The Story of Heyford (Extra): The Pantomime

Nether Heyford’s Tradition of Pantomime – November 1995

As we approach pantomime season it is worth reminding ourselves that there has been a pantomime in Nether Heyford almost every year since 1969.

The article below written by Joan Juland (November 1995) gives us an insight into the enjoyment given by the Monday Club pantomime to both the audience and performers.

This year, as usual, the Heyford Players continue the tradition with ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” – Performances will be: 7.30 pm on Friday 26th January, and at 2.30 pm and 7.30 pm on Saturday 27th.  

The Monday Club pantomimes began in a small way, but grew and grew, and still continue now under the Heyford Players. They started as an alternative to a Christmas party, and were put on in December” mainly because we wanted the worry of it out of the way before settling down to arranging the family Christmas, later they were presented in January so that the main rehearsals were done in the quiet time after New Year. The list to date reads thus:  

  • 1969 Red Riding Hood
  • 1970 Goldilocks and the Three Bears
  • 1971 Jack and the Beanstalk 
  • 1972 Cinderella
  • 1973 Sleeping Beauty
  • 1974 Dick Whittington
  • 1975 Hey Diddle Diddle
  • 1976 Aladdin
  • 1978 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  • 1980 Beauty and the Beast
  • 1981 Mother Goose in Space
  • 1982 Alice in the Underworld
  • 1983 Robinson Crusoe
  • 1984 Snow White
  • 1985 Old King Cole
  • 1986 Jack The Giant Killer
  • 1987 Cinderella
  • 1988 Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood
  • 1989 Aladdin
  • 1990 Peter Pan and the Magic Snowman  

At this point the Monday Club decided to finish doing Pantomimes mainly because our membership numbers had fallen so much that we had many more ‘co-opted‘ members purely to take part in the Pantomime than we had members.   

The Heyford Players were then formed and they have continued the tradition ever since with the following:  

  • 1991 Dick Whittington
  • 1992 The Adventures of Alice
  • 1993 Sleeping Beauty and the Beast 
  • 1994 Ali Babe and the Forty Thieves
  • 1995 Mother Goose  

Many names that appear in the programmes for the early shows have sadly passed on, such as Reg Collins, who always enjoyed having a laugh and causing a laugh even if it wasn’t in the script. Molly Dawson who also helped with costumes in the early days, and Mike Wallis who was one of our ‘Ugly Sisters’. Many people who have since moved away, some as far as the USA namely Anne & John Martin who both took part in our events. Bev Sewell, Pam & Glyn Bowen, Suzanne Brett, Gwenda Benstead, Angela Dixon, Sheena Harland and Jeanette Purcell are names that spring to mind but I know there were many others that you will remember, not least of all Tim Short who played a memorable Dame on many occasions and I understand still does so!  

We had some ‘accidents’ during our performances that the audiences did not always know about, such as the camp bed that collapsed in Goldilocks when Dave Norrie sat on it and the Aspidestra that was dropped from a great height during a scene change and had to be hurriedly swept up, that was in our first Cinderella .

The lines of a song that Gordon Hayes had difficulty remembering so he wrote them on the back of the beam, and then couldn’t read them because of the lighting, but his wife helped him out from the audience, Kathleen had heard them so often at home she was word perfect .

Do you remember our Growing Beanstalk in Jack and the Beanstalk, and the wonderful wigs in Cinderella as well as the ballgowns. The water fountain in Dick Whittington, which Dick didn’t expect to work, but it had been rigged.

We also had our chorous girls a group of girls mostly the daughters of the cast who sang and danced as fairies or soldiers etc.

We have also had a variety of changing arrangements, for the early performances we had the green curtains pulled round the kitchen corner and had to do everything in there — boys & girls together all very friendly The cast would run down the outside of the hall round the old boiler house that used to jut out, right round to the front of the building and in through the front emergency exit which was curtained off – you can imagine how cold it was on some December nights! We also had to be very quiet, especially on Saturday afternoons when all the children were there and were very inquisitive!

We then had the comfort of the football portacabin, which also meant running through all weathers into the emergency exit. That too was all very well when they were playing away, occasionally they were at home and then we used the Baptist schoolroom — an even longer run through rain and snow!

