Many people were dismayed to find out that Trumpton has an active UKIP branch and a number of other extreme parties. It’s not really surprising, though, because, like everywhere else, Trumptonshire has changed quite a bit in the last few decades.
At first sight, Camberwick Green looks the same as it did 50 years ago. It’s only when you go into the village and look closely that the changes become apparent. The old cottages are much tidier now. No peeling paint or badly fitting doors. That’s because most of the inhabitants are now weekenders or wealthy pensioners.
The development of Upper Camberwick, an imagined village of 5 and 6 bedroom houses, complete with village green and red post box, brought a new wave of affluent residents to the area. The old railway station was re-opened as Camberwick Parkway, with fast trains to London, sending the property prices well out of reach for most of the old locals. The children of the families who used to live in the village can no longer afford to buy there. Most now live on the new housing estates in Chigley.
Almost all of the shops have closed, as people now do most of their shopping at the Chigley Retail Park. The only one left is The Old Post Office, which is no longer a post office. Instead, it sells locally sourced (and quite expensive) artisanal food to discerning customers. The pub is now a Michelin starred restaurant run by Mr Leblanc, the TV celebrity chef.
Mr Crockett, the garage owner, saw the writing on the wall and teamed up with Mr Dagenham, the salesman, to open a high-end car dealership. Mr Crockett’s son and Mr Dagenham’s daughter cemented the partnership by getting married. They now run the thriving business, selling prestige models to the wealthy commuters.
Dr Mopp’s son dropped out of medical school when he realised he could earn a lot more working for an investment bank, so the practice was sold to Dr Patel and relocated to a purpose-built health centre in Chigley.
You don’t see much of the boys from Pippin Fort these days. Tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan have kept them away from home. After an unpromising start, Private Lumley went on to have a distinguished military career, serving in the Falklands and the First Gulf War, and rising to the rank of Major. Since his retirement, he has run the local branch of Help for Heroes. It is a cause close to people’s hearts in Trumptonshire. A few years ago, two of the lads from Pippin Fort were injured when the humpety bumpety army truck was hit by a roadside bomb in Helmand Province.
PC McGarry retired years ago but his son followed him into the force. Steve McGarry was an outstanding police officer, becoming Chief Constable of Trumptonshire at a relatively young age. Dubbed ‘Five-O Supremo’ by the media for his tough zero-tolerance approach, he was held up as a role model and police from all over the world visited Trumptonshire, hoping to find the secret of his success. Alas, in this capricious world, Steve McGarry went from hero to zero overnight when it emerged that his force had ignored allegations of child abuse and the grooming of young girls by gangs of pimps. After a vicious tabloid campaign he was forced to resign. He now lives abroad.
Windy Miller is long dead. His mill was bought by a property developer and converted into a sprawling residence, compete with gym and swimming pool. It is now the weekend retreat of Bradley Smythe-Hoover, MD of Capital Markets at MorganGoldensacks. The Miller family are still in the business, though. Nowadays, the flour is produced by United Mills on the Chigley industrial estate. Windy’s granddaughter, Cindy Miller, works there on a zero hours contract.
The town of Trumpton lost much of its importance when it was subsumed into the Greater Chigley Unitary Authority in the local government reorganisation. It is now merely the traditional county town of a county that no longer exists.
Locals complain that there has been no planning control and that the town’s development has been neglected by the council in Chigley. Like many small towns, Trumpton has a Jekyll and Hyde personality. By day, it is the quintessential market town. The old square with its farmers’ market and Georgian shops attracts busloads of pensioners and foreign tourists. At night, the town is given over to pubs, competing on price to attract the youngsters who flock into the centre. Fights between locals and migrant agricultural workers are frequent.
After the reorganisation, the redundant town hall was sold off to a pub chain and is now The Frederick Troop, named in honour of Trumpton’s long-serving town clerk. During the day, it offers cut-price meals for pensioners. In the evening it sells cut-price drinks at happy-hour to groups of teenagers and twenty-somethings.
One or two of the old Trumpton shops have survived. Platt’s Clockmakers carved themselves a niche as suppliers and repairers of antique clocks, as well as making new clocks to order. The innovative designs of Jason Platt, Old Mr Platt’s grandson, bring customers from Europe, the US and, increasingly, China. Most of the other shops have gone, though, replaced by craft shops and tea rooms catering for the tourists or, in the streets off the square, pound shops, bookies, pop-up shops and Polski Skleps. Miss Lovelace’s hat shop still bears her name but it is now owned by a national chain of bridal stores.
The simmering resentment in Trumpton was fuelled by the ‘high handed’ decision to close the fire station. A vocal anti-closure campaign, its status as one of the oldest fire stations in Britain and old Captain Flack’s thundering letters to the Times were not enough to save it. These days, cover is provided by firefighters from Chigley and the building is a restaurant called The Old Fire Station.
