The Story of Heyford (Extra): Sheep Dipping in the early days at Whitehall Farm – Hugh Adams

Sheep Dipping in the early days at Whitehall Farm

We used to take the sheep to be dipped at Upper Heyford. Jack Perkin and I would leave the buildings at Whitehall Farm around 1pm with 40 sheep, driving them along the road towards Heyford. We would pass High House Wharf where the West family (Coal Merchants) lived. On the right side of the road would be the house on the bridge where Ted Grey and his wife Ellen lived. Carrying on down the hill on the right by the side of the canal and past Mr and Mrs Fry (he was a carpenter) following on down the road towards the village, on the left the French family (now Adrian Hayes) – past the Cemetery – down the hill on the right, the Johnson family.

We are now in the village and on the left was Sid Eales shoe mending hut, past the little green. We would pass on the right the Butchers shop kept by Sid Capel (now Glen). We had to keep an eye on the sheep at this point otherwise they would escape down Church Street!! Next was Chapel Cottage, Mrs George. David Browning kept the shop, past the Foresters Arms, the landlord was Tom Rolfe. Now the sheep would take to the green where there was lots of good grass! Turn left into Middle Street past the School and School House where Mr Carrington, the headmaster lived with his wife and 6 children. Next to the Sun Inn was the Farmhouse, Mr and Mrs Will Smith, past Bens Orchard (full of Apple Trees), now it was plain sailing on the way to Upper Heyford.

Our destination was Dovecote Farm where Mr Cosford would be expecting us. The sheep would be put through the dipping bath. This would take about one or two hours. After a cup of tea and then the journey home with two tired men and a very wet dog called Nell. She had been dipped too.

Hugh Adams

Letter published in The Prattler – March 2020

 

The Story of Heyford: Heyford at the Turn of the Century V4C3

The Census return of 1891

The details from Census Returns are not made available to the public until they are one hundred years old so the one most recently available to us is that of 1891. An analysis of this gives us a pretty good idea of what life in the village was like at the turn of the century.

The houses and people

The details below tell us about the number of houses, people and canal boats.

Lower Heyford

  • 164 houses inhabited, 28 uninhabited
  • 750 people, 365 males and 385 females
  • 7 canal boats with 23 people on board

Upper Heyford

  • 22 houses inhabited, 7 uninhabited
  • 96 people, 41 males and 55 females

The houses listed as uninhabited were either vacant because the occupants were away on the night of the census, or more likely because they were uninhabitable.

A number of the families listed in the 1891 Census have continued to live in the area throughout the century: Names such as Adams, Charville, Clarke, Collins, Denny, Eales, Faulkner, Foster, Furniss, Garrett, Kingston, and Masters are still well known in the village today.

In those days street names were generally not used and there were certainly no house numbers. However several specific buildings are mentioned in the census.

NetherHeyfordTurnofCentury_StoryofHeyford1 copy

Working life

The occupations listed in the census also give some insight into working life in the village. Here is a breakdown into the main types of occupation.

Farming. The census lists 2 farmers, 2 flour millers, 1 milkman, 3 shepherds, 1 tractor engine driver and 26 agricultural labourers.

Building. 1 builder, 1 plasterer, 1 stonemason, 3 bricklayers and 7 carpenters.

Boot and shoe making. 5 shoemakers, 2 shoe rivetters, 1 boot and shoe finisher.

Other trades. 1 tailor, 2 lacemakers, 11 dressmakers, 2 blacksmiths, 1 harness maker, 1 wheelwright, 1 gunmaker, 3 boatbuilders, 1 organ builder.

Dealers. 1 butcher, 2 bakers, 3 coal merchants, 1 timber merchant, 1 corn merchant, 1 draper, 2 carriers, and 5 publicans, beer sellers and innkeepers.

Blast furnaces. These were the biggest single employers in the village with 1 blast furnace foreman, 2 blast furnace engine drivers, 2 stationary drivers, 1 engine fitter, 2 ironstone labourers, 1 weighboy, and 28 labourers.

Brickworks. 16 brickyard labourers.

Railway. 1 railway engine driver, 1 goods shed labourer, 1 engine fitter, 1 telegraph clerk, 3 signalmen and 4 platelayers.

Domestic and educational. 1 schoolmaster, 2 school mistresses, 1 clerk, 1 governess, 14 housemaids and domestic servants, 2 grooms, 1 nurse girl, 3 laundresses, 1 midwife.

Other. 28 general labourers.