As many of you will know we were always well supplied in the changing rooms with ‘Dutch Courage’; Sometimes it was tea or coffee, but mostly it was a little stronger, it was the only way we could get some of our cast on stage!!

We tried not to leave out the most important member of the whole show that of the pianist, who was for many years Mrs Marjorie Rogers, The first couple of shows I believe were done by Mrs Betty Sillence, and latterly by David Farmer.

A few weeks after the show we always had an excuse for a party to hold an inquest on the performance and to vow that we wouldn’t do it next year, but we nearly always did and thoroughly enjoyed it for my part for fifteen years.

I was always greatly indebted to my typist who would read my long hand scribbled scripts and make sense of them, often as many as 22 pages, also of course the scenery painters and constructors, props and sound effects which always turned up in time for the performance even if they weren’t thought of until dress rehearsal!

Of course one of the highlights of the day for the children in the early years was the arrival of Father Christmas and the gifts that he brought them.

Joan Juland

Published in The Prattler – November 1995

Newspaper Cutting – Mother Goose 1995
Hey Diddle Diddle 1975
Hey Diddle Diddle 1975 – Cast
Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs 1978
Beauty and the Beast 1980 – Jeanette Purcell, Pauline Thackray, Chris Metcalfe, Marion Williamson
Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs 1984
Cinderella 1987

Nether Heyford’s Tradition of Pantomime – Continued…..December 2020

The Pantomimes continued…….

  • 1996 Snow White
  • 1997 Cinderella
  • 1998 Aladdin
  • 1999 Babes in the Wood
  • 2000 The Emperors New Clothes
  • 2001 Jack and the Beanstalk
  • 2002 Dick Whittington
  • 2003 Peter Pan
  • 2004 Cinderella
  • 2005 Snow White in the Palace

Thanks to Sheryl Scarrott and Pauline Thackray – December 2020

Heyford Singers – A tribute to Alan Watson – December 2020


A tribute to Alan Watson

It was with much sadness that we heard, on 27th October, that Alan Watson had died, after a long but determined battle with illness. We have lost someone who was very much part of this village, a contributor to many of its activities and organisations.


Alan, Pam and their two young sons moved to Nether Heyford in 1975 when Alan was appointed headteacher at Bliss Charity School, living initially in the school house before moving to Wakefield Way. Thus began a long and close relationship with Nether Heyford. He taught hundreds of children in his time there, gave them a wonderful start in life and a set of guidelines to hold them in good stead for the rest of their lives. Alan was first and foremost a teacher in the classroom, where he was happiest! At his retirement 28 years later Alan said that he had loved every moment, never had a bad day. I was privileged to work at Bliss with Alan for many years and have many happy memories of that time, becoming not only a work colleague but a close friend as well. Whilst not an overly keen coach traveller Alan did respond enthusiastically to the school’s Queen’s Golden Jubilee adventure in 2002 … to take the whole school to London for the day! Many will recall the fleet of coaches outside the school that summer morning, everyone went on the London Eye, KS1 had a river trip, KS2 toured the Globe theatre, then a sightseeing tour of the capital before a happy and weary return to base!

To many, Alan was a quiet, private, family man, but there was a very theatrical side to him as well! A regular performer in the annual village panto’s, he usually played the villain, giving his pupils the chance to boo their headteacher! When the Heyford Morris side was formed, Alan joined, generously offering the school hall as a regular practice venue. He relished the role of telling audiences in market squares and on village greens about the various dances performed. When Pam’s dance group, Queens Oak Ladies Morris, were short of a dancer Alan (aka Alana) stepped into the breach, although not necessarily wearing a dress!

Alan was a very fit and active person, he enjoyed walking in the countryside with Heyford Amblers and Bugbrooke Strollers, and at home he tended his garden and allotment, also belonging to Heyford Garden Club. He loved travel, France and Italy were favourite destinations and he and Pam spent many happy holidays there. Alan’s mind was ever active and he retained a great thirst for learning, becoming a keen member of CLASP and Whitehall archaeology group, taking part in ‘digs’, field walking and processing the finds. When Roberts Field was built Alan supervised the organisation and placing of a time capsule with the children at Bliss, connecting the present to the future.

But it is with music that I shall end this tribute. Alan loved music and especially singing. As a child he sang in his local church choir, eventually achieving the status of head choirboy at St Michael’s Church in Bournemouth. He developed a fine baritone voice which could often be heard soaring above others at school concerts, church services and other music events. Soon after it was formed Alan joined Heyford Singers and was a loyal and enthusiastic member. He thoroughly enjoyed the concerts and rehearsals, often performing solos or participating in readings and comic sketches. Even when cruel illness made him less mobile and he could not communicate as freely as he would have wished, he never gave up and continued to come to rehearsals and sing! The song quoted above was one of Alan’s favourites, he knew it by heart and sang it with heartfelt joy. It was played at his funeral, and would have been sung by Alan and the choir of Heyford Singers at the postponed concert in May. When we return to rehearsals and our next concert, we shall sing this song for Alan, sadness in our voices but in loving memory of someone who loved to sing, to share the joy of music, and feel “strong”.

Alan will be sorely missed by so many people, not least Pam, his family and his grandchildren. We, the community in Nether Heyford, are the poorer for his passing but richer for having known him. I do hope that in due course we, as a village, are able to mark Alan’s huge contribution to our school and community.

Jill Langrish


If you would like to find out more, visit the Heyford Singers page or our website:

 alternatively come along to one of our rehearsals in Nether Heyford Village Hall.


Heyford Role of Honour – WW2 – Frederick Watson

Frederick Watson – Killed in Action 10.10.1944

Sapper 2157010.

270th Field Company, Royal Engineers.

Killed in action 10.10.1944, aged 22.

Buried in Assisi War Cemetery, Italy, Plot 1, Row E, Grave 4.

Son of William and Annie Watson of Lower Heyford, husband of Winifred May Watson of 26, Little Brington.

Northampton Mercury & Herald 27.10.44 [Photograph].

“Sapper Frederick Watson, R.E., of Lower Heyford, has been killed in action while serving with the Central Mediterranean Forces. His wife lives at 26, Little Brington. Sapper Watson, who was 22, joined the forces in February 1942. He went abroad in August 1943. The youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. W. Watson of Lower Heyford, he married Miss Winifred Cannon in April 1943. After attending Lower Heyford School, he was employed by Messrs. Bosworth and Wakeford, builders, of Daventry.

Heyford & Stowe Roll of Honour – Celia & Brian Caucutt – 1993

Updated Jez Wilson 2020

Heyford Singers – September 2020

For the last seven years I have written articles for the Prattler and each September the focus has been the same, the joy and anticipation of the autumn return to rehearsals for Heyford Singers members, and for the return to clubs and other organisations for lots of other folk. Sadly this year it is not the case, for whilst the enthusiasm is there, the unpredictability of Covid 19, our small indoor spaces and the vulnerability of participants, has led committees to be understandably cautious and to delay their return until 2021. Singing in groups is high on the list of restricted activities, so whilst it is good that children will be going back to school this month, the thought that there will be no rousing choruses of “Big Red Combine Harvester”, throughout the country, is sad.

But music continues in all our lives. It is a means of relaxation, a relief from stress, it provides skills to be practised and shared, and above all it gives us enormous pleasure and enjoyment. We were fortunate in the last few weeks to acquire a Sonos speaker, and “Alexa” has set up permanent residence in our home to the delight of the grandchildren. One asks her for yet another joke, another for yet another rendition of “Wheels on the Bus”, and a third for Radio 1, Radio 1 and even more Radio 1! We laugh and enjoy this shared experience, even when we mistakenly find ourselves listening to Radio Malawi or the Breakfast Show from Nova Scotia! However when the little people have gone we have found even greater pleasure in creating our own playlists, exploring musical memories, our wideranging musical tastes, plus favourite songs. We may not have managed our Desert Island Disc choices (despite several attempts to whittle the number down below fifty!) but we have successfully, and very enjoyably, created themed listening choices – instrumental jazz, political folk songs, UK musicals, Bernstein, film themes, etc and we haven’t even touched on classical music, the Beatles and the 1960s, music to dance to, or opera yet! Great fun and it shows that music is alive and well in this household.

Quiz question. What is your favourite film theme tune?
What do you think is likely to be the nation’s favourite choice for this No 1 spot?
Film themes was an interesting play list for us to consider, and it unwittingly coincided with the Radio Times vote for the nations all-time favourite film theme. Will it be ET, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, The Dambusters, Titanic, Harry Potter , Lord of the Rings?

I shall reveal the Answer in the October issue for those who don’t have the Radio Times.

Take care as these summer days gently ease towards autumn and we look towards a new year and new beginnings. May the days be warm and sunny, may you stay healthy and content, and may music feature somewhere in your every day.

Jill Langrish


If you would like to find out more, visit the Heyford Singers page or our website:

 alternatively come along to one of our rehearsals in Nether Heyford Village Hall.


Heyford Singers – July & August 2020


Quiz question
When did the song above hit the No 1 spot in the music charts?

I think most people reading this article would agree that if a lockdown had to be imposed, there is no better place to experience it than by living in Nether Heyford. The ready access to beautiful open countryside which surrounds the village, the large village green and open spaces within the area, have enabled folk to enjoy exercise and being outdoors whilst appreciating nature in all its glory as the seasons have changed. Praise too to the local shops which, in times of queues and shortages, have kept the local community continually supplied with food and other goods, whilst the take-aways and book swaps offered by the pubs have provided relief and pleasure.

As the lockdown measures gradually ease it has been a delight to see small groups of pre-school children walking around the village, and the quieter, but still noticeable sounds of children back at Bliss School. The Pizza Van is ‘back in town’, hungry customers patiently waiting for their orders whilst they sit and play on the green, and there is now a steady march of twos or fours towards the tennis courts and playing fields.

In the days and weeks to come we will hopefully see more signs of this cautious awakening, the church and chapel offering the opportunity for quiet reflection and prayer, if not yet large group gatherings or celebratory events, additional sporting activities at the playing fields, and maybe pints enjoyed in pub gardens!

Our little village hall, both a visual and metaphorical hub for the local community still remains closed… except for the wonderful work of volunteers who gather there weekly to sort and distribute food boxes to older and less mobile people in the village. They have, and still continue to do, a sterling job – thank you to each and every one!

I do miss the ‘business’ of the village hall, the full car park evidence that inside people were socialising, exercising, honing their skills and learning – W I meetings, bowling, yoga, Pilates, and taekwondo, gardening and flower arranging, sewing and patchwork, singing, films, quizzes and parties. Our local meeting place is very much the centre of village life and all that we enjoy. Sadly it has been unable to bask in our appreciation of its value, now and in years past, as the 60th anniversary celebrations also fell victim to the Covid 19 lockdown. But I have no doubt that Alwyne (Chairman) and all members of the village hall committee and friends are working hard to ensure that as soon as it is safe and wise to do so, we may again enjoy all the benefits the village hall offers.

Quiz question answer. This was the No 1 hit, and best-selling single, when the village hall was opened on 8th May 1960 by Lord Spencer, and maybe danced to at celebrations that evening or weekend. It remained at the No 1 spot for 7 weeks!

Appropriately now I give you our village hall Chairman’s choice of music should she be cast far away on a desert island, where there is no village hall, no nasty virus, but also no community to be part of!

Thank you Alwyne

I wish everyone a safe and sunny summer, which I hope will slowly and carefully return us to our busy vibrant community!

Desert Island Discs – your choices – Alwyne Wilson:

I usually prefer classical music, especially baroque, but at the moment whilst I’m wading through an extremely tedious and time-consuming list of admin tasks for my family, I feel I need some diverting company – hence this list of vocalists:

Mamma Mia! Of course.
Aled Jones – I’ve been a fan since his choirboy days.
Barbara Dickson – always wished I could sing like her.
Katherine Jenkins – ditto –
Hayley Westenra – ditto – (In my dreams I can sing both soprano and alto)
Alfie Boe – some friends of mine met him many years ago and became friends. I feel therefore I have an affinity with him.
Neil Diamond – Fantastic! Makes an old lady very happy.

