John Lane

John Lane and the business of JW Lane & Sons at Stanford Bridge, are well known to folk from ‘the Witleys’. However, this was not always the case, as villages saw themselves as local communities isolated from each other.

Services to neighbouring villages such as electricity were slow to arrive and led to rivalry and how the communities perceived each other. John described his father as saying that “those over those hills are not in our world”.

John travelled to grammar school in Kidderminster in the 1930’s by cycling ‘over the hill’ and leaving his bike in Great Witley at the Toll House and later behind Pyatt’s bakery. The journey on Owens bus was lively and filled with riotous taunts which led the occasional fight. He described the time, in response to a teacher’s request, he carefully took eight wild duckling he had reared and placed them in a covered chip basket to take to school. The same morning George Rutter from Walsgrove Farm decided to take his ferrets for an outing to school. The ferrets took a lively interest in the duckling and after much mayhem the ducklings ended on the luggage rack and the ferrets captured and returned to their sack.

Blacksmithing had been a family occupation for many years with the family first occupying The Forge at Stanford Bridge in 1842 which then had four forges and Smiths or Journey Men. These forges were kept busy making all the iron work required for the Great Estates that existed and have now gone. Even in the 1930’s however one could see perhaps six to eight horses waiting outside the forge in the early morning waiting to be shod. Within a short time all this changed.

Working horses rapidly disappeared from farms as tractors and new machines arrived and much less labour was needed in farming and this time other services to the community were appearing. Electricity was brought to the village in 1933 initially to the main houses and farms replacing their own low voltage generating sets. Much later John was tasked with persuading the remaining properties cottages to forsake their oil lamps and candles and sign up what was then a small cost for switching to electric. A little later a mains water supply was brought through the village.

With the new services available John’s business expanded firstly in laying water supplies and also new avenues opened in fabrication, particularly of late, in horticultural products for the vegetable and food market together with timber processing plant for sheds and panel making. Some recent products have been made to Hampton Palace Gardens and Royal Kew Gardens the latter having a critical inspection by one of the Royals !!

John’s son David has now taken over, and his son Phillip has two young sons, the future is now in their hands. David is well qualified in all aspects of the trades and also specialises in water supplies a traditional part of the business.

Johns sister Dorothy remembers how difficult it was when as a young person she began to mix with ‘outsiders’.