The Story of Heyford: The Browning Family V2C11

The Brownings are a notorious Heyford family — notorious, that is, for their longevity! The last generation of Brownings to bear the family name in the village all died in their late nineties and early one-hundreds. The very last, Bob Browning, died aged 104 in 1997.

The Browning story begins in Maxey, near Peterborough with David Browning, a labourer, who was  born some time in the late 1790s. He married a woman called Maria and it may have been she who provided the longevity gene. Maria was born in 1798 and died in 1881, in Daventry, at the age of 83 – only a year before her own son and daughter-in-law.

Police inspector

Maria’s son, also called David was born in 1832 in Maxey and he brought the Browning family to Northamptonshire. He married Susan Price, the daughter of a butcher in 1861 and a year later went into the police force. He became the Police Inspector at Daventry and lived at the County Police Station there. The couple had nine children over thirteen years – the last three were all born within a year of the previous birth. While this is an eye—watering thought, of course it was not unusual to have so many children so close together. More remarkable, perhaps, was that seven children survived into adulthood.

Their parents, David and Susan, were not so lucky with their own life expectancy. Both died in 1882; David aged 50 and his wife, only 41. It appears that an unfortunate incident affected David’s police career and ultimately his life.

Hilda Collins, David Browning’s great grand-daughter, said that when the police inspector turned out gypsies at Dodford village as part of his duty he was attacked and, as the family recalled, “was never the same since.” He did not work again and was retired early from the force.

In the October Court Session of 1878 it is recorded: “That Inspector David Browning  be superannuated for 12 months, he has been in the force since 1862 and reported by two Medical Gentlemen as unfit to perform further duty. And it is further ordered as the Chief Constable recommends Inspector Browning for a pension that he do receive for the next 12 months an allowance after the rate of £48 per annum, the allowance to be paid quarterly; at the expiration of the 12 months Inspector Browning be then incapable of performing duty the Court will have to consider the continuation of the Allowance as a yearly Pension.”

One year later the October Session recorded that Inspector David Browning was “incapable of further duty” and was permanently retired. The pension would have been helpful but the family needed to find another income. The Brownings moved to Sheaf Street in Daventry and Susan Browning became a grocer. The census of 1881 shows Susan Browning to be the head of the family, (although David was still alive at the time) with five of her children at home. The elderly Maria Browning, Susan’s mother-in-law – who had been living with the family for at least ten years – had died just before the census was taken.

William Price Browning

Susan and David died shortly after the census, in 1882, and it was left to William Price Browning, as the eldest son, to take care of his younger brothers and sisters. He was 18 and was a commercial traveller and later, a rate collector in Nether Heyford. There must have been some financial difficulty in keeping the family together because Leonard Browning, the youngest child, was sent to Wolverhampton Orphanage at the age of six. Hilda Collins has a Bible inscribed by the orphanage and presented to Leonard. She is not sure why Wolverhampton was chosen but thinks that it might have been a connection with the police force.

Several of the Browning siblings moved to Heyford with William Price Browning (“W.P.”) including one of his younger brothers, David. He was the second son to be called David, the first having died in infancy. David Browning married into the Eales family, who ran the post office, and he kept the shop and post office from 1930 to 1955.

William Price Browning in 1923

NetherHeyford_BrowningFamily1

Photo lent by Hilda Collins (nee Smith)

The Hardly Annuals

W.P. Browning married Violet, a teacher. They lived in a small cottage near the top of Church Street and had six children within seven years! For this reason, their father referred to them as ‘hardy annuals’ little realising how hardy they would actually be. Violet – without the Browning streak of endurance – died aged 49, but all six children lived on into their late nineties or one—hundreds.

Gwendoline, the eldest child, was born in Nether Heyford in 1891 and followed her mother into the teaching profession, becoming a pupil teacher at Weedon School. In an interview for The Prattler in 1977, 86 year old Gwen remembered how “I did some self—tuition by taking a correspondence course and then later on cycled to teachers’ classes in Daventry.”

She recalled that as a child, “We’d go up to the canal at Heyford Bridge and then all the boys would change one side and the girls the other. Then we’d have a swim or watch the boats, all drawn by horses of course, being pulled up the canal.”

As a young woman, Gwen had an illegitimate daughter, Dorothy. She then married Mr Fred George and had two sons, although the eldest Philip died at 13. She could remember the village midwife, Anne Clarke: “It was quite an occasion when she brought her thousandth baby into the world.”

Like many in the Browning family, Gwen was a Baptist and actively involved in chapel life. She later claimed that her secret to a long life was “to never think about age. Forget how old you are, go wherever you’re asked and never turn down invitations.”

The eldest son, Robert (Bob) was born in 1892 and died in 1997 aged 104. He was the oldest surviving sibling. Like the other Browning children, he attended Bliss Charity School under the headmaster, Mr Cook who he remembered as a stern man. One of his earliest memories was in 1900 when a policeman from Bugbrooke cycled to Heyford to post up the call notices for the Boer War.

In 1905 at the age of 13 he left school and went to work for W H Smith in Weedon, delivering newspapers to the surrounding villages. He would walk with the post to places as far as Grimscote. Later, he joined a boot making factory in Northampton to which he cycled each day. He could always recall the terrible stench of the tanneries as he approached the outskirts of the town.

On the outbreak of World War One, Bob Browning was declared unfit to fight but contributed to the war effort by working a modern boot making machine. He married a woman called Mabel and in 1922 he moved into Northampton. However he retained an active interest in his home village and contributed occasional articles to The Prattler.

May Browning, born 1893 married Harold Smith whose family lived by the canal, beside the Bricklayers Arms before it closed. Harold’s father, Charles, was a railway signalman at Heyford South and the signal box was located on the Litchborough Road near Bugbrooke until the early 1930s.

Hilda Collins remembers how her mother, May, took the post up to Upper Heyford. A family there had a piano and May asked for no charge for her errand but just the opportunity to play it.

Winifred Browning, born 1895, married a Trinidadian, Mr Punch, which was probably considered unusual in 1920s rural England. They had two children but marriage did not survive and at the end of the 1930s, Win Punch earned her income running the fish and chip shop in the barn near The Olde Sun, taking it over from George Oliver.

Nell Browning was born in 1896 and married George Bennett with whom she had a son, Bill. The youngest sibling, Fred, was born in 1898 and lived to be 98. He was an active member of the village community and involved in the parish church — particularly bell ringing. He married a woman called Gladys and lived in Furnace Lane.

Despite the size and longevity of the family, the Browning name did not survive this generation. Of nine children born to the siblings, eight were born to the sisters under their married names and the other was a girl who also married. However, the Browning stock continues in the village through the Collins family, with its most recent name change, by marriage, to Willgress.

The six Browning children as they appeared around 1906

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Left to right: May, Fred, Robert, Gwen, Nell, and Win

The family on the occasion of Bob’s 90th Birthday celebration

NetherHeyford_BrowningFamily3

Left to right: Mrs Winifred Punch (87), Mrs Gwendoline George (91), Bob Browning (90),
Fred Browning (84), Mrs May Smith (88), and Mrs Nell Bennett (86)

Photos from an article in the Chronicle and Echo August 1982

W.P Browning’s family on the occasion of his daughter’s wedding in 1921

NetherHeyford_BrowningFamily4

Top: George Bennett, Bill Bennett, Nell Bennett (nee Browning), Gladys Browning, Fred Browning, Friend, Friend, Mabel Browning, Friend, Friend, Fred George, Friend, Friend, Bob Browning

Middle: Win Punch (nee Browning), Odette Punch, Charles Smith, Harriet Smith, Harold Smith (bridegroom), May Smith (bride), Violet Browning, W.P. Browning, Gwen George (nee Browning), Philip Browning

Bottom: Dorothy Browning, Ellen ‘Nen’ Browning

Photo lent by Hilda Collins (nee Smith)

‘Progress’ by Bob Browning (1892-1997)

These days it seems there’s such a fuss about which foods are good for us.
What’s worse, I notice with dismay, the list grows longer every day!
They’re all the things that I miss most: Yorkshire puddings, Sunday roast,
Mash and bangers, eggs and ham, warm scones and strawberry jam,
Toast with butter, thickly spread, beef dripping on fresh-baked bread
Cheese and chicken are suspect too. I really don’t know what to do!’
Obediently when I was small, what Mother served, I ate all,
It seems to me now I am old, I still must do what I am told.
I’m over four score years and ten, and won’t see ninety—five again.
Since everything I ate was wrong, I marvel that I lived so long!

The words of Bob Browning whilst in Bethany Homestead where he spent his later years.

The Post Office

Other Brownings contributed to life in Nether Heyford. As mentioned, David Browning, brother to W.P., married into the village’s post office family. His wife, Annie, Was a member of the Eales family who had run the business since 1877.

John Eales was the village’s first postmaster and ran the post office and shop for 30 years before handing it on to his daughter Amy. She took over in 1907, When the shop and houses on the site were auctioned at The Old Sun Inn and bought by Amy Eales for £320.

David and Annie Browning then took over in 1930 during which time the thatched premises was pulled down and replaced by the present corner—shop building, They had a daughter, Ellen (‘Nen’) who was born in Manor Cottage, Church Street in 1907. Nen taught in the village school before succeeding the shop and post office from her father in 1955.

David Browning outside the post office in the 1950s.

NetherHeyford_BrowningFamily5

Photo lent by Judy Armitage

Nen Blaney 

Nen ran the business until 1968 When, on the death of her husband, Major W. Blaney, Nen sold the shop to a Mr and Mrs Eales (apparently no relation) and opened the newsagent and post office next door. She continued working until 1986 — retiring gracefully at the age of 80!

Nen Blaney had many memories of Heyford. Her uncle, Mr J. Earl, ran a carrier’s cart to Northampton on Wednesdays and Saturdays. She recalled that “the first bus we had in the village was a coal cart that  travelled once a day and was run by a Mr Harold Botterill from Bugbrooke. On Saturdays it was a bit different because they put a shed thing (a wooden structure) on top as a cover.”

Mrs Blaney outside her post office

NetherHeyford_BrowningFamily6

Photo lent by Judy Armitage

She also remembered a postman named Albert Bates Who used to cycle in from Weedon with the post, hand over Nether Heyford’s share and then cycle on to Bugbrooke. Nen Blaney’s own working day was long; starting at 5am and often finishing around midnight. Despite this demanding schedule, Nen Blaney was chairwoman of the British Legion Women’s Section for over 20 years.

She was proud to be invited to the Queen’s Birthday Party at Buckingham Palace in 1971 in celebration of the Legion’s 50th anniversary. Major Blaney chaired the British Legion’s Northamptonshire Branch and served Nether Heyford on the Daventry Rural District Council, of which he became chairman. Family of Nen Blaney still live in the village today.

Sarah Croutear

~~

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

Volume 2 of 4 | Chapter 11 of 11 | Pages 26 to 32

TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford: Childhood Memories V4C7

Before the second world war the village was only half the size that it is now, transport was very limited, and the modern leisure facilities that are so commonly available today simply didn’t exist. Therefore the young people made their own fun in whatever way they could. There are many people in the village, now in their eighties, with childhood memories from the pre war period.

Children and young people
Before the first world war, the children went to school up the age of 13. Life was pretty busy keeping up with the chores. Mrs Dorothy Kingston of Furnace Lane remembers taking bread and jam to her father at the Brickworks when she came home from school. There was water to fetch, pigs to feed, eggs to collect, vegetables to prepare.

At thirteen, you left school and went to work. Some worked on the farms, some learned trades in their family businesses, but some worked outside the village. Bob Browning’s first job was a Saturday job at the age of 12 for W H Smith in Weedon. He walked from Heyford to Weedon and collected papers for delivery to Litchborough and Maidford and then walked back home. The journey was done entirely on foot and took him all day.

When he left school in 1905 he went to work there full time. They gave him a bicycle and two panniers to carry the papers. His new route was from Heyford to Weedon to pick up the papers, then to Dodford, Everdon, Farthingstone, Upper Weedon, then home. He ate his packed lunch each day under one of the big Beech trees beside the road through Everdon Stubbs.  There he double checked his takings.

On one occasion he arrived home and found he was one gold sovereign short. The sovereign had come from Everdon Hall where they always had several papers. His mother was desperate because he had to give his takings in the next morning but they didn’t have as much as a sovereign in the house.

So Bob cycled back to Everdon Stubbs to where he had counted the money at lunchtime, and there he found the missing sovereign. He was delighted at finding it that he carved his initials with his pocket knife into one of the trees. The four trees are still there today. All of them have dozens of initials carved into them of which some are quite new, but others could be 100 years old. Somewhere amongst them are the initials R.B.

Walking 
With time to, spare, little transport, and few organised facilities, walking was common. People would walk miles without a second thought.

The children all walked to school, some coming from Upper Heyford and others from the Railway cottages, or from Stowe Hill. They mostly travelled in small groups, unaccompanied by adults. Nobody worried about safety. The school didn’t provide lunches then so they made four journeys each day, often dawdling along the Way. There were several brooks in those days, running either side of the Green and also alongside a number of the hedges. Here it was tempting to dally along the way, making boats out of whatever materials they could find in the hedgerows.

Families walked together on Sundays, often for miles up to Glassthorpe or Stowe. They sometimes ended up at one of the pubs where father would have a beer and the children a ‘spruce’ – a bottle of pop with a glass ball in it.

Cars were a rare sight in the village between the wars so groups of young people would walk up to the ‘Turnpike’ (the A5) and sit on the bank by the Stowe turn, Waiting to wave at the drivers as they passed at a rate of only one or two an hour.

The Railway children
Mrs Doris Lovell, now in her eighties, lived in the railway cottages because her father, Frank Denny was a signalman. Although there was never a station in Heyford, she recalls how the railway had a strong presence in the village. There were sidings in the brick yard, there was an active signal box, and there were four railway cottages occupied by signalmen, platelayers and their families.

In the days of steam, each locomotive had its own unique personality and they chuffed past at a more friendly speed than today’s diesels. The driver and fireman, whose faces were often familiar to the villagers, would wave as they passed by, and sometimes they would throw lumps of coal for the children to take home.

The children played in the fields alongside the railway, although there was a strict understanding that playing near the tracks was forbidden. Favourite play areas included the stream near the brickyard just the other side of the small foot tunnel under the embankment. Here you could make stepping stones, build dens, and fish for tiddlers.

The railway bridge and railway cottages in the 1930s

memories2.jpg

Photo lent by Judy Armitage

Box Pond and ‘the Humps’
Another favourite play area recalled by Doris Lovel was in the field where the furnaces used to be. There was a pond here called ‘box pond’ because it was near the signal box. There was another pond across the road in the brickyard where deep water had formed in the claypit. Both ponds were popular play areas with much wildlife in them, including lizards and moorhens.

Also in the furnace field were four huge clinker mountains. These had been formed out of clinker waste from when the furnaces were in operation. Each seemed as high as a house. They had set solid into various shapes, Weathered through time, and were full of interesting nooks and crannies. They, were affectionately known as ‘the humps’. Cut hands and scraped knees were common.

These ‘humps’ were eventually moved when the M1 was built in the late 1950s. The field was full of hills and hollows from where the furnaces had been, and the contractor, Dowsett, was looking for somewhere to put the topsoil from the construction of the M1. So they broke up the humps, rolled them into the hollows, and covered them with topsoil. Box Pond was also filled in.

Fishing and swimming 
As today, there were plenty of fish in the canal. With a line, a hen feather, a bent pin and some bait, you could catch gudgeon to take home to feed to the cat. Favourite places on the river were by one of the two bridges – either the bridge to Upper Heyford, or Coach Bridge (now only a footbridge beyond Manor Park). Jumping off Coach Bridge into the deep waters below was a regular summer game for the boys.

Many local people, now in their 70s and 80s remember swimming in the canal. On warm summer days the young people would take their swimming costumes, some sandwiches, a drink, and a pot to pick blackberries. This way they could would spend hours by the canal.

An article in the Mercury and Herald dated 25th May 1978 included an interview with Mrs George (nee Browning) in which she recalled how ‘we’d go up to the canal at Heyford Bridge. The boys would change one side and the girls the other. Then we’d have a swim or watch the boats, all drawn by horses of course, being pulled up the canal.’ Unlike the railway where it was firmly understood that the track was out of bounds, the canal was considered ‘safe’. This was in spite of the murky state of the water and the waste disposed of by the boat people. However it was a fun place to spend the day, and was the only way to learn how to swim.

Swimming in the canal

memories3.jpg

This photograph, taken in the 1920s shows a group of young people beside the canal.  They went up Furnace Lane and turned left at Wharf Farm where they walked along to the next bridge. They are seen here in the field opposite the tow path. Pictured from the front are: Ivy Denny, Jack Earl, Friend, Nen Blaney, Odette Punch, Friend, Friend, and Mrs Frank Denny. The little girl to the left of the group is June Denny.

Photo lent by Doris Lovell (nee Denny)

~~

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

Volume 4 of 4 | Chapter 7 of 8 | Pages 28 to 30TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford: Lost Street Names V4C2

Census Returns

There has been a census return once every ten years from 1841 onwards. The only exception was in 1941 because of war time. The details of these census’ are made available to the public when they are 100 years old. Therefore it is currently possible to look up the details for Heyford in 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, and 1891. They are held in the Public Record Office at Wootton Park.

Details from the Bryants map of 1837

NetherHeyford_BryantsMap_1837

Census returns are wonderful documents because they list the names of every occupant in the village, giving details of their ages, their occupations, where they were born, and their relationship to the head of the household (eg wife, son, servant, etc). The returns for Heyford during the second half of the nineteenth century show an abundance of agricultural labourers, brickworkers and furnace workers. They show a whole variety of crafts and trades people such as lacemakers, laundresses, beer sellers, coal merchants. bakers etc, and also those employed in domestic service at the Manor House and Rectory.

The census returns also state the address of the householder, but most of the returns for Heyford for this period give only very general descriptions such as “Heyford Village” or “The Green”.  However the Census return of 1871 gives very detailed street names, many of which no longer exist. The following paragraphs takes us through the returns in the order in which they are listed. This may or may not be the same order as the route followed by the enumerator, but if we assume that it is, we can speculate about where these lost street names may have been located.

Brook Farm

NetherHeyford_BrookFarm

Watery Lane

The first four households listed by the enumerator were in Back Lane. Church Lane was at one time called Back Lane, but could the Back Lane listed here have been what is now Watery Lane? The next entries in the returns are Heyford Cottage, occupied by John Smith and Farm House occupied by George Tarry, farmer of 60 acres. Was this one of the former farm houses in Watery Lane? Perhaps Brook Farm?

Middle Street

The enumerator then seems to move through to what we now know as Middle Street because the next five entries are: the School House in Middle Lane, occupied by Thomas Stanton, schoolmaster, the Olde Sun Inn occupied by George Attwood, tailor and innkeeper; and three other houses in Middle Street. From here, he seems to have walked alongside the Green, where there were then no houses, to the Foresters Arms.

Heyford Cottage prior to 1880

NetherHeyford_HeyfordCottage1880

A view of the school site and farmhouse prior to 1880

NetherHeyford_Farmhouse&SchoolSite1880

Church Street

There are then many entries listed in the area that we now know as Church Street. This was obviously the heart of the village as there are eighty households listed in this area. It can only be speculation, but the journey seems to go right down to the Manor House, then on to the Church and Rectory, and all the way back up to the Green. The entries are as follows: The Foresters Arms, occupied by John Wright; the Primitive Methodist Chapel, the sub Post Office, occupied by William Treadwell, bricklayer, and his wife Millicent; seven houses in Billing’s Yard; seven houses in Front Street; the Manor House; ten more houses in Front Street; eleven houses in Masters Row; one house in Church Street; the Rectory; the Church; 15 more houses in Church Street, including Edward Capel, butcher; 2 houses in Robinsons Yard; one more house in Church Street; one more in Front Street; six in School House Lane; and finally seventeen in Grocers Row.

An old stone house on the site of what is now 5 Manor Walk

NetherHeyford_ManorWalk

The Green

The journey then seems to take us around round the Green. The entries are as follows: twenty-eight households listed as The Green; then Farmhouse, occupied by Thomas Starmer,  farmer of 213 acres;  thirteen houses in The Barracks; and four at Crabtree Corner. Where exactly were these places?

Weedon Road

Next he goes out along the Weedon Road towards Stowe Hill: two houses in Stowe Hill Lane; one called Primrose Cottage; one called Field House; two at a place called Pincham; then High House, occupied by William Thompson, boatbuilder; two at Flore Lane, both coal merchants; six at Stowe Hill; the Globe Inn, since renamed the Narrowboat; four at Stowe Hill Yard; the Anchor Inn, possibly the building across the A5 from the Narrowboat; and two more houses in Weedon Road. The enumerator seems to have walked along the A5, taking in one house at Tanborough and two at Aldermans Hill before turning back into the village down Furnace Lane.

Furnace Lane

Finally we come back into the village down Furnace Lane. There are four houses in Furnace Road, one at Heyford Wharf,  one referred to as the Bricklayers Arms, occupied by John Dunkley,  beer seller; and five in Wrights Yard, including George Payne, furnace keeper. Here, the enumerators journey ends.

Stephen Ferneyhough

Two views of the shop and post office as they appeared before the war

NetherHeyford_Shop_PostOffice_PreWar.jpg

This photo lent by Judy Armitage, shows the newsagents and the group of cottages behind since demolished.

NetherHeyford_Shop_OldPostOffice_PreWar

This view shows the old Post Office, demolished in 1950s, Photo also lent by Judy Armitage

~~

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

Volume 4 of 4 | Chapter 2 of 8 | Pages 7 to 11TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford: Heyford’s First Motor Vehicles V2C1

In the 1920’s cars were very few and far between. Groups of people used to walk up from the village to the A5 , then known as The Turnpike, to watch for cars. Doris Lovell nee Denn remembers sitting on the bank b the Stowe turn waiting for cars to go by , which they did at a rate of only one or two an hour. When one passed they all waved to the occupants.

On 25th May 1978 the Mercury and Herald published an article about the village. It included an interview with Alf Garrett who was for many years clerk to the Parish Council. In it he said, ‘When I was first married I earned £2.10s per week as a farm foreman. The farmer wanted someone to learn to drive and offered me the job. I jumped at the chance and learnt down at Grose’s in 1920. At that time there were only two cars in Heyford.’

Major Campbell, who lived at Heyford Hills, was one of the first in the village to own a car. It was a Morris with a canvas hood. He was a generous man. If he saw people walking along the road, he gave them a lift into the village.  He also gave pocket money to the children if they watched to see when it was clear for him to pull out of the drive.

Heyford’s first motor bus 

NetherHeyford_FirstMotorVehicles

Photo lent by Judy Armitage (daughter of Mrs Blaney)

Mrs Blaney recalled how the village’s first bus was actually a coal cart. It was owned Harold Botterill of Bugbrooke and was used during the week to carry coal. On Saturdays he put a wooden structure on top with seats in it, and with this he made two journeys into Northampton and back with passengers.

There was also a bus from Weedon to Northampton. If walked up the lane to Upper Heyford you could catch the bus there.

~~

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

Volume 2 of 4 | Chapter 1 of 13 | Page 2

TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford: The Methodist Chapel V1C3

The chapel buildings
Methodism was very much a part of village life in Heyford for almost 130 years. It flourished from the 1830s until the 1960s. The first chapel was built in 1838. This was the small red brick building which still stands at the top of Church Street, immediately to the left of the Heyford Stores. It has a barn style roof with a single beam across the middle, and there was originally no floor upstairs. It has a blank plaque on the front wall and it still has signs of the tall chapel windows. It was converted to a private house in the 1870s.

According to the religious census of 1851 there was a general congregation of 50 in the afternoon and 50 in the evening. lt is hard to see how this number of people would have fitted into such a small building. It must have been standing room only.

In 1879 the existing building in Church Street was erected. lt was built by Alfred Marsh on land donated by Thomas Faulkner, and services continued to take place there until the early 1960s.

The founding family
There is a typescript in the Northamptonshire Record Office, unsigned and undated, which gives some details of one of the families involved in much of the chapel’s history. This typescript refers to Mrs J.S. Gammage who as a young girl around the turn of century was of the fourth generation of village Methodism. It records how, ‘in 1835 when the early pioneers of primitive Methodism missioned the village of Heyford from Northampton, Mrs Gammage’s great-grandmother gave them a welcome and shelter. She also helped in 1838 to secure the first Methodist Chapel in Heyford, owned by the Northamptonshire circuit, at a cost of £65, furniture included.’

Mrs Gammage’s mother ‘was given to hospitality. The saints of god found shelter and refreshment beneath her roof.’ Her father, Thomas Faulkner piloted the chapel for over 50 years until his death in 1917. ‘No man was more typical of the staunch Methodist and radical stock of the Victorian age than Thomas Faulkner. The oppressed looked to him for succour, and the poor found in him a friend. The earliest impressions that the writer of this document had of Mrs Gammage (which must have been around the 1880s) was ‘of a little girl dressed all in white, asking the local preacher for the hymns in the new chapel, then after the service taking him home to her fathers house to tea and introducing him to the missionary box, and pleading the cause of the little black boys and girls in a far-off land.’ The musical service at Heyford also owed much to Mrs Gammage. ‘At the age of twelve she took charge of the organ and became secretary of the Sunday School, and later became choirmaster.’

MrsFaulkner

Mrs Gammage’s mother, Mrs T.G. Faulkner.

The chapel interior 
At the rear of the chapel was a gallery in which there was a large pump organ with two keyboards and a series of pipes. For almost fifty years from the early 1900’s this organ was played by Mrs Evelyn Clarke, a daughter of Wesley Faulkner and grand-daughter of Thomas Faulkner. Her two sons Keith and Dennis both remember operating the hand pump. Keith remembers how he had to watch a gauge which showed how much air was in the organ. When the gauge reached a certain level you had to pump air in by hand. It was tempting to allow the gauge to run low and risk silence in the middle of one of the hymns as the organ ran out of air. Dennis remembers as a youngster how the services seemed to be long and boring. Either side of the organ in the gallery was seating for the congregation. Downstairs, just inside the door there was a pulpit and there were wooden pews stretching to the back of the church. The carpets and upholstery were supplied and maintained by Pearce’s of Northampton and were rich blue in colour. The windows at the front of the church were stained glass and included the images of Mr and Mrs Thomas Faulkner.

The chapel business
Also in the Northampton Record Office is a the ‘minute book of the Heyford Trustees and Chapel Committee’ which has periodical entries between 1925 and 1960. Below are some details from this book which give a flavour of life in the chapel during that period.

May 1925 — it was agreed ‘that we install electric light at the Heyford Church and school’

June 1929 – an envelope system was established to enable members to ‘promise to contribute the sum of … per week towards the amount required for carrying on the work above church.’

Mrs Ralph Clarke 6d / W Faulkner 3d / Miss Furniss 6d / Mr and Mrs Furniss 1s Od’ / Mrs Thompson 3d / Alice Eales 3d

Feb 1937 – the general chapel committee acting on behalf of the Methodist Conference paid a grant of £10 ‘to aid the extinction of the debt of the Lower Heyford Methodist Chapel’ and also ‘that the trust should be renewed before long as the number (of trustees) living is now only five.’

]an 1938 – ‘we record that Miss Furniss be reappointed secretary, that Mrs Humphrey be the treasurer, that Mrs Clarke be reappointed organist, that the assistants be Miss Furniss and Miss Faulkner, that Mrs King be reappointed caretaker with remuneration as before, that the property stewards be Mr Warwick and Mr Faulkner’

Jan 1939 – ‘that Mr Arthur Humphrey be asked to procure a new ash bin’

Nov 1940 – ‘we record with sincere regret the death cy‘ one of our members brother Wesley N T Faulkner who passed away on Oct 19th 1940 and was buried in the Lower Heyford cemetery. Mr Faulkner had an almost lifelong association with the church… he was a local preacher, a class leader and a society steward’

Feb 1941 – the minutes refer to ‘Heyford Methodist Chapel (formerly Primitive Methodist)’

July 1941 — ‘that we receive with pleasure the gift of land adjoining the chapel from Mrs Wesley W Faulkner’

July 1942 — ‘that the repairs done by Mr W ] Denny to the front boundary wall of the chapel have been satisfactorily completed and that the bill of  £22.7s.4d has been paid’

Dec 1949 – ‘the meeting received with joy the inspiring and generous offer of Messrs Pearce regarding the renovations of the interior of the church… it was agreed that Mr Pearce ’s suggestion that the organ be brought down into the body of the church and the gallery be partitioned off be adopted’ .

Feb 1953 – ‘as the pipe organ had not been brought down into the church as agreed because of its need of repair, the minister offered to enquire whether it had been disposed of as being beyond repair. No definite information had reached the trustees as to its condition and whereabouts. It was noted that it had been in working order when removed. ’

Feb 1959  –  ‘new heating arrangements were discussed and it was decided to have electric convector heaters installed, these to be obtained through the kindness of Messrs Pearce and Co at wholesale prices’

Feb 1960 — ‘we record with sincere regret the passing of our dear friend and brother Mr Luther Furniss u/ho served the church in so many ways’

The Methodist chapel in the late 1930s

MethodistChapel_NetherHeyford

 Photo lent by ]udy Armitage.

The end of an era
The last people to be married in the chapel were Keith and Brenda Clarke in 1953. The last christenings were of their children Elaine and Trevor. The congregation by this time was very small, certainly smaller than that of the Baptist chapel.

Keith & Brenda Clarke Wedding 1953

Brenda&Keith_Clarke

Photo from Trev Clarke, 2019 “The last wedding to be held there, my mum and dad  – Brenda and Keith Clarke”

By 1962 the chapel had virtually ceased to function. All the original trustees had died, and some of the few remaining members transferred to the Baptist chapel. In 1963 some of the pews, together with the stained glass windows which depicted members of the Faulkner family, were also moved from the Methodist to the Baptist chapel.

Between 1962 and 1965 there was considerable legal correspondence to establish ownership of the chapel, and of the land adjacent to it that had been donated. In 1965 it was finally sold to the Northamptonshire Association of Youth Clubs, and the Youth Club was formally opened in the Autumn of that year. After 130 years, Methodism in Heyford had come to an end.

Stephen Ferneyhough

~~

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

Volume 1 of 4 | Chapter 3 of 13 | Pages 6,7 & 8

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Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

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