Jill Langrish


If you would like to find out more, visit the Heyford Singers page or our website:

 alternatively come along to one of our rehearsals in Nether Heyford Village Hall.


The Story of Heyford (Extra): Heyford Residents who served in WW2

Many Heyford residents served in the Second World War 1939-1945 in the various services.

Hazel Adams – Red Cross Nurse, Royal Navy

Hugh Adams – Royal Dragoons

Albert Beharrell – Army

Richard (Dicky) Bishop-Bailey – Army

Ken Boyes – Army

Helen Cadman – WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force)

Arthur Charvill – Royal Navy & Army (MP)

Harry Charvill – Army

Charles Copson – Army

Tom Davies – Fleet Air Arm / RAF

Ralph Faulkner – Bevan boy / Army

Gordon Hayes – RAF

Marjorie Hamborg – Red Cross

Frank Higginbottom – Army

Frank Hyde – RAF

Donald Jafkins – Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders

Ernest Jones – Army

Bill Kingston – RAF

Nan Kingston – WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force)

Robert (Bob) Kingston – RAF (1939-1946)

Jack Lee – Royal Engineers

Joe Matthews – Army

Charles Masters – Army

George Masters – Royal Army Medical Corps

Sheila Masters – ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service)

Sid Masters – Army

Ray Metcalfe – Army

Cyril Mitchell – Royal Army Ordnance Corps

John Moore – Merchant Navy

Rita Moore – NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes)

Alec Nial – Royal Navy

Bill Norrie – Royal Navy

Tom Oliver – Royal Navy

Joan Pearson – Woman’s Land Army

Dorothy Reeve – COD (Central Ordnance Depot)

Margaret Reeve – Woman’s Land Army

Derek Roberts – Royal Marines

Paul Rogers – Royal Army Medical Corps

William Rogers – HAC (Honourable Artillery Company)

Jack Rossiter – Royal Army Ordnance Corps

Dennis Searle – Merchant Navy

Frank Townsend – Army

Arthur Turland – RAF

Mabel Wallace – WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force)

William Wallace – Highland Light Infantry

Dennis Weaver – Royal Army Intelligence Corps

Bert Wilkinson – 13/18th Hussars

Rev Wintersgill – Queens Royal Regiment

And those sadly killed in action:

Charles Leslie Foster – Flight Sergeant (Air Gunner) RAF – Killed in Action 23.5.1944 – Aged 24

Frederick Heeler – Lance Corporal Army – Killed in Action 24.7.1944 – Aged 28

Frederick Watson – Sapper Army – Killed in Action 10.10.1944 – Aged 22

John Bennett Whiting – Lieutenant Army – Killed in Action 1.9.1942 – Aged 25

Published in The Prattler – July & August 2020

Many thanks to Hugh Adams for originally compiling a list and to those that have contacted us and added to it since the original publication via the

Facebook “Nether Heyford Past” group

Jez Wilson

Updated 15/10/2021 with Robert (Bob) Kingston – RAF (1939-1946) – thanks to Annie Powell

Jez Wilson

Heyford Singers – June 2020


Quiz question (for we are all into quizzes now)
Where and when was the song above played, sung along to, and greatly enjoyed?

It has been a truly beautiful spring and early summer. And despite other restrictions we may have, there is no doubt that nature in her true glory, has softened the anxieties of the past few weeks. Sitting watching the sun set in the early evening, we are often serenaded by a blackbird who routinely perches on a tree in our garden. How privileged to have this free daily concert!

If the flowers and trees have provided the rich tapestry of spring and early summer, it is the birds that provide the musical accompaniment. From very early in the morning these feathered choristers can be heard, outside our bedroom windows, cajoling us into action. Like eternal optimists their songs have the ability to brighten each day. The robin’s song is beautiful and joyful, as if sung with all his heart and soul, and unlike other birds can be heard all year round. The full-throated melody of the blackbird is one of our best loved songs; as soon as green shoots appear he bursts into song from dawn until dusk. A tribute to the fact that size is not everything, the tiny wren has a lively and full-throated warbling song, whilst that of the great tit resembles a squeaky wheel! The much loved visitor to our gardens, the blue tit, has a loud and high pitched song which ends with a long rapid trill. Were you fortunate to hear a cuckoo this year? For me the best of all is the rich, high pitched song of the skylark as he soars upwards in a blue summer sky before plunging downwards …. and the melody stops, as if on cue! I have yet to hear a skylark this year, but as the lockdown eases and we venture further, both in distance and into longer summer days, I hope to enjoy what the poet George Meredith described as “ a silver chain of sound”.

