Tuesday 26 April 1988

Smallbrook Farm, Warminster, 1905-1965 Review


History writer Danny Howell admits he’s cashing in on the “nostalgia boom.” But the 32-year-old bachelor is adamant that not even a million pound book deal would lure him away from his native Warminster.

Tomorrow his fifth work, Smallbrook Farm 1905-1965, will be published at a price of £3.50 and as a limited edition of only 400 copies - though already some 300 have been ordered.

“I’ll be honest, I’m catering for the nostalgia market, which is booming,” Danny told the Advertiser. I’ve got a captive audience. At the moment I earn enough money writing about local history to survive. Some people like the high life. But I love Warminster. I’ve got roots here. I only live 500 yards away from where I was born. It’s quiet and peaceful.”

Danny’s new book, all about life down on the farm, records a part of the town which no longer exists. For Smallbrook Farm is now occupied by the Prestbury Park housing estate.

Danny’s 92 pages of local history contain conversations he had with Bert Dowding, the last to farm the land, and Bert’s sister Beatrice Young. Both Bert and Beatrice live only yards from their childhood home. They recall the time when milk was a penny a pint and if it was cold they thought it wasn’t fresh.

“The Dowding family kept a dairy herd of 25 Shorthorn cows,” Danny explained. “And up until the First World War, the milk was delivered direct to customers’ doors along the Boreham Road and was dipped, unspecialized, out of a churn on the back of a horse-drawn cart, and into cans left on the doorstep. “Customers complained if it wasn’t delivered warm - they thought cold milk wasn’t fresh.”

Smallbrook Farm 1905-1965 also highlights Warminster’s heydays of the cattle market, the arrival of Clark’s shoe factory and the building of Beckford Lodge.

“Warminster was based on agriculture, then it became a garrison town and now we’re having to look to tourism,” said Danny who lives in The Dene and is the youngest member of the local history group.

The West Wiltshire Advertiser, Thursday 7 April 1988.