The Story of Heyford (Extra): The Ox Hovel

The Ox Hovel

The ox-hovel was first mentioned in the sale of the farm in 1758. Several local estates were being sold by auction after the death of William, Duke of Powis. The ox-hovel seems to have been built with stone from an earlier demolished manor house. It includes several interesting features such as rounded corners and substantial stonework suggesting this was an important building on the farm.

The auction took place on Monday 13th November, 1758 and the two following days at Covent Garden. The ox-hovel and the surrounding fields were part of lot seven, up for sale for £2200 and they were brought by John Devall for £2440.

The ox-hovel was used for cattle until the mid 1970s when the farm gave up its dairy herd. Over the years the thatched roof was replaced with a corrugated iron roof. At that time this was seen as a great improvement. Since the 1970s the ox-hovel was left derelict and was subjected to various forms of anti-social behaviour and was even set on fire. Restoration work was performed.

This is a rare and interesting building the like of which is not know anywhere else in Northamptonshire and may be one of the few examples of early cattle housing buildings of this type left in the whole country.

Historic England listing:

Jez Wilson

The Story of Heyford (Extra): The Pantomime

Nether Heyford’s Tradition of Pantomime – November 1995

As we approach pantomime season it is worth reminding ourselves that there has been a pantomime in Nether Heyford almost every year since 1969.

The article below written by Joan Juland (November 1995) gives us an insight into the enjoyment given by the Monday Club pantomime to both the audience and performers.

This year, as usual, the Heyford Players continue the tradition with ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” – Performances will be: 7.30 pm on Friday 26th January, and at 2.30 pm and 7.30 pm on Saturday 27th.  

The Monday Club pantomimes began in a small way, but grew and grew, and still continue now under the Heyford Players. They started as an alternative to a Christmas party, and were put on in December” mainly because we wanted the worry of it out of the way before settling down to arranging the family Christmas, later they were presented in January so that the main rehearsals were done in the quiet time after New Year. The list to date reads thus:  

  • 1969 Red Riding Hood
  • 1970 Goldilocks and the Three Bears
  • 1971 Jack and the Beanstalk 
  • 1972 Cinderella
  • 1973 Sleeping Beauty
  • 1974 Dick Whittington
  • 1975 Hey Diddle Diddle
  • 1976 Aladdin
  • 1978 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  • 1980 Beauty and the Beast
  • 1981 Mother Goose in Space
  • 1982 Alice in the Underworld
  • 1983 Robinson Crusoe
  • 1984 Snow White
  • 1985 Old King Cole
  • 1986 Jack The Giant Killer
  • 1987 Cinderella
  • 1988 Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood
  • 1989 Aladdin
  • 1990 Peter Pan and the Magic Snowman  

At this point the Monday Club decided to finish doing Pantomimes mainly because our membership numbers had fallen so much that we had many more ‘co-opted‘ members purely to take part in the Pantomime than we had members.   

The Heyford Players were then formed and they have continued the tradition ever since with the following:  

  • 1991 Dick Whittington
  • 1992 The Adventures of Alice
  • 1993 Sleeping Beauty and the Beast 
  • 1994 Ali Babe and the Forty Thieves
  • 1995 Mother Goose  

Many names that appear in the programmes for the early shows have sadly passed on, such as Reg Collins, who always enjoyed having a laugh and causing a laugh even if it wasn’t in the script. Molly Dawson who also helped with costumes in the early days, and Mike Wallis who was one of our ‘Ugly Sisters’. Many people who have since moved away, some as far as the USA namely Anne & John Martin who both took part in our events. Bev Sewell, Pam & Glyn Bowen, Suzanne Brett, Gwenda Benstead, Angela Dixon, Sheena Harland and Jeanette Purcell are names that spring to mind but I know there were many others that you will remember, not least of all Tim Short who played a memorable Dame on many occasions and I understand still does so!  

We had some ‘accidents’ during our performances that the audiences did not always know about, such as the camp bed that collapsed in Goldilocks when Dave Norrie sat on it and the Aspidestra that was dropped from a great height during a scene change and had to be hurriedly swept up, that was in our first Cinderella .

The lines of a song that Gordon Hayes had difficulty remembering so he wrote them on the back of the beam, and then couldn’t read them because of the lighting, but his wife helped him out from the audience, Kathleen had heard them so often at home she was word perfect .

Do you remember our Growing Beanstalk in Jack and the Beanstalk, and the wonderful wigs in Cinderella as well as the ballgowns. The water fountain in Dick Whittington, which Dick didn’t expect to work, but it had been rigged.

