The Story of Heyford: Childhood Memories V4C7

Before the second world war the village was only half the size that it is now, transport was very limited, and the modern leisure facilities that are so commonly available today simply didn’t exist. Therefore the young people made their own fun in whatever way they could. There are many people in the village, now in their eighties, with childhood memories from the pre war period.

Children and young people
Before the first world war, the children went to school up the age of 13. Life was pretty busy keeping up with the chores. Mrs Dorothy Kingston of Furnace Lane remembers taking bread and jam to her father at the Brickworks when she came home from school. There was water to fetch, pigs to feed, eggs to collect, vegetables to prepare.

At thirteen, you left school and went to work. Some worked on the farms, some learned trades in their family businesses, but some worked outside the village. Bob Browning’s first job was a Saturday job at the age of 12 for W H Smith in Weedon. He walked from Heyford to Weedon and collected papers for delivery to Litchborough and Maidford and then walked back home. The journey was done entirely on foot and took him all day.

When he left school in 1905 he went to work there full time. They gave him a bicycle and two panniers to carry the papers. His new route was from Heyford to Weedon to pick up the papers, then to Dodford, Everdon, Farthingstone, Upper Weedon, then home. He ate his packed lunch each day under one of the big Beech trees beside the road through Everdon Stubbs.  There he double checked his takings.

On one occasion he arrived home and found he was one gold sovereign short. The sovereign had come from Everdon Hall where they always had several papers. His mother was desperate because he had to give his takings in the next morning but they didn’t have as much as a sovereign in the house.

So Bob cycled back to Everdon Stubbs to where he had counted the money at lunchtime, and there he found the missing sovereign. He was delighted at finding it that he carved his initials with his pocket knife into one of the trees. The four trees are still there today. All of them have dozens of initials carved into them of which some are quite new, but others could be 100 years old. Somewhere amongst them are the initials R.B.

Walking 
With time to, spare, little transport, and few organised facilities, walking was common. People would walk miles without a second thought.

The children all walked to school, some coming from Upper Heyford and others from the Railway cottages, or from Stowe Hill. They mostly travelled in small groups, unaccompanied by adults. Nobody worried about safety. The school didn’t provide lunches then so they made four journeys each day, often dawdling along the Way. There were several brooks in those days, running either side of the Green and also alongside a number of the hedges. Here it was tempting to dally along the way, making boats out of whatever materials they could find in the hedgerows.

Families walked together on Sundays, often for miles up to Glassthorpe or Stowe. They sometimes ended up at one of the pubs where father would have a beer and the children a ‘spruce’ – a bottle of pop with a glass ball in it.

Cars were a rare sight in the village between the wars so groups of young people would walk up to the ‘Turnpike’ (the A5) and sit on the bank by the Stowe turn, Waiting to wave at the drivers as they passed at a rate of only one or two an hour.

The Railway children
Mrs Doris Lovell, now in her eighties, lived in the railway cottages because her father, Frank Denny was a signalman. Although there was never a station in Heyford, she recalls how the railway had a strong presence in the village. There were sidings in the brick yard, there was an active signal box, and there were four railway cottages occupied by signalmen, platelayers and their families.

In the days of steam, each locomotive had its own unique personality and they chuffed past at a more friendly speed than today’s diesels. The driver and fireman, whose faces were often familiar to the villagers, would wave as they passed by, and sometimes they would throw lumps of coal for the children to take home.

The children played in the fields alongside the railway, although there was a strict understanding that playing near the tracks was forbidden. Favourite play areas included the stream near the brickyard just the other side of the small foot tunnel under the embankment. Here you could make stepping stones, build dens, and fish for tiddlers.

The railway bridge and railway cottages in the 1930s

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Photo lent by Judy Armitage

Box Pond and ‘the Humps’
Another favourite play area recalled by Doris Lovel was in the field where the furnaces used to be. There was a pond here called ‘box pond’ because it was near the signal box. There was another pond across the road in the brickyard where deep water had formed in the claypit. Both ponds were popular play areas with much wildlife in them, including lizards and moorhens.

Also in the furnace field were four huge clinker mountains. These had been formed out of clinker waste from when the furnaces were in operation. Each seemed as high as a house. They had set solid into various shapes, Weathered through time, and were full of interesting nooks and crannies. They, were affectionately known as ‘the humps’. Cut hands and scraped knees were common.

These ‘humps’ were eventually moved when the M1 was built in the late 1950s. The field was full of hills and hollows from where the furnaces had been, and the contractor, Dowsett, was looking for somewhere to put the topsoil from the construction of the M1. So they broke up the humps, rolled them into the hollows, and covered them with topsoil. Box Pond was also filled in.

Fishing and swimming 
As today, there were plenty of fish in the canal. With a line, a hen feather, a bent pin and some bait, you could catch gudgeon to take home to feed to the cat. Favourite places on the river were by one of the two bridges – either the bridge to Upper Heyford, or Coach Bridge (now only a footbridge beyond Manor Park). Jumping off Coach Bridge into the deep waters below was a regular summer game for the boys.

Many local people, now in their 70s and 80s remember swimming in the canal. On warm summer days the young people would take their swimming costumes, some sandwiches, a drink, and a pot to pick blackberries. This way they could would spend hours by the canal.

An article in the Mercury and Herald dated 25th May 1978 included an interview with Mrs George (nee Browning) in which she recalled how ‘we’d go up to the canal at Heyford Bridge. The boys would change one side and the girls the other. Then we’d have a swim or watch the boats, all drawn by horses of course, being pulled up the canal.’ Unlike the railway where it was firmly understood that the track was out of bounds, the canal was considered ‘safe’. This was in spite of the murky state of the water and the waste disposed of by the boat people. However it was a fun place to spend the day, and was the only way to learn how to swim.