If I have to wait a little longer for that real skylark song then there will always be the beautiful “The Lark Ascending” by Vaughan Williams, to listen to again … and again, and now rightfully acknowledged as one of the nation’s favourite pieces of music.

If I want another music genre to celebrate the joy of our feathered friends, there is the wonderful compilation between Yehudi Menuhin (violin) and Stephan Grappelli (violin and piano) entitled “Strictly for the Birds” – “ A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”, “Lullaby of Birdland” and “Bye, Bye Blackbird” amongst the many great tracks.

So back to the song quoted at the top of this article and the quiz question.

Answer During the 1980s and 90s at Bliss School a little teddy bear, called William Bliss, travelled the world in the company of a pilot friend of headteacher Alan Watson. Every time William arrived in a new destination he sent the school a postcard to be read and shared by everyone, and this was heralded by playing and singing the song above. Happy memories, but also happy thoughts that soon we may all enjoy places and people who are further afield. Until then keep safe, keep well and keep smiling.

Jill Langrish


If you would like to find out more, visit the Heyford Singers page or our website:

 alternatively come along to one of our rehearsals in Nether Heyford Village Hall.


The Story of Heyford: Book series – How the books were created (Afterword)

‘The Story of Heyford’ was a series of 4 books published by the Nether Heyford village community as a result of the research work completed during 1996-1997

The Heyford Local History Group

These booklets were born out of a small group of local people meeting together with the aim of recording Heyford’s past. The group became known as the `Heyford Local History Group.’

The first meeting was held at the house of Eiluned Morgan in Church Street in the Spring of 1996. During a series of informal meetings we discussed how we could collect information, photographs and stories, how we could involve other people, and in what form the information could be recorded.

The people involved in these early meetings were Eiluned Morgan, Ken Garrett, Shirley Collins, John Smith, Pam Clements, Stephen Ferneyhough and Steve Young.

Our original aim was to publish a paperback style book with photographs, probably by the end of 1998. We held two open meetings in the school hall, one in October 1996 and one in February 1997. At these meetings we had various information and photographs on display.  At the second meeting Barry Highfield gave a short talk about Mrs Court’s shop and we showed a video of old Heyford photographs. About forty people came to each of these meetings. We served tea and coffee, we made new contacts, we collected more stories, and both occasions were good social events.

By this time however it had become clear that the funds necessary and the time commitment needed to publish a full scale book were beyond our means. All of us in the group were working full time and had various other commitments. So the idea of a series of smaller scale booklets came about and what you see here is the result. There will be several booklets in the series, but with no formal structure. We have worked on the principle that it is better to write down the information as we find it, publish it and then move our efforts on to the next subject. We can always add to it in a later issue as more information becomes available.

By the people, of the people and for the people

Many local villagers have contributed to these booklets by giving information, lending photographs, offering documents, telling stories and exchanging memories. Their names will appear with particular stories as you read through them. It is truly a history prepared by, written about, and published for the people of Heyford.

However we would like to make several particular acknowledgements in relation to the preparation and publishing of these booklets. All the people mentioned below live in the village. Use of school facilities for our open meetings: Alan Watson, headmaster;  Scanning and preparation of photographs: Tim Beard of Manor Park; Typesetting and origination: Bill Nial and Key Composition; Printing:  David Farmer and Heyford Press;  Financial support: The Prattler


Whilst every effort has been made to report these stories accurately, please understand that much of the information has come from memory, recollection and hand-written notes. These booklets have been written to capture the ‘spirit’ of the village rather than to catalogue a series of facts, flames, names and dates. We do hope that you enjoy reading them.

Stephen Ferneyhough, Editor


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


Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

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