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.

Polly

Letter published in The Prattler – September edition 2020

The Story of Heyford (Extra): Growing up in Nether Heyford – Jenny Lewis

Growing up in Nether Heyford 

I was born at No 3 Furnace Lane in 1946 and lived there with my patents until 1969 when I got married. My father was the eldest of 7 children in the Collins family, living at ‘Wharf Farm’, Furnace Lane where my aunty still lives. Lower Heyford, as it was known then, changes its name in later years because the village was often mistaken for Lower and Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire, where the air force is based.

My mother originated from Harpole, and she met my father at the ‘Heyford Feast’ and got married, living in Heyford for the rest of their lives. Heyford Feast was a long standing event. It always fell on the 11th October each year and consisted of a large fair on the village green with Swing Boats, Carousels and Dodgem cars, not to mention Roll the Ball, Shooting and many other amusements. Also, lots of stalls selling candy floss, hot dogs mint humbugs etc. The fair was run by the Abbott and Billing families and over the years we got to know them well and while in the village, their children attended our local school. I went to Heyford School when I was five years old and was educated by Mr & Mrs Woods, then by Mr & Mrs Warr. The school bell was rung twice a day at 9.00am and 1.00pm just as it is today. Although other nearby villages had their own feast dates, Heyford was the largest because of our fabulous village green. People used to come from miles around and Tom Rolfe, who ran the Foresters Arms, opened up the club room for dancing which went on late into the night.

We also had a very good Youth Club which was held in the village hall. I was club secretary and my friend Lynn was treasurer. The fee was 2 old pennies per evening and we often had an awful job getting the money in. We had regular dances, often on a Friday night with live groups. People came from all the nearby villages and Northampton and they proved to be very popular. As club secretary, I had a hand in arranging these events.

I have many things I remember about life in the village. A lot of my leisure time was spent with my cousins on my grandmothers farm, especially in the school holidays. My dad’s youngest brother, Reg and his wife Joan, helped my Grandmother on the farm and lived there with their four children. In the school holidays, my two eldest cousins and I would help out ad played for hours in the hay barns and fished in the nearby canal. The railway line ran next to the farm and we would go into the signal box with the signalman and watch the trains going by. If we were lucky, he would let us pull the levers to change the signal.

Haymaking was always good fun too. My uncle would put the bales on his trailer which was then hitched up to the tractor and us children would stack them in neat rows, getting higher and higher as we went. Then we would sit on the top with my uncles towing the load back to the farm. (This would not be allowed nowadays).

My father, Arthur worked at the Northampton Power station as a fitter until he retired. He was one of the many volunteers who helped build the village hall, giving up their free time whenever they were able to.

Also, in the school holidays I would go with my mother fruit picking on Mr Beck’s farm. He would come into the village with his tractor and trailer to pick up the many helpers (mostly women) to take back to pick the fruit off his many currant bushes and other fruits. At the end of the day he would transport everyone back into the village. He lived on the large estate when New Creation farm is today.

When my parents married, they lived in a small rented house with no amenities, no running water and an outside toilet. One of my lasting memories of this, is having local men come round on a regular basis with the ‘Muck Cart’ to empty the bucket. (No such luxury of a flush toilet). On one occasion I was sitting on the toilet as a young child and they arrived to perform this delightful deed. I shouted through the door, “I haven’t finished yet”. Back came a very calm reply from one of the men, “It’s alright my duck, I can wait”.

Mr Faulkner, the baker delivered the loaves of bread to various houses. It was always in the evening as he baked the bread first in Northampton. He would sometimes stop and chat and on many occasions my mother used to say, “When is he coming as I want to go to bed”. Suddenly the kitchen door would open, and a hand and arm would appear clutching the bread, put it on a chair by the side of the door and say “Coo-Eee” and he was gone in a flash. Thus, he was known as Coo-Eee The Baker. At Christmas time, it was even later, as many customers gave him a drink or a mince pie, and he would be a little worse for wear when he arrived.

Eventually, my parents were able to buy the house we lived in together with the one next door, after John Earl (who owned the property) died. They had the two knocked into one and modernised, and it still stands today.

After I left school, I went to work at the Express Lift Co in the office. This is where I met my husband, Bob. We got married in 1969 in the Baptist Chapel and bought a new house in Rolfe Crescent, which is on the Wilson Estate where we had two children, Christopher and Anna. Twelve years later we moved to our present home in the centre of the village, where we live today. Both our children are now married, and we have four delightful grandchildren, two of which attend Heyford School. This makes them the fourth generation in my family to go there.

I have lots of fond memories of living in this wonderful village, which has grown tremendously over the years with the Village Green as its heart. School sports, football and cricket matches were played on the green before the arrival of the playing fields, which all the village folk would turn out to watch regularly. John Smith’s cows would often escape and go charging over the green with John running frantically behind. Some people now refer to the green today as the park, but to us oldies, it will always remain our beloved village green.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little visit down memory lane as much as I have.

Jenny Lewis

NetherHeyford_Lewis_Story_December2019

Letter published in The Prattler – December 2019

The Story of Heyford: Heyford Hills Fruit Farm V1C9

Heyford Hills Fruit Farm

The magnificent house at Heyford Hills was built originally for the owner of Heyford Ironworks. In the late 1800’s it was owned by John Hardy, a farmer. During the 1940’s it was occupied by Major Campbell. In the late 1940’s, Mr Beck, a gentleman farmer came from Herefordshire to Heyford Hills and established a fruit farm for his semi retirement.

He planted 12 acres of fruit on the side of the hill to the right of the drive. He grew apples, plums, gooseberries and blackcurrants. It was a quite a good site because although it wasn’t south facing it was largely frost free and enjoyed the afternoon sun.

He employed local people to look after the fruit, doing pruning, general gardening duties and picking. Three people who worked there regularly were Mrs Butcher, Mrs Lilley and Mrs Sargeant.  Mrs Butcher, who provided much of the information for this article, worked there for 24 years.

The Fruit Farm

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Local people

During the picking season he employed thirty or forty local people. He sent a tractor and trailer into the village to collect them, mostly but often children as well because much of the picking was done during the holidays. The fruit was collected in small tubs, then weighed and put into 50 lb wooden barrels. The pay was a penny—farthing for gooseberries and twopence-halfpenny per lb for blackcurrants. It wasn’t much, but it provided an opportunity for local people to spend many happy hours picking and chatting amongst the fruit bushes in the warmth of the afternoon sunshine. Mrs Butcher remembers on one occasion picking 568 lbs of gooseberries in 6 hours. It was a messy job with stains from the blackcurrants and scratches the gooseberry thorns, and at local jumble sales people went searching for cotton gloves to protect their hands.

They used gooseberry graders to sort the fruit. The big fruit was sold locally to wholesalers as whole fruit, and the smaller ones were sent to a cannery.

When the fruit was ready to be taken away it would be loaded into bushel boxes (large wooden boxes with a handle at each end) and taken away by lorry to commercial processors in Cambridge and Stratford to be canned or to make drinks and jam.

Mr Beck

Mr Beck himself was a wealthy man. He had been a pilot in the first world war and still had the tail of a German plane that he’d shot down. He had some property in South Africa to which he returned each year and to which he eventually retired in 1975. He enjoyed expensive cars and had four or five Mercedes. He hard worker and expected those around him to work hard too, but he was a real gentleman and everybody loved him. He took an active part in the village and was at various times president of the football and cricket clubs.

Mrs Beck’s interest in dog shows for which she was a judge. She employed a kennel maid and kept alsatians and beagles, many of which won prizes. She often judged the dog shows at the village fete.

The entrance to ‘New Creation Farm’ in 1996

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The Jesus Fellowship

In 1976 Beck sold the farm to the Jesus Fellowship. Dave Lantsbury of the Jesus Fellowship first came across Heyford Hills in the early 1970’s. He was a teacher at Campion school and had brought some rural studies students to see the farm. Around that time the Jesus Fellowship were starting to develop their about a community existence and when the farm came up for sale in 1975 the Jesus Fellowship brought it. They renamed it ‘New Creation Farm’

At first they took over the twelve acres of orchard. They added some sows and chickens, they installed 70 bee hives, they planted potatoes, and they extended the fruit bushes right down to the drive. They later bought some other neighbouring land, together with Novelty Farm on the A5. Today they have 300 acres and run the farm as a community, both to feed themselves and to produce crops for selling commercially through their farm shop.

Stephen Ferneyhough

~~

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

Volume 1 of 4 | Chapter 9 of 13 | Pages 22 & 23

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