By Steve Andrews
Writing - as I do - on Armistice Day. I have tried to find out something about this tiny hamlet and the way in which it reacted to war. With its usual mixture of independence and practicality seems to be the answer.
One of my informants - Ida Wright - was second housemaid at Rothley Temple in 1939. That was then the residence of the Broadhurst family - of Tootal, Broadhurst and Lee. Those of us of a certain maturity will remember Tootal ties as a vital fashion accessory of the late 50s and just-early 60s.
Ida had left her native Tonge for severely practical reasons. She had been in service at Langley Priory where she was expected to spend four hours a day on her knees - not praying, but working. And the Broadhurst of Rothley Temple possessed - wonder of wonders - a Hoover.
In 1939, there was a widespread view that "it would all be over in a few months." Ida, however, planned for a long war. She remembers being struck by how ill-prepared we were. There was not much activity though shelters were built in some schools - "but not at Breedon."
Government literature doesn't seem to have changed much in 60 years. The advice at that time, if the bombs were falling, was to "shut the door and go under the stairs."
Back to Tonge came Ida to help her father on the farm. She remembers the dark days of 1940 but was not particularly frightened because "we all believed what Churchill said." Her father kept a few cows but had never sold the milk because he would have been sacked from his job on a farm had he done so. But the war changed all that and Ida remembers selling the milk as well as "pears in a tin bath along Berry Avenue." The house where Bridget and I now live would have been part of the orchard.
In Station House at that time were the Wakefield family, Mr Wakefield being the stationmaster at Tonge and Breedon. Of the eleven boys and two girls in the family, five of the boys went away to war but they all came back safely. "Brown as berries and with their shirts outside their trousers" reminisces Ida.
No more space here for many other fascinating insights into Tonge life. But if anyone else has any memories, I'd be very pleased indeed to hear them. Priory Chase on Tonge Lane or 'phone 01332 864086.