The Story of Heyford: Nether Heyford Women’s Institute V4C1

One day in 1930 three ladies were walking back to their homes in Nether Heyford. They  had been attending the monthly meeting of the Women’s Institute in Bugbrooke, where they had been members for three years. They were Mrs J.O. dams, mother of Mr Hugh Adams, Mrs Punch, and Mrs George. As they walked along the quiet lane they discussed the formation of a W.I. in Nether Heyford, and Mrs Adams volunteered to see the County Secretary at W.I. House in Northampton. When the required ten ladies had been gathered together, the foundation papers were signed – with nervously shaking hands – in November 1930.

The Programme from 1938

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TheStoryOfHeyford-NetherHeyford_W1_P3The early years
Mrs Adams was the first President and Mrs George the Secretary. Their meetings were held in the school where Mrs Carrington, the Headmaster’s Wife, supplied the hot water to make the tea. Cups and saucers were loaned by the Baptist Chapel, carried over in a clothes basket and then washed up before their return. The activities were varied, speakers on subjects of interest to countrywomen, competitions of all kinds, and classes on old-time dancing and keep fit. Subscriptions were 2/6d which though seeming a small amount, was about on a par with those paid today.

A link was formed with a W.l. in Queensland, Australia, and members found much interest in exchanging news and views with an organisation on the other side of the world. During the War, parcels were gratefully received by members, in particular those containing soap, which was in very short supply. Another link nearer home, and in more recent days, was formed With Delapre Townswomens Guild. This continued for many years into the 1980s, with enjoyable get-togethers and exchange of ideas.

For many years meetings were held in the Baptist Chapel Schoolroom, but quite early on the W.I. had an ambition to have its own hall, so a Building Fund was established and money-raising events of all kinds began, including a garden party at the Manor house, then occupied by Mrs Shiel (Vice-Chairman at the time). The sum of £100 was raised, but the W.l. Hall was not to be and the money was eventually passed on to the committee set up to establish a Village Hall. This was eventually completed in 1960 on ground that had belonged to Mr Adams, With the help of village volunteers from all walks of life.

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Wide ranging activities
The activities of the Institute are far—reaching. The subjects of our speakers and demonstrators are extremely varied. “Jam”? Yes, why not? And pickles, cakes, and grub of all kinds. Not to mention handicrafts, art, gardens, games and sport, local and family history, wild life and conservation, public speaking. “Jerusalem”? Well, no, not these days at our local meetings, though it is always sung with gusto at county and national events.

An annual produce show, open to all village residents, started in 1969, still continues in 1999, and creates much interest and fun.

Teams from our W.I. have done well in general knowledge quizzes run by the County Federation. In 1968 Mrs Judy Ward, Mrs Sheila Masters and daughter Hilary were the winners, and in 1994 we triumphed again, this time with Mrs Hyde, Mrs Essery and Mrs Joan Wright joining Mrs Masters.

For many years W.I. members have helped at the Blood Donors Clinic which is set up in the Village Hall twice a year. We serve the donors with the welcome tea and biscuits after they have given their life-saving blood.

Fund raising is a perennial occupation for all village organisations, and the W.I. is no exception. As well as making sure that we cover all our own expenses – speakers, hall fees, etc – these days we concentrate on raising funds for the Village Hall, now our regular and familiar meeting place. Money-making events include antiques evenings, occasional lunches (appropriately called ‘Nosh and Natter’) where senior citizens enjoy good food and good company, concerts (with, of course, nosh) and a stall (selling, of course, home—made nosh) at the annual Village Hall Fete, at which members have been known to dress up in weird and wonderful array — St Trinian’s and the Mad Hatters Tea Party are amongst the more memorable.

In the wider world our members take part in County Federation events. There is a tree planted in our name in Brixworth Country Park. Each year we discuss and vote on resolutions to be brought up at the National General Meetings, the results of which are passed to Governments, so that our W.I. plays an integral, if small, part in bringing subjects of importance to government attention, and action has been taken in many areas from these. Every few years we send a delegate to represent our W.I. and several others, and their reports are heard with great interest.

Canadian origins
All this started, not in England’s green and pleasant land, but in a small Canadian town called Stoney Creek, where a farmer’s wife, Mrs Hoodless, lost a child and realised that this was happening far too often to women of her generation owing to ignorance of simple health and hygiene rules. She made it her life’s work to help educate women so that they could have happy and healthy families. And on 19th February 1897 the first W.I. in the world was inaugurated at Stoney Creek.

