Who is this and What was it all About??
Sally Smith MBE (formerly Sally Foulkes) Students from the USA visit Nether Heyford May 1979
Recently there was a photo posted on the Heyford Facebook page, with a question “Who is this?” Several people had answered before I saw it and there is a story behind the photo.
The picture was of me taken by the Chronicle and Echo, then a much read daily local paper. There was an article on the front page in the edition printed on Tuesday May 15th 1979, 42 years ago. Margaret Thatcher had just become Prime Minister, the shop that is now Restore was the Post Office run by Mrs Blaney and the Eales family was running the “VG” store just visible in the picture, which was much smaller and their living room has now become part of the shop. There was a bus shelter since removed because of vandalism. It was a very hot early summer, hence the sun dress! Unfortunately my copy of the paper despite being in a plastic box has been attacked by a mouse, but gives the details of why I was looking quizzical.
”I was then Parish Clerk, and a letter arrived at the Post Office addressed to the “City of Nether Heyford Tourist Information Office.” Mrs Blaney gave it to me. It was a request for details of hotels or other accommodation in Nether Heyford from a Professor at Concordia College Minnesota USA. I wrote back to say we were a very small village without any hotels. They wrote back saying they really wanted to stay in Nether Heyford and after discussion with the Parish Council and other people in the village it was decided we could offer ‘B and B’ in local homes.
The students from Concordia were going to be visiting the UK and Europe on a cycling tour using backways and byeways. Their tour would start from London and take them via Bath and Stratford upon Avon en route to Cambridge, Denmark and Paris. We told them about Sulgrave Manor which would be on their route from Banbury to here so that was added to their itinerary and they arrived here in mid May, assembling on the village green to meet their hosts. We organised a tour of the Church with the Rector Alan Horsley, before everyone went off for a wash and change and evening meal with their host families. Later we all met in the games room at the Foresters Arms where local historian Ron Greenall of Leicester University gave them a lecture about Heyford and Northamptonshire, with slides, followed by games of skittles and darts, shove ha’penny and plenty of local beer. After a good “Full English” the next day the group set off for Cambridge and the rest of their European Tour. Concordia students came back to Nether Heyford several more times as they had enjoyed their visit so much.
And why did they want to come here… our village is half way between Stratford upon Avon and Cambridge, it was as simple as that!
Sally Smith MBE (formerly Sally Foulkes)
Letter published in The Prattler – December edition 2020
Lower Heyford known now as Nether Heyford is a village steeped in history. When I first moved here in October 1964 the village was quite different to what it is today.
We moved into 75 Furnace Lane, a chalet bungalow, opposite was the dairy field with a big house owned by the sisters Green. There were 2 big houses as you came down the road from the A5 on the right hand side, and a bungalow owned by Pinky Lilley on the left. From the bungalow, the field reached down to the council houses.
On our side of the road we were next to the big houses. Our houses had just been built by Mr Howe, a former constable who came from Luton. I think that there were six chalet bungalows built in all. They led down to the council houses on the right of Furnace Lane.
Coming into the centre of the village was the Green which is I’m told is the largest green in the country. Surrounding the village green were thatched houses, the Baptist chapel, school, village hall and a few houses. Opposite Furnace Lane is Church Street where I now live.
There was a shop on the corner which once was owned by Major and Mrs Blaney. Next to the shops was a house that used to be a chapel and when we moved into the village, an old thatched house was next to a bigger chapel that used to be run as a Youth Club. The shop next door was owned by Mrs Court but was run by Mrs Highfield and there was a small fish and chips place just between the chapel and the shop.
The 3 storey house next to the shop had a row of houses which are now no more and next to them was an old forge which was used later for a garage. The thatched house was beautiful and had a well with wrought iron covers just inside the entrance.
This is the true centre of Heyford.
On the road to the church, there was a bakery which used to cook the congregations Yorkshire puds while they were in church, a wheelwright, the co-op and another small shop next to the jitty and also a ladder makers as well.
Letter published in The Prattler – December edition 2020
Many years ago (approx 1951) a lady arrived in the village with a horse drawn gypsy caravan which she parked in John Smiths field between the river and Crow Lane. She stayed there for many months during which time her horse died and she was enquiring about a replacement.
My grandfather had a very large shire horse for sale and i suggested to the lady that we should bike over to Caldecote near Towcester for her to inspect the horse. A price was agreed and I offered to ride the horse bareback via Tiffield, Dalscote, Birds Hill and Bugbrooke to Heyford, a very painful journey.
Next day I helped to harness the horse to the caravan which had sunk into the wet ground, the horse heaved and broke all the chains attaching it to the caravan, John Smiths tractor was required to move it.
After some further months the lady, horse and caravan left Heyford and never returned. She was writing a book about her journey but I do not know whether it was ever published. Have any of your older readers any knowledge as to who the lady was and whether a book was ever published?
W John Butcher
Published November Edition 2020
John Butchers article in the November Prattler
The lady mentioned was known to us as Roma Far. In 1951, I was a 7-year-old who walked every day from Upper Heyford to Bliss School. We would stop and feed the goat and stroke the dogs. She camped in the field known as the Pykle next to Crow Lane, before the entrance to the lane was filled in by the council, it was a nice open space often used by gypsies.
Many years later having become an avid book collector, I discovered that Roma Far was really Rowena Farre, the best selling authoress of ‘Seal Morning’, a wild life book published in 1957. This was followed by ‘A time from the World’ published in 1962. This is the story of her roaming life, living with gypsies and tinkers, her stay in Upper Heyford was part of this journey.
“My nan Florrie Coles would have been 111 today. This is the Nether Heyford pensioners club in 1989. She came to live with us in 1985 from London and was welcomed into the village by all these lovely people. She is 7th from the left front row, in black. Anyone recognise their relatives ?”
I was so looking forward to writing the September article for the Nether Heyford WI which was anticipating the interesting Speakers for the next few months and all the fun of our 90th Birthday Celebrations BUT, as you will have guessed, the year is still ‘on hold’! We were keeping our fingers crossed that we may be able to hold a social meeting on September 3rd but, sadly, it seems unlikely. Our Birthday Celebrations will probably take place next year (I wish I could do that with my own!!) but you can rest assured we will have a ball when it does happen.
I’m sure you will agree that it has been so strange not being able to take part in the great community spirit of this village of ours. As a WI we look forward to seeing the usual faces when we do meet up again although, sadly, we will be missing the very familiar and loved face of Beryl Smith who has died since we last met. She was a long standing member of our group and, in spite of finding it hard to move freely, was up for every bit of fun that was on offer. I will have a lasting memory of her laughter as she sat watching our members trying to remember the steps of country dances. We send our love and sympathy to her family. She will be sorely missed.
I try to be an optimist so I will go on hoping that, by the time the October Prattler comes through your letterbox, Northampton will have ceased to be one of the worst coronavirus towns in the country and we will all be another step nearer to normality. Until then keep smiling and stay safe.
At about 11.20 am on the 21st September 1951, the 8.20 am Liverpool Express to London came off the track at the Stowe Hill Tunnel near Heyford and tipped over in the embankment. The crash killed eight people and another seven died later in hospital. There were also thirty-six other casualties.
David Blagrove, in his book, “Waterways of Northampton” describes how “the railway can be seen plunging into Stowe Hill Tunnel” and it was here that the train, “hauled by the Duchess class Pacific engine, Princess Arthur of Connaught, left the rails shortly after leaving the tunnel at a speed of between sixty and sixty-five miles an hour.”
Engine 46207 Princess Arthur of Connaught
Photo taken by James Banner and lent by Ted Garrett
A prompt response Frank Denny, the Heyford signal man that day, was the first to realise what happened. His signal box was located about a quarter of a mile from the railway bridge in Furnace Lane, along the stretch of line between Heyford and Bugbrooke. As the signalman, Frank was aware that the train had entered the tunnel from Weedon but he became anxious when it did not reappear. As he looked out of his box, he saw steam rising from the embankment near Tanborough Farm.
Frank instinctively knew something was wrong and realised that his first priority was to halt the Royal Scot which was travelling from London and due to pass at any moment. He therefore rang through to the Banbury Lane signal box at Bugbrooke to get the signal switched to stop. This duly happened the Royal Scot came to a halt near his own box. The driver got out to demand “what the hell is going on.” It was due to Frank’s swift response that a much more serious accident was averted.
MBE At the same time, Mrs Cecily Hughes, the doctor’s wife at Weedon, took a call from the Weedon Stationmaster to say that the Liverpool Express had failed to clear his section of the line. He asked if she and her husband, Dr Stephen Hughes, would take a look. So far, that was all that anyone knew.
The couple set off in their car, armed with first aid that they always carried. They arrived at the tunnel within seven minutes of the accident. Mrs Hughes describes how they found nothing at the tunnel entrance so they climbed up over the hill – to be greeted by the sight of the crash strewn along the line.
