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

The Story of Heyford (Extra): Dear Diary – September 1956

September 1956

Dear Diary,

Well, that’s it. I’ve left Bliss Charity School and am preparing for the next stage of my learning at Duston Secondary Modern School. I didn’t pass the 11+ but that’s fine because all my friends are joining me on the daily bus trip to Duston. The few that passed the exam will bike to Upper Heyford, leave their bike in somebody’s garden and catch a bus to the Grammar School in Daventry. I’ve got my new school uniform, navy skirt and white blouse with school tie and a blazer with a badge for winter. For the summer we are to have a green striped dress made from Butterick Pattern No. 7741 available at Adnitts. Duston Secondary Modern School opens its doors this month and I am in Form 1A. A bus will leave Heyford at 8:20 am and bring us home after 4 o’clock. I’m looking forward to the next stage of my education.

I’ve enjoyed the school holidays, mostly outdoors. It was great not having to get up so early. By the time I opened my curtains nearly all the ladies in Furnace Lane had their washing out. They all have a line stretching from top to bottom, and they all seem to wash on a Monday, so it’s lovely to see rows of sheets blowing on a sunny summer’s day.

The other day I had a “butcher’s basket” on Sue’s bike and I jumped off when she started going too fast and ripped my knickers. I told dad I’d fallen down a tree because he knows I climb and he’d be really annoyed if he knew I’d been on somebody’s bike. He thinks they’re dangerous. Mind you that could be because he can’t afford to buy me one. It all started after we’d been scrumping down Ben’s Orchard and had to make a quick getaway because somebody shouted “Ben’s coming”. I have no idea who Ben is and don’t know of anybody who’s ever seen him but he has some lovely apples. I really don’t need to go scrumping because we have apples galore at home but I like to join in the fun.

I’m spending the morning with Nan while mum goes fruit picking up at Beck’s farm by the A5. They say that Mr. Beck was a pilot in WW1. He is a very kind man. Children are allowed in the school holidays but I like to help my Nan pod her peas and pick her gooseberries ready for Pap’s dinner and she lets me help make pastry in the kitchen sometimes. Having said that she’s not quite as bright as she used to be and doesn’t mind if I find a caterpillar in the peas, “adds a bit of meat” she says. I love her 3 cats which she has to keep the mice away. She falls asleep easily but she’s over 60 and she brought up 7 children, so it’s understandable. I might go off and play for a bit if she nods off.

Last Sunday my dad and uncle cut the hedge round pap’s garden & orchard. It’s a very long hedge and takes hours. Backing onto the orchard is Mr. Humphrey’s ladder making yard and you can hear the saws during the week in the woodshed but it’s quiet on Sunday because they all go to chapel.

The morning was spent with the men hedge trimming and mum cooking our meal. After dinner the men were clearing the hedge cuttings and making a bonfire at the top of the orchard, Nan and Pap were asleep in the living room, and me and mum washing up. All of a sudden mum gasped. “Oh blimey, they’ve set the hedge on fire. Go and sit with the oldies, and if Pap wakes up play dominoes with him, but make sure he doesn’t come into the kitchen, he’ll have a fit. What, miss all the fun,
again! Of course, I did as she asked and Pap didn’t wake up until the men came in, all black, saying the work had been done. Mum was grinning.


Letter published in The Prattler – September edition 2020

The Story of Heyford: The train crash of 1951 V3C3

At about 11.20 am on the 21st September 1951, the 8.20 am Liverpool Express to London came off the track at the Stowe Hill Tunnel near Heyford and tipped over in the embankment. The crash killed eight people and another seven died later in hospital. There were also thirty-six other casualties.

David Blagrove, in his book, “Waterways of Northampton” describes how “the railway can be seen plunging into Stowe Hill Tunnel” and it was here that the train, “hauled by the Duchess class Pacific engine, Princess Arthur of Connaught, left the rails shortly after leaving the tunnel at a speed of between sixty and sixty-five miles an hour.”

Engine 46207 Princess Arthur of Connaught

Photo taken by James Banner and lent by Ted Garrett

A prompt response
Frank Denny, the Heyford signal man that day, was the first to realise what happened. His signal box was located about a quarter of a mile from the railway bridge in Furnace Lane, along the stretch of line between Heyford and Bugbrooke. As the signalman, Frank was aware that the train had entered the tunnel from Weedon but he became anxious when it did not reappear. As he looked out of his box, he saw steam rising from the embankment near Tanborough Farm.

Frank instinctively knew something was wrong and realised that his first priority was to halt the Royal Scot which was travelling from London and due to pass at any moment. He therefore rang through to the Banbury Lane signal box at Bugbrooke to get the signal switched to stop. This duly happened the Royal Scot came to a halt near his own box. The driver got out to demand “what the hell is going on.” It was due to Frank’s swift response that a much more serious accident was averted.

At the same time, Mrs Cecily Hughes, the doctor’s wife at Weedon, took a call from the Weedon Stationmaster to say that the Liverpool Express had failed to clear his section of the line. He asked if she and her husband, Dr Stephen Hughes, would take a look. So far, that was all that anyone knew.

The couple set off in their car, armed with first aid that they always carried. They arrived at the tunnel within seven minutes of the accident. Mrs Hughes describes how they found nothing at the tunnel entrance so they climbed up over the hill – to be greeted by the sight of the crash strewn along the line.

The rescue operation

Photo taken by James Banner and lent by Ted Garrett

The first four coaches were the most damaged and contained the dead and badly injured. The doctor took one side of the train and his wife the other, clearing the debris in order to reach casualties. Mrs Hughes recalls how “Everyone was calm and patient. The last two carriages had not even left the rails and were still upright. They were full of boys returning to boarding school and one of the senior boys took charge, leading the others away from the scene and back to Weedon, to the Globe Inn.”

The doctors found the engine driver, Mr Tomlin, buried up to his shoulders in coal from the tender. It took a while to dig him out but he was quite unhurt, as was the train’s fireman who had clung to the cab as the engine tipped over.

