neither did anyone know the history of that name, even those who had lived there for many years. In fact I got applause for my presentation, but the fact that I had also brought a personal favourite was forgotten. I judged it impolitic to remind people. Only three others had brought beloved objects which were all fascinating, although not of local historic interest. Those were well received and Jill and Steve discovered, through bringing mementos of their antecedents that they both had origins in Hinton Martell in Dorset.
A number of those present had lived in or around Minstead all their lives. Others, like me and Jill, had settled there from other parts of England. The fact that Jill didn’t grow up here made the link with Steve all the more remarkable. Tom Penny, a ninety three year old retired farmer was there with his daughter Jane. After the presentations, Tom very soon became the focus of attention. He is lucid, intelligent, and with a lifetime’s knowledge of the village and its denizens. People were particularly intrigued at his description of the second wife of the squire of the 1940s. He used to deliver milk to the grand house and would be summoned to her presence. In his opinion she can only have washed about once a week, for fear of removing the paint that was so caked on her face as to obliterate all wrinkles. Oz, who is a leading member is keen that someone should write down Tom’s words, although he is aware of the difficulty of this task.