Back in Milford-on-Sea

It says somewhere at the front of this blog that I was brought up in Milford. This is correct, I spent my first seven years or so in Lymore, a rural outpost of Milford, before moving to Everton all of a further mile away. Life in this area carried on until I left to escape rurality to become an art student with the hope of making a success of my life as a designer in some city or another – I guess fame in London was the dream (it didn’t turn out like that).

I returned to the area SO41 we shall call it – the beginning of the Lymington postcode – in the 90’s having lived in Birmingham, Nottingham, Liverpool, Stafford, London and Colchester before returning to SO41. By this time my parents were living in Milford-on-Sea proper, in a rhododendron lined road of large Edwardian built houses on the western outskirts of the village. I lived there for a couple of years having found myself at a bit of a loss. I then moved to Lymington proper working with my sister running a restaurant.

In the summer of last year I decided to move to West Bay, Bridport, as much for a change of scene as anything else. Things didn’t quite work out for various reasons, nothing to do with Bridport, more to do with the type of tenure I had lumbered myself with – basically a flat too big and too expensive for me – I had originally intended this as a flatshare but this was not to happen.

I now find myself back in Milford-on-Sea lodging with a friend. In my first couple of days I realised that though completely familiar with the village I had never actually lived in the heart of the village, always on the outskirts in some way or another. One might think not a great difference really, true, many very small differences. Actually that is not factually correct as I did reside in a rented house in Park Road for between six months and a year as a small unknowing infant. I don’t count that as living.

One of the significant small differences was remembering that whilst I had never  lived in the middle of the village most of my school friends actually lived in the village proper, in roads such as Keyhaven Road, Carrington Lane, Solent Way to name a few. Seeing these roads on a daily basis led me to try and recall some of the names. Some of my friends came from families running shops and businesses in the village; the Knights, the Moggs, the Bells, the Berrys, the Wolstenholmes, must be more but I can’t remember.  It is possible that those of us who lived in outskirts such as Lymore or Everton my have been considered as country bumpkins.

My friend’s flat where I am living is on the site of the original Milford Laundry, an organisation which was already venerable when I was a child and which must have been one of Milford’s largest single business employers. In those days the main industry of the village was the land, both dairy and arable. The Edgar family whose Aubrey farm in Keyhaven supplied the area with both milk and employment. The family also ran a general store called Edgar’s Dairy – now the site of a Co-operative convenience store. Don’t recall knowing any Edgar children at school. There was another farmer Mr Bacon (no joke) who ran a dairy herd in school lane whose son was called Roger.

Whilst on about farmers there was another farmer, a Mr Dyer, whose farm was at the top end (north) of Lymore Lane, again I don’t recall offspring but his wife was a busy woman tearing around in a fawn gaberdine mac and had a surprising mane of bright red hair. He kept a herd too but I know less about his farm.  The farmhouse though was a handsome Edwardian building in strong red brick. The estate is now called Braxton Farm and boasts. tea rooms and the like.

Back to the village centre. Mr Knight had a grocery store, the old fashioned type who would deliver an order prior to the weekend if you presented your request earlier in the week. His daughter Janet was a friend.

A couple of doors away was a butcher (still there as a butcher). As a small child I was fascinated by the big black ceiling mounted fan. My mother called it an electric punkah  

There were two bakers Berrys and Bells.  Andrew Bell was a school friend. His shop one might say was posher as it did cakes.  Berrys just did bread and some of the best jam doughnuts I remember having.  My step-grandmother lived next door to his bakery so there was a reason for frequent visits. The doughnuts were only available for a few hours in the morning and I don’t think any of them ever had the chance to go stale. The Knights also had an off-licence and Mrs Knight had a sweet shop which also sold buckets and spades and seaside paraphernalia .  There was another sweet and tobacco shop run by a Mr Gillie (Scots) and I remember old fashioned things, even then, like tiger nuts and liquorice root.

Whilst to a certain extent I enjoy this nostalgia there is something poignant also almost depressing about it as well.  Bitter sweet I suppose.

About Richard Stokes

Richard Stokes. Childhood spent in Milford-on-Sea. Now lives in West Bay Bridport (recent move)Educated in Art Schools - Winchester, Birmingham and Portsmouth. Worked as art administrator: Ikon Gallery, Birmingham; Midland Group, Nottingham; West Midlands Arts, Birmingham; Gateshead Garden Festival; Arts Council; Minories Art Gallery, Colchester; West Midland Arts. Also involved with the former Limpets Restaurant. Keen sailor.
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