After attending to all the serious casualties, Dr and Mrs Hughes returned to Weedon, only to find that many more people, including some of the rescuers, were waiting for treatment for minor cuts and bruises.

As some of the first medics on the scene, the contribution made by the Hughes’s was invaluable. Mrs Hughes was later awarded the MBE for her part in the rescue operation. She was reluctant to accept at first, as there were also others who had helped at the crash site and she felt that she was only doing her job. However, Mrs Hughes was described as “heroine of the morning” and duly received her medal.

Several Witness also came forward including a bus driver on the A5 who saw the immediate aftermath of the accident and reported it at Weedon station. It was also very fortunate that a police car happened to be passing the scene along Watling Street as it was one of only two police cars fitted with a radio in the entire county. They were able to summon medical help promptly.

Mr George Richardson of London Was driving along the A5 at the time and said: “I saw the train come out of the tunnel and begin to wobble.”

This “wobbling” and lurching was felt by passengers too. One survivor, Mr Blankfield of Liverpool, explained, “I was in a carriage half-way along the train . . . there were four or five jolts and then the train stopped completely.” He described how he and other passengers immediately climbed out of the windows to help others further along the train.

The damage

Photo taken by James Banner and lent by Ted Garrett

Local help
For local people in Heyford who worked near the railway, the sound of trains was a familiar one and you could tell exactly the time of day by the individual noise of each train that passed. When the crash occurred, Mr Gray of Tanborough Farm apparently thought that his wife had knocked over the dresser. But after that, apart from the hissing of the engine, there was an eerie silence.

Word quickly got around and people went up to help. Amongst the first on the scene were Reg and Joan Collins of Wharf Farm. They provided milk churns so that water could be carried up the hill to the casualties. There was no shortage of volunteers to take the churns but at the end of the day. Reg. had to go round and collect them all back again in his tractor and trailer in time for the evening milking.

Joan had to cycle down to Mrs Blaney at the Post Office with messages to be telegrammed to relatives. At this time, there was only the one phone with one public line out of the village. The officials did their telephoning from Holly Lodge which had one of the few phones in Heyford.

Ted Garrett was booking clerk at Weedon Station that day. When the crash happened, communications between Weedon and Heyford were suddenly lost, so they knew that something was amiss. In fact, as the train was thrown from the track, it had brought down the telegraph poles and cut all contact. A message finally arrived at Weedon via Roade Station that there had indeed been a crash. Ted Garrett was given charge to inform the army located at Weedon Depot and ask them to help at the crash site.

Frank Smith arrived with the Daventry ambulance and took the first casualties to Northampton General. He was actually on his second trip to the hospital by the time other ambulances appeared. Then the army from Weedon arrived to help. As they appeared over the hill, people recalled that it looked as though they were on manoeuvres.

Retired district nurse, Miss Raynor – over 70 years of age – walked two miles from Weedon to the crash site with a case of medical supplies. The Salvation Army and the W.V.S. set up mobile canteens and were there all day. The women from the Heyford railway cottages brought up hot tea for the survivors and people also brought blankets and sheets. The sheets were torn up to make bandages and the blankets kept the survivors warm. These were, of course, not returned but compensation was later given to those who had provided them.

The curse of the tunnel
The crash was reported in the national media and was news on the BBC Home Service. Local papers were full of the story; Northampton’s Chronicle and Echo carried the banner headline “8 KILLED IN WEEDON TRAIN CRASH” although this figure was unfortunately to rise. The Daventry paper went further and wondered if there was a more sinister aspect to Stowe Hill Tunnel. The paper reported that at the same spot in 1915 there had been another fatal train crash.

There were similarities between the two railway accidents. Both occurred about the same time of year with trains that had left at the same time in the morning. On 14th August 1915, the Irish Mail left Euston at 8.30 am and it too was disrailed; this time as it left the tunnel at the Weedon end heading north. The crash killed nine and injured 13 and many of those on board were troops in service during World War One.

However, despite the comparisons, the crash of 1915 was caused by a broken coupling left by a passing train. The coupling had ploughed into the track and so dislodged the oncoming mail train.

Board of Trade
In both crashes, the stretch of line was not found to be at fault. In 1951, the investigation by the Board of Trade was led by Lieutenant-Colonel G.R.S. Wilson. He concluded that the engine (number 46207 for train buffs) had an axle incorrectly fitted after its servicing at Crewe. The axle was slightly too tight, enough to cause a problem when it reached Stowe Hill Tunnel. There is a small change in rail type leading in and out of the tunnel (from flat bottom to bull head track) and, with the axle too tight, the Express dislodged when it went over these rails. The service engineer responsible at Crewe was named but, this being the 50’s and not the 90’s, there was no huge compensation claim or court case.

The engine itself had embedded in the soft clay around Stowe Hill and actually suffered little damage. However, it took almost a month before it could be lifted because of the steep ditch of the embankment. The engine had to be lifted out by a crane and villagers can remember its massive size as it was hauled into the air. It was then towed back to Crewe and was running again within six weeks. Driver Tomlin actually drove the Liverpool Express one more time to London, but never again after that.

By Sarah Croutear. A number of people have contributed to this story but we must give particular thanks to Joan Collins, Ted Garrett, Cecily Hughes and Doris Lovell, Frank Denny’s daughter.


Added 2020:

British Pathe News

24/09/1951 – Many Killed In Train Wreck – A train crash kills several people and injures many more in Weedon

British Movietone News

24/09/1951 – Tragedy occurred aboard the Liverpool-London express train recently, when it crashed at Weedon, Northants., The locomotive plunging down an embankment, derailing all fifteen coaches. It is feared that, at least, seven people were killed and many more injured.

The Illustrated London News

September 29th 1951

Britain From Above

Wreckage of the 8.20am Express Service from Liverpool to Euston (46207 Princess Arthur of Connaught) on the section of track along from the Stowehill Tunnel (the Weedon Rail Crash), Nether Heyford, 1951
LMS Princess Royal Class No 46207 Princess Arthur of Connaught
LMS Princess Royal 6207 “Princess Arthur of Connaught”

No. 6207, A Study in Steel (1935) LMS

Shot and produced in 1935 this film details the construction of Princess Royal Class no. 6207 ‘Princess Arthur of Connaught’, from raw materials to complete locomotive.

