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from Normandy
Miss Dorothy Applebee
(1925 - 2010)

Few, if any, in Normandy would not have been touched by her gentleness and kindness during her active adult life in the affairs of the village, be it in the Glaziers Lane sub-post office, the Congregational Chapel or Sunday School. Equally, she will be remembered for her notable and adult life companion, Robert Vernon Hammond ("Bob"). They cycled together around the village, sharing their respective responsibilities in charitable and voluntary activities.

Dorothy was born in 1925 to farming folk near Petersfield, but in 1929 her father moved with his small family to Fairview Farm Normandy to take up the position of "Cowman" and was allotted one half of a nearby tied cottage. Dorothy and her parents later moved to the nearby cottage "Sunbeam", Guildford Road on the corner of Wells Lane.

It was fairly common in the early 1930s for water to be drawn from wells but Dorothy, as a young child, was severely ill and the Doctor advised that drinking water be obtained from the farm. Later water was extended to the nearby cow sheds but not to the cottage. However, the distance father had to carry the water was halved! Of interest - although many properties (but not all), had mains water connected at that time, main-drainage to the village was not available until 1965.

Class of 8 year olds at Wyke School 1934
Photo of the class of 8 year olds at Wyke School 1934 with teacher Miss Kent and Headmaster Mr Smith, Dorothy is the one with Mr Smith's hand on her shoulder
Wyke School 1936
Wyke School 1936 - Dorothy is in back row, standing 4th from left
Wyke School 1938
Wyke School 1938 - Dorothy is standing 2nd from right

As was then normal, Dorothy started school at 5 years of age and left in 1939 when she was 14 years of age. Initially, she had an offer of a job at a shop in Guildford but her parents didn't like the idea of her going all that way every day. They were relieved, therefore, when Mr and Mrs Mills offered her a job at their Glaziers Lane Sub Post Office.

She wasn't allowed to work in the Post Office proper until she was 16 years of age; so she delivered telegrams, of which there were many in those days, since few house-holders could afford the luxury of a telephone! Hence her initiation to the bicycle. She was obliged to buy this herself and learn to ride to help speed-up delivery of the telegrams and save her feet! She delivered telegrams as far afield as Pond Hill and Wood Street.

It was a seven day a week job (telegrams then were delivered also from 9am to 10am on Sunday mornings). She received 5/- a week plus dinner and tea, albeit she had a half day off on Wednesdays but on other days Dorothy worked from 8am to 6:30pm. She liked the work and in a short time showed that she was a diligent operative in the affairs of the post office. Subsequently, her father suggested that she should ask for a raise; so, when she finally plucked up courage to do it, Mr. Mills agreed to pay her 8/- a week, but she was obliged to go home for her dinner since that had been part of her then wages!

Mrs Harris with Dorothy
Mrs Harris with Dorothy outside the Normandy sub-Post Office

During her time at the Normandy Sub Post Office it was several times the target for armed robbers and Dorothy won two bravery awards in the 1980s for her courage, one of which involved grappling with a raider, armed with a sawn-off shotgun! The last attack on the post office was featured on the BBC's "Crimewatch" TV programme; Hunts Hill Road was closed to enable a reconstruction of the event.

Normandy Post Office, about 1967
Normandy Post Office, about 1967

Normandy Congregational Chapel at Willey Green

During the 1939 - 1945 war years, Dorothy took over the playing of the organ at the Congregational Chapel, Willey Green, from William Fooks, who at that time was obliged to enlist, relinquishing her duties to him on his return from the Army. William provided organ music for services until his death in 1974 when, once again, Dorothy took over that duty for the congregation, in addition to that of Sunday School Teacher in the 1960s.

Sunday School 1951
Normandy Congregational Chapel - Sunday School 1951
with Dorothy Applebee at the back
Click on Board to see an Enlargement A tea party at the Chapel in 1953
A tea party at the Chapel in 1953, Dorothy Applebee is second from the left,
the gentleman sitting to her left is Mr William (Bill) Fooks.
(Click on Board to see an Enlargement)

In 1975 the Chapel celebrated its150th anniversary, following which, it was obvious that the seating capacity for 60 was inadequate to accommodate those wishing to attend the normal Sunday Service. Since the site was much too small for further development an opportunity to acquire and re-develop the defunct Telephone Exchange, Glaziers Lane and associated land came their way, and so, in 1985 the Congregation re-locateded to its new premises with the title - The Emmanuel United Reformed Church since the Congregationalists had amalgamated with the Presbyterians to form "The United Reformed Church" - normally abreviated to URC.

Over a lifetime of service to the Sub Post Office in Glaziers Lane, Dorothy acquired a wonderful knowledge of most people, house names and the "little known out of the way properties" in and around the village.

During the 1990's and onward, Dorothy willingly offered her 'organ playing' services to help out at Worplesdon United Reformed Church when the 'regulars' could not play. Being Dorothy, she soon made more friends and eventually transferred her membership from Normandy U.R.C. where after her death a Thanksgiving Service and reception for her life was held, and later a Bible Reading board was placed in Worplesdon church in Dorothy's memory by a life-long friend, Winifred Greenwood.

In 1999 Dorothy moved from "Sunbeam" to a nearby bungalow "Fleetwood", also on the Guildford Road. In her last few years, Dorothy had to give up her bicycle riding but enjoyed the company of a member of the Worplesdon church for occasional trips to surgery and hospital and there were numerous invitations to and fro for lunch and tea on a Sunday. Dorothy became a formidable Scrabble player, even with her poor eyesight, and enjoyed daily crossword puzzles. She also took a great interest in her garden, helping her friends plant bulbs and flowers in pots on her patio to provide a riot of colour. She was a very independent lady, but a truly good friend to many.

Dorothy enjoyed life at "Fleetwood" and had many visitors who enjoyed her homely hospitality. She died in 2010 after a short illness.

P T Blakiston

Also see
Normandy Post Office
Normandy Congregational Chapel
Emmanuel Free Church (United Reformed Church)

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