Ethel Sparks

The following information was received from Geoff Taylor concerning the Sparks family.

Yapton has always been one of my favourite villages. When I was young I lived in Framlingham in Suffolk and my Aunt, Ethel Sparks, had a large steamrolling business in Yapton with ten steamrollers, living wagons and water carts. She lived in ‘Holmlea’ in Church Road and at the side of the house there was a driveway to the sheds and workshop at the back. Her husband, George, died suddenly in 1926 in the car in Chichester at a rather early age in his mid fifties, and Ethel then carried on the business.

At one time there were ten rollers, each with a living wagon and water cart, repairing roads in Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey and Dorset. When in a neighbouring County, the drivers would live in the caravan during the week and cycle home on Saturday evening, returning on Sunday.

Every summer before leaving school I used to cycle down to Yapton from my home in Framlingham and spend my holidays in Yapton with my Aunt, going out most days on the lorry delivering coal or supplies to the rollers.

Sparks' steam roller

Sadly at the time of Dunkirk all the rollers except one, which was under repair, were commandeered and taken to Dunkirk to tow back our guns and tanks which had run out of petrol with no more available. None ever returned and the whole business ceased to exist. The one remaining roller I traced some years ago to Aldershot and it was in going order then and used at steam rallies.

My Aunt’s house ‘Holmlea’ was very large and had its own electricity supply with an engine and many storage batteries in a shed outside near the kitchen entrance. Every Autumn the concrete outside the kitchen entrance would be covered with green walnuts drying off before pickling, and at the back of ‘Holmlea’ there was a large fruit and vegetable garden.

After the end of the war my Aunt had a bungalow built next door and named it ‘Ivelwade’ to remind her no doubt of her early days as she was born in Biggleswade and the river ‘Ivel’ flows nearby. In her later years she moved to Felpham and then to Bognor Regis.

Geoff Taylor
July 2009

(Originally published in Yapton News, May 2010)

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