Many people find their forever home, or the place they most want to live, relatively early in life, but Rooftop tenant Lee Barnett holds the record for being our customer for the longest. This May he turns 92 years young, and Ashton Under Hill has been home for all of those years. You may see him out and about on his bicycle or carrying his shopping home in his rucksack as he gets off the bus.
He was born in 1927 in a house on Elmley Road. He has a rent book that showed the house cost 12 shillings a week.
Then in 1975 he moved to the bungalows just down the road, that Rooftop inherited from the local authority. He is the youngest of 9 children; all 5 of his older brothers went to fight in WWII and happily all returned safely.
His father was a carter, in charge of a team of horses and Lee remembers they had big gardens where they grew a lot of their own vegetables, which were a god send during the war. He remembers with little fondness the whale meat sausages that were part of the ration pack. Thankfully the odd rabbit they were able to catch satisfied their need for protein.
Ashton Under Hill was quite a different place when he was a child. The railway still stopped in the village and the surrounding land was a centre for market gardening. Lee went to the village school, then to Bredon Senior Hancocks School. He left when he was 14 and worked for the grower, Archer.
He used to know everybody in Ashton Under Hill and says they were all hard workers but also tried to squeeze in a bit of fun. If he wasn’t using the local train to get out and about, there was always the “Brown Eagle”, the bus that would drive out to surrounding villages or Evesham. He said the driver would never leave anyone behind so there were times when they were squashed in like sardines, probably not allowable under modern health and safety laws!
Before long, Lee wanted his own set of wheels and was a big fan of motorbikes. He remembers buying his first at “Colters” on Port Street in Evesham. It was a second hand BSA 250 and cost him £80, half the price of a new one.
If he wasn’t market gardening or out on his motorbike, Lee would be watching boxing or playing darts. He’s still a fan of boxing and avidly reads his Boxing News. The Turpin Brothers were famous in Lee’s youth and he’d travel to Cheltenham Town Hall or Gloucester Baths for the big fight.
In 1951, Randolph Turpin, a little known rank outsider at the time, became the World Middle Weight Champion, unexpectedly beating the title holder, Sugar Ray Robinson. Lee also remembers Dick Turpin, who became British champion.
Nowadays he prefers to stay in and read. He still grows his own vegetables and has lovely neat rows of broad beans and potatoes. He’s swapped motorised wheels for a trusty bicycle so keep an eye out for him if you’re in Ashton Under Hill.
He’s an absolute delight to have as a customer and his home is immaculate.
Lee officially holds the title of Longest Serving Tenant...happy birthday Mr Barnett.