The Teddies of Watery Lane

The Teddies of Watery Lane

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John and Rosemary would like to thank all who supported our teddies. After 64 days we felt it was time to put them away to stop them becoming boring.

We have had great feedback from everyone. We would like to thank those who dropped cards etc in, also the great ideas and props without which we would not have been able to carry on for so long.

Many thanks,
Rosemary and John

Photo Gallery: Lockdown Teddy Bear’s Tales #1 “No time for a picnic”

Photo Gallery: Lockdown Teddy Bear’s Tales #2 “Mayday”

 

Letters: Sheila Maud (Humphrey) Beharrell – June 2020

Sheila Maud (Humphrey) Beharrell

Regretfully we are announcing the passing of Sheila on May 13th, just short of her 95th birthday in June. She was the last of her generation of Humphrey who moved to Labrams Yard on Church Street. Previous residents/tenants of the property included her brother Ron and family, May, and Arthur. Dunkley, Connelly, Buck, Collins, Barnes, and Gilkes also resided on the property at one time or another. Probably there are others. Her niece, Jean now resides in one of the Humphrey cottages on the property.

Some villagers may also recall the family business of E.W.Humphrey Ladder Manufacturers. This has been documented in the Prattler and the Heyford History.

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

Obscurities
Sheila worked at The Beauty Counter of Adnitts Department store (now Debenhams) Northampton. She then progressed to being an accounts clerk at the hospital guild.

Sheila, from time to time recalled her childhood. The Humphrey family kept dairy cows, Sheila and her niece Jean were often tasked with distributing milk to Heyford villagers. She had a pet lamb, ‘Betty’ who was missing one day upon returning from her day at Bliss School, evidently in latter years realising the pet was part of the family larder. She recalled as a teenager the drone of the aeroplanes on their way to bomb Coventry in the Second World War.

The Humphrey family were very involved with the Baptist Chapel in the village, Sheila along with sister May enjoyed being a Deacon and part of the weekly flower rota at the Chapel. Both Sheila and her step daughter Trudi were married in the Chapel. Besides flower arranging, Sheila embraced singing with the Heyford Singers.

In her latter years Sheila endured Cancer, and after the death of her husband Albert found it increasingly difficult at home at Ladder Cottage. After a nasty fall in her home in 2015 – at her request – she moved to Bethany Homestead in Northampton where mother Alice spent some convalescing time.

In these challenging times, Sheila has sadly become another statistic of our current pandemic. We will hold a memorial to commemorate Sheila’s life when time allows.

Solemnly,
Jean, Trudi, Glenn, and Family

Published June Edition 2020

Photo Gallery: Lockdown Teddy Bear’s Tales #2 “Mayday”

 

Rugby 2 May 2020 John Dunkley
May Day 1 May 2020 John Dunkley
snakes and ladders 5 May John Dunkley
Walkies – 5 May 2020 by Nick ‘Stan’ Inwood
Star Wars – 4 May 2020 by Nick ‘Stan’ Inwood
VE Day Party 8 May 2020 John Dunkley
Cricket 9 May 2020 John Dunkley
Housework 10 May 2020 John Dunkley
Camping 11 May 2020 John Dunkley
Archery 12 May John Dunkley
Train Sets 13 May 2020 John Dunkley
Camp Fire 14 May John Dunkley
Planning todays walk 15 May John Dunkley
Music Day 16 May 2020 by John Dunkley
Hairdressers 18 May by John Dunkley
Climbing 19 May 2020 John Dunkley
Playtime 20 May 2020 John Dunkley
Fencing 21 May John Dunkley
Mad Hatters Tea Party John Dunkley 22 May
Car Maintenance 23 May John Dunkley
Building 24 May John Dunkley
Kite Flying 25 May John Dunkley
Obstacle Course 26 May John Dunkley
Flower Pot Men 27 May John Dunkley
Board Games 28 May John Dunkley
Over the garden fence 29 May John Dunkley
Walking with Dinosaurs 30 May John Dunkley
Barbeque 31 May John Dunkley

 

Archery 12 May 2020 John Dunkley
Football – 3 May 2020 by Nick ‘Stan’ Inwood
Walkies – 5 May 2020 by Nick ‘Stan’ Inwood

Photo Gallery: Lockdown Teddy Bear’s Tales #1 “No time for a picnic”

Building site tea break
Building site tea break – 29 April 2020 by John Dunkley
N1
Bird watching – 30 April 2020 by Nick ‘Stan’ Inwood
n4
Lego – 29 April 2020 by Nick ‘Stan’ Inwood
n5
Sky Diving – 27 April 2020 by Nick ‘Stan’ Inwood
n6
Sky Diving – 27 April 2020 by Nick ‘Stan’ Inwood
n7
Housework – 28 April 2020 by Nick ‘Stan’ Inwood
n8
Circus – 26 April 2020 by Nick ‘Stan’ Inwood
n9
Cricket Match – 25th April 2020 by Nick ‘Stan’ Inwood
n2
Bird watching – 30 April 2020 by Nick ‘Stan’ Inwood
n3
Lego – 29 April 2020 by Nick ‘Stan’ Inwood
b5
Wet so working from home – 18 April 2020 by John Dunkley
b6
Window Cleaning – 16 April 2020 by John Dunkley
b7
Washing day – 24 April by John Dunkley
b8
Shoe Repair – 20 April 2020 by John Dunkley
b9
Puncture Repair – 22 April 2020 by John Dunkley
b10
Bird Watching – 13 April 2020 by John Dunkley
b11
Ironing – 25 April 2020 by John Dunkley
b12
Queen of Teddies birthday – 21 April 2020 by John Dunkley
b13
Games day – 17 April 2020 by John Dunkley
b14
London Marathon – 26 April 2020 by John Dunkley
b15
Skittles – 14 April 2020 by John Dunkley
b16
Reading – 11 April 2020 by John Dunkley
Bowls Match
Bowls Match – 19th April 2020 by John Dunkley
Ironing – 25 April 2020 by John Dunkley
happy birthday Captain Tom 30 May 2020
Happy Birthday Captain Tom – 30 April 2020 by John Dunkley

 

Crafty Club – May 2020

As these are unprecedented times I thought I would reminisce about the Crafty Club.

In 2001 I had to retire from my full-time job due to a family crisis.  Then in around 2005  due to a chance meeting in the village, the Crafty Club was “born”.

I met two ladies (Tracey & Jude) in the village who were, at the time, attending a sewing class that was not all they expected.  From this simple conversation came the idea of opening our own craft club – but where?

Tracey, who worked in the local hairdressers, suggested asking her boss if we could use the premises on a Monday afternoon for this club, and so we had a venue.  At the time, (somehow) we managed to find six other ladies who were interested in joining our newly formed club.

Tracey, Jude and myself decided we would start at the beginning of 2006.  Then again, fate seemed to intervene as I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the beginning of 2006 so I missed the first few meetings.

Following on my surgery, and feeling 100% better I joined the ladies on a Monday in the local Hairdressers. Thinking back and remembering the nine of us sitting in a circle with each person bringing our “crafts”, brings a smile to my face.

Sometime later other crafters were asking about our club, and it soon became obvious we would need larger premises. That said, the group was too big for the hairdressers, but not big enough to fund bigger premises at a large cost.

One member of the group suggested approaching the Baptist Chapel with a view to using their “meeting” room and so enquiries were made to see (1) if it was available on a Monday between 12.30 and 14.30 and (2) how much it would cost.  Both questions were answered favourably, and so the Crafty Club was officially opened to anyone and everyone.

The three photos are of some of the original members busy in the Baptist Rooms.  Unfortunately three of them are sadly no longer with us – maybe you remember them

Some original members

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Photograph 1 – Mrs Wright, Mrs Wright’s daughter, Mrs Mattacola & Sue Madeley 

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Photograph 2 – Rachel Dunkley, Mrs Wright’s daughter, Mrs Wright & Mrs Mattacola

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Photograph 3 – Joan Eales, Olive Peck, Pam Green & Elaine Oldroyd.

[Mrs Wright, Mrs Mattacola and Olive Pack have since passed away]

From the start of the club having nine members, we have grown over the years and now have between 25 – 30 people on the list with an average of 20 attending on a regular basis.  Over the years we have unfortunately lost quite a few of our members as well as several moving away from the area.

The first Christmas the club arranged a Christmas meal at the Narrow Boat, which seemed to be well liked.  Following on from this the small “committee” decided that we could just as easily cook a Christmas dinner, with portions to suit all and so between 2011 and 2013 this was arranged in the Village Hall.