Ministry of Transport Crash Report

Report on the Derailment which occurred on 21st September 1951 near Weedon in the London Midland Region British Railways

“The 8.20 a.m. Up express passenger train from Liverpool to Euston, comprising 15 bogie coaches hauled by a Pacific type engine, was travelling at 60-65 m.p.h. on the leaving transition of a left handed curve of about 50 chains radius, when the leading bogie wheels of the engine were derailed to the right ; the cause was an engine defect. The derailment was not noticed by the enginemen at this stage and the train continued forward at speed for more than £¾ mile on the straight without serious damage to the flat bottom track. No more wheels were derailed until the train reached the bull head rails just beyond the short Stowe Hill tunnel, when the leading bogie wheels began to smash the chairs and break up the track with the result that the whole of the train left the rails except for the last two vehicles.

The engine went down the 12 ft. embankment to the left, and fell on its left hand side: on soft ground. The wreckage of the coaches at the front of the train was severe, and I regret to state that seven passengers and one of the dining car staff were killed outright and seven passengers died subsequently in hospital. In addition, 26 passengers, the engine driver, and nine members of the dining car staff were admitted to hospital, or 36 persons in all, of whom 15 were discharged on the same day, and 25 others sustained minor injuries or shock. The driver, who was on the left hand side of the footplate, had a fortunate escape from serious injury when he was buried in coal from the tender as the engine overturned ; the fireman clung to the right hand side of the cab and was unhurt.

The wreckage of the eight leading coaches was piled behind and alongside the overturned engine across both the tracks. It was seen by the signalman at Heyford box 950 yards ahead when he heard the noise of the final derailment, and he stopped the approaching Down “Royal Scot” express at his outer home signal at 11.19 am., and afterwards drew it forward to the box. The block and telephone wires northward were severed, but the signalman got a message through to the Control via Blisworth, the next junction box to the south. Medical and other assistance was also summoned from all possible sources by some officers of the Metropolitan Police who had seen the wreckage from their car on the neighbouring main road. The Northamptonshire County Police were quickly on the scene and performed outstanding services in co-ordinating the work of rescue.”

Magazine Article

Jez Wilson – Updates added September 2020


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

Volume 3 of 4 | Chapter 3 of 17 | Page 4 to 7


Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford: Rev Henry Isham Longden and Mr Fred Potter V3C10

Henry Isham Longden was born at Lamport Rectory on 26th September 1859. Following the death of Thomas Crawley in 1897 he became Rector of Heyford where he remained until his own death in 1942. He was a popular man in Heyford and in 1943, one year after his death, a book about his life entitled ‘A Northamptonshire Rector — The life of Henry Isham Longden’ was published by Joan Wake. The following is an extract from this book relating to his time at Heyford.

A Northamptonshire Rector – The life of Henry Isham Longden

Except for a brief interval during the war of 1914-1918, Heyford was Mr Longden’s home for the next forty-five years. The population of the parish was about 800. His rectory, though commodious and comfortable within, is externally an unattractive mid-nineteenth century building of local ironstone, overdone with gables and plate glass. The beautiful old church lies only some 100 yards away. His church services were, as to be expected, on the high church pattern. He introduced a choral communion service on the first Sunday of every month, at which he officiated investments, then rarely seen in a country church in the Peterborough diocese. He did not, however, indulge in extreme practices of a ritualistic type. The biretta which he had worn as a curate was discarded for a mortar-board on Sunday mornings. Though ready to suffer and possibly to fight for his opinions as other clergy had done, there was no occasion for it – his bishops left him in peace.

In the musical part of the services he was faithfully and ably assisted by Fred Potter, a man of musical ancestry and himself of no inconsiderable musical gifts. Fred had learnt to play the organ at the age of eleven, and officiated voluntarily as a boy at Shangton Church. At Heyford he became honorary organist and choirmaster, and so remained for forty-five years until his master’s death.

Mr Longden always attended the weekly choir practice and wrote out the lists of hymns and chants himself. Until the later years he taught in the Sunday School. On the friendliest terms with his parishioners, he took an interest in the social as the religious activities of the parish. One of his first acts was to collect funds for a church room which after six or seven years he succeeded in building. He founded a village cricket club, and for years was a member of the eleven. The village lads were very fond of him and he corresponded with many of them during the war of 1914-18. He had one or two pupils at the Rectory during the early years, including the Crawley boys from Stowe-nine-churches Rectory.

From the beginning Mr Longden always farmed his own glebe, though the management was left largely in the capable hands of Mr Potter, whose whole heart was in the work. A great reputation was made with the Heyford strain of Berkshire pigs, as also with the hunters, bred and trained on the place, for which purpose a short ‘steeple-chase’ course was laid out. The Hunters’ Improvement Society’s Show at Islington in March, at which many prizes were won, was an important annual event, which was much enjoyed by both master and man.

The Rectory garden, too, except in Winter time, was always ablaze with masses of flowers. The greenhouse also was full of carnations, begonias, cyclamen, and other flowering plants, all under the care and supervision of Mr Potter. He had from the first days at Shangton always lived under his master’s roof, but when in 1901 he married Miss Bertha Nightingale of Pattishall, he moved to a cottage in the village. This arrangement did not last long, and in 1902, to everybody’s satisfaction, they were allotted pleasant rooms at the Rectory. The bacon-curing, butter-churning, and domestic work of the house were carried out by this devoted couple. The affection and respect which they had for Mr Longden was heartily reciprocated, and the party at the Rectory was essentially a happy and contented one.

Rev Henry Isham Longden with Fred Potter

All the Longden children had been taught to ride at Lamport Rectory, but though he kept a horse at Shangton and was always fond of riding, as a young man Mr Longden did not shew any sporting proclivities. After a few years at Heyford, though not actually ill, his health was not up to the mark and Potter suggested that an occasional day with the hounds might do him good. He had bought his brother Arthur’s mare when the latter went out to the South African war in 1899, so now had a suitable mount. Mr Longden agreed, his health improved, and he soon developed a great love of the chase, though he was rather ‘a parson who hunted’ than one of the old-fashioned type of hunting parson like his great-grandfather the Rev. Vere Isham.