The movement came to Britain in 1915 – the first W.I. being formed in Llanfairpwll in Anglesey, and the national Federation was established in 1917. One can scarcely believe that in those days it was difficult to find the 2/- (10p) subscription and to obtain the husband’s permission to attend meetings. However the enthusiasm of those early members surmounted all obstacles, and while the emphasis was on skills for country living, their horizons were immensely widened. I suppose it would be called ‘empowerment’ these days. Women who would have said they ‘couldn’t do anything,’ suddenly found that they could hold a meeting together, speak in public, demonstrate their skills and share their experiences. Many members have increased their skills and developed their talents at Denman College, the W.I.’s own Adult Education College in Oxfordshire. Opened in 1948 and named after Lady Denham, the first National Chairman, it offers courses to members on anything from painting to philosophy, from lace-making to local government, opening to women whole new worlds.

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Seventy years and still going strong
Nether Heyford W.I. has passed its Silver, Golden and Diamond jubilees, and our ‘70th’, whatever that is called, comes up in the year 2000. It would take too much time and space to enumerate all the fine personalities who have graced our membership down the years. But we remember with pride some of those who have gone from us. Mrs Adams, the first and longest serving president – twenty-two years non stop. Mrs George, founder member and long time secretary and president. Mrs Nora Humphrey and Mrs Lou Garrett (later Robinson), both stalwart members and both serving as treasurer for many years. Mrs Ellen (Nen) Blaney, enthusiastic and generous-hearted member, Mrs Hilda Chapman, long serving secretary, instigator and for years the organiser of our produce show. Mrs Eve Gothard, County Committee member and enthusiast for our overseas connections. And Mrs Nellie Clements, willing, skillful, tireless committee worker, the kind of member who is the backbone of our movement.

Back in 1897, Canadian women chose for their motto, ‘For home and country’, and despite all the changes and modern improvements that have taken place down the century, it is difficult to think of a phrase that more closely reflects the purpose of the Women’s Institute movement.

Sheila Masters (with the help of Maureen Wright, and other members)

~~

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

Volume 4 of 4 | Chapter 1 of 8 | Pages 2 to 6TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford: The Browning Family V2C11

The Brownings are a notorious Heyford family — notorious, that is, for their longevity! The last generation of Brownings to bear the family name in the village all died in their late nineties and early one-hundreds. The very last, Bob Browning, died aged 104 in 1997.

The Browning story begins in Maxey, near Peterborough with David Browning, a labourer, who was  born some time in the late 1790s. He married a woman called Maria and it may have been she who provided the longevity gene. Maria was born in 1798 and died in 1881, in Daventry, at the age of 83 – only a year before her own son and daughter-in-law.

Police inspector

Maria’s son, also called David was born in 1832 in Maxey and he brought the Browning family to Northamptonshire. He married Susan Price, the daughter of a butcher in 1861 and a year later went into the police force. He became the Police Inspector at Daventry and lived at the County Police Station there. The couple had nine children over thirteen years – the last three were all born within a year of the previous birth. While this is an eye—watering thought, of course it was not unusual to have so many children so close together. More remarkable, perhaps, was that seven children survived into adulthood.

Their parents, David and Susan, were not so lucky with their own life expectancy. Both died in 1882; David aged 50 and his wife, only 41. It appears that an unfortunate incident affected David’s police career and ultimately his life.

Hilda Collins, David Browning’s great grand-daughter, said that when the police inspector turned out gypsies at Dodford village as part of his duty he was attacked and, as the family recalled, “was never the same since.” He did not work again and was retired early from the force.

In the October Court Session of 1878 it is recorded: “That Inspector David Browning  be superannuated for 12 months, he has been in the force since 1862 and reported by two Medical Gentlemen as unfit to perform further duty. And it is further ordered as the Chief Constable recommends Inspector Browning for a pension that he do receive for the next 12 months an allowance after the rate of £48 per annum, the allowance to be paid quarterly; at the expiration of the 12 months Inspector Browning be then incapable of performing duty the Court will have to consider the continuation of the Allowance as a yearly Pension.”

One year later the October Session recorded that Inspector David Browning was “incapable of further duty” and was permanently retired. The pension would have been helpful but the family needed to find another income. The Brownings moved to Sheaf Street in Daventry and Susan Browning became a grocer. The census of 1881 shows Susan Browning to be the head of the family, (although David was still alive at the time) with five of her children at home. The elderly Maria Browning, Susan’s mother-in-law – who had been living with the family for at least ten years – had died just before the census was taken.

William Price Browning

Susan and David died shortly after the census, in 1882, and it was left to William Price Browning, as the eldest son, to take care of his younger brothers and sisters. He was 18 and was a commercial traveller and later, a rate collector in Nether Heyford. There must have been some financial difficulty in keeping the family together because Leonard Browning, the youngest child, was sent to Wolverhampton Orphanage at the age of six. Hilda Collins has a Bible inscribed by the orphanage and presented to Leonard. She is not sure why Wolverhampton was chosen but thinks that it might have been a connection with the police force.

Several of the Browning siblings moved to Heyford with William Price Browning (“W.P.”) including one of his younger brothers, David. He was the second son to be called David, the first having died in infancy. David Browning married into the Eales family, who ran the post office, and he kept the shop and post office from 1930 to 1955.

William Price Browning in 1923

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Photo lent by Hilda Collins (nee Smith)

The Hardly Annuals

W.P. Browning married Violet, a teacher. They lived in a small cottage near the top of Church Street and had six children within seven years! For this reason, their father referred to them as ‘hardy annuals’ little realising how hardy they would actually be. Violet – without the Browning streak of endurance – died aged 49, but all six children lived on into their late nineties or one—hundreds.

Gwendoline, the eldest child, was born in Nether Heyford in 1891 and followed her mother into the teaching profession, becoming a pupil teacher at Weedon School. In an interview for The Prattler in 1977, 86 year old Gwen remembered how “I did some self—tuition by taking a correspondence course and then later on cycled to teachers’ classes in Daventry.”

She recalled that as a child, “We’d go up to the canal at Heyford Bridge and then all 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.”

As a young woman, Gwen had an illegitimate daughter, Dorothy. She then married Mr Fred George and had two sons, although the eldest Philip died at 13. She could remember the village midwife, Anne Clarke: “It was quite an occasion when she brought her thousandth baby into the world.”

Like many in the Browning family, Gwen was a Baptist and actively involved in chapel life. She later claimed that her secret to a long life was “to never think about age. Forget how old you are, go wherever you’re asked and never turn down invitations.”

The eldest son, Robert (Bob) was born in 1892 and died in 1997 aged 104. He was the oldest surviving sibling. Like the other Browning children, he attended Bliss Charity School under the headmaster, Mr Cook who he remembered as a stern man. One of his earliest memories was in 1900 when a policeman from Bugbrooke cycled to Heyford to post up the call notices for the Boer War.

In 1905 at the age of 13 he left school and went to work for W H Smith in Weedon, delivering newspapers to the surrounding villages. He would walk with the post to places as far as Grimscote. Later, he joined a boot making factory in Northampton to which he cycled each day. He could always recall the terrible stench of the tanneries as he approached the outskirts of the town.

On the outbreak of World War One, Bob Browning was declared unfit to fight but contributed to the war effort by working a modern boot making machine. He married a woman called Mabel and in 1922 he moved into Northampton. However he retained an active interest in his home village and contributed occasional articles to The Prattler.

May Browning, born 1893 married Harold Smith whose family lived by the canal, beside the Bricklayers Arms before it closed. Harold’s father, Charles, was a railway signalman at Heyford South and the signal box was located on the Litchborough Road near Bugbrooke until the early 1930s.

Hilda Collins remembers how her mother, May, took the post up to Upper Heyford. A family there had a piano and May asked for no charge for her errand but just the opportunity to play it.

Winifred Browning, born 1895, married a Trinidadian, Mr Punch, which was probably considered unusual in 1920s rural England. They had two children but marriage did not survive and at the end of the 1930s, Win Punch earned her income running the fish and chip shop in the barn near The Olde Sun, taking it over from George Oliver.

Nell Browning was born in 1896 and married George Bennett with whom she had a son, Bill. The youngest sibling, Fred, was born in 1898 and lived to be 98. He was an active member of the village community and involved in the parish church — particularly bell ringing. He married a woman called Gladys and lived in Furnace Lane.

Despite the size and longevity of the family, the Browning name did not survive this generation. Of nine children born to the siblings, eight were born to the sisters under their married names and the other was a girl who also married. However, the Browning stock continues in the village through the Collins family, with its most recent name change, by marriage, to Willgress.

The six Browning children as they appeared around 1906

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Left to right: May, Fred, Robert, Gwen, Nell, and Win

The family on the occasion of Bob’s 90th Birthday celebration

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Left to right: Mrs Winifred Punch (87), Mrs Gwendoline George (91), Bob Browning (90),
Fred Browning (84), Mrs May Smith (88), and Mrs Nell Bennett (86)

Photos from an article in the Chronicle and Echo August 1982

W.P Browning’s family on the occasion of his daughter’s wedding in 1921

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Top: George Bennett, Bill Bennett, Nell Bennett (nee Browning), Gladys Browning, Fred Browning, Friend, Friend, Mabel Browning, Friend, Friend, Fred George, Friend, Friend, Bob Browning

Middle: Win Punch (nee Browning), Odette Punch, Charles Smith, Harriet Smith, Harold Smith (bridegroom), May Smith (bride), Violet Browning, W.P. Browning, Gwen George (nee Browning), Philip Browning

Bottom: Dorothy Browning, Ellen ‘Nen’ Browning

Photo lent by Hilda Collins (nee Smith)

‘Progress’ by Bob Browning (1892-1997)

These days it seems there’s such a fuss about which foods are good for us.
What’s worse, I notice with dismay, the list grows longer every day!
They’re all the things that I miss most: Yorkshire puddings, Sunday roast,
Mash and bangers, eggs and ham, warm scones and strawberry jam,
Toast with butter, thickly spread, beef dripping on fresh-baked bread
Cheese and chicken are suspect too. I really don’t know what to do!’
Obediently when I was small, what Mother served, I ate all,
It seems to me now I am old, I still must do what I am told.
I’m over four score years and ten, and won’t see ninety—five again.
Since everything I ate was wrong, I marvel that I lived so long!

The words of Bob Browning whilst in Bethany Homestead where he spent his later years.

The Post Office

Other Brownings contributed to life in Nether Heyford. As mentioned, David Browning, brother to W.P., married into the village’s post office family. His wife, Annie, Was a member of the Eales family who had run the business since 1877.

John Eales was the village’s first postmaster and ran the post office and shop for 30 years before handing it on to his daughter Amy. She took over in 1907, When the shop and houses on the site were auctioned at The Old Sun Inn and bought by Amy Eales for £320.

David and Annie Browning then took over in 1930 during which time the thatched premises was pulled down and replaced by the present corner—shop building, They had a daughter, Ellen (‘Nen’) who was born in Manor Cottage, Church Street in 1907. Nen taught in the village school before succeeding the shop and post office from her father in 1955.

David Browning outside the post office in the 1950s.

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Photo lent by Judy Armitage

Nen Blaney 

Nen ran the business until 1968 When, on the death of her husband, Major W. Blaney, Nen sold the shop to a Mr and Mrs Eales (apparently no relation) and opened the newsagent and post office next door. She continued working until 1986 — retiring gracefully at the age of 80!

Nen Blaney had many memories of Heyford. Her uncle, Mr J. Earl, ran a carrier’s cart to Northampton on Wednesdays and Saturdays. She recalled that “the first bus we had in the village was a coal cart that  travelled once a day and was run by a Mr Harold Botterill from Bugbrooke. On Saturdays it was a bit different because they put a shed thing (a wooden structure) on top as a cover.”

Mrs Blaney outside her post office

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Photo lent by Judy Armitage

She also remembered a postman named Albert Bates Who used to cycle in from Weedon with the post, hand over Nether Heyford’s share and then cycle on to Bugbrooke. Nen Blaney’s own working day was long; starting at 5am and often finishing around midnight. Despite this demanding schedule, Nen Blaney was chairwoman of the British Legion Women’s Section for over 20 years.

She was proud to be invited to the Queen’s Birthday Party at Buckingham Palace in 1971 in celebration of the Legion’s 50th anniversary. Major Blaney chaired the British Legion’s Northamptonshire Branch and served Nether Heyford on the Daventry Rural District Council, of which he became chairman. Family of Nen Blaney still live in the village today.

Sarah Croutear

~~

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

Volume 2 of 4 | Chapter 11 of 11 | Pages 26 to 32

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Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

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