BADSEY VETERANS – A SEASON OF BIRTHDAYS
Age shall not wither them, Nor custom stale their infinite variety.
The pleasant village of Badsey might well be described as one which is the peaceful abode of multitudes of veterans, to whom Shakespeare’s (adapted) words most suitably apply. Of the total inhabitants of something over 1,100 there are no less than 46 who are over 70 years of age, and of these at least 20 are in, or have passed, their 80th year.
Scenting a challenging note from other villages in the Four Shires district, we hasten to add that it is not solely the remarkable longevity of these people which warrants their story appearing in a journal that invariably contains some account of an old inhabitant or a couple long wedded, but the notable fact that so many of them enjoy splendid health and are able to pursue their daily round with marked interest, vitality and pleasure.
Perhaps there is a secret recipe for securing happiness at 80, for an old French proverb says: “Few people know how to be old”, and it seems possible therefore that the Badsey folk of whom we write confute this saying, for it is very evident that their love of life has increased with years.
SIR JULIUS SLADDEN 80
Of this happy band of people who have passed the Psalmist’s allotted span, two – jocularly referred to as Badsey’s two “Knights” – celebrated their birthdays on Saturday. Sir Julius Sladden was 80, and Mr Edwin Knight was 83. In honour of the happy anniversary an excellent peal was rung on the bells of St James’ Church on Saturday afternoon by a band containing a good number of the local ringers, to use the Vicar’s words (reported below), and no two people in the parish are better deserving of a peal on the Badsey bells. Why? The reasons are that Sir Julius during his long office as churchwarden has always taken a deep interest in the fabric of the parish church, especially the bells (a reference to which appears in “Looking Back”, for 25 years ago), and Mr Edwin Knight, on the other hand, is one of the oldest members of the local band of ringers; he rang in a peal on his 80th birthday, and is a regular churchgoer. Details of Saturday’s peal are given below.
There is another old acquaintance of Sir Julius’ who celebrated his 80th birthday during the weekend, namely, Mr James Herbert, his gardener, who was 80 on Sunday. Mr Herbert is a well-known figure in the village. Here is a pen picture of the conclusion of a talk between Sir Julius and his gardener: “Now, Herbert, you must allow me to know better than you; I am the elder.” “Yes, sir,” replies Herbert with a smile, “but only a day.” And on the morrow Mr Herbert comes up smiling with the hearty rejoinder: “And now I have caught up with Sir Julius again.”
On the following day, Monday, Mr John Keen was 75, and like the three former he is a picture of health. A brother of Mr Edwin Knight – Mr William Knight – is 81 years old, and he too, goes about his work on the land with the same amount of vigour and contentedness, which latter at such an age is the essence of happiness. Another well-known figure, who “still hath a colt’s tooth in his head”, is Mr William Mustoe, who is in his 86th year.
TRIBUTES AT RINGERS’ GATHERING
Following Saturday’s peal the ringers were entertained to tea, together with Sir Julius and Mr E Knight, by Mr & Mrs J E Knight, at Fair View. At the end of the meal, the Vicar (the Rev W C Allsebrook, RD) ably voiced the feelings of the gathered in the time-honoured expression to the two guests of “many happy returns of the day”. It was 49 years, he said, since Sir Julius came to the parish, and Mr Knight had been in the village for the greater part of his life, and both had ever taken a deep interest in the church, and especially the bells. He congratulated Sir Julius on having the whole of his family with him on his birthday, an event which must have given him great joy.
Voicing a hearty response, Sir Julius said he was gratified by their kindness in ringing such a splendid peal. From the moment he set foot in Badsey he had always received kindness, and with the exception of the loss of his dear wife in 1916, the lines had fallen on him in pleasant places. He thanked all the inhabitants for those kindnesses.
Mr C A Binyon, after adding his congratulations, thanked Mr & Mrs J E Knight and Mrs J Pethard for the delightfully served tea. Referring to the ringing of the peal, he warmly thanked Mr J D Johnson, of Hampton, for the ever-ready way in which he came to assist them. They welcomed him as Ringer Master of the Branch and as a great friend. He congratulated Mr Pethard on getting his first peal and Messrs Arthur Taylor and Ernest Withers on ringing their first on an “inside” bell. (Applause.)
Mr Johnson returned thanks and expressed the pleasure it gave him to be with them.
A few changes on the hand-bells and some hymns and old-time airs were then given by members of the party.
HAPPY GATHERING AT SEWARD HOUSE
To celebrate his 80th birthday, Sir Julius issued a welcome to all the people over 70 in the parish to take tea with him on Tuesday. It proved to be a very happy gathering, 30 of the 46 responding and enjoying a delightful evening. The oldest person present was Mrs Griffen, who will be 87 in November, and who is the eldest of five generations now living. Mr William Mustoe and Mr Joe Marshall came, both being 85, while Mr William Brewer, of Chalcroft, is 84. The average age of those present is 76, which figure would have been increased a little had all over 70 been present.
Responding to the Vicar’s good wishes, Sir Julius said he was delighted to see them all, and hoped they would all have health and happiness in the years before them. They had always been good neighbours in Badsey, and were proud of their village. (Applause.)
THE BIRTHDAY PEAL
Following are the ringers who were engaged in the birthday peal: Messrs J J Pethard treble, A J Taylor 2, W D Sparrow 3, J C Perkins (Bretforton) 4, C A Binyon (conductor) 5, J D Johnson (Hampton) 6, E Withers 7, George Moisey tenor. Method: “Grandsire” Triples, 5,040 changes. Tenor 17 cwt. The peal lasted 3 hours and 3 minutes, and the striking was very good.
In addition to a host of congratulatory messages, both verbal and by letter and wire, from parishioners, Sir Julius received many expressions of good wishes from numerous friends all over the country. The former included messages from the Evesham Division of the Conservative and Unionist Association (of which he is chairman), from the seven cottage tenants at Badsey (signed on their behalf by Mrs A Keen), from the Badsey Flower Show Committee, etc. Gifts included a collection of choice carnations and other fine blooms from Mr Joe Marshall, the 85-year-old gardener, which decorated the dining tables during the day.
Sir Julius Sladden comes of an old Kentish family which can be traced back to the reign of Richard II at Lyminge. He himself was born at Ash, near Sandwich, and came to Badsey in 1878. He has four sons – Mr John (London), Dr Arthur (Swansea), Mr George (London) and Major Cyril Sladden, DSO, MC (Eton); and four daughters – Misses May, Kathleen, Ethel and Juliet Sladden. There are nine grandchildren, who, together, with their parents, were all present at the birthday celebrations. Incidentally on Sunday morning there were 16 Sladdens at church.
At 80 the personality of Sir Julius, who was knighted just one and a half years ago, is as bright as ever and his wit as keen. No one could wish for better health than that which he enjoys, health that enables him to take a particularly deep interest in his business and in his public work, and that enables him to cycle to and from Evesham. Outside his business, politics and floriculture occupy much of his time.