We also had our chorous girls a group of girls mostly the daughters of the cast who sang and danced as fairies or soldiers etc.

We have also had a variety of changing arrangements, for the early performances we had the green curtains pulled round the kitchen corner and had to do everything in there — boys & girls together all very friendly The cast would run down the outside of the hall round the old boiler house that used to jut out, right round to the front of the building and in through the front emergency exit which was curtained off – you can imagine how cold it was on some December nights! We also had to be very quiet, especially on Saturday afternoons when all the children were there and were very inquisitive!

We then had the comfort of the football portacabin, which also meant running through all weathers into the emergency exit. That too was all very well when they were playing away, occasionally they were at home and then we used the Baptist schoolroom — an even longer run through rain and snow!

As many of you will know we were always well supplied in the changing rooms with ‘Dutch Courage’; Sometimes it was tea or coffee, but mostly it was a little stronger, it was the only way we could get some of our cast on stage!!

We tried not to leave out the most important member of the whole show that of the pianist, who was for many years Mrs Marjorie Rogers, The first couple of shows I believe were done by Mrs Betty Sillence, and latterly by David Farmer.

A few weeks after the show we always had an excuse for a party to hold an inquest on the performance and to vow that we wouldn’t do it next year, but we nearly always did and thoroughly enjoyed it for my part for fifteen years.

I was always greatly indebted to my typist who would read my long hand scribbled scripts and make sense of them, often as many as 22 pages, also of course the scenery painters and constructors, props and sound effects which always turned up in time for the performance even if they weren’t thought of until dress rehearsal!

Of course one of the highlights of the day for the children in the early years was the arrival of Father Christmas and the gifts that he brought them.

Joan Juland

Published in The Prattler – November 1995

Newspaper Cutting – Mother Goose 1995
Hey Diddle Diddle 1975
Hey Diddle Diddle 1975 – Cast
Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs 1978
Beauty and the Beast 1980 – Jeanette Purcell, Pauline Thackray, Chris Metcalfe, Marion Williamson
Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs 1984
Cinderella 1987

Nether Heyford’s Tradition of Pantomime – Continued…..December 2020

The Pantomimes continued…….

  • 1996 Snow White
  • 1997 Cinderella
  • 1998 Aladdin
  • 1999 Babes in the Wood
  • 2000 The Emperors New Clothes
  • 2001 Jack and the Beanstalk
  • 2002 Dick Whittington
  • 2003 Peter Pan
  • 2004 Cinderella
  • 2005 Snow White in the Palace

Thanks to Sheryl Scarrott and Pauline Thackray – December 2020

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


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

The Story of Heyford (Extra): Dear Diary – December 1959

December 1959

Dear Diary,

This year has been special to me because I went on a school trip to Germany for 10 days. I didn’t think I’d be able to go as it cost £20 but mum, bless her, got a job in the kitchens on the M1 building site where the offices are, so that she could pay £1 a week. I saved the £6 pocket money we were allowed to take by running errands for Mrs. Davis at The Olde Sun over to Sid Capel’s butchers shop. There were 12 Marks to the Pound so we had to work out roughly how much things cost. We had to take extra clothes including spare shoes, 2 handkerchiefs and a full change of underwear. I bought a 12 film for my Brownie camera. We stayed in Boppard on The Rhine, visiting several interesting places including Cologne Cathedral where I have a photo of me and Jane at the top with a view of The Rhine. I’ll never forget this wonderful experience.

Christmas is nearly here and the girls in my class each made a Christmas cake at school, a picture of which was in the Chronicle & Echo. This year I have some money to buy my own presents so I’m meeting my friend Janet in town on Saturday to shop. We’ll start at Woolworths I think. Mum and Dad are planning an evening at the pub because they are open until 11 o’clock, half hour more than other nights so I shall write out my Christmas cards and wrap my presents when I get home. I hope we’ve got plenty of brown paper and string.

On Sunday we are having a Christmas concert in church and the choir have been rehearsing. It’s mostly Christmas carols, just one short anthem, and everybody joins in. I’m looking forward to this. The crib is in place where everybody can see it and the ladies will fill huge pots with Christmas roses and holly. Mum and Dad are even coming for a change.

