This is the first of what will become a series of articles about some of the established families of Cattistock. These are people we may pass in the street, or maybe in the church, the pub or the shop, but sometimes apart from passing the time of day, we often know nothing at all about them. So this is an opportunity to increase your knowledge about the people in our community.
Eric and Mike Cox
If you are new to the village and see two elderly gents having a walk around the village one morning, you may well have crossed paths with two brothers, Eric and Mike Cox. Eric is aged 82 and Mike is the younger brother at a sprightly 74, but behind these basic facts there is of course a history: the recent history of the two brothers and a history of their family.
Both Eric and Mike were born in Lower Frome Vauchurch, which according to the Dorset Daily Echo of 1935 may even have been Thomas Hardy’s inspiration for the River Var in Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Part of the family has been traced back to 1670, during the reign of Charles II, when the six times paternal Grandfather Erasmus Cox was married to Eleanor Russell, who came from Evershot, in the Cattistock Church in 1697. In 1744 their maternal six times Grandfather William Payne, born around 1700, was married to Mary Vincent in Sherborne.
Picking out a couple of the entries in the family tree, their Great, Great Grandfather, George Baker, was a Seaman on the fatal expedition led by Captain Sir John Franklin, who in 1845 led two ships to navigate the final section of the Northwest passage. The entire expedition, consisting of 129 men including George Baker, was lost.
Grandfather George Payne, 1863 to 1937, was the Drum Major in the Queen’s Own Dorset Yeomanry Regiment. Outside his service time, George was a Stonemason and one of his claims to fame was that, with his son-in-law Frank as his Apprentice, he built the Savill Hall, which remains such a key facility in our village.
Grandfather Henry Cox was born in Longburton around 1853 and was a Farm Labourer from the age of fourteen.
Eric and Mike’s Father was Frank and their Mother’s name was Ivy. Frank was born in 1904 and, like is Father, he was also a Stonemason. Frank built the bungalow that is now known as West End House in the West End of Cattistock and he helped to build the new Rectory. Frank also installed the ovens in what was the village Bakery, now known as Greystones House.
Frank was blind in one eye, due to which he could not serve in the armed forces, so during WW2 he served in the local Fire Brigade. Over time he came to meet and know some of the German and Italian Prisoners of War who were held in custody in the area that is now Meadow View. The relationship he had was positive, illustrated by the gifts that some of the POWs made for Frank, as shown in the accompanying photographs. The same POWs also made toys for the two brothers.
And so now we come to the two brothers:
Born in 1937, Eric is widowed with three children: Philip, Samantha and Sarah. He attended the old school in Maiden Newton and on leaving school took an Apprenticeship in Carpentry and Joinery. After completing his Apprentice in December 1957, Eric then joined the Royal Hampshire Regiment to complete his two years of National Service.
After completing his National Service Eric began his long and successful career in Carpentry, working locally but also on such buildings as the Salisbury Cathedral Spire and the Verne Prison at Portland.
At 82 and retired, Eric can be found in the Fox and Hounds during most lunchtimes, enjoying a pint or two of IPA (all donations gratefully accepted). His interests include being a member of the South Dorset Vintage Motor Cycle Club, as well as running his allotment in Evershot. Eric has an enviable record from showing the produce grown in his allotment at Cattistock’s annual Flower Show, where he traditionally wins the Best Vegetables Trophy, including sharing success at the 2019 Flower Show with Tim Hill.
Born in 1945, Mike has three children: Stephen, Graham and Julia.
Too young for National Service, from school Mike started with his Father’s stonemason business and from there in 1964 he joined Coopers Builders in Bridport. During the building slump he left Coopers and joined the Maintenance department of Burt Boulton & Hayward, Timber merchants in Bridport. Mike’s final move, still in the building trade, was when he then went self-employed and worked with his brother Eric.
Mike’s well known and well respected passion is his music. Entirely self taught from the age of 16, he can play the Guitar, Banjo, Fiddle and Mandelin and plays in the Last Gasp Folk Group, playing for Charity events such as the Air Ambulance, the Lifeboat Institution and the Bridport Living Tree Cancer Group.
Mike runs the Folk Club that meets every second Monday of every month in the Fox and Hounds. It is an open door evening and is great fun to attend.
Taking his love of music still further, Mike has actually made three Banjos, all of which he still owns.
In addition to his music, Mike also has interests in motorbikes having owned various bikes, including an Ariel 500, a BSA Bantam 125 and a Trials bike. A current interest is with steam railways, which takes Mike to Swanage Railway on Gala days.
This article has been just a taster of what Eric and Mike have experienced in life, but there is plenty more to share. So if you see Eric or Mike in the Fox and Hounds, or out for one of their early morning walks with Mike’s dog Susie, why not stop and have a chat with them and find out a little bit more about two people from our community.