The village as it appeared in 1900NetherHeyfordTurnofCentury_StoryofHeyford2

The memories of Bob Browning (1892-1997)

Many of the details in the remainder of this chapter came from information given by Bob Browning to Stephen Ferneyhough on Tuesday 9th April 1996. Bob Browning was born in August 1892 and died in March 1997, aged 104. He was one of two brothers and four sisters all born in Nether Heyford. The story of this family appeared in Volume 2 of this series of booklets. All lived well into their nineties (94, 96, 98, 99, 101, 104) and Bob was the last and oldest surviving member of the family.

I visited him in his room at Bethany Homestead in Northampton. He was smartly dressed in a suit and tie. He greeted me with a handshake and made me feel very welcome by telling the nurse that I was a very good friend of his. He was very lively, interested in anything historical and was very glad to pass on anything he could for the interest of future generations. He lived in the village until he moved to Northampton in 1922, and most of the memories below are from that period.

Everyday life in Heyford

Life for most people was a matter of survival and self-sufficiency. The days were long, money was scarce and life was simple. Most families had an allotment and grew most of their own vegetable needs. After work in the light evenings, this was one of the main activities.

Most families kept hens. At harvest time the children went ‘gleaning’, that is picking up any remaining ears of corn to feed to the chickens. If a hen went broody, you’d put a dozen eggs under her in the spring time and so continue the supply of chickens and eggs.

Most people also kept a pig, usually in the backyard but sometimes on the allotment. The straw from the pigsty Was tipped onto the allotment, and the vegetable waste from the kitchen was fed to the pig. The boys went collecting acorns for the pigs in the autumn which they could sell for a tanner a bagful. The pigs were killed and butchered in the autumn to give a winter supply of meat. This was usually done by the butcher Ted Capel, and later by his son jack. The butcher went to the home or allotment to kill the pig. The meat was salted, and then laid in trays or hung in nets in the living room or hallway.

There were several farmers in the village producing milk. They delivered the milk, which was unpasteurised, each day in large cans. They had pint and half-pint measures which they filled and tipped into the jugs of the housewives who bought it. During the war there were shortages of anything that they couldn’t grow themselves. Sugar was rationed to half a pound a week. Butter was scarce and margarine became more common. However, they made a kind of butter by leaving the milk to stand overnight so that the cream came to the surface. By scooping it off and shaking it up they were able to make a sort of butter to use as a treat at the weekend.

There were two orchards in the village. john Barker had the one owned by the school behind Church Street. There was also Ben’s Orchard in Middle Street. This had a wall all around it, but it didn’t keep the boys out. They went scrumping for apples and pears in the autumn and stored them under the eaves the hayricks which were thatched for protection against the rain. They would always know the right time to retrieve them before the farmer came to dismantle the ricks. Nowadays there are no orchards, but the boys go garden hopping instead… presumably to get the same sense of excitement.

Lack of services

There was no sanitation, just an outside toilet. Some of these still exist in village as tool sheds or stores. but most have gone. The toilet would be emptied around once a week, usually onto the allotment. Sometime before the first world war the cart started coming. Two men employed by the council brought a two-wheeled cart pulled by horse to collect the toilet contents. It was then taken away for disposal. It had only two wheels to allow it to tip for emptying.

There was no gas or electricity. Gas came to the village just before the first world war via the Bugbrooke gasworks. Electricity didn’t come until after the second war. For light there were candles and oil lamps. For cooking there was a range with an open fire. On one side was a boiler for heating water and on the other side a small oven for baking cakes. You could divert the flames and heat to one or the other. On Sundays the wife would cook the vegetables, but the joint and yorkshire puddings were usually taken to one of the bakers for cooking while the family was at church or chapel. The main bakery for this was the one in Furnace Lane run by Wesley Faulkner. Most people had a bath once a week, often on Friday. Each house had a tin bath. The water for the bath was heated in the copper in the kitchen over an open fire. The fires were fuelled mostly by coal. There was a ready supply of coal to the village which came by canal. The Eales family who ran the post office kept a coal yard. Tom Dunkley at the Bricklayers Arms beside the canal also had a coalyard. He made deliveries by cart from which people would buy; enough to last the week.

The water supply consisted of four taps and many wells. There were four public taps in the village. One outside the jubilee Hall, one opposite the school outside Dennys house, one on the wall in Church Lane, and one near the Church rooms. A lot of the houses had wells, all supplied by the many springs in the area. The wells were dug two or three feet wide, five or six feet deep, and brick lined. The water was obtained by means of a bucket and rope. Later after the first war it became common to fit a handpump to the well.

The top of Church Street in 1913NetherHeyfordTurnofCentury_StoryofHeyford3This photograph, lent by Bob Smith, was taken in 1913 and shows a view from the top of Church Street. In the distance can be seen a small group of cottages, since demolished.

The homes

Most of the houses were of stone (either limestone or sandstone) with thatched roofs and stone slabs for flooring. Some of the older ones like the tinsmith forge opposite the war memorial had mud walls. But many of the newer houses built late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were of brick and slate with red quarry floor tiles. There was a brickworks in Furnace Lane where Wickes now is, but again the canal brought a ready supply of both brick and slate into the village. The owners of Flore Lane Wharf were dealers in brick and slate.

Inside the homes, most walls were plastered. This was made with a mixture of sand and lime. There were two good sandpits in Furnace Lane and there were a number of lime kilns along the canal which supplied slaked lime.

Church Street – the working heart of the village 

In those days there were no street names or numbers. It was just ‘Barkers yard’ or ‘Tandy’s place’. Everybody knew who everybody was and where they lived.

The stone and thatch house behind the war memorial known as ‘the Springs’ was a laundry owned by a family called Smith. Sometime before the first world war the laundry was closed and the house was taken over by the Ward family.

In front of ‘the Springs’ was the Jubilee Hall. An article on this appeared in volume one of this series of booklets.

On the site of the jitty opposite the war memorial was a tinsmith forge. The path of the jitty then ran further to the left and came out beside the house known as ‘the Springs’. The forge was made of mud walls but became derelict and was demolished in 1920 when the New School house was built.

The small building to the right of the jitty which housed ‘Tops the Hairdressers’, and more recently ‘Heyford Antiques’ was built by William Browning, (Bob’s father) as a haberdashery and material business. Bob grandparents, Mr and Mrs Alfred Marsh (maternal side) lived next door.

To the right of this is a small three bedroomed cottage where the six Browning children were born and grew up. Behind these buildings was a saw pit and builders yard.

Next door is the house known as Tandy’s place. There used to be a right of way here through the yard to the jitty. Before Tandy was there it was occupied by a man named Gammage who ran a boot and shoe business. He married into the Faulkner family but later moved his business into Northampton. After he left it was taken over by Mr Tandy who made only heels and soles. He bought scraps from the leather factories and cut them up with special knives, building them up in layers to make heels and soles which were then sold on to shoe factories. After Mr Tandy left, it was occupied by a man named Williams who kept three or four cows and supplied milk to the village.

Further down Church Street, where the road turns sharply to the left, the red brick building on the inside of that corner was a bakehouse. It was owned by Thomas Faulkner who also ran the Methodist chapel for around 50 years until his death in 1940. He lived opposite in the stone and thatch building known as Ash Tree Cottage.

To the right of Ash Tree Cottage are some black doors. Here there used to be a blacksmith. The building belonged to the Faulkner family but the forge was used only once a week by Mr Green who came over from Flore. Later on it was Edward Wright who came (Bob Browning’s father in law). It was closed sometime before the second world war.

To the left of Ash Tree Cottage is “Capel Cottage. so called because it was where a butchers business was run by the Capel family for three generations. Firstly by Ted before the first “world war, then later by his son Jack. Most of the pigs in the village were slaughtered by the Capels.

Just around the corner was a small wheelwright shop run by Mr Foster. He learned his trade as an apprentice sponsored by the Arnold charity. The main local wheelwright was in Flore.

Further down Church Street, round the corner, almost opposite the Church is a stone, brick and thatch house that was a shop selling sweets, general groceries and beer. It was run by Mrs Oliver. Her husband worked on the roads (building and repairing),

Two views of Church Street

NetherHeyfordTurnofCentury_StoryofHeyford4This view of Church Street at the corner of Manor Walk shows Manor Cottage and Capell Cottage. The lady in the picture is Mrs David Browning.

NetherHeyfordTurnofCentury_StoryofHeyford5This picture above shows the row of cottages between the two bends in Church Street. The ones at the far end have since been demolished. 

Stephen Ferneyhough

~~

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

Volume 4 of 4 | Chapter 3 of 8 | Pages 12 to 17

TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford (Extra): The Baptist Chapel

NetherHeyfordBaptistChapel

Nether Heyford Baptist Chapel overlooks the village green, next door to the village hall. It also has an adjoining schoolroom which is used for coffee mornings, community cafes and other many other community events.

In 1799, a small group of Heyford people first met together regularly for worship in a building belonging to Mr Richard Adams and before that time they attended Castle Hill Chapel in Northampton. Later it seems in 1805, when a Baptist Chapel opened at Bugbrooke the Heyford folks walked or rode on horseback to attend services there.

In 1826 however in an era of industrial development in the village between the opening of the canal (1790’s) and the construction of the railway (1830’s) Baptists were able to establish a presence in Heyford and opened the Chapel here although the link with Bugbrooke remained and the Minister there had charge of both Chapels.

By 1839 there were 76 adults in membership. There were also 24 children and therefore a Sunday school was started. The growth continued and when the Jubilee was celebrated in 1876 over 120 children assembled for a hot dinner in Bliss School. Games were organised for the children in Mr Adam’s Orchard at the rear of the School and later an open air service was held on the Green.

In 1922 Mr Oliver Adams was instrumental in the building of the Schoolroom. The Cost was £838 whereas the Chapel in 1826 had cost £178.

Partly with the benefit of a legacy from Mr A T Cosford in 1962 the Heyford Chapel was able to consider a measure of rebuilding and, in calling a part time Minister, became independent.

This was the beginning of the ministry of the Rev Harry Whittaker, better known for his work as the Founder Director of the Northamptonshire Association of Youth Clubs. Between then and 2003 there have only been three other ministers; Revd. Frank Lawes, Revd. Michael Jones and Revd. Roy Cave.

In 1963 the Methodist Chapel having opened in 1838, was suffering from dwindling numbers and had to close with its remaining few members transferring to the Baptist Chapel. The two stained glass windows which are at the front of our building were also moved from the Methodist Chapel along with a number of the pews and some panelling which was used to create a vestibule.

Serious Dry rot problems were found in 1984 in the Chapel which it seems were simultaneously affecting the Parish Church. This led to a number of united events in money raising activities.

“In the absence of a Minister we are fortunate to have the services of a number of visiting preachers but in particular we are indebted to Mr Martin Buckby for his Ministerial and Pastoral help and his spiritual guidance which has been an inspiration to us all.

We remember with gratitude those who had the faith and vision to build this Chapel and those hundreds of faithful men and women who have kept our doors open for all these years.”

Harvest Festival (Sometime before 1963)

NetherHeyfordBaptistChapel

Harvest Festival 2019

NetherHeyfordBaptistChapelHarvesst2019

 

Vi Wilson 

The Story of Heyford (Extra): Heyford Home Guard WW2

Nether & Upper Heyford Home Guard (WW2)

The Home Guards met twice a week in the yard of the Foresters Arms, where they had their stores. The Commanding Officer was Charlie Highfield, chosen because of his army career.

Nether Heyford Home Guard.jpg

Back row (L>R):
Alf Adams, Stan Faulkner, Joe Matthews, Arthur (Batty?) Charvill, Jeff (Geoff?) George, Dick Fisher, Ron or Frank (?) Taylor, Fella Masters (the only name he was known by!)

Middle row (L>R):
Reg Collins, Tom Eales, Charlie Masters, Jack Butcher, Frank Reeve, Dave Ward, Herbert (Horace?) Blood, Amos Lee, Les (Bob?)Foster

Front row (L>R):
Bill Spokes, Anselm Banner, Sid Blencowe (Joe?), Harry Haynes, Charlie Highfield (Captain), Ted Wright, Joe Garrett, Joe (Joey?) Charvill, Arthur Mead

 

Thank you to the following villagers for the names: Joe Garrett / Michelle McMillan / Tom Harrison / Anna Forrester / Garry Collins / Zoe Highfield / Richard Eales / Keith Clarke /  Trev Clarke / John Butcher / Charlene Zambo / Shirley Collins

Follow more Nether Heyford history, stories and photos on the Facebook group – Nether Heyford Past “Thanks for The Memories”

Please contact The Prattler if you can confirm any of the name spellings or nicknames. Also if you have any information on the Home Guard activities or any memories to share then send them in and we can update this page.

Jez Wilson 

Heyford Singers – December 2019

HeyfordSingersDecember2019

In recent days vast swathes of the country have been engulfed by incessant rain, followed by flooding, and creating eerie, watery landscapes. Venice likewise has experienced unprecedented rain and high tides, a sad and beautiful, submerged city resembling a scene from a disaster movie. Across the world, to the east and west, firefighters are battling with bush fires that move and burn with an intensity that is almost too hard to comprehend. Global warming is evident in so many guises! Record high temperatures this past summer and record low temperatures during the winter of 2018.

It was the later that inspired Graham Kinnersly (Heyford singers’ resident pianist and composer) to write the song quoted above, and which will premiere at the forthcoming Christmas concert, ‘Christmas Is……’. Marooned at home for a few days as the “Beast from the East” struck, Graham’s creative talents took over, melody, words, humour, even a dash of politics, all centered around the notion of global warming. The choir loves this song, the Russian tune, the wintry feel and the sense of menace!

The first half of our concert is devoted to Night of Wonder, Night of Joy, a set of beautiful songs and readings that relate the story of the first Christmas. The nativity continues into the second half of the concert with the choir singing One Small Lamb, O Holy Night and then Pacem, which will be accompanied by a young solo violinist (a family member). This is always a very moving piece to sing and listen to, made even more so by the haunting tune played out on the violin.

Then the mood changes and we celebrate Christmas in words and music with songs of sheer joy and exuberance ……Sleigh Bells (with the ladies “jing-a-ling-alinging!), White Christmas, Graham’s Snow From Siberia and Christmas Is, from which we take our concert title.

Christmas Is ……..what to you?

One of the most moving features of our Christmas concert is that of choir and audience, joining together to sing Christmas carols. That is always very special to us, and we hope to you too.

I do hope that you are able to get a ticket and share what promises to be a wonderful evening with us.

heyfordsingersconcertdec2019_sellout

Carols on the Green

On Friday 20th December at 6.30pm, as the working week and school term ends, as families and friends begin to celebrate the Christmas holidays, we have a new initiative in Nether Heyford, an idea originally muted by Mary Rice. It is to come together on our unique village green, to sing some lovely Christmas carols, to celebrate our close community, and to enjoy all this with friends, families and neighbours. We do hope that you can join us, and that the weather is not too cold, too wet or too windy, and if it is then we shall just adjourn and raise the roof of the village hall with our singing!

Nether Heyford Carols on the Green Heyford Singers

Everyone in Heyford Singers wishes you, your families and your friends, a very Happy Christmas and a happy, healthy 2020.

Jill Langrish

____________________________________________________________________________________

If you would like to find out more, visit the Heyford Singers page or our website:

www.heyfordsingers.org

 alternatively come along to one of our rehearsals in Nether Heyford Village Hall.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Heyford Singers – November 2019

HeyfordSingersNovember2019

This article is devoted to one man, someone I like to think of as the “Father of the Choir, which is more familiarly known as Heyford Singers” – Hugh Adams. I use the term “devoted” in the widest possible sense for Hugh is a much loved and highly respected member of our local community. I have known Hugh Adams as a friend for many years, and was privileged to teach at Bliss Charity School whilst he was Chairman of the governing body. He not only shared his desire to see every child reach their full potential, to extend their learning and embrace as many opportunities as possible, but also to experience the great outdoors. And it was over numerous plans and discussions about the use of the conservation area behind the school playground that the seeds of the Outdoor Classroom were sown!

But what of the man and music, what was his journey through life to become such a mainstay of the basses in our choir?

Hugh came from a musical family; his brothers sang in choirs and his sisters were keen pianists. As a young child Hugh left for boarding school, Bishop Stortford College, and it was during those formative years that he found his voice and his love of singing, first as a treble, then an alto, and finally a tenor when his voice broke. As is so often the case it was one particular teacher who recognised Hugh’s musical talent as this early age. A revered music teacher, Mr Tidmarsh who himself had a deep bass singing voice, claimed that young Hugh had the perfect size hand to play the cello. He subsequently offered to give Hugh free cello lessons for a term, such was his belief in the music potential of his young pupil! Sadly Hugh declined, believing that the cello wasn’t necessarily a very good solo instrument. However he did learn to play the piano, although when grades and exams beckoned, to mark achievement and progress, he gave up piano lessons, a move that he regrets to this very day!

After leaving school Hugh returned to the farming traditions of his family, but also became a member of the Home Guard. In 1942 he joined the army, serving on active service in the Royal Dragoons. He was amongst those soldiers who, two days before D Day, drove into Copenhagen and a liberated Denmark, to be greeted by millions of grateful people on the streets. Fifty years later, to mark the anniversary of the liberation, Hugh and many of his army colleagues, were honoured to be invited by the Danish government to take part in the commemorations.

The love of music remained and whilst living and farming in Nether Heyford; Hugh and his wife joined Bugbrooke Choral Society, which was at that time conducted and directed by Michael Latham, The piano accompanist was one of the French teachers, Derek, a great character who regularly entertained the choir members with his amusing anecdotes. The Choral Society sang at numerous venues around the county.

And so onto the Heyford Singers. When it was formed in 2002 Hugh was a founder member of the male bass section, where he has loyally remained ever since. With his rich deep bass voice Hugh has been a much valued contributor to this male voice part. I’m sure he will agree if I say that there are some songs that he finds more straightforward, others more complex in their rhythms or words. When the men sing their numerous repeats of “H’rum pum, h’rum pum, h’rum pum” (The Little Drummer Boy) or “By the rivers of Babylon” from song of the same name, Hugh’s wry comments can have the choir in stitches!

The musical legacy of the Adams family has reached far down the generations. Hugh’s daughter and son-in-law sing in two choirs, and his son Nick sings baritone in three choirs. A tenor grandson is a member of the Phoenix choir, whilst a great grandson has recently achieved a distinction for singing at his school. How proud Hugh must be of such a musical tradition in his family!

Hugh continues to enjoy music, especially classical music and light opera, and listening to the radio is a great joy. Edward Elgar’s “Enigma Variations” (quoted above) is one of Hugh favourites. Each variation is a musical sketch of one of the composer’s close acquaintances, a distinct idea based on a particular personality or an incident known only to two people. It is a beautiful piece of music, and perhaps reflects High’s own varied life, his experiences and his wide circle of friends and family.

Thank you Hugh, for letting us tiptoe through your past and your love of music.

Jill Langrish

____________________________________________________________________________________

If you would like to find out more, visit the Heyford Singers page or our website:

www.heyfordsingers.org

 alternatively come along to one of our rehearsals in Nether Heyford Village Hall.

____________________________________________________________________________________

The Story of Heyford: The Humphrey family and ladder making V1C8

Laddermaking did run(g) in the family! The Bugbrooke firm of J Ward and Son were undertakers and ladder makers and three generations of Humphreys worked there. Ernest Humphrey, Ron and Arthur’s father, was born in Bugbrooke and worked at Ward’s with his wife’s father. Ernest became a journeyman carpenter and for a while went to work in Loughborough with Moss Builders who built the Narborough mental hospital. He remained at the hospital where he was responsible for building maintenance and helped the patients in the workshops there. He married Alice who had been a children’s nurse in Northampton and they started their family, but he became unwell and had to leave his job as a result. The asylum, as it was then known, continued to pay him a small pension until his death in 1936.

How the business began 
The family came back to live in Northamptonshire, only this time in Nether Heyford. Ernest returned to Ward’s. His eldest son Ron went to work there in 1920 when he left school at the age of thirteen, and perhaps it was their experience of working together that encouraged his father to start his own business in Nether Heyford. The asylum pension allowed him to buy the first lot of poles used in the business. Steve Ward, their previous employer was not very happy about this and threatened ‘to smash them’. He even took out a summons against them for not working out their notice, but it didn’t come to anything and in time relations once again became amicable.

At that time the family lived in the cottage on the south side of the Green, no 17, where Mrs Pearson now lives and near to the old folks bungalows. They used the house and garden to make ladders. The garden was turned into a work yard for boring holes in the poles which formed the ladder sides, and for assembling the ladders. The room which is now the living room but at that time was a wash house, was used to make the ladder rungs. The chips left over from making the ladder rungs provided a useful supply of fire lighting material and were sold to local people for sixpence a sack. The ladder sides were planed in a barn behind the Baptist Chapel Rooms, now gone, and at that time owned by Mr J.O.Adams. This space was also used for finishing the ladders off: painting, etc.

Their first venture into business was not a financial success. They were offered a big order from a firm out of the area, which they duly completed. Somewhat strangely they had been asked to deliver the ladders to Travis and Arnold in St James, Northampton from where the ladders would be collected. Having no transport, Mr Humphrey, Ron, Arthur and daughter May had to push the ladders into Northampton on a cart. They were delighted to have made a good sale and looked forward to settlement of the account as money was tied up in timber stock. This was not to be. The firm went bankrupt and not a penny was received.

The move to Church Street
Younger brother Arthur joined the business in July 1923 when he left school. Money was tight and it took time for the business to establish itself in the harsh economic climate of the years after the First World War, but in time it grew sufficiently for Mr Humphrey to buy a property in Church Street where there would be much more space for the family business and home.

The property in Church Street comprised a group of farm buildings complete with an orchard, still there, and a stream with watercress growing in it. The farm was bought on 8th August from Mrs Lookes, an elderly lady who lived in St Matthews Parade in Northampton. There were a number of sitting tenants who, one imagines, were rather disconcerted at the prospect of having to find somewhere else to live. There was Mrs Dunkley who moved to another cottage in 1928, the Collins family who moved to the farm beside the canal bridge in Furnace Lane, the Barnes, the Clarke family and Mr H Gilke.

When Mr Collins was served notice to quit it seems that he didn’t take it lying down and Mr Humphreys noted in his records that he ‘used abusive language to me’. It was not until 1929 that the Humphreys finally moved in.

In the meantime there were rents to be collected and taxes to be paid and it is evident that Mr Humphrey was concerned that the rents were not really sufficient to pay his overheads. It seems that in 1929 ‘the property only brings in yearly £51-12s-6d’.

The large stone farmhouse was in a sorry state and barely habitable. There were also two Victorian cottages on the right hand side of the drive into the farmyard. It was decided to live ii the old farmhouse and to renovate one of the cottages. Eventually the family moved into the cottage, although by that time May was already living at Moulton. When Ron married he moved into the cottage next door where he spent the rest of his life. When Arthur married he moved into a house in Church Street and then to a house on The Green where he still lives.

Ron, Sheila and Arthur in the 1930s

The_Story_Of_Heyford_Nether_Heyford_Ladders_1

Photo lent by the Humphrey family

On the farm there was plenty of space to erect two good workshops fitted up with gas lamps. One of the Workshops (where Ladder Cottage now stands) was assembled from an ex-army sectional building. It had a beautiful wooden lining and good windows, and was large enough to take the assembly of a sixty rung ladder. When the business was closed the building was dismantled and sold to a scout group east of Northampton. The other workshop, still standing, was lined with First World War munitions boxes and the pillars for the building were built by Mr Denny.

The  ladders were made by hand until 1946 when a universal machine was bought from Birmingham. This was purchased with the proceeds of selling the family’s dairy cows and Arthur attributes the success of the company to the fact that from that early date they made a point of investing in new machinery. Other machines came from Fells of Windermere, a firm which is still in business. These machines made the work much easier and enabled production to be increased.

The Humphrey’s first and last lorry

The_Story_Of_Heyford_Nether_Heyford_Ladders_2

Photo lent by the Humphrey family

The ladders were made from two very different timbers. The sides were made from ‘poles’ imported from Norway and were of Christiana pine and spruce. A special trip would be made to Great Yarmouth or Hull to inspect them. They were then brought by train to Weedon from where they had to be delivered to the workshops, sometimes by the local carrier, Tarrys. Timber was also bought from the London timber docks, south of the River Thames at Surrey Docks. The poles were brought in ‘green’ and were seasoned on the farm. Oak was used for the ladder rungs, and for this it was necessary to go to Leicester where they could be relied upon to supply good quality timber. They must have liked the Humphreys ladders because they would buy their ladders to sell on. Mabbutts of Brixworth supplied first class oak which was knot free. Oak was also bought from Badby and from between Everdon and Stowe. When the oak became scarce and too expensive and the Humphreys had bought the last oak from Earl Spencer’s estate, they turned to ash of which supplies were plentiful. During the war all timber was rationed and it was necessary to have a licence to buy the poles from local merchants.

Many different types of ladder
Over the many years different kinds of ladders were made. They were of different lengths and were measured by the number of rungs they had. A thirty rung ladder was twenty-two feet long. When a pole was split to make the sides of the ladder it produced a round side and a flat side. Builders liked to have the round edge on the outside. perhaps to make it easier on the hands when climbing up it. Others such as farmers and thatchers wanted the round side to the centre, perhaps so that it would not hurt their knees if they leant against the ladder, but also because the thatchers would use the outside face of the ladder as a straight edge to help them lay the thatch.

Thatching hay ricks using Humphreys ladders

The_Story_Of_Heyford_Nether_Heyford_Ladders_3

Photo lent by John Smith

There were extension ladders too. The longest was a triple extension ladder of ninety-three rungs for a hotel in Bournemouth. There were also window cleaners ladders and decorators ladders. Some of the ladders were painted, others simply stained. Load ladders were made of willow and were used by farmers when loading the hay wagons. The willow for these was cut from along the Nene Valley and they were not straight. In fact they were deliberately irregular so that if they were knocked over when the hay wagon was loaded they would fall to the ground and rock but not break. Load ladders were also used for thatching hay ricks or ‘thaking’ as it was called locally. The ricks were thatched to keep the hay dry over winter.

In 1930 a forty-five rung ladder for the Northampton Electric Light & Power Co. cost £5-6s-8d. This company were for some years the Humphreys’ best customer with an insatiable need for ladders, and in that same year bought at least fifty of various different lengths. Electricity was still relatively new and presumably the company were busy putting up poles to serve the new customers. I wonder how many of the poles which still exist in Hey-ford were put up using a Humphrey ladder.

Nearly all the customers were local at the beginning but over time it became necessary to look to a wider market and it was then that the ladders began to be exhibited at the annual agricultural shows. Each summer the Humphreys triangular ladder display was loaded up on to the lorry and taken to such shows as the Royal Show at Stoneleigh, and the East of England Show at Peterborough. In time Humphreys ladders were delivered within a seventy-five mile radius which included Worcester and Coventry. But it was the local firm Travis and Arnold which became their best customer.

The Humphreys did not only make ladders. A 1930 order came from ].Y.Castell of Gold Street in Northampton for four milking stools at 4/ – each (less 10% discount), and in the same year a ‘navvy’ barrow was made for W.G.Denny of Nether Heyford for 35/-. They also did repairs such as fixing a gate for the Parish Council, sharpening saws or repairing the handle of a billhook or mallet for Mr J.O.Adams. There seems to have been a delay in settling this bill which eventually involved the exchange of 1.5 cwt of potatoes.

In time a number of local ‘youths’ came to work in the ladder workshops including Bill Kingston, Cliff Gilkes and Ted and Maurice Sargent.

Other family activities
While the men of the family were busy making an selling ladders the women were also active. May Humphrey, the second child, was the post mistress at Moulton for many years before coming back to Nether Heyford to work in Mrs Blaney’s post office. May and Sheila, the youngest daughter, lived in the family home with their mother. For a while they moved into Northampton where it was easier to look after Alice but she died shortly afterwards in 1974.

Arthur and his sister Sheila were well loved members of the Bugbrooke Choir. May was known for her Albert the Lion monologue of which Stanley Holloway also gave a good rendition, and with a bit of encouragement May can be persuaded to do it even today ! The family were stalwart supporters of the Baptist Chapel, May having been Church Secretary and Shelia playing the organ for many years.

Arthur was also a keen gardener and for sixty years gardened the allotment next to the Church Street jitty. This once was a fine garden with flowers and vegetables and the food grown was enjoyed by the whole family.

In order to help with the family finances Ernest had started a milking herd of about nine cows. They had names like Buttercup and Daisy and would respond to their names when called. On Ernest’s death Arthur took over responsibility for the cows which most days would be driven up to fields on Weedon Road. To the dismay of Alice and Arthur, Sheila’s pet lamb, Betty, did not like to be left behind and used to try to go out with them, walking beneath one the cows where it was hard to detect her. There were also hens and many fruit trees. Because of these farming activities Arthur was exempted from the war and the Humphreys continued to deliver milk to local people throughout the war years. When they sold their herd Sheila continued to deliver John Smith’s milk for a while before getting a ‘proper job’.

During the war many people were expected to accommodate evacuees and the Humphreys were no exception. Mrs Humphrey was asked to accommodate a Mrs Buck and her children, and she did what she could to make the old cottage next to the farmhouse habitable, although by now it was in a very sorry state. Mrs Buck’s husband would come up from London at the weekends and in time he got an allotment. He knew nothing about growing vegetables but learned quickly, and to the amazement of the other men in the village was soon producing some of the best. One of the Buck boys was so impressed with Nether Heyford that at the end of the war he decided to stay and in time moved to a house in Furnace Lane. His son Jeff still lives in the village. I always thought he had streak of the Londoner in him. Now I know why !

The later years
The Introduction of baling machines meant that hay as no long loaded onto the wagons and the demand for farming ladders dropped almost overnight. Arthur can remember the first baler in the village at what is now New Creation Farm. The demand for wooden ladders continued to decline after the war. New, lighter metal ladders began to appear. The lack of demand, together with the lack of younger members of the family wanting to go into the business led them finally to close in May 1975. Ron was then 68 and read to retire. He died in 1994. Brother Arthur took retirement and with his wife Nora gave much of their time to the Hospital Guild in Northampton. Nora sadly died but Arthur Humphrey can still be seen walking round the village and gardening in spite of his very bent back, probably brought on by the heavy work of lifting wooden ladders.

Mr Ernest Humphrey and Kit the cow in the orchard in the early 1930s

The_Story_Of_Heyford_Nether_Heyford_Ladders_4

Photo lent by the Humphrey family

In 1985 a house was built on the site of the assembly shop and Sheila and her husband Albert Beharrell moved into it. It is aptly named ‘Ladder Cottage’. The old farmhouse has now been largely demolished, although part of it has been incorporated into house built in 1995 by John Connolly for Albert’s daughter and her family. May still lives in the house that the family renovated for themselves ,and Ron’s daughter Jean lives in her old family home next door to May.

Eiluned Morgan (1996)

~~

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

Volume 1 of 4 | Chapter 8 of 13 | Pages 16 to 21

TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers