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Thorncombe Village Trust

Potter Walk

We have recently been contacted by two of Wilfred’s former pupils in Northleach in the Cotswolds. The Grammar School where he taught has been demolished and a new housing estate is planned to be built on the site. One of the new roads is to be named in memory of Wilfred - a fact that has delighted everyone that has been told of it.

The name - Potter Walk - is particularly appropriate as he walked or cycled everywhere.

We will update this site as more news becomes available.

Recent news about Wilfred

    Thanks to emails received we can add more about Wilfred:

 We now know that he was born on 6th October 1922, that ‘he told one of the boys that his middle name was “Ethelred” and said boy believed him for over 40 years….’ (His middle name was actually Ernest.) !

Former pupil Graham Curtis remembers his enthusiasm for motorbikes well . Wilfred told him he had once had an Ariel Square 4, - a big 1000 cc motorbike.

Martyn Hillier writes:

“I am one of many Cotswold children who went to Westwood’s Grammar School. Northleach, & there met the lovely Wilf.

To my shame, we boys & girls weren’t always as well behaved as we could have been, & at times we sorely tried him, but in 1992 & 2002 our particular year set held a ”20 year-on" & “30-year on” reunion, & Wilf honoured us with his presence.

I do know that I was not the only one there to apologise for my boorish teenage behaviour all those years ago, & Wilf, a gentleman as ever, just said quietly “Young boys & girls behave as they do”.

I think his kindness at that time almost made me feel worse, but I’m glad we were able to have that conversation.

Typically, he seemed to think he was honoured to be there; we told him that he honoured us by his presence, not the other way around.

The two below photos, the school photo from 1966, & the undated soccer photo, but from much the same era, show the dear old chap we knew, & grew to love.”



 Wilfred at the 2002 school reunion,    talking to  a former pupil

 Westwood’s Grammar School in     1966


     Thorncombe Village Trust - caring for Thorncombe's environment

‘Potter’s Field’ in Thorncombe

WILFRED POTTER (1922 - 2008)

          Wilfred, dated May 1st 1932, near Bournemouth.

          Courtesy of Kate Rundle & Alison Griffin                Wilfred spruced up and  ready for his trip  to Lords Cricket Ground, Summer 2006           


Eve Higgs writes … everybody who knew him has their own story to tell about Wilfred. This is mine. My husband John and I moved to Thorncombe in July 1998. Our house backs on to Potter’s Field, as it is known locally, so we got to know Wilfred as near neighbours. He used to let us burn our garden rubbish on his field and would often join us for a chat in front of the bonfire.

Until his death in 2008,  Wilfred  Potter  lived at Worcester on Chard Street. Mr Potter  had  lived there since boyhood and  was descended from an old Thorncombe family. He was  a  much loved and respected member of the local  community. Wilfred’s grandfather, William Bonfield, was the village blacksmith. William is  pictured here  outside his smithy in front of  Little Orchard on what is now known as the High Street, previously Fore Street. Thomas’s Place is in the background.

 The Bonfields  were also the licencees of  the Crown public house further down Fore Street and Wilfred’s uncle Albert, Marina Atyeo’s grandfather ran the shop opposite the Royal Oak.  Wilfred’s mother  Dorothy Bonfield,  is  seen  here with her sister Helen outside the Crown.  

  Wilfred grew up in an all female household consisting of  his mother and  his grandmother Bessie Bonfield, who is said to have ruled the roost. He told my husband John and I  that his father, Ernest Potter , who was the tenant at Thorncombe Farm,  lived separately from his wife and child  on Granny Bonfield’s orders,  and that as a child Wilfred  had to visit his father  in secret at his house on The Terrace  at  4 High Street.  Bessie sold Worcester and the field behind it to Wilfred  for £450 in 1948 but  continued to live there for the rest of her life. He also told us that he was threatened  by his grandmother with disinheritance if he continued to court a Winsham girl who’d caught his eye.  As a child Wilfred was forbidden to play with local children, so his seems to have been a lonely childhood with only books for company. Mr Potter’s  strict upbringing resulted in him often being all things to all men.

   Unmarried and childless, his gentle nature brought out protective instincts particularly in women. But while he was always amenable face to face, Wilfred might subsequently claim to others after a given event,  usually involving an invitation which he always claimed he felt obliged  to reluctantly accept, that he had been coerced into acting against his will, which could result in misunderstandings between neighbours springing to his defence.  

During World War II,  Wilfred was in one of  tank regiments but  evidently not the most effective  of soldiers. One day, he  fell asleep while guarding a group of German prisoners, and narrowly missed being put on a  charge, the prisoners  waking him up  and handing him back  his rifle  just in time as his senior officer approached.  

  A great cricket enthusiast, animal lover, and pianist, often to be heard playing at night, Mr Potter was a keen choir member  throughout his life. Wilfred was also a classics graduate from Worcester College, Oxford, hence the name of his house and had a career as a Latin teacher at various schools in Sussex,  and in  the Cotswolds, returning to Worcester in the holidays,  before retiring to Thorncombe in the 1980s.

  A gentle shy nervous  individual with lovely old-fashioned manners, doffing his hat as ladies approached,  Mr Potter was a familiar sight around Thorncombe,  during his latter years, dressed in worn belted gabardine rain coat tied round the middle with string,  an old peaked hat  with ear flaps pulled down over his ears on cold days, riding to and from Chard to do his shopping on his ancient sit-up and beg bicycle or striding off purposefully  clutching his brolly across the fields for lunch at a distant farmstead. Car driving neighbours would often pass him on his way back to Thorncombe, his handle bars hung with supermarket carrier bags, pushing his bike up the hills. It took a lot of persuasion to get Mr Potter to agree to allow the bags to be taken on ahead and he rarely  accepted offers of lifts no matter how awful the weather.

 Back at Worcester, he appeared to live on Heinz tinned soup which was lined up neatly on a wooden shelf above an old electric cooker, next to a rickety 1950s ‘kitchenette’ cupboard with glass sliding doors and drop down flap.  In his incredibly untidy kitchen, a snug country  bachelor cave, the table  was piled high with  torn envelopes, letters,  papers and books etc. The last time I saw Wilfred, he  was sitting on his wonky armchair in front of a very shiny halogen fire, reading Cicero in the original.

 Such was the local affection which he enjoyed it was inevitable that during his final illness, Wilfred  would be  looked after by a devoted  team of local friends and  neighbours enabling him to stay in his beloved Worcester almost up to the end of his life. There was standing room only at Wilfred Potter’s  funeral which filled  the  parish church. It seemed as though all of Thorncombe had turned out to say goodbye.  Buried in the same grave as his father in St Mary’s overflow churchyard, father and son are finally  reunited.

With the exception of the first photo taken in 1932, these photos were among those  found in  Wilfred’s house after he died and given to his cousin Marina Atyeo who has kindly given permission for them to be  reproduced here. If you have your own  memories of Wilfred to add to these recollections,  or would like to write a memoir about another Thorncombe resident , or  have photos of old Thorncombe you would like to share,  please  email  us at .

                                These lovely pictures of Wilfred were very kindly lent to us by Mrs Sheila Holloway.

Wilfred at 8 months and 3 weeks

Wilfred at 17 months

       With his dog…aged about 11 ?

Many thanks to Sheila for the loan of these previously unseen photos. We would be very grateful to see any old photos to add to the archive on this site. All photographs are treated with the utmost care, and after scanning are returned immediately to their owner.