My family had moved from the Lime Tree council estate in Northolt, West London to a small village called Ilton in the heart of rural Somerset in 1967, when I was 8 years old. My parents bought the house from my Dad’s brother Bert and my brothers John and Mark, myself and my sister Anne all lived there. My Mum’s parents Nan and Granddad moved with us and lived in the house next door. The house was a 3-bedroom end terraced, that in time had an extension built on to make it 5 bed roomed. At the end of the garden was the local recreation ground, including a football pitch.
Ilton is a small rural village, predominately built in a square around the recreation ground with most of the houses, both council and private, having been built since the Second World War. Whilst there were a few thatched houses, an old church and a large orchard, it is far from the idyllic image of village greens, pretty thatched roof cottages and trailing wisteria imagined of many country villages. Prior to this it had been a very small farming hamlet, with most residents being in the employ of the local squire who had a large manor house overlooking the village green and pub, the Wyndham Arms.
Ilton is 4 miles away from the nearest town, Ilminster and over ten miles away from the county town of Somerset, Taunton. During the Second World War a big aerodrome was built about one mile away from the village. Except for a small part that is used for RAF helicopter training, the rest of the aerodrome was abandoned and run down. except for the gypsies that is. Over the years a semi permanent and growing gypsy camp sprang up on the aerodrome, resulting in a growing influence from the gypsies in all aspects of village life.
Whilst there were a number of outsiders in the village in 1967, an outsider in the village was considered as someone who came from a neighbouring village. The Spiller and Crabb family who dominated the village didn’t take too kindly to a large, noisy cockney family invading their village. It seemed that over 75% of the village population was either a Spiller or a Crabb with many of them married to each other. After a very short time we gave up trying to work out the inter family relationships between them all. .”Ahh”, would begin Bob Crabb in his slow Somerset burr when asked about a particular individual, “ now his mother be the sister of Jack Spiller who be married to her Auntie Doris, so whilst he is be a Crabb in name he really be more of a Spiller, blood like, do you see”.