I warned the chickens that they don’t have long left as dad is hoping to pluck and draw one for Christmas lunch. I dare say I shall help him. He’ll wring its neck, which I don’t watch, then he gets me to hold it while he pulls out its innards (they don’t half stink), then there’ll be feathers everywhere when he plucks it. He’ll pick the Brussels ‘yuk’, carrots and spuds from the garden and the Christmas pudding is made – we all had a stir for luck. Hope I get the silver thrupenny bit again this year, it’s usually in my piece, I must just be lucky. If my cousin comes I bet he’ll get one as well, though he’s only 4 so he could swallow it.

We have a huge table in our living room so we can seat us all round it for dinner. We have some home-made Crackers to pull, a tin of salmon for tea plus the Christmas cake I made, and plenty of coal in the shed for the fires, one in the living room and one in the front room, which is a rarity. After dinner I bet we have a sing song. Mum will play the piano and we join in the songs we all know. Her latest favourites are Three Coins in a Fountain by Frank Sinatra and Oh My Pappa by Eddie Fisher, then she’ll revert back to the good old War songs that the oldies know, and Christmas Carols of course. I wish she’d learn to play a bit of Elvis Presley.

After this the grown-ups will fall asleep, especially if they’ve had a beer or a glass of sherry and I might help my cousin do a bit of colouring because he will no doubt get a new colouring book and pencils for Christmas, that’s to keep him quiet for a while I expect. I might read my School Friend with Dilly Dream which my auntie usually buys me and my cousin will probably get a book as well. Neither of us know what else we’ll get because we don’t get to choose, we get whatever our parents can afford, but we drop hints. All we need now is a bit of snow.


Letter published in The Prattler – December edition 2020

The Story of Heyford (Extra): Bob Smith’s Memories

Lower Heyford known now as Nether Heyford is a village steeped in history. When I first moved here in October 1964 the village was quite different to what it is today.

We moved into 75 Furnace Lane, a chalet bungalow, opposite was the dairy field with a big house owned by the sisters Green. There were 2 big houses as you came down the road from the A5 on the right hand side, and a bungalow owned by Pinky Lilley on the left. From the bungalow, the field reached down to the council houses.

On our side of the road we were next to the big houses. Our houses had just been built by Mr Howe, a former constable who came from Luton. I think that there were six chalet bungalows built in all. They led down to the council houses on the right of Furnace Lane.

Coming into the centre of the village was the Green which is I’m told is the largest green in the country. Surrounding the village green were thatched houses, the Baptist chapel, school, village hall and a few houses. Opposite Furnace Lane is Church Street where I now live.

There was a shop on the corner which once was owned by Major and Mrs Blaney. Next to the shops was a house that used to be a chapel and when we moved into the village, an old thatched house was next to a bigger chapel that used to be run as a Youth Club. The shop next door was owned by Mrs Court but was run by Mrs Highfield and there was a small fish and chips place just between the chapel and the shop.

The 3 storey house next to the shop had a row of houses which are now no more and next to them was an old forge which was used later for a garage. The thatched house was beautiful and had a well with wrought iron covers just inside the entrance.

This is the true centre of Heyford.

On the road to the church, there was a bakery which used to cook the congregations Yorkshire puds while they were in church, a wheelwright, the co-op and another small shop next to the jitty and also a ladder makers as well.



Bob Smith

Letter published in The Prattler – December edition 2020

The Story of Heyford (Extra): A Gypsy Caravan Tale – John Butcher & David Banner

Many years ago (approx 1951) a lady arrived in the village with a horse drawn gypsy caravan which she parked in John Smiths field between the river and Crow Lane. She stayed there for many months during which time her horse died and she was enquiring about a replacement.

My grandfather had a very large shire horse for sale and i suggested to the lady that we should bike over to Caldecote near Towcester for her to inspect the horse. A price was agreed and I offered to ride the horse bareback via Tiffield, Dalscote, Birds Hill and Bugbrooke to Heyford, a very painful journey.

Next day I helped to harness the horse to the caravan which had sunk into the wet ground, the horse heaved and broke all the chains attaching it to the caravan, John Smiths tractor was required to move it.

After some further months the lady, horse and caravan left Heyford and never returned. She was writing a book about her journey but I do not know whether it was ever published. Have any of your older readers any knowledge as to who the lady was and whether a book was ever published?

W John Butcher

Published November Edition 2020

John Butchers article in the November Prattler

The lady mentioned was known to us as Roma Far. In 1951, I was a 7-year-old who walked every day from Upper Heyford to Bliss School. We would stop and feed the goat and stroke the dogs. She camped in the field known as the Pykle next to Crow Lane, before the entrance to the lane was filled in by the council, it was a nice open space often used by gypsies.

Many years later having become an avid book collector, I discovered that Roma Far was really Rowena Farre, the best selling authoress of ‘Seal Morning’, a wild life book published in 1957. This was followed by ‘A time from the World’ published in 1962. This is the story of her roaming life, living with gypsies and tinkers, her stay in Upper Heyford was part of this journey. 

David Banner

Published December Edition 2020

Rowena Farre

The Story of Heyford (Extra): Dear Diary – November 1958

November 1958

Dear Diary,

It’s another lovely morning. Not much left in dad’s veggie patch now summer’s over, just boring green vegetables like cabbage and brussels. It all has to be picked at the right time, vegetables to store in the pantry, fruit to bottle and onions to hang in the barn. We can see his Army influence in the garden, all the vegetables and the flowers in straight lines, like they are on parade, but he’s got so much to look after and he’s very proud of it. Mum’s preparing dinner. I love the first course of Yorkshire pudding with gravy but have to show willing with the main course of meat and vegetables after she’s gone to the trouble of preparing them. Could be rice pudding for afters if we have plenty of milk.

On November 5th some of us made a Guy Fawkes, dressed it in old clothes, put it in an old pram and pushed it round the village with a sign saying “penny for the guy”. Some people were kind enough to give us 1d for some sparklers but it was fun anyway.

We didn’t get a family summer holiday this year, which I wasn’t surprised at, not many families go away. I did get a treat though when I went on a day trip by train to London with my friend Jane. We visited Trafalgar Square, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. We didn’t see the queen though. We forgot to let her know we were coming.

We’ve got a telly now and I like to watch Crackerjack. The TV came from Radio Rentals and we pay for it weekly but it’s great fun for us all and it’s on until about 10 o’clock. They then play The National Anthem, a bit like they do at the cinema, except nobody stands up at home. I still like listening to the wireless on a Saturday morning though, with Children’s Choice and Uncle Mac, who always says “Hello Children everywhere”. They have some smashing songs on and I know them all. There’s Tubby The Tuba, A Four-Legged Friend and The Ugly Duckling.

The old Bricklayers Arms on the canal bridge has been sold to a coal merchant. That’s another pub that bites the dust. The Wharf opposite was also a pub at one time called The Boat but that was before the First World War. They say we used to have several pubs in Heyford, now we only have 2. None of them could have done much trade in such a small village though. I think The Old Sun and The Foresters Arms are here to stay. Sometimes my family catch the bus to Daventry, have a drink in the pub near the bus terminus, then come back on the same one. It’s good because it goes through all the little villages. The Railway at Daventry which runs to Leamington Spa is closing to passengers. I’ve never been on it myself. I think it will still be open for freight for a while.

I’ve joined the choir. There are quite a lot of us, maybe 6 girls, 6 boys, 6 warbling women and 6 growling men. We walk to the choir stalls by the altar from the vestry at the back, like in Noah’s Ark, 2 x 2. I enjoy the services and the singing except when we have to learn a special anthem. They are hard to learn, pretty tuneless and the congregation look bored because they can’t join in. Still, it’s not every week. The church looked beautiful in October for Harvest Festival with flowers everywhere and children brought along fruit and vegetables grown in their garden or allotment. On Remembrance Sunday, the nearest one to 11th, the choir will walk to the War Memorial after the service to remember those who died in the two World Wars, and we have 2 minutes silence. Rehearsals will then start for the Carol concert at Christmas. Roll on.


Letter published in The Prattler – November edition 2020

The Story of Heyford (Extra): Pensioners Club – Christmas 1989


“My nan Florrie Coles would have been 111 today. This is the Nether Heyford pensioners club in 1989. She came to live with us in 1985 from London and was welcomed into the village by all these lovely people. She is 7th from the left front row, in black. Anyone recognise their relatives ?”

Photograph published on the Facebook group Nether Heyford Past “Thanks for the Memories”

By Jeanette Bradstreet Letts (with Ray Bradstreet & Stephen Bradstreet)

3rd April 2018

Back Row (Left to Right):

  1. Mr Weaver
  2. Mr Denny
  3. Mrs Hardwick (?)
  4. Mrs Smith
  5. Mrs Wallis
  6. Mr Tandy 
  7. Mr Jones
  8. Mrs Osborne
  9. Mr Humphrey
  10. Mr Perkin
  11. Mrs Hale
  12. Mrs Peggy Redley
  13. Mr Randall
  14. Mrs Marjorie Hamborg
  15. Mrs June Masters
  16. Mrs Weaver
  17. Mrs Shelia Masters
  18. Mr George Masters

