Newcomers to the village often puzzle for years over the name Bob Lay; until recently, this person apparently lived both at Prince’s Manor Farm and at Bishop’s Manor Farm. It was useless to consult the telephone directory, since R. H. Lay was resident in both houses. Having discovered after much research that there really are two people called Robert Hazel Lay, the newcomer – perhaps by now feeling quite an old-stager – spent even longer trying to remember which Bob lived at which Manor farm; probably in the end he gladly accepted that one was known as “Big Bob”, and lived at Bishop’s, while “Little Bob” lived at Prince’s. Consternation prevailed when yet a third Bob Lay appeared, speaking French. The names came about this way:
John Lay (1815 – 87) had nine sons (and we think eight daughters), no fewer than three of whom named their sons Robert, a name very popular at the turn of the century, probably because of the renowned Field Marshal, Lord Roberts. (Other villagers given names of famous people include Baden Powell and Gordon Bosley.) Joseph Lay’s son Robert Hazel Lay was born in 1900 at Invercargil, New Zealand; Joseph’s brother John’s son, also named Robert Hazel Lay, was born in 1904 at Prince’s Manor, Harwell, and brother Robert’s son, also Robert, at Marseilles in 1905. Long distance communication was poor and infrequent in those days, and the boys’ names were chosen without family consultation.
Joseph Lay returned from New Zealand to “the old country” in 1908, and his son Robert Hazel Lay farmed in Harwell at Bishop’s Manor farm where Joseph died. His cousin Robert Hazel farmed “up street” at Prince’s Manor farm for many years. This created the unusual situation of two farmers of approximately the same age and exactly the same name, working in the same village. The French cousin, Robert, is regularly in touch, and visits Harwell from time to time, when the three Bob Lays have a “get together”.