On April 30th 1988 the last competitive football match was played on the village Green. The opposition were fierce rivals Spratton, the result was a 1-1 draw. Mark Collins will go down in history as being the last Heyford player to score on the Green.
A historic day in the story of Heyford was recorded on video for posterity, with Ade Miller and John Gibbins braving the scaffolding structure to film the events of the afternoon. Ade was the camera man and John was our own John Motson commentating on the game. Well at least that was the plan but unfortunately he forgot to turn on the microphone.
After the game skipper Jeff Buck was presented with the Premier League trophy, as manager Chris Clarke’s side had achieved their goal of winning the league. The presentation took place outside the changing rooms which were situated in the village hall car park.
The portacabin changing rooms were soon to be uprooted and moved to the new playing fields, where although they have since been extended they still remain. The changing rooms had been purchased in 1975, after a tremendous amount of fund raising by a very strong committee, led by secretary Eric Miller, along with players and supporters. Fund raising such as the Tote which entailed a lot of traipsing the village on cold nights knocking on doors to sell numbers. There were also jumble sales, dances at the village hall, sponsored walks and weekly bingo hosted by Roy Pancoust.
Previously the football club had used the Baptist chapel, the youth club or on occasions the Foresters Arms cub room to change. The Foresters was very much the clubs headquarters in those days. My dad Alf Parker was landlord and football club chairman. Monthly Sunday morning committee meetings would conveniently finish at 12 o’clock opening time.
The hard work that had been put in off the field in the 70’s led the way to the club’s most successful spell. The knockout cup was won in 1974. The league was won in 1975. Then amazingly in 1976 the Blues won all 4 competitions that they had entered, the league, ko cup, Lower Junior cup and the Byfield and Bethel cup. Success brought great times and great support.
Village football was very competitive in those days. Most villages had a team, and there were regularly large crowds on the Green. Especially for the local derbies against the old enemy, Bugbrooke. Everyone that played on the Green often reminisce about the atmosphere created.
Although it wasn’t the best surface to play on, there were many undulations, and a footpath ran across the pitch from the Pound towards the shop. A footpath which was once used on a Saturday afternoon by ladies on the way to do their shopping holding up play. The goal mouths were usually devoid of grass, due to kids playing in the goal after school all week.
The ball would often get stuck under passing cars, or vehicles parked near the shops. At times a goalkeeper would be seen racing down Church Street to retrieve a ball rolling down the hill. Taking a corner from the sloping village hall side which was very close to a tree was a skill not many mastered. One player who mastered the art was the late great Martin Carnague.
We are lucky to have such a tremendous playing field in Heyford, which has taken many people a lot of time and effort to set up and maintain, but there is nothing like playing on the Green.
The earliest records of HAFC playing on Green is 1908. So there was at least 80 years of competitive football played in the centre of the village creating many memories. I’m sure not all good but many were.
Some of you might remember that we had originally planned to have an art exhibition in the village last year, which, along with the Village Hall’s celebrations, has had to be put back. Even this year is looking problematic, and with best intentions we hope that everyone will be vaccinated by the autumn. I recently posted a couple of pictures on social media (Facebook) that I had painted which are views from the Green. There was a lovely response from 60 or so people and other pictures began appearing! The Nether Heyford dedicated site was really helpful in gauging interest and getting feedback. People were also interested in some sort of art group once we can meet again, and I think we can be creative about how that might happen.
Planning anything at the moment is quite tough, but the intention is still there to make the exhibition happen at some point. Gives us more time to get those pens and brushes out and have a go! The theme will be about village life and particularly the Green. Maybe we could organise a virtual on-line exhibition in the meantime? If anyone has experience of this sort of thing and would like to help, drop me a line!
Nether Heyford’s Tradition of Pantomime – November 1995
As we approach pantomime season it is worth reminding ourselves that there has been a pantomime in Nether Heyford almost every year since 1969.
The article below written by Joan Juland (November 1995) gives us an insight into the enjoyment given by the Monday Club pantomime to both the audience and performers.
This year, as usual, the Heyford Players continue the tradition with ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” – Performances will be: 7.30 pm on Friday 26th January, and at 2.30 pm and 7.30 pm on Saturday 27th.
