The Story of Heyford (Extra): Dear Diary – October 1957

October 1957

Dear Diary,

I’ve lost both my grandparents now so we’ve moved into New School House so that my uncle has a home and we haven’t got a spare bedroom for him in Furnace Lane. I love this house but Mum says it’s draughty and cold. We have a huge garden so loads of room to play. My bedroom is at the side of the house near the jitty. In the evenings I hear the twins, Joe & Len, who live in Church Lane (Back Lane as it’s known), going home from the pub. They walk well apart and talk like it’s the middle of the day. The Headmaster collects our rent once a month because the house is owned by the School.

I miss my pap, he made me laugh. When I asked him one day why he had so many relatives in the village he simply said “our cat went up their alley” whatever that means. I miss helping my nan shell peas, popping down Mag Courts for some groceries ‘on tic’ and going over to The Foresters Arms to collect her nightly bottle of stout.

I had another nan, dad’s Foster Mother, but we didn’t see so much of her because she lived in Bugbrooke and we had to go by bus. The good thing about visiting her was that she bred Pekinese dogs, kept turkeys to fatten up for Christmas and had a parrot in a cage on her kitchen table which used to swear. She’s no longer with us either.

It’s Heyford Feast weekend soon. Families get together, go to church on Sunday and to the fair which usually runs every evening until after the pubs shut. I hear that in the past, when one man came out of the pub at closing time, he forced the swing boat over the top, losing all the change from his pocket. They wouldn’t allow them to go so high now I bet. Abbott’s fair comes every autumn and parks its caravans and lorries on the green opposite the school. The children from the fair go to the village school and most of the families attend church on the weekend they are here. Two things we can all guarantee winning at the fair is a goldfish and a chalk ornament which is great for drawing on pavements. When the fair leaves, we scour the green for loose change hidden in the grass.

I was confirmed in Kislingbury church this year by the Bishop of Peterborough along with some others from Heyford and surrounding villages. Robert Hensher, the vicar, gave us lessons for 4 weeks beforehand. Now I can go to church regularly to take Holy Communion.

There are plans to build a Village Hall along the area by the top of the green and the first soil was turned recently. It will be built mainly by village volunteers so might take a long time, but how great that will be. Also planned is a motorway from London to Leeds which will run past Upper Heyford. Any soil from this is to be dumped in the old brickyard in Furnace Lane to fill in the pits where the motorcycles used to race.

I’ve done my first year at Duston School. Our school motto is “Have Faith”. There are far more classrooms than the 3 we had in the village so it takes a bit of getting used to and we have a timetable to follow. I lost my sports shorts last term so mum is taking me to Brierley’s for some new ones. “I’m only getting you cheap ones this time” she said. I had a rotten school report this year saying I did too much talking. I can’t believe that.


Letter published in The Prattler – October edition 2020

The Story of Heyford: Life at Heyford Mill V3C8

I was one of a family of three who moved into the mill house in November 1954. My mother had been a housekeeper at East Haddon where she lived in a tied cottage with my sister and myself. Due to ill health she had to give up her job, and of course the cottage. We met some friends of ours, Betty and Bert, who lived in the mill house. They put us up, but when we had been there some weeks they moved with Bert’s job on the railway, so we took over the tenancy of the mill house.


It was very primitive to say the least, but at last we were in rented accommodation again. For the £1 per week rent we had a unique dwelling. Having no electricity, mains water, or gas, we used oil lamps and candles for light, and a large black range to cook on, for which we had to collect wood from around the fields. The coalmen Guy and Bob West couldn’t deliver coal to the door because the track was so pot-holed. They thought it would break the axle of their truck, so they left the coal at the second field gate.

In the kitchen we had an earthenware sink. Above it was a pump which you had to ‘prime’ to get the water up from the spring below. To prime it you had to turn the metal pipe (which swivelled) upside down, pour a pint of water down, and then pull a handle, much like a beer pump, and so get your water. The wash-house was a shed opposite the kitchen across the yard. It had a large metal copper which was mounted on bricks, with a space to light a fire beneath it, and so heat the water.

But the greatest delight was the loo! It was in a shed at the far end of the house. It had a wooden seat with a bucket below, which when full had to be emptied and the contents buried in the garden! Home produced manure! When you went after dark you had to go armed with various items — a candle in a jam jar to light your way, and a thick stick and a bucket to bang on to frighten the rats out of the building before you went in! But for all that it was a most happy place to live.


We had to go across the fields to get the shopping from Mrs Courts shop, and we bought paraffin, candles and stamps from Mrs Blaney’s store. That was when the weather was fine. When it rained the house did get flooded in the hallway and the main room, but the kitchen was above water level so that wasn’t too bad. When the weather was bad we had to paddle through the mud to the large dutch barn, then past two fields to the top gate (change from wellies to shoes). Then we walked along the main road to Upper Heyford and down the lane to Nether Heyford (Lower Heyford in those days). Sometimes the lane was flooded near Crow Lane so we had to paddle through freezing water.

I married from the mill in 1955 and had my eldest daughter in April 1956. The ambulance taking me to the Barratt got bogged down in mud, but managed to get me to town in time for the birth. Then in September 1956 we were given a council house in Hillside Crescent with all mod cons.

It was a hard life at the mill, but at the same time an experience that my sister and I are pleased to have shared. We were the last people to live there and it is so sad to see the dreadful state it is in now.

Wendy Blackmore


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

Volume 3 of 4 | Chapter 8 of 17 | Page 17


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