The Story of Heyford: Four Hundred Years of Bell Ringing V2C3

Bell—ringing in the parish church of St Peter and St Paul goes back at least four centuries. The two oldest bells are dated 1601 and one of these is inscribed ‘Thomas Morgan gave me to the church frank and free.’  Judge Morgan lived in the Manor House at this time. Both bells were cast by a founder called Watts and one is the heaviest bell in the belfry. It is the tenor, weighing over seven hundred-weight: that’s over 784 lbs. or 356 kilos. Another bell was added in 1638, cast by Watts II, and a fourth in 1704 cast by H. Penn. With these four bells it was possible to ring a maximum of 24 changes or sequences (English Change Ringing is based on mathematical sequences rather than musical composition). This was how it remained for 250 years.

Originally there was an external door in the tower where the bell-ringers could gain access. In 1855 there was extensive restoration work in the church which included opening up the tower inside, moving the organ and sealing off the outside door. The heavy wooden door which was removed became the one now hanging as the front entrance to the Old Sun pub. This would be appropriate as the vestry meetings used to adjourn to the Old Sun. Of course, it is still the tradition today for the bell-ringers to finish off every Friday-night ringing practice with a drink in the local – even if, for some reason, ringing hasn’t actually taken place!

During the 1930s the ringers included Mont Smith (John Smith’s grandfather), Fred Browning, Charlie Foster, Bernard Kingston, Harry Eales and Dick Capell. At this time, ringing only usually took place on holy days such as Christmas or Easter; for church services, the bells were just tolled. During the Second World War, bell—ringing generally was banned and only to be used as an alarm for the community. However by 1943 the threat of invasion was considered over and the ban lifted.

A new era and two new bells

This spelled a new era for the Nether Heyford bells. Fred Browning, as the tower captain, recruited and trained a new generation of ringers, including Ted Garrett and Hilda Collins who are still ringing today. Fred also developed handbell ringing at Christmas time. This new enthusiasm was further encouraged by the addition of two new bells after the Reverend Isham Longden, rector from 1897 to 1942, left £100 in his will for a new bell. Even in the 1940s, this provided only a quarter of the amount needed to cast and hang the bells, so an active fund—raising campaign started in the village.

Coffee mornings, whist drives and sales helped to raise £400 and on 21st September 1946, two treble bells were dedicated in church. They were made in London by Gillett and Johnson and hung on a metal frame above the others who were still on a timber frame.

One was called the Victory Bell and there is a list from 1943 of villagers who donated funds towards it. The list includes the rector “Mr” (sic) Mortimer, Harry Allen the verger, Jack Capell the butcher, William Wakefield Whitton, the Kingston family, the Brownings, the Collins’s and the carpenters shop. Most contributed £1, some as much as £5 and some gave ‘two ‘n’ six.’ Now with six bells, the number of possible changes increased dramatically from 24 to 720.

Repairs

In 1979, the four older bells on their wooden frame needed to be rehung and refitted. They had been taken down before but this was the first time in nearly 400 years that they had left the village. They were taken to Taylors of Loughborough and their transport was provided by Jeremy Rice. An eight mile sponsored walk from the church to Flore and Stowe was organised to help raise funds.

Lowering the bells

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The Tenor bell of 1601 bearing the Morgan family crest

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Removing the bells to Loughborough in 1979

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Left to right: Wilf Denny, Bill Collins, Malcolm Chown

Photos lent by Hilda Collins

In 1995, a quarter peal was rung to commemorate the 50th anniversary of VE day. This consisted of 1260 rings non stop and lasted for about an hour. In 1996, the church celebrated the half-century of the treble bells with the Heyford Morris Men, handbell ringers, a lone piper, John Anderson, and a special commemorative service.

Sarah Crontear with thanks to Hilda Collins and Ted Garrett

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Extract from “The Story of Heyford” – Local book series published in the late 1990’s

Volume 2 of 4 | Chapter 3 of 11 | Pages 6 & 7

TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford: King George V Jubilee Celebrations 1935 V2C7

To celebrate the silver jubilee of King George V the Parish Council organised a public tea  for all the parishioners. Charges were sixpence for 14-16 year olds and ninepence for adults. The children were paid for by the school governors, and pensioners and widows were free of charge. All other expenses were covered from the proceeds of a jumble sale organised by the Jubilee committee.

As well as the tea there were sports and games on the Green. Bill Kingston particularly remembers a slow bicycle race between the two sets of goal posts. The idea was to get from one end to the other without touching the ground. Sid Goodman won because he came last. He won a wallet. Tom Eales came second. Bill Kingston came third and won a pipe. He swapped it for Sid’s wallet because each preferred the others prize.

Mr Foster (Reg Fosters father) made a brass candlestick for auction. Dorothy Kingston bought it for £1. 5s which was a lot of money then. However it was a beautiful piece of craftsmanship and she still has it today.

Stephen Ferneyhough

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Extract from “The Story of Heyford” – Local book series published in the late 1990’s

Volume 2 of 4 | Chapter 7 of 11 | Page 18

TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

 

The Story of Heyford: Village Sports in 1900 V2C6

At the beginning of the 1900s up until the First World War in 1914, Heyford celebrated together at their annual sports day organised by a special sports committee, and at which everyone in the village attended.

The sports field was situated beyond the children’s playground where the houses in Hillside Road / Hillside Crescent now stand. The field belonged to a local farmer who removed his cows for the day, which usually meant a bit of clearing up had to be done first. The date was usually set for Whitsuntide, and a beer tent and tea tent would be organised by the ladies.

The men would probably be dressed in striped jackets, baggy trousers and straw hats, the ladies in blouses, long skirts and large hats, the little girls in ankle length dresses and the little boys in jumpers and knickerbockers.

A local band (probably from Bugbrooke) would begin the proceedings and set the mood, and the races would be mainly for the children and fathers, possibly followed by an egg and spoon race for the mums, although they found it rather difficult to run in long skirts. Winners names would be taken after each race for prize giving at the end of the afternoon.

At the interval the lancers from Weedon Depot would give a display of horsemanship, including the spectacular attraction of tent pegging. A peg much the same as a tent peg but softer would be placed in the ground at the centre point. The lancer would mount his horse with his lance at his side, charge at the peg, picking it up with his lance and raising it above his head amid cheers from an enthusiastic crowd.

Prize giving would be the highlight of the afternoon, and the prizes would be something for the home, possibly linen or cutlery which would be acceptable to any family.

The band would play a finale and everyone would go home tired but well satisfied with the days events, and this day would be talked about for a long time.

Shirley Collins

(Reprinted from issue no 3 of The Prattler, dated January 1978) 

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Extract from “The Story of Heyford” – Local book series published in the late 1990’s

Volume 2 of 4 | Chapter 6 of 11 | Pages 18

TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

 

 

Extract from The Story of Heyford – Volume 2 of 4 – Page 18

The Story of Heyford: Mammoth Draw in aid of a Heyford Widow V2C4

In the days before the existence of the welfare state the village was a caring community in which neighbours took care of the needs of each other. An example of this is illustrated in the photograph below which was taken in 1911.

On the left of the picture is Bob Browning who was born in Heyford in 1892 and died in 1997. He remembered the photograph being taken and it was he who gave us the information below.

A woman called Mrs Ephrain Collins became widowed with six or eight children. She lived in a stone cottage where the old folks bungalows now stand in ‘the Pound’. A photograph of this cottage appears in volume 1 of ‘The Story of Heyford’. The village held a raffle to raise money for her welfare. Raffle tickets were sold in the surrounding villages and stuck onto the circular board shown in the photograph. The winning ticket was established by firing a shotgun, owned by Mr Stanton Boyes of Upper Heyford, at the board.

The raffle raised around £2,000 which was invested on behalf of Mrs Collins to keep her in rent and coal for the rest of her life.