The Monday Club pantomimes began in a small way, but grew and grew, and still continue now under the Heyford Players. They started as an alternative to a Christmas party, and were put on in December” mainly because we wanted the worry of it out of the way before settling down to arranging the family Christmas, later they were presented in January so that the main rehearsals were done in the quiet time after New Year. The list to date reads thus:
1969 Red Riding Hood
1970 Goldilocks and the Three Bears
1971 Jack and the Beanstalk
1973 Sleeping Beauty
1974 Dick Whittington
1975 Hey Diddle Diddle
1978 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
1980 Beauty and the Beast
1981 Mother Goose in Space
1982 Alice in the Underworld
1983 Robinson Crusoe
1984 Snow White
1985 Old King Cole
1986 Jack The Giant Killer
1988 Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood
1990 Peter Pan and the Magic Snowman
At this point the Monday Club decided to finish doing Pantomimes mainly because our membership numbers had fallen so much that we had many more ‘co-opted‘ members purely to take part in the Pantomime than we had members.
The Heyford Players were then formed and they have continued the tradition ever since with the following:
1991 Dick Whittington
1992 The Adventures of Alice
1993 Sleeping Beauty and the Beast
1994 Ali Babe and the Forty Thieves
1995 Mother Goose
Many names that appear in the programmes for the early shows have sadly passed on, such as Reg Collins, who always enjoyed having a laugh and causing a laugh even if it wasn’t in the script. Molly Dawson who also helped with costumes in the early days, and Mike Wallis who was one of our ‘Ugly Sisters’. Many people who have since moved away, some as far as the USA namely Anne & John Martin who both took part in our events. Bev Sewell, Pam & Glyn Bowen, Suzanne Brett, Gwenda Benstead, Angela Dixon, Sheena Harland and Jeanette Purcell are names that spring to mind but I know there were many others that you will remember, not least of all Tim Short who played a memorable Dame on many occasions and I understand still does so!
We had some ‘accidents’ during our performances that the audiences did not always know about, such as the camp bed that collapsed in Goldilocks when Dave Norrie sat on it and the Aspidestra that was dropped from a great height during a scene change and had to be hurriedly swept up, that was in our first Cinderella .
The lines of a song that Gordon Hayes had difficulty remembering so he wrote them on the back of the beam, and then couldn’t read them because of the lighting, but his wife helped him out from the audience, Kathleen had heard them so often at home she was word perfect .
Do you remember our Growing Beanstalk in Jack and the Beanstalk, and the wonderful wigs in Cinderella as well as the ballgowns. The water fountain in Dick Whittington, which Dick didn’t expect to work, but it had been rigged.
We also had our chorous girls a group of girls mostly the daughters of the cast who sang and danced as fairies or soldiers etc.
We have also had a variety of changing arrangements, for the early performances we had the green curtains pulled round the kitchen corner and had to do everything in there — boys & girls together all very friendly The cast would run down the outside of the hall round the old boiler house that used to jut out, right round to the front of the building and in through the front emergency exit which was curtained off – you can imagine how cold it was on some December nights! We also had to be very quiet, especially on Saturday afternoons when all the children were there and were very inquisitive!
We then had the comfort of the football portacabin, which also meant running through all weathers into the emergency exit. That too was all very well when they were playing away, occasionally they were at home and then we used the Baptist schoolroom — an even longer run through rain and snow!
As many of you will know we were always well supplied in the changing rooms with ‘Dutch Courage’; Sometimes it was tea or coffee, but mostly it was a little stronger, it was the only way we could get some of our cast on stage!!
We tried not to leave out the most important member of the whole show that of the pianist, who was for many years Mrs Marjorie Rogers, The first couple of shows I believe were done by Mrs Betty Sillence, and latterly by David Farmer.
A few weeks after the show we always had an excuse for a party to hold an inquest on the performance and to vow that we wouldn’t do it next year, but we nearly always did and thoroughly enjoyed it for my part for fifteen years.
I was always greatly indebted to my typist who would read my long hand scribbled scripts and make sense of them, often as many as 22 pages, also of course the scenery painters and constructors, props and sound effects which always turned up in time for the performance even if they weren’t thought of until dress rehearsal!
Of course one of the highlights of the day for the children in the early years was the arrival of Father Christmas and the gifts that he brought them.
Published in The Prattler – November 1995
Nether Heyford’s Tradition of Pantomime – Continued…..December 2020
The Pantomimes continued…….
1996 Snow White
1999 Babes in the Wood
2000 The Emperors New Clothes
2001 Jack and the Beanstalk
2002 Dick Whittington
2003 Peter Pan
2005 Snow White in the Palace
Thanks to Sheryl Scarrott and Pauline Thackray – December 2020
On Sunday 11th October Heyford Amblers walked to Flore and back in aid of Children In Need. It was glorious weather and we spoke to fishermen, boaters, dog walkers, football supporters and horse riders along the way, also enjoying the morning sun. There were 15 of us socially distancing along the canal towpath and back through Heyford Mill. We all contributed a fiver, as did some who couldn’t join us, and we have sent off our donation of £100.
We look forward to meeting up again but can’t be sure when that will be.
Heyford Bowls Club is up and running again, but in a restricted way. The green is open for roll-ups. You have to book a rink with our Chairman (only rinks 1/3/5 or 2/4/6) and a number of restrictions apply. Sanitise the jack and mat, before and after play, and no use of the scoreboards and bowls pushers. Social distancing at all times, which you soon get used to, and no physical contact, which means an elbow “handshake” at the end of the game. Twenty of our fifty members have availed themselves of the roll-up facility and on some occasions all three rinks have been used at the same time.
We’ve written off the 2020 season as far as matches with other clubs, internal competitions, and external leagues are concerned. We have also decided not to hold our annual presentation night this year (no competitions = no trophy winners), and our popular social events (quiz nights, race nights etc) have also been put on the back burner. Shirley and Mick Collins have never had so much time on their hands.
Daventry Indoor Bowls Club is re-opening on 31st August for roll-ups with similar restrictions as we are imposing. I know they are hoping to run an internal league programme throughout the winter, but no details have yet been published.
Off the green at Heyford, the clubhouse extension is progressing nicely. The walls and roof are in place, and it won’t be long before the windows and internal walls are complete. It’s a pity the clubhouse is out of bounds under the current restrictions. We live in hope that we will be back to normal soon.
It’s life Jim, but not as we know it.
Geoff Allen 01327 349909
For more bowls club information please visit our website:
At about 11.20 am on the 21st September 1951, the 8.20 am Liverpool Express to London came off the track at the Stowe Hill Tunnel near Heyford and tipped over in the embankment. The crash killed eight people and another seven died later in hospital. There were also thirty-six other casualties.
David Blagrove, in his book, “Waterways of Northampton” describes how “the railway can be seen plunging into Stowe Hill Tunnel” and it was here that the train, “hauled by the Duchess class Pacific engine, Princess Arthur of Connaught, left the rails shortly after leaving the tunnel at a speed of between sixty and sixty-five miles an hour.”
Engine 46207 Princess Arthur of Connaught
Photo taken by James Banner and lent by Ted Garrett
A prompt response Frank Denny, the Heyford signal man that day, was the first to realise what happened. His signal box was located about a quarter of a mile from the railway bridge in Furnace Lane, along the stretch of line between Heyford and Bugbrooke. As the signalman, Frank was aware that the train had entered the tunnel from Weedon but he became anxious when it did not reappear. As he looked out of his box, he saw steam rising from the embankment near Tanborough Farm.
Frank instinctively knew something was wrong and realised that his first priority was to halt the Royal Scot which was travelling from London and due to pass at any moment. He therefore rang through to the Banbury Lane signal box at Bugbrooke to get the signal switched to stop. This duly happened the Royal Scot came to a halt near his own box. The driver got out to demand “what the hell is going on.” It was due to Frank’s swift response that a much more serious accident was averted.
MBE At the same time, Mrs Cecily Hughes, the doctor’s wife at Weedon, took a call from the Weedon Stationmaster to say that the Liverpool Express had failed to clear his section of the line. He asked if she and her husband, Dr Stephen Hughes, would take a look. So far, that was all that anyone knew.
The couple set off in their car, armed with first aid that they always carried. They arrived at the tunnel within seven minutes of the accident. Mrs Hughes describes how they found nothing at the tunnel entrance so they climbed up over the hill – to be greeted by the sight of the crash strewn along the line.
The rescue operation
Photo taken by James Banner and lent by Ted Garrett
The first four coaches were the most damaged and contained the dead and badly injured. The doctor took one side of the train and his wife the other, clearing the debris in order to reach casualties. Mrs Hughes recalls how “Everyone was calm and patient. The last two carriages had not even left the rails and were still upright. They were full of boys returning to boarding school and one of the senior boys took charge, leading the others away from the scene and back to Weedon, to the Globe Inn.”