Middle Row (Left to Right):

  1. Mrs Dunkley
  2. Mrs Gowan
  3. Mrs Butt
  4. Miss Reeve
  5. Mrs Lyons
  6. Mrs Wilkes
  7. Mrs Randall

Front Row (Left to Right):

  1. Mrs Kingston / Mary Butcher (?) 
  2. Mrs Jones
  3. Mr Fred Browning
  4. Mrs Phyllis Matthews
  5. Mrs Joan Clarke
  6. Mrs King
  7. Mrs Florrie Coles
  8. Miss Weaver
  9. Mrs Cornelius
  10. Mrs Wright
  11. Mrs MeDade (?)

For any corrections/additions to the names please contact Jez Wilson at The Prattler


The Story of Heyford (Extra): Dear Diary – October 1957

October 1957

Dear Diary,

I’ve lost both my grandparents now so we’ve moved into New School House so that my uncle has a home and we haven’t got a spare bedroom for him in Furnace Lane. I love this house but Mum says it’s draughty and cold. We have a huge garden so loads of room to play. My bedroom is at the side of the house near the jitty. In the evenings I hear the twins, Joe & Len, who live in Church Lane (Back Lane as it’s known), going home from the pub. They walk well apart and talk like it’s the middle of the day. The Headmaster collects our rent once a month because the house is owned by the School.

I miss my pap, he made me laugh. When I asked him one day why he had so many relatives in the village he simply said “our cat went up their alley” whatever that means. I miss helping my nan shell peas, popping down Mag Courts for some groceries ‘on tic’ and going over to The Foresters Arms to collect her nightly bottle of stout.

I had another nan, dad’s Foster Mother, but we didn’t see so much of her because she lived in Bugbrooke and we had to go by bus. The good thing about visiting her was that she bred Pekinese dogs, kept turkeys to fatten up for Christmas and had a parrot in a cage on her kitchen table which used to swear. She’s no longer with us either.

It’s Heyford Feast weekend soon. Families get together, go to church on Sunday and to the fair which usually runs every evening until after the pubs shut. I hear that in the past, when one man came out of the pub at closing time, he forced the swing boat over the top, losing all the change from his pocket. They wouldn’t allow them to go so high now I bet. Abbott’s fair comes every autumn and parks its caravans and lorries on the green opposite the school. The children from the fair go to the village school and most of the families attend church on the weekend they are here. Two things we can all guarantee winning at the fair is a goldfish and a chalk ornament which is great for drawing on pavements. When the fair leaves, we scour the green for loose change hidden in the grass.

I was confirmed in Kislingbury church this year by the Bishop of Peterborough along with some others from Heyford and surrounding villages. Robert Hensher, the vicar, gave us lessons for 4 weeks beforehand. Now I can go to church regularly to take Holy Communion.

There are plans to build a Village Hall along the area by the top of the green and the first soil was turned recently. It will be built mainly by village volunteers so might take a long time, but how great that will be. Also planned is a motorway from London to Leeds which will run past Upper Heyford. Any soil from this is to be dumped in the old brickyard in Furnace Lane to fill in the pits where the motorcycles used to race.

I’ve done my first year at Duston School. Our school motto is “Have Faith”. There are far more classrooms than the 3 we had in the village so it takes a bit of getting used to and we have a timetable to follow. I lost my sports shorts last term so mum is taking me to Brierley’s for some new ones. “I’m only getting you cheap ones this time” she said. I had a rotten school report this year saying I did too much talking. I can’t believe that.


Letter published in The Prattler – October edition 2020

The Story of Heyford (Extra): Our connections with Nether Heyford – Pat Andrews

About 200 years ago, in 1820, my great-great-great-grandfather was married in Nether Heyford. His name was Joseph Mann and he was born in Weedon Bec in 1800, and baptised there on 18th January 1801.

His first wife was Elizabeth Claridge (1801-1829), with whom he had two children, Lucy (b.1822) and Ann (b.1827), and after Elizabeth’s death, he married Charlotte Claridge (1810-1891) who may have been Elizabeth’s sister or a cousin; there were Claridge’s living in Heyford at that time but there may also have been a Claridge connection with Hertfordshire. Charlotte and Joseph had ten children, all born between 1831 and 1850 of which only one (George, b.1841?) was recorded as an infant death. The next boy, born in 1844, was named George, too.

When Lucy was married, aged 21, in c.1843, her father, Joseph, was described as a shoemaker. In fact, he developed a successful shoemaking business in the village. There were quite a lot of shoemakers (or people connected with the shoe trade) working in Heyford in the mid-19th century, nine in 1841, fourteen in 1851 and nineteen in 1861. The village itself had the first recorded mention of shoemaking in Northamptonshire in 1202.

Joseph died at the age of 61 in 1861 and is buried in Heyford. His widow, Charlotte, then married a John Smith of Heyford, whom she survived, and later she was buried at Cogenhoe. Joseph’s second son, William (b.1833) is the subject of an article in Volume 3 of “The Story of Heyford” and was also at one time a shoemaker. In that article William said that his father was not sympathetic to the established Church and followed the Baptist faith. In fact, it is recorded that Joseph was a “sponsor” of the chapel at Farthingstone. William also mentions that the people were not very happy with the way the Arnold Charity was being administered at that time.

William’s elder brother, the first child of Joseph and Charlotte, was named Thomas Claridge Mann (1831-1921). Tom almost certainly attended Bliss School. He followed his father into the shoemaking trade, working in several places in Nether Heyford. Eventually, he met a girl from Cogenhoe called Charlotte Smith, whom he married in 1852 at Cogenhoe Church. Charlotte came from a family of shoemakers in Cogenhoe. It is from this Thomas Claridge Mann (also known as “Old Tom”) that I am descended.

Old Tom and Charlotte settled in Cogenhoe and Thomas started making shoes in a room in Church Street, Cogenhoe. Eventually three of Tom’s Heyford brothers, Joseph (1836-1921), John (1839-1931) and George (1844-1932) followed him to join him in the business, but for some reason not William. They set up the company of T.C.Mann and Brothers, later to be dissolved in 1883 and renamed T.C.Mann and Sons. The company flourished, making the highest quality shoes, and they opened shops at 160, Regent Street, London and two more in Manchester, at 12, Cross St. and 123, Market St. They made shoes for foreign dignitaries and boots for one of Shackleton’s Antarctic expeditions. The Mann family in Cogenhoe, just like Joseph in Heyford, were chapel people and they built the Chapel in Station Road and a terrace of houses for some of the workers in the factory. At one time the firm
employed about a hundred workers, some of whom walked from Wellingborough and Piddington to work. And all this started from their experiences in Nether Heyford. The Story of Heyford states that William Mann lived to the ripe old age of 92, but Old Tom lived to 90, Joseph to 85, John to 92 and George to 88, so there must have been something in that Heyford air!

Old Tom and Charlotte had five children, including William Charles and Thomas Claridge (known as “Young Tom”), and Young Tom also had five children, the eldest being another Thomas Claridge (known as “ Young Tom’s son”) and the fourth child being my maternal grandmother. At one time there were so many family members in Cogenhoe that it was often said that “nearly every other woman that you see is probably a Mann”, but now I don’t think there are any left in either Cogenhoe or Heyford.

In October 1967 I got married at Cogenhoe Church to Ann, a Cogenhoe girl, and we made our home at Nether Heyford, basically because we could just about afford the house, and it was about halfway between Cogenhoe and Charwelton, which is where I was working at the time. In May of that year we had seen an advertisement in the evening paper for a cottage in Furnace Lane and as I was working at Charwelton on the Saturday, my mother brought Ann over from Cogenhoe to look at it. As they drove up the lane, my mother said to Ann that this was the village that her great-grandfather came from, and until then I knew nothing about the Mann connection with Nether Heyford, so it was a bit of a coincidence that we brought the family back to the village just over a hundred years after Old Tom left. We still live in the same house and have been here in Heyford for 53 years because we find the village and the villagers so friendly. We have almost been accepted too, I think!

Since then both our daughter Sarah and our son Kit, granddaughter Beckie and grandson Kyle have all been educated at Bliss School, and then they all went on to Campion School, where Kyle is still studying. Beckie was assisted by the same Arnold Charity that William Mann was so critical of, and then went on to University at Middlesbrough where she still lives, but the fact that the rest of us have remained in the village speaks volumes for Heyford village life. Kyle is the eighth generation of the family since Joseph married here in 1820.

I have attached two photographs, one showing Old Tom, and the other showing, left to right, Young Tom, Old Tom (seated) and Young Tom’s Son.

If anyone can add to this story, especially regarding the people mentioned, or if they know that I have made errors, please let me know on 01327 340599


Pat Andrews

Letter published in The Prattler – September edition 2020