Oxshott’s Past – Ayling’s Corner - Then and Now (Oxdowne Close)
For many years this oil painting has been just 'hanging around' largely un-noticed. It was painted by my father Reg Jones, an amateur artist who used to live and work at Ayling's Farm and occasionally liked to get his brushes out. It is only now that, despite its skewed perspective, I am beginning to see a simple charm about the scene.
It doesn't seem that long ago when the junction of Oxdowne Close, Blundel Lane and Littleheath Lane was known as Ayling's Corner. The Ayling's were the family farming at Little Heath Farm, certainly to my knowledge in the 30's, 40's and 50's. They lived in the farm house which is the building on the right. The buildings to the left are the cow sheds. Twice a day the gates to the yard opened and disgorged the herd of lumbering dairy cows. They were driven down Blundel Lane and out into the fields by Ted Jones (no relation) the cowman for many years. Ted also handled the heavy horses which also were a familiar sight pulling carts and ploughs etc up and down the lanes.
Beyond the cowsheds you can see the barn and the rick yard echoing the sound of the single cylinder engine (which had dodgy bearings and missed every fifth stroke) driving the 'elevator', a lethal piece of kit which elevated the hay and straw bales on spikes up and over and onto the hay rick, the bales having been 'pitch forked' onto the elevator from the hay cart.
At harvest time 'the thresher' appeared in the rick yard hauled by a steam traction engine which doubled up as a power unit to drive the beast with a flailing leather belt. Beyond the rick yard is a pair of cottages called surprisingly 'Little Heath Farm Cottages' where I was born and bombed (see Fedora Magazine Spring 2014). Beyond the cottages is Banjo Hussey's yard and opposite Banjo lives ............................?
This particular view is looking into what is now Oxdowne Close from the corner, the gas lamp illuminating the scene. As far as I remember those trees were Elm trees, sadly now no longer. Behind you is where Jack Brown lived who, along with his family, ran Brown's Shop on Brown's Corner providing the neighbourhood with everything from Woodbines and Weights to ham, eggs and honey, not forgetting R White's Lemonade and Walls Ice Cream 'in a block' about 6 inches x 4 inches x 2 inches.
As far as I recall this scene was painted from memory in the late 60’s probably reflecting the darkness of the war years and also a more hopeful vision indicated by the blanket of snow illuminated in the gas light. If you turn your head to the left you will see, and hear, the level crossing gates clanking open. The level crossing was known as Cooke's Crossing after the founder of the brick yard or O.B.C. (Oxshott Brick Company). The crossing gates are being operated by hand by the signal man winding furiously in his signal box opening and closing the gates. In those days there was a third railway track from the station into the brick yard to allow the coal trucks in and take the finished bricks out. The chimney, dominating the scene, was built right in the middle of what is now Somerville Road.
You will also see the electric trains (with the 'slam doors', leather window pulls and ladies compartments) charging back and forth carrying us school kids and commuters up to Waterloo in thirty minutes flat! Just over the crossing past the brick yard entrance, past Charlie Redding leaning on his gate you will see tucked under the trees George Ackerman in his dingy wooden shack feverishly marking up newspapers and comics ready to be delivered around Oxshott by yours truly, and others, all for two bob a week or half a crown if you delivered on Sundays. On the morning of Friday April 14th 1950 the revolutionary EAGLE comic appeared for the first time in my paper bag destined for the fortunate few but George didn’t allow us to read somebody else’s EAGLE under the gas lamp at Ayling’s Corner!
Bob Jones 2015
Twice a day the herd of cows were driven down Blundel Lane and back again for milking.
Be careful when cycling round the corner, it could be a touch slippery!