George Bodman’s 90th Birthday in Lambourn

Born and living all his life in Lambourn, George Bodman was delighted with the 90th birthday party that the village organised for him on Saturday 11 January 2020. 

A coal merchant’s son, George’s family were too busy in January to celebrate birthdays so this was only his fourth ever birthday party.

Thanks to everyone who made the party possible (see below) and to Mick Dowdeswell for compiling George’s family history.

George Bodman Family History

George Bodman was born on January 11th 1930 to Elsie Rosina Bodman and to Louis John Bodman in Lambourn. 

Elsie was Reuben Green’s daughter and at one time they lived on Edwards Hill. Reuben was a bricklayer, employed by Mr Mildenhall, but they were also undertakers. Reuben also became in charge of the gasworks, at the bottom of Sheepdrove Hill, where they later lived, in the cottage. Elsie’s claim to fame was that one day, when Mildenhall’s were involved with a funeral over at Wallingford during the winter, they were returning and had got to Childrey and it was getting dark. Reuben, part of the cortege, remarked that they would not get back in time and the fires would be out at the gas works, which would mean no gas for the lighting or for cooking. However, when they did eventually get back, they found that Elsie, although a young girl, had filled the retortes with coal and had kept everything going, which made Reuben very proud of her. He said to her “Well done my girl. You have kept Lambourn going, by your action”.

Louis John Bodman, was an astute businessman and before the First World War, had bought the coal business from a Mr Reynolds. Deliveries were by horse and cart in those days.

 

He also bought the land where The Haven now stands, there having been two cottages on there previously. He married Elsie in 1923 and for a number of years, as well as the coal business, ran a carrier service with Mr Busby.

Louis Jnr. Was born in July 1927 and as we know, George, in 1930. They were educated locally and very soon, George was expected to run the coal business and then, at the time, 43 acres of farm that they rented from the council. He was also chaperone to Louis. Elsie kept the books and took the orders and answered the phone. Throughout his life, Louis John Snr. was an accomplished flat green bowler and was the first person from the area to play for Berkshire, and so travelled far and wide with his bowling. George says that Louis Snr was seldom at home! The firm now traded as L.J Bodman & Sons. George had really wanted to be a mechanic and Louis had a great talent for art, but it was not to be. 

George tells me that he didn’t get paid a great deal and when he asked for more, his father said, “well, you’ve got the use of the car, haven’t you”!

When the chance arose, and to use the car, George loved his ballroom dancing and won several awards for it. At one time, he was very keen on a young girl called Ann Stephenson, but the business somehow intervened and nothing came of it in the end. However, even though Ann married Jack Monk, she has kept in touch with George always and have visited him here. I’m sure George would have made a wonderful dad and a terrific grandad.

The family were heavily involved with the Primitive Methodist Church, just off the High Street. Elsie played the organ there and later, George would take it on, having learnt to play at the Hungerford church. He played at Lambourn for more than 20 years.

He was also responsible for stoking the stove at the church, the night before the Sunday service, so that it would be warm in the morning!

In 1953, George was called up for National Service and he enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). George, as has always been the case, was very diligent in his job in dealing with the records. This all paid off when he was made up to a Lance Corporal, which he was very proud of. He thoroughly enjoyed his two years in the Army and made good friends, especially with the Thomas Twins from Wales, with whom he has kept in touch with over the years.

After Tom Bowsher died, the Bodmans took on a further 42 acres of Beales Farm; again, renting it from Berkshire County Council. I remember, as a young lad, sitting on the wing of the Fordson Standard with George, in a field off Mill Lane. The men, relating to the coal business side, were kept on through the summer, on the farm. So that they wouldn’t be laid off.

The station yard was busy through the winter months with the coal (19 different sorts) and the Bodmans were the local dealers for the vast amount of the West of England sacks that everyone required until bulk handling came into being, in the 60s.

When the railway closed on Jan 4th 1960, they had to go to Welford to collect their coal and then when that closed in about 1970, their destination was at Hungerford railway station. George had transferred the yard to his farmyard, next to The Haven and then extended the area when he bought the cottage, and garden, next door from Peter Utteridge and then the coal was brought in, mainly by road.

George and Louis Jnr’s dad, Louis John Bodman, died in 1965 and their mother in 1985.

Some of the regular men that worked for the Bodman family were Bill Cross, Syd Barrett, Jack Puffett, Fred Watts, Frank Howe and particularly, Cecil Pike, who worked for George for 20 years.

George and Louis retired in 1991. George loved his garden and took many prizes at the local Flower Show over the years, as he still does. He sponsors the Bodman Cup every year. He also sponsored Lambourn Bowls Club with a trophy in his name and I was lucky enough to win it once. When the bowls club made big improvements to their green in 2003, George generously donated £100 to their cause.

Sadly, Louis died in August 2003, aged 76.

However, George then took on another life. He has seldom been seen without his camera and has mountains of photos of the changes to this village over the years to his credit.

Further to that, he has joined the ‘touring parties’ of the local clubs (Silver Circle for example?) since then, travelling all over the country, as can be seen in some of the photos that I have put on the screen and the boards for today.

A recurring theme with George though, is, that he is either shown sitting at a table eating, or having been eating, or he is pictured being kissed and hugged by very good looking women!

He is always seen smiling and enjoying life. He has been seen in the churchyard planting hundreds, if not thousands of snowdrops and has also been responsible for the many daffodils around here too. Besides being an avid litter picker for many years, he has also been seen, and snapped, cleaning the road signs.

Mick Dowdeswell

 

Well done to everyone who made George’s party possible, including: 

Jane Price, Sandra Annetts Angela Simpson 

Walwyn Hall for the venue

Adrian for the music.. his back ached from playing so long!

Anita Tapp from Cakey McCakeface, for donating and making ‘THE’ birthday cake

All tea makers, Tracey, Gill, Kathleen, Tracey, Steve, Ali, Michelle, Claire, Clare, Carol, and Di who did an amazing job, and of course Helen the impromptu waitress!

Bev Silk and Maria Jackson, for the wishing well

Raymond Monument for his patience with the photographs 

Mick Dowdeswell for George’s family history

Jo and son for help with the balloons 

 

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