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Back row: Bob Browning, Mr Sargent, Mrs Roberts, Mrs Violet Browning, Mrs Gwen George, Win Earl, Mrs Sargent, Mr Gibson, David Browning
Gentleman in chair: Mr William Browning
Front Row: Mr Nightingale, Mr Roberts, Ted Sargent, Ted Wright, Mr Hobbs

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Extract from “The Story of Heyford” – Local book series published in the late 1990’s

Volume 2 of 4 | Chapter 4 of 11 | Page 8

TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford: Heyford Brickworks V2C8

Brickmaking in Heyford
There seems to have been some degree of brick making in Heyford right throughout the 1800s. This is illustrated by the references below. You can see from these that there were always two or three people employed in brickmaking, but the number seems to have increased sharply during the 1880s. It was probably during this period that brickmaking became more mechanised and that the brickyard in Furnace Lane expanded to become an important industry in the village.

1822 George Baker’s ‘History of Northamptonshire’ mentions Nether Heyford, including a reference to ‘a brick kiln towards Stowe field’.

1827 Bryants map shows some brick kilns just S of the canal and E of the railway

1849 Whellan’s directory lists three brickmakers

1851 Census return lists William Braunston of Brickyard House, aged 50, brick and tile maker. Also Richard Haynes, brick and tile maker

1861 Census lists one brickmaker and one brickyard labourer

1864 Kellys directory lists John Judkins, brickmaker

1869 Kellys directory lists Joseph Johnson, brickmaker

1871 Census lists William Towers of Furnace Road, aged 33, brickmaker

1881 Census lists 7 brickyard labourers

1891 Census lists 16 brickyard labourers

Heyford Brickworks
So from the 1880s until the 1930s Heyford had its own brickworks. It was situated in Furnace Lane, beyond the canal, beside the railway, on the site where Wickes now operates. It was on part of the Heyford Grange Estate owned by the Judkins family. The claypit and brickyard were leased to Henry Martin Ltd of Northampton who employed around 15 men. The only one now left to tell the tale is Bill Nickolls who worked there in his late teens from 1930 until 1934. Bill is now aged 84 and it is to him that we owe our thanks for the memories of the brickworks from that period.

Blood, sweat and tears
The clay, known as blue clay, was only dug during the winter. It was dug directly from the pit by hand using special shovels with extra long cutting blades. The pit which was about thirty feet deep can be seen in the photograph just behind the row of cottages in the background. Before they reached the clay they removed the topsoil and also lumps of lime which could be burnt in the kiln to use for the garden. They started digging at the top and worked downwards. Enough clay could be dug through the winter months to ensure brickmaking through until October. The pay was one shilling per square yard. The clay heap was kept moist by pecking it (making holes into the heap) and watering it.

On Easter Tuesday the workforce was doubled for brickmaking during the summer. The clay was barrowed to the brickmaking machine and put into the mincer. This ground up the clay which was then passed downwards between two sets of rollers and came out in a big slab. From there it was cut into bricks eight at a time, and then into a barrow for taking away.

Sadly one of the men died in the mincing machine. His name was Teddy West. He was a small man, but one of the most committed workers, always first to arrive in the mornings and well respected by all the others. Unfortunately he used to wear a sacking apron which on one occasion became tangled in the machine and he was drawn into it. His death was a shock to them all.

From the brickmaking machine the bricks were taken to the yard and stacked. Here they were covered and left to dry before going into the kiln. The stack was later turned inside out to allow for even drying. The pay for turning was 5d per thousand. Bill Nickolls remembers turning 25,000 in one day, but the record was set by Ron West who turned 30,000.

The kiln was fired by coal. There was a siding off the main railway and so the coal ‘slack’ was brought by train. You can just pick out in the photograph the letters of the LMS truck immediately to the left of the Bricklayers Arms. It took ten tons of coal to start the kiln and so once it had been started it was kept going twenty-four hours a day. The kiln consisted of a number of cavities joined by holes and so the fire went from one to another. The clay bricks were put into the kiln, baked, and then taken away red hot for stacking in the yard.

It was hard work. All the pay was piecework. The brick-making process was continuous and all men had to keep up the pace to ensure a smooth flow of work. Bill Chapman, George Record and Bill Watson were wagon fillers in the pit. Feeding in the clay on the top of the brickmaking machine was Bob Sargeant. At the bottom on brick cutting was Reg Matthews. There were three ‘runners away’, that is taking the clay bricks from the machine – Bill Goodman, Bert Oliver, and Bill Nickolls. At the top of the kiln were the brick burners Henry Allen and ]o Collins. ‘Runners-in’ to the kiln were Bill Nickolls and Ron West (Teddy’s son), and there were two ‘drawers’ jack Nickolls (Bill’s brother) and Bill Nightingale to take the fired bricks away.

The Brickworks and Bricklayers Arms in the 1930s

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Note the clay pit between the chimneys just beyond the rooftops in the distance. You can also pick out an LMS railway wagon just to the left of the Bricklayers Arms.

Local buildings
Heyford bricks Were used in a number of local buildings. This included the four sets of four council houses in Furnace Lane built in the 1920s and the three pairs of semis lower down on the other side. All these Were built by Mr Denny. Other bricks went further afield. There was a contract with Pratts for half a million per year. These were taken by horse and cart and loaded onto a narrowboat for shipment down the canal to Watford. 3” bricks sold for 38s per thousand and 2 5/ 8” for 45s.

The closure
In 1938 some of the men agitated for an increase in wages but Henry Martins either wouldn’t or couldn’t pay.  He decided instead to close the brickworks and so brickmaking in Heyford came to an end. The site was sold to Mr Beck who owned Heyford Hills although he never developed it. It was used during the War by Weedon Barracks for sorting war goods returned from the front. Then some time after the war a cinder track was laid for holding bicycle races. In the late 1950s the pits were filled in with waste from the building of the M1. In 1965 some factory units were built on it and since then it has been used for light engineering and warehousing.

The same view in the 1990s

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Instead of the clay pit you can now see the roof of the warehousing at Wickes.
The Bricklayers Arms has had its top storey removed and is now a private dwelling.

Stephen Ferneyhough

Extract from The Story of Heyford – Volume 2 of 4 – Chapter 8 Published December 1998

The Story of Heyford (Extra): Spirit of the Valley

Nether_Heyford_River_Nene_SpiritofValley

This mosaic artwork is situated adjacent to the River Nene road bridge and footpath as you leave Nether Heyford towards Upper Heyford.

Earlier this year I asked around about its origins but didn’t get much of a response, only educated guesses.

The heading reads “Spiritus Vallis” (Latin for “Spirit of the Valley”) and also depicted is MM (Roman Numerals for 2000)

Obviously the railway, canal and river indicate a local connection, the Roman/Mosaic connection ties in with a wealth of very significant discoveries in the village since the mid 1960’s.

The photograph above was taken in July 2019 and as you can see it has suffered from some decay on the left hand edge.

I have recently discovered more information so thought I would share in a post.

“Spirit of the Valley” 

Part of the Northamptonshire’s Millennium Festival – a South Northamptonshire Council funded arts project during 2000.

Based on the Nene Valley and the communities that live along it, the project resulted in many activities including guided walks, photography, performances, writing and visual arts.

  • One of the last elements to be completed was the siting of three mosaic-based art works made by groups in three South Northamptonshire villages.
  • Guided by Northamptonshire artist Carole Miles.
  • SNC Arts Development Officer was Anna Hayward in 2000.
  • Harpole Heritage Group, Bugbrooke Arts Society, Heyford Archaeology Group & Youth Club each produced artwork based of the Nene Valley theme.

The 3 pieces were placed at the following sites:

“Roman Way Marker” – Nether Heyford

“Mosaic benches” –  Harpole

“Giant Fossils” – Bugbrooke

 

Jez Wilson