I was one of a family of three who moved into the mill house in November 1954. My mother had been a housekeeper at East Haddon where she lived in a tied cottage with my sister and myself. Due to ill health she had to give up her job, and of course the cottage. We met some friends of ours, Betty and Bert, who lived in the mill house. They put us up, but when we had been there some weeks they moved with Bert’s job on the railway, so we took over the tenancy of the mill house.
It was very primitive to say the least, but at last we were in rented accommodation again. For the £1 per week rent we had a unique dwelling. Having no electricity, mains water, or gas, we used oil lamps and candles for light, and a large black range to cook on, for which we had to collect wood from around the fields. The coalmen Guy and Bob West couldn’t deliver coal to the door because the track was so pot-holed. They thought it would break the axle of their truck, so they left the coal at the second field gate.
In the kitchen we had an earthenware sink. Above it was a pump which you had to ‘prime’ to get the water up from the spring below. To prime it you had to turn the metal pipe (which swivelled) upside down, pour a pint of water down, and then pull a handle, much like a beer pump, and so get your water. The wash-house was a shed opposite the kitchen across the yard. It had a large metal copper which was mounted on bricks, with a space to light a fire beneath it, and so heat the water.
But the greatest delight was the loo! It was in a shed at the far end of the house. It had a wooden seat with a bucket below, which when full had to be emptied and the contents buried in the garden! Home produced manure! When you went after dark you had to go armed with various items — a candle in a jam jar to light your way, and a thick stick and a bucket to bang on to frighten the rats out of the building before you went in! But for all that it was a most happy place to live.
We had to go across the fields to get the shopping from Mrs Courts shop, and we bought paraffin, candles and stamps from Mrs Blaney’s store. That was when the weather was fine. When it rained the house did get ﬂooded in the hallway and the main room, but the kitchen was above water level so that wasn’t too bad. When the weather was bad we had to paddle through the mud to the large dutch barn, then past two fields to the top gate (change from wellies to shoes). Then we walked along the main road to Upper Heyford and down the lane to Nether Heyford (Lower Heyford in those days). Sometimes the lane was ﬂooded near Crow Lane so we had to paddle through freezing water.
I married from the mill in 1955 and had my eldest daughter in April 1956. The ambulance taking me to the Barratt got bogged down in mud, but managed to get me to town in time for the birth. Then in September 1956 we were given a council house in Hillside Crescent with all mod cons.
It was a hard life at the mill, but at the same time an experience that my sister and I are pleased to have shared. We were the last people to live there and it is so sad to see the dreadful state it is in now.
Extract from “The Story of Heyford” – Local book series published in the late 1990’s
Volume 3 of 4 | Chapter 8 of 17 | Page 17
Heyford’s Historical Heritage | How the books were created