Swimming in the canal

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This photograph, taken in the 1920s shows a group of young people beside the canal.  They went up Furnace Lane and turned left at Wharf Farm where they walked along to the next bridge. They are seen here in the field opposite the tow path. Pictured from the front are: Ivy Denny, Jack Earl, Friend, Nen Blaney, Odette Punch, Friend, Friend, and Mrs Frank Denny. The little girl to the left of the group is June Denny.

Photo lent by Doris Lovell (nee Denny)

~~

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

Volume 4 of 4 | Chapter 7 of 8 | Pages 28 to 30TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

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

NetherHeyford_Cricket_4

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

~~

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

TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

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” – Local book series published in the late 1990’s

Volume 3 of 4 | Chapter 16 of 17 | Page 30

TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford: King George V Jubilee Celebrations 1935 V2C7

To celebrate the silver jubilee of King George V the Parish Council organised a public tea  for all the parishioners. Charges were sixpence for 14-16 year olds and ninepence for adults. The children were paid for by the school governors, and pensioners and widows were free of charge. All other expenses were covered from the proceeds of a jumble sale organised by the Jubilee committee.

As well as the tea there were sports and games on the Green. Bill Kingston particularly remembers a slow bicycle race between the two sets of goal posts. The idea was to get from one end to the other without touching the ground. Sid Goodman won because he came last. He won a wallet. Tom Eales came second. Bill Kingston came third and won a pipe. He swapped it for Sid’s wallet because each preferred the others prize.

Mr Foster (Reg Fosters father) made a brass candlestick for auction. Dorothy Kingston bought it for £1. 5s which was a lot of money then. However it was a beautiful piece of craftsmanship and she still has it today.

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 7 of 11 | Page 18

TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

 

The Story of Heyford: Four Hundred Years of Bell Ringing V2C3

Bell—ringing in the parish church of St Peter and St Paul goes back at least four centuries. The two oldest bells are dated 1601 and one of these is inscribed ‘Thomas Morgan gave me to the church frank and free.’  Judge Morgan lived in the Manor House at this time. Both bells were cast by a founder called Watts and one is the heaviest bell in the belfry. It is the tenor, weighing over seven hundred-weight: that’s over 784 lbs. or 356 kilos. Another bell was added in 1638, cast by Watts II, and a fourth in 1704 cast by H. Penn. With these four bells it was possible to ring a maximum of 24 changes or sequences (English Change Ringing is based on mathematical sequences rather than musical composition). This was how it remained for 250 years.

Originally there was an external door in the tower where the bell-ringers could gain access. In 1855 there was extensive restoration work in the church which included opening up the tower inside, moving the organ and sealing off the outside door. The heavy wooden door which was removed became the one now hanging as the front entrance to the Old Sun pub. This would be appropriate as the vestry meetings used to adjourn to the Old Sun. Of course, it is still the tradition today for the bell-ringers to finish off every Friday-night ringing practice with a drink in the local – even if, for some reason, ringing hasn’t actually taken place!

During the 1930s the ringers included Mont Smith (John Smith’s grandfather), Fred Browning, Charlie Foster, Bernard Kingston, Harry Eales and Dick Capell. At this time, ringing only usually took place on holy days such as Christmas or Easter; for church services, the bells were just tolled. During the Second World War, bell—ringing generally was banned and only to be used as an alarm for the community. However by 1943 the threat of invasion was considered over and the ban lifted.

A new era and two new bells

This spelled a new era for the Nether Heyford bells. Fred Browning, as the tower captain, recruited and trained a new generation of ringers, including Ted Garrett and Hilda Collins who are still ringing today. Fred also developed handbell ringing at Christmas time. This new enthusiasm was further encouraged by the addition of two new bells after the Reverend Isham Longden, rector from 1897 to 1942, left £100 in his will for a new bell. Even in the 1940s, this provided only a quarter of the amount needed to cast and hang the bells, so an active fund—raising campaign started in the village.

Coffee mornings, whist drives and sales helped to raise £400 and on 21st September 1946, two treble bells were dedicated in church. They were made in London by Gillett and Johnson and hung on a metal frame above the others who were still on a timber frame.

One was called the Victory Bell and there is a list from 1943 of villagers who donated funds towards it. The list includes the rector “Mr” (sic) Mortimer, Harry Allen the verger, Jack Capell the butcher, William Wakefield Whitton, the Kingston family, the Brownings, the Collins’s and the carpenters shop. Most contributed £1, some as much as £5 and some gave ‘two ‘n’ six.’ Now with six bells, the number of possible changes increased dramatically from 24 to 720.

Repairs

In 1979, the four older bells on their wooden frame needed to be rehung and refitted. They had been taken down before but this was the first time in nearly 400 years that they had left the village. They were taken to Taylors of Loughborough and their transport was provided by Jeremy Rice. An eight mile sponsored walk from the church to Flore and Stowe was organised to help raise funds.

Lowering the bells

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The Tenor bell of 1601 bearing the Morgan family crest

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Removing the bells to Loughborough in 1979

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Left to right: Wilf Denny, Bill Collins, Malcolm Chown

Photos lent by Hilda Collins

In 1995, a quarter peal was rung to commemorate the 50th anniversary of VE day. This consisted of 1260 rings non stop and lasted for about an hour. In 1996, the church celebrated the half-century of the treble bells with the Heyford Morris Men, handbell ringers, a lone piper, John Anderson, and a special commemorative service.

Sarah Crontear with thanks to Hilda Collins and Ted Garrett

~~

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

Volume 2 of 4 | Chapter 3 of 11 | Pages 6 & 7

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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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” – Local book series published in the late 1990’s

Volume 1 of 4 | Chapter 7 of 13 | Pages 13,14 & 15

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Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers