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Peter Philips - My Mum's Family

William John Hill married Emily Jane Raymont

I remember Gran’s house in Dean Street. (near Bull Meadow - editor) There was an exterior door and then an interior door with colourful stained glass. This led through into a passage, the first room on the left being the 'lounge'. It was only used on state occasions and contained an aspidistra plant, a wind-up gramophone which had steel needles and a horn, and the fireplace which was black-leaded and only lit at Christmas! I used to play records on the gramophone and let them run down to hear the voices get slower, much to my Gran’s annoyance! The next door on the left opened into the living room. I remember it was filled with the table and chairs, a Welsh dresser, and small armchairs on either side of the fireplace. This had a small fire in the centre with ovens on both sides.

The wall opposite the fireplace had a cupboard containing the gas meter and the coal store. The gas meter was a penny one and Gran sometimes let me put in a penny or two, turn the handle and hear the money drop into the box. Also on this wall was a door situated up two stairs, and this was the way upstairs to the two bedrooms. The larger, front bedroom contained a wash stand with a china ewer and pitcher, the iron double-bed with brass knobs on the corners (which I found would unscrew!), and two framed pictures. One was “The Light of the World” and the other a picture of a stag in the Highlands. The smaller bedroom had obviously been for the three daughters.

The kitchen led off the living room and Gran had a gas cooker there. Beside it was a stone washbasin for the weekly wash. I remember her boiling kettles and tins of water and scrubbing the washing in that sink; clouds of steam and Gran sweating as she slaved to get the washing clean. Once washed, it had to be rinsed and then wrung out by hand – Gran did not have the luxury of a mangle! It was always done on a Monday morning, no matter what the weather.
The washing was hung out in a small, tiled yard, no more than 20’ by 10’. This led up three steps to two small squares of garden, each no bigger than eight feet square and separated by a stone path. To the right of this was Grandad's shed in which he kept all manner of bits and pieces to fascinate a young lad. The toilet was also outside in a little shed attached to the kitchen. There was no fridge - any food needing to be kept was placed in a wooden larder box outside, which had zinc mesh sides to allow air to circulate. There was also no bathroom – merely a tin bath which hung in the kitchen and was used once a week.

Grandfather Hill worked on the Railway. He was a signalman and worked in a large signal box at Exeter Central station beside Queen Street. I remember going into the box and seeing the mass of signal levers and telegraph boxes. All the levers were polished and were pulled using a duster over them. I wasn’t able to pull a signal lever – it required strength and practice. All the brass work gleamed. As Central was an important junction between the Southern and Great Western he had plenty of work to do. I still have his pension book which shows he received £2.13s.0d per week (£2.65p) in 1925 – having just received 10p per week rise!

He was very tall with extra large hands. He had white hair and a white moustache. His shoes were about size 12. He was an easy-going man and always seemed to be bullied by Gran who used to shout at him whenever he spilt his cigarette ash onto the floor. He took it all in good part and never answered back. To make up for the lack of garden he had an allotment off Okehampton Road with a small shed for his tools and I remember how proud he was of his vegetables.

Gran was quite a large lady, kind hearted to us grandchildren and always pleased when we called on her. At Easter there was always an egg for us and at Christmas we would always find a silver threepenny piece in the pudding. All the family used to go to Gran’s at Christmas for a meal and get together. She died of cancer in May,1955, aged 69, and was buried in Exwick Cemetery. Grandad then came to live with us in Barley Mount until he died in 1963, aged 78.

John and Emily HillA young John and Emily Hill..NUR Certificate


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