The party involved singing including carols, plus various poems/antidotes, with a “Secret Santa” present.   Between 2014 – 2016 we returned to the Baptist Rooms for our Christmas meal, as it was felt to be much more “cosy”.

From 2017 the club moved to the Village Hall, as the Baptist Rooms were proving too small with the ever-increasing membership.

Christmas 2017 it was decided to have a Buffet which was pre-ordered from M&S, and this proved very popular especially as there were little or no plates etc to wash!

During the last two years we have added some really “challenging” – although amusing games to the party which appears to have been a big hit with all the ladies.

Christmas 2016 the club decided to hold a Christmas Fayre in the Baptist rooms, with the ladies showing and selling some of their fine handicrafts.

One of the tables from this Craft Fayre

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With this success in mind it was decided from 2017 to date to hold an annual Christmas Fayre in conjunction with the W.I. who provided the refreshments and helped with a cake stall etc.

At the Christmas 2019 Christmas Fayre it was with trepidation that the Tree Festival was “resurrected” in the Baptist Rooms along with the Fayre in the Village Hall.  There seemed to be a steady stream of people coming to “inspect” the trees (which were all artificial and therefore identical) with the aim of voting for the best decorated tree. NetherHeyfordCraftyClub5

Since 2017 there are now “Workshops” organised throughout the year which have proved very popular, as it gives the ladies a chance to try new skills without too much outlay.

2020 is the start of the 14th year the club has been running and until this present pandemic the club is still thriving.

So to all you crafters and future crafters – take care and stay safe – see you all when this current crisis is over.

Chris Phillipps

Heyford Gardening Club – April 2020

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Our March meeting featured a talk by Andrew and Anita Thorp who have a nursery specialising in snowdrops. They have a thousand varieties of this popular bulb, some varieties of which command eye watering prices! Andrew gave us an explanation of the “chipping” method of propagating snowdrops and narcissi. Anita also showed us some of the plants that flower at the same time as snowdrops and can complement them. We also held our annual daffodil and narcissus show which this year attracted a good display of blossoms.

The large flowered section was won by Pauline Litchfield, Anne Haynes came second and Pauline Guglielmi third.

Chris West won the small flowered section, John Dunkley and Val Jackson tied for joint second place, but there was no award for third place.

The bi colour section was won by Pauline Guglielmi, John Tapsell came second , and Rosemary Dunkley and Chris West tied for third place.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak we are suspending meetings for the time being. Hopefully we shall be able to resume our programme before too long.

At the present moment we have a lovely display of bulbs and other spring flowering plants in flower in pots about the garden. It is often a temptation to try and continue this display through the summer, but the memory of last year when I seemed to spend most mornings heaving watering cans around has put me off. I shall try to stick to the minimum number of potted items this year; some succulent plants that don’t mind drought, a few lilies that I find are amazingly tolerant and don’t do well in the garden due to the lily beetle (growing in pots and repotting each spring gets rid of any over wintering pupae). Pelargoniums are also less demanding of water so I may keep a few of those. Last year I bought a blue convolvulus from Coton Manor which produced a wonderful show without much attention, and that has made it through this last mild winter so I shall keep that going as long as possible. If I can resist temptation, I may save myself a great deal of work this summer, but then I say that every year.

Things to do in April
1. Sow hardy flowers, vegetables and herbs
2. Feed roses and shrubs
3. Keep an eye out for late frosts

Mark Newstead

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www.heyfordgardenclub.com

For more information visit the Heyford Gardening Club & Allotments page

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Heyford Bowls Club – March 2020

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Indoor

A good turnout of 21 players contested the ‘THE DAVID JULAND PRESIDENTS CUP’ on Saturday 8th February. The eventual winners after a hard fought final were Jean Cullin, John Dunkley and Peter McClean over Gill Guglielmi, Barry Cole and Roger Schofield by a score of 9 to 3.

An excellent result in our ‘WARDINGTON LEAGUE’ match was a win on both mats over Boddington with a combined winning score of 57 to 10.

The ‘LADIES PAIRS’ Competition will be played on Saturday 14th March at 1pm for 1.30pm. Entrants as usual via the notice boards.

Members’ support has been good in maintaining attendances at our Wednesday bowling sessions.

