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

The Census return of 1891

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

The houses and people

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

Lower Heyford

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

Upper Heyford

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

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

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

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

NetherHeyfordTurnofCentury_StoryofHeyford1 copy

Working life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brickworks. 16 brickyard labourers.

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

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

Other. 28 general labourers.

The village as it appeared in 1900NetherHeyfordTurnofCentury_StoryofHeyford2

The memories of Bob Browning (1892-1997)

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

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

Everyday life in Heyford

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

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

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

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

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

Lack of services

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

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

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

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

The homes

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

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

Church Street – the working heart of the village 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two views of Church Street

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

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

Stephen Ferneyhough

~~

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

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

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Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

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

NetherHeyford_BrowningFamily2

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

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Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

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

Nether & Upper Heyford Home Guard (WW2)

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

Nether Heyford Home Guard.jpg

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Jez Wilson 

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

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Letter published in The Prattler – December 2019

The Story of Heyford: Cricket on the Village Green V4C5

Like most villages in England Nether Heyford sported the idyllic sight of twenty two people dressed in immaculate whites playing the age-old sport of Cricket on the Village Green.

A team game remarkably like cricket was being played in England as early as 1300 and by the 1700’s it was being played by the landed aristocracy and so became part of our culture. In the early 1890’s County Cricket was established with clubs being admitted only when the MCC judged their standard to be acceptable and the county of Northamptonshire was admitted in 1905.

The period 1890-1914 is regarded as the golden age of cricket with interest in the sport becoming widespread. Today it is not quite so popular with the young and it is not surprising that India and Pakistan have such magnificent teams as children take up cricket there as soon as they can hold a bat and at week-ends you can see teams and teams of players on any given space practising their skills -far more than even our local lads play football.

The tradition of a local cricket team still goes on in Heyford, but not on the Green. For the last few years you could see Julian Rice and his merry men playing on the well-tended sports ground by the Pavilion built ten years ago and situated just as you enter Heyford from the A45. (The Pavilion used to be the football changing rooms which were moved from the village green to the sports field). Still an idyllic sight but not the same perhaps as when cricket was played in the centre of the village.

The early years

The Cricket Club in Heyford was founded by Henry Isham Longden when he came to the village as Rector in 1897. He was, according to Joan Wake in her book ‘The life of Henry Isham Longden’, fond of cricket and apparently he had played for the Northampton Cricket Club in his curate days, so it is not surprising that he was always ready for a village cricket match. Hevford’s Bob Browning (1892-1997) recalls cricket being played on the green in the early 1900s, but these were in the days of friendlies against neighbouring villages.

There must have been a lapse of all activities during the 1914-1918 war with all able-bodied men fighting, but cricket resumed in the 1920’s. At this time the green was more uneven than it is today as it was grazed by cows. There was continual debate about whether a proper pitch could be laid. According to the rules laid down for the management of the green no digging could take place, and much argument went on about laying such a pitch. However agreement was eventually reached and a wicket turf was laid on the centre part of the green by Jack Nickolls and Tommy Kingston.

In the 1920’s the Heyford team consisted of such people as Bert Thompson, Frank Reeve, Bob Foster, Dick Foster and Ron Humphrey. They played friendlies against local villages, Farthingstone and Everdon. Before each match nets were erected along the far side of the green to protect the windows and slates of the houses nearby. And of course they all met afterwards in the clubroom of the Foresters Arms.

In the 1930’s the players included Bill Kingston, Bernard North, Charlie Copson, Jack Butcher, Dennis Clarke and Reg Collins. The main umpire for Heyford was Sonny Thompson and they played against Everdon, Pattishall, Astcote, Bugbrooke, Kislingbury and Harpole. Bill Kingston recalls that before they could play they had to make up the pitch. They had to fill in the holes, patch it, turf it and roll it because the cows had been on it all week! And according to Charlie Copson the pitch was so well prepared that it was used on Friday evenings for tennis matches.

