Frank Tapping (1889 – 1963)
Written by Mark Tapping
Stoke Farm provided the family with their first real home since leaving Woodlands Farm and although they were only to stay for five years, the period was always afterwards looked back upon with
nostalgia. Here Frank’s children grew up in much the same surroundings as those in which he himself had spent his youth. Indeed, as the crow flys, Bedgrove Farm lay only 1½ miles away. Stoke Farm lay away in the fields about a third of a mile from the “top gate” on the Old Stoke Road, opposite the local isolation hospital which in the course of time was to become part of the new Stoke Mandeville Hospital for paraplegics which has acquired a world wide reputation. Nevertheless, one can have too much of hens, eggs and hen-houses and Frank longed to have his own farm again. Suitable opportunity presented itself and shortly after the outbreak of World War 2 he leased Prune Farm in the small rural parish of Edgcott, not many miles from Woodlands.
At first the outbreak of war had very little effect upon the family apart from the taking in of a family of evacuees for a short while at Stoke Farm and from rationing. Warren was married in September of that year and with his wife’s parents rented a small cottage in Bishopstone, across the fields from Stoke Farm. In the same month Mark obtained employment in Aylesbury. After settling him in lodgings in town, the family moved to Edgcott in November, 1939. Here, the war seemed even more remote . apart from the rationing of food and petrol and the shortages of various kinds. A number of bombs did fall in the area and Frank constructed a shelter at the farm consisting of a wooden henhouse about which a haystack was erected. While no doubt useful against blast and bomb fragments the fire hazard must have been extremely high and one is thankful that the shelter was never put to its intended use. In any event, the pressure of the haystack eventually caused the shelter to collapse inside.
Although Frank never allowed it to show, he must have been greatly disappointed that his son (and indeed, his step-son) showed no interest in agriculture as a career. So the following year when Frank was forced to vacate Prune Farm on it being sold – and no other suitable farm readily available – and then himself being some 50 years old, it seemed better to settle in the nearby pleasant, straggling village of Grendon Underwood where he could provide his wife with a more comfortable and less strenuous home.
Here they lived happily in Aylesbury Road not far from an old house where, according to tradition, Shakespeare stayed at times and where he is reputed to have received inspiration for his “Midsummer Nights Dream”. Also not very far away were Frank’s sister Jen and her family at Sharps Hill Farm in Kingswood. A “Morrison” steel table shelter was fitted in the house but never had to be put to use other than as a table which filled most of the space in one room. For awhile Flo’ ran the village Post Office from the house, and here they stayed for the remainder of the war years, suffering no damage although Jane lost the use of one eye in a tragic gun accident. Frank’s eldest brother Harry died suddenly in 1944 and his sister- in-law’s son James Montague, was killed in the Royal Air Force. Otherwise the family and their immediate relatives survived World War 2 unharmed.