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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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

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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

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Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford: The Bricklayers Arms V2C9

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

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

The Bricklayers Arms in the 1930s

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

A small pub for local needs

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

NetherHeyford_BricklayersArms_GeorgeFaulkner

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

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

Fishing Expedition around 1928

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

Brickworkers, and fishing trips

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

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

Hay barn, stables, weddings and coal

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

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

Little Tommy

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

The sale of the pub

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

Conversion to coal business

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

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

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

Stephen Ferneyhough

~~

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

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

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Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford: 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

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Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford: Memories of Heyford Scouts in the 1950’s V1C11

Heyford Scouts was formed in 1952. The School headmaster, Mr Woods, was the scoutmaster, ably assisted by Mr Bert Wilkinson. During the 1950s it had a thriving troop of more than 20 boys. The troop was split into several patrols – peewit, kingfisher, etc., each with their own patrol leader, and weekly meetings were held in the school hall.

The Scout Troop in the 1950s

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Back row: Terry Randall, Norman Denny, Tony Lovell, David Butcher, Brian Eales, Anthony Hinnick, Colin Haynes, Michael Eales, John Smith, Colin Harrison, John Haynes
Seated centre: Gordon Cabbam, Bert Wilkinson 
Front row: Michael Royle, Roger Wilkinson, Richard Danby, Ken Garrett

Photo lent by Mrs Mary Butcher

Gang shows
Gang shows were very much a part of the scout year and were always a great success. They were presented on stage in the church rooms on the corner of Church Street and Church Lane and consisted of the normal songs (such as Ging Gang Gooly) and sketches. Rehearsals seemed to go on for ever and parents must have torn their hair out trying to provide costumes for some of these. The show was sometimes taken on tour for one night only to places as far afield as Flore, and it was just as daunting performing to strangers as to family and friends.

Soap Box Derbys
During my time in the scouts the troop entered the National Soap Box Derby. We built our soap box with a lot of help from Grose’s garage, and to our great delight we reached the national final held in Morecambe. To reach there we had to leave the village at about five o’clock in the morning and didn’t return home until late. The excitement of winning, however, got us through. The ‘car’ was on display for a month in the garage showroom, which at that time was in Marefair where the Barclaycard building is now situated. Boy, were we proud!

David Butcher winning the Soap Box Derby at Morecambe

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Photo lent by Mrs Mary Butcher

Camps
From later Spring until early Autumn several weekend camps were held fairly locally, and once a year the annual camp took place. This was always further afield and normally lasted for two weeks. One of these camps took us to the Pendle Hills in Lancashire, and inevitably it was raining when we arrived. After showing us to the field in which we were to make camp, the farmer pointed to the hill behind us and solemnly declared that, “If you can see those hills it’s going to rain, and if you can’t see them it’s already raining.” If memory serves me right we had about one day of dry bright weather in the whole fortnight and I seem to remember using washing bowls to scrape mud away from the front of the tents. No-one suffered any ill effects from this experience however and all returned to the village quite healthy.

During these camps one patrol was responsible for cooking the breakfast each morning and the others all went for an early morning run accompanied by the scoutmaster in order to work up an appetite. Each patrol took it in turns during the week so that nobody missed out on the joys of the run. Breakfast consisted normally of porridge made in a large billycan and coated with golden syrup diluted with hot water. This was followed by bacon and omelette. It was never a surprise if you found a generous helping of grass in either or both courses, but it never had any adverse effects on anybody.

The morning ablutions were always an adventure as we normally washed in cold water. One camp in the Lake District was near to a small stream and this was used by one or two hardy souls.

Street cred
Uniforms were strictly shorts (even the scoutmaster wore them!) and the distinctive hats with the stiff brim, reminiscent of the Canadian Mountie. These were terribly difficult to get flat again once you had bent it out of shape. This often happened, especially at camp.

I spent many pleasant and happy years in the scouts and during that time learned to cook, tie knots (some of which I still use, especially the granny), semaphore and Morse codes (all of which I have forgotten!). I also learned that it was easy to be polite and helpful and that this didn’t damage your street cred. I feel that I am better for the things I did and look back to this time with much pleasure.