The rescue operation
Photo taken by James Banner and lent by Ted Garrett
The first four coaches were the most damaged and contained the dead and badly injured. The doctor took one side of the train and his wife the other, clearing the debris in order to reach casualties. Mrs Hughes recalls how “Everyone was calm and patient. The last two carriages had not even left the rails and were still upright. They were full of boys returning to boarding school and one of the senior boys took charge, leading the others away from the scene and back to Weedon, to the Globe Inn.”
The doctors found the engine driver, Mr Tomlin, buried up to his shoulders in coal from the tender. It took a while to dig him out but he was quite unhurt, as was the train’s fireman who had clung to the cab as the engine tipped over.
After attending to all the serious casualties, Dr and Mrs Hughes returned to Weedon, only to find that many more people, including some of the rescuers, were waiting for treatment for minor cuts and bruises.
As some of the first medics on the scene, the contribution made by the Hughes’s was invaluable. Mrs Hughes was later awarded the MBE for her part in the rescue operation. She was reluctant to accept at first, as there were also others who had helped at the crash site and she felt that she was only doing her job. However, Mrs Hughes was described as “heroine of the morning” and duly received her medal.
Witnesses Several Witness also came forward including a bus driver on the A5 who saw the immediate aftermath of the accident and reported it at Weedon station. It was also very fortunate that a police car happened to be passing the scene along Watling Street as it was one of only two police cars fitted with a radio in the entire county. They were able to summon medical help promptly.
Mr George Richardson of London Was driving along the A5 at the time and said: “I saw the train come out of the tunnel and begin to wobble.”
This “wobbling” and lurching was felt by passengers too. One survivor, Mr Blankfield of Liverpool, explained, “I was in a carriage half-way along the train . . . there were four or five jolts and then the train stopped completely.” He described how he and other passengers immediately climbed out of the windows to help others further along the train.
Photo taken by James Banner and lent by Ted Garrett
Local help For local people in Heyford who worked near the railway, the sound of trains was a familiar one and you could tell exactly the time of day by the individual noise of each train that passed. When the crash occurred, Mr Gray of Tanborough Farm apparently thought that his wife had knocked over the dresser. But after that, apart from the hissing of the engine, there was an eerie silence.
Word quickly got around and people went up to help. Amongst the first on the scene were Reg and Joan Collins of Wharf Farm. They provided milk churns so that water could be carried up the hill to the casualties. There was no shortage of volunteers to take the churns but at the end of the day. Reg. had to go round and collect them all back again in his tractor and trailer in time for the evening milking.
Joan had to cycle down to Mrs Blaney at the Post Office with messages to be telegrammed to relatives. At this time, there was only the one phone with one public line out of the village. The officials did their telephoning from Holly Lodge which had one of the few phones in Heyford.
Ted Garrett was booking clerk at Weedon Station that day. When the crash happened, communications between Weedon and Heyford were suddenly lost, so they knew that something was amiss. In fact, as the train was thrown from the track, it had brought down the telegraph poles and cut all contact. A message ﬁnally arrived at Weedon via Roade Station that there had indeed been a crash. Ted Garrett was given charge to inform the army located at Weedon Depot and ask them to help at the crash site.
Frank Smith arrived with the Daventry ambulance and took the first casualties to Northampton General. He was actually on his second trip to the hospital by the time other ambulances appeared. Then the army from Weedon arrived to help. As they appeared over the hill, people recalled that it looked as though they were on manoeuvres.
Retired district nurse, Miss Raynor – over 70 years of age – walked two miles from Weedon to the crash site with a case of medical supplies. The Salvation Army and the W.V.S. set up mobile canteens and were there all day. The women from the Heyford railway cottages brought up hot tea for the survivors and people also brought blankets and sheets. The sheets were torn up to make bandages and the blankets kept the survivors warm. These were, of course, not returned but compensation was later given to those who had provided them.
The curse of the tunnel The crash was reported in the national media and was news on the BBC Home Service. Local papers were full of the story; Northampton’s Chronicle and Echo carried the banner headline “8 KILLED IN WEEDON TRAIN CRASH” although this figure was unfortunately to rise. The Daventry paper went further and wondered if there was a more sinister aspect to Stowe Hill Tunnel. The paper reported that at the same spot in 1915 there had been another fatal train crash.
There were similarities between the two railway accidents. Both occurred about the same time of year with trains that had left at the same time in the morning. On 14th August 1915, the Irish Mail left Euston at 8.30 am and it too was disrailed; this time as it left the tunnel at the Weedon end heading north. The crash killed nine and injured 13 and many of those on board were troops in service during World War One.
However, despite the comparisons, the crash of 1915 was caused by a broken coupling left by a passing train. The coupling had ploughed into the track and so dislodged the oncoming mail train.
Board of Trade In both crashes, the stretch of line was not found to be at fault. In 1951, the investigation by the Board of Trade was led by Lieutenant-Colonel G.R.S. Wilson. He concluded that the engine (number 46207 for train buffs) had an axle incorrectly fitted after its servicing at Crewe. The axle was slightly too tight, enough to cause a problem when it reached Stowe Hill Tunnel. There is a small change in rail type leading in and out of the tunnel (from flat bottom to bull head track) and, with the axle too tight, the Express dislodged when it went over these rails. The service engineer responsible at Crewe was named but, this being the 50’s and not the 90’s, there was no huge compensation claim or court case.
The engine itself had embedded in the soft clay around Stowe Hill and actually suffered little damage. However, it took almost a month before it could be lifted because of the steep ditch of the embankment. The engine had to be lifted out by a crane and villagers can remember its massive size as it was hauled into the air. It was then towed back to Crewe and was running again within six weeks. Driver Tomlin actually drove the Liverpool Express one more time to London, but never again after that.
By Sarah Croutear. A number of people have contributed to this story but we must give particular thanks to Joan Collins, Ted Garrett, Cecily Hughes and Doris Lovell, Frank Denny’s daughter.
Report on the Derailment which occurred on 21st September 1951 near Weedon in the London Midland Region British Railways
“The 8.20 a.m. Up express passenger train from Liverpool to Euston, comprising 15 bogie coaches hauled by a Pacific type engine, was travelling at 60-65 m.p.h. on the leaving transition of a left handed curve of about 50 chains radius, when the leading bogie wheels of the engine were derailed to the right ; the cause was an engine defect. The derailment was not noticed by the enginemen at this stage and the train continued forward at speed for more than £¾ mile on the straight without serious damage to the flat bottom track. No more wheels were derailed until the train reached the bull head rails just beyond the short Stowe Hill tunnel, when the leading bogie wheels began to smash the chairs and break up the track with the result that the whole of the train left the rails except for the last two vehicles.
The engine went down the 12 ft. embankment to the left, and fell on its left hand side: on soft ground. The wreckage of the coaches at the front of the train was severe, and I regret to state that seven passengers and one of the dining car staff were killed outright and seven passengers died subsequently in hospital. In addition, 26 passengers, the engine driver, and nine members of the dining car staff were admitted to hospital, or 36 persons in all, of whom 15 were discharged on the same day, and 25 others sustained minor injuries or shock. The driver, who was on the left hand side of the footplate, had a fortunate escape from serious injury when he was buried in coal from the tender as the engine overturned ; the fireman clung to the right hand side of the cab and was unhurt.
The wreckage of the eight leading coaches was piled behind and alongside the overturned engine across both the tracks. It was seen by the signalman at Heyford box 950 yards ahead when he heard the noise of the final derailment, and he stopped the approaching Down “Royal Scot” express at his outer home signal at 11.19 am., and afterwards drew it forward to the box. The block and telephone wires northward were severed, but the signalman got a message through to the Control via Blisworth, the next junction box to the south. Medical and other assistance was also summoned from all possible sources by some officers of the Metropolitan Police who had seen the wreckage from their car on the neighbouring main road. The Northamptonshire County Police were quickly on the scene and performed outstanding services in co-ordinating the work of rescue.”
Dinah Anstead -12th March 1922 to 7th June 2020 Age 98
A memorial to a wonderful neighbour and friend.
Dinah moved to Furnace Lane with her husband and son in 1965 next door to Joan and Alec Kirkbride. They were neighbours for over 55 years and no one could have had a better neighbour and friend than Dinah over those years.
Ann and Frank Smith also became close friends when they moved into Furnace Lane and indeed Dinah was well loved by all her neighbours.
On her 98th birthday Dinah very proudly thought she was the oldest resident in Nether Heyford. She loved living in the village and being part of village life.
Her wish was that she would end her days here in the village and she peacefully passed away on 7th June in her own home.
A truly lovely lady, she will be sadly missed by her family and friends.
Published in the July & August edition of The Prattler 2020
When this crisis is ended,
and the lockdown suspended
The crowds will all come out again.
There will be praises for the N.H.S,
Without them we would be in a mess
Praises for the shopworkers too,
For the help they give, to me and you.
Smiles will be seen, lots of catching up to do,
Getting to know each other again.
Lets hope the scientists and doctors too,
Give some comfort, for me and you
We will stand together and weather the storm,
Think of families that have been torn.
All we can say without a doubt
We’ve never seen anything like this about.
By R.G.Smith – Printed in The Prattler – June 2020
Pests and Diseases
I promise you this will not be another opportunity to go on about Coronavirus. We’ve had too much of that recently. This is a Covid 19 free area!
Pests and diseases trouble plants just as they trouble us humans. How we tackle them is a moot point and one that has divided gardeners for many years.
Since before Roman times gardeners have used all manner of concoctions to wage war against pests and diseases in plants. We have become increasingly inventive and clever devising what appears to be foolproof remedies. However, our cleverness does not necessarily mean we’ve been equally wise; for these efficacious products can have the most devastating effect on not just the baddies that ravage our crops, but also the many beneficial insects and animals that inhabit our countryside (and more specifically our allotments and gardens).
DDT was once hailed as the wonder chemical that would solve all our horticultural and agricultural problems until it was discovered to be slowly accumulating in the stomachs of a host of creatures, including humans, and doing untold damage. That was almost fifty years ago and yet even now big agro-chemical companies (and a host of retail outlets) develop and promote a range of pesticides and herbicides that have the potential of cause untold damage to the environment. Since the millennium, there has been a massive decline in the butterfly, beetle and bee population in Europe and the UK leading to the extinction of some species. Much of that can be laid at the door of these products. Sadly, the story is replicated across the whole world. The disappearance of these vital links in the chain of life means that pollination is threatened. No pollination, no food!
There is however some good to emerge from this. We are seeing herbicides and pesticides being used by fewer gardeners and allotmenteers as they discover more environmentally sustainable ways of controlling pests and diseases. Consumer pressure has led to this year seeing a ban on all slug pellets containing the highly toxic chemical metaldehyde. Fear not gardeners, an equally effective organic pellet using ferric phosphate will be available as a replacement.
Many alternative remedies are cheaper and have the added benefit of enhancing what and how we grow. Stop the pests from getting to your crops in the first place by using a barrier and growing sturdier plants. You might ask how that is done and of course you’ll probably guess, from previous articles, that the answer lies in homemade compost. This will develop good, fertile soil. Look after your soil and it will look after your plant
Getting Ready to Grow
The recent advice to avoid social gatherings does not mean you can’t go to the allotment and begin sowing and planting. What better way to take exercise and yet still maintain social distancing. A friendly wave from a neighbouring plot is breaking no rule.
It has been so heartening to see so many villagers at work.
The Community Orchard, Jam Patch and Cut Flower Beds
Work continues in these areas and we’ve had some tremendous help from villagers on our volunteer days held on Saturdays in March. The information signs we reported on in our last two articles are now in place and look very impressive. Hopefully they’ll also be of use for people finding their way around the allotments. A big thank you goes to Tom Dodd for his design work, to the volunteers who erected them and to Ed Smith from the Telegraph Hill Shoot in Daventry who provided the posts.
We would be very grateful if any gardeners who still have spare perennials or shrubs could donate those for our cutting garden. This will ultimately become a free resource for the village. How much nicer to be able to pick locally grown flowers than buy them at extortionate prices from the filling station forecourt.
Our first crop of rhubarb is coming to fruition and visitors to the jam patch are welcome to pick some for themselves.
A range of equipment is available for allotment holders to borrow when working on the allotment site; this includes mowers, rotavators, wheelbarrows, brooms and watering cans. Many people will own some or all of the above, but for those who wish to get access to such equipment, please contact Bill Corner (firstname.lastname@example.org 01327 342124), Lynda Eales (01327 341707) or Mike Langrish email@example.com 01327341390). We can ensure that you get the equipment you require at a mutually convenient time.
As always, if you are considering growing your own fruit and veg and you want to try a small tester plot, or something larger, here are the usual telephone contacts: Sue Corner on 01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707.
For England is not flag or Empire, it is not money and it is not blood. It’s limestone gorge and granite fell, it’s Wealden clay and Severn mud, It’s blackbird singing from the May tree, lark ascending through the scales, Robin watching from your spade and English earth beneath your nails.