Tuesday, 28 July 2015

People of Biddisham - Henry Body

Henry Body sprint racer, 'a legend in his own lifetime' Classic Bike Magazine.

In response to my request for stories and history of Biddisham, Henry Body came forward with a wealth of information. 

Henry, born in Biddisham in 1934 as one of 10 children, is the longest living resident of Biddisham. He attended the primary school at the old school house for a month before it closed and then went to the village hall opposite his house for schooling, taught by Pheobe Egbert.
His grandparents lived at Apple Tree Cottage and his father George Body founded the saw mills at Castle Head. 

Today Henry lives with wife Norma in the house they built together in Biddisham. Their two daughters Melanie and Susan both live nearby. The house is full of details that could only have been created by a Body's skills. The beautiful polished wooden floors and hand crafted doors and staircase are a testament to the Body family work ethic. 

Henry described how Biddisham used to be 'everyone used to know each other and everyone would would help each other. It was made up of tight knit families' 

Henry has so many stories and was able to explain each resident of Biddisham when he was growing up forming the foundation of a village map that we will be working on in the next few months. 



Henry's grandparents.


Grandmother Kate Body outside apple tree cottage, Biddisham.


Henry and his twin sister as babies. They were runners up in the west of England baby contest. 
Henrys twin sister Beryl passed away as a baby in 1936.


A gathering before felling the tree in Badgworth at the top of the school rooms.


Transporting a tree trunk along the A38 when the road was a little slower. Henry's father rides the motorbike and sidecar hauling the trailer. Henry is the child on top and Knowledge Body of Poplar Farm sits on the back.


Making the babycham crates at the saw mills in the 1950s. Henry and Wallis Barrett. 


Henry as a toddler with sister Georgina at the garden fete held at the Old Rectory, Biddisham.


Henry on the left as a teen with Jim Harding, Peter Harvey and Baby George, Henry's uncle.


Henry's father George Body. George trained as a carpenter and apprenticed with Bill Wiseman at Rose Cottage which used to be the wheelwrights. When Wiseman couldn't keep George on as an employee he went out on his own. 
As a carpenter George would make the coffins for the village and the Body's would take care of the bodies in the surrounding area as undertakers. They would lay out, measure up, hand craft the coffin and even dig the graves. 
Later George founded the saw mills and during the 2nd world war was deemed too important to the country to be enlisted, having the biggest output per man in the southwest.  He was contracted by the government holding their stock and producing pit props for the mining industry. 

George Body along with all his children built Castle Head house from the first concrete thermal blocks. The house was built in too halves as there were rules which made house sizes dependent on family size. Everyday after school Henry and his brothers and sisters built the house by hand together. 

George along with Knowledge Body also built the bridge at Poplar Farm. There are two sets of Body's in Biddisham connected through the Emery family. 

After the war George was contracted to make wooden crates for Babysham and Coxley cider producing thousands of crates. 

As a hobby George and friends formed the Mendip Vale Motorcycle Club at the New Moon Inn. Henry used to help out and soon picked up skills in engineering and racing. 

George was also a member of the Antonia Dance Band where he would play the accordion along with Harold Forder, who lived with Knowledge Body at Poplar Farm, and Ken Tricky. They would play for miles around at all the village dances. It was at a village dance that Henry met wife Norma. 


Henry's mother and father George and Elsie 1940s 


Baby Henry in the 1930s 


An event in the village hall in the early 1930s. Dances and events were held often in those days before home entertainment. 


The saw mills at Castle Head Burn Council, Johnny Monks and Bill Salvage. 

Image from classic bike magazine by Gary Freeman

Henry Body featured in Classic Motorcycle Magazine 2014. Henry happens to still be the British Sprint Champion and has held this motorbike racing title for the past 14 years on his vintage Douglas bikes. Henry has entered 273 sprint races and won 268 on the bikes he has built himself.

" a lot of famous riders had everything at their disposal. I've had rubbish at my disposal - all this stuff is wore out - but I know my bike and I know what's wanted to make him go. We were brought up to do things to the best of our ability, and that's what I've tried to do. I've always done the things I wanted to - at least what I could afford. The thing is to do as much as you can in life, nobody can take it away from you. If I had my life over again I'd do even more" classic bike magazine July 2014 article by Rick Parkington.

Image from classic bike magazine by Gary Freeman

Image from classic bike magazine by Gary freeman 

Image from classic bike magazine by Gary Freeman

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