Heyford lies just inside the Pychley country, on the borders of the Grafton, but though he would take an occasional day with the former pack, Mr Longden always considered himself a Grafton man. The masters liked to see the sport patronised by the cloth, and Mr Longden’s ‘cheery courtesy and inveterate love of little jokes,’ as Mr Cruft writes, ‘made him ever welcome, even to the most anti-clerical followers of the hounds.’ Well-mounted and well turned-out in top hat, black coat and white cord breeches, he arrived at the meets accompanied by Potter, who besides enjoying the sport quite as much as his master, was thus able to school – and sell – the young hunters bred at Heyford Rectory. Then General Livingstone-Learmouth came to live at the parish, and for eight years after the war Mr Longden hunted regularly two days a week from the middle of November right through the season. (He never cub-hunted). The General used to drive him to the meets, Potter going on with his horse. One day with the Pychley – the meet was at Cottesbrooke – hounds had a great run from Maidwell gardens by Kelmarsh, Arthingworth, Braybrooke, nearly to Brampton Ash, and finally killed not far short of Market Harborough. The General was galloping along beside his Rector. “Padre, I can’t go on any more,” he called. “no man ever stopped in the middle of a run in the Pychley country!” shouted back the parson. Both sportsmen were in at the death, and rode home together the many weary miles to Heyford, gruelling their horses at the Ismays at Hazelbeach on the way.

Then one sad day in the March on 1928, when hounds were running near Preston Capes, someone inadvertently slammed a gate in front of Mr Longden. He tried to pull up but there was not time. His horse swerved and jumped the gate-post, throwing him onto his head on the hard road. Only his top hat saved him from breaking his neck. Potter was with him in a moment and took him home. This was the end of the hunting. The old horse was turned out to grass and Mr Longden was no more to be seen with the hounds. He was then in his seventieth year.

Fred Potter

The relationship between Mr Longden and Fred Potter was obviously a very close one. Joan Wake’s book includes an appendix headed ‘Faithful Service’ which includes the following words written by Canon F. S. Keysell, Vicar of East Haddon, and formerly Vicar of Weedon.

“No record of the late Rev H. Isham Longden at Heyford could be complete without a reference to his trusty servant and faithful friend for 50 years, Mr Fred Potter. In his early days at Heyford Mr Longden used to drive a horse and trap, but with the coming of motor cars and the increase of road traffic and consequent inconvenience, Mr Longden, like many others, though he never went in for a motor car, decided to give up driving and took to a bicycle. It was then, and not till then, that Mr Longden, acting on the advice of Potter decided to take to hunting, for though he had always been fond of a horse, he had never previously appeared in the hunting field.

Potter, who had always been a good judge of a horse, was soon able to fix the Rector up with the right sort of mount, and not feeling it advisable for him to go alone, decided that it would be in the best interests of all concerned that he should accompany his master in the capacity of second horseman. Henceforth for many years the Rector and his groom were generally to be found at meets of the Grafton hounds on Mondays and alternate Fridays, with an occasional meet of the Pychley on Saturdays thrown in. Though Potter made it his first business to see that his master was in the same field with the hounds not only at the meet, but also when they were running, and though he always seemed to be in the right spot when a lead was required over a difficult jump, yet at the same time Potter was generally to be found here, there, and everywhere. Did any rider take a toss and let go his horse? Potter was always there to catch the animal, and if need be to render first aid to its owner. Did anyone at the tail end of a hunt forget to shut a gate? Potter was always there to do the needful in time to prevent any cattle from straying. Did anyone lose their bearings and not know how to find their way home or the place where they had left their car? Potter was always there to tell them, and if necessary to point them by the shortest cut.

Potter soon came to be recognised as an authority on horseflesh, and it became widely known that in the stables at Heyford Rectory there was sometimes to be found a useful, well-trained type of hunter for sale. Would-be purchasers, however, were warned that it was no good going to Heyford with that object in view on a Sunday morning (which alas! had become the fashionable day for such transactions), because at that time the Rector would be standing in the pulpit and Potter would be sitting at the organ, where for many years he acted as voluntary organist and trainer of the choir.

A nasty hunting accident some fifteen years ago when he was then about seventy years of age ended Isham Longden’s hunting career, and Ruby, the much loved horse which had carried him so well for many years, was turned out in the Rectory field where he was allowed to end his days in peace.

Fred Potter, on the right

Photo lent by Charlie Masters

Potter, however did not allow himself to be downcast because he had no more days to look forward to in the hunting field, but turned his attention to gardening (with the exception of an occasional day’s shooting) and soon the Rectory garden became as well worth a visit as had been the stables in earlier days. On one occasion he was showing the beauties of the garden to the writer of this article. Potter remarked to him “There can be no such thing as a groom-gardener, you must be one or the other – you must concentrate!”

The passing of Isham Longden in the early summer of 1942 meant the breaking up of the home in which Fred Potter and wife had for over 40 years devoted themselves heart and soul to all that concerned the well-being of their master and friend, but it has not meant the breaking up of Potter.

The latest report about him is that he is now farming at Heyford on his own account, for though he is old in years he is still young in mind and body. His many friends will wish him every success and if, when the war is over and the country has settled down, ‘Grafton Mondays’ come into their own again, all followers of the hounds will know that there is one farm in that county at all events on which they can be sure of a hearty welcome, and on which the gates and fences will be in good order, and there will be no barbed wire to obstruct. Potter has, and always has had, that mark of the true sportsman that he likes to share his pleasures with others and to enable them to enjoy to the full the things which he has enjoyed so much himself.”

The words of Canon F. S. Keysell, former vicar of Weedon

The memories of Bill Nickolls

A number of local people still remember Mr Longden and Fred Potter, and talk about them with affection. Mr Longden was a kind man who could relate to people of all ages and backgrounds. If you were unwell in hospital he would visit you, ‘even if you attended chapel rather than church!’ The church in those days (19205 and 30$) was well attended. It was normal to go three times a day – morning service at 9.00am, bible classes in the afternoon and evening service at 6.00pm.

Bill Nickolls particularly remembers the choir. It was a full choir, singing all parts. Some of the attendees were Harry Eales, Fred Goodman, Mr Pearson, Charlie Foster, Nell Nickolls, Freda Tebbit, Doll Collins, Ethel Barnes, Bill Nickolls, ]o Nickolls, and ]ack Nickolls. Choir practice on Friday evenings Was run by Fred Potter who was a skilled and knowledgeable musician. He also made it fun. He used to send out to the shop for some sweets and they sometimes played games.

The will of the Rev. Henry Isham Longden

Henry Isham Longden suffered a stroke and finally died in the arms of his friend and servant Fred Potter on Sunday April 26th 1942 at the age of 82 years. The following details from his will are reprinted here from a newspaper cutting (date and source unknown).

‘The Rev. Henry Isham Longden of Heyford Rectory,.who died on April 26 last, left £11,168 9s 1d gross with net personalty £9,725 8s 7d. He left certain furniture and his horses and crops etc. to his faithful friend and servant Frederick W. Potter, and £1,500 upon trust for him for life, and then upon trust for his wife for her life. £300 upon trust to pay the stipend of the organist of Heyford Church. £100 to the rector and churchwardens to provide an additional bell for the church, and £50 to complete the church room.’

Fred Potter

Fred Potter moved to a house in Church Lane and kept a small dairy herd in the field opposite (now known as Rice’s paddock and partly built on). He continued to farm and to produce milk for the villagers. He died at Nether Heyford on November 10th 1964, aged 87 years and was cremated at Milton.


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

Volume 3 of 4 | Chapter 10 of 17 | Page 20 to 24


Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford: The appearance of the Church in 1800s V3C9

The information below is extracted largely from a PhD thesis entitled ‘The Crawleys’. It was written in 1985 by Rev Alan Horsley who was Rector of Heyford and Stowe-Nine Churches from 1971-78. There is a copy of the full thesis in the Public Records Office at Wootton Park.

Ancient times
Charles Crawley at Stowe and John Lloyd at Heyford had inherited ancient medieval churches. The priest in medieval times would have said mass silently in the chancel while the congregation would have stood in the nave. There were probably no seats, just clean rushes laid on the floor for the benefit of the lay worshippers saying their own private prayers. They would have had only a glimpse of the priest through a screen which was meant to divide the priest from his people.

The East end of the South Aisle is known as St Botolphs Chapel and there would appear to be a connection here with the village tradition that the Old Sun Inn stands on the site of a religious house. Travellers on the old Watling Street might well have turned aside one mile from their route to take advantage of the hospitality of the religious house and to visit the alter of St Botolph, the Patron Saint of travellers.

The repairs of 1850-1860
By the middle 1800s the churches of Heyford and Church Stowe were probably in a very poor state of repair and so the Crawley family set about making improvements. Butterfield was chosen as the architect at Heyford. In 1855 the old box pews were removed. These had been put into the nave by those who thought themselves too good to pray beside their neighbours. At the same time the three-deck pulpit was removed and replaced by one of Victorian design, shorter in height, and for pulpit use only.

Old materials were sold and new ones bought. Carved stone, wood and lead were carted away by boat to London. Some monuments were removed because they were considered unchristian, not gothic in style, and their wording worldly. The large Tudor monument of Judge Morgan and his family were removed from the chancel to the North aisle to allow more emphasis on the alter as a focal point.

At this time, contemporary thinking was that ‘a high pitched roof is far more essential to the Christian effect than is a tower or spire.’ Therefore in 1855 the external entrance in the tower was blocked off and the roof of the nave was raised. However the heightening of the chancel roof and the raising of the chancel floor had to wait until 1884, possibly due to the shortage of money.

The garnishing of the Church
‘During the days of box pews little attention was paid to the actual appearance of the church in connection with the seasons. A little holly may have been used at Christmas, but for the most part the decoration of churches, which had been fairly common in the sixteenth century had lapsed.’ However during this period there was a movement towards ‘a return to the ancient and thoroughly English practice of decking the sanctuary with fair flowers and pleasant verdure.’

On January 19th 1856 the Northampton Herald published the following description of the appearance of Heyford Church in festive Christmas decor.

‘Entering the church by the south porch the eye was struck by the manner in which the edifice was decked with Christmas sticking. Woven wreaths of it were wound round the pillars of the aisles from the bottom of the capital, which was encircled by it,‘ a wreath extended under the clerestory windows on both sides the whole length of the nave, and above it was the inscription, also in sticking “I was glad when they said unto me we will go into the house of the Lord”, with one or two crosses on either side, formed of the same material; the belfry arch at the west end was similarly adorned, and a large cross, in sticking, was conspicuous over the arch. Sticking was closely twined around the framework of the screen dividing the chancel from the nave, as well as round the large Latin Cross by which the screen is surmounted… the Christmas decoration of the chancel included, on the east wall, high on either side of the Altar, involved triangles with monograms, and a text “Emmanuel, God be with us ” over the east window, all in sticking.’

NB. The present vestry doors were made from the former Chancel screen by Butterfield. The screen mentioned above sounds like the pre-Butterfield screen.

The church Interior, prior to 1968


The photograph above was lent by Mrs Mary Clements of Church Street. The chancel rails, seen here decorated with flowers, were taken down in 1968/69 during the time of the Rev Hensher. Judging by the apples displayed beneath the rails, the occasion must have been Harvest Festival.


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

Volume 3 of 4 | Chapter 9 of 17 | Page 18 & 19


Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford: Civil Justice in 1819 V3C17

In 1819 William West and Joseph Masters were employed by Thomas Adams to transport thirty-nine thousand bricks by boat from Heyford to Northampton. It appears that they performed the task but were not paid. So they took their case to the court in Northampton. The following pages are copied from the legal documentation which shows how the case proceeded.

The Agreement – 24th March, 1819. The agreement to transport the bricks consisted of the following hand-written note, written presumably by Thomas Adams.

March 24th, 1819. Mr Thomas Adams for Joseph Masters and William West of Lower Heyford for boating from Heyford to Northampton 39 thousand bricks @ 2s per thousand which comes to £3.185s.od. Due to the said Joseph Masters and William West.

The Complaint – 13th Novemer 1819. When they were not paid they took their case to court in Northampton:

Northamptonshire to wit. Be it remembered that this thirteenth day of November in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred and nineteen, William West and Joseph Masters of Nether Heyford in the county aforesaid, labourers, complaineth and maketh oath before me, one of His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace for the said county, that in March last the said William West and Joseph Masters were hired by Thomas Adams of Nether Heyford in the county aforesaid, yeoman, to be labourers in the business of removing bricks to him the said Thomas Adams for the wages of 2s per thousand, and that they the said William West and Thomas Adams did accordingly as aforesaid enter upon and afterwards perform the said service, and that he the said Thomas Adams hath refused to pay to them the said William West and Joseph Masters the sum of three pounds and 18s justly due for the said service, and thereupon they the said William West and Joseph Masters prayeth that justice may be done in the premises.


The Summons — 13th November 1819. As a result of the complaint, the constable of Nether Heyford was commanded to summon Thomas Adams to appear before the court the following week.

County of Northamptonshire to wit. To the constable of Nether Heyford in the said county. Whereas information and complaint hath been made unto me ].S.W. Tamwell Esq. one of His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace in and for the said county , upon the oath of William West and Joseph Masters of Nether Heyford in the said county, that in March last they the said William West and Joseph Masters were hired by Thomas Adams of Nether Heyford in the county aforesaid, yeoman, to be his labourers in the business of removing thirty-nine thousand bricks for the wages of two shillings per thousand and that they the said William West and Joseph Masters have duly performed the said service and that the said Thomas Adams doth refuse to pay to them the said William West and Joseph Masters the wages justly due unto them for the said service amounting to three pounds and eighteen shillings. These are therefore to command you forthwith to summon the said Thomas Adams to appear before me at the Record House in Northampton in the said county on Saturday the twentieth day of November instant at the hour of eleven in the fore noon of the same day, to shew cause why the said wages should not be paid. And be you then there to certify what you shall have done in the premises. Given under my hand and seal the thirteenth day of November in the Year of Our Lord One thousand eight hundred and nineteen.

J.S.W. Tamwell

The Summons is delivered. The justice of the Peace heard from the Constable how the summons had been given:

County of Northampton to wit. William Robinson of Heyford in the said county stated on his oath that he is Constable of Heyford aforesaid and that he gave to Thomas Adams the summons now produced and saw him take and read it.

The Judgement – 20th November 1819. It seems that Thomas Adams didn’t turn up on 20th November for the hearing and the justice of the Peace gives his judgement.

Northamptonshire to wit. Whereas information and complaint hath been made unto J.S.W. Tamwell Esq. one of His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace in and for the said county upon the oath of William West and Joseph Masters of Nether Heyford in the said county that in March they the said William West and Joseph Masters were hired by Thomas Adams of Nether Heyford in the county aforesaid, yeoman, to be his labourers in the business of removing thirty-nine thousand bricks for him the said Thomas Adams. And that they the said William West and Joseph Masters hath duly performed the said service. And that he the said Thomas Adams doth refuse to pay to them the said William West and Joseph Masters the wages justly due unto them for such service as aforesaid. And whereas the said Thomas Adams was duly summoned to appear before me to shew cause why the said wages should not be paid to the said William West and Joseph Masters, but has not appeared and hath not showed any just cause as aforesaid, and hath not paid the same. We therefore having duly examined into the Truth and Matter of the said complaint, and upon due consideration had thereof, do hereby judge, determine, and order, that he the said Thomas Adams upon due notice hereof do pay or cause to be paid to them the said William West and Joseph Masters the sum of three pounds and eighteen shillings which appears to us to be just and reasonable to be paid by him the said Thomas Adams to them the said William West and Joseph Masters as and for their wages as aforesaid. Given under our hands and seals the twentieth day of November in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred and nineteen.

The order is delivered. Following the judgement, the constable of Heyford, William Robinson then served the order on Thomas Adams.

The above William Robinson on his saith that on the twenty third day of November last he served the order hereto annexed on Thomas Adams therein named and who read the same in the presence of this informant. Sworn before us this 18 December 1819.

The outcome. There are no further documents with these records so we don’t know if the debt was eventually paid or whether there was any further legal action. But these documents do give us an insight into the workings of civil justice in the early 1800s.


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

Volume 3 of 4 | Chapter 17 of 17 | Page 30 to 32


Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford (Extra): Nether Heyford WW2 veteran Hugh Adams recalls VE day in 1945

Northampton WWII veteran who was involved in liberating Denmark recalls celebrations in the street – Hugh ended up watching England winning the World Cup with Danish friends he made after VE Day

A Second World War veteran who was in Denmark when the end of the Second World War was announced is recalling memories as the 75th anniversary approaches.

Hugh Adams, who is now 96, was part of the Royal Dragoons, the regiment that was responsible for liberating Denmark three days before VE Day.

As the war was drawing to a close, there were tens of thousands of German soldiers in Denmark and it was Hugh’s regiment that was tasked with liberating them.


Hugh with the President of Danish Rotary at the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of VE Day.

The great-grandfather-of-four said: “We travelled through northern Germany and some of the towns were in complete devastation. They were really badly damaged and it was a startling experience to witness that.

“I even got some poor shots on my little camera as we went through.

“As we arrived in Copenhagen on May 4 I was driving the jeep. Half of Copenhagen were on the streets.

“The reception we got was something that I shall never forget.

“It was so different to anywhere we had seen in the previous six months.”

On the night of the liberation on May 5, 1945 Hugh and his regiment stayed in Copenhagen before travelling to Odense, the following day where they remained for the summer.

Hugh added: “My regiment moved back to Odense where we spent the summer and looked after the repatriation of Germans in Denmark.

“Germany was keen on looking after Denmark because it was a source of food.

“They called it the land of milk and honey.

“We made friends with Danish people and got to know quite a lot of the resistance people who did a fantastic job.”

As the liberation of Denmark happened a number of days before the end of the war was announced, VE Day was not as iconic for the Royals.

“VE Day brings back memories and so forth, but I was actually back in Odense in a school when the news broke through the radio that war was over,” Hugh continued.

“It was, to me, a bit of an anti-climax after the excitement of liberating Denmark days earlier.

“Obviously we celebrated then with the Danish people who were wonderful and it was a great experience.”

Hugh, who still lives at the family farm in Nether Heyford, was granted an early repatriation in the September of 1945, due to his family’s important work.

“We were short of food after the war and my family were farming so I needed to get back to help with that,” he said.

“I was 21 when I was demobilised and I settled in Northampton where the family farm was and that was my career from then on.

“That was the end of my connection with the army until 50 years later when we went back to celebrate.”

Hugh married in 1950 and also kept in contact with some of the Danish people he made friends with.

The veteran and his family went back to visit Denmark 21 years after the war ended.

“I stayed with a delightful family with whom I had befriended in 1945. They were all very musical and we sang all the old wartime songs and drank lots of Schnapps,” Hugh added.

“We also watched England win the football World Cup on their television.”

Hugh, who is one of the founding members of Northampton West Rotary Club, also visited Denmark again, alongside many other British veterans, in 1995 when the people of Denmark invited them to celebrate the 50th anniversary of VE Day.

Published in the Daventry Express – Monday May 11th 2020

The Story of Heyford (Extra): Heyford Residents who served in WW2

Many Heyford residents served in the Second World War 1939-1945 in the various services.

Hazel Adams – Red Cross Nurse, Royal Navy

Hugh Adams – Royal Dragoons

Albert Beharrell – Army

Richard (Dicky) Bishop-Bailey – Army

Ken Boyes – Army

Helen Cadman – WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force)

Arthur Charvill – Royal Navy & Army (MP)

Harry Charvill – Army

Charles Copson – Army

Tom Davies – Fleet Air Arm / RAF

Ralph Faulkner – Bevan boy / Army

Gordon Hayes – RAF

Marjorie Hamborg – Red Cross

Frank Higginbottom – Army

Frank Hyde – RAF

Donald Jafkins – Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders

Ernest Jones – Army

Bill Kingston – RAF

Nan Kingston – WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force)

Jack Lee – Royal Engineers

Joe Matthews – Army

Charles Masters – Army

George Masters – Royal Army Medical Corps

Sheila Masters – ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service)

Sid Masters – Army

Ray Metcalfe – Army

Cyril Mitchell – Royal Army Ordnance Corps

John Moore – Merchant Navy

Rita Moore – NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes)

Alec Nial – Royal Navy

Bill Norrie – Royal Navy

Tom Oliver – Royal Navy

Joan Pearson – Woman’s Land Army

Dorothy Reeve – COD (Central Ordnance Depot)

Margaret Reeve – Woman’s Land Army

Derek Roberts – Royal Marines

Paul Rogers – Royal Army Medical Corps

William Rogers – HAC (Honourable Artillery Company)

Jack Rossiter – Royal Army Ordnance Corps

Dennis Searle – Merchant Navy

Frank Townsend – Army

Arthur Turland – RAF

Mabel Wallace – WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force)

William Wallace – Highland Light Infantry

Dennis Weaver – Royal Army Intelligence Corps

Bert Wilkinson – 13/18th Hussars

Rev Wintersgill – Queens Royal Regiment


And those sadly killed in action:

Charles Leslie Foster – Flight Sergeant (Air Gunner) RAF – Killed in Action 23.5.1944 – Aged 24

Frederick Heeler – Lance Corporal Army – Killed in Action 24.7.1944 – Aged 28

Frederick Watson – Sapper Army – Killed in Action 10.10.1944 – Aged 22

John Bennett Whiting – Lieutenant Army – Killed in Action 1.9.1942 – Aged 25



Published in The Prattler – July & August 2020

Many thanks to Hugh Adams for originally compiling a list and to those that have contacted us and added to it since the original publication via the

Facebook “Nether Heyford Past” group

Jez Wilson

The Story of Heyford (Extra): Dear Diary – July 1955

July 1955

Dear Diary,

It’ll be the factory fortnight soon. Dad will spend his first week decorating as usual. The walls and ceilings are quite stained after a year, probably because my parents both smoke, as do most grown-ups. I dare say we’ll have the chimney sweep come first or it would be a bit of a waste of time decorating. The second week we may go on one of Mrs. Hilliers’ day trips to the seaside, although they are long days.

Last year we went to Blackpool in a boarding house for a week, but I know we can’t afford to go again this year. If we ever do go again I’ll be able to swim because the school are taking us for lessons at Midsummer Meadow outdoor pool. The water is heated by the cooling towers but the air can be really cold when you get out. The bottom is really rough to your feet and the water is murky sometimes.

I love our village green, especially in the summer because so much happens there. It’s the largest village green in the county and it’s great after it’s been mown because we can build dens. The grass won’t be there long though because they’ll want to play cricket at the weekend, so somebody will clear the cut grass away.

Mrs. Blaney has taken over the running of the Post Office from her dad. She was a school teacher once so I bet she knows most of the people in the village.

I was nearly late for school this morning. Dad had borrowed my school pen to write to his brother in Northampton. He is thinking of emigrating to Australia on the £10 package being offered to British citizens and dad wants to talk to him about making this drastic decision. The letter was on the table with the 2 ½ d for a stamp but no pen so I’ll have to go without it. He probably wrote out his bet with it. Does he know how hard it is to get a pen?

Mum was messing about taking the milk off the step before the birds pecked through the lid, then she stopped to talk to Mr. Wigley, the road sweeper, so the bell was ringing before we even reached the green. I ran the rest of the way. Blimey, I’m 10 now so I don’t need her to come with me, but she’s got a little cleaning job and she starts at 9 o’clock when I start school. It’s not like she spent hours in the bathroom as she only has what she calls “a lick & a promise” when she’s going to work.

I’m school monitor this week so I’m to give out the milk at break time and we are having a group photograph in front of the school, with all 70 of us in it, this afternoon. That should be a laugh, trying to get us all looking the same way and smiling. I think we might have country dancing with the boys this afternoon – they hate that. After the holidays I shall be on my last year at Bliss School because they are to build a new secondary school at Duston and those over 11 who don’t pass the 11+, and no doubt that’ll be me, will go by bus. Can’t wait.


Letter published in The Prattler – July & August edition 2020


The Story of Heyford: William Mann V3C5

The words below are an exact copy from an article which originally appeared in the Northampton Mercury in 1911. It consists of an interview with Mr William Mann who was born in Heyford in 1833. It tells of life in Heyford in the middle 1800’s.

A Vigorous Veteran – Mr William Mann of Heyford


There are not many stronger men of his age than Mr William Mann of Lower Heyford with whom I had a ‘crack’ the other afternoon. In his 79th year he still stands firm and erect, has a clear eye, a sound mind and a memory that takes him back to the ‘hungry ‘40s’. They were hungry indeed. The wages of farm labourers in his early days were not more than 8s. a week, and many capable men were working for less. Two good workers who he remembers were paid only 6s. which was increased to 7s. in one case when the man married. “Seven bob a week,” exclaimed Mr Mann in scorn, “to keep a nice bird and himself on.”

Like charity

Working folk in the villages, he said, never had meat in those days unless they stole it – and there was a good deal stolen. He remembers one man in the adjacent parish of Stowe who was sent to penal servitude for ten years for sheep stealing. The bread they ate was made from barley flour, and they were very glad to get that.

His old smock frock was the best suit of clothes he had. Like charity it covered a multitude of sins, and he remembers going without his trousers while his mother washed them — a performance which has been scarcely tolerable since the smock disappeared. “I wouldn’t give threepence for all the clothes I had at that time,” he said. “Boys nowadays are young gentlemen compared with what we were in my young days.”

Not good old days

No. Mr Mann would not go back to the old days. His pension now is nearly as much as men in the prime of life earned seventy years ago. Things are better in every respect. There is more liberty as well as better living, greater freedom for the mind as well as more nourishment for the body.

“Years ago in my parish,” he said, “the parsons would not bury unbabtised people. I remember one funeral which took place in the dark at eight o’clock at night. Some Staffordshire men were working with me at furnaces and they said they never saw anything like it before. We used some poetry about it:

“Not a sound of bell nor funeral note
As the corpse to the grave was hurried.”

“You know where that comes from?” he said, and I pleaded guilty to remembering something rather like it.

Sunday schools and charities

Continuing his reminiscences, Mr Mann told me that in those days no Sunday School was permitted except for a few privileged young people who went to the Manor House. He himself and some others used to walk to Bugbrooke Chapel on Sunday morning and take their dinner with them. Afterwards a school was started at the Heyford Baptist Chapel.

Another incident in his memory concerns the local Arnold’s Charity, which like many other charities has been a bone of contention. His father – “he was just such a man as me” – wrote up on the end of his house near to the Church: “No flannel or calico wanted here, but money according to the testator’s will” – and money was afterwards distributed.

An election reminiscence

The powers that be at Heyford were very Tory in those days but the people, said Mr Mann, were of a different sort. “Five out of six of them would have voted for the disestablishment of the Church in England as Well as in Wales.”

At one election a sightless old man called Blind Tom Robinson, being a freeholder, was taken in a Tory conveyance to vote at the booth on Northampton Market Square. There were no ballot papers in those days – the man had to say straight out who he wanted to vote for. When he was asked to whom his vote should be given, he shouted out boldly, “Althorpe!” for Lord Althorpe was the Liberal champion in that fight. “Who?” said the Tory who brought over, thinking the man had made a mistake. Blind Tom gave the same answer again and again, till the shoemakers and others standing by shouted “He’s just told you,” and then (when the man had voted) “Take him away,” but the Tory escort would have nothing to do with him on the return journey.

Blind Tom Was left stranded on the Market Square. He found his way to St James’ End, and then was given a ride in one of a number of coal wagons that were going to the Near Fields. “Where?” I asked. “The Near Fields,” he said, meaning the nearest coal fields in Warwickshire.

A hunting story

Another of my old friends stories was of the hunting field. Mr John Stanton of Upper Heyford hunted a good deal and was very fond of his joke. One day he was after the hounds, and near to Bugbrooke Mill a rev. gentleman’s horse refused a fence and pitched him over the hedge into the brook. “Help!” he cried. Mr Stanton, hot for the chase, looked to see who it was, and then said, “Oh, never mind him, he won’t be wanted till next Sunday.” It was then Monday morning!

Mr Mann has any number of these old yarns with their broad humour, redolent of the soil. Although the rigours of the old days killed a vast number, some of the survivors are extraordinarily fine old fellows. He was one of a family of twenty-four, and his father was a poor man. The old age pension of which Mr Mann is the proud possessor, was then beyond the wildest dreams of avarice. May he live long to enjoy it.

With many thanks to the Northampton Mercury

He did indeed live a long time

Mr Mann did indeed live a long time. His first wife Sarah had died in 1870, his second wife Sophia died in March 1913, aged 77. But on Saturday 19th December 1914 he was married again. His bride this time Was Elizabeth Green, aged 77, also from Lower Heyford. They were married at the Registry Office at Derngate in Northampton. The photograph below appeared in the Daily Chronicle on Monday December 21st, 1914 under the heading of ‘A Northampton Romance’.


William Mann eventually died on December 23rd 1925, aged 92 and is buried in Heyford cemetery. With three marriages and a long life behind him it seems that the Mercury correspondent was absolutely correct in referring to him as ‘a vigorous veteran’.


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

Volume 3 of 4 | Chapter 5 of 17 | Pages 9 to 11


Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers