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Rex Champion

''Stoke's Biggest Builder' - if you live in a house that is older than about 50 years, chances are that Rex will have done some work there. These are a few of his comments, written down in February 2012. Rex died in January 2020.

"We had khaki Campbells and Whites. They used to go all round the moor. They were shut up at night and you'd go across the road and check that they'd laid before they went out in the morning. Sometimes they wouldn't come back, so we had to go looking for them. After father died, if they went missing we never bothered. They used to walk down the road here. Going back to when I was at school someone knocked them over and they got fined - that was £1 5s per duck - and they'd killed three ducks. Next door again and they had some chickens and they'd come up here. Sometimes you could hear the dog a barking cos he could hear them in the garden. We weren't worried about it, but we had the cops here one day and they said I should get my chickens penned up - I said I hadn't none - Oh he says, they flew across a bloke on a motor bike."


Rex with his sisters June & Stella



Roy Champion's father, Percy, with Gran Champion (nee Beatrice Champion of Lyng)

The River Tone

When the houses opposite the Playing Field were built, Rex's father hauled most of the bricks and tiles there from Bridgwater on a horse and waggon - in those days you had to work in the agricultural to go into one of the new council houses. But, as Rex explained, "They used to bring some up by barge, up to the shed place up opposite the Pigeons - used to be a landing place there - they used to pull the barge up with a horse - don't remember that but do remember the horse path through here. There is one the other side, but down by the river on the road side there used to be a walk through for the horses to walk underneath. There was a wall up so the water couldn't get into there. You couldn't do it today as the water is higher. On our deeds we own the first 25 ft of the bank. Lots of Champions lived along here. They owned quite a few houses along here at one time. Not direct family but they were all related to us. If they didn't the Hectors did. My Gran was a Hector, Father's mother."

"Mother was Olive King, from Curry Rivel. Her father, Granfer King, lived with his brothers (one was called Sam), who had all moved down from Essex to work on the new main line railway. The Athelney Inn, where they lived, was then a terrace of cottages owned by the GWR. He wasn't married when he came down here. His brother was killed working on the viaduct outside Langport."

Wilments Farm

"Maurice Patten's. That bit on the end - we built that - 56/57 - started working for Palmers when I was 15 - we went down Cliff House's and built some boundary walls - been knocked down by a lorry. That's when we used to mix by hand - no mixers - then we went up to Pattens - it was done like that for Hazel Patten's mother and father to move in, when Frank Woodland bought their place down Windmill, cos they lived over in Turkey and they sold that. All done with pick and shovel. When we did those two houses for C B Hector [Stanmoor Drove] that was all dug out by hand. That was in 56 - Father was killed while we was out there working. He was walking along the pavement in Bridgwater and a lorry came up over the pavement and hit him. We had cement mixers by then, but unless it was a big job it wasn't worth it."

Bill Palmer, Builder

When Rex worked for Palmers, he claimed to have made more money sticking up at skittles in the Athelney Inn. The alley had quite a slope towards the river, and skittlers had to give the sticker up 6 old pennies each time a ball rolled away. Also: "You paid your stamp and I had private insurance as well when I was working at Palmers. When I was 19 I had a hernia problem. While I was off, with my private insurance and my national insurance I was getting twice as much as I was when I was working."

Willow Farm


Rex was brought up in Willow Farm, Curload, and lived there latterly with his sister June. Here they are with their father, who had made a withy Union Flag for the coronation in 1952. And finally one of the last photos of Rex, used for his celebratory event at the Crem, alongside some of his favourite Jim Reeves songs - 'Welcome to my World', 'Peace in the Valley', and 'Adios Amigo' . . . .

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