The Story of Heyford (Extra): Americans put Northants village on the tourist map

NetherHeyfordSallyFoulkesThePrattlerDecember2020

Who is this and What was it all About??
Sally Smith MBE (formerly Sally Foulkes)
Students from the USA visit Nether Heyford May 1979

Recently there was a photo posted on the Heyford Facebook page, with a question “Who is this?” Several people had answered before I saw it and there is a story behind the photo.

The picture was of me taken by the Chronicle and Echo, then a much read daily local paper. There was an article on the front page in the edition printed on Tuesday May 15th 1979, 42 years ago. Margaret Thatcher had just become Prime Minister, the shop that is now Restore was the Post Office run by Mrs Blaney and the Eales family was running the “VG” store just visible in the picture, which was much smaller and their living room has now become part of the shop. There was a bus shelter since removed because of vandalism. It was a very hot early summer, hence the sun dress! Unfortunately my copy of the paper despite being in a plastic box has been attacked by a mouse, but gives the details of why I was looking quizzical.

”I was then Parish Clerk, and a letter arrived at the Post Office addressed to the “City of Nether Heyford Tourist Information Office.” Mrs Blaney gave it to me. It was a request for details of hotels or other accommodation in Nether Heyford from a Professor at Concordia College Minnesota USA. I wrote back to say we were a very small village without any hotels. They wrote back saying they really wanted to stay in Nether Heyford and after discussion with the Parish Council and other people in the village it was decided we could offer ‘B and B’ in local homes.

The students from Concordia were going to be visiting the UK and Europe on a cycling tour using backways and byeways. Their tour would start from London and take them via Bath and Stratford upon Avon en route to Cambridge, Denmark and Paris. We told them about Sulgrave Manor which would be on their route from Banbury to here so that was added to their itinerary and they arrived here in mid May, assembling on the village green to meet their hosts. We organised a tour of the Church with the Rector Alan Horsley, before everyone went off for a wash and change and evening meal with their host families. Later we all met in the games room at the Foresters Arms where local historian Ron Greenall of Leicester University gave them a lecture about Heyford and Northamptonshire, with slides, followed by games of skittles and darts, shove ha’penny and plenty of local beer. After a good “Full English” the next day the group set off for Cambridge and the rest of their European Tour. Concordia students came back to Nether Heyford several more times as they had enjoyed their visit so much.

And why did they want to come here… our village is half way between Stratford upon Avon and Cambridge, it was as simple as that!

Sally Smith MBE (formerly Sally Foulkes)

Letter published in The Prattler – December edition 2020

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