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: The appearance of the Church in 1800s V3C9

The information below is extracted largely from a PhD thesis entitled ‘The Crawleys’. It was written in 1985 by Rev Alan Horsley who was Rector of Heyford and Stowe-Nine Churches from 1971-78. There is a copy of the full thesis in the Public Records Office at Wootton Park.

Ancient times
Charles Crawley at Stowe and John Lloyd at Heyford had inherited ancient medieval churches. The priest in medieval times would have said mass silently in the chancel while the congregation would have stood in the nave. There were probably no seats, just clean rushes laid on the floor for the benefit of the lay worshippers saying their own private prayers. They would have had only a glimpse of the priest through a screen which was meant to divide the priest from his people.

The East end of the South Aisle is known as St Botolphs Chapel and there would appear to be a connection here with the village tradition that the Old Sun Inn stands on the site of a religious house. Travellers on the old Watling Street might well have turned aside one mile from their route to take advantage of the hospitality of the religious house and to visit the alter of St Botolph, the Patron Saint of travellers.

The repairs of 1850-1860
By the middle 1800s the churches of Heyford and Church Stowe were probably in a very poor state of repair and so the Crawley family set about making improvements. Butterfield was chosen as the architect at Heyford. In 1855 the old box pews were removed. These had been put into the nave by those who thought themselves too good to pray beside their neighbours. At the same time the three-deck pulpit was removed and replaced by one of Victorian design, shorter in height, and for pulpit use only.

Old materials were sold and new ones bought. Carved stone, wood and lead were carted away by boat to London. Some monuments were removed because they were considered unchristian, not gothic in style, and their wording worldly. The large Tudor monument of Judge Morgan and his family were removed from the chancel to the North aisle to allow more emphasis on the alter as a focal point.

At this time, contemporary thinking was that ‘a high pitched roof is far more essential to the Christian effect than is a tower or spire.’ Therefore in 1855 the external entrance in the tower was blocked off and the roof of the nave was raised. However the heightening of the chancel roof and the raising of the chancel floor had to wait until 1884, possibly due to the shortage of money.

The garnishing of the Church
‘During the days of box pews little attention was paid to the actual appearance of the church in connection with the seasons. A little holly may have been used at Christmas, but for the most part the decoration of churches, which had been fairly common in the sixteenth century had lapsed.’ However during this period there was a movement towards ‘a return to the ancient and thoroughly English practice of decking the sanctuary with fair flowers and pleasant verdure.’

On January 19th 1856 the Northampton Herald published the following description of the appearance of Heyford Church in festive Christmas decor.

‘Entering the church by the south porch the eye was struck by the manner in which the edifice was decked with Christmas sticking. Woven wreaths of it were wound round the pillars of the aisles from the bottom of the capital, which was encircled by it,‘ a wreath extended under the clerestory windows on both sides the whole length of the nave, and above it was the inscription, also in sticking “I was glad when they said unto me we will go into the house of the Lord”, with one or two crosses on either side, formed of the same material; the belfry arch at the west end was similarly adorned, and a large cross, in sticking, was conspicuous over the arch. Sticking was closely twined around the framework of the screen dividing the chancel from the nave, as well as round the large Latin Cross by which the screen is surmounted… the Christmas decoration of the chancel included, on the east wall, high on either side of the Altar, involved triangles with monograms, and a text “Emmanuel, God be with us ” over the east window, all in sticking.’

NB. The present vestry doors were made from the former Chancel screen by Butterfield. The screen mentioned above sounds like the pre-Butterfield screen.

The church Interior, prior to 1968


The photograph above was lent by Mrs Mary Clements of Church Street. The chancel rails, seen here decorated with flowers, were taken down in 1968/69 during the time of the Rev Hensher. Judging by the apples displayed beneath the rails, the occasion must have been Harvest Festival.


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

Volume 3 of 4 | Chapter 9 of 17 | Page 18 & 19


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