Ken Garrett

~~

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

Volume 1 of 4 | Chapter 11 of 13 | Pages 30 to 32

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Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

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

Laddermaking did run(g) in the family! The Bugbrooke firm of J Ward and Son were undertakers and ladder makers and three generations of Humphreys worked there. Ernest Humphrey, Ron and Arthur’s father, was born in Bugbrooke and worked at Ward’s with his wife’s father. Ernest became a journeyman carpenter and for a while went to work in Loughborough with Moss Builders who built the Narborough mental hospital. He remained at the hospital where he was responsible for building maintenance and helped the patients in the workshops there. He married Alice who had been a children’s nurse in Northampton and they started their family, but he became unwell and had to leave his job as a result. The asylum, as it was then known, continued to pay him a small pension until his death in 1936.

How the business began 
The family came back to live in Northamptonshire, only this time in Nether Heyford. Ernest returned to Ward’s. His eldest son Ron went to work there in 1920 when he left school at the age of thirteen, and perhaps it was their experience of working together that encouraged his father to start his own business in Nether Heyford. The asylum pension allowed him to buy the first lot of poles used in the business. Steve Ward, their previous employer was not very happy about this and threatened ‘to smash them’. He even took out a summons against them for not working out their notice, but it didn’t come to anything and in time relations once again became amicable.

At that time the family lived in the cottage on the south side of the Green, no 17, where Mrs Pearson now lives and near to the old folks bungalows. They used the house and garden to make ladders. The garden was turned into a work yard for boring holes in the poles which formed the ladder sides, and for assembling the ladders. The room which is now the living room but at that time was a wash house, was used to make the ladder rungs. The chips left over from making the ladder rungs provided a useful supply of fire lighting material and were sold to local people for sixpence a sack. The ladder sides were planed in a barn behind the Baptist Chapel Rooms, now gone, and at that time owned by Mr J.O.Adams. This space was also used for finishing the ladders off: painting, etc.

Their first venture into business was not a financial success. They were offered a big order from a firm out of the area, which they duly completed. Somewhat strangely they had been asked to deliver the ladders to Travis and Arnold in St James, Northampton from where the ladders would be collected. Having no transport, Mr Humphrey, Ron, Arthur and daughter May had to push the ladders into Northampton on a cart. They were delighted to have made a good sale and looked forward to settlement of the account as money was tied up in timber stock. This was not to be. The firm went bankrupt and not a penny was received.

The move to Church Street
Younger brother Arthur joined the business in July 1923 when he left school. Money was tight and it took time for the business to establish itself in the harsh economic climate of the years after the First World War, but in time it grew sufficiently for Mr Humphrey to buy a property in Church Street where there would be much more space for the family business and home.

The property in Church Street comprised a group of farm buildings complete with an orchard, still there, and a stream with watercress growing in it. The farm was bought on 8th August from Mrs Lookes, an elderly lady who lived in St Matthews Parade in Northampton. There were a number of sitting tenants who, one imagines, were rather disconcerted at the prospect of having to find somewhere else to live. There was Mrs Dunkley who moved to another cottage in 1928, the Collins family who moved to the farm beside the canal bridge in Furnace Lane, the Barnes, the Clarke family and Mr H Gilke.

When Mr Collins was served notice to quit it seems that he didn’t take it lying down and Mr Humphreys noted in his records that he ‘used abusive language to me’. It was not until 1929 that the Humphreys finally moved in.

In the meantime there were rents to be collected and taxes to be paid and it is evident that Mr Humphrey was concerned that the rents were not really sufficient to pay his overheads. It seems that in 1929 ‘the property only brings in yearly £51-12s-6d’.

The large stone farmhouse was in a sorry state and barely habitable. There were also two Victorian cottages on the right hand side of the drive into the farmyard. It was decided to live ii the old farmhouse and to renovate one of the cottages. Eventually the family moved into the cottage, although by that time May was already living at Moulton. When Ron married he moved into the cottage next door where he spent the rest of his life. When Arthur married he moved into a house in Church Street and then to a house on The Green where he still lives.

Ron, Sheila and Arthur in the 1930s

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Photo lent by the Humphrey family

On the farm there was plenty of space to erect two good workshops fitted up with gas lamps. One of the Workshops (where Ladder Cottage now stands) was assembled from an ex-army sectional building. It had a beautiful wooden lining and good windows, and was large enough to take the assembly of a sixty rung ladder. When the business was closed the building was dismantled and sold to a scout group east of Northampton. The other workshop, still standing, was lined with First World War munitions boxes and the pillars for the building were built by Mr Denny.

The  ladders were made by hand until 1946 when a universal machine was bought from Birmingham. This was purchased with the proceeds of selling the family’s dairy cows and Arthur attributes the success of the company to the fact that from that early date they made a point of investing in new machinery. Other machines came from Fells of Windermere, a firm which is still in business. These machines made the work much easier and enabled production to be increased.

The Humphrey’s first and last lorry

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Photo lent by the Humphrey family

The ladders were made from two very different timbers. The sides were made from ‘poles’ imported from Norway and were of Christiana pine and spruce. A special trip would be made to Great Yarmouth or Hull to inspect them. They were then brought by train to Weedon from where they had to be delivered to the workshops, sometimes by the local carrier, Tarrys. Timber was also bought from the London timber docks, south of the River Thames at Surrey Docks. The poles were brought in ‘green’ and were seasoned on the farm. Oak was used for the ladder rungs, and for this it was necessary to go to Leicester where they could be relied upon to supply good quality timber. They must have liked the Humphreys ladders because they would buy their ladders to sell on. Mabbutts of Brixworth supplied first class oak which was knot free. Oak was also bought from Badby and from between Everdon and Stowe. When the oak became scarce and too expensive and the Humphreys had bought the last oak from Earl Spencer’s estate, they turned to ash of which supplies were plentiful. During the war all timber was rationed and it was necessary to have a licence to buy the poles from local merchants.

Many different types of ladder
Over the many years different kinds of ladders were made. They were of different lengths and were measured by the number of rungs they had. A thirty rung ladder was twenty-two feet long. When a pole was split to make the sides of the ladder it produced a round side and a flat side. Builders liked to have the round edge on the outside. perhaps to make it easier on the hands when climbing up it. Others such as farmers and thatchers wanted the round side to the centre, perhaps so that it would not hurt their knees if they leant against the ladder, but also because the thatchers would use the outside face of the ladder as a straight edge to help them lay the thatch.

Thatching hay ricks using Humphreys ladders

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Photo lent by John Smith

There were extension ladders too. The longest was a triple extension ladder of ninety-three rungs for a hotel in Bournemouth. There were also window cleaners ladders and decorators ladders. Some of the ladders were painted, others simply stained. Load ladders were made of willow and were used by farmers when loading the hay wagons. The willow for these was cut from along the Nene Valley and they were not straight. In fact they were deliberately irregular so that if they were knocked over when the hay wagon was loaded they would fall to the ground and rock but not break. Load ladders were also used for thatching hay ricks or ‘thaking’ as it was called locally. The ricks were thatched to keep the hay dry over winter.

In 1930 a forty-five rung ladder for the Northampton Electric Light & Power Co. cost £5-6s-8d. This company were for some years the Humphreys’ best customer with an insatiable need for ladders, and in that same year bought at least fifty of various different lengths. Electricity was still relatively new and presumably the company were busy putting up poles to serve the new customers. I wonder how many of the poles which still exist in Hey-ford were put up using a Humphrey ladder.

Nearly all the customers were local at the beginning but over time it became necessary to look to a wider market and it was then that the ladders began to be exhibited at the annual agricultural shows. Each summer the Humphreys triangular ladder display was loaded up on to the lorry and taken to such shows as the Royal Show at Stoneleigh, and the East of England Show at Peterborough. In time Humphreys ladders were delivered within a seventy-five mile radius which included Worcester and Coventry. But it was the local firm Travis and Arnold which became their best customer.

The Humphreys did not only make ladders. A 1930 order came from ].Y.Castell of Gold Street in Northampton for four milking stools at 4/ – each (less 10% discount), and in the same year a ‘navvy’ barrow was made for W.G.Denny of Nether Heyford for 35/-. They also did repairs such as fixing a gate for the Parish Council, sharpening saws or repairing the handle of a billhook or mallet for Mr J.O.Adams. There seems to have been a delay in settling this bill which eventually involved the exchange of 1.5 cwt of potatoes.

In time a number of local ‘youths’ came to work in the ladder workshops including Bill Kingston, Cliff Gilkes and Ted and Maurice Sargent.

Other family activities
While the men of the family were busy making an selling ladders the women were also active. May Humphrey, the second child, was the post mistress at Moulton for many years before coming back to Nether Heyford to work in Mrs Blaney’s post office. May and Sheila, the youngest daughter, lived in the family home with their mother. For a while they moved into Northampton where it was easier to look after Alice but she died shortly afterwards in 1974.

Arthur and his sister Sheila were well loved members of the Bugbrooke Choir. May was known for her Albert the Lion monologue of which Stanley Holloway also gave a good rendition, and with a bit of encouragement May can be persuaded to do it even today ! The family were stalwart supporters of the Baptist Chapel, May having been Church Secretary and Shelia playing the organ for many years.

Arthur was also a keen gardener and for sixty years gardened the allotment next to the Church Street jitty. This once was a fine garden with flowers and vegetables and the food grown was enjoyed by the whole family.

In order to help with the family finances Ernest had started a milking herd of about nine cows. They had names like Buttercup and Daisy and would respond to their names when called. On Ernest’s death Arthur took over responsibility for the cows which most days would be driven up to fields on Weedon Road. To the dismay of Alice and Arthur, Sheila’s pet lamb, Betty, did not like to be left behind and used to try to go out with them, walking beneath one the cows where it was hard to detect her. There were also hens and many fruit trees. Because of these farming activities Arthur was exempted from the war and the Humphreys continued to deliver milk to local people throughout the war years. When they sold their herd Sheila continued to deliver John Smith’s milk for a while before getting a ‘proper job’.

During the war many people were expected to accommodate evacuees and the Humphreys were no exception. Mrs Humphrey was asked to accommodate a Mrs Buck and her children, and she did what she could to make the old cottage next to the farmhouse habitable, although by now it was in a very sorry state. Mrs Buck’s husband would come up from London at the weekends and in time he got an allotment. He knew nothing about growing vegetables but learned quickly, and to the amazement of the other men in the village was soon producing some of the best. One of the Buck boys was so impressed with Nether Heyford that at the end of the war he decided to stay and in time moved to a house in Furnace Lane. His son Jeff still lives in the village. I always thought he had streak of the Londoner in him. Now I know why !

The later years
The Introduction of baling machines meant that hay as no long loaded onto the wagons and the demand for farming ladders dropped almost overnight. Arthur can remember the first baler in the village at what is now New Creation Farm. The demand for wooden ladders continued to decline after the war. New, lighter metal ladders began to appear. The lack of demand, together with the lack of younger members of the family wanting to go into the business led them finally to close in May 1975. Ron was then 68 and read to retire. He died in 1994. Brother Arthur took retirement and with his wife Nora gave much of their time to the Hospital Guild in Northampton. Nora sadly died but Arthur Humphrey can still be seen walking round the village and gardening in spite of his very bent back, probably brought on by the heavy work of lifting wooden ladders.

Mr Ernest Humphrey and Kit the cow in the orchard in the early 1930s

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Photo lent by the Humphrey family

In 1985 a house was built on the site of the assembly shop and Sheila and her husband Albert Beharrell moved into it. It is aptly named ‘Ladder Cottage’. The old farmhouse has now been largely demolished, although part of it has been incorporated into house built in 1995 by John Connolly for Albert’s daughter and her family. May still lives in the house that the family renovated for themselves ,and Ron’s daughter Jean lives in her old family home next door to May.

Eiluned Morgan (1996)

~~

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

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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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The Story of Heyford: Heyford’s Bakeries V1C4

There has presumably been baking in Heyford ever since there has been a settlement here. Both Heyford and Heyford Mill are mentioned in the Domesday Book, and the proximity of the mill meant that there was always a local source of flour.

There are several records of baking in the village during the 1700’s and 1800’s:
– The Militia list of 1777 mentions Henry Burch and Robert Burch as Bakers.
– The 1841 Census lists John James, Joseph Claridge and John Cole.
– The Kelly’s directories in the 1800’s show several bakers:

  • Mrs Margaret Jones, baker and shopkeeper, 1854
  • William Claridge, baker and retailer, 1864
  • Isaac Woodhams, baker, 1864, 1869, 1877, 1885, 1890
  • Charles Smith, 1869
  • Daniel Roe, 1877

Until the first world war the building on the corner of Furnace Lane and Weedon Road (now Tops the hairdressers) was the Bakers Arms pub, so called because the landlord Mr Pinnock had a small oven for baking bread. A small oven was also discovered in the old post office building when it was demolished in the early 1950’s.

The Faulkner family 
But from the 1890’s to the 1940’s most of the village’s baking was done by Thomas Faulkner and his family. He had two sons, Walter and Wesley, and five daughters. Much of the following information came from his great grandson Dennis Clarke.

The Faulkner family ran two bakehouses. The first was in the red brick house (now number 19 Church Street) owned by Thomas Faulkner. He ran it with his son-in-law, Fred Furniss. They were from staunch Methodist families well respected in the village. They didn’t drink or smoke. Thomas Faulkner was for many years a lay preacher at the Methodist chapel, and was also the first chairman of the Parish Council.

Then some time during the first world war he established a second bakehouse with a larger oven in the building which is now number 22 Furnace Lane. One of the reasons for needing a larger bakehouse was that he supplied bread to the Weedon Barracks. It was run by his son Wesley. This became the main bakery in the village and was active for more than 30 years. His other son Walter had a bakery in Northampton.

The flour room was upstairs and the flour was fed down to the bakery via a chute. The dough was made up the night before, kneaded into loaves, laid in tins and allowed to rise. The oven was lit between three and four in the morning with faggots of wood. When it was the right temperature, the ashes were removed and the bread put in. The oven, which was well insulated, kept warm for several hours, but even so it was an inaccurate science and it wasn’t unusual for a loaf of bread to be not quite cooked in the middle.

Sunday roasts
Although the oven was used mainly for baking bread, it was also used on Sundays to cook the roasts. The villagers would bring their joints and Yorkshire puddings to be cooked while they were at church or chapel. You would put the joint on a trivet in a baking tray with the yorkshire pudding mix underneath. The fat from the meat dropped into the yorkshire pudding mix as it cooked.  Wesley Faulkner charged 2d for this service. Bill Kingston remembers sitting on the flour bin waiting for the joint to cook. Sometimes it was difficult to recognise your own joint. Mrs Dorothy Kingston remembers as a girl picking up their joint on one occasion only to be tld by her mother when she got home that it was somebody else’s! When the joints came out, the cakes went in.

The bakehouse in Furnace Lane also had a little shop which sold not just bread and cakes, but also sweets and cigarettes. In the back yard they kept pigs and chickens as most people did. Outside the back door was a well and a handpump which is still there today. They also kept a pony and trap which Wesley used for making deliveries in the evenings to Stowe, Farthingstone and Litchborough, often not returning until late in the evening. The pony and trap were later replaced by a motorised van.

Wesley Faulkner pictured with his delivery van in the 1930’s

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Photo lent by Dennis Clarke

Changing times
The bakehouse continued to run until around 1945. However, by this time larger bakeries were being established in town and cheaper mass-produced bread and cakes were becoming readily available through the other village shops.

For some years after this, bread was delivered to the Village by ‘Cooey’ Faulkner, the ‘Midnight Baker’. He was Ruskin, the son of Walter who had a bakery in Abington Avenue in Northampton.  He got his nickname because he delivered bread, often late in the evening and announced his presence by calling “Cooey!” Some people left baskets hanging outside their houses for him to leave the bread if he was very late. Part of the reason for his lateness was that he was always read to accept a cup of tea if offered one! Today the house is occupied by Dennis Clarke,a great nephew of Fred Furniss, and great grandson of Thomas Faulkner. The oven, though no longer used is still in place.

From the 1940’s until the 1980’s no bread baking took place in the village. We had moved into times of mass—production and faster road systems, so most of the bread came from large bakeries outside the village. The installation of gas, and then electricity meant that most families the 1950’s had small ovens in their own modernised kitchen.

The Bake-house in Furnace Lane

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Photo lent by Judy Armitage

This photograph looks towards the bottom of Furnace Lane and shows the old bake-house on the left hand side. To the left of this on the far left hand side of the picture is the building previously used as the King William pub. You can see here the frame which held the pub sign. Opposite the end of Furnace Lane you can see the little building which was the original Methodist chapel built in 1838 with the plaque above the upstairs windows. To the right of this is the old thatched post office, demolished in the 1950s, and to the left is the thatched cottage occupied by Mrs Anne Clarke, Heyford’s midwife for many years, which was demolished in 1969.

Heyford Patisserie
In 1985 the Heyford Patisserie was opened next to the butchers. The business had been started two years earlier by Wendy Allen who began baking at home. Her first order was from Carol at the Olde Sun to produce pies for bar meals. Then word got around, the number of customers grew, and the business became too big to run from home. At around that time, Malcolm Tarbox (the butcher) acquired the buildings in that block. The old slaughterhouse at the end of the block was renovated and converted into the present patisserie building. On 3rd November 1985 Wendy moved into her new patisserie which gave her not only much better baking facilities, but also a retail outlet. So began a service which was much needed in a village which had doubled in size since the 1950s. Although the bread came from Tees Bakery in Grafton Street, Northampton, all the pies, quiches, and puddings were baked on the premises.

Then after 11 years of long hours, six days a Week, Wendy decided to retire and the business was taken over in 1996 by Lesley Parker who continues to run it in the same way today.

Stephen Ferneyhough

~~

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

Volume 1 of 4 | Chapter 4 of 13 | Pages 9,10 & 11

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Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers