Hayling Island writer shares 'amusing' childhood tales from 1950s rural life in new book hoped to help others unlock their own memories

REAL stories from one man’s childhood have helped to inspire a book of humorous tales based on 1950s village life.

By Hollie Busby
Wednesday, 9th March 2022, 4:10 pm

Peter Wells, who lives in Hayling Island, says his tales from Banstead Urchins are looked at through the eyes of a small boy who gets up to mischief, set in the rural Surrey village of Banstead.

He hopes the book will give a good representation of rural life in any town or village in the country of when dilapidated and abandoned buildings became play areas and sites for discovery after the Second World War.

One of his tales, based on his 10-year-old self, casts back to a time he pinched eggs from a farmers’ chicken field in the village with his ‘gang’ of mates who had big plans to go back to their camp - a hollow tree – to boil them over a fire.

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Hayling Island author Peter Wells.

However, on returning home to pick up utensils for the feast, Peter let it slip to his mother that he knew the perfect place to find eggs so she could make a cake – on the farmer’s land.

Another of Peter’s stories follows the group of friends as they discover a box of gleaming blue crystals that they have to prize open with a pen knife. One of the friends ran off with them down the high street which Peter says ‘caused chaos’ across the local community.

The 74-year-old said: ‘The tales are based around when I was in junior school. I wanted to write a collection of my stories that’s written in a way that’s humorous and appeals to all ages.

‘Like many people’s tales and stories, they can be stored in one’s mind only to be recalled and told when a suitable situation arises.

‘This indeed was the catalyst of ‘Banstead Urchins’.

‘Having lived in Banstead village for the first 25 years of my life, my developing body and brain enjoyed all the fruits of childhood. When I finally left the village to further my career, and have a family it was like the shutter of a camera closing on that wonderful start in life, securing memories as they had happened.

‘I also wanted to write the piece using my now heavily, ingrained cynicism, sarcasm, and scepticism which I understand many older people are renown for!’

Peter put pen to paper at the start of 2021. As a former resident, he’d often log on to the Banstead History Research Group website – an organisation that documents the village’s local history – to answer people’s questions or queries on the area.

One day, he took a leap of faith and decided to write in with one of his childhood tales. The amusing recollection was so well-received that the editor asked Peter to send him more.

Peter said: ‘They put it to their committee because they normally publish factual books around Banstead and the area there, which takes many months of research.

‘To take mine on was going off piece really because mine's more folklore about these youngsters.

‘While I was sending them they were being proof read by the group’s ex-journalists and ex-printers and we were putting illustrations with them.

‘We gradually built them up like that. They took to proofreading in the traditional way.’

Peter’s book is the perfect way to pass on memories of rural living in the ‘50s through the eyes of friends and family.

‘Several people of my age have given their feedback and they've said, "I can remember that". A few people have read it, bought it, and passed it on to their grandparents and their mothers and fathers. It's spread that way as well,’ he explains.

Banstead Urchins is available from The Hayling Island Bookshop and online via Banstead History Sales, costing £7.99.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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