Cricket as it appeared on the Green in the 1940’s and 1950’s

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The team in the 1960’s

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Standing, left to right: Jack Draper, Peter Brodie, John Draper, Michae Ingray, Norman Fonge, Bernard North, Ron Copson, Bert Thornicroft, Ben Spokes

Kneeling, left to right: Dennis Clarke, Jim Blood, Harry Haynes, Charlie King, Reg Collins 

Twenty years without a club

Then the cricket ceased. In the Sunday Telegraph a few weeks before Easter 1999, it was reported “The village Cricket Club has been forced to close after the wives and friends of the players refused to make their teas”. This, I hasten to add, was not what happened to Heyford. By the 1950’s Tommy Rolfe had left the Foresters and houses had been built alongside the green between Middle Street and the Post Office, making it difficult to protect them against damage from the balls. Also there were few young men in the village in the post war years because many were moving to town to take advantage of modern work and housing opportunities.

In the Mercury & Herald November 6th 1969 a little piece about Nether Heyford appeared. “Heyford is developing fast with an attractive diversity of new and stylish housing running in price to the five figure bracket, but in the heart of the village the scene remains much the same as half century ago – thanks to the preservation of one of the most expansive village greens in England. It is a curious fact, however, that Nether Heyford has no cricket club. It used to have one but the young people have cars these days and go where they will for their sport and pleasure”.

The club reformed

However, on the 16th June 1977 a meeting was held with Charles King asking the question “Would it be possible to raise a cricket team in the village?” and no article about cricket in Nether Heyford would be complete without a mention of Dave Jenkinson who, after this initial meeting, was elected Chairman of the newly reformed Cricket Club with Charles King, who lived in Hillside Road, becoming the Secretary.

Charles told the local paper that when they had started up again they played half-a-dozen evening games with limited overs to test out the interest. But with no pitch and little equipment and the green being used all winter for football, it was becoming very difficult to keep interest going. He reported that “we’ve had talks with a local farmer about using one of his fields, but at the moment we’re playing all our matches away from home; we book pitches on places like the Racecourse in Northampton. But the real snag about a square on the green, is that we’d need to spend £160 on safety netting along the roadside”.

Thus a new venue for cricket was being called for. Plans for playing fields were being started and fund-raising events taking place. And an apt headline appeared in the paper: “Cricketers bat on and refuse to be stumped”.

Discos at the Foresters Arms followed and on December 23rd 1977 a Christmas Supper Dance was held, music by the Neal Stanton Band, and tickets at £2.50. At this time the membership fee of the Cricket Club was £1 a head and the match fees 10p per game. More and more local people became involved with the Club and Mrs. Rosemary Haddon was elected Treasurer having the grand sum of £155.4p in the kitty.

In 1978 on the 25th May the Mercury and Herald reported some memories from Mr. Albert Garrett who was clerk to the parish council for 35 years and at that time 79 years old. “We used to play cricket on the green” he said “they’ve just started the club up again. I played until I was 60” and he laughed. “We used to break a lot of windows but this time I think they’re getting something to protect them. Even so, we always had a collection to pay for them, especially for one old chap who had his broken regularly.”

And in 1982 when Dave Tite was secretary, the Club was looking back to 1977, the year that Heyford Cricket Club was reformed and remarking on how well the club was doing since it started without money, equipment or fixtures. In March 1983 Geoff Garrett was voted Captain and Paul Horrocks was persuaded to take on the job of fund raising- a difficult but necessary job in the circumstances. They had a full fixture list and entered for the Watney Mann Cup.

All matches ‘away’

In 1984 still without proper grounds the Cricket Club flourished, meetings were held still at The Foresters Arms with Mine Hosts Alf and Marg Parker and youngsters were being recruited. At the Parish Council Annual Meeting members raised the subject of their need for practice nets in the village, perhaps on the green, and these “would not take up a great deal of room and could be used by the School and would add to the attractions of the village”. If you look at the fixture list for July 1984 you will see that not one of the matches were played at home. And amusingly on the front of the fixture list you will see the following:

REMEMBER:

It is better to have played and lost than never to have played at all.

(Gayton excepted)

At the 7th AGM of the Heyford Cricket Club on Sunday, 31st March 1985, the Chairman reported sadly that there was now no prospect of home fixtures being played within the Parish Boundary but that it was to be hoped that progress on the Heyford Playing Fields project would mean a ray of hope for future seasons.

The following report in September in the Prattler went “Came second to Ryland 0/B’s in the Clenbury / Haine Shield. Lost in the final. Watney Mann Cup got through to the second round by having a bye in the preliminary round – and beating Gayton in the first round. Lost to Buqbrooke in the second round. We have started a Youth Team with the lads doing most of their own organising. They have been going for about six months and have had two fixtures against very good sides. They tied their first game against Wootton Youth and narrowly lost to Rylands Under 15’s. They have a practise net on the Green every Monday evening. The lads show a lot of promise and hopefully next season we call get them into a league through the Cricket Association. “

But it was to be some time before cricketers could enjoy the game on their home turf. An article appeared in February 1987 stating that “The Parish Council, through its Leisure and Amenities Committee, has been looking into the possibility of acquiring enough land to provide a playing field for the use of the inhabitants of both Nether and Upper Heyford. This matter was also discussed at the last Annual Parish Council meeting. A steering group has been formed to consider the matter, and the outcome of their enquiries to date is that Mr. J Spokes of Upton is prepared to sell approximately 10 acres of land, which seems to be ideally suited to a games area. The land forms part of a flat field, which is situated behind the allotments and Mrs. Smith’s field on the Upper Road.”

The team in 1980

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This photograph, taken on Jeremy Rice’s front lawn, shows the team as proud winners in 1980 of the Clenberry / Haine Shield.
Standing: Julian Rice, Ray Haddon, Dave Tite, Tony Charville, G Starmer, Graham Drake
Seated: Alex Kirkbride, Geoff Garrett, Geoff Sturgess, Mike Tharby

Home turf at last

In July 1988 the cricket square was making good progress “thanks to the efforts of the Grounds Committee headed by Jeremy Rice.” And in 1989 Geoff Sturgess of Hillside Crescent was very encouraged by the good turnout for the Youth Cricket Under 16’s Team as nets were now available down on the Playing Field.

In the Prattler, May 1989, the following article appeared compiled by Alex Kirkbride:

“The merry click of bat against the ball, the expectant rush, the cheering that proclaims skill of the greatest of all English games; Flutter of the flags, the branches of the trees swaying beneath the summer breeze; No sweeter music in the world is found than that upon an English cricket ground.

R Ratcliffe Ellis; Cricket Music

Yes, the dream is now a reality. Heyford Cricket Club is back at home”.

And now in 1999 Simon Legge has taken over the captaincy from Julian Rice and will lead his team in League Cricket. The village Green has seen the very last of the cricket but thanks to all the efforts of the stalwarts of the village, the cricket heritage will continue.

 

With grateful thanks to Barbara Haynes, Julian Rice and Dave Tite

Julie Rands-Allen

~~

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

Volume 4 of 4 | Chapter 5 of 8 | Pages 22 to 27

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Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford: Heyford Feast – The Visiting Fair V4C4

Heyford Feast
The fair has been coming for Heyford Feast in October for as long as anyone can remember. Heyford Feast is the anniversary of the dedication of our Parish Church and takes place on the first Sunday after the 11th October. This is also the time of year when Harvest Festival activities took place – they continue to do so today — marking Heyford as one of the churches to celebrate Harvest late in the season.

The fair and the church’s celebrations were closely linked: together they formed the greatest village occasion of the year and would last one week. In the early 1900’s, the fair families attended Evensong at the church and contributed some of their takings to the collection. Today, there is no longer a link between the church and the fair but this still remains the time of year when the fair comes to Heyford.

When the Parish Council was originally set up in the late 1890’s, it stated that no fairs could use the main part of the Green. However, by then, the fair was so much part of our tradition that this ruling was later rescinded. It was a major event to be shared by all and men employed locally were often given the Monday off work to be able to enjoy the festival to the full. Likewise, pupils at Bliss School were allowed the Monday off in order to meet the fair at Upper Heyford and walk down with it into the village.

After Heyford, the fair went on to Daventry to become the centre for the ‘Mop Fair’ – so called because it used to be a time for hiring domestic staff This was at the turn of the century when fairs were still more business and trading occasions than anything else. Workers would advertise their availability for hire by standing with mops in their hands. It was a big occasion there too, and the fair would block the main roads in the middle of Daventry.

Swing-boats and roundabouts
Bob Browning recalled the fair in the village from the early 1900’s. There were swing-boats and roundabouts with wooden horses and most rides charged 1d. All along the road from the Post Office to the schools were stalls: coconut shies, hoopla and darts. Fred Browning remembered the game of Aunt Sally in which you had three balls for one penny and had to throw them through a hole in a door to release ‘Aunt Sally’. There was no prize in succeeding, just the thrill of seeing Aunt Sally appear. Fred even commemorated the fair in verse as part of a poem called “Heyford Green”:

Remember the fairs, wooden horses and wares
would collect to the joy of us all…

By contrast to such ethereal thinking, The Foresters pub was central to the fair’s activities because of its place on the Green and it wasn’t unusual for there to be fights there.

Great anticipation
Many villagers can still recall the fair from the 1930’s and 40’s. There was great anticipation for its arrival. The children would save up money for weeks beforehand and girls sometimes knit purses to hang around their necks with the three or four pence saved for the rides. They gathered rose hips which they could sell through the school for 3d. per lb. for making rose hip syrup. They would also collect acorns from ‘accern orchard’ which they could sell as pig fodder. Some people would collect eating apples which the fair folk would buy for making toffee apples.

On the day of the fair’s arrival there was great excitement. School children – now no longer allowed out to greet it – would often hear the fair setting up on the Green across the road. This caused them enormous frustration because they were all itching to get out and see it. If the fair happened to arrive out of school hours, the children would go to meet it along what is now the A45. They would put their ears to the ground to try to pick up the vibration from the rumble of the steam engines.

The Steam Engine

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This photo, taken in the 1930’s, possibly leaving Finedon, shows George Billing’s Burnell 2625 ‘Lady Pride of England’

Photo lent by Ted Garrett

George Billing
The fair was run at that time by George Billing. He wore a bowler hat and a navy blue suit and his wife collected the money in great heavy bags full of pennies. The fair would set up near the shops and The Foresters and the main attraction was the merry-go-round. It had horses on the outside, cockerels in the middle and smaller horses on the inside. It had its own steam engine to drive it and George Billing stoked up the fire to keep it going. However, sometimes the steam would give out and the children would push the merry—go—round around by hand.

The other main attractions were the big swing boats at 1d. a go. There were many battles to see who could take their boat the highest and the fair people got cross if anyone tried to swing their boat right over! There were stalls for the coconut shies, darts, roll—a—penny and skittles. The skittles were tall and white – four in a line – and the prize for knocking them all down was a packet of nuts or Players cigarettes.

The fair also made its own sticks of rock known as ‘Feast Rock’. It was humbug flavour and striped brown and yellow. The rock stall made it by hand by pulling the sweet mixture out into long strings. By all accounts it was delicious!

Horses and steam
Two traction engines were operated by the fair. The larger one stood up by the Baptist Chapel and generated electricity needed for the lights. As there were still only gas lights in Heyford at the time, the electric light display on the Green was rather a novelty. Hilda Collins remembers how the steam engine would stand on its own beside the chapel, chuffing away: “There were clouds of steam and it would be spitting scalding hot water – quite dangerous really!” She also recalls the organ on the roundabout and how, as children, they would ride round and watch the different instruments ‘play’ in turn in the centre of the ride. The roundabout organ used a pianola device of perforated cards that played the music and – being limited to the number of cards the ride had – the same tunes would start up over and over again.

All the caravans were horse drawn and were set up in a row. At first, water for the fair had to come from a private supply but then the fair people used a public tap that was set up on the Green opposite the Denny’s house. The tap was spring—loaded, i.e. it required you to hold the tap open all the time otherwise it shut itself off again. The fair’s horses were left to graze in a nearby field or in the hollow at the far end of the Green.

When The Foresters closed at 10:30 pm each night, some men came out rather the worse for wear and would head onto the fair site. On occasion, George Masters and Herbert Clarke – both big men — came out of The Foresters and climbed up on one of the horses waving their hats and shouting “giddy-up.” Albert Garrett recalled how once, so many men came out of the pub and clambered onto the merry-go-round that it wouldn’t start. George Billing is remembered for throwing his hat on the floor and pleading with some of the men to get off.

When the fair finally closed around midnight, the last tune played on the steam organ was ‘Christians awake, salute the happy morn’ – Mrs Billing’s favourite tune. When it was all over, the children walked around looking for halfpennies and pennies that had been dropped in the grass. It wasn’t unusual to find threepence or sixpence, which was a lot of money in those days.

The Abbotts and Thurstons
After the Second World War, the Abbots brought the fair and they continued coming for another thirty years. The fairground attractions essentially remained the same, but the Abbots introduced the dodgems. The steam engines were eventually replaced by diesel and by the 50’s, the horses were replaced by vehicles.

The fair continued to be very popular and is remembered for being very crowded during this time. Many families had relatives coming to stay with them for the duration of the fair and Heyford Feast. It was also an attraction to other villages in the locality, for although the fair moved on from Heyford to Bugbrooke for a time, the site in Bugbrooke (a field on the outskirts) was not considered very suitable. Hilda Collins remembers how, on the Green, you could hardly see the stalls for the crowds of people around them. If the fair is quieter today, it is probably to do with easier access to the larger towns and the development of Northampton’s own autumn funfair.

While the fair was at Heyford, the fair children would attend Bliss School. This included old Mr Abbot’s daughter, Norma. In 1971, she married William Thurston from another fairground family and in the following year, the fair began coming under the Thurston name — as it still does today.

Around that time there was debate about the positioning of the fair on the Green. Its site near the shops was considered disruptive because of the noise and there were also complaints about the state of the football pitch on the Green after it had gone. For a time the Thurstons alternated year by year from one end of the Green to the other. Eventually they settled on its present location opposite the school.

Mary Warr, who wrote about the fairground family in her short history of Heyford published in 1970, had a far rosier view of the impact that the fair made on the village. She said, “For as long as we have been here (1953-70) the fair has been in the family. Older villagers have seen the fair people growing up and there is much friendship. I can only speak of my own experiences. We have nearly always had the fair opposite the school and have always known them to be friendly, considerate and peace—loving visitors. At night when the fair closes down, all is quiet and nothing happens to disturb our rest. I hope this wonderful relationship continues. Our places of worship have been visited by them and they have given generously to us on occasions.”

The fair in 1998

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Photo lent by Stephen Ferneyhough

Nowadays the fair continues to be assembled on the middle section of the Green and it is always tidy and compact. The Thurstons bring only a selection of their total fairground equipment because they do not stay many days and space on the Green is limited. They bring the Waltzer, two or three ‘children’s rides including a helter-skelter, a range of gaming machines in an amusement arcade and a variety of side stalls. The Thurstons are based in Wellingborough with a season that runs from March to November, touring all over the East Midlands and East Anglia. Then during the winter months, they do all their rebuilding and maintenance work. William Thurston’s grandson is the seventh generation in his family to work the fairgrounds.

Sarah Croutear with contributions from Hilda Collins and Ted Garrett

~~

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

Volume 4 of 4 | Chapter 4 of 8 | Page 18 to 21

TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers