Ann Swarbrick

Extract from a memoir written by (Margaret) Ann Swarbrick nee Robinson born in 1929 entitled Captain JH Robinson who was her father

In 1939 JHR bought, amongst other provisions, 1cwt [hundredweight] of sugar, a case of safety matches, a quantity of candles and a box of sardines before rationing was imposed (Olaf’s father did the same in Bristol  [her husband Olaf Swarbrick whom she married in 1953]  ). Two land mines fell in the early hours of Good Friday 14th April 1941. One landed about fifty yards from the Barn [where Rubin Ruff sold fruit and vegetables] in a freshly dug onion bed, and went to some depth before exploding, and the other fell into the pond at Manor Farm beside Margaret Robinson’s chickens. This was thought to have saved houses from the blast. No one was killed. The three Walker children, Buster Popeye and Molly, came to Northfields for two nights because of damage to their own house. There was also damage to the house in Church Lane of Stanley Bennett [see Roger Bennett’s memories of the war], a local builder (who built our bungalow in 1955). Part of a ceiling fell onto his son Roger in his cot, whose response was “Mummy, please take me where this isn’t”. Stanley’s teeth were blown out of the glass of water, but the water remained behind. The greenhouses lost all their glass and the crops could not be eaten nor the flowers sold. Frank Collins and Fred Porter reglazed them all, and we do not remember any outside help being used. The secretary left because she could not bear to work in the dust and muddle, and Nadia Robinson (sister-in-law of JHR) stepped in, combining this with being secretary to Eastergate Primary School. It was a daunting job to clear up and start again, but JHR accomplished this. The blast passed over Hubert Andrew’s peachery but took all the glass from Frank Knight’s greenhouses in Fontwell Avenue and his other nursery in Barnham Road.

In the early part of the war after Portsmouth was bombed Edie Sherwood came to Eastergate in 1942 and ran the shop. Reuben [Rubin] Ruff retired and died soon afterwards. Edie married Leslie Diggins before he joined up in 1943. When Edie’s baby was born Ivy Collins (now Green) came down from the nursery and ran the shop until her own daughter, Christine, was born. Then Brenda Denzy came. Fox came as lorry driver for about one year, and about this time Dickie Wingham left Frank Knight and joined JHR as a lorry driver.

Janet [Ann’s sister], aged 15, left school in the summer of 1941 and went to Haltwhistle College, Bognor Regis for a two year mornings-only secretarial course. In the afternoons she worked in the Barn with Nadia Robinson doing the books, wages and sorting sacks etc. From 1943 Janet worked full time and JHR gave her a lot of responsibility including giving orders to the men in the mornings and buying from Covent Garden. Janet clearly remembers the day that she and Dickie took produce to Barnham station and the steering broke. After unloading Janet drove the lorry back to the Barn with Dickie kicking the wheels straight

In 1944, during the build-up for D-Day, there were troops and equipment for the Normandy invasion all along the South Downs through Halnaker, Goodwood and Eartham. They were in all the available farm buildings in the area, including those at Northfields Farm. They all needed food. Just before D-Day the Barn was piled high with root vegetables which went to Normandy.

[Ann Swarbrick died in 2014. The full memoir can be found in the section ‘Manor Farm, the Robinsons and the Helyers’]