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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NetherHeyford_Cricket_2

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

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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

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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

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Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford: Village Sports in 1900 V2C6

At the beginning of the 1900s up until the First World War in 1914, Heyford celebrated together at their annual sports day organised by a special sports committee, and at which everyone in the village attended.

The sports field was situated beyond the children’s playground where the houses in Hillside Road / Hillside Crescent now stand. The field belonged to a local farmer who removed his cows for the day, which usually meant a bit of clearing up had to be done first. The date was usually set for Whitsuntide, and a beer tent and tea tent would be organised by the ladies.

The men would probably be dressed in striped jackets, baggy trousers and straw hats, the ladies in blouses, long skirts and large hats, the little girls in ankle length dresses and the little boys in jumpers and knickerbockers.

A local band (probably from Bugbrooke) would begin the proceedings and set the mood, and the races would be mainly for the children and fathers, possibly followed by an egg and spoon race for the mums, although they found it rather difficult to run in long skirts. Winners names would be taken after each race for prize giving at the end of the afternoon.

At the interval the lancers from Weedon Depot would give a display of horsemanship, including the spectacular attraction of tent pegging. A peg much the same as a tent peg but softer would be placed in the ground at the centre point. The lancer would mount his horse with his lance at his side, charge at the peg, picking it up with his lance and raising it above his head amid cheers from an enthusiastic crowd.

Prize giving would be the highlight of the afternoon, and the prizes would be something for the home, possibly linen or cutlery which would be acceptable to any family.

The band would play a finale and everyone would go home tired but well satisfied with the days events, and this day would be talked about for a long time.

Shirley Collins

(Reprinted from issue no 3 of The Prattler, dated January 1978) 

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

Volume 2 of 4 | Chapter 6 of 11 | Pages 18

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Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

 

 

Extract from The Story of Heyford – Volume 2 of 4 – Page 18

The Story of Heyford: Mammoth Draw in aid of a Heyford Widow V2C4

In the days before the existence of the welfare state the village was a caring community in which neighbours took care of the needs of each other. An example of this is illustrated in the photograph below which was taken in 1911.

On the left of the picture is Bob Browning who was born in Heyford in 1892 and died in 1997. He remembered the photograph being taken and it was he who gave us the information below.

A woman called Mrs Ephrain Collins became widowed with six or eight children. She lived in a stone cottage where the old folks bungalows now stand in ‘the Pound’. A photograph of this cottage appears in volume 1 of ‘The Story of Heyford’. The village held a raffle to raise money for her welfare. Raffle tickets were sold in the surrounding villages and stuck onto the circular board shown in the photograph. The winning ticket was established by firing a shotgun, owned by Mr Stanton Boyes of Upper Heyford, at the board.

The raffle raised around £2,000 which was invested on behalf of Mrs Collins to keep her in rent and coal for the rest of her life.

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Back row: Bob Browning, Mr Sargent, Mrs Roberts, Mrs Violet Browning, Mrs Gwen George, Win Earl, Mrs Sargent, Mr Gibson, David Browning
Gentleman in chair: Mr William Browning
Front Row: Mr Nightingale, Mr Roberts, Ted Sargent, Ted Wright, Mr Hobbs

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

Volume 2 of 4 | Chapter 4 of 11 | Page 8

TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ron, Sheila and Arthur in the 1930s

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Photo lent by the Humphrey family

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

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

The Humphrey’s first and last lorry

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Photo lent by the Humphrey family

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

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

Thatching hay ricks using Humphreys ladders

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Photo lent by John Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo lent by the Humphrey family

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

Eiluned Morgan (1996)

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

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

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Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford: The King William Pub V1C5

The building which is now number 24 Furnace Lane to the left of the old bake house used to be a pub called the King William. It was listed in the 1891 Census return as the ‘King William IV’ and it was occupied at that time by George Collins, a blacksmith. There is a pear tree growing up the side of the building and some of the local people say-that it took its name ‘William’ from this. Bob Browning recalled that it was run before the first world war by a man named Leeson but it did little trade. It was last occupied as a pub in the 1930’s by a man named Waters but there seems to be nobody left who remembers it in use.

The building used to have a cellar but when the wooden floor became rotten it was filled in with rubble and concreted over. The present house still has holes in the wall from when there was a dart board there. .

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

Volume 1 of 4 | Chapter 5 of 13 | Page 12

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Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford: Book series – How the books were created (Afterword)

‘The Story of Heyford’ was a series of 4 books published by the Nether Heyford village community as a result of the research work completed during 1996-1997

The Heyford Local History Group

These booklets were born out of a small group of local people meeting together with the aim of recording Heyford’s past. The group became known as the `Heyford Local History Group.’

The first meeting was held at the house of Eiluned Morgan in Church Street in the Spring of 1996. During a series of informal meetings we discussed how we could collect information, photographs and stories, how we could involve other people, and in what form the information could be recorded.

The people involved in these early meetings were Eiluned Morgan, Ken Garrett, Shirley Collins, John Smith, Pam Clements, Stephen Ferneyhough and Steve Young.

Our original aim was to publish a paperback style book with photographs, probably by the end of 1998. We held two open meetings in the school hall, one in October 1996 and one in February 1997. At these meetings we had various information and photographs on display.  At the second meeting Barry Highfield gave a short talk about Mrs Court’s shop and we showed a video of old Heyford photographs. About forty people came to each of these meetings. We served tea and coffee, we made new contacts, we collected more stories, and both occasions were good social events.

By this time however it had become clear that the funds necessary and the time commitment needed to publish a full scale book were beyond our means. All of us in the group were working full time and had various other commitments. So the idea of a series of smaller scale booklets came about and what you see here is the result. There will be several booklets in the series, but with no formal structure. We have worked on the principle that it is better to write down the information as we find it, publish it and then move our efforts on to the next subject. We can always add to it in a later issue as more information becomes available.

By the people, of the people and for the people

Many local villagers have contributed to these booklets by giving information, lending photographs, offering documents, telling stories and exchanging memories. Their names will appear with particular stories as you read through them. It is truly a history prepared by, written about, and published for the people of Heyford.

However we would like to make several particular acknowledgements in relation to the preparation and publishing of these booklets. All the people mentioned below live in the village. Use of school facilities for our open meetings: Alan Watson, headmaster;  Scanning and preparation of photographs: Tim Beard of Manor Park; Typesetting and origination: Bill Nial and Key Composition; Printing:  David Farmer and Heyford Press;  Financial support: The Prattler

Accuracy

Whilst every effort has been made to report these stories accurately, please understand that much of the information has come from memory, recollection and hand-written notes. These booklets have been written to capture the ‘spirit’ of the village rather than to catalogue a series of facts, flames, names and dates. We do hope that you enjoy reading them.

Stephen Ferneyhough, Editor

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

TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers