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Charles Frederick Cull
of Christmas Pie, Normandy
Charles Frederick Cull
A photo of Charles Frederick Cull as a young man, taken in Ghana.

Known affectionately as "Charlie" to most people, Charles Frederick Cull was a highly respected local builder in Normandy, Surrey, but in his brief life he was verily "a man of many parts". Charlie was born in London on March 22nd 1898 and like most men of his generation was conscripted at age 18 years into Military service. He was drafted into the Army and ironically, being a Londoner was placed in the Welsh Regiment, serving in France as a signaler. Unfortunately, and as was the case with most signalers having to signal with their arms above the parapets of the trenches, was shot in the arm and returned to "Blighty" to convalesce at a hospital in the Thornton Heath area where he met and later married in 1920 Ellen Martin, born locally on the 7th November 1899. She worked at various wartime jobs but never worked after she was married.

Following his medical release from the Army in September 1918 Charlie enrolled for a Vocational Training Course at the Eat Ham Technical College, studying Building and Construction eventually finding work with a small non-Union Building Contractor. Within a few years they managed to buy their first house in East Ham, which for a young couple in those hard times was quite an achievement. As a young man Charlie showed the qualities of ambition and determination for not only bettering himself but also owning his own business. These qualities were epitomized between 1925 and 1927 when he worked as a Civil Engineer for the General Engineering and Construction Company (known as GECCO) on the Gold Coast (now Ghana). His drive was to save sufficient money to start his own business.

Charles Frederick Cull at Littledown c1929
This was taken soon after Charlie started in business, probably around the late nineteen twenties. The car is a Clyno which he purchased from the family who lived just around the corner from Christmas Pie on the way up to the Hogs Back. The owner had obviously lost a lot of. money as he committed suicide when the depression hit. The family were selling off everything.

In 1928 the East Ham house was sold and the bungalow "Littledown", Flexford Road was purchased together with the associated Building Business, Goodwill, Yard and five acres of land. By then the effects of "The Depression" throughout the country were being felt also in the countryside and work within the building business was slowing, so when he war offered another contract to go back to the Gold Coast in 1930 he accepted with the intention of going for at least another two years. Unfortunately the depression deepened and GECCO withdrew the offer of a contract. Charles was obliged to slowly build up the business in Normandy carrying out repairs, and building the occasional bungalow. As the economy improved so the business prospered.

Ellen Cull at Littledown
This is a photo of "Littledown" with Ellen Cull

From being an overseas civil engineer, constructing million-pound works abroad, Charlie found doing small building jobs was somewhat frustrating until Bill Olley of Glaziers Lane suggested building an estate of bungalows. One night Charlie and Bill sat down and sketched a plan of the proposed estate. Charlie was a good draughtsman and Bill a good businessman. Subsequently, in the late 1930s, Charlie bought land in Normandy at Christmas Pie and Flexford that had been occupied previously by chicken farms and small orchards and began to build a housing estate.

To start the development Charlie created an access from Flexford Road through the side garden of a property (then in Flexford Road but now 2 Christmas Pie Avenue). The new road was firstly named Flexford Close but much later was renamed Christmas Pie Avenue. To ensure adequate width for the new road, the west end part of the property was carefully removed and the front door, previously facing Flexford Road, was reinstalled in the newly constructed rear of the dwelling but now opening onto the new road Flexford Close. In about 1933 the present "Yeolan" in Flexford Road, was subsequently built in the front garden of that property.

Click on map to see an enlargement

Map of Station Road c.1939.

Click on map to see an enlargement

The proximity of Wanborough Station, with its easy rail access to Guildford (and hence London), Reading and Redhill made these new properties an attractive purchase proposition to people referred to today as "commuters". To provide an alternative access to the rapidly developing estate, "Maywood" in Station Road (now named Glaziers Lane) was demolished and the recovered land together with part of the garden of "Rose Cottage" was used for the construction of a new road. The newly constructed road was subsequently named Culls Road thus commemorating and perpetuating Charlie's name.

Behind their bungalow "Littledown", Charlie had improved the builder's yard, joinery shop, glazing shop and paint shop to accommodate a workforce that varied from 25 to 60. His business office was a purpose built extension to the right-hand-side of their bungalow, accessed off the track to the workshops and store buildings. Soon Charlie was selling the bungalows before he'd finished building them and at £500 each he would have a dwelling ready to move into within 12 weeks. Development slowed as the country entered 1939.

At the start of the Second World War, Charlie's business like many small businesses faltered and others collapsed as materials were diverted to the war effort. In addition most of his employees were called-up for Military Service, an experience he knew only too well. However he was able to get supplies to build Air Raid Shelters and was subsequently included on the list of approved contractors for the War Department Contracts, one of which was to build the BBC blockhouse in Culls Road near its junction Christmaspie Avenue and where Richard Dimbleby, the BBC Commentator, made his historical broadcast announcing the invasion of Europe by Allied Forces, the occasion commemorated by a plaque. The first Air Raid Shelter was built in Charlie's own garden and another in "Downton", Green Lane East, then called Christmas Pie Road, the home of the Edwards family.

Charlie joined the Home Guard and spent many nights "Guarding the Home Front". In those early days there was the occasional false alarm but on one memorable night (not to be easily forgotten by the family), someone at the Aldershot Military Command mistakenly pressed the button for "Invader Alert". Canon Tapsfield, the Vicar at St Mark's Wyke rushed into the church in his pyjamas and hung on to the Church Bell for what seemed like forever. Charlie donned his Home Guard Uniform, his daughter Nellie donned her Red Cross uniform the family said their tearful goodbyes and departed into the night, thinking that they might never meet again, only to be reunited the next morning!

Charlie and Ellen had two children namely Nellie Susan and Gordon, both of whom attended the local Wanborough School between 1928 and 1934 and Gordon to 1937, both often walking to school with the Head Teacher, who lived nearby. During WWII Nellie (but preferred to be called Susan), served in the Woman’s Auxiliary Air Force from 1941, where she met Joseph Griffith, a Canadian who had enlisted in the RAF at the outbreak of the war, and later married at St Mark’s, Church Wyke, then an (Airline Navigator), of Manitoba Canada on the 25th October 1947.

Charlie Cull and his employees
Taken when Charlie Cull took all his employees for an outing to the Coast. A common -practice in the nineteen-thirties, interrupted by the war, but resumed afterwards - date approximately 1950. Charlie is second from the left. The first on the left is Georgie Beer also from a Normandy family who lived down Station Road. He was Deaf and Dumb and my Father employed him as a Carpenter and general Handyman.

With the cessation of hostilities Charlie continued to build bungalows in Flexford Close. He drove everywhere in a van on which was the slogan "There goes Cull of Christmas Pie". Always the business man at heart, Charlie constructed tennis courts behind the bungalow that were available for hire at one shilling per hour but as local interest in the use of the courts waned he converted them into a model speedway track on which the cars, attached by a wire to a central post, attained speeds of up to 74.5mph. Charlie was aided and abetted in this enterprise by an engineer C E Smith, then residing at "Gradatim", now known as "Applewood", Flexford Road. That courts-cum-track area has since been developed to accommodate four bungalows: Dalmally, Muskerry, Nutmegs and Yuletide

The News Chronicle of 1954 advertised a competition, the prize for which was a bungalow valued at £2500, believed designed by Miss Judith G Ledeboer. The competition was won by Jack and Kath Bryant and Charlie was chosen to build the bungalow that was later named "Karenza" by Jack and Kath, now 27 Culls Road, Normandy

Shortly thereafter, Charlie purchased a pair of dilapidated farm cottages, which he promptly restored, on the edge of Farnham Park and accessed off a Right of Way to the Park. However, Ellen felt very isolated living there and so in the 1950s Charlie built a house in West Street Selsey and named it 'Christmas Pie House'. But regrettably Ellen, by now suffering with Arthritis, persuaded Charlie to move away from the sea and to move back to "Littledown", which they did, but sadly at age 60 years Charlie died of a heart attack on the 10th June 1958.

Following his death, Ellen endeavoured to manage the business but eventually sold to a competitor (albeit a good friend of the family), C G Robertson of Guildford and moved to Hambrook in Sussex where she stayed for several years but finally moved to Tadley in Hampshire to be near her son Gordon and his family. Ellen died at age 75 years in the Basingstoke Hospital on the 7th September 1975.

P T Blakiston

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