Village stalwart, Mel Jenner
Village stalwart, Mel Jenner


I was born on November 27, 1953, in the village at 7 Larkfield, in Five Oak Green - in the house. My older brother is 70 and my sister is 57 -- Barry and Melanie. Mum and dad were Alice and Albert.

Dad was an insurance agent through he had lots of different jobs in his younger days. He worked his way up and ended in United Friendly in Tonbridge as manager though he had started off on collecting rounds - the old shilling a week job.

Grandma and Grandad were over at Cooklands in Whetsted Road. Grandad was part of my growing up though not until later in life because he liked a drink so I used to see him in the pub. He used to talk away and we got on very well.

He was Tom Jenner. He used to work on the farm next door to Cooklands Cottages but it's not there now, then at Moat Farm. He died in the early 1960s.

I went to Capel School as did my dad, brother, sister then my kids. Mr Stinton was the head there for donkeys' years. I always thought he was an excellent headmaster. He came over strict to the kids but I don't think he was really.

After primary school I went to Sussex Road in Tonbridge which was a very sporting school in those days though it's now an Academy.

I wasn't very good at football but I was very quick. I was the fastest kid in the west but it didn't do me any good. I used to play for Capel Juniors, they were called Minors then. I played on the wing for obvious reasons, tearing up and down.

The village was a bit quieter in the 1950s and when I was 16 I went to West Kent College and trained to be a carpenter. I married in 1976, aged 22, to Sally Isaacs and we had a boy and girl who now lives near me at Kings Hill. Sally is from Horsmonden and we met at Paddock Wood Fair which used to be a big event in the area.


Grandad fought in World War One and was gassed and had blotches on his face. He was a jolly sort of a bloke and like the rest of the family interested in Capel so on a Bank Holiday we would all do a walk round the parish.

We would start off at the Chequers, go through the fields to the Red Cow then on to the Carpenter's which is now an Indian restaurant, then over the fields again to the Dovecote then down to the Queen's and King's Head. There'd be about 20 of us. The pubs were much busier at that time, especially the King's.

I think my cousin Mick got me involved with football in the village and I ended up running Capel Reserves and being secretary of the Saturday side and then chairman of Capel Sports and Social Club as well.

There was cricket, football and tennis in the village and each one had to arrange its own fund-raising so it was agreed it was better to have one body and do single fund-raisers and distribute the funds out.

So that was Capel Sports but at an early meeting somebody stood up and said what about people who don't like sports so it was then decided to have a social section which would also be a fund-raiser with things like dances and trips out. That's how the CSSC came about.

That was 1967 and although I never really understood it there was some sort of rivalry with the Capel Community Association. I thought it ridiculous in such as small village so I had a meeting with June Darbyshire - and I ended up vice-chairman of the CCA. So that was four jobs!

When I was 29 I had to pack up work because of ill health and the positions were giving me something to work with, some reason to be alive. All I ever wanted was for the good of the village and no-one seemed to oppose it right until one of the big sticking points.

The Goldsmid Hall was about to close and we used to put on an Xmas show for the old people. I kept it going and my daughter produced it. I moved it to the Community Centre, the HQ of the CCA. I was aware it would not go down well with my dad and others but in the end he realised something had to be done.


One of the last things in my time was changing name of the Community Centre to Village Hall. They changed it while I was there and I always thought that was one of my achievements, not that I forced it through but it happened in my time. The shame is there's no CSSC now.

I had to give up work because of MS. It wasn't as bad as it is now. I just suffered from fatigue so much. I'd come in from work and fall asleep like that until 11 pm. My wife could not wake me up or anything

It took me a long time to get used to not working. It may seem the ideal thing sitting at home but it's not unless you've got some particular interest. In the end doing voluntary work was almost like a full-time job.

At times I think while I thoroughly enjoyed it I was forever at meetings of one sort or another and I do think back whether I was really appreciated.

I don't want it to come over as wrong, I wasn't expecting a big thank you or anything else but you almost get taken for granted.

A funny memory: Tug-of-war was big in the village and I remember Bill Riley from Falmouth Place. He was a big man and anchor for his team that used to practise at the end of the field.

Once he fell over as the last man and all of sudden his back was alight. He had some matches in his back pocket and they set light to his trousers and top. They managed to put it all out and he was not hurt. It was more comical than anything else.