My father was Rector of Helmdon from March 1939 to December 1948, during which time the Second World War took place. I was only six years old when we came to Helmdon to live but I couldn’t have spent a happier childhood anywhere else on earth. I have always loved the place and it history and its people, especially, of course, the people who I grew up with – those residents of Helmdon now in their seventies and eighties who still live there.
Now a little of my family and how we came to be there at that time. My father was born in Gosport on the south coast in 1897 and my mother was born in 1902 in Victoria, a southern state of Australia. My parents married in July 1929, my sister Mary was born in 1930, and I followed in June 1932. My father, who studied for the Anglican (Church of England) ministry, served in a number of parishes in the Wangaratta diocese, before taking the family “home” to England in June 1935. He worked in Peterborough for four years after arriving in England, where my brother John was born. With their little brood my parents came to Helmdon in March 1939 and here we stayed for the next ten years.
I grew to love Helmdon, the place and its people, with a great passion. I came to know every nook and cranny and all the close surrounding countryside. I don’t know why the word Helmdon has such a magical effect on me. It was so much apart of a wonderful childhood. In my mind’s eye I walk the streets and lanes of Helmdon and remember it as it was in those days. I see the brook where we used to paddle, the hedgerows where the birds nested. I remember the dawn chorus, village pumps, the old Post Office (“Miss Shrimpton’s” as we called it), the school where I began my education and made friends with the children of the village. There were three shops in those days, two public houses, and two railway stations. The LNER station at the top of the hill in Station Road and the LMS station where Jeff’s Coaches now stands. Ken and John Jeffs were young children when we lived there, about the same age as my brother and myself. Their father worked for Sam Walters’ bus service. Sam’s wife was the village district nurse, a most important person who I think delivered a fair number of the babies born there at that time.
I lost touch with my childhood friends and the people of Helmdon after our return to Shepparton, Victoria, Australia in December 1948. It was 1995 (forty seven years) before I returned to England. Words cannot express my feelings when I received such a warm welcome - certainly from the people I had known so long ago, but also from others who had come to the village and settled there in the intervening years.
Editor’s note: Every couple of years or so Joan returns to England again and renews contact with her Helmdon friends. Joan is interested in Humphrey family history; if you can help please contact her through the website editor.