Interview with Reg Whant (by Pam Haseltine), 12 Charnham Street, Hungerford. 3rd Aug 1992
Reg was born at Poughley in 1896. He was one of about a dozen children, of whom only 7 survived - 6 boys and a girl. His father was a coachman. When Reg was quite a young boy he was made to ride as ins father wanted him to work with horses too, but young Reg kept falling off so decided that line was not for him.
He went to Wickham and Chilton Foliat elementary schools and on leaving school at the age of 12 became a garden boy for 2/6d (12½p) a week. If a boy reached the top wage of 10/- a week he was dismissed and a younger, cheaper lad took his place.
Reg tried any job he could get in the area including collecting stones off the fields for making up the roads. All the roads were gravel or flint-stone at the turn of the century. The stones would be gathered up and left in heaps in the fields. A horse-drawn truck would then collect them and dump them along the side of the road. The road men would then come along with a heavy sledge hammer, split the flints and make up the roads. Each road man had a specified length to look after - that meant keeping the road surface in good order and keeping the verges cut and tidy.
When he was 16 Reg joined the Territorial Army and was camping with his unit at Marlow when war was declared in August 1914-. He was immediately recruited into the Royal Berkshire Regiment, although he was not quite 18. He never actually went to France, instead his regiment was sent to Ireland to quell the uprisings there. Reg said it was hopeless trying to stop the Irish fighting. They never did stop and never will!
When he was demobbed at the end of the war jobs were very difficult to come by and he tried his hand at many things. Finally, after putting an advertisement in the local paper, he landed a job as under gardener to a Major Burminster near Andover. Later he worked for some people called Oliphant at Warminster. Finally in 1940 he became gardener at Riverside, Hungerford, the home of Dr. James.
Riverside was originally a tanning works and it is reputed that the outline of the tanning vats can still be seen in the garden. Reg remembers Mr. Clifford demolishing the very tall chimney of the works there. Riverside is now an antiques shop but the lady who runs it does not live there so Reg says the garden is not nearly so neat and tidy as when he worked there. He stayed there for 36 years and retired at the age of 80.
When he worked at Riverside he and his wife lived in a house at the top end of the High Street, near the Borough Arms (now the Tuttiman). They had one adopted daughter who is now married so Reg, now a widower, lives with his sister.
Not having any particular skill, Reg never earned big wages and up to the end of World War II his pay was never more than £2 per week out of which he had to pay 11/- rent. He is probably better off now than he has ever been, with his state pension and also an additional pension from a gardeners' organisation. He leads a quiet life but manages to slip down to the pub for a whisky once or twice a week. He says this is what keeps him going.