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Badger Close

If Ernest Badger’s vibes are still around, those who live in the Close named after him should be healthy, happy and real achievers, but all of us in Martley have very good reason to be grateful for his varied and major contributions to the village.First, we have Ernest Badger to thank for our Memorial Hall. Between the 1920s and the early 1950s it consisted of two wooden ex-army huts and it was Ernest Badger who, as a founder member of the present Memorial Hall Committee, was the inspiration behind building a larger and more permanent structure. Plans were drawn up in 1953. The Hall was completed in three stages, in 1954, in 1958 when it was opened, and in 1966. Ernest Badger was chairman of the Hall Committee throughout this busy building period which involved him in a tremendous amount of work, not least on the fundraising side. He was President for the next ten years, 1966-76, and in 1980 he was made Life Vice-President.Then all of us owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Ernest Badger for Martley’s compact and extremely efficient sewerage plant. Prior to 1966, there was one small on site sewerage system on the Jewry Estate but the new one proposed by the County Council was for a huge and cumbersome plant. Never a man to accept that officials automatically know best, Ernest Badger, himself then on the County Council, went to Holland at his own expense to examine a system he had heard of there. He returned with all the technical data and specifications of the excellent and virtually invisible system we now have in Martley.

Amazingly, Ernest Badger, a busy farmer and the head of a family of four, still found the time and energy to contribute in so many other ways. He was on the Martley Rural District Council, which became Malvern Hills District Council, for over 30 years. He was on the County Council for 3 years. He was the Rector’s Warden for 40 years: a Manager of the C. of E. Primary School and a Governor of the Martley Old Grammar School Foundation from 1939 to 1980, the last 22 years as Chairman. During the war he was on the Agricultural Advisory Committee and was an A.R.P. warden.Ernest Badger was not, however, just a committee man. He was prepared to take a hands-on approach and, at considerable expense to himself, make a direct contribution. Thus he generously gave up his tenancy of glebe lands so that the Chantry High School and the council houses could be built and so that the Parish Council could take a long lease on, and eventually purchase Martley’s playing fields.

Ernest Badger died in November 1981 aged 77. He was born in March 1904 at Bolins, Ross-on-Wye but his family moved to Laughern Farm, Martley, when he was still a child. He had two brothers and three sisters, one of whom, Mrs. Berry Fidoe, survives him. He went to Worcester’s Grammar School and to The King’s School – by a pony trap that gave other villagers a lift. In wet weather this was not a journey where the time of arrival could be guaranteed as the pony was so terrified of water it refused to cross puddles!

Aged 19, Ernest Badger, started work at Hope House on the mixed soft fruit farm of his great uncle, the legendary John Davis. Davis was know as “The Father of Martley”, not simply because he owned almost half the village but because he played such an active part in village and county life. An example of public service which Ernest was himself to follow with such energy and success. When John Davis died aged 90 in 1947, Ernest inherited Hope House Farm.

In 1959, having worked on Hope House Farm for 36 years, he handed it over to his daughter Barbara and her husband Tony Kirby, who were happily living at Hope House cottage. Ernest therefore continued to live at Hope House itself until 1968 when he moved into his newly built bungalow – The Glebe – next door to Martley’s ancient Rectory. It was an ideal site because from The Glebe he could see both Hope House and Lower Hollins farm. He had purchased Lower Hollins Farm in the 1940s and retained an active interest in it, along with his daughter Jo and her husband Mike Poole, until just before he died.He built a bungalow because in 1968, aged 64, he developed arthritis in both his hips and spine and became virtually housebound. A London osteopath could offer no remedy but, typically Ernest Badger found his own: For 28 years he had been a director of Midland Shire Farmers which used a computer to scientifically balance animals’ feed. He knew from his own long experience with pigs and cattle how animals could suffer if deprived of proper vitamins. He therefore borrowed a book on nutrition and began to experiment on food for himself. Within a remarkably short period he was out and about again, able to drive a car and walk considerable distance.Being the unselfish man he was, he wanted others to benefit from his experience and he spent the last ten years of his life in an energetic campaign to persuade governments, schools and the public of the health benefits of nutritious foods. “Your body is like a car”, he was fond of saying, “it cannot function at maximum efficiency if you put sand where there should be oil or water where there should be petrol”. It was said that the government issued guidelines on healthy eating, along the lines suggested by Ernest Badger, only after he had died.

Ernest Badger, aged 25, married Florence Nellie Barker, aged 24, at Wichenford Church on 3rd October 1929. Nellie, who was born in June 1905, at Leyfield Farm, near Burton-on-Trent, moved with her sister and two brothers to Green Street Farm, Hallow, in the early 1920s. She met her future husband in 1927 at Hallow Tennis Club, tennis being a game which they both played well.Ernest and Nellie enjoyed other sports. Nellie played hockey for the Worcester Ladies whereas Ernest regularly won the county cricket ball throwing competition, held on the County Cricket Ground. He was a fine shot and a keen fisherman. He played football for Berrow Green Rovers, who were champions of the Martley and District League and Martley Cup winners in the 1921-22 season. Ernest scored three goals in the cup final, playing outside left.Florence Nellie Badger, who died on 4th February 1994 aged 88, was a force to be reckoned with in her own right and had the houses in Badger Close been built now, they could have been named after her with good reason.The mother of two daughters, Jo Poole and Barbara Kirby, and a busy farmer’s wife, Nellie still found the time to serve on Martley Parish Council for about 20 years, to be a magistrate at the Hundred House for 34 years, to be Chairman of the Martley and District Baby Clinic for 20 years, to be a long standing member of the Martley W.I. and during the war, not only did she raise thousands by selling War Stock, but she was supervisor for Land Army Girls living in the district. She was a particularly keen gardener and decorated the church for 48 years.

In contrast to Ernest Badger’s easy going style, Mrs. Badger could appear rather formal but within seconds her warm and understanding heart and sense of humour would surface. She spent the last 5 of her 13 years as a widow at Pencombe Hall, near Bromyard, but she never never forgot Martley and Martley did not forget her, as the numbers who attended her funeral service in St. Peter’s Church proved.Neither Ernest nor Nellie Badger ever mentioned their achievements or the time they had given to the village. A delightful couple who are remembered with affection and gratitude by those who knew them in Martley, and beyond.Although the Close was rightly named after Ernest Badger, it is good if the name Badger now also reminds us of the major input into village life by his wife Nellie.