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Stories From Local Voices
The Oral History Project: Tony Holmes

Tony Holmes was born in Steyning in 1929. He started working for the family firm of coal merchants, E. Holmes & Sons, when he was fifteen during the Second World War.

Tony Holmes

Dad was having difficulty finding carters 'cos we had quite a few horses. It's not a very good job, cartering, because you've got to get up early in the morning to feed the horses before you go to work.

So he said to me: "Tony, I can't find a sensible bloke to work the horses. Would you mind leaving school early?" And so, no, I wouldn't mind at all! Because I was only fifteen, and we should have gone to sixteen. Anyway, he wangled it somehow or other, and I started working for him.

I loved it. I just loved working those horses. They were kept in Charlton Street and in the fields. The most I can ever remember is ten. We used to sub-contract to the Council because in those days the County Council didn't have vehicles of their own. They would ring up the previous afternoon and say, "Can we have three horses and carts" or something like that.

You would load up a horse trolley with a ton of coal, and you'd go out selling it from house to house. [Some houses] would take a delivery of half a ton, fifteen hundredweight. And when I was fifteen, I was carrying hundredweights of coal. I could do it then, and by the time I was seventeen I was carrying two and a quarter hundredweight.

And this old boy used to give me a penny. I used to carry ten hundredweight of coal in, and he would give me a penny. He said "I know it's not much, but if every one of your customers gave you a penny, you would be well off." He was right, because it was 240 pence to the pound (£) in those days.

[Three firms of coal merchants shared the coal yard at Steyning Station]. You had steam in those days. Steam engines. At three o'clock he would come in and shunt the empty trucks out, and full trucks in. And everybody was cursing because you had the coal set up in the truck all nice and tidy, and he would come and shunt it and shake it all over the track again. But there were three [railway] sidings I think.


See more local voices


Tony Holmes
During WWII, Tony worked with
horses for the coal merchants
E. Holmes & Sons.

Christopher Passmore
Just after WWII, Christopher drove
sheep from Applesham Farm
across the Downs to Findon Fair.

Geoffrey Chalcraft
Geoffrey delayed his National
Service because he had an
apprenticeship as a TV engineer.

Tony Holmes
Tony was at school when a bomb
dropped on Church Street. He saw
the scene shortly afterwards.


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