The sons of Chippy Minton, the carpenter, Mr Wilkins, the plumber and Walter Harkin, the painter, took on their fathers’ businesses. Things went well for them during the 90s and early 2000s but recently, their earnings have fallen off a cliff. The three men can often be heard in Trumpton’s pubs, railing against modern society, political correctness, dole scroungers and liberal teachers. Depending on their mood, the decline in their fortunes is blamed either on crooked London bankers or the Poles taking their work. Danny Harkin recently became treasurer of the local UKIP branch and is encouraging his two friends to join too.
Not everyone is disgruntled with modern Trumptonshire though. After inheriting the farm, Farmer Bell’s son realised he didn’t need to employ many farm workers and that, by sacking them and selling their tied cottages to weekenders, he could make a tidy profit. He can still find plenty of workers, though, and only needs to employ them for the season. A quick call to Mr Valujevs the Gangmaster can get Farmer Bell Jr as many workers as he needs. These farm labourers don’t need cottages either. Portacabins, caravans and even the old pigsty can house dozens of workers. If they have any complaints, they are usually solved by the appearance of Mr Valujevs.
Of all three places, Chigley has seen the most change. The development of Chigley New Town transformed Trumptonshire, bringing new industries and thousands of people to what had been a predominantly agricultural area.
After Lord Belborough’s death, his son sold the estate to the Chigley New Town Development Corporation. The grounds and farmland went for housing development. Winkstead Hall was bought by a property investment company. It is now leased by an accounting and consulting firm as a corporate training and conference centre. Lord Belborough’s railway and Bessie the steam engine were bought by a Chinese businessman for his English theme park in Guangdong.
“Efficiency, efficiency” wasn’t enough stop the biscuit factory from being acquired by Consolidated Biscuits. When CB was bought by a private equity fund, production was relocated to Scotland and the building sold off. It now serves as a Wish Fulfilment Centre for an online retailer. You’ll find many of the descendants of the old Chigley folk there. Mr Cresswell’s daughter Kate manages the operation. Under constant pressure from corporate HQ to “drive performance” she pushes the workers hard. Tracey Honeyman, granddaughter of the old Camberwick chemist, was recently sacked for taking too long over a toilet break. None of this wishy-washy employee empowerment stuff for Kate Cresswell. Command and control is how you get rings done!
In the nearby call centre you’ll find Callum Troop, Lauren Cobbit and Jamie Craddock hard at work on the phones. All are on part-time contracts, as are most workers at the centre. Recently, hours have been cut and rumours of the centre’s closure and relocation to India are rife.
Everyone thought the old barge master, Mr Rumpling, was sentimantal and quite possibly mad when he bought the derelict Treddles Wharf. They’re eating their words now, though, as his daughter has turned it into a very profitable canal boat holiday business. She bought Farthing’s Pottery in the 1990s and converted the Wharf’s outbuildings into a hotel, cafe and interactive museum. The Old Trumptonshire Centre, as it is now known, is packed with visitors every bank holiday, proving that Mr Rumpling wasn’t as daft as people said.
Laura Munnings, granddaughter of Mr Munnings the printer, is still in the same line of work as her grandfather. Not printing, of course, because the print works disappeared years ago, but a digital marketing company in Chigley’s new Tech Village. Nowadays, she tells her bemused grandfather, it’s not posters that sell business but online presence and market intelligence.
In Tech Village, you’ll also find Josh Barney-McGrew, grandson of the famous fireman, and Jack Murphy, grandson of the Camberwick baker, with their new mobile games workshop. It hasn’t made any money yet, so Jack’s father, Paddy, is still financing them but give it time.
Being the son of the corporation dustman was no barrier to the relentless ambition of Gareth Sneed. These days, as leader of Greater Chigley Council, he runs the corporation. He has his eyes on a bigger prize, though. Together with neighbouring councils, he is lobbying the government to create the Greater Chigley Statutory City Region, complete with devolved powers and funds from Whitehall. Trumptonshire might have seemed timeless once but in 2014 things are changing fast. Gareth Sneed is, as he keeps telling everybody, the man to lead that change and to take Trumptonshire into the next decade.
There are no band concerts or dancing factory workers in Trumptonshire any more. Some people didn’t believe there ever were, until some photographs were found in Raggy Dan’s attic after the old rag and bone man had died. These showed the firemen’s band and the dances, as well as many other scenes from old Trumptonshire. The local history society reprinted them in a book published to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Trumpton clock in 2010. Leafing through the coffee table tome Trumptonshire Remembers, you can see just how much the place has changed.