Articles

Chapmanslade Gives a Right Royal Send off to Gwen and Dennis after 83 Years

Reported by Denise Page and Terry Rose

dennis  gwen

Following their recent move to Frome, on Sunday 20 May, over 120 people of all ages gathered on a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon on the Memorial Field at Chapmanslade Village Hall to thank Gwen and Dennis Barnard for the tremendous contribution they have given over many years to ‘God’s Own’ - the village of Chapmanslade.

The event took the form of a ‘Bring your Own Food’ and Cream Teas, with the red, white and blue bunting giving a nod to the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle the previous day.

Chris Page, long time village resident and current President of Frome Rotary Club, led the thanks giving a humorous tribute to Gwen and Dennis thanking them for the many contributions they have made to the village. Dennis replied with a very moving speech thanking all those who were able to attend and expressing his confidence that the village will continue to go from strength to strength - even without him. Frank Lake, Chair of the Village Hall Committee, then presented a cheque from the generous contributions of the village, and Caitlin Elkins, on behalf of the younger members of the community, presented Gwen with a lovely arrangement of flowers. Ken Davies, Budgie Brewer and Stevie McStevie from Chapmanslade’s very own Cleyhill Stompers sang a song that they had penned specially for the occasion presenting Gwen and Dennis with a framed script of the words which are reproduced at the end of this article.

Chris, in his speech, gave a potted history of Dennis’s life in Chapmanslade starting in 1934, the year that electricity first came to the village, when he was born in his father’s shop. He was a pupil at the village school where he eventually became Chair of Governors.
 
Dennis ran the very successful village shop and Post Office with his brother, Graham, for ten years, then with Gwen for twelve years. Delivery was all part of the service, and many people in Corsley and Chapmanslade appreciated this, especially the elderly and lonely. The shop was a real focal point of the village, and is still greatly missed.

In 1970 Dennis and Gwen, along with many local families, including the Radleys, Browns, Rayners, Clatworthys, Daniels, Drews, Marshes and Weguelins decided to raise money for a new hall to replace the ‘old hut’. Over 4 years they helped to run a hot dog stall on the A36 at weekends and Bank Holidays, organised dances, sponsored walks, raffles and even ‘win a man for the day’ to raise the funds needed. The new hall opened in 1974. It cost £22,000, of which the villagers had raised £7,000! Their efforts were even reported by Kate Adie when as a young reporter she came to Chapmanslade to make a radio programme for BBC Bristol. The Hall is a fantastic memorial to all their hard work. 

One of the major contributions Dennis has given to the village was his 42 years on the Parish Council where he diplomatically sorted many disputes, gave sound advice and probably most importantly played a large part in bringing mains drainage to Chapmanslade. Kate Adie, then a BBC TV foreign correspondent, was so impressed that she came back to the village staying overnight with Dennis and Gwen so as to take part in the inauguration party in the village hall and conducting the ceremonial ‘First Flush’.

Dennis has helped to raise many thousands of pounds over the years at various functions with his alter ego Clem Pullet comedy sketches and his auctioneering skills honed at Cooper and Tanner. Much of the money has helped the Village Church and the Hall, but he is also known far and wide for these talents, so many surrounding villages and Frome have also benefited from his generosity of time and talent.

Denise Page says “Luckily Dennis and Gwen have only moved 3 miles up the road to Frome where they are stalwarts of the Rotary Club, so we will surely still see them at many more village events. Dennis has always lived by the motto of his favourite song ‘If I Can Help Somebody’. I think he has truly lived up to this, as many residents of Chapmanslade can testify.”

Everyone in the village wishes Gwen and Dennis every happiness in their new home and look forward to seeing them soon. The words of ‘Dennis’s Song’ reproduced here by kind permission of Ken Davies of The Cleyhill Stompers sums up the sentiments of everyone in the community.

Dennis’s Song

We’re gathered here today to celebrate the life

Of someone who has Chapmanslade right through

Dennis is his name; the parish won’t be the same

’Cos now he’s going off to pastures new

 

At the age of 15 years he volunteered his time

By helping to set up a club for youths

And from that day to this, his help you could enlist

For any task that helped the village life

 

For more than 20 years, he ran the shop with cheer

Supermarkets never stood a chance

But when the shopping stalled, and auctioneering called

He ended up on Telly as a star 

Chorus 

For more than 40 years the parish he has served

A councillor and chairman he has been

And with a quiet word, polite and pleasant heard

He’s mediated problems all around

 

This story that we tell would not come out so well

If we did not salute his lovely wife

For 3 score years and more, Gwen’s been there at the core

To make sure Dennis had success in life 

Chorus 

This tribute must include his alter ego who’d

Made us laugh for many many years

Clem Pullet is his name and comedies his game

A very entertaining funny man

 

So now the time has come, he must be moving on

From Chapmanslade, the place that he calls home

It’s been more than 80 years, good memories living here

Now it’s time to say a fond farewell 

Chorus