The doctors found the engine driver, Mr Tomlin, buried up to his shoulders in coal from the tender. It took a while to dig him out but he was quite unhurt, as was the train’s fireman who had clung to the cab as the engine tipped over.
After attending to all the serious casualties, Dr and Mrs Hughes returned to Weedon, only to find that many more people, including some of the rescuers, were waiting for treatment for minor cuts and bruises.
As some of the first medics on the scene, the contribution made by the Hughes’s was invaluable. Mrs Hughes was later awarded the MBE for her part in the rescue operation. She was reluctant to accept at first, as there were also others who had helped at the crash site and she felt that she was only doing her job. However, Mrs Hughes was described as “heroine of the morning” and duly received her medal.
Witnesses Several Witness also came forward including a bus driver on the A5 who saw the immediate aftermath of the accident and reported it at Weedon station. It was also very fortunate that a police car happened to be passing the scene along Watling Street as it was one of only two police cars fitted with a radio in the entire county. They were able to summon medical help promptly.
Mr George Richardson of London Was driving along the A5 at the time and said: “I saw the train come out of the tunnel and begin to wobble.”
This “wobbling” and lurching was felt by passengers too. One survivor, Mr Blankfield of Liverpool, explained, “I was in a carriage half-way along the train . . . there were four or five jolts and then the train stopped completely.” He described how he and other passengers immediately climbed out of the windows to help others further along the train.
Photo taken by James Banner and lent by Ted Garrett
Local help For local people in Heyford who worked near the railway, the sound of trains was a familiar one and you could tell exactly the time of day by the individual noise of each train that passed. When the crash occurred, Mr Gray of Tanborough Farm apparently thought that his wife had knocked over the dresser. But after that, apart from the hissing of the engine, there was an eerie silence.
Word quickly got around and people went up to help. Amongst the first on the scene were Reg and Joan Collins of Wharf Farm. They provided milk churns so that water could be carried up the hill to the casualties. There was no shortage of volunteers to take the churns but at the end of the day. Reg. had to go round and collect them all back again in his tractor and trailer in time for the evening milking.
Joan had to cycle down to Mrs Blaney at the Post Office with messages to be telegrammed to relatives. At this time, there was only the one phone with one public line out of the village. The officials did their telephoning from Holly Lodge which had one of the few phones in Heyford.
Ted Garrett was booking clerk at Weedon Station that day. When the crash happened, communications between Weedon and Heyford were suddenly lost, so they knew that something was amiss. In fact, as the train was thrown from the track, it had brought down the telegraph poles and cut all contact. A message ﬁnally arrived at Weedon via Roade Station that there had indeed been a crash. Ted Garrett was given charge to inform the army located at Weedon Depot and ask them to help at the crash site.
Frank Smith arrived with the Daventry ambulance and took the first casualties to Northampton General. He was actually on his second trip to the hospital by the time other ambulances appeared. Then the army from Weedon arrived to help. As they appeared over the hill, people recalled that it looked as though they were on manoeuvres.
Retired district nurse, Miss Raynor – over 70 years of age – walked two miles from Weedon to the crash site with a case of medical supplies. The Salvation Army and the W.V.S. set up mobile canteens and were there all day. The women from the Heyford railway cottages brought up hot tea for the survivors and people also brought blankets and sheets. The sheets were torn up to make bandages and the blankets kept the survivors warm. These were, of course, not returned but compensation was later given to those who had provided them.
The curse of the tunnel The crash was reported in the national media and was news on the BBC Home Service. Local papers were full of the story; Northampton’s Chronicle and Echo carried the banner headline “8 KILLED IN WEEDON TRAIN CRASH” although this figure was unfortunately to rise. The Daventry paper went further and wondered if there was a more sinister aspect to Stowe Hill Tunnel. The paper reported that at the same spot in 1915 there had been another fatal train crash.
There were similarities between the two railway accidents. Both occurred about the same time of year with trains that had left at the same time in the morning. On 14th August 1915, the Irish Mail left Euston at 8.30 am and it too was disrailed; this time as it left the tunnel at the Weedon end heading north. The crash killed nine and injured 13 and many of those on board were troops in service during World War One.
However, despite the comparisons, the crash of 1915 was caused by a broken coupling left by a passing train. The coupling had ploughed into the track and so dislodged the oncoming mail train.
Board of Trade In both crashes, the stretch of line was not found to be at fault. In 1951, the investigation by the Board of Trade was led by Lieutenant-Colonel G.R.S. Wilson. He concluded that the engine (number 46207 for train buffs) had an axle incorrectly fitted after its servicing at Crewe. The axle was slightly too tight, enough to cause a problem when it reached Stowe Hill Tunnel. There is a small change in rail type leading in and out of the tunnel (from flat bottom to bull head track) and, with the axle too tight, the Express dislodged when it went over these rails. The service engineer responsible at Crewe was named but, this being the 50’s and not the 90’s, there was no huge compensation claim or court case.
The engine itself had embedded in the soft clay around Stowe Hill and actually suffered little damage. However, it took almost a month before it could be lifted because of the steep ditch of the embankment. The engine had to be lifted out by a crane and villagers can remember its massive size as it was hauled into the air. It was then towed back to Crewe and was running again within six weeks. Driver Tomlin actually drove the Liverpool Express one more time to London, but never again after that.
By Sarah Croutear. A number of people have contributed to this story but we must give particular thanks to Joan Collins, Ted Garrett, Cecily Hughes and Doris Lovell, Frank Denny’s daughter.
Report on the Derailment which occurred on 21st September 1951 near Weedon in the London Midland Region British Railways
“The 8.20 a.m. Up express passenger train from Liverpool to Euston, comprising 15 bogie coaches hauled by a Pacific type engine, was travelling at 60-65 m.p.h. on the leaving transition of a left handed curve of about 50 chains radius, when the leading bogie wheels of the engine were derailed to the right ; the cause was an engine defect. The derailment was not noticed by the enginemen at this stage and the train continued forward at speed for more than £¾ mile on the straight without serious damage to the flat bottom track. No more wheels were derailed until the train reached the bull head rails just beyond the short Stowe Hill tunnel, when the leading bogie wheels began to smash the chairs and break up the track with the result that the whole of the train left the rails except for the last two vehicles.
The engine went down the 12 ft. embankment to the left, and fell on its left hand side: on soft ground. The wreckage of the coaches at the front of the train was severe, and I regret to state that seven passengers and one of the dining car staff were killed outright and seven passengers died subsequently in hospital. In addition, 26 passengers, the engine driver, and nine members of the dining car staff were admitted to hospital, or 36 persons in all, of whom 15 were discharged on the same day, and 25 others sustained minor injuries or shock. The driver, who was on the left hand side of the footplate, had a fortunate escape from serious injury when he was buried in coal from the tender as the engine overturned ; the fireman clung to the right hand side of the cab and was unhurt.
The wreckage of the eight leading coaches was piled behind and alongside the overturned engine across both the tracks. It was seen by the signalman at Heyford box 950 yards ahead when he heard the noise of the final derailment, and he stopped the approaching Down “Royal Scot” express at his outer home signal at 11.19 am., and afterwards drew it forward to the box. The block and telephone wires northward were severed, but the signalman got a message through to the Control via Blisworth, the next junction box to the south. Medical and other assistance was also summoned from all possible sources by some officers of the Metropolitan Police who had seen the wreckage from their car on the neighbouring main road. The Northamptonshire County Police were quickly on the scene and performed outstanding services in co-ordinating the work of rescue.”
Henry Isham Longden was born at Lamport Rectory on 26th September 1859. Following the death of Thomas Crawley in 1897 he became Rector of Heyford where he remained until his own death in 1942. He was a popular man in Heyford and in 1943, one year after his death, a book about his life entitled ‘A Northamptonshire Rector — The life of Henry Isham Longden’ was published by Joan Wake. The following is an extract from this book relating to his time at Heyford.
A Northamptonshire Rector – The life of Henry Isham Longden
Except for a brief interval during the war of 1914-1918, Heyford was Mr Longden’s home for the next forty-five years. The population of the parish was about 800. His rectory, though commodious and comfortable within, is externally an unattractive mid-nineteenth century building of local ironstone, overdone with gables and plate glass. The beautiful old church lies only some 100 yards away. His church services were, as to be expected, on the high church pattern. He introduced a choral communion service on the first Sunday of every month, at which he officiated investments, then rarely seen in a country church in the Peterborough diocese. He did not, however, indulge in extreme practices of a ritualistic type. The biretta which he had worn as a curate was discarded for a mortar-board on Sunday mornings. Though ready to suffer and possibly to fight for his opinions as other clergy had done, there was no occasion for it – his bishops left him in peace.
In the musical part of the services he was faithfully and ably assisted by Fred Potter, a man of musical ancestry and himself of no inconsiderable musical gifts. Fred had learnt to play the organ at the age of eleven, and officiated voluntarily as a boy at Shangton Church. At Heyford he became honorary organist and choirmaster, and so remained for forty-five years until his master’s death.
Mr Longden always attended the weekly choir practice and wrote out the lists of hymns and chants himself. Until the later years he taught in the Sunday School. On the friendliest terms with his parishioners, he took an interest in the social as the religious activities of the parish. One of his first acts was to collect funds for a church room which after six or seven years he succeeded in building. He founded a village cricket club, and for years was a member of the eleven. The village lads were very fond of him and he corresponded with many of them during the war of 1914-18. He had one or two pupils at the Rectory during the early years, including the Crawley boys from Stowe-nine-churches Rectory.
From the beginning Mr Longden always farmed his own glebe, though the management was left largely in the capable hands of Mr Potter, whose whole heart was in the work. A great reputation was made with the Heyford strain of Berkshire pigs, as also with the hunters, bred and trained on the place, for which purpose a short ‘steeple-chase’ course was laid out. The Hunters’ Improvement Society’s Show at Islington in March, at which many prizes were won, was an important annual event, which was much enjoyed by both master and man.
The Rectory garden, too, except in Winter time, was always ablaze with masses of flowers. The greenhouse also was full of carnations, begonias, cyclamen, and other flowering plants, all under the care and supervision of Mr Potter. He had from the first days at Shangton always lived under his master’s roof, but when in 1901 he married Miss Bertha Nightingale of Pattishall, he moved to a cottage in the village. This arrangement did not last long, and in 1902, to everybody’s satisfaction, they were allotted pleasant rooms at the Rectory. The bacon-curing, butter-churning, and domestic work of the house were carried out by this devoted couple. The affection and respect which they had for Mr Longden was heartily reciprocated, and the party at the Rectory was essentially a happy and contented one.
Rev Henry Isham Longden with Fred Potter
All the Longden children had been taught to ride at Lamport Rectory, but though he kept a horse at Shangton and was always fond of riding, as a young man Mr Longden did not shew any sporting proclivities. After a few years at Heyford, though not actually ill, his health was not up to the mark and Potter suggested that an occasional day with the hounds might do him good. He had bought his brother Arthur’s mare when the latter went out to the South African war in 1899, so now had a suitable mount. Mr Longden agreed, his health improved, and he soon developed a great love of the chase, though he was rather ‘a parson who hunted’ than one of the old-fashioned type of hunting parson like his great-grandfather the Rev. Vere Isham.
Heyford lies just inside the Pychley country, on the borders of the Grafton, but though he would take an occasional day with the former pack, Mr Longden always considered himself a Grafton man. The masters liked to see the sport patronised by the cloth, and Mr Longden’s ‘cheery courtesy and inveterate love of little jokes,’ as Mr Cruft writes, ‘made him ever welcome, even to the most anti-clerical followers of the hounds.’ Well-mounted and well turned-out in top hat, black coat and white cord breeches, he arrived at the meets accompanied by Potter, who besides enjoying the sport quite as much as his master, was thus able to school – and sell – the young hunters bred at Heyford Rectory. Then General Livingstone-Learmouth came to live at the parish, and for eight years after the war Mr Longden hunted regularly two days a week from the middle of November right through the season. (He never cub-hunted). The General used to drive him to the meets, Potter going on with his horse. One day with the Pychley – the meet was at Cottesbrooke – hounds had a great run from Maidwell gardens by Kelmarsh, Arthingworth, Braybrooke, nearly to Brampton Ash, and finally killed not far short of Market Harborough. The General was galloping along beside his Rector. “Padre, I can’t go on any more,” he called. “no man ever stopped in the middle of a run in the Pychley country!” shouted back the parson. Both sportsmen were in at the death, and rode home together the many weary miles to Heyford, gruelling their horses at the Ismays at Hazelbeach on the way.
Then one sad day in the March on 1928, when hounds were running near Preston Capes, someone inadvertently slammed a gate in front of Mr Longden. He tried to pull up but there was not time. His horse swerved and jumped the gate-post, throwing him onto his head on the hard road. Only his top hat saved him from breaking his neck. Potter was with him in a moment and took him home. This was the end of the hunting. The old horse was turned out to grass and Mr Longden was no more to be seen with the hounds. He was then in his seventieth year.
The relationship between Mr Longden and Fred Potter was obviously a very close one. Joan Wake’s book includes an appendix headed ‘Faithful Service’ which includes the following words written by Canon F. S. Keysell, Vicar of East Haddon, and formerly Vicar of Weedon.
“No record of the late Rev H. Isham Longden at Heyford could be complete without a reference to his trusty servant and faithful friend for 50 years, Mr Fred Potter. In his early days at Heyford Mr Longden used to drive a horse and trap, but with the coming of motor cars and the increase of road traffic and consequent inconvenience, Mr Longden, like many others, though he never went in for a motor car, decided to give up driving and took to a bicycle. It was then, and not till then, that Mr Longden, acting on the advice of Potter decided to take to hunting, for though he had always been fond of a horse, he had never previously appeared in the hunting field.
Potter, who had always been a good judge of a horse, was soon able to fix the Rector up with the right sort of mount, and not feeling it advisable for him to go alone, decided that it would be in the best interests of all concerned that he should accompany his master in the capacity of second horseman. Henceforth for many years the Rector and his groom were generally to be found at meets of the Grafton hounds on Mondays and alternate Fridays, with an occasional meet of the Pychley on Saturdays thrown in. Though Potter made it his first business to see that his master was in the same field with the hounds not only at the meet, but also when they were running, and though he always seemed to be in the right spot when a lead was required over a difficult jump, yet at the same time Potter was generally to be found here, there, and everywhere. Did any rider take a toss and let go his horse? Potter was always there to catch the animal, and if need be to render first aid to its owner. Did anyone at the tail end of a hunt forget to shut a gate? Potter was always there to do the needful in time to prevent any cattle from straying. Did anyone lose their bearings and not know how to find their way home or the place where they had left their car? Potter was always there to tell them, and if necessary to point them by the shortest cut.
Potter soon came to be recognised as an authority on horseflesh, and it became widely known that in the stables at Heyford Rectory there was sometimes to be found a useful, well-trained type of hunter for sale. Would-be purchasers, however, were warned that it was no good going to Heyford with that object in view on a Sunday morning (which alas! had become the fashionable day for such transactions), because at that time the Rector would be standing in the pulpit and Potter would be sitting at the organ, where for many years he acted as voluntary organist and trainer of the choir.
A nasty hunting accident some ﬁfteen years ago when he was then about seventy years of age ended Isham Longden’s hunting career, and Ruby, the much loved horse which had carried him so well for many years, was turned out in the Rectory ﬁeld where he was allowed to end his days in peace.
Fred Potter, on the right
Photo lent by Charlie Masters
Potter, however did not allow himself to be downcast because he had no more days to look forward to in the hunting field, but turned his attention to gardening (with the exception of an occasional day’s shooting) and soon the Rectory garden became as well worth a visit as had been the stables in earlier days. On one occasion he was showing the beauties of the garden to the writer of this article. Potter remarked to him “There can be no such thing as a groom-gardener, you must be one or the other – you must concentrate!”
The passing of Isham Longden in the early summer of 1942 meant the breaking up of the home in which Fred Potter and wife had for over 40 years devoted themselves heart and soul to all that concerned the well-being of their master and friend, but it has not meant the breaking up of Potter.
The latest report about him is that he is now farming at Heyford on his own account, for though he is old in years he is still young in mind and body. His many friends will wish him every success and if, when the war is over and the country has settled down, ‘Grafton Mondays’ come into their own again, all followers of the hounds will know that there is one farm in that county at all events on which they can be sure of a hearty welcome, and on which the gates and fences will be in good order, and there will be no barbed wire to obstruct. Potter has, and always has had, that mark of the true sportsman that he likes to share his pleasures with others and to enable them to enjoy to the full the things which he has enjoyed so much himself.”
The words of Canon F. S. Keysell, former vicar of Weedon
The memories of Bill Nickolls
A number of local people still remember Mr Longden and Fred Potter, and talk about them with affection. Mr Longden was a kind man who could relate to people of all ages and backgrounds. If you were unwell in hospital he would visit you, ‘even if you attended chapel rather than church!’ The church in those days (19205 and 30$) was well attended. It was normal to go three times a day – morning service at 9.00am, bible classes in the afternoon and evening service at 6.00pm.
Bill Nickolls particularly remembers the choir. It was a full choir, singing all parts. Some of the attendees were Harry Eales, Fred Goodman, Mr Pearson, Charlie Foster, Nell Nickolls, Freda Tebbit, Doll Collins, Ethel Barnes, Bill Nickolls, ]o Nickolls, and ]ack Nickolls. Choir practice on Friday evenings Was run by Fred Potter who was a skilled and knowledgeable musician. He also made it fun. He used to send out to the shop for some sweets and they sometimes played games.
The will of the Rev. Henry Isham Longden
Henry Isham Longden suffered a stroke and finally died in the arms of his friend and servant Fred Potter on Sunday April 26th 1942 at the age of 82 years. The following details from his will are reprinted here from a newspaper cutting (date and source unknown).
‘The Rev. Henry Isham Longden of Heyford Rectory,.who died on April 26 last, left £11,168 9s 1d gross with net personalty £9,725 8s 7d. He left certain furniture and his horses and crops etc. to his faithful friend and servant Frederick W. Potter, and £1,500 upon trust for him for life, and then upon trust for his wife for her life. £300 upon trust to pay the stipend of the organist of Heyford Church. £100 to the rector and churchwardens to provide an additional bell for the church, and £50 to complete the church room.’
Fred Potter moved to a house in Church Lane and kept a small dairy herd in the ﬁeld opposite (now known as Rice’s paddock and partly built on). He continued to farm and to produce milk for the villagers. He died at Nether Heyford on November 10th 1964, aged 87 years and was cremated at Milton.
You might wonder what a bar full of Yvettes & Renes has to do with a village walking group. Well, I’ll tell you.
In 2002 we were both made redundant when Express Lifts & British Timken closed their doors and we were a year or three short of getting a State Pension so were keen to find hobbies that didn’t cost anything. We put an advert in The Prattler to see if anyone would be interested in forming a walking group and the rest, as they say, is history.
The first few years we walked every Tuesday morning from the village and once a month from further afield. Our Autumn break took us to places like Yorkshire and Derbyshire and an 8 mile walk was the norm, with a pint or two half way. Move forward a few years and we came closer to home, to The Cotswolds and The Malverns, for a 6 mile daily walk. Further still brought us to Rutland Water and The Thames with 5 miles a day, leaving plenty of free time to explore at our own pace. Our Autumn breaks usually included a Theme Night, which is why we look so ridiculous in these photos.
Over the 18 years we have made some good friends, lost a few and gained a few. However, aches and pains, decline of hearing, memory and concentration are taking their toll. Our Tuesday walks no longer happen and we take it in turn to organise a 4 miler once a month with, the most important bit, a meal at the end of it, and we still have a Christmas lunch at The Olde Sun.
Our advice to anyone healthy enough would be to take up walking, maybe start a new village group. We highly recommend it for fitness, fun and friendship.
Regretfully we are announcing the passing of Sheila on May 13th, just short of her 95th birthday in June. She was the last of her generation of Humphrey who moved to Labrams Yard on Church Street. Previous residents/tenants of the property included her brother Ron and family, May, and Arthur. Dunkley, Connelly, Buck, Collins, Barnes, and Gilkes also resided on the property at one time or another. Probably there are others. Her niece, Jean now resides in one of the Humphrey cottages on the property.
Some villagers may also recall the family business of E.W.Humphrey Ladder Manufacturers. This has been documented in the Prattler and the Heyford History.
Sheila worked at The Beauty Counter of Adnitts Department store (now Debenhams) Northampton. She then progressed to being an accounts clerk at the hospital guild.
Sheila, from time to time recalled her childhood. The Humphrey family kept dairy cows, Sheila and her niece Jean were often tasked with distributing milk to Heyford villagers. She had a pet lamb, ‘Betty’ who was missing one day upon returning from her day at Bliss School, evidently in latter years realising the pet was part of the family larder. She recalled as a teenager the drone of the aeroplanes on their way to bomb Coventry in the Second World War.
The Humphrey family were very involved with the Baptist Chapel in the village, Sheila along with sister May enjoyed being a Deacon and part of the weekly flower rota at the Chapel. Both Sheila and her step daughter Trudi were married in the Chapel. Besides flower arranging, Sheila embraced singing with the Heyford Singers.
In her latter years Sheila endured Cancer, and after the death of her husband Albert found it increasingly difficult at home at Ladder Cottage. After a nasty fall in her home in 2015 – at her request – she moved to Bethany Homestead in Northampton where mother Alice spent some convalescing time.
In these challenging times, Sheila has sadly become another statistic of our current pandemic. We will hold a memorial to commemorate Sheila’s life when time allows.