The Story of Heyford: Heyford Brickworks V2C8

Brickmaking in Heyford
There seems to have been some degree of brick making in Heyford right throughout the 1800s. This is illustrated by the references below. You can see from these that there were always two or three people employed in brickmaking, but the number seems to have increased sharply during the 1880s. It was probably during this period that brickmaking became more mechanised and that the brickyard in Furnace Lane expanded to become an important industry in the village.

1822 George Baker’s ‘History of Northamptonshire’ mentions Nether Heyford, including a reference to ‘a brick kiln towards Stowe field’.

1827 Bryants map shows some brick kilns just S of the canal and E of the railway

1849 Whellan’s directory lists three brickmakers

1851 Census return lists William Braunston of Brickyard House, aged 50, brick and tile maker. Also Richard Haynes, brick and tile maker

1861 Census lists one brickmaker and one brickyard labourer

1864 Kellys directory lists John Judkins, brickmaker

1869 Kellys directory lists Joseph Johnson, brickmaker

1871 Census lists William Towers of Furnace Road, aged 33, brickmaker

1881 Census lists 7 brickyard labourers

1891 Census lists 16 brickyard labourers

Heyford Brickworks
So from the 1880s until the 1930s Heyford had its own brickworks. It was situated in Furnace Lane, beyond the canal, beside the railway, on the site where Wickes now operates. It was on part of the Heyford Grange Estate owned by the Judkins family. The claypit and brickyard were leased to Henry Martin Ltd of Northampton who employed around 15 men. The only one now left to tell the tale is Bill Nickolls who worked there in his late teens from 1930 until 1934. Bill is now aged 84 and it is to him that we owe our thanks for the memories of the brickworks from that period.

Blood, sweat and tears
The clay, known as blue clay, was only dug during the winter. It was dug directly from the pit by hand using special shovels with extra long cutting blades. The pit which was about thirty feet deep can be seen in the photograph just behind the row of cottages in the background. Before they reached the clay they removed the topsoil and also lumps of lime which could be burnt in the kiln to use for the garden. They started digging at the top and worked downwards. Enough clay could be dug through the winter months to ensure brickmaking through until October. The pay was one shilling per square yard. The clay heap was kept moist by pecking it (making holes into the heap) and watering it.

On Easter Tuesday the workforce was doubled for brickmaking during the summer. The clay was barrowed to the brickmaking machine and put into the mincer. This ground up the clay which was then passed downwards between two sets of rollers and came out in a big slab. From there it was cut into bricks eight at a time, and then into a barrow for taking away.

Sadly one of the men died in the mincing machine. His name was Teddy West. He was a small man, but one of the most committed workers, always first to arrive in the mornings and well respected by all the others. Unfortunately he used to wear a sacking apron which on one occasion became tangled in the machine and he was drawn into it. His death was a shock to them all.

From the brickmaking machine the bricks were taken to the yard and stacked. Here they were covered and left to dry before going into the kiln. The stack was later turned inside out to allow for even drying. The pay for turning was 5d per thousand. Bill Nickolls remembers turning 25,000 in one day, but the record was set by Ron West who turned 30,000.

The kiln was fired by coal. There was a siding off the main railway and so the coal ‘slack’ was brought by train. You can just pick out in the photograph the letters of the LMS truck immediately to the left of the Bricklayers Arms. It took ten tons of coal to start the kiln and so once it had been started it was kept going twenty-four hours a day. The kiln consisted of a number of cavities joined by holes and so the fire went from one to another. The clay bricks were put into the kiln, baked, and then taken away red hot for stacking in the yard.

It was hard work. All the pay was piecework. The brick-making process was continuous and all men had to keep up the pace to ensure a smooth flow of work. Bill Chapman, George Record and Bill Watson were wagon fillers in the pit. Feeding in the clay on the top of the brickmaking machine was Bob Sargeant. At the bottom on brick cutting was Reg Matthews. There were three ‘runners away’, that is taking the clay bricks from the machine – Bill Goodman, Bert Oliver, and Bill Nickolls. At the top of the kiln were the brick burners Henry Allen and ]o Collins. ‘Runners-in’ to the kiln were Bill Nickolls and Ron West (Teddy’s son), and there were two ‘drawers’ jack Nickolls (Bill’s brother) and Bill Nightingale to take the fired bricks away.

The Brickworks and Bricklayers Arms in the 1930s

NetherHeyfordBrickworks1

Note the clay pit between the chimneys just beyond the rooftops in the distance. You can also pick out an LMS railway wagon just to the left of the Bricklayers Arms.

Local buildings
Heyford bricks Were used in a number of local buildings. This included the four sets of four council houses in Furnace Lane built in the 1920s and the three pairs of semis lower down on the other side. All these Were built by Mr Denny. Other bricks went further afield. There was a contract with Pratts for half a million per year. These were taken by horse and cart and loaded onto a narrowboat for shipment down the canal to Watford. 3” bricks sold for 38s per thousand and 2 5/ 8” for 45s.

The closure
In 1938 some of the men agitated for an increase in wages but Henry Martins either wouldn’t or couldn’t pay.  He decided instead to close the brickworks and so brickmaking in Heyford came to an end. The site was sold to Mr Beck who owned Heyford Hills although he never developed it. It was used during the War by Weedon Barracks for sorting war goods returned from the front. Then some time after the war a cinder track was laid for holding bicycle races. In the late 1950s the pits were filled in with waste from the building of the M1. In 1965 some factory units were built on it and since then it has been used for light engineering and warehousing.

The same view in the 1990s

NetherHeyfordBrickworks2.jpg

Instead of the clay pit you can now see the roof of the warehousing at Wickes.
The Bricklayers Arms has had its top storey removed and is now a private dwelling.

Stephen Ferneyhough

Extract from The Story of Heyford – Volume 2 of 4 – Chapter 8 Published December 1998

The Story of Heyford: Lost Street Names V4C2

Census Returns

There has been a census return once every ten years from 1841 onwards. The only exception was in 1941 because of war time. The details of these census’ are made available to the public when they are 100 years old. Therefore it is currently possible to look up the details for Heyford in 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, and 1891. They are held in the Public Record Office at Wootton Park.

Details from the Bryants map of 1837

NetherHeyford_BryantsMap_1837

Census returns are wonderful documents because they list the names of every occupant in the village, giving details of their ages, their occupations, where they were born, and their relationship to the head of the household (eg wife, son, servant, etc). The returns for Heyford during the second half of the nineteenth century show an abundance of agricultural labourers, brickworkers and furnace workers. They show a whole variety of crafts and trades people such as lacemakers, laundresses, beer sellers, coal merchants. bakers etc, and also those employed in domestic service at the Manor House and Rectory.

The census returns also state the address of the householder, but most of the returns for Heyford for this period give only very general descriptions such as “Heyford Village” or “The Green”.  However the Census return of 1871 gives very detailed street names, many of which no longer exist. The following paragraphs takes us through the returns in the order in which they are listed. This may or may not be the same order as the route followed by the enumerator, but if we assume that it is, we can speculate about where these lost street names may have been located.

Brook Farm

NetherHeyford_BrookFarm

Watery Lane

The first four households listed by the enumerator were in Back Lane. Church Lane was at one time called Back Lane, but could the Back Lane listed here have been what is now Watery Lane? The next entries in the returns are Heyford Cottage, occupied by John Smith and Farm House occupied by George Tarry, farmer of 60 acres. Was this one of the former farm houses in Watery Lane? Perhaps Brook Farm?

Middle Street

The enumerator then seems to move through to what we now know as Middle Street because the next five entries are: the School House in Middle Lane, occupied by Thomas Stanton, schoolmaster, the Olde Sun Inn occupied by George Attwood, tailor and innkeeper; and three other houses in Middle Street. From here, he seems to have walked alongside the Green, where there were then no houses, to the Foresters Arms.

Heyford Cottage prior to 1880

NetherHeyford_HeyfordCottage1880

A view of the school site and farmhouse prior to 1880

NetherHeyford_Farmhouse&SchoolSite1880

Church Street

There are then many entries listed in the area that we now know as Church Street. This was obviously the heart of the village as there are eighty households listed in this area. It can only be speculation, but the journey seems to go right down to the Manor House, then on to the Church and Rectory, and all the way back up to the Green. The entries are as follows: The Foresters Arms, occupied by John Wright; the Primitive Methodist Chapel, the sub Post Office, occupied by William Treadwell, bricklayer, and his wife Millicent; seven houses in Billing’s Yard; seven houses in Front Street; the Manor House; ten more houses in Front Street; eleven houses in Masters Row; one house in Church Street; the Rectory; the Church; 15 more houses in Church Street, including Edward Capel, butcher; 2 houses in Robinsons Yard; one more house in Church Street; one more in Front Street; six in School House Lane; and finally seventeen in Grocers Row.

An old stone house on the site of what is now 5 Manor Walk

NetherHeyford_ManorWalk

The Green

The journey then seems to take us around round the Green. The entries are as follows: twenty-eight households listed as The Green; then Farmhouse, occupied by Thomas Starmer,  farmer of 213 acres;  thirteen houses in The Barracks; and four at Crabtree Corner. Where exactly were these places?

Weedon Road

Next he goes out along the Weedon Road towards Stowe Hill: two houses in Stowe Hill Lane; one called Primrose Cottage; one called Field House; two at a place called Pincham; then High House, occupied by William Thompson, boatbuilder; two at Flore Lane, both coal merchants; six at Stowe Hill; the Globe Inn, since renamed the Narrowboat; four at Stowe Hill Yard; the Anchor Inn, possibly the building across the A5 from the Narrowboat; and two more houses in Weedon Road. The enumerator seems to have walked along the A5, taking in one house at Tanborough and two at Aldermans Hill before turning back into the village down Furnace Lane.

Furnace Lane

Finally we come back into the village down Furnace Lane. There are four houses in Furnace Road, one at Heyford Wharf,  one referred to as the Bricklayers Arms, occupied by John Dunkley,  beer seller; and five in Wrights Yard, including George Payne, furnace keeper. Here, the enumerators journey ends.

Stephen Ferneyhough

Two views of the shop and post office as they appeared before the war

NetherHeyford_Shop_PostOffice_PreWar.jpg

This photo lent by Judy Armitage, shows the newsagents and the group of cottages behind since demolished.

NetherHeyford_Shop_OldPostOffice_PreWar

This view shows the old Post Office, demolished in 1950s, Photo also lent by Judy Armitage

 

Extract from The Story of Heyford – Volume 4 of 4 – Pages 7 to 11

The Story of Heyford: Three Wise Men V3C16

Pictured here around 1950 are Wakefield Whitton, William Denny , and Bernard Kingston. Mr Whitton owned Brook Farm before it was demolished and replaced by the modern houses in Watery Lane and Brookside. Wakefield Way was named after him.

William Denny was of the family of builders. He built the council houses in Furnace Lane. Bernard Kingston as one of the bell ringers. All three were school governors, and they are seen here on the village green judging at one of the school events .

NetherHeyford_ThreeWiseMen_1950

Photo lent by Dorothy (nee Denny) and Bill Kingston

Extract from The Story of Heyford – Volume 3 of 4 – Page 30

The Story of Heyford: Heyford Hills Fruit Farm V1C9

Heyford Hills Fruit Farm

The magnificent house at Heyford Hills was built originally for the owner of Heyford Ironworks. In the late 1800’s it was owned by John Hardy, a farmer. During the 1940’s it was occupied by Major Campbell. In the late 1940’s, Mr Beck, a gentleman farmer came from Herefordshire to Heyford Hills and established a fruit farm for his semi retirement.

He planted 12 acres of fruit on the side of the hill to the right of the drive. He grew apples, plums, gooseberries and blackcurrants. It was a quite a good site because although it wasn’t south facing it was largely frost free and enjoyed the afternoon sun.

He employed local people to look after the fruit, doing pruning, general gardening duties and picking. Three people who worked there regularly were Mrs Butcher, Mrs Lilley and Mrs Sargeant.  Mrs Butcher, who provided much of the information for this article, worked there for 24 years.

The Fruit Farm

NetherHeyford_FruitFarm.jpg

Local people

During the picking season he employed thirty or forty local people. He sent a tractor and trailer into the village to collect them, mostly but often children as well because much of the picking was done during the holidays. The fruit was collected in small tubs, then weighed and put into 50 lb wooden barrels. The pay was a penny—farthing for gooseberries and twopence-halfpenny per lb for blackcurrants. It wasn’t much, but it provided an opportunity for local people to spend many happy hours picking and chatting amongst the fruit bushes in the warmth of the afternoon sunshine. Mrs Butcher remembers on one occasion picking 568 lbs of gooseberries in 6 hours. It was a messy job with stains from the blackcurrants and scratches the gooseberry thorns, and at local jumble sales people went searching for cotton gloves to protect their hands.

They used gooseberry graders to sort the fruit. The big fruit was sold locally to wholesalers as whole fruit, and the smaller ones were sent to a cannery.

When the fruit was ready to be taken away it would be loaded into bushel boxes (large wooden boxes with a handle at each end) and taken away by lorry to commercial processors in Cambridge and Stratford to be canned or to make drinks and jam.

Mr Beck

Mr Beck himself was a wealthy man. He had been a pilot in the first world war and still had the tail of a German plane that he’d shot down. He had some property in South Africa to which he returned each year and to which he eventually retired in 1975. He enjoyed expensive cars and had four or five Mercedes. He hard worker and expected those around him to work hard too, but he was a real gentleman and everybody loved him. He took an active part in the village and was at various times president of the football and cricket clubs.

Mrs Beck’s interest in dog shows for which she was a judge. She employed a kennel maid and kept alsatians and beagles, many of which won prizes. She often judged the dog shows at the village fete.

The entrance to ‘New Creation Farm’ in 1996

NetherHeyford_NewCreationFarm.jpg

The Jesus Fellowship

In 1976 Beck sold the farm to the Jesus Fellowship. Dave Lantsbury of the Jesus Fellowship first came across Heyford Hills in the early 1970’s. He was a teacher at Campion school and had brought some rural studies students to see the farm. Around that time the Jesus Fellowship were starting to develop their about a community existence and when the farm came up for sale in 1975 the Jesus Fellowship brought it. They renamed it ‘New Creation Farm’

At first they took over the twelve acres of orchard. They added some sows and chickens, they installed 70 bee hives, they planted potatoes, and they extended the fruit bushes right down to the drive. They later bought some other neighbouring land, together with Novelty Farm on the A5. Today they have 300 acres and run the farm as a community, both to feed themselves and to produce crops for selling commercially through their farm shop.

Stephen Ferneyhough

Extract from The Story of Heyford – Volume 1 of 4 – Pages 22 & 23

The Story of Heyford: The Jubilee Hall V1C7

The Jubilee Hall used to stand just behind the memorial green, on the opposite side of the road to where the Butchers and Patisserie are today. It was a stone barn with a thatched roof and was used as a meeting place for clubs and events much as the village hall is used today .

It was an ancient building, possibly built in the late 1600’s at the same time as ‘The Springs’, the thatched stone house which still stands today just behind the site of the Jubilee Hall. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the house and barn were occupied by a family called Smith who ran a laundry there. Bob Browning who was born in 1892 recalled the laundry but we don’t know for sure whether it was run from the house or the barn.

The name Jubilee Hall is believed to have originated from Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, probably her Diamond Jubilee of 1897. It may be that this was when the barn began to be used as a meeting place rather than as a laundry.

In 1914 the house and barn which had been owned by the Church were bought by the Ward family  The Jubilee Hall continued to be used as a meeting place until around the time of the second world war, and we have several local memories of it from the 1920’s and 1930’s.

The Jubilee Hall

JubileeHall_NetherHeyford_1920

Photo lent by Janet Randall

This photograph, lent by Janet Randall, was taken in 1920. n the far right is the old Post Office. To the left of this can be seen the scaffolding from the building of the New School House. In the centre of the picture is the thatched house known as ‘The Springs’, and in front of this is the war memorial.  Note the size of the oak tree beside it. The building on the left is the Jubilee Hall.

Memories of the Jubilee Hall
In March 1981 there was an article published in the Prattler, written by Marjorie Hamborg, based on information from Mr and Mrs Amos Lee, which gives a good insight into its use. This article is reprinted here in italics but we have also added some additional information based on the recollections of a number of other local people.

From The Prattler March 1981
“Our readers may have noticed that to the left of the thatched cottage facing the Memorial Green there is an old wall built of Northamptonshire stone. As this is now being reshaped to camouflage the building of a garage, I thought it would be of interest to know a bit about the history of this part of Heyford. So I visited my friends Mr and Mrs Amos Lee in Furnace Lane as they can give us new villagers some of the history of the Jubilee Hall that used to stand on this site.

At one time this was the only place where the young folk could gather, and here they came to play darts, skittles, rings, bagatelle, and a bit of boxing.”

It was also used for private parties. Dorothy Kingston had her Wedding reception there and Tommy Rolfe of the Foresters supplied them with a ham for £1.

The Pussyfoot Club
“The hall was mainly used by the men of the village, was teetotal, and was given the name ‘Pussyfoot Club’. The ladies of the village were invited when a dance was held there. Mrs Dorothy Kingston remembers them well, the fiddle being played by Lily Porch and Bern Kingston, and the piano by Lily’s sister Phillis. I also understand that Mrs Cameron from the school also used to take part. There was a small stove around which wet clothes could be dried in bad weather.”

Bob Browning who was born in 1892 recalled that ‘it was open six evenings a week between 6 pm and 10 pm. You could buy drinks there and play skittles. Sometimes there was also boxing, done in those days with bare fists.’

Bill Nickolls also remembers the Pussyfoot Club. The youngsters came from 5 pm to 8 pm. They paid a halfpenny per night to play darts, billiards, skittles and cards. Later the older ones came. They took it in turns to run the bar. Bill remembers on one occasion how somebody put a firework in the keyhole. The door jammed and they had to escape through the toilet window by climbing on the bucket.

Bill Kingston remembers the dances on Saturday nights. His father Bernard, and Lily Porch (later Mrs Green) played the violin. They danced waltzes, the military two-step and the lancers (a formation dance).

“However partly due to agitation by mothers whose sons became too fond of the card games carried on there, and partly to difficulty of getting committee members to organise events, the hall fell into disuse.”

The Laundry
“Before Mr and Mrs Ward came to live in the cottage Mrs Lee’s stepmother had a laundry there and Mrs Ada Smith can remember as a child seeing Mr Lee trundling his basket of clean laundry up Furnace Lane.”.

Cobblers Shop
Another person remembered with the Jubilee Hall during the 1930’s was Sid Eales. There was a small wooden hut next to the Jubilee Hall in which he ran a cobblers shop. He had been injured during the first world war and walked with a limp. He not only mended shoes, but would also take bets on your behalf if you wanted him to.

Fire wood and the black market
Jack Haddon had a timber yard a little way up Weedon Road Where the Randalls now live.

“Mr Lee tells me that during the second world war years the hall was used for chopping firewood and he remembers what a grand employer Jack Haddon was, working alongside Mr Lee, Mr Andrews, three or four women from the village and others, and there was a good trade with the bundling machine working at full blast. The wood came from as far as Brockhall Park and was stored in the paddock at the side.”

Jack Haddon apparently also did some black market dealing there during the War. There’s a story which says that while a deal was being struck inside the hall there was some panic because the local bobby was seen approaching. “Don’t worry,” said Jack reassuringly, “he’s only coming to pick up his joint!”

The Final days
When at last the hall was no longer used it fell into disrepair. Around 1954 the building had become unsafe, and when David Ward removed one of the beams it finally collapsed. Mr Ward had the wall built along the boundary line and many of the remaining slabs of stone disappeared in various directions.

Weedon Road/Furnace Lane

JubileeHall_NetherHeyford_FurnaceLane

Photo lent by Janet Randall

This photograph shows the view along the Weedon Road. The Jubilee Hall is on the right hand side and Sid Eales Cobblers shop can be seen at the end of the building.  On the left of the picture is the butchers shop and slaughterhouse. Note also the telegraph poles and the lack of proper kerbs and pavements.

Margorie Hamborg and Stephen Ferneyhough

Extract from The Story of Heyford – Volume 1 of 4 – Pages 13,14 & 15

The Story of Heyford: The Toilet Cart V1C6

Until the l950’s there was no main sewage in the village. People had no proper sanitation, just an outside toilet with a pit or a pail. Some of these little buildings still exist as tool sheds or stores but most have gone. Inside the toilet was a bucket which would be emptied around once a week, usually onto the allotment.

Then some time in the early 1900’s the parish council organised a weekly collection of buckets. Bob Browning recalled how two men were employed with a horse and two—Wheeled cart to collect the contents once a week. The contents would be taken away for disposal. The cart had two wheels for easy tipping.

Bill Nickolls recalls that in the 1920’s there was a special cart for the purpose, shared with Bugbrooke. Jack Earl who at that time organised the collection, had to go twice a week with a horse to collect the cart from Bugbrooke. Collection in Heyford was on Monday and Friday evenings. People would put out their buckets, much as they do with their dustbins nowadays, and the cart came to empty the contents. Jack employed Bill Nickolls and Jo Charville for this task. They were provided with boiler
suits, gloves, wellingtons, and flashlights with batteries. The pong was bad but the pay was good! It was done late in the evening after people were mostly indoors with the windows shut. The contents were taken to a field beyond the houses on the right hand side of Furnace Lane where they were emptied into a trench and ploughed in. Even so the field was littered with paper which had escaped the trench and blown around in the wind. Sometimes two journeys were necessary and sometimes only one. There were also one or two places on route where the buckets could be ‘unofficially’ emptied (if the contents were mostly liquid!) to avoid the need for two journeys to the official dump.

In the 1930’s the collection was organised by George Faulkner of The Bricklayers Arms. Bill Kingston remembers him parking the cart under the oak tree on the memorial green waiting. for his helpers to arrive — Ted Charville, Jo Charville, Amos Lee and ‘Tankie’ Haynes.

There are stories of one or two accidents. An evacuee boy called Tony Sweet was walking backwards up Furnace Lane where there was an ‘avenue of pails’ and he tumbled into one of the buckets. He seemingly got a good telling off because he took a lot of cleaning up. There is also a story about ‘Mucky Matthews’, who apparently fell backwards into the cart when his horse reared. Hence his name!

Extract from The Story of Heyford – Volume 1 of 4 – Page 12

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. .

Extract from The Story of Heyford – Volume 1 of 4 – Page 12