This article is the first of a series I am planning on the theme ‘We Grew up in South Buckinghamshire’. These will be by different authors, who will describe their childhood reminiscences as they were growing up in the years after the Second World War.

This week’s article has been kindly provided by Diana Farmbrough, who has recently published a book describing her childhood memories when she lived in Primrose Hill.

Diana writes: I was born in 1944 at Sefton Nursing Home in High Wycombe, and Miss Norbury-Reeve (Matron) signed a £9.3s.0d receipt for the nursing home fees. A year later, my parents bought a between-the-wars bungalow on Primrose Hill at Widmer End. It was called Finchers, and I lived there with my Mum, Sybil, and Dad, Pete, sister Mary, who was one year younger than me, and our mother’s grandfather, who was always called Grampy Rackstraw.


The seven years between 1949 and 1956 when I was a pupil at Hazlemere Church of England School were to dictate the outcome of my future life.

I was one of the first ‘Baby Boomers’. There were a lot of us, and Miss Shippey, our teacher in Junior Three, maintained discipline with a ruler and a slipper. The most frequent offenders, terrible twins Tom and Bob Gomm, were sent to stand under the clock outside the headmaster’s office to wait for the cane.

Our headmaster, Mr Dowell, a tall man with sparse fair hair and a stern manner, recognised that such a large cohort would need to work extra hard to succeed. He joined with our form teacher, Mr Edgerly (a tubby dark-haired man with a strong personality) to prepare the whole class for the 11+ exam. Most of us passed the preliminary, and took the main exam, but despite having reached the required standard, when the results were announced, there were only places for four girls and four boys. The successful pupils went to Wycombe High School or the Royal Grammar School. The remainder of us were simply offered the opportunity to pass the 13+ exam.

I passed the 13+ exam and spent three years at the Lady Verney High School under Miss Billington’s headship. I left school two weeks after my 16th birthday and started secretarial work. Fourteen years later I trained as a legal executive and carved out a career in local government.

Primrose Hill

I lived at Primrose Hill for 10 years. Our parents knew the names of everyone who lived there and their families. Janes’ Farm was at the bottom of the road, and as the hill levelled out, there were five houses on the left and a few more on the right-hand side of the road, surrounded by open fields and thick hedges. At the top of the road were three more farms, Primrose Hill Farm, Hawbushes Farm and Primrose Farm, owned by the Stevens family.

Finchers was the last of three 1930s bungalows on the right after Janes’ orchard. First the Tilley family, then the (Pete) Saunders family, a spare plot of land and then Finchers, our home. Our neighbours on the far side were, like us, a three-generation family of Saunders’. Dolly Corbet’s dog boarding kennels were beyond and the last house on the right was the Pearce family, who still harvested their cherry orchard.

In those days there was very little traffic, we children would play hopscotch or skipping in the road with the three Bennell children: Susan, a pretty girl a year older than me; Jimmy, and Johnny - both younger and with red hair. Our Primrose Hill gang included Alan Tilley, a tubby boy, who always wore clean and tidy clothes.

The Bennell family lived in the first house on the left-hand side of the road. They had a large garden that stretched down into the valley between Primrose Hill and Widmer End. Like us, they kept rabbits, and chickens but had enough land to keep pigs as well and a large vegetable garden.

Just up the road from the Bennells was Mr and Mrs White. He was a Special Constable. They had a telephone and, most importantly, they would allow us to use it, but only in an emergency.

We children would sometimes wander to the top of the road where footpaths led across fields in three directions, each with a stile we could treat as a climbing frame and watch any interesting farming activity that happened to be going on.

On the corner of Primrose Hill and Windmill Lane was a wooden shack behind a high hedge occupied by old Mrs Green. She was a recluse and we watched her with fear and curiosity in equal measure. We tried not to stare, but in all weathers she wore a fur coat, fur boots and felt hat and carried a tattered leather handbag. We could hear her talking to herself as she came along the road, gazing solidly at the road in front of her. We could see her dirt-engrained hands, thick make-up, and haphazard lipstick. The effect was quite frightening. Our parents encouraged us to feel sorry for her, but we continued to be cautious and watch her with uneasy fascination.


When our parents bought Finchers, they knew it was isolated. Our father used a motorbike for travel to and from work at Broome and Wade, and essential supplies, most of which were “on the ration”, were delivered.

There was a regular procession of callers, whose visits to our back door marked the time of the day and days of the week.

Before breakfast our first caller was Doris Austin, our paper girl. She was in her mid-twenties with bobbed hair under a brown beret pulled well down. She delivered papers on the way to her main job as housemaid to Mrs Stevens, the farmer’s wife at the top of the road. Our next caller was Leslie Stevens, the young, go-ahead farmer’s son: he had been up early to milk his cows and brought us five pints a day. Just after breakfast Joan Leigh, our vivacious Postgirl in her smart Post Office uniform with blonde curls peeping round the side of her cap, would bring our letters. They would all stop for a quick word with our mother: she relied on them for all the local news.

During the rest of the week other deliveries arrived, groceries were brought by Mr Kneen from Colins & Baker, whose shop was in Desborough Road, High Wycombe. Bread from Drew’s Bakery, Terriers, came on Tuesdays and Fridays, meat from Potts & Ward, Terriers, on Saturday and Mr Langstone from Holmer Green brought greengrocery on his horse and cart on Thursday - and he called back again on Sundays to sell ice cream.

Shopping in Wycombe

Shopping trips to Wycombe with Mum were not something we did very often. They had to be planned around the bus service which terminated at the foot of Primrose Hill. It ran only four times a day, every three hours from nine o’clock. Failure to catch this service meant an extra 10-minute walk to and from the stop at Cosy Corner, where buses ran every 30 minutes.

In Crendon Street, a visit to Hamblin’s the opticians shop was intimidating and so quiet, we felt we had to talk in whispers. Eye tests, with heavy metal frames and assorted lenses, were something to be endured and escaped from as soon as possible.

Just down the road the smell of disinfectant from the first-floor waiting room of Mr Gibb the dentist filled us with apprehension. His chairside manner only made it worse: “Keep still and stop wriggling. The more you move the more it will hurt.” This was long before the use of local anaesthetic.

Compared to living in the countryside, to us children, High Wycombe was bustling with people and traffic. On market day our mother liked to buy fruit, vegetables and dress material from the stall holders and she would joke with them, but we couldn’t understand their Cockney accents.

No visit to Wycombe was complete without calling at the library. If there was time after we had selected our books, we would cross over to the corner of Easton Street to look in the window of Davy’s Stationers and toy shop. My sister and I would gaze at more toys than we could ever imagine, while Mum kept an eye out for our bus coming round the corner of Queen Victoria Road to take us home.

Would you like to share your childhood memories?

I would love to hear from any readers who would like to share their memories of growing up anywhere in South Buckinghamshire. These memories do not need to be in the form of a finished article. A collection of notes which I can weave into an article of 1,000 to 1,500 words will suffice. You can contact me by email at, or phone me for a preliminary chat on 01628 525207.