Den Taylor

For more bowls club information please visit our website:

www.heyfordbowlsclub.co.uk

Heyford Gardening Club – November 2019

Heyford-Gardening-Cluband-allotments
At our October meeting we had a talk from Malcolm Dickson of Hookgreen Herbs who gave us an insight into the exigencies of running a herb nursery, no doubt disillusioning anyone with dreams of having their own little nursery. There was also a wide range of herb plants and seeds for sale.

The evening also featured a competition for the best Autumn Arrangement. The winner was Rosemary Dunkley with a colourful display which was even displayed in a pumpkin shell! Mary Newstead came second with Anne Haynes and Gil Guglielmi in joint third place.

Our next meeting will be on the 11th November when we will have a return visit from Caroline Tait who will tell us about her work at Longwood in Philadelphia.

Breaking the rules
In gardening many jobs have to be done at the right time, but sometimes I find that we have more freedom than you might expect. This year in June I had some gaps that needed filling and I had some annual seeds left over. The instructions on the packet said sow in April, but I went ahead anyway, and the result was a good display of flower in late summer and autumn.

In the past I had always struggled to grow leeks, finding them difficult to establish from sowings in the early spring as advised. One year having seed left over in May I sowed it in the vegetable patch, and found to my surprise that the seedlings grew lustily despite dry and hot conditions and made decent plants for the winter. I have done this again each year since with the same result. I wouldn’t win any prizes with the plants but they are fine for the kitchen. Leeks are obviously tougher than you might expect. Sometimes a bit of experimentation can pay off.

Cyclamen
I have been growing hardy cyclamen for some years now, and have been keeping the special varieties in pots in an unheated greenhouse. Last year owing to shortage of space I released some plants into the garden. These have prospered beyond my expectations, no doubt helped by the hot, dry summer this year which would have been like the conditions they would experience in the Mediterranean area where they originate. Recently I have noticed drifts of seedlings appearing next to the mature plants. They may look delicate and dainty but they are bruisers and can tough it out with the biggest weeds when they are somewhere they like.

Some Things to do in November
1. Clear up leaves from paths and ponds (but don’t be too tidy!)
2. Plant tulips in pots or beds
3. Put grease bands on fruit trees to stop winter moth
4. Plant winter bedding.

Mark Newstead

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www.heyfordgardenclub.com

For more information visit the Heyford Gardening Club & Allotments page

Heyford-Gardening-Cluband-allotments

The Story of Heyford: The Bricklayers Arms V2C9

Although we can’t be sure exactly when the house was built, the deeds date back to 1827. The earliest reference we have found to the name ‘Bricklayers Arms’ is in the census return of 1871. This shows that it was occupied at that time by John Dunkley. He was aged twenty-nine and his occupation was shown as beer seller and ironworks labourer. The Census returns of 1881 and 1891 both refer to John Dunkley, beer seller, although neither specifically mention the name ‘Bricklayers Arms’.

The earliest recorded memory of the pub was from Bob Browning (1892-1997). Bob recalled that it was run in the early 1900s by Tom Dunkley. He told me that Tom Dunkley was the son of William Dunkley who ran ‘The Boat’ opposite. Tom Dunkley apparently died by drowning in the canal.

The Bricklayers Arms in the 1930s

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The Bricklayers Arms stood in Furnace Lane beside the canal. Like many buildings alongside the canal it had two floors at the front and three at the back. The building still exists as a private dwelling and is called Bridge Cottage. When it was modernised it was completely gutted and is now hardly recognisable as the same building because it had its top floor removed.

A small pub for local needs

Between the wars the pub was run by George Faulkner who continued to run it until the late 1930s. In the photo you can see the board above the door with the words:

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George Faulkner was grandfather to Ada Smith and Charlie Masters. Charlie remembers the pub from when it was in use. As with many buildings alongside the canal, it had two stories at the front and three at the back. The bar or tap room had bare Wooden boards with two or three tables and a handful of chairs. One of the tables was marked out for shove-halfpenny. There was no bar as such. When you wanted a beer the landlord had to go down the narrow steps to the cellar and fetch it in a jug directly from the barrel. The beer barrels were delivered by motor lorry and came from Phipps brewery in Northampton.

The pub had no water, but there was a tap at the railway cottages just down the road from where water could be fetched by bucket. There was no real toilet, just a little shelter with a drain, but no door. There was however a traditional oven heated by faggots. Some of the local people brought their Sunday roasts and Yorkshire puddings to be cooked in it.

Fishing Expedition around 1928

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The man on the far right is George Faulkner.
The small boy beside him is his grandson Charlie Masters who lent this photograph.

Brickworkers, and fishing trips

At that time the pub catered mainly for the brickyard workers. The brickyard with its coal-fired kilns was warm work and so the pub was often opened for a short time at around 6.30 in the morning for the workers to buy beer to take to work. They would also go there at lunchtime and after work to quench their thirsts. Bill Nickolls who worked at the brickworks recalls that the beer was 4d per pint and that they sometimes played skittles. There was also fun in the evenings. Charlie remembers how Bill Nickolls’ mother used to carry a gramophone up to the pub to play music on Saturday nights.

Sometimes during the summer months a group of people from St James End in Northampton came by bus for a day’s fishing on the canal. The men would fish while the women sat on the grass and chatted. They brought picnics and drank beer from the pub. There was a piano which would be man- handled out of the building so that they could have a sing-song in the sunshine. The photograph here shows the group from one of these trips. On the far left is George Faulkner, and the small boy beside him is his grandson Charlie Masters who provided much of the information in this article.

Hay barn, stables, weddings and coal

To the left of the main building was a hay barn. Underneath this at the back of the house was stabling for six or eight horses. The horses were stabled overnight by the boat people for which George Faulkner charged about 6d. In the hay barn above were three holes at either end through which the hay could be dropped through to the horses below. Sometimes the hay was cleared out and the barn was used as a function room. Charlie’s sister Ada and John Smith had their wedding reception in this room. To the left of the barn was a wall which was built of clinker from the Furnaces. This wall is still there.

George Faulkner also ran a coal business. The coal came by railway to Weedon and then on the siding in the brickyard. He stored the coal beside the pub in the yard where Tarrys now operate and delivered it around the village by horse and cart. There was a small weighbridge, just large enough for a small cart which was used to weigh the coal, and sometimes also sand which came from a sandpit in a field behind the yard.

Little Tommy

One of the visitors to the Bricklayers Arms was Little Tommy (Harris?). He was a shoemaker. If you wanted some shoes or boots he took all the measurements and two or three weeks later he returned with the finished article. He sometimes came to the village on Sundays. He took the bus from Northampton to Weedon and did some business there. He then walked along the A5 to the Bricklayers Arms where he bought eggs from Mrs Faulkner. He wrapped them up individually in paper and put them in his gladstone bag. On one occasion he dropped one on the ground and it broke. He asked Mrs Faulkner for a spoon and ate it from the ground so as not to waste it. He then walked on into the village and did some business there before taking the last bus back to Northampton.

The sale of the pub

Since the opening of the two furnaces in the 1860s the Furnace Lane area had been a hive of industry. Both the furnaces and the Brickworks were hot, thirsty work and the pub had for many years serviced the needs of the workers. There was also during this period much canal traffic. However by the time the Brickworks closed in the late 1930s there was little work left in that part of the village. So after sixty years or more the pub finally closed. Phipps offered to sell the house and land to George Faulkner for £100 but he didn’t take up the offer because he couldn’t afford it. And in any case it was time for him to retire.

Conversion to coal business

In 1950 Phipps Brewery sold the house to Fred Tarry. Fred Tarry, who lived in Bugbrooke, had returned from the First World War, but couldn’t find employment, so in 1922 he set up a coal business in his home village of Bugbrooke. George Faulkner had already run a small coal business from the Bricklayers Arms, so when Phipps sold the building in 1950 it gave Fred Tarry a chance to expand his business to Heyford.

In 1980 the house, which is now called Bridge Cottage, was converted to its present structure. It had originally had two roofs which met in a gulley in the centre. It was almost as though the back half had been added later because the brickwork of the front and back halves was not bonded together. The supporting wall between the two halves was damp from where the gulley couldn’t cope with the volume of water in heavy rainfall. So in 1979/ 80 some serious repair work had to take place. The house was totally gutted, with only the four outside walls left standing. The top storey was removed, a new roof was built, and the cellars below, which had been almost windowless (like the black hole of Calcutta) were converted to living accommodation.

Even today the coal business continues to be run from this house by Frank Higginbottom, his wife Thelma (Fred Tarry’s daughter) and their son Richard.

Stephen Ferneyhough

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

Volume 2 of 4 | Chapter 9 of 11 | Pages 22 to 25

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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

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