The Cadds in Wroxton
A Family & Personal History
The Internet Edition
The complete original documents in MS Word format run to over 150 pages, over 50 illustrations and over 50Mb. I originally thought they would be far too large to post up, until I realised that converted to htm(l), the text at least would be far more compact. The illustrations remained a problem. As originally converted the files were still far too large, collectively and individually, to fit on our site or to download acceptably fast. That problem could be partially overcome through web optimisation although the combined image file size was still somewhat daunting. Equally troublesome, they all lost their captions, originally contained with them in Word 6.0 frames.
My initial working solution was to post up the text only and I have since added the illustrations at cut-down size, but I have yet to get around to sorting out captions. One day, perhaps.
Mum died in July 2002, full of years; ‘Even the weariest river comes somewhere, safe, to sea.’ [Swinburne] and by the end she was very weary. ‘Who wants to live for ever?’ [Mercury] No-one with any grain of sense! We interred her ashes in her parents' grave in Wroxton; it seemed appropriate. By chance, or some higher design, it fell out that it would have been her and Dad's wedding anniversary: 17th September.
Wroxton is now an up-market dormitory suburb of Banbury: no wonder with all those indecently picturesque Cotswold brown-stone cottages, and the barn conversions too. I remember those barns full of cows, and the meadow where the retirement bungalows have now been these 40 years, with a stile top and bottom and an old white horse cropping the grass. The ironstone railway is long gone, and on the next-door plot to the cemetery there is a mobile ’phone mast. No matter. ‘The old order changes, giving place to new; and God fulfils himself in many ways, lest one good custom should corrupt the world.’ [Tennyson, Idylls of the King]
As an interesting and very welcome result of the original posting-up in 2000, I have since had a number of e-mails from around the globe, seeking further family information, and in return filling in some gaps and greatly extending our own knowledge. Most of these arrived during Mum’s lifetime and although she was never a very demonstrative woman, she seemed quietly satisfied to be able to tidy up some of the loose ends in her mind. Whether she fully understood how delighted and some of those correspondents were, all unexpectedly to be able to tidy up some of their own loose ends I do not know. Some took gentle issue with errors! But there were not too many of those. I have now included errata where appropriate.
From all of this information, Mum’s and the rest, I have been able to construct a very extensive family tree, which it would be inappropriate to put on-line as it contains quite a lot of personal information communicated privately but which I shall be happy to e-mail to any genuine enquirer after the roots and branches of the Cadd and Constant families.
Mum, Olive Amelia Webb née Cadd, was born on 19th September 1918, her parents' first child, in the small North Oxfordshire village of Wroxton and brought up there along with her younger brother and sister, Arthur and Gwen, until she left home in the 1930's to train as a teacher and make her own way in life. During our childhood she would sometimes tell my sister Rosemary and I tales of her early days and of her extended family, friends and neighbours, and we regularly visited Grandma and Grandad Cadd, still living in Wroxton, now at Thisbe Cottage and no longer at 1 Silver Street where they began their married life together and where the family remained until Mum's teens. My earliest coherent memory of such a visit dates very precisely to Easter 1955, shortly after my 4th birthday. I remember clearly that it was Easter and the iced cake Grandma made for us, decorated with sugar eggs. It is easy enough to establish the year because I remember also that Dad's birthday, 10th April, fell on Easter Day.
Wroxton was paradise, with its brown stone cottages, its village pond, its pumps - no mains water in those days - even its bucket and chuck-it toilets - no mains drainage either, with its farms and countryside and the Oxfordshire Ironstone Company's little tank engines pulling and pushing their trucks of stone to and from the crusher down at the bottom of the Drift Road. As special as any of this was Grandad's marvellous vegetable garden and his old 'shop', the small wooden shed he built himself with its distinctive woody, earthy smell, where he kept his seeds and implements and still did a little carpentry. That shed is still in existence. It was sold after he died and now stands in the garden of another house in the village.
Mum's reminiscences were more problematic. They were a generation or more old, their dramatis personæ largely unknown to us and some with confusingly similar names; I could never quite get my head around what had happened to who, and when, or who was related to who, and how. The difficulty arose, paradoxically, from the clarity of her memories of her village childhood so that almost every reference to a person or an event triggered, and still triggers, supporting references to other persons and events, mostly unknown to those trying to follow the drift and often without any very strict sense of chronology. To seek clarification in those circumstances was to invite mounting confusion. Conversations, occasionally witnessed, between Mum and her parents, or her sister Gwen or old family friends, where both sides were on home ground were a source of total bewilderment.
As I grew older and began to wonder more about my roots I regretted my ignorance of my family history. A helpful genealogist - at a price - traced Dad's people, the Webb's, back to County Cork in Ireland in the early 19th century, after which we could go no further because the Republicans destroyed all the Irish records of births marriages and deaths in the Easter Rising of 1916; but that is another story. Mum's side remained no more than a half-open book, in part because her own fireside knowledge, unaided, extended back little further than her own Grandparents. As she acknowledges, in these memoirs she has had recourse to the researches of others for details of what came before. Of her early life I had no more than the scanty selection of vignettes I had gleaned as a youngster, some still bright but many faded, and without much pattern or order. Of the earlier generations, even of her parents and grandparents whom she remembered well, I knew little indeed.
I am immensely grateful, on my own behalf and Rosemary's, and on behalf of my son Christopher and my nieces, Charlotte and Harriet, Rosemary's children, that Mum has taken the trouble to set everything down in writing, and in such detail, and with such frankness. As she rightly points out in her introduction, we of the next generation, her children, have some inkling from our personal memories of her life and times. For our children, her grandchildren, growing up in a different age, and for later generations still, they will seem as remote and irrelevant as 1066 And All That unless they are properly recorded.
I believe, as she does, that family history is well worth the remembrance and ought not to be forgotten. One of the strongest armaments against the pains and difficulties of the world, which no amount of technology or welfarism will ever abolish, is the sure knowledge that someone else, someone we are part of, felt similar pains and trod similarly difficult pathways before us. We do not have to look to our forebears for such comfort, but they are not a bad first choice.
Mum's memoirs are fascinating, but when they come to her own early experiences and her account of her parents' they do not always make a comfortable read. For sure there is much fun, much happiness and not a little success, sometimes in the teeth of considerable difficulty, but there are unhappinesses too, some of them deep and lasting. The realisation dawns that some of these, with others too no doubt unstated or forgotten, wove themselves into the family fibre, and mine. It is even now, in this new light, possible to discern some threads which were not discernible before.
Besides the tales of old, the unwritten lore, the tables of ancestors, families transmit subconscious memories, of patterns of life, of upbringing most especially, attitudes and subliminal beliefs and spiritual templates, unbeknown or half-known down in the engine-room of being, on which depend, crucially, their survival and progress and that of their individual members. Whatever the voyage, it is the soundness of the engines as much as of the hull, or as the course set, or the state of the sea, which will determine whether the ship reaches safe harbour, runs aground, founders in the deep, or floats in the doldrums, steerless.
Mum has just turned 80 as I write. I am not far off 50, my own childhood and green years long gone, resigned to life, for what it is worth, or so I sometimes tell myself, growing complacent, a little guilty to find myself so; with a son of my own to learn from my mistakes if he is wise and to carry on after me. But there is much here to invite me, even now, Christopher too perhaps when he is older, to re-evaluate and reconsider.
Mum pretty much completed these memoirs in 1997 and passed them over to me shortly after her 80th birthday in September 1998 in the shape of a typewritten final draft, a number of hand-written and hand-drawn diagrams and a family tree, her own work, and a collection of supporting documents and photographs, some original, some photocopied from other sources.
She gave me a free hand to edit and arrange her material as I thought fit but in the event I found no reason to make any substantial alterations to her draft. It was clear and well-written and stood in very little need of amendment. Most of it scanned into a PC without difficulty, save that the OCR was completely nonplussed by Mum's occasional hand-written insertions, leaving me free to concentrate on typography and layout and on placing the illustrations at suitable points.
For the sake of clarity or flow I have made some minor alterations to punctuation and word order. An alert reader may detect my liking for semicolons, but Mum is quite fond of them in her own right. I have taken two or three whole paragraphs, not more, and moved them bodily to what seemed to me more appropriate locations. One of the disadvantages of the typewriter as compared with the word-processor is that it is tedious if not impossible to backtrack and rearrange. 'The moving lever writes, and having writ. . !' I think Mum herself would have made somesuch rearrangements, and possibly more, given the opportunity of a further draft and I hope she does not disapprove.
I have added a few words of my own; where it seemed worthwhile to include some of the background material which Mum had accumulated but not used, or important to clarify or emphasise a particular point, or to augment a description or an account of the later years from my own recollections. I have similarly worked in some additional details supplied by Mum's sister, my Aunt Gwen. Save at one point only I have spoken with Mum's voice; I suppose a son may be trusted to put a few words into his Mother's mouth, on the basis of long and close acquaintance. Editorial comments, breaking the flow of a narrative, are an irritation in any circumstances, footnotes and endnotes have no place in an account of this nature.
I have tried to be self-effacing and I hope I have succeeded; this is Mum's account, not mine. However the 'Epilogue' is my suggestion, accomplished with help from Mum herself and from other members of the younger family whose lives and careers to date are briefly described and to whom I am most grateful for their contributions. Although Mum's title-in-chief is The Cadds in Wroxton she has clearly covered a great deal of other family ground besides and it seemed important to bring that aspect up to date. One day others, of Christopher's generation and beyond, may wish to add further addenda or, better, write Lives of their own for the information and entertainment of those yet to come: more notches on the stock of time. I hope it may be so.
I have corrected a few dates and facts in Mum's history of the wider world beyond Wroxton and her family where these could easily be checked and turned out to be in error, although none of those errors was major. There may be others. If so, I am sure they cannot be of material significance in this context, but if any are detected I should like to hear of them nonetheless so as to set them right.
The various maps and plans were drawn by Mum herself. The pictures are mostly scanned from original photographs in her possession or from copies kindly supplied by family and friends. Sadly, one of her father, Frank Arthur Cadd, as a choirboy to which she refers is impossible to reproduce. It is sealed in a frame, which I take to be his own handiwork; not for anything would I risk any attempt to extract it.
About Christmas 1998 I at last found the time and energy to explore a postcard album passed on to me some years before by 'Aunt Bess', Mum's Cousin Bess, kept by their Aunt Fannie Constant; the album itself originally given to Fannie by 'Nellie', Mum's own mother, in 1906. Besides many commercial postcards, some bearing messages of family interest, it contained a few family photographs, including a studio portrait of Alfred Constant, Mum's maternal grandfather, which I have included. Shortly afterwards I at last unwrapped some packages of books and papers neatly packed up and labelled by Grandma Cadd, Mum's mother, in the early 1960's and squirreled away at the back of various cupboards ever since. They turned out to contain, amongst many other fascinating things, some of Grandad Cadd's school prizes and one of his exercise books. Illustrations of these too have achieved last-minute inclusion.
The portrait of Amelia Eva Vick as a young woman, later George Cadd's second wife hence Mum's step-grandmother, is from Andrew Gardner's private history of his own family, Tributaries of Ruardean. She was his great-aunt. The picture of Theodore Lamb is from the original newspaper cutting. The views of Wroxton Abbey and Church are copied from E.R. Lester's booklet, A Short History of Wroxton, those of the ironstone workings are from Ironstone Quarries of the Midlands by Eric Tonks. There are a few other views from miscellaneous sources, including postcards.
Many more pictures of Wroxton and its people, including Mum herself and her family and others whom she mentions, and of some of the village events she describes, are to be found in Wroxton, the Village and its People in Photographs by David Secull, published in 1993. None of these would have reproduced well from the printed page but most of the more relevant are either copies of those in Mum's possession which I have also used, or closely similar.
The Table of Descendants of William Chadd was prepared using Brother's Keeper, a popular family tree computer program, on which I have entered all the ancestral details given in Mum's account together with some others regarding the younger generations which I have gleaned, or guessed. Undoubtedly some of my more tentative additions stand in need of amendment.
Shortly before Dad died in January 1964, Mother tried to record some of his early memories of Wroxton and the Abbey as they were in his early years. After her own death in 1966 I found among her papers one small sheet of notepaper on which were written the names of a few of the Abbey servants during that time, nothing more.
Since I began to earn my own living I have spent my entire life in towns or suburbs. My own children and their cousins were blessed with opportunities to visit Wroxton, and to know their grandparents. My own grandchildren, growing up in an age of advanced technology and science will never know the roots from which they sprang unless their family history is recorded.
Much of the story is of necessity, my own. Many of the characters, for those who read this record, can never be more than names on a printed page. For me they are the good, sometimes very simple, sometimes very wise country folk, among whom I was privileged to grow up. I too am a country woman at heart.
I am particularly grateful to Peggy and Ken Nickless, next-door neighbours, still living in Pyramus Cottage, still in touch, and keeping me up to date with events in Wroxton, and the few people of my generation still living there.
I am indebted to E.R. Lester for his booklet 'A Short History of Wroxton' from which I have gained a more accurate and detailed knowledge of the history of the Abbey and the North Family.(Is he I wonder the Ernest Lester who became a fellow pupil in Form 2A at Banbury County School on 20th September 1929?)
From 'Banbury Through 100 Years' by William Potts, Editor of The Banbury Guardian during my school days, and brother of Miss Potts, my first Art and Needlework teacher at BCS, I have discovered the whereabouts of the British Schools, the statistics relating to Carriers and the history of Stone's Box Factory.
To discover how Mother became involved as a School Nurse while working as a District Nurse I consulted Grace Owen's book on Health Visiting.
Violet Malins, grand-daughter of Dad's only brother, George has provided me with valuable factual evidence about the very early years in the form of copies of Census Returns and entries in Parish Registers, which she has obtained in the course of researching her own Family History.
Finally Clare Taylor, great grand-daughter of Mother's sister, Lottie has reproduced some of the photographic work. For all this help I am profoundly grateful.
October 23rd 1996
THE CADD FAMILY
When I was a very small child growing up in Wroxton there were so many elderly relatives living in and around the village, or near enough to visit, that it seemed as if the Cadd family must have been there for as long as the village itself. In reality it appears that my Grandfather, George Cadd, was the first of my ancestors to settle there.
For nearly a century three older generations had lived, worked, reared their families and finally been laid to rest in the Northamptonshire village of Hinton-in-the-Hedges, where in the records of the village church is to be found evidence of their marriages, the baptisms of their children, but not always the dates of their births, and their deaths. Census returns and at least one gravestone together with these records have made it possible to trace the history of our family through these early years.
IN THE BEGINNING
It all began when William Chadd married Susanna. While no other details concerning the marriage have so far come to light, neither its date and place nor Susanna's maiden name, records of their burials, Susanna on 14th March 1834 aged 66, her surname now entered as Cad, and William on 21st January 1841 aged 76, indicate that William must have been born about 1765 and Susanna about 1768.
They had 5 children, three sons and two daughters, all of whom were baptised at Hinton-in-the-Hedges; John on 13th December 1789, Elizabeth on 10th July 1796, George on 6th December 1798, Hannah on 31st August 1800 and James on 3rd November 1803. George died in infancy in 1799. On 19th September 1822, aged 26, Elizabeth, who had been baptised Elizabeth Chad, married James Long at Hinton. James and one of the witnesses were able to sign their names but Elizabeth and the second witness, her brother James, could only 'make their mark'. On 15th October 1832 Hannah married William Adams, a bachelor of the parish of Hinton.
Although no record of this marriage has been found either it can be deduced from the baptismal records that around 1811, in his early 20's, John Chad the eldest son, my great great grandfather, married Elizabeth, maiden name unknown, 3 years his senior. There are records of baptisms for 5 children, but for the first, on 30th August 1812, there is no entry for sex or name. There followed William, my great-grandfather, on 21st May 1815, Ann on 9th March, 1817, Margaret, on 19th January 1820 and Hannah on 14th April 1822. All were baptised at Hinton. Sadly Elizabeth died at the early age of 45, leaving 4 motherless children between the ages of 16 and 9. She was buried on 27th December 1831.
31/2 years later, on 12th July 1835, banns for the marriage of John Cadd, widower, and Hannah Long of the Parish of St. James, Brackley, were called for the third and last time in the church at Hinton-in-the-Hedges. John died aged 66 in Hinton where he was buried on 13th October 1854. Hannah lived on in an Alms House, earning her living by lace making, until her death aged 72. She was buried on 4th June 1872.
It is very possible that until this time, most of the male members of the family had been leather workers. John was a shoe-maker when his son William was born, but later like many other men at that time became a farm labourer. His surname was now recorded as Cad.
John's brother James, youngest son of William snr. and Susanna, became a currier; he dressed and coloured leather after it had been tanned. He left Hinton and settled in the Parish of St. Peter's, Brackley. Here on 18th April 1825, he married Hannah Whitton of the same parish. The marriage was solemnised by Anselm Jones, Curate of Evenley. The witnesses were John Butcher and John Blencowe. Their first child Thomas was born on 23rd January 1826, followed by William on 5th July 1827, Elizabeth on 17th December 1828, Mary Ann on 25th September 1831; Sarah on 2nd February 1836, John on 12th June, 1837; Caroline on 24th May 1838, Amelia on 21st December 1840 and finally Eliza on 21st September 1845.
Also recorded in the Brackley Church Registers are the marriages of three of the daughters:
22nd September, 1854; Thomas Bedford, full age (over 21), bachelor, labourer, Brackley, son of William Bedford, labourer, to Mary Ann Cadd, 20, spinster, servant, Brackley, daughter of James Cadd, currier. Witnesses, William Stuchbury and Sarah Cadd.
19th August, 1856; John Arnold, 24, bachelor, labourer, Brackley, son of Alfred Arnold, labourer to Sarah Cadd, 24, spinster, lace maker, Brackley, daughter of James Cadd, currier. Witnesses, John Herbert and Caroline Cadd.
6th November 1862; William Collerby(?), 24, bachelor, railway servant, of the parish of St. James the Evangelist, Birmingham to Caroline Cadd, 23, spinster, servant, Brackley, daughter of James Cadd, currier.
The youngest daughter, Eliza, married my grandfather George Cadd, the son of her first cousin William Cad.
On 11th August, 1844, William Cadd, my great-grandfather, eldest surviving child of John and Elizabeth, of full age, labourer, of Hinton-in-the-Hedges, married Eleanor Jordan, of full age, of Brackley, lace maker, daughter of John Jordan, labourer. The ceremony took place at Brackley. Their witnesses, Joseph Pitcher and Hannah Long could only 'make their marks'. They settled in Hinton where the baptisms of their children and the marriages of two of their daughters are recorded. A gravestone in the churchyard bears this inscription:
In Affectionate Remembrance of William Cadd of this parish. Who died June 28th 1891 aged 76 years. Also Ellen. Beloved wife of the above. Who died December 31st 1898 aged 75 years. Also Albert. Youngest Son of the above. Who died August 31st 1881 aged 20 years.
According to the Census returns for 1881 Albert was aged only 16 and was then working as an agricultural labourer at Hinton.
ELDERLY RELATIVES IDENTIFIED
Of the 7 children of William and Eleanor, only two, the youngest and the eldest were not known to me. They were the elderly 'Aunts' and 'Uncles', my great-aunts and great-uncles, who from time to time, usually in the summer, arrived on foot to visit their several Wroxton relatives. John, the eldest, born in 1845 and baptised on 21st December of that year, like a number of his relatives chose to work with leather, as a currier. He married an Adderbury girl, Ann Maria. They had 4 children, and eventually made their home at 11 Astrop Road, Kings Sutton, from where John plied his trade as a saddler-journeyman. In 1889, aged only 44 John died in the Brompton Consumption hospital of Pthisis Hæmoptysis, possibly as a result of inhaling the fine dust produced from the leather when it was being cured. The informant to the registrar was Dr. J.E. Kershaw, Medical Superintendent at the hospital. The Census Returns for 1891 describe Ann, the widow, as a general shopkeeper and seamstress. They also reveal that their two eldest children, Annie and Ernest, had been born in Wroxton, Albert in Fenny Compton, and only Sarah (Sally) in Kings Sutton in 1888, just one year before John's death. All the children were known to me.
Annie went into service, I do not know in what capacity, and was a regular if infrequent visitor for as long as her health permitted. Like so many of the Cadd women, she was tall and broad and had a strong personality. She remained single. Sarah, Sally to most of the family, married Robert Lawn and continued to live in Kings Sutton. There were three children, Bob, about my age, who eventually worked on the railway at Kings Sutton Station, his sister, a few years younger, and a very much younger brother whom I hardly ever met, so I know nothing of them except that the sister eventually attended Brackley Grammar School.
Of the other two sons, Albert and Ernest, I knew only one. I think it was Ernest. He lived with his wife, Edie, his son Ernie and daughter Frances in Richmond Road, Kings Sutton. I think he was a gardener. We were quite close to this family, visiting them at least once every year, usually for the small fair held on Whit Monday. It meant walking the 3-4 miles to Banbury station to catch the train and home again after the visit but we enjoyed it. Frances eventually married and moved into the London area. Mother and Edie kept in touch to the end of their lives, and visited for as long as they were able.
By the date of the 1861 Census, John, the eldest child of William and Eleanor, although only 15, had already left home. George, my grandfather, aged 12, was probably already making himself useful on the land; 10 years later he was identified as an agricultural labourer aged 22 living at home. Mary Ann aged seven, and Elizabeth aged five, were scholars. The two younger children were Sarah aged two, and David, five months.
By the next census in 1871 the three girls had also flown the nest. Elizabeth and Sarah both went into service. Elizabeth became a Housemaid and in 1881, aged 25, is recorded as working in that capacity for Thomas C.M. Cartwright, Justice of the Peace, at Newbottle Manor. She later married, becoming Mrs. Turner. The couple made their home in Aynho, the 'Apricot Village'. Their cottage was one of those against whose walls the apricots grew. There were no children. By the time I knew her she was a widow, and Aynho House was occupied by a Cartwright family, possibly her old employers or their descendants.
Sarah became a cook, and on 8th November 1879 at Hinton, she married Thomas Markham a labourer from Newbottle, both were aged 22. Tom eventually became a gardener. For some time they lived near Cirencester. In the 1930's they retired to a small cottage in Drayton. There were three daughters. Amy, the eldest, like her mother, became a cook. Unlike her sisters she did not marry nor return to the family home, so our paths did not cross until Tom and Sarah retired to Drayton. I remember her as a very pleasant, outgoing person who, like her cousin Annie, had inherited the 'Cadd Physique'. I remember her death, but whether she was still working or had made a home for herself I do not know.
Nellie, the middle daughter, married Bert Slack, a teacher. Their two daughters both died of TB while in their teens. Bert died of cancer just about the time of his retirement. While I was teaching in Enfield in the late 1940's I discovered that he too had taught there, many years before at Chase Side School. Nellie survived for a few years, during which time I met her several times. She was of very small build and looked physically very frail but had a lively personality and a good brain. It was suggested within the family that she had not enjoyed the best of health at any time.
Kate, the youngest daughter, married a builder, a Mr. Barham, and lived in Brentwood. Their only child, Margaret, had Down's Syndrome and only survived into her early teens.
After Sarah and Tom retired to Drayton, Tom went to work part-time at Ark House, Banbury. As well as looking after the garden he was frequently left in charge of the house during the owners' absence. Their hobby was making home-made wine, using fruits and vegetables. Their 'cellar' was a sight to behold; demijohn after demijohn lined up and labelled, their contents varying from almost colourless through palest amber to rich ruby, all crystal clear and not a grain of sediment to be seen. In the early 1940's, by which time Kate and Nellie were both widows and their grandchild fatherless, the five remaining members of the family went to a house of their own, Stonecot in the village of Charlton, near Banbury. It was large and well built. A fairly large garden, over-run by primroses in spring, overlooked acres of rolling meadows.
By September 1949 only Sarah, now 90, and her youngest daughter Kate survived, but it was Sarah who remained the guiding force. Kate had always needed support; some would have described her as 'simple'. I saw them for the last time a few days before my wedding on 17th September 1949. Sarah, already very sick, lived only a short time longer. All too soon, Kate's mental state deteriorated to such an extent that she had to be placed in a home. My father was the first executor of her estate, to be followed a few years later by Mary Ann's youngest son, Percy Harris.
Mary Ann, the eldest daughter of William and Eleanor, having been registered as a scholar at Hinton in Census Returns for 1861 was registered again in 1881, aged 27, as housekeeper to her widower brother George at Wroxton.
On 2nd December 1882 at Hinton, she married George Daniel Harris 35, a labourer, of Wroxton, son of William Harris, a wheelwright. She is described only as a spinster; there is no reference to her occupation. They appear to have settled in North Newington and according to the records of the baptisms of their five children, most of which appear in the Wroxton Parish registers, they remained there at least until 1887.
The eldest child, William Arthur, was born on 23rd August, 1883 and baptised at Wroxton on 7th October. He married Mary, the daughter of a coach builder from Kidlington, a cook. Very many years later she told me that they had met when she took food to the 'bothy' a shelter for outdoor servants, at the house where they both worked. They had no family, something which they regretted deeply, for they were both very fond of children. Will suffered from a very severe stammer. Mary had a wonderful way of taking over the conversation when he was in difficulty, thus easing the situation both for Will and his listeners.
They eventually lived in Hersham, Surrey, not far from Addlestone where Ken and I lived when first married and where our children were born. They paid us one visit, in the late 1950's. Events then kept us apart until Will's death in the early 1960's. He continued to do part-time gardening almost until the end of his life, mainly for the Annette family who owned a high class glass and china shop in Walton on Thames. I visited Mary regularly, first at Hersham, and later in a home in Walton until her own death.
A second son, George Henry, was born on 30th November 1884 and baptised at Broughton church on 5th April 1885. The parents, George and Mary Harris, were recorded as coming from North Newington. George jnr. married Alice. and shortly after the wedding moved away to the Witney area where he worked as Estate Carpenter for Colonel Fielding at Cokethorpe Park. There were two sons; Bert who now lives with his wife and one of his sons at Curbridge near Witney with whom I am still in touch and Frank, only a little older than me, who frequently visited Wroxton to see his grandmother, Mary Ann, during my childhood. He did not marry and died in early manhood. George their father will always be remembered as a bee-keeper. It is said that bees should be talked to and that should there be a death in the family after three knocks on the hive the bees should be told. George died on 23rd March 1962. Whether the bees were told I do not know but during the funeral service a noticeable number of bees flew into the church and hovered over his coffin.
Two daughters followed; Maria Ann, born at North Newington in 1886 or 1887, and Alice Ralph born on 24th July 1889 in Wroxton. Both were baptised in Wroxton, Maria Ann, who was always known to us as 'Cis' on 6th March 1887, and Alice on 23rd August 1889. Cis died on 30th March 1962 aged 75 and Alice on 22nd March 1968 aged 78.
The two girls were as different as chalk and cheese, yet they were seldom apart, even when they went to work. Rumour has it that they both fell in love with the same man, but neither married. Cis, tall, slim, well spoken, was almost stand-offish, even to relatives: Alice, plump and short, always smiling and approachable, might have been considered almost 'simple' at times. She had a pleasant speaking voice, and giggled a lot, but could never manage her H's. She had a habit of putting them before every vowel save where they really belonged, so visitors were likely to get 'ot cross buns on Good Friday and chocolate h'eggs on H'easter Sunday. As I grew up I found it more and more difficult to disguise the mixture of mirth and embarrassment I felt, especially if there were others present. They went into service together at Streatley on Thames where they worked for the Baldry family, Cis as cook and Alice as housemaid. By the time they eventually retired, their mother, Mary Ann, was almost blind. They returned together to the family home in Church Street, Wroxton to care for her and for their youngest and still unmarried brother, Percy.
James Percy Ralph, born on 26th August 1896 and baptised in Wroxton on 20th November, grew up in the village and spent his working life at Stone's Box Factory in Banbury. The founder of this business, Mr. Henry Stone had been a partner in a Stationery business in High Street, Banbury. About 1870 he invented a box-file resembling a book which he patented and placed on the market. His first 'factory' was a workshop behind the top of Parsons St but in 1884 he built a new factory, installed machinery and began to manufacture boxes, files and office appliances of all kinds. His enterprise was a great success. The business grew, the factory was enlarged and furniture was added to their list of products. Several hundred men were employed there. In 1912 the firm developed photo-engraving and colour printing, and built a separate unit opposite the factory to house studios, engraving rooms and machine rooms. In 1976 I acquired a miniature four drawer chest of drawers measuring 12" x 15" x 91/2" made by Stone's, probably to demonstrate to prospective customers the type and quality of items available. The top drawer has a locking device and inset into the inside of the third drawer down is a small white plate, 7/8" x 3/8", inscribed in black, Henry Stone and Son, Manufacturers, Banbury.
Percy always worked in the furniture section of the firm. A close relative once described him as a carpenter but I do not know whether he was ever apprenticed in that trade. Aged about 30 he met and became engaged to a delightful girl, also Cis, not to be confused with his sister. She had the misfortune to suffer from Derbyshire neck, goitre, not at all uncommon in those days. Under severe family pressure, especially from his sisters, he broke off the engagement. Thereafter he was expected to remain at home to care for his mother, thus enabling both sisters to defer retirement until living conditions for Percy were quite untenable, despite any help with sewing or odd jobs given by kindly neighbours, and by my sister and I during school holidays. Cis (his ex-fiancée) eventually married, had a family and was very happy but Percy remained a bachelor to the end of his life. After his sisters at last retired his existence became more comfortable for a while but he survived them by 13 years during which he lived on, alone, in the cottage they had shared. He died on 22nd November 1981 aged 85.
David, youngest son of William and Eleanor, born in 1861, left Hinton in his teens. He chose to work with leather and eventually set up his own business as a saddler and harness maker at 1 Red Lion Street, Kings Sutton. He married Fanny Edwards of Drayton, and their first child, Leonard, was born in 1891. Leonard remained in Kings Sutton, and worked on the railway, as a Guard I believe. I last saw him in the spring of 1966. Later twin daughters, Fanny and Dora, were added to the family, and I believe, another son. We knew the daughters well. Fanny eventually married Vince Tilbury and there were two sons. When the boys were about 10 or 12 years old the family emigrated to New Zealand. They visited us before they left but although they made return visits to their parents we did not see them again. Dora went into service, eventually working locally at Astrop House and caring for her parents. When well into middle age she married a farmer. We did not meet again.
When the children were off hand and David was retired, he and Fanny undertook to care for a middle aged, slightly mentally retarded single gentleman, and moved to 'Dunedin' a much larger house in Astrop Road. I always understood that their tenancy of the house was included in the arrangements made by the gentleman's family on his behalf.
THE IMMEDIATE FAMILY
George Cadd, my grandfather, was the second child of William and Eleanor. Born on 2nd May 1848 at Hinton in the Hedges, he remained at home, earning his living as a farm labourer until in 1872, at the age of 23, he went to work as a railway porter at Wednesbury in the Black Country. On 22nd December of that year, at All Saints Church in the parish of Moxley, Staffordshire, he married his father's cousin, Eliza Cadd, recorded as residing in Kensington. He was 24, she 25. Their witnesses were their cousins, John and Hannah White.
Their first home was in King Street, West Bromwich, where, on 21st October 1873, their first child, a son George, was born. In 1875 Grandfather was promoted to Guard. I have his whistle, notable for the dried pea which enabled it to function.
By now the family were living at Greets Green, West Bromwich, where, on 1st March 1875 my father, Frank Arthur was born. Sadly Eliza developed metro-peritonitis and died on 10th March with grandfather at her side. The death was certified by William Slimon MB and the death certificate signed on 11th March by the Deputy Registrar, B.H. Withers.
It was impossible for grandfather to look after his two young sons, George 17 months and Dad, a mere nine days. The Hinton grandparents took charge. George went with them to Hinton and remained there until 1882. Dad (Frank) was cared for by Mr. and Mrs. John White, witnesses at his parents' wedding. They lived in Brackley, where Frank was christened in Brackley College chapel. Later he rejoined George with the grandparents, now in their 60's. The census of 1881 records both boys as 'scholars' at Hinton.
Grandfather's days as a Guard were numbered. He suffered a serious illness which made it impossible for him to continue to work in any capacity on the railway. I never heard the nature of the illness identified. Many years later he described it to my mother, a nurse, who recognised a distinct likeness to rheumatic fever. In order to earn a living he, like his two brothers John and David, turned to leather, and learned 'snobbing' - shoe making and repairing.
By the time of the 1881 Census he was living in Wroxton with his sister Mary Ann as his housekeeper, as far as is known, working at shoe making and repairing. He kept the lasts on which he worked until the end of his life.
In 1877 he was engaged by Baron and Baroness North as an indoor servant at Wroxton Abbey. On 14th February 1882, St. Valentine's Day, having now been promoted to Lodge Keeper, he was remarried, at Uley in Gloucestershire, to Amelia Eva Vick, a ladies' maid, aged 35, one year his senior. He was described on the marriage certificate as a bootmaker. The 1881 census reveals that she was then working for the family of W.G. Griffiths at Croughton near Banbury, she was born in Chelsea. At last Grandfather was able to have his two sons with him again and the family settled at the Abbey Lodge.
During the last years of their lives together Mother wrote down some of Dad's memories of the Abbey when he first knew it. Mr. Butt was Butler, Mr. Saunders Valet, Mr. Ray, coachman, George Frost, Keeper, and Miss Fox, Cook. Beer was brewed in the house, charcoal was burned in the woods, and ice made naturally in a kind of pit alongside the Big Pool. During my childhood the pit was still visible but very overgrown.
The village of Wroxton is situated about three miles North West of Banbury on the main Stratford road, A422. According to E.H. Lester its name is derived from Wrocestan or Buzzard's Stone. Originally it was on the Saltway from the Worcester salt works to London. A stone guide post, erected by Francis White in 1686 at the upper end of High Street, once served to direct users of this road.
The history of the village is sketchy and incomplete. It is known to have existed in 1098 when it was held by Guy Reinbeudcurt, the Lord of Chipping Warden. By 1120 it had passed via Richard, one of his younger sons to Margery, Richard's daughter and heir, who had married Robert Foloit. When in 1173 Robert became a monk, his son, also Richard, succeeded to the property. In 1203 Wischard Ledet inherited the Barony of Chipping Warden and the estates when he married Richard's daughter Margaret. When he died all his property passed to his daughter Christine, who lived to a very great age. When she died in 1271 the estate passed to her great-granddaughters, of whom the younger, Christine, inherited Wroxton. She married Sir John Latimer, but gradually the family's ownership of the village became less and less secure until it ceased altogether.
In the early 12th century the Belet's were the under tenants of Wroxton. The first recorded member of the family to hold the estate was Harvey, whose son Michael was hereditary butler to Henry II. He was succeeded in this office and as tenant of the estate by his son, Master Michael, lawyer and canonist, and friend of Greathead, Bishop of Lincoln. In his capacity as King's Butler he officiated at the wedding of Henry II to Eleanor of Provence.
The village church is known to have existed as early as 1217. Its first known rector, Michael Belet, is recorded as having begun his ministry in 1200. At some time between 1200 and 1209, King John granted Belet a charter for the foundation of a Priory in Wroxton. The charter was ratified in 1251 by Henry III, but not until an inspection had proved that all its terms and conditions had been fulfilled. Belet founded his Augustinian Priory in the original building now known as the Abbey, and arranged that it should have the patronage of the church, ie. be responsible for the appointment of its clergy. In 1395 the Prior and Canons appropriated the church entirely to their own use. After that the priest was usually selected from among their number.
By this time the route between Banbury and Wroxton was extremely busy. The rules of the Augustinian order decreed that travellers passing between Stratford and London by the Saltway be provided with food and shelter. It was not always easy for this small establishment to comply, and the cost stretched the Priory purse to its limit. The Prior complained, but there is no record of the outcome.
The Priory, founded in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary continued in existence until the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII in 1526, when it was leased to William Raynesford of Wroxton. In 1537 he sold his interest to Sir Thomas Pope, guardian of Princess Elizabeth, and favourite at the court of Queen Mary. Later, by exchange from the Crown, Thomas obtained the reversion of the property formerly held by the Priory of Wroxton. The Rectories were not included in Thomas Pope's purchase but were granted by Henry VIII to the Dean and Chapter of Christchurch, Oxford.
Thomas promised to leave his property to his brother John, who had lived in the old Abbey house since the reign of Edward VI. Instead he gave it to Trinity College, Oxford which he himself had founded, but the Pope family retained the right to become tenants of the estate, so John was able to continue there. After it burnt down during the reign of James I it was John's son William who began to build the present mansion. Completed in 1618, it is thought to have cost £6,000. Remains of the old building, some arches and small sections of masonry can still be seen in the lower walls. Several monarchs, possibly including James I, have been entertained there.
Why was it called Wroxton Abbey? No Abbot had ever controlled the religious company assembled there. The reason remains a mystery. While I was still in my teens I heard it referred to as England's only Abbey that never was an Abbey.
William Pope made the newly restored Abbey his home until his death in 1631. In the sanctuary of the village church stands a highly ornamented, canopied tomb, depicting Thomas and his wife Anne with their kneeling children. His grandmother, Margaret Bustard, Pope by her former marriage, who died in 1557, is remembered by a brass on the floor of the sanctuary.
William's heir having predeceased him seven years earlier, the title passed to his eight year old grandson, Thomas, who became Sir Thomas Pope, 2nd Earl of Downe. He grew up to be feckless and something of a spendthrift. During the Civil War he supported the Royalists, but was forced to leave the country for a time because of his debts. He died in 1660.
William's second son, also Thomas, siezed the Abbey and the lands at Wroxton, and was eventually knighted. On the death of his nephew he inherited the title, becoming the 3rd Earl. 20 years earlier in 1640, he had been granted a 21 year lease on the Abbey, something which the 2nd Earl had failed to obtain. On the evening of 13th July 1643, the army of Charles I and reinforcements led by Queen Henrietta, having met at Edgehill, made their way to the Abbey where they stayed with Sir Thomas Pope before setting out with Prince Rupert for Woodstock the next day. Almost two centuries later, in 1842, hidden in a piece of iron behind panelling below a staircase in the Abbey, a letter was found, signed by Charles I at his court in Reading, dated 5th November 1642, in which he gave orders to soldiers of the Royalist Army to protect Sir Thomas Pope.
There are those who would have us believe that a quantity of very old straw, found in the attic of the cottage where Mary Ann and her family had lived, had been used as bedding by Royalist soldiers billeted there on the night of 13th July 1643 before they proceeded to Woodstock.
Sir Thomas died in 1667. After the death of his only son a year later, the estate was inherited by his three daughters. In 1671 Frances married Sir Francis North, 3rd son of Dudley, 4th Baron North of Kirtlington. He became Lord Keeper of the Grand Seal in 1682, was created 1st Baron Guilford in 1673 and died in 1685. During his lifetime he had been concerned about the claims to the Wroxton estates being made by his sister-in-law, Lady Elizabeth Lee. He agreed a settlement with his wife and her sisters and purchased their shares of the leases for £5,100. The Abbey became the residence of the North family, and remained so for 250 years until the death of William Henry John, 11th Baron North, aged 95, in 1932.
The gravestone of Francis 4th Baron North, is set in the church floor outside the sanctuary while a memorial to his wife, Lady Frances Pope who died in 1678, placed on the north wall is in the form of an elaborate tablet, surmounted by cherubs, an hour glass, skull and bones. It was their marriage which brought the North's to Wroxton.
Sir Francis North's grandson became Baron North of Kirtlington in 1734 on the death of the 6th Baron. In 1752 he was created 1st Earl of Guilford. His first marriage, to Lucy, resulted in the birth of a son, Frederick, who became Prime Minister to George III during the American war of independence, which culminated in the loss of our American colonies. His son by his second wife became Brownlow North, Bishop of Winchester. His third marriage seems to have been childless. All three women are commemorated in the church by a large monument on the south wall of the sanctuary. It is in the form of three urns bearing their names in a typical 18th century tribute, in English, to their virtues. Frederick, having become 2nd Earl of Guilford on the death of his father, Francis, in 1790, died in 1792. His memorial, a monument carved by John Flaxman incorporating the figure of Britannia, is also on the south wall of the church, to the west of that to his mother and aunts.
He was succeeded by his son George Augustus, whose only son died in infancy, leaving three daughters. Consequently when George Augustus died in 1802, the title passed in turn to his two brothers, Francis and Frederick, neither of whom had heirs. So it was that Francis, son of Brownlow North, Bishop of Winchester, succeeded to the title, 6th Earl of Guildford. George Augustus' other title, Baron North of Kirtlington, fell into abeyance until after the deaths of his eldest and youngest daughters. Lady Susan then became Baroness North in her own right. When she married, her husband, Lt. Col. John Doyle MP changed his name to North. It was John North who, in about 1840, brought about great and beneficial changes to the village, thereby lifting it out of its mediaeval character and making progress possible.
In 1736, the vicar, Francis Wise, had described Wroxton as consisting of 50 houses. Very little else is known about the village at that time. By 1753 local traffic had increased tremendously. An Act of Parliament had made possible the building of a turnpike road to the north, now the A422. The road was completed in 1754 and soon afterwards the New Inn was built. The village must have been growing for by 1841 the number of dwellings had risen to 129 but it was clearly not the pretty place it is today. Noting its dreadful state, Col. John ordered the inhabitants to clear away from the streets all rubbish and pigsties. He was probably most unpopular for his intervention but it is certain that in due course the community would have felt the benefit of the greater cleanliness.
Most of the earlier houses were built in the 18th century, close by the pond. A few were 17th century, contemporary with the Abbey, including The North Arms, (licensed in 1850) which still has its old sundial. Here in 1852 William Kalubergo, charged with the murder of his uncle, escaped from the attic in which he was being detained, having been brought there by Constable Daniel Newton, by sliding down the roof. He was caught not far away by the landlord, Mr. Harris, and later convicted. He was the last person to be publicly hanged in Oxford.
More houses developed around the church, close to the estate workshops which included a sawmill, all in close proximity to Home Farm and the Gardens. By 1837, a school was in existence. The teacher's salary was £15 per annum until an inspection revealed that children were not being properly taught and the sum was reduced.
A son, William Henry John, had been born to John and Susan North in 1836. He became 11th Baron North, eventually marrying a most capable and highly respected consort, who was widely credited with the responsibility for the very efficient running of the Abbey and the estates during their heyday. Certainly the decline in the family's fortunes and their financial difficulties did not occur until after her death. William was the last of the North's to occupy the Abbey. He died aged 95 in 1932 and is buried with the Baroness just outside the south door of the church. It was into his service that my grandfather, George Cadd, entered in 1877.
THE FAMILY TOGETHER ~ EARLY DAYS at the LODGE
When grandfather brought his new wife and his two young sons aged seven and nine to their first family home at the Lodge, the Abbey and all that it represented exerted an almost feudal control over the village, and most of the individual tenants. When a new vicar was needed, Lord North had the gift of that living. Most of the cottages were part of the estate; rents were paid quarterly to the agent. As soon as they were able, many of the older children joined their parents as part of the labour force, as domestic servants, gardeners, grooms or farm hands; or in the estate workshops as carpenters, stonemasons etc. The most ambitious, once proficient, would seek promotion elsewhere and move away. Others served until their working days were over.
Grandfather was already familiar with the Abbey and the village. Amelia was a stranger to it all, newly wed, and with two step-sons of whom she knew very little. Comments by the Hinton Grandmother, oft repeated by George’s housekeeper sister, Mary Ann, suggest that Amelia had not impressed the family at all favourably. "Oh! My poor boys!" was her comment, on the fate of the two grandsons to whose welfare she had dedicated the last 7 years of her life. With George in Wroxton, the boys in Hinton and Amelia away from her Uley home in service at Croughton there could have been all too few opportunities to meet and to get to know and understand each other.
Amelia had been a ladies’ maid. She was a good needlewoman, discreet to the point of being aloof, and very well mannered. She had a phenomenal knowledge of the aristocracy, their marriages and kindred, Of all the Cadd sisters, Mary Ann was the least like her, and least likely to understand her. Nor was Amelia likely to find much common ground with the village women. Most of the families were much intermarried, of minimal education, and had little experience of life outside the village. The only local friend she ever mentioned was Miss Williams, lady’s maid to one of the Abbey ladies, but that was many years later.
Most of the little I know about the early years at the lodge when George and Frank were growing accustomed to being part of a family with two parents was either told me at odd times by Dad, or passed on by relatives. Will Harris, Mary Ann’s eldest son, remembers pushing Dad around in a little truck before grandfather remarried. He and Dad were very alike and remained close throughout their lives.
Of Dad’s relationship with his brother George I learnt nothing, but this does not surprise me. Separated at birth as a result of their mother’s death, new baby and two year old brother had no chance to ‘bond’. As mature adults they were very different in temperament, attitude and outlook.
The Lodge was a small two bedroomed bungalow, built of sandstone. Unlike most of the village properties which were thatched, it had a tiled roof. It stood in a walled enclosure just inside the Abbey gates, looking towards the pond. Dark Lane separated it from the nearest dwelling, and behind was a patch of garden enclosed by an iron fence on which red honeysuckle grew in profusion. An enormous lime tree grew a few feet from the front door. Thick woodland on the other side of the Abbey drive-way and beyond the garden kept it well shaded but also rather dark. There was a small coal burning cooking range in the living room. This was the only source of heat. Water had to be collected in pails from the spring which gushed out of the bank below Taylor’s farm, just behind the pond, some 500 yards away.
The C of E village school which both boys attended was a few minutes’ walk away. It too was of sandstone, consisting of two rooms with a short access passage between them leading to the playground and the earth closets. The smaller room opened into a small cottage, one up and one down, the School House where the head teacher lived.
Because Dad. was well over 40 when I was born, and seldom if ever told us anything about his growing up, I can only speak of George and Amelia as I knew them, as very elderly grandparents with roughly 60 years separating us. It was always very obvious that George and his father had most in common. It was to Frank, my father, that Amelia Eva turned, on whom she relied and to whom she somehow conveyed something of her own pain; for within the marriage, especially in later years, she like others of her generation of the family was all too aware of situations which would eventually have an adverse effect, not only on her, but on Dad. According to the family, five times in the early years of her marriage she became pregnant. Five times the pregnancy ended in disappointment.
In her own birthday book she recorded; on 12th October 1884, Ellen who died 2 days later; in 1885, stillborn on 27th June; on 19th May 1886, Ernest who died the same year; on 8th April 1893, Charles Henry who died on 10th April. If there were 5 pregnancies there must have been a miscarriage, but it is not recorded. The graves of those who lived, albeit briefly, are to be found in the churchyard, beyond the south door close to the south wall.
She seldom showed emotion, or any affection to us, her grand-children. I never remember receiving a kiss, let alone a hug. She used her skills as a needlewoman to provide or remake clothes for herself, and in her spare time created colourful floor rugs from strips of material fixed into hessian, probably discarded, washed sacks. Old livery and hunting gear provided most of the strips which she sorted and arranged in simple patterns.
Apart from a very occasional Sunday tea, I never sampled her cooking, but if her cakes were a fair example, her culinary skills were not great, a fact which could not have eased her passage into a family where most of the women folk were excellent cooks.
THE SHADOW of the ABBEY
When George and his family moved into the lodge, Lady North was still alive and the estate was maintained to a very high standard. Home Farm and the gardens were in full production. The sawmill in the wood yard was operative, cutting most if not all the timber needed on the estate, and other necessary crafts were practised in the adjoining workshops. The stables housed horses for every purpose; hunting, ploughing, pulling carts and carriages. The village had its own small fire engine and at the far end of the village a wheelwright’s business, not part of the Abbey, belonging to William Harris, a relative of Mary Ann’s husband.
Every member of the estate was encouraged to take a personal interest in its upkeep by keeping down the population of small vermin by the offer of a small reward. A record, based on the production of evidence, a tail or a skin, was kept by the steward, and in October, at the time of Banbury Fair, payment was made for the whole year.
Lord North kept a pack of Basset hounds for hunting hares. The Keeper’s cottage and kennels were out on the ‘Downs’, isolated, between Wroxton and Drayton. To the end of his days he enjoyed being out with these dogs, even when age prevented him from following them on horseback so that he had to be contented with a small pony trap instead. The dogs were well cared for, it was said that port wine was provided for them, but they were anything but proficient at catching hares by this time.
From autumn to spring shooting parties gave the villagers a chance to earn a little extra by acting as beaters. During spring and summer the keepers raised and nurtured the game birds in readiness for the next season. Rooks were very prolific in the woodlands around the Abbey and there was always at least one rook shoot in which villagers could take part.
At the Gardens, Head Gardener Findlay was in charge. He it was who cultivated the strain of Brussels sprouts named after the village, Wroxton, and still known and grown. Peaches grew against the south facing retaining walls, carefully espalier trained to give them the best chance of ripening. Hotbeds were maintained for melons, and in the glass houses straight cucumbers were produced by growing them inside glass tubes. Supplying a complete range of vegetables and fruit in season and flowers for the house, plus the maintenance of extensive grounds and ornamental gardens kept a team of gardeners fully employed throughout the year.
At some point the North family had built an unusual, octagonal dovecote on high ground to the south of the Abbey. It would house 500 birds, but I have never heard any details as to their reason for doing so or any use that was made of it.
Most of the villagers depended on their employment by the North family and held ‘Lordy’ as he was called when out of earshot, in high esteem; so it was not surprising that the family were able to exert such a strong influence on the village for so long. Even I was aware of it until I was almost into my teens.
Wages were very low, even for master craftsmen. Families were often very large, and there were few opportunities for wives and mothers, even if they had the time, to add anything to the family income. Sometimes an extra pair of hands might be needed for an ‘occasion’ at the Abbey, or to help out during sickness. Stone floors, coal fires and no water laid on - wells were the water source of the day for the cottagers - made the homes very hard to keep clean. At harvest time women and children went gleaning, and whenever a high wind brought down dead wood from the many trees around, everyone collected what they could find as winter fuel. Many cottagers kept a few chickens or, if a sty was available, a pig. Some kept rabbits, ostensibly as pets, but most of them ended up potted. There were plenty of wild ones, and good fish in the ponds for any one with the means to catch them, and the nerve to poach.
By the 1920’s great changes had taken place at the Abbey. Lady North had died before I was born; the two sons and four daughters were grown up and married with grown up children, and all but one of them had left home. The family finances were rapidly declining and fewer people were employed at the Abbey, but much of village life went on as usual. Without transport, we had to rely on ‘Shank’s pony’; we walked both from necessity and for pleasure. Windy weather still saw us out with our baskets, ‘sticking’. Harvest time found those who kept chickens gleaning. I remember one beautiful, golden evening in late August when I was about 8 years old, going with Mother and two elderly friends from Drayton, Miss Edwards, sister-in-law of David Cadd, Dad’s uncle, and her companion, Miss Robins, to Checkley’s field on the Horley road, just after the wheat had been cut. The idea was to collect a bunch of corn, keeping the ears together until you could hold no more. Then one or two straws would be lifted and wound round the bunch just below the ears, and finally fixed with a strange twisted ‘knot’. Miss Robins was an expert and showed me how to do it, an art which sadly I have forgotten.
Blackberries, crab-apples, cowslips, dandelions and more, were collected in turn and made into jam, jelly or wine. Hazel nuts, walnuts and chestnuts were dried for Christmas. Mushrooms and watercress which grew plentifully were gathered and eaten at will when in season. In spring, small scented violets and primroses grew in profusion in the woods and hedgerows. Bluebells and cowslips followed, and as summer progressed dog roses, with their ‘pincushions’, oak apples, wild marguerites and quaking grasses - ‘quakers’, knapweed, scabious, cornflowers and vetches, all capable of being arranged in water at home.
Most of the cottages had some garden, and were seldom without a few vegetables, even a fruit bush or two. Many of the men had allotments, plots of land carefully measured and marked out, which they hired by the year for a very small sum. Some of my earliest memories are of men, many of them much older than Dad, passing backwards and forwards in front of our house, tools balanced on their shoulders or in wheelbarrows, to work on their ‘plots’. Most cultivated only vegetables. A few planted fruit trees or grew flowers, often sweet peas. Some of the larger families where there were sons growing up, had more than one plot. The young men at that time, unless they became indoor servants, tended to remain at home until they married. Most found work locally or within cycling distance. Some of the villagers had guns and took the occasional rabbit or, more rarely, hare. If like Dad they used their skills to help the farmers or landowners, they were often given permission to do so.
When the two boys, Dad and Uncle George, arrived in Wroxton they were able to continue their education, begun in the village school at Hinton, at the Wroxton school, now well established.
During the latter part of the 19th century the question of elementary education was exercising the minds of government and people alike. In 1870 the Education Act had decreed that there must be adequate provision for elementary education country wide. Many villages already had small schools, usually linked to the Church of England; their standards varied tremendously. Now, where standards were found to be inadequate, a local School Board had to be set up to oversee the education of all children over five in its own area; hence the Board Schools which flourished in the cities.
In country areas this was vigorously opposed on the grounds that farmers depended on child labour. When crops were growing quite young children often spent long hours in the fields with their ‘clappers’, frightening off crows and any other vermin capable of damaging crops. Dad had a pair of clappers, but he and George only used them in their spare time. At harvest children helped in a number of ways, but especially with the gathering of root crops. According to the Act, children between the ages of 8 and 10 years must attend school for 250 sessions in a year; between 10 and 12 they needed to attend for only 150 sessions. Having completed these assignments, they were free to work. Exemption was possible for any who reached the 4th Standard as prescribed by the Minister of the Department of Education or, short term, to suit specific crops. Otherwise farmers had to make written application to the local Petty Sessions to obtain the approval of the Magistrates to withdraw children from school.
It was 1875, the year of Dad’s birth, before the 1870 Act was implemented. It was applauded by the National Agricultural Labourers’ Union, but feelings among parents were mixed. Many, with good reason, feared the loss of the meagre earnings of their children. A further obstacle was the lack of any agency with power to insist that the conditions laid down were adhered to. 16 years passed before the 2nd Education Act called for School Attendance Committees to be set up in areas where there were no School Boards, with power to make bye-laws to demand compulsory attendance. Legislation in 1880 had imposed school attendance on a national scale for all 5 to 14 year olds, with full attendance to the age of 10. Children aged 10 to 12 had to make 250 attendances; those over 12, 15O. Legal exemption was only possible on a part time basis.
Any child wishing to leave school younger than 14 had either to have passed the Labour Certificate, or, at the age of 13 must have made at least 250 attendances per annum for the last 5 years. This was known as the ‘Dunce’s Leaving Certificate’. There was still a loophole for those living more than two miles from school.
From 1839 inspectors, HMI’s, only two at first rising to 23 by 1830, inspected buildings, building plans, subject teaching, books, apparatus, organisation and discipline. They even enquired into religious education. By 1862 payments by results were being made to schools. Grants - not intended for use on buildings - were made at the rate of 12 shillings per child per annum. Of this 4 shillings depended on attendance, and the rest on performance in the ‘3 R’s’. Examinations were arranged in a series of ‘standards’; each child was expected to move up one standard each year. For Infants the grant was 6 shillings and 6 pence, subject to regular attendance and suitable instruction. The grant system changed after 1890.
Despite the fact that most village schools were Church schools, and had been subjected to an annual Diocesan Inspection from as early as 1839, the 1870 Act had laid down that no child in any elementary school, church or otherwise, could be compelled to attend a scripture lesson.
SCHOOL and SCHOOL-DAYS
Wroxton village school had been built into a bank in the centre of the village, The classroom windows were high in the walls, at the same level as the playground, which had also been dug out, but at a higher level. Because it was a Church school, the vicar of the Parish had the right to give religious instruction. As in so many English villages at that time, there were few ‘men of letters’, and fewer women, capable of teaching the children, even to the modest standards then required. It was often the Vicar who filled the gap, if necessary at his own expense, often giving the children a taste of a subject in which he was specially gifted.
The Vicar during Dad’s school days was Rev. Speck, a fine musician, I suspect of more than average talent. It was his music that he chose to share with the pupils of Wroxton C of E School during his incumbency from 1892 until 1907. Dad never tired of describing the lined board, his baton, how they sang as he pointed out notes - sight-reading. He loved every minute of these lessons; indeed it was to them that he could trace the beginning of an ability in music and a love of it which he never lost. He was gifted with a beautiful treble voice, as was William Taylor, ‘Long Will’ as we used to call him, when as a solitary bachelor with a consuming passion for alcohol, he became part of the tapestry of our childhood.
Rev. Speck knew well how difficult it would be for any of his pupils to rise above their surroundings unless they had some special talent which could be used to their advantage. He knew too that the Choir Schools were always ready to nurture special vocal talent. He approached both sets of parents in an effort to give the boys their chances. Both sets of parents refused. Dad sang in the church choir for as long as he was able. He developed a beautiful baritone voice, clear, round and sweet, and always perfectly pitched, which he retained until his death in 1964. In the 1930’s he became choirmaster, with Mr. Francis from Banbury as organist.
For a number of years Wroxton Church had a fine choir made up entirely of men and boys. By way of encouragement the boys received threepence for every attendance, for practice or for services. Rev. Speck had a daughter, Gwen, about the same age as Dad and his brother. She studied drama, took the stage name of Gwen Lally, and eventually earned fame as a producer of pageants. For many years she was connected with the pageant of Kenilworth. Shortly after the end of World War II she directed the Pageant of Essex at one of the London theatres. I was privileged to see the production, and afterwards made my way backstage to meet her. She remembered Wroxton and the Cadd boys very clearly, and was obviously sincerely pleased to have been reminded of this small part of her own early life.
Dad never spoke of school friends by name, but it is obvious from the escapades he described that he was one of a group of like-minded participants in all sorts of mischief. Someone in the village acquired a penny farthing bicycle. Avoiding detection the lads took it one dark evening to the top of Church Hill, straight and fairly steep, and proceeded to ride down the hill at speed, oblivious of the fact that the road turned sharp right at the bottom and then ran on into the centre of the village alongside the boundary wall of the Abbey with no grass verge or pavement. Failure to turn the corner or to come to a halt before reaching it must result in a heavy and damaging collision with the wall, and a penny farthing had none of the manoeuvrability or the braking power of a modern bike. That both boys and bicycle remained unharmed seems little short of a miracle.
Many of the cottages stood very low, partly because they were built into banks and partly because they were indeed quite small. This meant that one good sized lad standing on the back of another could easily reach a bedroom window. A favourite trick was to hang up a cotton reel with a length of string dangling below, then to manipulate the string so that the reel tapped the window. Up jumped the cottager to investigate, the reel was smartly pulled aside and the boy hid around a corner to avoid detection when the window was opened; all quiet once more a few minutes later the exercise was repeated. Most of the villagers thus plagued were elderly, easily alarmed and went to bed early to save fuel. One such family were the Head’s, two sisters and a brother, who lived in a solitary cottage next door to the White Horse Inn. They were fair game for active lads on dark evenings with little other chance to work off their energy.
Knowing Dad only as a rather strict, always law-abiding parent and citizen, it came as quite a shock to me when, at the age of about nine or ten, I heard for the first time about his prolonged bout of truanting from school, his final unmasking and the punishment which followed. Needless to say he was not alone in this escapade.
The standard of achievement in education required at that time, especially for country children was very basic and easily achieved by the brighter pupils so George Cadd gave both his sons a period of further education at the British School in Banbury before they were apprenticed to their chosen crafts.
The British Schools were built and opened in 1839 in Crouch Street. The first was founded by the National Society, supported by the Church of England, and the second by the British and Foreign Schools Society, supported by Nonconformists. In 1861, Bernard Samuelson of iron foundry fame, later to become Sir Bernard, at his own expense, built the Britannia British Schools, later to be called the Cherwell British Schools. I have no idea to which school the brothers were sent, but local geography, and the fact that the family were C of E suggest that it would have been Crouch Street. Until 1891 parents were expected to contribute a very small sum weekly towards the running costs of these schools.
In many rural areas there were Charities, set up many years earlier for the purpose of helping the poorest members of the community. People with money and an interest in the welfare of the very poor, possibly their own tenants or servants, set aside at their death sums of money to be used to provide necessities for certain categories off people at regular intervals, usually annually. Provision had to be made for their administration. This was often undertaken by the inhabitants of the ‘big house’, be it Manor or, as in Wroxton, the Abbey. One such charity involved Dad during his village school days. A can of soup and a rice pudding had to be provided weekly for a number of widows and elderly spinsters living in Wroxton and the nearby villages. The food was cooked at the Abbey and delivered, where possible, by responsible school children who were paid threepence.
It was a long walk to North Newington, Dad’s destination, even if he went entirely by field path. He often told us about these journeys, and about his own hunger, enough to persuade him to ‘share’ the pudding before it reached its destination; or, on the return journey, with hands free, to uproot a mangold, clean it on long grass at the field edge, and eat part of it raw.
A second Charity involved the distribution of hundredweights of coal to certain eligible villagers. This was still in operation during my school days in Wroxton, but by then it was impossible to be sure of the exact reasons for the choice of recipients. Several of the villagers expressed disapproval at the choices made. Certainly in some cases it was difficult to see how the gift could have been based on need.
AND SO TO WORK
When Dad left school he was apprenticed to become a carpenter; but to whom? And where? There is reason to believe that this decision was not entirely his own. Among his few ‘treasures’ which he kept in his tool chest during our childhood, was a navy blue sailor’s jumper. The story in the family was that Lord North had obtained him a place on board one of HM ships, but that his parents refused to allow him to take it.
Although the Lodge was his home base until he married in 1917, no records, photos, or certificates were ever passed on to him. I discovered recently that photos of the boys when young are held by members of his brother’s family. I have one photo of him as a chorister with two other lads. A few photos of the lodge and the Abbey were among Amelia Eva’s effects when she died. When we were very young there was in one of the cupboards, a very large drawing of a cross, meticulous in every detail. It was in fact the design for the cross which still stands atop the rood screen in Wroxton church. It was originally quite plain. While still an apprentice, Dad designed and recut it to its present shape.
The home was not without books, a motley collection, but books nevertheless; typical Victorian romantic novels (which I was eventually allowed to borrow) rubbed shoulders with Blunt on the Pentateuch, records of Charities (probably thrown out by the Abbey) a few of Dad’s Sunday School prizes and one or two good moral stories such as John Halifax, Gentleman. I can never remember a time when the daily paper, usually the Express, the weekly Banbury Guardian and a Sunday paper, the Pictorial or News of the World, were not avidly read, even when a day old, having been passed on by us. Many of the high class magazines, Tatler, Lady, discarded at the Abbey found their way to the Lodge and were of great interest particularly to Amelia Eva.
Dad was very fond of dogs and on several occasions, while he lived at home, he took over and cared for pets of which members of the North family had grown tired. To one or two of them he grew extremely attached.
At some time he must have worked as an Estate carpenter. Like all craftsmen, he had to equip himself with tools, and the means of storing and transporting them. He built a magnificent tool chest, complete with hidden drawers of all sizes, capable of holding his complete collection which was considerable, should he ever need to move it all at once. He also had a smaller wooden box, used when he was only taking enough for a single job. He often described to us what happened when major work needed to be done on some of the outlying Abbey property; how the necessary craftsmen would assemble their tools and personal necessities and be taken on a farm cart to their destination where they would stay until the work was finished before being brought home in the same manner. Lodgings were always easy to arrange. At one time, before the First War, while working for a private builder, he lodged for a long time in a cottage at Englefield Green in Surrey, while he worked on a building which in the 1950’s was converted into a College of Education. Once when I was living in Surrey, I took him to Englefield Green to see the property and to search for the cottage, but it had gone, and the Green itself had changed beyond recognition.
About 1913, Dad had the misfortune to sever the top of a finger in a saw machine. He was treated at the Horton General Hospital, Banbury, and kept in overnight. Here he met a young trainee nurse, 13 years his junior, who was doing night duty. Four years later Lilian Ellen Constant became his wife.
On 18th April 1875 at St. Mary’s Church in the parish of St. Marylebone, in the County of Middlesex, Alfred Thomas Constant 26, a bachelor, of 12 John Street West, son of Jesse Constant, a sailor, married Elizabeth Ann Ford, daughter of Henry Ford, a blacksmith.
At that time Alfred was working as a labourer, and is said to have worked in that capacity on the building of Trafalgar Square. They had 8 children, 7 daughters and a son, of whom Lilian Ellen - Nellie - was the 6th. Where they lived when first married is uncertain. By the time the 5th child, Fanny, was born in 1884 they were living at 22 Selhurst Park Road, Croydon. The birth of their youngest child, Lottie, in 1892 is registered at Battersea, and mother always referred to ‘home’ as being in Battersea. By 1915 their address was 7 Barmore Street, Battersea.
The eldest child, Emma, married Benjamin Summers. There were no children. Of Ben I know only that he played an ‘accordion’; it may have been only a concertina or a very early model. Emma did some kind of ‘nursing’ in an unqualified capacity. I never met them, nor did they keep in touch with Mother - our news came from Grandmother - but I always felt that Mother and Emma could have been very close but for the wide age gap. Emma died in middle life of what was described at the time as ‘sleeping sickness’.
The second child and only son, Alfred was born in 1878 or 1879 and worked as a laundry-man. On 29 May,1898, at All Saints Church in the Parish of All Saints, South Acton, Middlesex, 19 year old Alfred married Sarah Ann Ellis, 18, daughter of Ben Ellis, also a laundry-man. Their addresses were respectively 95 and 96 Bolls Bridge Road. There were 4 children, two boys of whose existence I only learned recently, Elizabeth, ‘Lizzie’, born 22nd June 1910, and Barbara, ‘Babs’, born 2nd October 1918, just 13 days after me.
Later in his working life, Alfred became a London taxi driver. While still fairly young he died of a heart attack at the wheel of his taxi. I once saw the newspaper cutting of this incident which Mother had kept. Unfortunately it was not among her papers when she died.
By the early 1920’s the children were orphans and in a home. Lizzie and Barbara visited us in Wroxton with Grandmother; by then Lizzie was almost ready to leave school. Once the girls left the home we heard no more of them. Elizabeth’s birth was registered at Acton; that of Barbara at Mortlake. Where the boys fitted into the family picture I do not know; or whether they too had to be put into a home. One of them is reputed to have gone to Australia.
Florence, Alfred and Elizabeth’s third child, married three times and remained in the area, but did not keep in touch with her family. Until a few years ago my cousin Bessie, Lottie’s daughter, used on very rare occasions to see her in the Wandsworth area, but there was no contact. Her first husband’s name was given to me as Carrington. Among Lottie’s papers was a newspaper cutting reporting an inquest on 10 year old William Covington who died from lockjaw.
Under the headline ‘Death from Lockjaw - Sad Result of Ingrave Street Lad’s Fall’ it records that William returned from an errand on Saturday night 4th January 1913 to tell his mother that he had been tripped over by a drunken man so that his left foot was bruised. By the following Wednesday the foot was better but he complained of pain in his knee which quickly became swollen. He went on to develop typical tetanic spasms and rigidity and died the following Saturday. The jury brought in a verdict of Accidental Death. His mother, Florence Jane, reported that her husband had left her four years before. It seems likely that Florence Carrington and Florence Covington were one and the same.
I have a photograph of two young women, similarly attired, one mounted on an unharnessed pony. It was sent by ‘Flo’ to ‘Nellie’ - Mother - asking her to write soon and saying that she had lost her ‘wild companion’ for which she was not sorry. The mounted lass is undoubtedly Flo, so like Lottie. The writing is almost juvenile.
Gertrude, the 4th Child was, from Mother’s description, a very able person Any photos of her I ever saw portrayed her as very smart, slightly built and very alert. She married Charles Goddard, a policeman. There were two children, Charles and Gertrude. What happened to Gertrude I do not know. Mother used to tell of how she comforted her brother when the Zeppelins went over during the First World War. ‘Charlie’ came into our lives in the 1920’s. He brought his fiancée, Flossie, a furrier by trade, to stay with us one bitterly cold Easter weekend. There was a village wedding in the church which we attended like most of the other villagers, out of curiosity, but Charlie was much teased for having gone ‘to find out how things were done’. After several postponements they eventually married, but had no children. Charlie had his own electrician’s business. In late middle age he died ‘on the job’. He had been working in the loft of the house where he must have been taken ill, but came down in time to lie on the bed where he was found dead by the residents when they returned.
Opinion in the family was that the parents’ marriage was anything but a bed of roses. A few years after Charles came into our lives the newspapers reported the finding of two bodies with their hands strapped together washed up on a beach, ‘The Strapped Hands Case’. Some days after the story broke while I was reading our Daily Express at the kitchen table I found a brief notice about the identity of the bodies. The woman was named as Gertrude Goddard. I drew Mother’s attention to this. Knowing that Gertie was out of touch with the family she wrote at once to Grandmother, who confirmed that it was our ‘Gertie’. At the inquest the deaths were considered to have been the result of a suicide pact.
The three younger daughters kept in touch with Mother long enough for me have known them all. Fanny Matilda, born 18th September 1884, remained a spinster, although she appears to have had at least one admirer. There is a postcard dated about 1905 in an old album of hers - the album itself a gift from Mother - from a gentleman signing himself Bill Bailey, proposing marriage. Clearly she declined his offer. She eventually became lady’s maid to Mrs. Dorothy Greenwood, wife of an MP and daughter of Sir James Carmichael of building fame. She travelled regularly with her employer, especially after the couple were divorced, which involved long spells on the continent; Cannes was a favourite place. In a scrapbook Mother kept for me - made from an old wallpaper catalogue - I have a number of postcards and photographs she gave me of various fashionable French resorts. After we moved to Thisbe Cottage she spent several holidays with us in Wroxton, always bringing a large trunk of clothes which she had worn abroad, but which were quite unsuitable for village life. She had several serious illnesses, after one of which she came to us to recuperate. She proved a very difficult patient. After that, contact between us diminished rapidly.
Kate, the youngest but one was a bit of a mystery. After leaving school she worked in a laundry, but after a time disappeared; no one knew where she was, nor did she volunteer any explanation when she reappeared. Eventually she became Mrs. Greene and had one daughter, Connie, who was about my age. While Connie was still quite young we were told that Mr. Greene had died. Not long afterwards one of the family saw him very much alive. I met Kate and Connie twice, once in about 1923 or 1924 when we spent a weekend in London with Lottie and Grandmother. Both were dressed ‘to the nines’, and Connie had a very expensive doll’s pram. The second time was when I was staying in the same Earlsfield flat with Lottie, Grandmother and Bessie in August 1929. Kate paid us a brief visit, again looking extremely smart. Later she married a Mr. Masters, and eventually left London to live in Northampton. By now she had ceased to have any contact with her family.
Lottie Marion, born 24th October 1892, was married at Wandsworth Registry Office on 22nd October 1915, to James Suckling, a Private in the Border Regiment. They had one daughter, Bessie Marion, born on 10th December 1917. James Suckling was killed in action before the war ended. Lottie left her own home to live with her mother at 13 Vanderbilt Rd., Earlsfield. She could then do daily domestic work while her Mother looked after Bessie. The three stayed together until Grandmother died on 2nd June 1938 aged 82 years. Towards the end of her life severe rheumatism rendered her almost immobile. I saw little of her, but my memories are of a round, affectionate yet strict person, very fond of her family, always ready to help them where she could. Lottie remained at the same address, an upstairs flat with a downstairs toilet and no bathroom, until she died in the 1960’s. She and Mother were very close, and she made us all very welcome whenever we were able to visit her. There was always a wonderful meal, simple, but beautifully cooked. She was especially kind to all of us after Mother died.
Bessie and I grew closer as the years passed. By the time I visited in 1929 the 9 months which separated us in age had ceased to matter. We were now in the same academic year and both about to go to Grammar School, she to the Elliott School, Putney, and I to Banbury County School. Bessie went into Pharmacy. She was unable to go to university, but obtained all her skills with ease ‘on the job’, and eventually worked for a chemist in Garrett Lane, Earlsfield. Here she met her future husband, Frank Sendall, who became the Manager. On their wedding day, having no father, she asked Dad to ‘give her away’. They lived for some time in a flat on Bedford Hill, and later had their own shop in Balham. There were two children, Ann and Frank. Ann became a secretary; Frank followed his parents into pharmacy, training at Aston University. Ann married Roger Taylor and they had two children, Stephen and Clare.
While the children were still at school Roger died, very suddenly at their Gillingham home. While working in Liverpool, Frank met and married Fiona, divorced mother of three children. A son and daughter were born to them before Frank, just before his 40th birthday, died of inoperable cancer.
Frank Sendall snr. Died in 1989, Bessie in 1996. To the end of her life she remained in the flat in Earlsfield where she and Frank had brought up their family and where her mother and grandmother had lived before her.
Lilian Ellen, ‘Nellie’, the sixth child of Alfred and Elizabeth Constant, was born very close to midnight on 3rd September 1888. Her birthday was celebrated on 3rd September until she had to obtain a copy of her birth certificate before starting to train as a nurse, It revealed that she had been born just after midnight, on 4th September. Mother, like all her family, attended the Winstanley Road Board School in Battersea, where she won prizes for attendance and needlework. The family was far from well off. Her father was a builder’s labourer. We were brought up to believe that the artist, Joseph Benjamin Constant, (born 1845) was his brother. The truth of this is in doubt. The reference to John Constant in ‘Illyrian Spring’ by Ann Bridge could be taken to indicate that he was one of a group of English artists, living and working in France. One of his portraits, full figure, is to be found in Polesden Lacey House, Surrey. Nellie’s mother, Elizabeth, made her contribution to the family income by cooking at a nearby hotel for commercial travellers.
They were a very ‘respectable’ family, intelligent and well mannered, but poor; the children were often unable to go out in bad weather for lack of suitable footwear. As soon as they were old enough they were sent to a C of E Sunday school They attended as regularly as health, weather and their financial situation allowed. There came a day when Mother and her younger sisters had to explain their absence on the previous Sunday. Their explanation that they could not come dry shod for lack of sound footwear elicited from the teacher no sympathy, merely a reprimand. Shortly after this they joined the Methodist Sunday School where they found a welcome and understanding. In 1906, in her 18th year, Mother was baptised into the Methodist Church and soon afterwards made a member. Shortly before her marriage she was confirmed into the Anglican Church, Dad’s Church, but it was in the Methodist Church that she really felt at home, especially in her later years in Wroxton after the Goodman Memorial Chapel was built.
Mother told me little about her childhood, her family or her friends. She did not enjoy the best of health, being subject to throat and chest complaints. She told of the thrill each child had when sent to fetch bread from the bakery not far away. In those days loaves had to be weighed, and if below the standard weight, a piece of bread pudding was added to make up the weight, a ‘make-weight’, and this was the reward for running the errand. At Christmas time one of the older ones would be dispatched to the off-licence with a jug to collect the stout or porter for the Christmas pudding. On Sundays the water-cress man called his wares. There was the muffin man to listen for, and in winter the lamplighter to watch. When Mother was older she enjoyed swimming, until one day she had an attack of cramp while in the water.
When she left school, like her elder sisters before her, she was employed as a maid by her headmistress, Miss Soutar. She could not train as a nurse until she was 21. How she filled the years between leaving Miss Soutar and beginning her training I do not know but there are some postcards to her at an address in North London where she was probably ‘in service’. Such a humble upbringing and education made it impossible for a girl to train in a large London hospital where the intake of trainees consisted mainly of the daughters of the professionals, mainly Doctors, often their own consultants, who today with greater opportunities for women in medicine might well have become doctors themselves. She was accepted at the Horton General Hospital in Banbury. She had always loved the country so it was no hardship for her to leave the metropolis. Within the family she was the odd one out, the only one who opted for, and achieved, success in a career.
She had to provide her own uniform, and invoked the aid of her elder sister Gertrude, already married with a small daughter, to make her dresses. It came as something of a shock to her when she collected them to find that the material she had been asked to provide had also provided dresses for her young niece.
The life of a trainee nurse was hard. Large fires heated the wards and it was the job of the lowest ranks to whiten the hearths with hearth-stone. The matron at the Horton was very strict and had high standards. If the hearth was less than perfectly smooth and evenly white she would whip out her scissors and ‘score’ it so that it had to be redone.
Nurses having days off were not supposed to be provided with meals. Many are the tales Mother told of meals spirited up to off duty colleagues in their own dormitories, of unexpected visits from Matron - just checking - and of plates and cutlery hastily pushed out of sight, under mattresses if need be, to avoid detection - and last of all the inevitable task of returning utensils to the dining room or kitchen.
Having finished her General Nursing Training, Lilian Constant SRN went to the General Lying in Hospital in London to train as a Midwife. She had already set her sights on becoming a District Nurse. So poor was this part of London, Lambeth, that on very many occasions when the Midwives attended a birth they took with them not only their own equipment but also the Parish Bag containing everything that was likely to be necessary for the well-being of the baby, at least until its parents could obtain necessities from other charitable sources. Whether anything was ever returned is anyone’s guess; it was considered a risk worth taking.
Once fully qualified she became a District Nurse in the Bayston Hill area of Shropshire, where her work was very much appreciated. A cutting she kept, probably from a parish magazine, comments, "The assistance which the local nursing association has been able to render has proved a boon in many a poor cottage home in the district. The help offered has been doubly acceptable, because in the discharge of her duties Nurse Constant has made herself extremely popular." Because she had been unable to find the money to pay for her training, she was working at a reduced rate until the debt was honoured, just before she left Bayston Hill for her marriage in December 1917.
From time to time she gave up her off duty to work in a reception centre for wounded men returning from the front on their way to suitable English hospitals. This often meant cross-country journeys at night, often on foot, occasionally taking short cuts across fields. One dark night an all too close snort alerted her to the fact that she had strayed into a field where the farmer kept his bull.
These men were by no means ‘walking wounded’, but some of the most seriously injured survivors. The memory of one in particular remained with mother; a man with so many broken bones that traditional splinting and bandaging was of no avail. Instead, a slatted crate, like an orange box, was used to support his mangled body and to minimise the chance of movement during his journey home.
While Mother was working at Bayston Hill she was privileged to be involved with some of the pioneering work from which Health Visiting as we know it has evolved. In the late 1880’s the subject of health, general health, irrespective of age, class or whether country or townsfolk, was exercising the minds of thinking people in and out of government. In the country it was common practice for the wives and daughters from the ‘big house’, be it vicarage, rectory or manse, to visit the sick and needy, often their own tenants or employees, bearing gifts, usually nourishing food such as gruel cooked in their own kitchens. Much of the trouble resulted from bad housing, lack of work and therefore no wages; open cesspits close to dwellings and general squalor made it difficult if not impossible to maintain standards of cleanliness or hygiene. Conditions in the poorer areas of towns and cities were just as unsatisfactory. It was probably from these local voluntary efforts to meet the needs of the sick, neglected and underprivileged that the idea of health in the community was born.
1848 had seen the passage through Parliament of the Public Health Act, which led to the appointment of the first Medical Officer of Health. Thereafter a serious effort was made to improve the general health and awareness of the nation by teaching, distribution of pamphlets and charitable work. In 1902 after a long struggle the first Midwives Act was passed and the Central Midwives Board set up to monitor standards in midwifery and by 1908 in many areas, trained nurses who also had their CMB certificate were employed to co-ordinate the voluntary work undertaken. At this time there was great public concern about the high rate of Infant Mortality. Notification of all births became compulsory from 1915, and there was increasing interest in the movement for the development of infant welfare.
At the time of the Boer War (1899 - 1902) half the recruits were found to be unfit for service, a fact which drew attention to the need for preventative medicine while children were still at school. Poverty remained a major cause if ill-health. In 1907 the Administrative Provisions Act made it necessary for local authorities to provide medical examination at regular intervals for all elementary school children and to arrange for any necessary treatment to be given; hence the appointment of School Nurses who attended medical inspections, treated minor ailments and gave instruction in cleanliness. These duties were incorporated into Mother’s work as a District Nurse at Bayston Hill.
WAR and MARRIAGE
When war broke out in 1914 Dad volunteered immediately, only to be rejected on account of very bad varicose veins. Throughout his life he invariably wore, over a small hole on one ankle, a dressing of ointment prescribed by a Harley Street Consultant, held in place by a crepe bandage. At intervals this erupted into an ulcer, and he was unable to work or use his leg until what often turned into a badly ulcerated leg healed.
Meanwhile his relationship with the young night nurse whom he had met after his finger injury was making steady if slow progress. For as long as she was training, Mother’s leisure time was curtailed by her need to study. While she remained in Banbury, meetings were occasionally possible, but when she returned to London they were much more difficult to organise. By the time she was settled in Bayston Hill, Dad had left Wroxton to work on the building of a large housing estate in Coventry which added to the difficulties, and he was not inclined to write letters very often. Their chances to really get to know each other were few indeed.
Eventually Mother was taken home to meet the parents. George was always easy to get along with, and the relationship between father and daughter-in-law was always good. But Amelia Eva had other plans for this younger son and made her hostility obvious. A friend of hers, Miss Williams, lady’s maid to one of Lord North’s daughters was about Frank’s age, rising 40. The fact that their ages might well ensure a childless marriage was a bonus. She was very close to her step-son, relied on him and did not want his attention distracted by the demands of a family of his own. All this she made clear to Mother very forcibly some time later when my impending arrival became obvious.
Before they could marry they needed to rent a cottage somewhere. Not surprisingly, the atmosphere being what it was, Mother persuaded Dad not on any account to settle in Wroxton, even if a suitable property became available. Meanwhile Dad was still working in Coventry, lodging with the Tew family, while Mother remained in Bayston Hill, completing the repayment of her training loan. The next news Mother received was that No. 1 Silver Street, Wroxton had become vacant and Dad, persuaded by his father, had agreed to take it. Mother was devastated, the more so when she saw the state of the house, and knowing that at first she would be entirely alone, in a strange village, with a less than friendly mother-in-law.
By the end of 1917, repayments completed, Mother was able to leave Bayston Hill. She had enjoyed her work there-and been very well liked. Before she left she was presented with £50 and two small books bound in dark red leatherette. One contained testimonials, hand-written by her employers. The other was a record of all who had contributed to her leaving gift. It had been exquisitely illustrated by a local artist with water colour miniatures of local beauty spots. These books, together with a small pair of bellows, beautifully carved for her by a local vicar, were among her most treasured possessions; so much so that although the artist wished to add further illustrations, she would never risk posting the book back to her.
On 22nd December 1917, Frank Arthur Cadd, Bachelor, of 82 London Road, Coventry, son of George Cadd, Hall Porter and Lilian Ellen Constant, Spinster, of Lonsdale, Bayston Hill, Shrewsbury, daughter of Alfred Thomas Constant (deceased), Bricklayer, were married at the Parish Church of St. Michael, Coventry - later Coventry cathedral and destroyed by bombing in 1940. They spent a short honeymoon with Dad’s cousin Sally in Kings Sutton before Dad returned to Coventry and Mother began the mammoth task of turning 1 Silver Street into a home.
1 SILVER STREET
1 Silver Street was the first house to come into view for anyone travelling from Banbury on the ‘turnpike’ road, A 422. It stood at the junction with the Horley road which branched away to the right, slightly above the level of the front garden. Built of sandstone with a thatched roof it was separated from the road by a low fence, from No. 2, the home of the Jack Neville’s, by a vegetable garden, and by a high hedge from the meadow belonging to ‘The Cottage’ which backed it, the home of the Fitzgerald family - in reality quite a substantial property and today an hotel. On the far side of the main road was a narrow grass verge and the high stone boundary wall of the Abbey farmland, behind which grew a line of walnut trees.
No. 1 had originally been two cottages with a laundry attached which housed not only a copper but a bake-oven. The drying racks stretched from wall to wall just below the ceiling. The floor here was of blue slate. Everywhere else downstairs, floors were of large stone slabs, uneven both in size and surface, often with gaps between. The small middle room downstairs which had no heating of any kind, had a floor which rose perceptibly along its front edge to make possible unimpeded access into the third room which had obviously been part of the better cottage. This was the only downstairs room with a back window above ground level. The rest of the house had been built into a bank. Walls were several feet thick and the front windows, all of which commanded a view of traffic or persons approaching from the Banbury direction, were glazed with such imperfect glass that anything viewed through them, especially in the living room, was so distorted as to cause considerable hilarity.
There was no indoor toilet or bathroom, just an earth closet with an open cesspit close by behind the corner of the living room, with access via the vegetable garden. For washing we used rain water - soft water - running off the roof into the gutters and collected in a tub at the back of the house. Drinking water came from the well in front. It was ice-cold, clear and sparkling; small wonder that during the summer so many cyclists and walkers asked for drinks. The well was covered by a heavy wooden lid, above which was a roofed support for the rope bearing spindle, operated by a cast iron handle. At the end of the rope was a large clip, similar to those used on dog leads but about a foot long. It was very deep and every effort was made to keep us at a safe distance until we were old enough and strong enough to be taught to use it.
The first attempt to draw a pail of water unaided was an occasion to savour, even if with a frisson of fear. A less pleasant experience was the appearance at the well-head of the hook, but no pail. Dad, greeted with the news on his return from work, was never pleased, and easily persuaded of our carelessness. In order to retrieve the pail he must first borrow some grappling hooks then, kneeling beside the well, lower them into the water and ‘fish’ until one of the hooks fielded the handle of the pail; not a pleasant job in winter and one needing daylight. In summer he could do it in the evening, but in winter he would have to wait until after his return from work at mid-day on Saturday. When a pail was lost, which was fortunately not often, great was the resulting inconvenience, especially to Mother for it meant that we could have only one small pail of water in the house.
There were three doors at the front of the house, none at the back. The left-hand door, seen from the front, led into the laundry, to which there was no other access. The central and right-hand doors had originally been separate entrances to the two cottages before they were knocked together. Their most striking feature was the brass door furniture, added by the previous tenants, and left behind when they made their final, hasty exit.
Several other features were duplicated besides the front doors. There was a coal-fired cooking range in either end room downstairs and a flight of stairs leading up into the respective bedroom above, each of which had its own open fireplace. The larger downstairs room was our living room. The stairs curved around its front corner in a continuous sweep and underneath was an odd shaped cupboard. The walls were wainscoted with wallpaper above. After nightfall light was provided by candles and free-standing paraffin lamps.
Like most of the cottages in the village ours was leased from the Abbey. The rent was low, about half a crown (2 shillings and 6 pence) a week, and was paid quarterly.
MARRIED LIFE BEGINS
In the early weeks of 1918, only a few weeks after her wedding, Mother began to transform 1 Silver Street; perhaps ‘to make it habitable’ would better describe the task she had to undertake once Dad returned to Coventry, for the previous owners had done a ‘moonlight flit’, leaving the cottage extremely dirty, and piles of rubbish, cans, bottles etc. which she had somehow remove. There were no ‘dustmen’ in Wroxton in those days. Before their marriage they had managed to accumulate the necessary minimum of equipment - furniture, crockery, pails for water and suchlike - so Mother could live in the house while she worked on it. She was isolated from her neighbours by the kitchen garden and had the open road on the other side. It was winter; the daylight hours were short, the weather often stormy. Strong winds drew attention to the draughts from ill-fitting doors and windows; loose latches rattled with every gust. Soon she found herself awakened at night and walking the house from end to end in search of the cause of a noise which at first she attributed to intruders. Eventually she traced the rattle to the smart brass letter-box on the further front door.
Her nearest neighbour was well-meaning, but like most longstanding village dwellers, overly interested in the affairs of all and sundry. What else was there in the average village at that time to stimulate or interest the residents? She it was who spotted, long before this rather shy newly-wed was prepared to announce the fact, that the patter of tiny feet would be heard before the end of the year. Nor did she keep her observations to herself. Worse was to come. Cousin Percy still lived at home with his mother, Dad’s aunt Mary Ann, and was known to be easily mistaken for another local gentleman. One day, while talking to this neighbour, one of them cycled past, and Mother wrongly identified him. She was uncomfortably aware of the sort of interpretation that could, and probably would be put on such casual coincidences and immediately felt ill-at-ease regarding her relationship with these new and as yet scarcely known relatives.
I made my entry into the world on 19th September 1918. Mother had already chosen Dr. Penrose, one of the Banbury doctors as her physician, in preference to Dr. Forty, Dad’s doctor, based at Shennington who treated most of the locals. She chose another qualified midwife, Mrs. Reynolds from North Newington, to attend during the birth not the local nurse, Mrs. Parritt; although Mrs. Parritt could live in during the confinement she could only undertake midwifery under supervision since she was unqualified. By the time I arrived, Dad had left Coventry and was working in Banbury and Mother’s mother came to take charge of us.
When the time for my christening arrived, Dad wanted me to have his stepmother’s name in full, Amelia Eva. Mother refused, and chose Olive Amelia. She was somewhat disconcerted when, after the service, the old sexton, Mr. Will Neville, whose family had a reputation among the locals which could only be called ‘colourful’, said to her; ‘You’ve chosen the same name as my eldest!’ I believe Mother’s decision had been made on the spur of the moment; I know of no one else so named on either side of the family.
INTO the FUTURE
The Great War was still in progress. Many local men were still in the trenches. The sight of the uniformed telegraph boy on his bicycle approaching from the direction of Banbury struck terror into the hearts of any whose loved ones had not yet returned. A camp of German prisoners based near Banbury were employed to extend the open-cast ironstone mining close to Wroxton. Once the work was completed, with a railway installed for the removal of the ore, the Oxfordshire Ironstone Company was to provide work for local men for many years to come, until the seam was exhausted. Meanwhile the prisoners were marched to work daily right past our door. According to Mother it was my great joy to watch them, and later to try to match my waving to the rhythm of their feet.
After the Armistice on 11th November 1918 the ‘boys’ gradually returned, some unmistakably scarred by their experiences, not only by bullets and shells but by gas. Some were disabled physically; others were too shell-shocked ever to be able to work again.
When government surplus stock was sold to defray some of the costs of the war, one local tenant farmer, Mr. Will Freeman, invested in two mules, ex-baggage-carrying animals, instead of horses to help work his land.
On 14th January, 1921 a son was added to our family, eventually christened Arthur. My earliest memory is of the day of his birth. At that time Dad was a pipe smoker. I was with him in the living room at 1 Silver Street, awaiting the arrival of my maternal grandmother from London who was to take over the running of our home and to release him to go to work. He had in his hand a beautiful small pipe with an amber stem, of which he was very fond. As he moved towards the range, our only means of heating, he dropped it on to the hearth-stone where it splintered on impact.
I now had an added interest. Each morning I watched the new baby being bathed, dressed and fed. All this had to be accomplished on the corner of the large kitchen table, as near as possible to the warmth of the range. Although Mother always insisted that I was the difficult baby because I cried so much I have the impression that Arthur gave her much cause for concern. There were so many times when she showed signs of real stress and worry when handling him, When he could not be taken out of doors, he slept in the high, boat shaped pram in a corner of the living room. I remember earning a very sharp reprimand from Mother one day during spring-cleaning when he was only a few months old because I tried to rock the pram, not realising that the baby was already asleep. I did not appreciate the reprimand, for I could not foresee the trouble I risked causing if I disturbed this sleeping scrap of humanity.
For the next 5 years we were able to establish a pattern of family life. Dad worked for 5½ days each week, had no holidays, and lost pay for all public holidays. His employers were W.H. Booth and Son, a fairly large and flourishing firm of builders in Banbury. His working day began at 8.00am in winter and 7.30am in summer.
He rose each morning at 5.30am, his first task being to get the fire in the range drawing, for without it there would be no shaving water nor the wherewithal to brew tea or cook breakfast. I suspect that at night the fire was stoked with ‘slack’, a combination of coal dust and small fragments of coal, often damp, and the various doors and dampers closed, so that in the morning he had only to tease it into life with a draught of fresh air and rake out the ash. While he washed, Mother would prepare his breakfast and his mid-day sandwiches, which he carried to work in a well worn leather bag, together with any small tools he needed from home for that day. Mid-day hot drinks were brewed in the work-shop.
He travelled to and fro by bicycle, with only an acetylene lamp if there was insufficient daylight. These lamps needed daily priming - refilling with carbide and water - and woe betide any cyclist who forgot this very smelly chore. He prided himself on being in good time, so left home long before we were awake. In winter if the roads were so icy that he could not ride he walked, his only aid being a longish piece of well smoothed one inch square timber with a strong nail protruding point downwards from the bottom. The journey was about three miles. As he went in the morning, so he returned at night, for there was no regular public transport to match his hours. In summer he would often snatch half an hour in the garden before leaving.
He usually returned at about 5.30pm unless there was some emergency requiring that he work overtime. In those days many builders would undertake to provide a coffin if asked to do so. How it was achieved I do not know, but on these occasions Mother never failed to receive a message to the effect that Dad would be late because there was a ‘coffin job’.
About 4 miles out of Banbury were the Hornton stone quarries, where the grey Hornton stone, so common in local churchyards, was quarried. Occasionally a mishap with one of the great poles which formed part of the lifting gear would bring work to a standstill until either a repair or a replacement could be carried out. One of the firm’s lorries would be sent immediately with whatever workmen and equipment were needed. Again a message would reach us at home with the news of a late working night.
Fortunately these aberrations were not frequent, for Mother always provided Dad with something cooked when he arrived home from work. It might be as simple as two poached eggs, or a dinner put aside from our mid-day meal reheated over a saucepan of boiling water on a covered plate. There was always a pudding. He was particularly fond of baked egg custard and pancakes with lemon. Any one who has sampled the vagaries of a kitchen range will understand the problems posed by a sudden change of mealtime of the indeterminate kind that these ‘working late’ messages foretold.
Dad’s return was the highlight of our day. Our own tea over, we were free to drool like hungry puppies at whatever appeared on his plate. We were seldom disappointed, for as often as not he would leave us a taste of pudding. For these solitary meals he always sat the corner of the table, nearest to the fire and farthest away from the draughty front doors with his chair at an angle. Arthur, more venturesome, more agile and smaller than I was, often amused himself by climbing between the horizontal stave and the seat of the Windsor chairs, much to our parents’ amusement. One evening I decided to copy him; it seemed easy enough. Unfortunately I reckoned without the difference in the size of our heads, and I knew nothing about the structure or relative measurements of the human skull. In a matter of seconds I was stuck fast, with head and torso on opposite sides of the stave, frightened almost witless and noisy with it, and very unpopular; needless to say I did not repeat the exercise.
In summer, meal over, Dad would quickly gather gardening tools and go off to his allotment, ten minutes walk away, or into the kitchen garden beside the house. He grew all our vegetables and enough to supply our grandparents, plus enough to sell some of his very best to Boxalls, the Greengrocer’s in Butcher’s Row in Banbury, or to friends and neighbours. He saved most of his own seed, buying in just enough new each year to keep the stock strong. Task finished he would return to the house, smarten up and walk the short distance to the White Horse Inn for a drink, and maybe a game of dominoes with his friends. Sometimes he would visit his parents, but it was many years before these visits had to be made daily. Our bedtimes were strictly adhered to, so we only saw Dad in our early years for these brief evening periods and on Saturday afternoons and Sundays.
Grandfather had been a frequent teatime visitor, first when Mother was alone, and later until we children arrived, to coincide with Dad’s mealtime. I understood from Mother that he too was only too willing to share anything that was going, especially if it happened to be a banana, or something different from the fare provided at the Lodge. He always came alone; indeed I never remember a visit to us by Step-grandmother.
HOUSEWIFE and MOTHER
Mother’s day, like Dad’s was long and full. Once Dad was on his way to work she could turn her attention to home and children. Coal for the range, usually bought in by the ton, was stored at the back of the old laundry, and fetched in as required in a scuttle. Each time a new delivery was made the sacks must be counted in, unobtrusively of course; good relations with the coal merchant were of the essence. The hearth was hearth-stoned - whitened - daily and the range and fire-irons relieved of the fine coating of ash invariably left behind each morning when the fire was raked. On Fridays the range was taken apart, the soot scraped or brushed away from all flues and inside surfaces and then reassembled and black-leaded until it shone. The soot was kept for the garden; it was usually allowed to accumulate and stand for a time in an uncovered heap before being scattered around plants. The amount of dust released made sure that the whole room had to be thoroughly cleaned as soon as work on the range was finished.
Water was drawn from the well in a pail as required and heated in kettles or saucepans which stood on top of the range; even bath water was heated thus. There being no bathroom we were bathed in a zinc bath in front of the living room fire. Hair was washed at the same time.
On wash-days, Mondays, the copper was filled, if possible with soft water from the rainwater butt, the fire underneath was lit early and as soon as breakfast was cleared away a large zinc bath was set up on a strong bench in the old laundry. I think our bench had belonged to a butcher, it had such a thick top. Hot water was ladled from the copper, to which was added flakes of hard yellow Sunlight soap, cut by hand with a kitchen knife from the block in which it was produced. When it had dissolved, clothes were added. Exceptional grime was tackled beforehand with a scrubbing brush and soap rubbed in straight from the block. From time to time the water in the copper and bath was replenished or replaced. The bath had to be emptied into a drain outside.
Mother had no wringer or mangle; she did all the wringing by hand, even the sheets, twisting and squeezing them into long ‘snakes’ and letting the coil fall into the bath or the laundry basket while the wet end was still in the water. The laundry basket was oval, of woven cane, sturdy and quite heavy. In poorer families when a new baby arrived they were often brought into use as temporary cradles, the alternative being a deep drawer from a chest of drawers.
Washing, rinsing, blueing with Reckitts cubes of blue to whiten the ‘whites’, starching, for which Mother used Coleman’s Robin in preference to coarse bulk starch - no drip-dry in those days - so the processes followed one after another until the linen was ready to be hung up to dry, outside if at all possible even in frosty weather. Our clothes line was of thick, stranded wire, stretched between two posts, one at either end of the kitchen garden. The prop, a long branch forked at the end, cut from some hedge and well trimmed, together with a spare, were provided by Dad. Throughout washday the copper had to be kept full and its fire stoked, all without transferring dirt to freshly laundered clothes. There was no direct access to the laundry from the living room so one went to and fro, in and out, in all weathers.
On a good day, washing would be finished and everything out on the line by dinner time. There were no plastic or spring pegs, we used gypsy pegs bought at the door in bundles. Each was made from a piece of stick about 6 inches long, split through the middle and the two pieces shaped at one end to slide over the line and hold the clothes and bound together at the other with a metal strip. Afterwards the laundry had to be cleared, the copper emptied, the grate cleared of ash, any cinders added, often while still hot, to the living room fire, and the floor washed. In summer spare pails and baths would be filled with the washing water for watering the garden.
For so long as any of us were either at home or attending the village school and needing to be fed at dinner time the living room range had to be kept alight, as it was in cold weather, or ready to light, so that we could have a meal at about 12.30 am. Our Monday meal, quick and easy for washing day, was invariably cold meat from the Sunday joint with bubble and squeak, using up Sunday’s left-over vegetables, and boiled rice pudding to follow. There were usually home made pickles - pickled onions, cabbage, marrow and mustard pickle - and often home grown beetroot to go with the meat. In the afternoon Mother would be busy preparing our tea and Dad’s evening meal. If there was anything left of the Sunday joint she might well strip it to use the meat for our next day’s dinner and put the bone to stew slowly on the hob to make stock.
For the rest of the week Mother would be continuously busy. Monday’s washing, once dry enough, had to be folded, possibly damped down again before ironing, ironed and aired. In summer it was aired outside if the weather was fine but in winter or bad weather on clothes horses wherever there was space. Finally it had to be put away. After we had gone to bed she would be busy with her fingers; mending, knitting - she made all the woollies including socks and stockings until I was older - and renovating - it was common for garments which had faded to be turned inside out and remade to give them a new lease of life. She made summer dresses for me and for herself. Her household chores included all the window cleaning, inside and out, a risky business upstairs for she could only balance on the sill and lean out to do the outside.
There were a host of other daily chores which fell to Mother’s lot on which we all depended. Beds must be made. Paraffin lamps must be kept filled, wicks trimmed and glasses free of soot, an unpleasant, smelly job, more necessary in winter. Water pails must be kept full. The rag rugs - the earliest ones all made by Amelia Eva - which helped to protect our feet from the damp cold hardness, to say nothing of the unevenness, of the flagstone floors, must be regularly taken out of doors, well shaken, and the floors swept. The dishes must be washed up and put away; no easy task in the very small scullery which also served as our human wash-room.
PROVIDING for the FAMILY
If Mother needed to go to Banbury she had to walk the 3½ miles, pushing us in the pram when we were small. The very basic necessities could be bought in the village, either at the Co-op opposite the school, kept by Sarah Ann Hayes, or from Taylor’s shop in Taylor’s Lane. Regular roundsmen provided some of the essentials. If they were likely to call while she was out she had to leave clear instructions and a suitable receptacle in a safe place. Milk was delivered daily from Hobley’s Farm, the Abbey Home Farm, arriving in large churns in a pony-drawn milk float. The milkman came to the door with a lidded oval pail inside which, suspended from the rim by their handles, were two measures, a pint and a half-pint. With these he measured the milk into the receptacle presented to him, always adding a small amount for good measure. It was usual to pay on the spot so he always had a strong leather moneybag. He kept his pail replenished from the churns. As early as I can remember, milk cost threepence a pint. In the evening after milking, when the milk had been cooled and the cream taken off in the separator, skimmed milk could bought at the farm for one penny a pint.
On summer evenings while waiting to be served it was fascinating to watch the cowman as he strode, smoothly and sure footed, across the rough yard between milking shed and dairy, yoke across his shoulders, and a full pail suspended from a chain on either side, steadied by his hands on the pail handles. Inside the dairy the separators whirred purposefully. Fowls drifted in and out of the yard; farm cats went about their own business as it pleased them; only the very young ones made a playful examination of the cluster of strangers waiting at the door, jugs or cans in hand. Occasionally the quiet of the evening would be punctuated by the sad, protesting cries of a cow newly parted from her calf. Sometimes, milking over, one might catch sight of the whole herd returning to pasture or see one of the cowmen try to persuade a reluctant calf to drink from a pail, as he dipped his fingers into the fresh milk, not yet cold, and offered them to the calf to lick; meanwhile keeping a tight hold on the pail lest the calf show its feelings by kicking or butting it over.
Bread was baked by Mr. England in North Newington and delivered to the door in a small green van several times a week by Reg Freeman. What bread! Golden brown and crisp on the outside, soft and evenly aerated on the inside, and so many shapes to choose from. Batch, plain pillow-shaped loaves, and cottage with two flattish circles, one atop the other and a noticeable hollow in the top one, were baked on a flat surface without a tin. Coburg with four crusty peaks was cooked in a round open tin. A little closer in texture were the square sandwich loaves and the roly-poly ridged ones with grooves around them and a ridge down one side, both baked in enclosed tins. The ridge showed where the two halves of the tin had met, the grooves were supposed to make them easier to cut evenly, but they seldom lined up precisely.
The shape we favoured was the open tin, baked in an open rectangular tin, with its high rounded top. They came singly or in Quarterns, two loaves joined at one end where they had stuck together in the baking. Between the two was a soft cushion of bread, easily detached, often spread with butter - no margarine except for cooking - and shared between us whilst still warm for a treat. To cut a thin slice when the loaves were fresh was impossible, but who minded a ‘doorstep’ one inch thick, liberally spread with butter and home made jam, when the bread itself was so good? It was not at all uncommon to see a poor country child sitting at the door, hungrily demolishing a mammoth slice of bread and jam. After Hovis flour was introduced we sometimes had a small Hovis loaf for Sunday tea; there began my liking for brown bread.
On Fridays, Mr. Brown, the fishmonger came from Banbury in a similar small green van bringing a variety of fish, mostly smoked. Kippers, bloaters, fresh herrings and cod were the most popular, but the smell emanating from the little van once the doors were open, even in winter, was strong enough to be off-putting. Dad had no taste for fish other than the smoked variety, having had little of it as a child, and Mother, some years before her marriage, had had mussel poisoning, so even the occasional smoked fish was brought home from Banbury rather than risk Mr. Brown’s stock. Like most other families we had our fish basket for such purchases; shallow and made of straw-like material flattened and woven in a twill pattern. Often a large ‘skewer’ was stuck horizontally through it near the top to keep it closed.
Throughout the 19th century all transport between Banbury and the surrounding villages was by road, and the usual way to get goods transported was by carrier. In 1838 the 208 carriers visiting Banbury weekly made 465 visits and served 154 neighbouring towns and villages. Although every day saw the arrival of some, Thursday, being Market Day, was the most popular. By the turn of the century railways were opening up, and postal services had been introduced, parcel post having been in operation since 1883. The demand fell away and by 1914 only 118 carriers were operating, making only 292 visits, 119 on Thursday. With the steady increase in motor transport during the 1920’s and 30’s their numbers continued to dwindle until there were none left.
Our Carrier was Mr. Hawtin, a strong wiry man, clean as a new pin, usually dressed in corduroy trousers with well polished boots and leather leggings and a tweed jacket over the traditional ‘union’ shirt, so beloved of all who worked out of doors. On his head he always wore a tweed cap. Dark of hair and eye, exposure to the weather had tanned his skin to match. He was always cheerful, polite and pleasant to talk to. His transport was a horse drawn ‘tumbrel’, fitted with a strong waterproof cover on a frame with a rounded top. It had lantern lights fitted at either side for use on dark evenings. In bad weather curtain-like flaps could be drawn across the front opening, affording protection for goods and driver alike. The horse’s coat was groomed until it glowed; its harness and brasses shone as it clip-clopped its way along the tarmac of the Banbury road outside our house every Thursday as regular as clockwork.
Anyone needing errands done or goods purchased or collected would hail the carrier as he passed in the morning and give him instructions. In the evening he would return, commission accomplished, and be paid for his services. We did not need to use him a great deal but occasionally Dad needed timber from Dalby’s yard in Bridge Street, near the station, and then we were glad of his help.
A frequent Thursday visitor was Mrs. Lawrence, whose husband had a large, isolated farm near the ironstone workings. Each market day she pushed an old boat-shaped pram to Banbury carrying farm produce, mainly butter and eggs, or mushrooms when in season, for a few individual customers on whom she called en route. On the homeward journey she carried her own shopping, such as it was. Both parents were very eccentric. Mr. Lawrence never slept in the house but in an old wooden structure, which I believe had begun life as a mobile chicken house, which stood well out in the field. He was an excellent farmer but a fearsome person to meet if you were on his land, especially if you were collecting mushrooms which grew there as nowhere else in the village. Mrs. Lawrence gave the impression of being well bred. She was small in stature, fine boned and well spoken. The eldest child, Ruby, after leaving Wroxton school at 14, eventually went into service. While still quite young, she lost her life in accident riding her bicycle at the junction of the Oxford and Bloxham roads in Banbury. She too gave the impression of good breeding.
Cecil the elder son was the only labourer I ever knew to be employed there. A quiet lad, seeming almost cowed, he too died young, of lockjaw. Having cut himself quite badly while working in the fields he failed to report to his doctor as instructed for a tetanus injection, and paid the penalty. The youngest child John, about my age, while very young developed leg trouble, said at the time to be TB, and despite having every available treatment he became permanently lame. He was the only one to escape the farm. As soon as he could he bought a motor cycle, went for holidays and began to enjoy life.
On summer evenings we would occasionally be visited by Mr. Tuzzio, an Italian ice-cream vendor from Banbury. He drove a small, yellow pony cart, especially built to carry a small drum of ice-cream. There were no wafers or cones but for a few pence he would serve onto our own saucers portions of ice-cream, usually by then very soft.
A regular passer-by on Friday morning was the agent from Field’s, a general Draper in Banbury, as he cycled from village to village, collecting weekly payments. All our purchases were made on a strictly cash basis. Until we were too old for home-made garments Mother bought materials to make up for us from Bernard Smith. There was a tailoress in the village, Mrs. Crook, who once made a winter coat for her. But we did not often have anything completely new; clothes had to be taken care of and made to last.
Regularly but not frequently a colporteur called with a supply of magazines and books, all very moral and slightly religious, but attractive and well produced. As soon as I could read it, Little Dots, a small magazine, was bought for me. Very occasionally, when we were older and things were easier financially, Mother, who also loved to read, would buy a book for herself. The tales were usually romantic, morally correct and interesting. When her daughters were older she had no worries about passing them on to us.
Callers were few, not that Mother wanted too many for ours was not an easy house to look after, especially when there were babies to care for. Apart from a neighbour, often there to borrow a cup of sugar or the like, and Percy, or Mr. Crook on the way to the allotment, it was the gypsies selling their pegs and lace or offering to tell fortunes and a regular succession of tramps who most often called us to the door. These vagrants, making their rounds of the workhouses, seldom asked for more than boiling water to be poured into their weather-beaten cans into which they had already put a generous measure of tea. Occasionally one might ask for an article of clothing, but not often. One such was Mrs. Gilkes, sometimes with her grown up daughter Daisy in tow, but more often alone. A battered felt hat covered her head, over her many layers of clothing she wore an overcoat tied round the waist with string. Her footwear was a pair of men’s boots.
The nearest workhouse was on the outskirts of Banbury. Here the tramps could get a bed for the night and a meal. Before leaving next day they had to work at some menial task; often the men were put to stone-breaking. Some were vagrants by choice; well read, and having a natural dignity. Others, like Daisy Gilkes, were mentally retarded; ‘simple’ was the word we used for their condition. They intended no harm, they posed no threat. Our childhood fears of them were quite unfounded.
The most colourful character I remember was Theodore Lamb. He was no tramp, he came of a good family and had been apprenticed to a watchmaker. He was very skilled at his craft, but for nearly 40 years until his death he lived in a rough shack near Sibford. Dressed only in sacking, hair flowing over his shoulders, unshaven and with a beard reaching to his waist, he rode around the area on an old tricycle behind which he pulled a small trailer made from a wooden box and two wheels, probably from an old pram. Instead of washing he was said to rub lard into his skin. Mother sent me a cutting from the Banbury Guardian at the time of his death. Unfortunately the date is not visible, but it could not have been later than March 1966 as she herself died in May of that year.
Under the title ‘A Strange Character Passes’ it records that he died of pneumonia, aged 70.
"By his death, the District has lost a well known character, and thousands of Midlanders, whose excursion coaches touring the Cotswold country used to halt outside his shack, will miss this strange figure with his matted hair and unkempt beard, during the coming summer months.
Gone is the hermit in his quaint garb of sackcloth; gone is the "back to nature man" with the cultured voice; and gone (very shortly) will be his "home" of galvanised iron, timber and bedsteads covered with straw. But the memory of Theodore will remain."
He was a gentle soul, utterly honest. He was pleased as he died in hospital that he had been permitted to keep his hair uncut, and that he had managed to save enough money to pay for his own funeral. Recently I heard from a granddaughter of Dad’s brother George that his family were prosperous farmers and that he was a very distant relation of her own father.
Rag and bone men called fairly regularly, their arrival heralded by the ringing of a loud hand-bell. They were always glad to receive jam-jars, Any child who took a contribution to their cart was sure to receive a reward, usually a ‘windmill’, of the kind bought in the market for a few pence. In our home, jam-jars were only discarded if damaged. An extra large crop of plums, a gift of some damsons or a profitable blackberrying expedition soon saw them filled again. Paraffin was delivered to the door, and in the late 1920’s the occasional travelling shop called, but few of these continued to visit for very long.
At some time before my third birthday the better end of the cottage was let to the Head-mistress of the village school, Miss Ibell. Tall, thin and prim she fitted the description of a true spinster in every detail. She kept to her own part of the house so I saw little of her. School places for ‘Infants’ were easy to find in those days and as soon as I was three I was admitted to the Infants department of the village school. I was escorted there by Miss Ibell herself and duly admitted to the right group. The normal procedure would have been for my overcoat to hang with all the others in the crowded cloakroom. Instead it was hung over the back of a chair and kept near her high, teacher’s desk, ready for the return journey. How long she stayed with us or whither she moved on I do not remember.
Before my fourth birthday yet another diphtheria epidemic broke out. Arthur, about 18 months old, and I became ill together. Mother followed, but could not take to her bed. She literally worked herself to recovery. Then Dad caught it. His doctor, Dr. Forty, the country doctor from Shennington, insisted that mother must employ a nurse for Dad; this meant an extra person for her to look after. Sheets wrung out in disinfectant hung at the doors leading to stairs and bedrooms. The rest of the family recovered fairly quickly, my swabs went on and on being positive. I remember the bed in the middle room downstairs, visits from Dr. Wells, the second partner in the group who cared for the rest of the family, and injections into my abdomen.
Shortly after this we acquired our first three piece suite. The arm of the sofa could be let down to form a chaise longue, to us a bed. It remained with us, doing good service, throughout our childhood.
At some time Dad had learned to play a brass instrument, a B flat baritone, an accompanying instrument never a soloist unlike its slightly larger brother the euphonium. There were small bands in several nearby villages, Shutford Brass, Hanwell Silver and Horley, a mixture of brass and silver to which Dad belonged. Most of the members of the Horley Band came from Wroxton or Drayton. One evening each week was set aside for practice, so Dad was away from home. I was always given to understand that whenever possible during my babyhood Dad’s way of dealing with my crying was to play his instrument. Did this, I wonder, lay the foundation for my own love of the sound of Brass?
By contrast, the womenfolk had few opportunities to socialise away from their homes. A few were brave enough to join their husbands at the White Horse or the North Arms for a drink. One or two would dare to go on their own. The only group for women was the Mothers’ Union. Dad, who was liable to form rigid, often unreasonable seeming opinions about the strangest things, objected to this group, although all its members were, like himself, members of the Church. For this reason, or so it appeared, Mother did not join. In later years she was to prove that she both could and would ignore Dad’s wishes, but on this occasion I always felt that she shared his feelings, and had no particular wish to do so. Looking back, I am not surprised. Dad on the other hand had a number of interests. The band, his singing in the church choir and his bell-ringing all took him away from the house, as did his games of dominoes with friends over a drink, usually a half-pint of ale. At home he had his carpentry which certainly imposed limitations on the rest of us from time to time but undoubtedly helped to improve our home and gave him great satisfaction.
MOTHER and DAUGHTER.
I have good reason to remember band practice nights. I was always a wakeful child. Our bed times were regular, and compared with today, early. I slept in the room immediately above the living room at the top of the stairs, from where I not only heard much but could easily be heard. While Arthur fell asleep as soon as his head touched the pillow, I remained awake. Many were the evenings when I recited tables while Mother listened and where necessary corrected. On these evenings she was usually doing the sort of job which would have made my company a hazard, ironing, for instance, using a flat-iron heated on the top or in front of the fire in the range. If she was sewing, by hand or by machine I was often allowed to join her. Her machine, an old Frister and Rossman with a long bobbin in a boat shaped case, was in beautiful condition. She kept it and used it well. I would watch fascinated. It was while watching her make baby clothes for her very poor patients out of the good pieces of Dad’s Wolsey underwear that I learned about herring-bone and feather stitches. As we talked, our ears were often assailed by the sinister scratching of rats behind the wainscoting, thanks to the soil bank which supported the back of the house and the proximity of the cesspit. It was not pleasant, but like other occupants of country cottages thus built we had to accept and make the best of it.
It was at these times that I learned most of what I know of Mother’s childhood, family, training and nursing experiences at Bayston Hill. Far more important, although I did not realise it then, I was getting to know Mother.
Both Mother and Dad had a great deal of potential, but while Dad was accepted as a ‘son of the village’ in his own right, Mother was only accepted as his wife. By the time Arthur and I were at school she was occasionally helping the Banbury doctors who cared for most of the local gentry when there were detailed examinations to be done, and attending births unaided as a qualified midwife. This was viewed with suspicion by some of the villagers.
Both parents had had the minimum of formal education, Dad’s two years at the British School notwithstanding, but the difference in standards between the village school and the London board schools could scarcely have been greater. Nor was a small village, where most families were related if not intermarried, a place where a complete stranger was likely to find a welcome. Whereas Madame Mills, French wife of Ben Mills, would be excused many a faux pas because she was foreign, Mother would be condemned, for she was only a Londoner; although few of the villagers had travelled farther than two wheels could carry them so that London was as far outside their experience as any foreign land. Wroxton, tucked away in rural North Oxfordshire and still largely governed by the rhythms of the 19th and even the 18th centuries, must have been equally far outside the experience of a Londoner. In those early years Mother lived under continuous tension, with nowhere but her home in which to exercise her talents. She minded that Dad was regularly out for a long evening, that from time to time he spent precious hours practising or preparing his instrument for some special occasion, not because he did these things but because she longed for his adult company.
I was always regarded as an old-fashioned child, solitary within my group and very shy. I was the eldest, of whom high standards were expected. More and more as the years passed, Mother shared with me her disappointments, her hurts, her feelings of injustice and her doubts about people, particularly members of the family. Often, quite unintentionally, hurting me too. I began to feel burdened, and by my teens I resented it. Was I intended to take sides? I was unwilling to do so. Dad and I talked little with each other, yet I always felt very close to him. We could very happily share silence. With Mother this was often difficult. As we grew up we learned to recognise and to handle the situation heralded by a tuneless whistle which broke into our times of silence: Mother was bothered. By the time I was a mature adult I understood for we were - are - very much alike. I am sad for the things which did not go right for her, and therefore the more deeply aware and grateful for the wholehearted way she gave herself for her family and those she served. I sometimes wonder if she ever felt entirely secure.
Dad’s contribution was equally great. He was a loner, isolated within himself because he had never known his real Mother, yet relaxed in the environment which had nurtured him from the age of seven. Often they seemed to move along parallel tracks each keeping counsel, unshared. The harness which linked them was often too light to afford support enough for Mother’s peace of mind. But - they were a wonderful couple. I am proud of my parentage, and would not have changed it for the world.
Eventually the small village bands ceased to exist. Old members died, some moved away and no youngsters took their places. The last to disappear was the Shutford Band. Dad transferred :his allegiance to the Banbury British Legion Band conducted by George Barratt. They were much in demand for civic functions such as Remembrance Day celebrations in the town park. A favourite engagement was the afternoon concert on Daffodil Sunday at Aynho Park which Dad could to combine with a visit to his old Aunt Lizzie who lived in a cottage just outside the Park gates. Coach space permitting, families could accompany the band. On the one occasion when I was able to join him our absence went unnoticed when the coach left to return to Banbury, about 7 miles away. There was nothing for it but to start walking, in the hope that some kind motorist would offer a lift for at least some of the journey. Soon after we reached the main road we were hailed by none other than one of the Rathbone twins, (Bill and Fred) whose butcher’s shop we regularly patronised, and which was next door to the practice room where we had left the bicycles which would carry us the last 3½ miles home.
Saturdays and Sundays had their own, very different, patterns. On Saturday Dad worked for only half a day, until 12 o’clock, after which if there was shopping to be done he would visit the necessary shops: Dossett’s for groceries, Boote’s in Church Lane for sausages, Trolley’s at the bottom of the High Street for pork pies and either Wyncoll’s or Boxall’s for fruit; not that we needed to buy much of the limited stocks of fruit available in our early years. Oranges were seldom available until just before Christmas and tended then to be small and very sour. Mother was always rather less than grateful for oranges sent from the Lodge by our Cadd grandparents for our Christmas stockings. She knew that, childlike, we would want to eat them, and that their acidity, combined with sugar mice and Christmas fare would inevitably cause trouble.
On Saturday, for the first time in the week, we ate our mid-day meal as a family. Afterwards Dad would work on his allotment or garden, season and weather permitting, or out in his large work-shed, sharpening saws or mending chairs for neighbours, or making from scratch extra furniture for us. His favourite wood was English oak. In later years he was sometimes fortunate enough to be provided with a piece from the wood-yard by the Abbey workshops. Time was when timber came from the estate land to the saw-mill near Home Farm to be trimmed, cut and stored. Oak was often stacked in the stables where the breath and body odours of the horses hastened the darkening process. Otherwise all his timber came from Dalby’s in Banbury.
All the preparation, sawing, planing and sand-papering, was always done in his workshop, of corrugated iron, in the back garden; sometimes the curled wood shavings were a foot deep round his bench. But as the workshop had neither heat nor light, fixing and assembly work had quite often to be brought indoors to be done on our very large kitchen table. The glue pot would be heated on the range until the glue was usable, when the joint would be glued and probably fixed in a vice until dry and secure.
I grew to love the smell of wood, the grain in a piece of oak, the rhythms as one tool after another was expertly employed. Most of all I loved to watch as, chin firmly fixed on the mushroom shaped top, he rotated the brace and bit, seldom needing any adjustment once he stopped turning. He was a silent worker, completely absorbed in the job in hand, and would have liked the same degree of concentration from us. Occasionally, if the light was not good enough, we would be required to hold lighted candles in strategic positions. Strange how candles burning steadily and with never a flicker, once in our clammy hands seemed to take on a life of their own. Flames danced, candles wobbled and irritating shadows spread into just the corners where light was most needed, and we were in trouble. I am still amazed that work attempted in those conditions was completed to such a high degree of perfection.
During the summer we usually gathered for a simple family tea at about 4.00 pm. Afterwards Dad would frequently go off alone with baskets and a hooked stick in search of what nature offered for our delight: blackberries, hazel or walnuts, mushrooms, even on occasions a few raspberries from Claydon Hill. Mother made all our jam: blackberry and apple was always a favourite, It was often dark before he returned. As soon as we were old enough we went with him.
On Saturday evening the galvanised zinc bath would be brought into the living room - the only place suitable - placed in front of the fire and filled with water heated in kettles and saucepans on the top of the stove so that Mother could bath us and wash our hair. Before we went to bed a set of clean clothes would be put out for the morrow. Best shoes would already be cleaned and polished.
Sunday was the only day we were together all day. Breakfast was always pork sausages followed by bread and jam; we had marmalade only occasionally because Mother did not make it.
The Vicar of Wroxton was also responsible for the parish of Balscote. Communion, Matins and Evensong were shared between the two churches. Few of the villagers attended Matins. Sunday was the only non-working day for most of the men, except of course farm workers who must work even then. It was the day most families who could afford to sat down to roast dinners, often quite late if the men were in the habit of visiting one of the public houses, which closed at two o’clock. Many were the tales of the old days when roasts were arranged in their tins, meat and potatoes together, taken to one of the bakers and collected when cooked. This was the tradition when Dad was a boy. Meat was expensive then, wages low and families often large, so the meal often began with the pudding, maybe a large roly-poly spotted dick, boiled in a cloth. Thus it was hoped to satisfy the appetites of growing children without depriving the wage earner.
Farm work was limited to the care of animals. Some men spent the day on their allotments or gardens. Dad would neither garden nor work with tools. Indoors he always prepared the potatoes. Green vegetables would have been collected the night before, all the outside leaves removed and consigned to the compost heap, the muck-heap. Peas and broad beans were shelled and runner beans trimmed and sliced during the morning, by us children as soon as we were able. Dad would sit in an old Windsor carving chair in the corner of the kitchen, bent forward over a pail of water in which were the potatoes to be prepared. He always used his own pocket knife, sharpened to perfection. There was never a hurried movement. Potato peelings would fall slowly into the pail in narrow, even strips, always very thin. The potato eventually placed in clean cold water was scarcely less smooth than before the skin was removed. Nor did the fact that we always had more than enough potatoes tempt him, or allow us when we were old enough to lend a hand, to peel away thick, wasteful strips, leaving angular vegetables for cooking.
This done he would wash and shave, all downstairs for we had no bathroom, before moving upstairs to change and dress for Sunday. In the very early days he would regularly trim and wax his moustache. This I loved to watch; the wax was pleasantly aromatic, from what ingredient I know not, but I can still remember it.
Mother would be busy with preparations for dinner. The range must be properly stoked and at the right heat before the joint went into the oven. Pudding was usually a steamed one, suet crusted and filled with fruit in season, or spotted dick, ginger or golden using a lot of golden syrup, needing at least two hours of steaming. Plain suets with syrup or jam and swimmers - dumplings cooked in water only and served with something sweet, even just plain sugar - were usually kept for weekdays. Since the range was in full use on Sunday she would also have ready scones and small cakes to be cooked after the roast so that no heat was wasted. Meal over and clearing up done Mother would leave us while she dressed for Sunday and sometimes had a short rest away from the family.
For us there was Sunday School, at a time depending on the Incumbent. It invariably included receiving a text, repeating the words of the previous one and/or learning the collect for the day. There was very little to attract young children to any aspect of church life. The popular service with any villagers prepared to make the effort was evensong at 6.00 pm. The congregation were all middle-aged to elderly. Many of the pews retained the small metal plates indicating ownership and unhappy indeed was the fate of any unsuspecting stranger occupying such a pew should the owner turn up. I never remember a time when Dad was not in the choir, so it was left to Mother to decide when to take us. A few childish observations by my brother when first taken along, far from amusing fellow worshippers were considered unacceptable; the first, as Dad in white surplice processed to the choir stalls; "Me! Dad! Me! Dad in his night-shirt!", later when the Vicar Rev. Pettifer, having climbed into the pulpit, paused for prayer before his sermon; "Mr. Peffifer’s saying his prayers. Is he going to bed now?" Children should be seen but not heard, especially in church, so our visits were strictly limited until we could control ourselves.
One Sunday evening, when I was about five or six, Dad took me on my own. I sat in ‘our’ pew, third from the back in the side aisle, in front of the vestry. An elderly village worthy who had known Dad all his life sat in the pew behind. Mother had recently re-cut a black velour hat of her own which fitted my rather large head and trimmed it with powder-blue velvet ribbon, leaving two long streamers at the back; no bare heads in church in those days! She had omitted to put in elastic to go under my chin to keep the hat in place. At on point I lifted my head to look upwards. The hat fell off at the old man’s feet. It was immediately returned, but before the night was over, not only Dad but most of the congregation knew of the incident leaving me for some time feeling guilty and ill at ease in church.
The service ended at 7.00 p.m. leaving us time to do something as a family before the day ended. In winter this often meant a walk to the lodge to visit grandparents. Sometimes Dad made the journey alone while we returned home to read our books: no games or hobbies allowed on Sundays. On one such occasion we arrived to find a light in Mother’s bedroom window, Male assistance was quickly called in from the Neville family, our nearest neighbours. It was just a candle that had not been snuffed before we left.
At other times there were so many walks we could take. We could follow the by-roads to Horley or Hanwell, often returning by field paths. By following the Drift Road we could see the progress of the open-cast ironstone mining and return by the turnpike road. It was on one such walk that Mother lost her engagement ring. Arthur, very small then, needed a comfort stop. Mother removed her gloves, but in the gloaming did not see that her ring also left her finger. She discovered her loss when we reached home so, remembering the heap of sand near by, returned to search but was unsuccessful. Sadly our finances did not stretch to a replacement.
Often we walled on the Downs, between the two pools, Taylor’s and the Ladies’, as far as the Monument, or the Keepers’ cottage, or round by Town Wood and home through the Garden Ground. In the opposite direction we could go through the Beech Walk and home either through the Big Leys past the dovecote or via the North Newington road.
There where were other relatives and friends on whom to call; Aunt Mary Ann or the Pearson’s in Wroxton; Miss Edwards, Dad’s Uncle David’s sister-in-law and her friend Miss Robins in Drayton. Whichever route we took we were sure to meet others on the way. Finally home to supper and bed; until we were much older Sunday was the only night we stayed up to share supper. Dad’s supper would be some of the cold vegetables left from dinner and if we had had a joint of beef any left over Yorkshire pudding with a little meat. Most other nights it would be bread and cheese with a small freshly peeled onion. We often had bread and milk.
During my childhood special occasions were few and far between, and treasured accordingly. Christmas for most people meant gathering together with as many family members as possible under one roof, at least for Christmas dinner. Few working parents could afford to celebrate children’s birthdays so school, or sometimes Sunday School, celebrations were the only other highlights of our year, although our gain might be no more than a half-holiday.
At Christmas the village children were always given a party at Wroxton Abbey. Having assembled at school, dressed in our Sunday best, and carrying our own cup or mug, we walked in crocodile to the servants’ entrance at the back of the Abbey where we waited, whatever the weather, until precisely 4.00pm when the Housekeeper, Mrs. Cobb, in a long black dress with an enormous bunch of keys dangling from her waist, opened the door. After a very short time during which we could explore part of the labyrinth which, together with the kitchen, occupied this subterranean part of the Abbey, we assembled in the Servants’ Hall where the whitewashed walls and pillars were festooned with evergreens of every kind. We sat on forms at trestle tables covered with white cloths. In front of us were huge plates piled high: lots of bread and jam, thick sandwiches, usually of fish paste, plain slab cake and light fruit cake - nothing home made, the kitchen capacity notwithstanding. For us bought cake was an attractive novelty, although in truth even a simple rock cake, warm and fresh from Mother’s oven, was greatly superior. We drank weak tea.
Eventually Mr. Fitzgerald, Lord North’s son-in law, complete with monocle, would appear, sometimes with his two grown up daughters. Once appetites were satisfied he would call for someone to recite. One of the senior pupils would always oblige. A favourite poem, repeated every year, was ‘Abu Ben Adam, may his tribe increase’. It was one of the few poems taught at that time. At last we should be dismissed, to leave the Abbey grounds as we had entered, in crocodile, and thereafter to make our way home, hopefully with drinking vessels still intact.
Easter was a long weekend’s holiday for the working men who always tried to plant their potatoes and beans on Good Friday. On Easter Day there were chocolate eggs for us children, quite plain and hollow with no filling of any kind but packed in the most beautiful boxes.
The next ‘Occasion’ in the year’s round was May Day. On 1st May the school-children processed all round the village with a visit ‘by appointment’ to the Abbey. The procession was headed by a May Queen, all in white with a veil, supported by a King carrying a wooden collecting box; behind them came a garland carried by some of the older boys, then the rest of the school and the Staff. The garland was made from two large wooden hoops tied together at right angles one inside the other to make a frame which was liberally covered with evergreens. Into these were fixed flowers of all kinds. At the top were always Crown Imperials - ‘Crown o‘ Pearls’ we called them - given every year by the same elderly lady. The garland took the best part of the day before to make and was then well watered and left in school overnight. On May Day morning a doll was fixed at its centre before the procession set out. At the end of the day we were treated to a tea-party followed by games on the vicarage paddock. For this party too we had to take our own mugs or cups.
Empire Day, 24th May, brought Lord North to the school to represent the Monarch. Weather permitting we would line up outside the school where, after a suitable reading in praise of our Empire, we would ‘salute the flag’ - the Union Jack.
I remember also one school concert and one prize-giving. I won a book, ‘Ministering Children’, a highly moral tale of Victorian domestic life, but very interesting and in parts very informative. I read it avidly, and returned to it many times. The concert included a short sketch in which I was a parrot, my sole vocal contribution being to squawk, "Pretty Polly!". Mother made a beautiful costume for me from a Weldon’s pattern, using red, yellow and blue sateen. The wings, tail and head complete with beak had to be stiffened. All Mother had was good brown paper, probably saved from grocery parcels. I still have the costume and used it a few years ago for a children’s Holiday Club production.
During the fox-hunting season every 4th Friday in the month brought a break in our normal routine and a little mild excitement when the Warwickshire Hunt, of which Lord North was Master, met at the Abbey. Riders and hounds assembled outside the main entrance where Abbey staff handed out ‘stirrup cups’, sherry glasses with handles filled with fortifying liquor. Barriers were set up with stakes and ropes along all the grass verges behind which members of the public stood to watch. We started school at 8.45am so that we could leave early just before 11.00am to join the onlookers. We lined the Abbey drive and watched in awe as the riders in traditional hunting gear, pink coated men and black clad ladies, usually riding side saddle, made their way to the Abbey and eventually set off to the sound of a horn. We were supposed to return to school for the afternoon session, but we were sure to be short of at least one or two of the teenage boys, who would skip dinner and follow on foot hoping that by Monday their absence had been forgotten. It usually was. Gwen too remembers following on foot over the downs on more than one occasion, to arrive home some hours later, tired, hungry and often muddy.
ATTEMPT to FORM a DISTRICT
By the mid 1920’s Mother had gradually won acceptance and respect both in and around Wroxton, and was doing most of the midwifery and general nursing required, but on a private basis there was no District. She could charge little, 30 shillings for 13 visits for a birth, rising later to, but never exceeding, two guineas (£2 2 shillings). Out of this she provided not only her own uniform, equipment, drugs and transport, but best quality cotton-wool, baby soap and powder for the 10 days she was in attendance, Only once did she fail to receive her full fee.
During the early 1920’s an attempt was made to form a District for health care to cover Wroxton and the surrounding villages, in all of which Mother was already working. It was spearheaded by the Oxford Health Authority, led by Mrs. Pearce, wife of Dr. Pearce, of Oxford, Inspector of Midwives for the area. A Meeting was held and the scheme explained in detail. It would have entailed small regular contributions from every family ‘in sickness and in health’ to pay for the District Nurse who would live locally and be available whenever needed. She would receive a regular salary. It had already been decided that Mother should be offered the post. The locals were not prepared to pay when they themselves were not receiving attention. The scheme could not be put into operation, so Mother continued to work as before with no absolute guarantee of any, let alone adequate payment, instead of having a regular income. Every summer, usually in August, she did holiday duty in the Tadmarton District.
FOUR BECOME FIVE
From 1926 the pattern of our lives changed considerably. During that year Mother was often unwell and the atmosphere at home very fraught. I was not prepared in any way for what was to happen nor given any chance to anticipate the coming event. In the late evening of Saturday 29th May I was woken by Mother and told to dress quickly and fetch a near neighbour, who eventually found Dad and dispatched him to North Newington to fetch Nurse Reynolds. I returned home but not to sleep. There were comings and goings, a visit from our Family Doctor, and eventually, when a degree of peace was restored, I was introduced to a minute scrap of humanity, eyes still closed, two months premature and weighing only 4½ pounds: my baby sister, eventually to be christened Gwendoline Florence and ever afterwards known simply as Gwen. Our oldest Cadd cousin looked after us until Mother was fit again. The frailty of her baby worried her. One early morning only days after the birth, long before Arthur or I were up, she cried out, "My baby! She’s blind! My baby’s blind!" Gradually we were reassured, and Mother persuaded that those little eyes would soon open.
After the birth she had a number of health problems and was glad to use me to help in any way my years allowed. Arthur, now five, was able to enjoy the company of the Neville boys next door; their Mother and sister Hilda took him under their wing from time to time. My freedom was almost entirely curtailed for wherever I went now, new pram and baby came too. Most of the girls I knew at school were older than me, as there were few in my age group, and well beyond baby sisters. I often felt their pity, not always kindly expressed, and longed to be able to join in their activities.
Mother’s health improved slowly. The minute scrap of humanity put on weight and grew into a lovely baby. In early Autumn another blow fell: there was an outbreak of whooping cough. I escaped it, Arthur had it very mildly, but the baby caught it and was very ill indeed. She was barely four months old. Her spasms of coughing sounded as if they would tear her tiny frame apart, if they did not choke her. Our Doctor prescribed Aqua Vita at 5 shillings a bottle. At that time Dad was earning about £4 a week. There was no National Health Service and eventually the Doctor’s bills would have to be paid too. What agony Dad and Mother felt until Gwen recovered is hard to imagine.
On 5th October 1926, while Gwen was still not fully recovered, Lord North celebrated his 90th birthday. There was a mammoth party for everyone who had ever worked for him, and their wives, so that effectively the entire village was involved. A photograph was taken of the assembly on the steps of the Abbey, a copy of which eventually came into the possession of each family who attended. I do not know whether it was purchased or a gift. There was no-one else free to look after Gwen so that Mother could go. By then I had had my 8th birthday, the day was dry and warm, so I was given strict instructions as to what I could do, where I could go, and was left in charge of her.
Now the country was recovering after the war, and the ‘Slump’ was a few years ahead. Arthur and I were both at the village school; he had started at the age of four. Mother was gradually increasing her workload and therefore her earnings. Both parents were more relaxed. Even in holidays when we were at home, ‘Aunt’ Mary Ann, Gwen’s Godmother, looked after her whenever nursing took Mother out during the day.
The market in Banbury was becoming more comprehensive. In summer there were melons on the fruit stalls; bananas were no more than twopence each and usually only three-halfpence. A bacon stall was added selling whole shoulders for boiling very cheaply. Woolworth’s came into the High Street in place of the beautiful old coaching Inn, The George, and a new cinema was built in the Horsefair, near to the Whateley Hotel.
Dad saw to it that we tasted most fruit as it came into season. The large black or white cherries were particular favourites. Our lemonade was made from real lemons. We had apples and Victoria and golden drop plums in the garden. We had always had good quality meat but now we could afford a little more of it. On Sunday a joint was a must. Shoulder of lamb alternated with sirloin of beef, complete with undercut. Where fat was found, there it had grown. Roast pork - we always had spare rib - left the oven with beautiful, crunchy crackling, and every joint was sure to yield rich, flavoursome dripping, a real treat on winter afternoons when spread on slices of bread freshly toasted in front of the fire.
’Fridge’s were unknown in working class families. If their cottages had no cold, walk-in larders, perishable goods had to be kept in ‘safes’, wooden cupboards with panels of perforated zinc in the doors instead of wood or glass to allow air to circulate but keep out flies; Dad made ours. Even so, meat or fish would only keep for a day or two and most families needed to shop mid-week. In Banbury Tuesday was early closing day, Thursday and Saturday were market days.
After Gwen started school in 1929, aged three, Mother would cycle into town, often on a Wednesday to avoid crowds, and return home with as much speed as possible. She always tried to prepare a specially tasty meal on Saturday for Dad to share, but it had to be finished up the same day. One of my favourites, and one which in these days I cannot reproduce, was sheep’s heart. Large enough to feed five of us it had first to be gently simmered until tender before being stuffed tightly with sage and onion stuffing, sewn up with a needle and thread to keep the stuffing in and then roasted. Another favourite was calf’s liver and bacon with thick, rich brown gravy. The cheaper cuts of meat - neck of mutton, shin of beef, brisket and flank - and offal were plentiful and home produced. Most good butchers were also graziers and killed their own beasts, hence the closed butchers’ shops on Monday afternoons. We never had mince and chicken appeared only at Christmas, usually accompanied by a joint of pork. The carcass would be turned into broth or stew on Boxing Day before Dad returned to work on December 27th.
My memories of Infant school are fragmentary: slate pencils and chipped slates on which, with many squeaks and dragged finger nails, we learned to write and to do simple sums. One wall was covered with something resembling black lino on which we could ‘scribble’ with blackboard chalk - not the dustless kind, of course. There were tins of letters about one inch square, yellowing with age, for word building, and sand trays. Once we were bidden to ask our mothers to make us drawing books from brown paper. Mother was very good at this sort of thing, and duly sent me back with a nicely stitched one. Shortly afterwards two balls of knitting cotton, one pink, one blue, the only colours we ever had, were fixed onto a pair of wooden knitting needles, crossed at right angles, and secured against the blackboard for us to draw. That was the first and only drawing lesson I remember. The drawing books were not used again.
I do not remember how I learned to read, but I do remember the very old, soft-backed Beacon Readers; greasy and grubby with the finger-marks of many generations yet seemingly indestructible: books 1 to 6, through which we progressed, or not, according to our potential. Usually Infants moved up to Juniors aged about seven, but it was not uncommon for underachievers to be kept down.
How we developed manipulative skills I do not know! Sometimes we used plasticine. Our teacher Miss Dumbleton did her best to keep the few colours separate, but all too soon it was a uniform ‘mud’. There were small squares of insipidly tinted paper which we were taught to fold into boats or cruets, never anything else.
Girls were taught to knit - garter stitch only - on heavy wooden needles. We also made a dolls’ cot blanket from strips, half pink and half blue, which were sewn together with colours alternating. Everything we made we were expected to buy. Otherwise it had to be sold elsewhere so that more materials could be provided.
Girls usually wore starched white pinafores, especially in winter when the materials from which our dresses were made were not easy to wash and dry. Long hair was more common than today, and always plaited or tied back.
The school day began at 9.00 am when the bell was rung. Once in our respective rooms the three teachers called their registers. There were short prayers at either end of the day and grace at dinner time. Sometimes the Vicar came to take scripture, mainly catechism. An arithmetic lesson followed - lots of tables and mental arithmetic - before a short break when we ate our ‘lunches’, elevenses really, very small snacks brought from home and kept safely for us by the teacher. Dinner time was from midday until 1.30 pm. All Wroxton children went home for their meal. The day ended at 3.45 pm.
While I was an Infant the school year ran from April to the following April, so we changed classes in the Spring. The numbers present, which were written with chalk on a slate each session and hung just inside the entrance in the Infants’ classroom, hovered around 95. Although we were limited to working in three groups we all knew our classes within the group. We often had to work in smaller groups or individually, according to our degree of attainment or the nature of the subject. Early in my Junior days, the system changed. The school year now ran from September until July. This meant that for a few children in each year there were two options; go up a class, or stay put. I was fortunate enough to go up, so by the time I was ten I was in the Senior group, working with the leavers aged 13 and 14.
By the time Gwen was born I was beginning to have ambitions. I loved learning and found it easy. I could not get enough to read. What came my way I read very quickly, and retained its content. A red letter day for me was when the County Library began to make fortnightly visits to the village. Mother had taught me to knit on 2 and 4 needles, to sew and to do basic crochet, and I was encouraged to use these skills to amuse myself.
I looked around at the girls leaving school. For the most part they either went as maids of all work in small establishments, or into service to learn a specific skill, or stayed at home to help with younger siblings. A very few became assistants in the new Woolworth’s. I wanted much more but had little idea how to achieve it. Our Headmaster was Mr. Albury. Sadly he soon ceased to command our respect or that of our parents. His weakness was alcohol. Several times he was fined for being drunk and disorderly and the cases reported in the Banbury papers, The Guardian and the Advertiser. Matters came to a head one Market Day when his behaviour led one of the carriers to lash out with a horse whip, injuring his face. Soon after his return to school he began to tell us about Albury in Australia to which area he was supposed to be emigrating. He left at the end of the summer term and with his family soon moved away.
One episode during his tenure of the headship stands out in my memory. He wanted us to have somewhere to swim. One cloudy, grey, summer afternoon, the whole upper school some complete with swimming gear, set off on an extended walk. It took us via Dark Lane across the Downs, skirted the Town Wood and brought us to the tunnel under the road between Wroxton and Drayton hills. Through it flowed a shallow brook which then continued through pasture land, gaining width and depth as it flowed. We crossed under the road dry-shod on boulders and eventually stopped at a bend in the stream where it was at its widest and deepest. Water plants grew thickly on both banks. No one swam that day, but soon afterwards the stream was dammed at that point by a rough structure of wood and corrugated iron sheets, and quite a number of the village children, mainly boys, did learn to swim there.
When we returned to school in September we met our new Headmaster, Mr. Webley. We did not know that his appointment was only temporary, nor that he had been sent by the Oxfordshire Education Committee to improve the standards at the school. His home was at Standlake near Witney where his wife and daughter Mary remained while he found lodgings with a family in the Council Houses. He returned home on Friday evening and came back on Sunday evening, usually having to walk up from Banbury. He was a gentleman, born into a family of some standing, a university graduate and an excellent musician, having a rich, powerful, well-trained bass voice. He was probably in his 40’s. He handled children excellently, from my three year old sister to the leavers.
He seldom grumbled, but rather teased us into improving. He had a fund of experience and knowledge, and cared deeply that we should all derive the maximum benefit from the limited education the school could provide. Our timetable was immediately broadened until it included not only the ‘Three R’s’, and scripture, history and geography, but science, with simple experiments, music, art and craft. We learned classic poetry, Gray’s Elegy, Milton’s sonnet on his blindness and much more. A set of new readers appeared: Treasure Island. Sometimes we read as a group, but for the most part were encouraged to read on our own. I was soon in trouble with my classmates. I could not possibly have read that much. But I had! And not even the subsequent nightmares came between me and that story until I reached the end.
One night before I had finished it I was awakened by heavy footsteps, and loud urgent knocking on our front door. I woke in terror, remembering the sinister tapping of the blind man’s stick in the book. When Mother opened the door I heard’ "Can yer come to me Uncle Dick? He’s bleedin’ like a pig!". The speaker was Will Palmer, a road-mender from Blenheim Square at the top of Taylor’s Lane behind Oliver Grant’s farm. Hastily taking up her emergency bag Mother followed in his wake, to find that the old man had fallen in the larder where floor and shelves were of stone and had hit his head. He died soon enough afterwards for an inquest to be necessary.
These were the years when a great deal of thought was being given to the content of elementary education. One of the pioneers was Winifred Mercier, Principal of Whitelands College where I would eventually train. Hence not only the broadening of the academic content but real concern for physical well-being; leading to the inclusion of regular PE/PT lessons and organised games. Several times each week the whole upper school would go with Mr. Webley to the open space in front of the main Abbey gates. There, sorted out into lines, distances between us duly measured, we would go through a series of exercises, usually to numbers, destined to exercise every muscle in our bodies. After that came a team game, followed by a breathing exercise before we marched back to school. By today’s standards it sounds very regimented, drill in its strictest sense; it was, but we enjoyed every minute. It would be years before the PE lesson changed its nature.
Once every week during the summer term, weather permitting, we had an afternoon session of organised games in Checkley’s field, opposite the White Horse Inn. The field was rough, the grass cut only by the teeth of the animals pastured in it, and not without such impedimenta as cow-pats and clumps of thistles. We managed to play rounders and all sorts of less traditional games, for which we needed to run, jump, skip or walk. We may not have learned any sports or athletic skills but we had real fun and looked forward to this weekly relaxation.
Sometimes we took part in something outside school. Every summer there was a large fête in the Abbey grounds, which included all sorts of displays in the afternoon followed by dancing on the tennis courts in the evening to the music of Mr. Harry Goodman’s two-piece band. He was the pianist, his partner, white-haired and lame, played the violin and sang. I particularly remember 2 songs from this time: ‘It ain’t-a-going to rain no more no more. It ain’t-a-going to rain no more. But how in the world can the old folks tell, it ain’t-a-going to rain no more!’ and: ‘I wonder I wonder I wonder I wonder what I look like when I’m asleep’. It was at this event that I first saw a boxing match.
The two assistant teachers at this time were Miss Edna Hussey who taught the Infants and Miss Jackson who taught the Juniors. Miss Hussey knew the Playford Country Dances and taught us a selection to perform at the fête: ‘Gathering Peascods’, ‘Brighton Camp’, ‘If All The World Were Paper’, and several others. We wore sleeveless dresses, bodices of green sateen and skirts of raffia strands over golden yellow butter-muslin with bells tied to a few of the strands.
One year we dressed a large baby doll for exhibition at the annual Agricultural Show. Various girls were chosen to make a garment each. I had to make the white woollen vest, two plain, two pearl all the way. How I envied Marjorie Clark who made the dress, which had a border of shadow work in pale blue. From time to time the general Inspector, Mr. Bulmer visited the school. He was dour indeed! He always set a spelling test, but his slight speech impediment helped no one to excel.
On Ascension Day all C of E children had to go to church in the morning. The rest of the day was a holiday. Another half-holiday in the Summer term was on the day of the Scripture exam. All answers were oral, and at the end one child, usually a leaver, was chosen to receive a Bible.
Realising that I would have finished the course at the village school before my 11th birthday, both my parents were agonising over my future. A number of children completed their education with Miss Mellors, where the uniform if nothing else was closely modelled on that of the County School, being in green and navy instead of red and black. The fees for Miss Savage were much higher and way beyond my parents’ means. To gain entrance to the County School I would have to win either a scholarship or a free place. Mr. Webley made a point of giving any child showing sufficient promise the opportunity to do just that. I was his first candidate. With a birthday in the second half of September I would have two chances, but time was short if I was to succeed at my first attempt. Despite Mr. Webley’s efforts the Wroxton school’s standards were still low and I in particular had a lot to learn about presentation. My handwriting was not good and because my thoughts went faster than my pen I was constantly making alterations. In arithmetic although I generally got the right answers I was prone to be economical with space. Previously none of this had mattered, now it was crucial.
Soon after Mr. Webley arrived he began to give me homework and after school help. I will not pretend that I enjoyed some of his comments, or his comparison of my writing with Arthur’s, which was, and always has been so much better, even though he spoke with a twinkle in his eye and, as he once pointed out, ‘Comparisons are odious!’. Tears of frustration were not unknown, but I learned quickly and soon enjoyed both the extra tuition and my own progress. In class, working to the standards of the 14 year olds, I held my own.
In the spring of 1929 I took the exam, the only candidate, surrounded by my classmates being kept very quiet. It was a great day indeed when I heard that I had been granted a free place at the County School, the first child from Wroxton since Miss Hussey herself, 10 years before. There was no transport, so I was provided with an all black James bicycle. Once measured for it I could scarcely wait for its arrival, for I still had to learn to ride it.
A few days after the beginning of the summer term, well before 9.00 am, Mr. Webley brought the register outside and sought out all the older girls and me. County had decided that basic cookery should be included in the curriculum for any girl who had reached the age of 11 or Standard 5. I was only 10, but in Standard 6. The centre was at the village hall in North Newington. Here we were to spend one day each week for the rest of the term. Having returned home to explain and to collect food for midday, we set off together across the fields, a distance of several miles. All the others had and could ride bicycles, so this was the only time I would have company. I was often fearful as I crossed those open arable fields with not a soul or a house in sight.
Miss Dance was a good teacher and interested in the girls in her classes. We spent the morning watching a detailed demonstration before writing up recipes and methods. Cooking was seldom done before dinner. Having eaten our packed lunches we had about an hour free. Not far away across the fields was a clear, fairly deep stream, ideal for paddling. One of the older girls would somehow remove a tea-towel or two to use as a towel and off we would go to amuse ourselves until recalled for the afternoon session. At the end of the afternoon we had to clean everything, so whoever was doing the laundry had to take back the wet, often very grubby, tea towels and unobtrusively incorporate them into the pile to be washed. We would already have cooked whatever had been demonstrated in the morning, and could buy the results to take home if we wished.
It was at one of these lessons that I learned how painful it can be to be ‘different’ and how easily conclusions can be drawn from partially known facts to suggest injustice. Miss Dance already knew the results of the scholarship exam. At the beginning of the lesson she congratulated me on having been successful. Before another word could be spoken, one of the group, due to leave at the end of term, interposed; "She wouldn’t have done if she hadn’t been Mr. Webley’s favourite!".
The truth was that I was the only child in the school whose age was within the defining limits for 1929. In 1930 Arthur Buzzard was in the same boat, and over the next few years Clarice Buzzard, Zita Berry and, I believe, my sister Gwen were also single entries. Dad also suffered from the acid criticism surrounding my small success. "What does Frank Cadd think he’s doing, letting that girl of his go to the County School?" one villager asked of another, who made sure that we knew about it. The end of term came as a relief; I no longer felt comfortable in class. The remarks had hurt, and I was beginning to realise that things would never be the same again. I should not only be going away from my erstwhile companions, but would grow away from them too, and because of the 3 or 4 years which separated us they would grow away from me. Some of them would be wage-earners before the new term began.
Meanwhile a great many preparations had to be made before I became a pupil at the County School; but not before my parents had contrived a treat for me. I spent a week with Mother’s youngest sister Lottie and her daughter Cousin Bessie, nine months my senior and also looking forward to a new school. They lived with my Grandmother, already half crippled with rheumatism, in a flat in Earlsfield, South London. For one glorious week I lived in another world. Trips to the corner shop for bread and milk - in a bottle! No deliveries to the door. Walls ice-cream barrows were pedalled round the streets selling, among other things, triangular iced lollies for twopence. On Sunday there was a really large Sunday School with classes separated, and a collection taken for those in greater need than ourselves. Shopping for presents to take home, I had not much to spend, but Aunt Lottie knew exactly where to take me. I needed no more than sixpence for each person. I remember buying a buttonhole, an artificial rose. For Mother.
One day we took a picnic to Richmond Park where squirrels came close enough to take pieces of our chocolate finger biscuits and we watched fascinated as they delicately scraped away the chocolate before abandoning the biscuit. We took home with us traditional ‘maids of honour’ cakes to share with Grandmother but had to hide them away and wait to eat them because Aunt Kate had arrived unexpectedly, and there were no spares.
During that marvellous week I had my first sight of the sea, at Brighton after a long ride in an open topped charabang. My cousin was no stranger to the seaside; I was less than impressed, being a little afraid of water anyway. The day was grey and cold and the beach pebbles, not sand, but Aunt Lottie’s excellent picnic made up for it.
This was my first real holiday, and the first time I had been away from my parents, but not my first visit to London. When Arthur was about two years old we had all spent a weekend with Grandmother and Aunt Lottie which included an unforgettable visit to Regents Park Zoo. It was very crowded in the monkey house where a couple of boys so teased one of the animals that it pushed its forearm through the wire mesh, grabbed him by the hair and pulled hard. Later we rode on the camel, I on its neck holding on very tightly to its harness, very aware of the greasiness of its coat.
My cousin had a piano which she was learning to play, using a Smallwood’s Tutor. For a long time I had been growing more aware of music and more attracted to it, but had no reason to hope that I would ever have or learn to play any instrument. With my cousin’s help, and the little awareness of the printed score I already had from poring over the contents of a set of Beecham’s Song Books which Dad had saved up to buy for himself and occasionally his band parts, I soon learned to play the first piece in the book. Aunt Lottie was more than surprised, and when she took me home talked to Mother, who decided that I should be given the chance to develop any skill I might have. She therefore withdrew from her bank the £50 given to her when she left Bayston Hill, and at Rockley’s piano shop bought a full size Brasted piano. It had a beautiful tone, and just fitted into the small middle room against the inside wall. Lessons were arranged for me with Miss Hussey in Wroxton, the professionals in Banbury being much too expensive. I can never be too grateful for this opportunity, for nothing has ever given me so much joy as music and it all began with my piano.
INTO the UNKNOWN
Once home again preparations for September began in earnest. My bicycle arrived; I had to learn to ride it sufficiently well to ride into the centre of Banbury in roughly 6 weeks. The new school at Easington was not ready, so I would begin this new phase in my education in the old Municipal School next door to the library in Marlborough Road. Parents, friends and neighbours all helped to steady the machine while I wobbled my way to proficiency. Arthur meanwhile had learned to ride well on an old dropped handlebar machine belonging to the Neville boys.
Uniform could only be obtained through the school suppliers. On a given day we had to visit the school office where a representative took measurements and ordered what was required. I was fortunate in having a very small County grant, £5. The initial outlay must have seemed enormous indeed when set against Dad’s low wages as a carpenter, but neither parent ever complained. They wanted a good education for all of us and would not let anything stand in the way when opportunity came, even though it would probably mean self-denial for themselves.
A black gym-slip, in length 4 inches above the knee when kneeling, white cotton blouses, a black blazer trimmed with red bearing the Banbury badge on the breast pocket and a black felt hat with band of double ribbon, black over red with triangles cut from the black to expose the red, were the main items. I also needed a school tie, a girdle of black and red braid, a shoe bag and indoor shoes and for PE, plimsolls and knickers, all in black. Later it would be possible to win an all red ‘deportment’ girdle for walking well and caring for one’s appearance. Outdoor coats were not standard, but a serviceable navy blue gabardine mac was worth having. At first Mother knitted my black stockings. I also needed a case large enough to transport books, homework, packed lunch and anything else required, for which Dad fixed a carrier to my bicycle. When term began we had to provide a green coat-overall for science and in addition to the usual pen, pencil, ruler and blotting paper a Geometry set and templates for science diagrams.
When the uniforms were ready for collection, the whole of the new intake, all of whom would be placed either in 2A or 2B, reported at the school on the same afternoon, so we met a mob of our future classmates except those already in Form 1 as paying pupils. Most of them came from the Banbury schools, so they could walk or use the town buses. Others, like me, would cycle in all weathers because of the lack of transport to the villages. A few, living along the route of the Oxford buses would catch those, arriving late and leaving early.
On Thursday 19th September 1929, my 11th birthday, I wore my uniform for the first time so that a photograph could be taken by Mr. Blinkhorn at his Banbury studio; we had no camera in those days. The autumn term began the next day; it always began on a Friday. We had to attend on 6 days each week, but on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, if we were not on the games list, we were free when lessons ended at 12.35 am.
The first two days of term were devoted to initiation, making timetables and collecting essential text books and stationery from the Secretary’s office where Miss Bustin and Miss Eltome were in charge. All textbooks, already inscribed with the date of issue and our names, had to be covered and visibly identified as ours, and handed back at the year end. Exercise books were semi-hard-backed, a different colour for each subject. Chemistry note books were much thicker, hard-backed, with alternating plain and lined pages. For rough work and any work to be handed in on paper we had red-backed books of lined paper perforated at the spine edge, roughly the same size as modern A4, commonly called ‘perfs’. Our allocation was three per term. Like exercise books they were only replaced when we presented a note, signed by the appropriate teacher, to the Secretary.
My first day was almost an anticlimax. Soon after 8.00 am Mary Golder, an older pupil living in the Council Houses, a newcomer to the village, arrived to escort me. This was the longest journey I had so far attempted on my bicycle. I was in 2A; the 1st Form was for fee-paying pupils a year younger. Once admitted to our forms we filed to the upper floor where several classrooms separated only by wooden partitions could be opened up for Assembly. There were between 300 and 400 pupils in 8 year-groups. The 1st Form was unstreamed, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Forms were streamed A and B; the A Forms were for the higher achievers. The upper Forms followed on unstreamed again but designated, a little confusingly, 5B, 5A, 6B and 6A. Fifth formers worked towards School Certificate which they took in 5A. Those who stayed on into the 6th Forms took Higher School Certificate in 6A, two years later.
Most of the staff, all wearing academic gowns, the first I had seen, were assembled in advance of the arrival of the Headmaster, Mr. Luscombe. He was elderly, and walked with such a roll that the sleeves of his gown were wafted out to left and right like a bird’s wings and when he spoke he sounded rather pompous and autocratic. He was not at all what I had expected. My feelings for him were always tinged with apprehension. The opportunity for extended education meant so much, especially to the country children; but expulsions were possible and quite frequent and it was usually a country child, or one of the least advantaged town children, who left under a cloud.
There were no opportunities for recreation in the old building. PE lessons took place in the old Drill Hall in Calthorp Street Morning break, if we could escape quickly enough, allowed time for a visit to Maycock’s bakery in the High Street, opposite the end of the road about 500 yards away, where we could buy Cornish Cakes, hot from the oven and full of currants, or Chelsea Buns for a few pence.
Lunch time sandwiches were eaten in a ground floor classroom, in silence, not under compulsion but because so many of the places were occupied by girl prefects of whom most new girls were very much in awe. Although it was a mixed sex school, boys and girls were entirely segregated except for lessons and assembly. After lunch we were free to wander in the town until the start of afternoon lessons.
Botany was added to the curriculum from my first year, for girls only, and a new teacher Miss Haclin was employed to teach it; she was also Form Teacher for 2A and taught us English. Physics then became a subject for boys only. Because of this change I was unable to do any Domestic Science for the whole of my school career as there was no room on our timetable.
Botany and Chemistry I loved, but our introduction to French via phonetics as taught by Mr. Davies was a different matter. We had to wait for our new school before we had laboratories in which to work or playing fields of our own. Thanks to Miss Hussey I had my own hockey stick, and by the Summer term, thanks to Mother I had an excellent Slazenger tennis racquet, second-hand but nearly new, which lasted well into my adult life.
The long awaited new County School at Easington was ready for occupation for the Summer term, 1930. Work continued on the outside. Playgrounds were concreted and marked out for games - netball on the girls’ side. The sexes were still segregated, having separate entrances and play areas. The rough field surrounding had still to be tamed; pitches and tennis courts were already in use but the rest of the near field was thick with plantains. On a suitable day soon after our arrival, as many of us as possible were assembled, spread out as if for a police search, given a quantity of greyish weedkiller powder and a tool resembling an apple corer and, after a demonstration by Mr. Luscombe, set to place a small quantity of the powder into the heart of each plantain. The job was boring, back-aching and not at all what any of us wanted to do in our free time. Our consolation was not long in coming: the offending roots soon began to lift themselves out of the turf.
In addition to labs for each of the three sciences we now had a gym, a library and an assembly hall with a stage. There were good kitchens for Domestic Science and others for general school use where Mrs. Plant, wife of the caretaker prepared hot drinks at break, and cooked lunches for mid-day; many more of the Banbury children now had to remain all day. On match days she also catered for team teas. Her tea was the cause of my giving up sugar. Like me, many of the country children still took sandwiches but were now allocated a class-room in which to do homework. We had regular access to the library to borrow books for recreational reading. Cloakrooms were now adequate, and the two nearest to the gym equipped with showers. We reached the upper floor of this two storey building via separate staircases, situated on the same side of the school as our cloakroom. A main, central entrance admitted staff and visitors for which there was a central staircase, used also by prefects.
In good weather we spent break times on the playgrounds immediately outside our own entrances. At dinner time we were free to wander in the large playing field, to practise our games skills, or just to talk to friends. Everyone ate in the hall at mid-day but we sandwich eaters had to wait to leave until school dinners were over. Usually this was no hardship, but on the day of the Christmas Dinner, when Staff were there in force, country children in particular grew restless and aggrieved as they saw their homework time ticking away long after they had finished eating.
Our bicycles were now housed in open fronted sheds with ample room and racks, so they were safer and less prone to minor damage. In my first term the chain guard of my bicycle, made only of a thick celluloid type of material, was badly torn and had to be replaced at Dad’s expense. After that term the County paid a maintenance grant of 5 shillings a term.
One of the results of the games arrangements was that occasionally I had a free afternoon on Wednesday and could get home for my mid-day meal at about 1.15 pm. I could then do most if not all of my homework before tea-time. One Wednesday while Mother was dishing up my meal there was knock at our back door which I answered. On the step stood ‘Snapper’ Hughes, gripping one wrist firmly with the other hand and bleeding profusely.
"Be Nus’ at w’home?" he asked. By this time Mother, having put my dinner on the table, had reached the door from which I - never very brave when there was blood to be seen - beat a hasty retreat into the living room to eat. ‘Snapper’ was the local hedger and ditcher, already one of a dying breed. He was an excellent craftsman, but every dinner time saw him at the nearest pub. His thirst was great and as a result he often returned to work somewhat the worse for wear, unsteady, and in his own interest unfit to continue. On this occasion he had brought his bill-hook down across his own hand instead of the branch he needed to part-sever before bending it over and weaving it into the hedge. Mother soon had him at our kitchen sink with lots of cold water and disinfectant. Eventually she was able to bandage the hand and send him to his doctor, several miles away at Shennington, on foot, to get the wound stitched.
Two changes occurred in Wroxton in 1929 which were to have a serious effect on the life of the village for a long time to come.
The Vicar, Rev. John Pettiffer, had died some time before. In the summer of 1929 he was succeeded by Rev. Arthur William Dickens whose arrival was greeted with both pleasure and relief. During most of the interregnum the parish had been served by Rev. McNab, a ginger-haired Scot. He was tall, lean and gangling, and rode around on a bicycle which had seen better days. He had little dignity, commanded no respect, and was soon dubbed ‘Sandy’. He liked nothing better than a drink or two, or more, with the lads. After Morning Service on Sundays he was usually thus occupied until closing time at two o’clock.
One Sunday afternoon he called on us shortly after two o’clock to visit Dad who had been ill. Our lunch was over, the clearing up done. Dad and I were in the living room beside the fire, Mother was upstairs. Conversation between the two men continued for some time while I remained silent but observant. It soon became apparent that Dad was disturbed about something. Suddenly he interrupted the conversation. "Excuse me Vicar, but have you got something in your pocket that is leaking?" "Oh dear!" said McNab, hastily taking from his pocket a bottle of beer, rather less than full. There was a puddle under his chair and liquid frothing out all around the screw cap of the bottle, as we supposed because of the warmth of our fire. A few moments of confusion followed during which I was sent to find a floor cloth and McNab offered profuse apologies. Once the puddle was mopped up he departed with some haste, taking the remainder of his drink with him.
Rev. Dickens was much younger than Rev. Pettiffer. He held strong socialist views which were apt to clash with those of the villagers, whose loyalty to Lord North, rather than their considered opinion, led them to follow the Conservative lead. He had married the daughter of a local farmer who was much older than himself and very reserved. Many of the villagers had worked for her parents and had signed photographs of her family, the Miller’s, hanging on their walls. When she tried to be the traditional Vicar’s wife, and went visiting the photos were produced and her family and herself became the main topic of conversation. She found this an obstacle, and gradually withdrew. He on the other hand, was soon causing concern, even in the Church, by his attitude and opinions on various matters.
At that time the church had a good team of bell-ringers, of whom Dad was one, and a very good choir which he trained, assisted at the organ by Mr. Francis from Grimsbury. They practised regularly on Friday evenings at the church. Their repertoire included a number of anthems suitable for special occasions. If the boys needed extra practice it was usually done at our home. I have good cause to remember one of these extra sessions. I was entrusted with a verbal message for the village Headmaster who would announce the day and time in school. Unfortunately I gave the wrong evening. When the boys began to arrive Dad had to be fetched from the allotment, not in the best of moods, and I was left in no doubt as to the degree of his displeasure. On the evening of the Induction of Rev. Dickens, with the addition of Mr. Webley singing bass, they had excelled.
It had been the custom to honour Lord North each year on his birthday, 5th October, by ringing a peal of bells at 6.00 am, irrespective of the day. A peal was also rung on festival Sundays, but later. Rev. Dickens disapproved of the birthday peal. In 1930 5th October fell on the Sunday of the Harvest Festival. The matter was discussed at a Church Council Meeting, Rev. Dickens’ view prevailed and Dad was left to take the news to the bell-ringers that they could not ring for Lord North, to whom they all owed a great deal. They decided that if that was the case they would not ring for Harvest Festival either. Dad had to convey their decision to the Vicar. The story made headlines in the local weeklies and a peal was rung for Lord North in St. Mary’s Church Banbury.
That was not the end of the affair. On the evening of 4th October, Rev. Dickens cycled to our house. Mother and I were outside on the lawn. He asked for Dad who was out. Mother invited him in to await his return which we expected any minute. He refused, and handed her a letter for Dad. When Dad read the letter he found himself dismissed from all service in the church from that moment. The music so carefully prepared for the Sunday Evening service would have to be performed without him. He would have to be replaced in the bell-ringing team and on the Church Council, and would no longer look after minor repairs, most of which he did without any cost to the church. He was devastated.
Needless to say, among those who had agreed to this course of action was one who, seeing an opportunity for advancement for himself and his family and although he lacked any of Dad’s musical skills, tried to take his place. When the organist also left soon after, he installed his daughter, a very indifferent pianist, on the organ stool.
The North family were both sympathetic and supportive, but could not intervene on Dad’s behalf. Although Lord North still had the gift of the Living for All Saints Church, Wroxton, he and his family, except for one daughter, had many years before embraced the Roman Catholic faith. A beautiful little chapel had been arranged in the Abbey, a Priest, Father Hume, and two RC Sisters installed in a suitable house in Church Street, and a small corrugated iron chapel built on the pasture land opposite to Wroxton House, with access to the Banbury Road. After the death of Father Hume, the chapel was served by the staff of St. John’s RC Church, Banbury. Many years later a fine stone building was constructed around it and when this was complete the old chapel was removed from the inside.
Dad made no protest; he seldom revealed his deepest feelings. He began to go each Sunday evening, weather permitting, to the little church at Drayton, tucked away in the fields just outside the village, about 1½ miles from Wroxton, where the living was reserved for returned missionaries. The incumbent at the time was Rev. Hodgkinson who had ministered for 28 years in India. Dad’s was a solitary witness for he would not allow us to leave the Sunday School.
This was not the first time there had been trouble in Wroxton over church bells in honour of the North family. There was a very similar falling-out in 1887 when a previous vicar tried to ban the custom. On that occasion the villagers got up a petition, amongst the signatories George Cadd, and it was retained, to Dad’s undoing a generation later.
The second event of importance to the village and our family was the arrival in September 1929 of a new Schoolmaster, Mr. Lockwood. By the end of that Summer term. Mr. Webley had completed his task of raising standards in the village school. Before leaving he asked me to keep him informed of my progress. He eventually became Headmaster of Dorchester on Thames Senior School and moved from Standlake to Abingdon Road, Dorchester where I visited him regularly. We remained friends until his death.
We understood that Mr. Lockwood had trained after returning from World War I, permanently lame. He had married the daughter of the landlord of The Leathern Bottle Inn in Banbury. There were two children; Clifford entered the County School in 3B, a year ahead of me, and Kathleen, the same age as Arthur, attended the village school. Their home was 13 Council Houses where the Albury’s had lived. Sadly he had neither the presence, the skills nor the talent of Mr. Webley. Very soon he was nicknamed ‘Gaffer’ and began to loose the respect of the older pupils.
By the end of the Summer term of 1930, Gwen was well used to Infant School, although only 4. Arthur was still a year away from the Scholarship test, and showing signs of considerable ability in games. I completed my first year in the County School with prizes for needlework, thanks to Mother’s early teaching, and Botany.
After 13 years in 1 Silver Street both my parents, but Mother in particular, realised the limitations of the house, not least the difficulty of heating adequately more than one room at a time. I not only had homework to do but was having piano lessons, so needed to practise. Arthur and Gwen needed space and freedom for their interests. For some time Mother had been helping the Poor Law Relieving Officer, Mr. William Harris, by being present as required whenever anyone in his district had to be certified before admission to Littlemore Asylum. The lack of an organised District in no way lessened the need for nursing care; dealing with a variety of accidents, as to the hand of a groom bitten by a horse, and ailments such as boils, whitlows and septic wounds, and laying out the dead. In addition to attendance at the birth more ante-natal care had to be provided, and many of the prospective mothers preferred to visit the nurse than have her visit them.
By the Autumn of 1930 we knew that we were to be offered a council house as soon as one became vacant. At about mid-term Gwen caught scarlet fever. Because she was only four she was not sent to the Isolation Hospital so unfortunately. instead of being able to return to school after a nominal quarantine period, Arthur and I had also to remain at home for 6 weeks. We returned to school a few days before the end of term. For me this was particularly unfortunate. In our second year we began to learn foreign language, Latin or German. I wanted to learn German, but when asked what I wanted to do for a living I said, without any conviction, "Teaching." Into the Latin group I went, lest I should eventually wish to enter university to take an Arts Degree for which Latin would be necessary. The school tried very hard each year to get more students into university to join the two we already had, and about whose progress we were kept informed.
In the middle of the Easter term, 1931, when we were waiting to hear our removal date, Arthur and I both developed scarlet fever within a few days of one another, although the house had been thoroughly fumigated after Gwen recovered. We had to go to the Isolation Hospital which was well away from other habitation, not far from the workhouse in Banbury. What a ride I had, wrapped up in blankets, bumping along in a horse-drawn fever ambulance. Arthur followed a few days later. A number of our friends were there, for this was quite a severe epidemic, and an extra nurse had had to be employed to cope with the workload.
Mr. and Mrs. Haines were the Master and Matron. Our visitors were allowed only to see and communicate through the closed windows. Most of us were soon fit enough to get up to all sorts of pranks. The staff were very understanding. The nearest we came to trouble was when one of the boys was caught doing a balancing act on the bed rail when Dr. Hudson, newly appointed partner in our team of doctors, entered before he could get back into bed. To this day I remember with horror our Friday lunch, a small, whole whiting, curled round with its tail in its mouth and egg sauce. My stomach turned somersaults. I cannot, even now, eat egg sauce.
While were away the move to Thisbe Cottage, 14 Council Houses, took place. Only our little black cat objected, and insisted on returning to look for us until we rejoined the family. Dad now had a quarter-acre of garden, mostly arranged for vegetable growing. He planted a good selection of fruit trees and built himself a shed. He left the flower beds and a fairly large, overgrown strawberry bed to Mother. We had no water laid on but there was a pump to serve the 14 houses at the centre of the estate, no more than 50 yards away. There was no mains drainage either, nor electricity, nor gas. As at Silver Street, all cooking was done on a coal-fired range in the sitting room, the laundry in a coal-fired boiler.
The houses, built in 1921, were semi-detached, arranged on the site in a rough circle, 5 larger pairs with three bedrooms and three smaller with two bedrooms. A short unmetalled track led up from the main road as far as the pump. Only numbers 13 and 14 had names, 13, Pyramus Cottage, for superstition’s sake and 14 to match 13. The names were cut fair and square into the stone door lintels. Economy, or imagination, did not run to naming the other 12. Many years later I found myself teaching alongside the man who had supplied the builder with the names of pairs of Shakespearean characters which were used, one in each of the village estates like ours then being built.
I hoped that there would be no more broken terms. I was painfully aware of what I had missed, and of the possibility of being demoted to the B stream at the year end. It was not to be. At Whitsun we all suffered a bad bout of gastro-enteritis. Arthur was beginning to suffer with his tonsils and was frequently ill. His only chance to sit for the scholarship would be in the Spring of 1932, less than a year away. Standards at the village school were beginning to slip and he had not the same love of things academic as I had. Eventually his tonsils had to be removed. Although he was allowed to take the test when he was fit again he did not win a place at the County School. He had already represented Wroxton school in a number of matches, some against Banbury schools. The best of these was Dashwood Road, where his ability had been noted.
Both Dad and Mother knew only too well that if he was to get far in life he would need much more in the way of education than Wroxton could offer. They approached both the Oxfordshire Education Committee and Dashwood Road school, and Arthur was offered a place, as a state pupil paying no fees, from September 1932. Mr. Lockwood, the Wroxton Schoolmaster, whose daughter had also failed to gain entry to the County School, then raised objections on the grounds that reduced numbers of pupils in the village adversely affected grants and refused to release him, so Dad arranged for Arthur to join me at the County School as a fee-payer until he reached the age of 16. All was well at first, but Arthur had his heart set on becoming an electrician and eventually left school early to become apprenticed, leaving Dad liable to pay a term’s fees as a result of the broken contract. The sum was under £5, but it was not easy to spare.
Meanwhile Gwen was making good progress at the village school and despite my absences I was holding my own in the A stream, and showing promise in Hockey as a goal-keeper, and in Cricket; we had a girls’ team, trained by a male member of staff and the 6th Form boys. After so much absence I was obviously not going to achieve anything in Latin or in Art, of which I had hitherto been taught nothing. In 1935 I gave up both before School Certificate. Music was a different matter; with Botany, it had become one of my best subjects.
TYING UP LOOSE ENDS
Throughout 1931 Dad continued to attend Drayton Church; Arthur and I still went to Sunday School in Wroxton on Sunday afternoon at the village school. We were a small group, and Rev. Dickens who took us, already showing concern for falling standards at the village school, especially in reading, used his lessons to give us a chance to read aloud with correct expression based on punctuation, using Bible or Prayer Book. I remember an occasion when he spent a very long time on a part of a collect, ‘ - that both, our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments, and also, that - ’.
There was a walnut tree in the vicarage garden. One Sunday in late autumn he brought to Sunday School a pail-full of ripe walnuts. After the session we all went to the bottom of Church Street where we stood in the road close to Mr. Will Freeman’s farm house, while the Vicar stood at the highest point of the access path to the churchyard gate which ran alongside the road, and tossed them down in handsful while we scrambled for them. Childlike we went home delighted with our booty. For Dad this was the last straw: definitely not the way to keep Sunday. Shortly afterwards we joined the thriving Methodist Sunday School, led by Mrs. Buzzard, and attended at least one service every Sunday as well as doing our homework on the texts issued each week. We enjoyed being part of this group, especially when the Anniversary came round, and later the summer outing to Wicksteed Park in 1932.
By the autumn of 1932 Arthur, now 11, and I, 14, were able to join Dad in his visits to Drayton church. In really good weather even Gwen, now 6 years old, could manage the journey, so enabling Mother to come too, making it possible for us to worship as a family again.
Dad’s Aunt Sarah and her husband, Tom Markham now lived in Drayton, and the time was fast approaching when I needed to think about Confirmation. Drayton Church at that time had a lot to offer. The vicar, Rev. Hodgkinson, was an excellent preacher and pastor, and attracted a number of people from Banbury into his congregation who favoured his more evangelical approach to religion. He had spent 28 years in India with the Church Missionary Society. He was a ‘North-Ender’, he did not move from the North end of the altar to the centre for the reading of the Gospel. He held very strict views about raffles, whist drives and suchlike, views not entirely pleasing to many of his parishioners. Nevertheless they gathered together to serve the church because both the vicar and his consort were so caring of their flock and so well-liked.
Two of the most prominent members of the congregation were the Poulter’s, who lived in the first house on the left at the top of Drayton Hill. He had been village school-master and she his assistant. He had a most exaggerated way of speaking: ‘as if he had a plum in his mouth’ was how it was usually described. She suffered from St. Vitus’ Dance; in consequence her movements were very jerky and her gait a little peculiar. She played the organ, but being unable to use the pedals had a board across them. There was no one else to do it, and she did her best, but the harmonies she produced were sometimes to say the least unusual, and certainly unexpected.
Soon after the Hodgkinson’s arrived in Drayton a Missionary Working Group was formed. Because I loved sewing I joined it. We met at the Rectory and made all kinds of small garments for needy Indian children. later we took part in a Missionary Festival in Church House, Banbury.
During the winter months of 1933-34 I attended Confirmation classes and was eventually confirmed in March 1934 in St. Mary’s Church, Banbury. The Rector was very thorough in his preparation, and very anxious that we should not take this step until we were really ready, fully aware of what we were doing and its implication for our future lives. We were a very small group but this did not deter him from keeping one boy back; not something which is often done - perhaps it should be. Drayton continued to be my church until I had finished my training and finally left home.
HOME and SCHOOL
On the home front the two years following our move to Thisbe Cottage were ones of consolidation. Dad’s health improved, though the burden of his ageing parents increased; Grandfather was now far from well. A slight increase in the number of maternity cases she was called to attend led to a corresponding increase in what Mother was able to earn. Arthur joined me at the County School, but the strict rules concerning fraternisation between the sexes and the fact that we were in different houses limited any contact we might have to home.
In September 1932 I moved with most of my classmates from 4A to 5B for the penultimate year of the first phase of our secondary education. This was a wonderful year. Mr. Naylor, senior chemistry master and our form teacher, was only recently appointed. He brought a more understanding attitude and fresh ideas about discipline. Expulsions continued. One of our boys, from a working class home in a village not far from Wroxton, kicked a football one break time from the playing field over the low barrier fence into the enclosure outside the kitchens and gym. Such action was frowned upon because of the amount of glass it put under threat and warnings were issued regularly by the Head. Very soon afterwards the boy was removed.
Mr. Naylor made a point of discussing the whole affair with us. He made it clear that he supported the need for caution but not the extreme action taken. He pleaded with us not to take risks which might put our futures in jeopardy. He understood. He was on our side and we knew it. He won our loyalty, respect and support as few other members of staff were able to do. I am sure I was not the only ambitious scholarship child who, having feared lest I became an accidental victim of this harsh regime, felt that a burden had been lifted and could work more successfully as a result.
When we sat our School Certificate exams in the summer of 1934 a goodly number of us achieved the 5 ‘Credits’ necessary to obtain exemption from Matriculation. The average number of subjects taken was 7. Mine were: English; Language, Literature and Précis; Mathematics; Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry; French; Written and Oral; Sciences; Chemistry and Botany; History and Geography. The 5 Credits for Exemption had to include English, Mathematics, one language, and one science. There was no opportunity to take Domestic Science as our year had studied Botany instead, nor Needlework, Music or Scripture.
Scripture teaching was confined to one weekly session immediately after Assembly, taken by the Head if he was available, and most often he was not. He invariably began with a dissertation on the meaning of ‘at-one-ment’; why I never understood for we were meant to be studying one of the Gospels. The lesson always ended before we moved on. His discourses in Assembly were equally repetitive. How many times we listened to his commentary on Psalm 8! At least I learnt that ‘governor’ was the name given to the controller of a ship.
He also taught us Geometry, and many were the times when having come to grief completely trying to ‘prove’ a theorem on the blackboard he had to refer us back to our textbooks. Not surprisingly this was the only branch of Maths which I did not enjoy. One thing I regret very much about these years: I had very little time with Gwen. I was involved in House activities from meetings to matches, hockey and cricket, with school matches on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, winter and summer. We travelled to Bicester, Chipping Norton, Daventry, Sibford and Oxford. In winter Dad would often wait for me outside Booth’s so that we could ride home together. We were not spared homework, so except in holidays there was little time for other recreation or hobbies. Gwen was still young enough to go to bed early and not old enough to share much of what I did in the holidays. Those were the times when Mother needed my help. I made shopping trips to Banbury, helped indoors while she decorated, gardened with her, or looked after the house when her nursing took her out.
During the 1920’s and early 1930’s our home lives had been relatively peaceful. We could roam at will and no-one needed to fear for our safety. We were taught and expected to obey the simple rules of country life: to shut gates after us, to keep to footpaths, should we encounter a locked five-bar gate to climb over - providing we were not trespassing - at the hinge end, never to make tracks through growing crops and to respect flocks and herds if we crossed their pastures. We could walk between the allotments on the grass paths. When the owners were not around there were some with courage enough to take the odd pod of ripe peas, but there was never any attempt to despoil the patch, or take the whole crop. Houses could safely be left unlocked, and money for tradesmen or keys left under a doormat.
Money was scarce. Few families took holidays unless with relatives. Traffic was very light; apart from the gentry only the occasional farmer had a car. We walked everywhere until we acquired and could ride bicycles. Public transport hardly existed in rural areas except on Market Days, and on a few routes - eg. to Edgehill - on Sunday afternoons in summer. When visiting our Kings Sutton relatives we first walked over three miles to Banbury GWR Station, which meant that Mother often had to stay behind until Gwen also could walk the distance, so there were few times when we could make this trip as a family before I moved on from school to college. By this time Arthur was apprenticed and also spreading his wings.
In the world at large important events were taking place. We were too young to understand many of them but they would affect us for the rest of our lives. Families who took a daily paper - we favoured The Daily Express - would have read of these, often with apprehension.
Despite the years of exploitation of the labour force by some employers, low pay, poor conditions and lack of accident insurance cover, the men, who constituted the main work-force, were in many instances reluctant to join a Union. Who could blame them? The only regular payment made to working class people by government was an Old Age Pension - it was 10 shillings weekly when I first remember it - which had been introduced from January 1909. Few people except professionals could afford to retire until they were unable to work. There was no National Health plan. Doctor’s bills and prescriptions had to be paid in full, visits were charged according to distance. There were ‘Clubs’, Friendly Societies such as the Oddfellows, to which Dad belonged, or the Recabites, to which members made regular contributions in order to have a little money coming in should they be prevented from working by illness. Further expenditure for Union Membership was harder to justify. I remember an evening when Dad returned from work, grim-faced. Once inside the door, he said to Mother who was preparing his meal, "I’ve had to join the Union." Pressure from activists amongst his workmates and other practical considerations too no doubt had persuaded him, but he was disgusted with himself nonetheless. At the time I had no idea what he meant but his mood imprinted itself on my memory indelibly.
The Great War had begun in August 1914 after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria in June, had escalated until most of Europe, and America, had become involved and had ended with an Armistice on 11th November 1918. It had been hailed as the ‘war to end all wars’. When the armies eventually returned home many of the survivors returned to their former jobs. Some of those too badly injured by bullets and shrapnel, gas or shell-shock to be able to return to a normal life found themselves in homes such as the Star and Garter, or were helped by the British Legion in their various workshops where they were trained to use their limited abilities productively. Others, especially those with minor injuries, returned to and relied on their families, making what they could, often very little, of the wreckage of their former lives. Pensions paid to widows of fighting men or for serious injury were very small.
In villages such as ours few people admitted to any great interest in politics. In the 18th century Whigs and Tories had developed into Liberal and Conservative Parties, with the aristocracy forming the majority of both. Even when the aristocracy began to fade in the 19th century Members of Parliament still tended to come almost exclusively from the upper classes, the only source of educated men who could afford to enter Parliament. Despite the abolition of rotten boroughs by the Reform Act of 1832 and extensions of the franchise the patterns of political life and thought probably did not alter greatly in rural areas like ours well into the 20th century. Most estate workers voted with their masters, or if they did not they kept the fact well hidden; women were not enfranchised until 1928. But during the 1920’s and 1930’s socialism became a force to be reckoned with.
The Peace Treaty with Germany, signed at Versailles on 28th January 1919 was ratified in Paris on 13th January 1920. At the same time the League of Nations came formally into existence. On the surface all seemed well. The country began to recover. Trade improved, tensions eased. A few ex-soldiers busking or begging in our towns and cities hardly stirred our consciences. How many British people had any inkling of the grievances festering in Germany as a result of the terms of the Peace Treaty? Who but the politicians could have known?
Sinn Fein outrages began in Ireland in 1921 and there was fighting in Greece. In London preparations were under way for the Wembley Exhibition which was opened on 23rd April 1924 by King George V. I remember the Exhibition because Dad went there for a day; it must have been on a Saturday or Bank Holiday for he had no paid holidays and could ill have afforded to lose a day’s work and a day’s pay, or the possibility of unpleasant repercussions had he taken time off. He brought back a souvenir packet of sweets for Mother which I was allowed to share.
From Mother I had heard all about the Waxworks, Madame Tussaud’s, so when it burned down the next year I was told about it; but no-one explained about British Summer Time which was made permanent that year. Nor was I made aware of the archaeological discoveries in Egypt and around the Pyramids which were to become of such importance and interest to me during my College days.
In 1925 also, Queen Alexandra died, the Queen Mother, widow of Edward VII. I remember the daily paper with heavy black banner headlines, and front page pictures and articles framed with thick black lines. It was common for ordinary citizens to use black edged stationery to announce a death in the family, and most village homes had at least one such card to the memory of a loved close relative, sometimes embossed with intricate patterns, framed and hung on their walls.
The General Strike in 1926 disturbed the even tenor of our lives very briefly. It was at school rather than at home that I was made aware of it when Mr. Albury asked if Dad was involved. He was, he was out for a day or two, although I was far from understanding what it was all about. Most of the other Dads worked locally, on farms or for the North family, so they did not strike.
Meanwhile great feats of courage on land and sea and in the air were frequently in the news. Solo flights grew ever longer. In 1928 a German airship carrying 60 passengers crossed the Atlantic. By 1929 Graf Zeppelins were making regular flights from Germany to America. I remember an airship passing over our house. How enormous and how low it seemed. Sadly, two years later in 1930 46 lives were lost when the R 101, crashed in France on its first flight to India. After that British attention was focused on aeroplanes. We saw them only occasionally, but any siting caused a stir among the children especially if it was the small scarlet plane reputed to belong to Lord Willoughby de Broke whose family seat was in Warwickshire.
By now, coming events were indeed ‘casting their shadows before’ in many countries. Feelings of extreme nationalism were being expressed openly and forcibly from many quarters. Brown Shirts and Black Shirts (Sir Oswald Moseley’s associates in London) all seemed very innocent to those of us who did not understand Fascism or Nazism, or recognise the danger they would pose in time for the whole of Europe and far beyond. Of Communism we knew no more. Little did I know that some of the most able boys who assembled with me on 20th September 1929 for our first Assembly at the County School would scarcely come of age before they sacrificed their lives in yet another war.
LOSS and ADJUSTMENT
The years 1926 to 1934 brought many changes, both in the family and in Wroxton. George and Amelia were growing noticeably more frail and dependent upon Dad. His brother George visited only very occasionally, especially after his youngest child Albert left school in 1930. While Amelia did her best to remain independent, George was developing Parkinson’s Disease for which there was little to be done. He developed a severe tremor and his speech became impaired, until eventually he took to his bed. He also had a fungus like growth on his tongue; a cousin’s widow has recently told me that that this was a cancer.
Every evening Dad visited the lodge, filled the fresh water pails from the spring behind the village pond and did anything else he was allowed to. On Christmas Eve 1929 Grandfather died. It was a strange Christmas. We had always been on our own at Christmas. No Christmas trees, but plenty of freshly gathered holly thanks to Dad. Our stockings always bulged; a few small gifts and traditional items; apple and orange for toe and heel, a small coin, a nut or two and, peeping out of the top, a sugar mouse. That year it all seemed to me so bleak and empty. After Boxing Day life returned to normal for us, the children. We were not taken to the funeral.
Dad’s nightly visits had to continue; indeed there came a time when the strain began to tell. He lost weight and began to look quite haggard. Nothing would persuade Amelia Eva to relinquish the responsibility of opening and shutting the wrought iron gates leading to the Abbey. In reality, all she could manage was to take note of who went to and fro. She remained in the Lodge against all the odds until after the death of Lord North, aged 95, in 1932. For years he had been selling his possession to keep going. By the time of his death he was bankrupt, and there were grave doubts as to whether any of the small bequests to his employees could be paid. Once the family had left the Abbey remained empty for some time. Only Mr. Tom Hussey was retained to do essential maintenance work on the estate.
Eventually notice was served on Amelia Eva, and there was no alternative but to take her into our home. She remained until the evening of the last possible day. Even then it took Mother, Dad and I to persuade her to leave. George had come with a lorry during the morning to remove all the furniture. As soon as Dad had returned from work and had a meal we set out in the dark to fetch her. We found her sitting in an old Windsor chair in an empty room by a grate piled high with ash and hot embers. Piled in the spare room were dress boxes, mostly filled with materials which she had hoarded but would never use, all in poor condition. One was full of widow’s weeds. Somewhere her few clothes were packed. After a lot of cajoling we persuaded her to put on hat and coat. Mother and I led her up Taylor’s lane and along the Stratford Road home while Dad put out the fire and locked up. We could not take the short cut across the Leys because of the stiles. It seemed a dreadful way to take her from a place which had been her home for over 50 years, but she refused to do it any other way. For several weeks afterwards Dad spent every spare moment clearing up, consigning those boxes and their contents to bonfires, removing, sometimes with a spade, the grime of years which they had neither been able to see nor deal with. Any offer of help from us had been consistently refused; indeed, the very suggestion that anything was not as it should be caused a rumpus.
After this we began to see a little more of Dad, but Mother was more tied than ever. She could never leave an empty house, or have it to herself, and Amelia - we called her Grandmother - was not the easiest of house guests. Even Granfather’s relatives visited us less after her arrival.
In the years after Grandfather’s death first I and then Arthur had had to collect her weekly grocery order from the Co-op opposite the village school, kept by Sarah Ann Hayes who lived with her elderly Mother in the adjoining cottage. The reward was two pennyworth of bulls-eyes, preferable to extra strong mints, the only alternative. The task was nightmare. The shopping bag was an old fashioned coarse net with leather handles, so long that it swept the ground as we walked. I once tried to hide it when the shopping had been removed but the next week there it was, in its usual place. We had also worked out that Amelia’s bouts of bad temper coincided with the full moon. We dreaded full moon Fridays, but no excuse was ever good enough to persuade her to change the day. Once she left the lodge neither of us had to suffer any longer. Not even the loss of our bulls-eyes mattered enough to turn our relief to regret!
After the death of Lord North, the last member of the family to be buried in Wroxton churchyard, the Abbey remained empty for some time. The eldest son, William Frederick, known as "Eric", now 12th Baron North, had moved to Kirtling Towers many years before; I cannot remember a time when he was in Wroxton. It was said that he lost all his money by investing in a gun project which failed. He survived his father by only 6 years. He was survived in turn by two daughters, his only son, Dudley having pre-deceased him in 1936. The title, 13th Baron North, passed to his grandson, Lieut. John North RN who was lost at sea in HMS Neptune in 1941, leaving no heir.
At the beginning of the war, Pawson & Leaf, manufacturers of interlock underwear, vacated their offices in St. Paul’s Churchyard, London, and brought their business staff to the Abbey - at the end of the war, one or two of them remained in the village. Later it was converted into flats. One of the first residents was Miss Stockton, daughter of a solicitor who had built a large house on the corner of the allotments opposite 1 Silver Street. In the late 1940’s it was leased to Lady Pearson widow of Sir Edward Pearson the dockyard engineer. In 1963 Trinity College sold the estate outright to the Fairleigh Dickenson University of America, who restored and redecorated it to a high standard within and without for use as a study centre. The almost complete library of C.S. Lewis is now housed there. The deal was negotiated by the father of a member of our Church at Fishermead, Milton Keynes, Mrs. Betsy King. She had taken a Fine Arts degree in America, but in the 1980’s trained as a United Reformed Church Minister and is now in charge of a church near Oxford.
THE GROWING-UP YEARS
One of the greatest blessings which followed our move to Thisbe Cottage was the improvement in Dad’s health, in the 8 years after the diphtheria epidemic he had suffered at least once from a very badly ulcerated leg, both he and Mother had had pneumonia, and he had broken his hand when he fell while climbing over the ranch-type fence behind our house. Every time he cycled home from Banbury he had to negotiate a right turn on a blind bend just outside our front door. One Sunday he had been knocked down by a car which rounded that bend in the opposite direction as he was turning. Fortunately he was only bruised, but the bicycle was a write-off. When he was ill the combination of lost wages and Doctor’s bills was a nightmare.
When I passed my School Certificate in 1934 I was not quite 16, so would be obliged to remain at school until Christmas. I wanted very much to stay on. Mother and Dad were prepared to support me as far as they could. I was sent to stay with one of Mother’s ex-patients, another Mrs. Cadd but no relation, who lived at Standlake where Mr. Webley was now headmaster. The idea was to ask his advice about my future. Music was by far my favourite subject, but I knew that I could only hope to teach it as neither my background nor my practical skill would support any greater aspirations, and teaching did not appeal.
I wanted to earn my living with plants, either as a Botanist or as a Horticulturist but to train for either of these careers would have taken at least three years. Mr. Webley not only knew our family circumstances, but also, from personal experience, the demands a university education would make on us all. Wisely he guided me into teaching. It was to be another 26 years before I realised just how good his advice had been and was able to put my disappointment behind me entirely.
Arthur was coping at the County School, taking every opportunity to participate in sport, and proving to be very good with his hands. Gwen was still at the village school. Mother was called upon for any Nursing that was required, but earned very little. There were no fixed fees and few realised the true value of the services she gave. Some of her patients were extremely poor, and many who had grown up knowing Dad did not expect to be charged much, if anything at all. Shortly after she was married she had given a blanket bath to the elderly mother of one of the villagers. Task completed she was presented with "two new-laid eggs for Frank’s (my Father’s) tea" by way of payment. Dad suffered the same disadvantage when he used his skills to sharpen saws, for which he was constantly buying new files, to mend chairs, change locks or when he had spare fruit or vegetables.
VILLAGE CHANGES in the 1930’s
A number of the old families died out and were replaced by new ones. Mr. Will Hayes who had provided the Methodist meeting place had been succeeded on the farm by the Leatherbottle family and the Goodman Memorial Chapel had been built in the Main Street by Cherries of Cropredy for whom Dad was currently working. Several of the Fox family, also farmers and Methodists, had died. The crippled son Philip whom we had seen as young children constantly pushed around in a chair, usually by one of his sisters, Gladys or Annie, was now grown up. He was extremely wealthy but quite unable to work on the farm which his family had managed so successfully for so many years. Mr. Will Freeman and his family had left the ‘farm house’ facing the Church, and moved to Dark Lane. Eventually, when Mr. Hobley retired they would take over Home Farm.
There were more young children in the village, several of Gwen’s age, so she was able to find companions close to home during holidays. I on the other hand, having gone away from the village to continue my education, became more and more isolated, and even in holidays saw very little of either Gwen or Arthur.
During the 1930’s the village itself changed considerably. The Co-op shop closed, several houses were bought by outsiders and upgraded. In the course of the renovation of the old blacksmith’s cottage the forge, which was housed in a kind of open stone-built lean-to at the side, collapsed and was lost for ever. A house for the village policeman was built in the next field to the Council Houses, set well back from the road behind a very long garden. The old Head Gardener’s house on the Garden Ground became a private residence.
After the death of Lord North both the Abbey and The Cottage, former home of his eldest daughter and her family, the Fitzgeralds, were empty for some time. The Cottage was occupied in turn by a number of interesting families, most of whom moved away after a very few years. One of the earliest was the Easton family, of whom one of the sons, (George?) had set his sights on breaking the land speed record. Later came the Drysdale’s who did a lot for the village in the early war years. He was the Chairman of Lloyds Shipping Company, she was a qualified musician. Both had considerable musical skill. The three sons attended The Dragon School in Oxford. Several years after their arrival the middle son came to Dad in school holidays to learn a little basic woodwork. Mrs. Drysdale was instrumental in starting a branch of the Women’s Institute of which Mother was for a time the Treasurer.
Norah’s field, the meadow behind 1 Silver Street which belonged with The Cottage, where the Fitzgeralds had kept a pony called Nora to draw their pony trap, (except when the hay crop was growing) had a football pitch in the centre. The cricket pitch which was of longer standing was on the Garden Ground, between Home Farm and the Gardens. On the side of the field along the Horley Road several new houses were built. Taylor’s shop was taken over by the son, Sidney, soon after he left school. Eventually he enlarged the range of products on sale and it became a very profitable business.
As the open-cast mining of ironstone moved gradually in the direction of Stratford, offices and a block of flats for workers were built close to the level crossing on the Hornton road. A crusher was added to process the stone before it was transported by night in distinctive shallow, open trucks to Wolverhampton for smelting. When the extraction was completed the top-soil was replaced on the fields leaving them much lower than before. Stone was extracted from as near as the next field to the Council Houses. The beautiful brick red soil characteristic of our area was due to the presence of iron-stone. As the scene of activity shifted the sound of blasting grew more distant until that particular seam was exhausted, although mining continued around the village for another 30 years and more before the works were finally closed in 1967.
As the older generation died their descendants spread their wings. Cars and motorcycles became more common. Buses ran every day to Banbury. The first to appear was Chown’s Primrose bus in about 1930. By 1936 Bloxhams of Tysoe had taken over and were serving most of the villages to the north of Banbury. When the aluminium factory opened in Southam Road, thereby providing many more work opportunities for both men and women, Bloxhams quickly seized the opportunity to provide transport to work for the three daily shifts. Midland Red buses were seen less and less except on Sundays and Bank Holidays when they continued to run to Edgehill.
Speculators snapped up and renovated the old stone cottages as soon as they became vacant, so more of the younger generation left the village, many to live in or around Banbury, which was growing enormously as more and more housing estates were built. Several large modern factories, Maxwell House, Switchgear and others were added to the list of old faithfuls, Stone’s Box Factory, Spencer Corsets and the Knitting Factory The old George Coaching Inn was demolished to make way for Woolworth’s 3d and 6d store. Littlewood’s eventually followed while Perks, Lipton’s, the Maypole, Dosset’s grocers Pilsworth’s drapery store and Bernard Smith’s gave way to newcomers. The old workhouse, no longer needed for Poor Law cases or vagrants became first a maternity hospital and later a geriatric hospital.
September 1934 to July 1936 were the most memorable of the 7 happy years I spent at the County School. I returned to school glowing with pride after good School Certificate results, privileged as a member of the 6th Form to use the central Staff stairs and to share in recreation times a small 6th Form common room, strategically placed next door to the Head Mistress’ study; the Headmaster’s room was immediately inside the front door. I was also appointed Prefect. On my very first morning as I ascended those stairs I met our Geography master, Major Mardon. For almost 5 years, homework had consisted of reading a chapter from Brookes, our text book. This would be followed up at the next lesson by an invitation to ‘write down 20 facts’. Mr. Mardon had an incisive tongue and I had seen boys in tears when, as often happened to me, they failed to score high enough marks to suit him after the ‘facts’ had been examined orally and either accepted or rejected. He obviously had no great opinion of my ability. As we met he said, "That was a surprise, wasn’t it!" referring to my Credit in Geography. Not a word of congratulation! He also taught Arithmetic, but this I thoroughly enjoyed as his methods were so crisp and direct.
Mr. Luscombe had reached retirement age; this was his last term. At least two of the staff had hoped to succeed him but were passed over in favour of a much younger man, of considerable talent, an educationist in the broadest sense. Angus Douglas Rose, ‘AD’, was married with a family of four; a son already at Winchester and three daughters, Anna, Margaret and a baby, Angela. Both parents were talented musicians and soon music became an integral pert of school activities as never before. The orchestra went from strength to strength. Mrs. Rose joined the violins and AD played viola or double bass. Soon we had a school choir, and within a year we had, with the orchestra, given a public performance of Elgar’s The Banner of St. George.
When I returned to school in September 1934 I had hoped to follow a broad course of study in line with Mr. Webley’s suggestions. It was not to be. I eventually found myself doing three unrelated subjects: Music, Chemistry and History. Music was a very positive choice, which caused a degree of opposition from an older member of staff, himself a flautist, because no-one had attempted it before and timetabling was difficult because we had to share our music master with Chipping Norton County School. I should have liked to continue to study Botany, but dreaded the Biology which would be included, so chose Chemistry as I had had no opportunity to study any other science. Although I enjoyed it very much it proved a bad choice. My third choice, History, was made under the persuasion of the History Mistress who was not only Deputy Head but also Form Mistress for 6B.
At first all went well. I was given the task of playing the piano with the orchestra. Somehow money was found for me to take piano lessons with Mr. Palmer. Soon we had the opportunity to be involved in some drama; like orchestra it had to be done in our spare time, after school. I revelled in these new opportunities, but it meant that I not only had to fill the time between school ending and rehearsal time but also had to cycle home alone along unlit country roads afterwards, scared, usually for no reason. One night an unseen horse in Oliver Grant’s field at the top of Wroxton Hill, very close to the road, gave a terrific snort, making me jump, as I pushed my bicycle over the crest of the hill. On another occasion my acetylene lamp failed. Once beyond the lighted streets of Banbury, for fear of the law, I had to walk. I hastened my journey home by scooting on one pedal, jumping off at the first sight of an approaching light, lest it belong to a policeman. I was one of the very few village children who had chosen to remain at school for a further two years. Mr. Rose recognised my difficulties, and soon I was sharing his home to do homework before rehearsals, and staying overnight for performances. They were a wonderful family, unpretentious, welcoming, who left no stone unturned in an effort to ensure that we could take advantage of the new opportunities being offered us in school. I owe the Roses a great deal. We remained friends until the parents and two of their daughters had died. In 1963 I took my family to visit them in Chichester. They were delighted, and took a great interest in my children’s progress thereafter.
At the beginning of my final school year in September 1935 I became Head Girl.
SHADES of THINGS to COME
At home, life was more difficult. Mother was less tied and, now that Gwen was nine or ten years old, she could accompany us to Drayton Church on Sunday, join us on some of our walks and spend more time in her beloved garden, where she took responsibility for lawns, flower beds and the strawberry patch. It was not a large area, but more than enough on top of looking after the family; not only washing, cooking and cleaning, but dress-making for us girls and often for herself and knitting for all of us, entirely unaided except when we were on holiday and could be enlisted to help.
Dad had passed his 60th birthday. The effects of the ‘slump’ were still in evidence. He could no longer be sure of working with the same firm for any length of time. He eventually found steady employment with an Oxford firm, Hinkins and Frewin, who were responsible for a lot of the new building around Banbury, one project being the Aluminium factory. It would have helped if I had left school in 1934 to earn my living, probably in Banbury, while living at home and contributing to the family income. Neither parent ever took that view, let alone made me aware of it, but the strain was apparent; I knew it, felt it. Study and piano practice at home grew more and more difficult. In my final year I returned to the study of Maths, in order to sit the entrance exam for Nottingham University. I gained acceptance as a student but had no means of finding the money to pay the fees for three years, let alone to live.
Mr. Rose was trying to build up a Scholarship Assistance Fund, but there were already two boys, Chamberlain - Arts - who entered Oxford and Sainsbury - Science - who chose Cambridge, both older than I was, needing all the help that was available at that time. All this conspired to reduce my chances of success in Higher School Certificate for which I was a year younger than most entrants. At least I more than justified my choice of Music. Another year and a second chance were out of the question.
My greatest regret about those years in retrospect is that I was able to share so very little with brother or sister. Arthur and I, being closer in age, had more experience in common, but Gwen I scarcely knew at all until we were both grown up. She did well at the village school, won a County scholarship, and followed me to the County School in September 1936, the year I left. Like me she was granted a black James cycle on which to ride to and fro but the establishment she joined, and her uniform, were very different. During his first year as Headmaster Mr. Rose had decided to update the BCS uniform. After consultation with Staff and 6th formers, black was replaced by maroon. Ties were maroon and gold, wide stripes, and hat-bands had a blue thread woven in next to the narrow gold stripes at either edge. Summer wear for girls was red checked gingham dresses with white collars and Panama hats, brims edged with narrow red braid.
By this time Arthur was entirely disenchanted with academia; he wanted to become an electrician. That meant an apprenticeship. An old work-mate of Dad’s, Mr. Horrocks, then living in Drayton, had a son-in-law, Mr. Waters, who ran his electrician’s business from a shop in Bridge Street, Banbury. The business seemed to be thriving, and the work he undertook was varied and often unusually interesting. It included servicing the X-ray machines at the Horton Hospital. Dad believed in completing an apprenticeship with the same firm, five years continuously as opposed to three, followed by two as an ‘improver’. He was offered three years but would not accept, so a 5 year contract was made. Unfortunately, unknown to him, the business far from thriving, was on the verge of bankruptcy. After Arthur had completed three years training it failed altogether. Dad was devastated; although Arthur was able to complete two further years with Bustin’s, the foremost electricians in Banbury, he would never get his indentures. It was a bitter blow.
These were the years of crystal wireless sets and accumulators. During his early days with Mr. Waters, Arthur injured his hand badly trying to loosen the top of an accumulator with the business end of a screwdriver, ripping it badly between thumb and forefinger and only narrowly missing the nerve. Had it been severed, this would have resulted in limited movement in his hand for the rest of his life. Fortunately he made a good recovery. One of the first things he had done was to provide us with our first wireless set. As a result, on the night of 19th January 1936 we were able to listen to the regular bulletins, read I believe by Alvar Liddell, as the life of George V ebbed slowly away. He had celebrated the Silver Jubilee of his accession only 8 months earlier, on 6th May 1935. As soon Arthur as was fully proficient he wired our house for electricity. At last we were able to bid farewell to candles and oil lamps!
During 1935, having accepted, with some regret, that my future career would lie in elementary school-teaching, I had to apply for entry to a training college. I had already investigated the possibility of a career in Horticulture, for I loved plants; but that would have meant three years training followed by an uncertain future. It was usual to list 5 colleges in order of preference. My first choice was Whitelands, a Church of England college with an excellent reputation. It had a close connection with, and input from, the SPCK. I followed this with Brighton Municipal, Brighton Diocesan, Cheltenham, and another which I have forgotten.
Three of us from BCS were applying to Whitelands; Frances Veal who left after School Certificate to do some Pupil Teaching, Betty Edwards two years older than me and myself, both still at school. We were all called for interview and travelled to Putney together. Later I had an interview in Birmingham for Brighton Municipal. The Principal did her best to persuade me to opt for Brighton where the fees would be £45 per annum as compared with £50 at Whitelands. She left out of account the difference in cost of travel to and fro. Betty and I were accepted at Whitelands; Frances went to one of the Brighton colleges.
Following hard on the heels of my notice of acceptance came details of what I must provide for myself. In addition to textbooks and stationery, which could be bought from the college Bookshop after I arrived, a Greek style tunic, green or blue, and very light sandals were necessary for PE. The material and the sandals could only be obtained from College. Mother did the sewing. I had a very good tennis racket, but needed a new hockey stick, which I eventually bought at the Sports department of Arding and Hobbs at Clapham Junction. In addition, each student had to provide her own bed-linen, three sheets and three pillow cases, plain white; also two linen serviettes and a serviette ring. I remember well the harangue given to us by Miss Young, the Bursar, shortly after we arrived, because a few girls had followed a recent fashion trend and brought sheets with coloured borders, all of which had to be exchanged. Our belongings were supposed to be made to fit into one small cabin trunk which could be sent in advance, and, once unpacked, would be consigned to the basement.
Mother realised how much all this would cost and set about trying to get a County loan to help provide for my needs during the two years; for although I had a very small Bank Account, worth less than £10, carefully saved for me from small amounts donated by visitors during my childhood, my pocket money would of necessity be very little. When Dad refused point-blank to consider a loan, Mother decided that desperate measures were called for, enlisted the aid of a very discreet, elderly friend as a witness and persuaded Dad that the papers he was signing were routine as I was entering College. The loan was for £15 only and had to be repaid quarterly over one year, commencing when I had been teaching for one term. Small though it was, even by the standards of 1936, it nevertheless made an enormous difference to me financially, and to Mother’s peace of mind. At the same time as she was equipping me to leave home, she was preparing Gwen for her entry into County School.
By the summer of 1936 trouble was brewing in England concerning the succession to the throne, and war clouds were gathering in Europe. When King George V died at Sandringham, aged 70, in January of that year, the name of the bachelor Prince Edward of Wales was already being linked with that of Wallace Simpson, an American divorcee. The controversy raged, involving both Church and State until 10th December when he finally abdicated in order to be with ‘the woman he loved’. He left England that night for France where, once the Simpson divorce was granted, they married and lived out the rest of their lives, save for a period during the Second World War when he served as Governor of the Bahamas. He had reigned for just 325 days. Two days later the Duke of York succeeded his brother as George VI.
In 1933 Hitler had been appointed German Chancellor and from that moment, step by step, took control; until in 1934, after the assassination of the Austrian Chancellor by Austrian Nazis on 25th July and the death of President Hindenberg on 2nd August he became Dictator. A year later, on 3rd October 1935, war broke out between Italy and Abyssinia, to be followed in 1936 by the outbreak of Civil War in Spain. During that summer I at least was aware of and apprehensive about the wars in Spain and Abyssinia. I remember one afternoon, cycling home from school quite alone pushing my bicycle up Ruscote Hill and just before remounting looking to my right over a wide expanse of open country; seeing in my imagination attacking armies moving over it as in the illustrations I had seen of the Great War. Little did I realise that although this would never happen, a war of a very different kind, in which thousands of men, women and children would die on English soil, was just three years away, and that every member of my family would be affected.
The Summer Holidays of 1936 after my last term at BCS passed all too quickly. It was the custom at Whitelands for a 2nd year student to act as ‘Godmother’ to a 1st year to pass on information and advice before term began and to help the newcomer to learn the ropes once there. My ‘Godmother’, Lottie Stroud from Shipton-under-Wychwood had a married sister living at Headington near Oxford and it was here that we met for the first time. Lottie had wanted to make a career in nursing but had been dissuaded by her parents. She also had a chronic sinus problem which would eventually lead to severe deafness. The war ultimately gave her an opportunity to be involved in nursing for a time after all.
Gradually Mother gathered together the necessities for both her daughters. Gwen started school at BCS less than a week before I left for Whitelands on 23rd September. There my trunk awaited me, containing most of my books which had been bought second-hand at Foyle’s and among my few clothes, my school skirt. Arthur was still an apprentice. Mother had decided that to keep down postage costs we would exchange weekly letters alternately. Before many weeks had passed I was instructed to write weekly, and to my great joy Mother did likewise.
This was my first experience of an all-female establishment. It was not that I disliked it in any way but after a co-educational school I was aware of a missing dimension. There was a Gillott Scholarship to be won, so in the first few days we worked a number of exam papers. That done, for about a week we proceeded through our timetable from lecture to lecture, meeting our lecturers, discovering our groups and where any necessary equipment was to be found, making purchases from the College shop or, in the case of needlework or craft students, from designated shops in Richmond Road, Putney.
The Principal Miss Counsell had been in post for scarcely two years, following the death of her immediate predecessor Miss Mercier, that great pioneer in the field of Elementary Education, with whom she had worked as Biology lecturer. Every student had to work for the Archbishop’s exam in Divinity, 1st year New Testament, 2nd year Old Testament. Miss Counsell shared the teaching of Divinity with her deputy, Miss McKenzie -‘Mac’-the pipe-smoking Girl Guide leader, daughter of the Bishop of The Isles, her own very close friend. We worked in two groups, the alphabetical year list being divided numerically in the middle. The two lecturers alternated, top half one year, bottom the next. I was in Miss Counsell’s group.
For most other subjects groups were arranged according to the age of children we hoped to teach. Only very occasionally was a student advised to change age groups, and seldom was anyone judged quite unsuited to teaching and asked to leave. However in the course of our two years we would spend a short period of teaching practice with each age-group. Our first experience came almost at once. I went to an Infants School in Raynes Park, where I was consistently addressed by the class-teacher as Miss Cur. When I plucked up enough courage to point out that my name was Cadd, she replied, "Oh well, I knew it was something dreadful!" - not the only time I regretted my surname.
Because College was overfull I had been given a room in the newly acquired Annexe, Forest Lodge, which I shared with a student from Hounslow, Mary Cutter, an outstanding swimmer in training for the next Olympics. She lost her chance to compete when they were cancelled because of the War. Except for the May Queen we were referred to by surnames; the label on our room door, names written in alphabetical order, read CADD, CUTTER.
After that first school practice we settled into the regular College routine; lectures all morning on weekdays and between tea and supper from Monday until Friday. Games or educational visits took up most of our afternoons. The evenings were given over to Open Lectures or private study, or occasionally a musical performance. Of the many speakers or performers who visited during the two years I spent in Whitelands, three impressed me enormously. Lilian Barker, herself a Whitelands student in 1894-95, was Governor of Holloway Women’s Prison. She was passionately interested in the reasons behind the behavioural problems which her prisoners suffered. She spoke with great enthusiasm about the beautiful art and craft-work they were able to produce when their natural instincts were diverted from the purely sexual to the culturally creative, and was instrumental in providing for them opportunities to become involved in a number of craft activities. One was weaving, and as often as not she would be wearing a suit made from material they had produced. During the war she became Director of the Woolwich Arsenal, staffed largely by women. After the war she was created DBE for this work, the first Whitelander, and one of the first women, to be so honoured.
Mary Jarred, the contralto, was possessed of a most beautiful voice and an equally impressive physique. It was usual on lecture evenings for students to take their knitting along and to work at it until the lecture began. Some continued rather longer. On this occasion an ardent knitter had the misfortune to drop a needle on to the uncarpeted floor during a quiet passage. After the performance Mary Jarred mentioned the incident to the Principal, first making deprecatory remarks about her size and appearance and how we might find them reasons for inattention, and then referred to the effect on her concentration and performance, all in a very understanding way. Next Day Miss Counsell gave us all a severe dressing down, after which knitting was banned from Open Lectures.
Elizabeth Clarke who came to demonstrate the art of Story Telling used her own collections of fairy tales. She enthralled me. I had never before heard stories told in such an exciting way. In later years I was able to use much of what I learnt from her, not only in the way in which I told stories to my classes but by using the stories as subjects for drama.
One of these tales, Jasper and the Hares, was dramatised and performed as part of the May Day Revels in 1937 for ‘our’ May Queen, Betty. The smallest of us were chosen to be hares, provided with a pattern from which to make our costumes and directed to our usual draper’s where a quantity of brown cotton material was being held for us. The costume described in the pattern was for standing up in, the last thing those hares would be able to do! Each time they were whistled back they had to scamper into a ring round Jasper, kick their heels in the air and sit up and gaze at him with large, foolish eyes! On the night of the first dress-rehearsal it was at this point that disaster struck. There were hurried sorties to buy extra material to insert gussets, but the material was running short; not all of us could get the same shade of brown. We had to rely on large ‘scuts’ made of cotton-wool on brown paper to hide the telltale insertions. For the remaining rehearsals we were extremely cautious, almost inhibited in our frolics. The final performance on May Day was undertaken with more hope than confidence.
The Annexe, Forest Lodge, was a very large, old Victorian house, three-storied with a basement, next door to the College gateway, facing West Hill, Putney. On the other side of the gate was the Royal Hospital and Home for Incurables, one of the places where we were encouraged to do a little social work visiting patients, all carefully selected and of Anglican persuasion. The alternative was to help at the Bishop Creighton Settlement in Fulham. The scheme was organised by our PE Lecturer, Miss Battley. I chose to visit patients and was given Miss Barnes, a heavily built double amputee, and Miss Davey, completely mobile but with one artificial arm which she removed before taking up her embroidery, at which she was quite proficient. My first experience of an Anglo-Catholic Service was one Sunday morning when I pushed Miss Barnes in her wheelchair to a church in Southfields where our College Chaplain was Vicar. I found the liturgy almost unintelligible.
Soon after we settled into our regular routine I began to feel desparately apprehensive as if some terrible event was about to take place. It was! On Saturday 22nd November, while most of the students were at a dance in the main building, I joined my ‘Godmother’ in her room next door for a hot drink before going to bed. Each student had a table with a lockable drawer in which to keep money and anything valuable. Hers was at an angle to a lighted gas fire which had no guard. By the late evening post she received a letter containing money. In order to allow her access to the drawer I had to move away. I stood in front of, and much nearer than I realised to the fire. There were no fire-proof fabrics in those days. I was wearing a thin dressing gown which ignited in seconds. When the Matron eventually arrived she used liquid paraffin on my extensive burns. The preferred treatment at the time was tannic acid. I was a patient in Putney Hospital for 16 weeks, and convalescent at home for a further 6. Fortunately for me, this was the time chosen to underpin a large section of the college which was subsiding. A very long Christmas Holiday was followed by an equally long summer term with only a very short Easter break. I was still not allowed to play games so I was able to catch up sufficiently to pass the end of year exams.
A week before my accident, Gwen had gone on a Sunday School outing to a wildlife park and returned home proudly clutching a couple of peacock feathers. Mother threw up her arms in horror, announcing that it was thoroughly unlucky to bring these inside and Gwen, in tears, beat a hasty retreat to plant them in a drain hole to the side of the house. The following Sunday morning when news of my accident arrived Mother set off in great haste to catch the London train - which was held up for her to get across the platform, so great was the emergency - but not before exclaiming, in Gwen’s hearing, ‘That’s those damn peacock feathers!’ Gwen has hated peacock feathers and even peacock colours ever since.
[Gwen supplies some of the details. Mum herself makes rather light of this episode, but the facts - 5 months as an invalid - speak for themselves. She was severely burned and by implication the wounds turned septic, perhaps encouraged by the liquid paraffin, a serious complication in those pre-antibiotic days. For a time her life appears to have been in some danger. She has carried the scars ever since.]
My main subjects were Advanced Music, English Language and Literature, History, Craft and Needlework. In addition, every student had to study the Principles of Teaching for the age-group she hoped to teach, the theory of PE, Hygiene and, in her first year only, Arithmetic Method. Attendance at sessions of Choral Music, Divinity, Games and PE - which included a lot of Folk Dancing, English and European - were all compulsory. Even on Sundays the specialist classrooms were in great demand. It was a long time before I felt at ease when I had to do practical work on a Sunday.
In my second year I had a room in College on the top floor, St. Leonard’s. The college had originally been set up in Kings Road, Chelsea, with Rev. John Faunthorpe as its first Principal. It moved to Putney in 1931 where it was reopened by Queen Mary on 1st June. The residential corridors in Putney were named after areas in the neighbourhood of the old College.
There were two occasions in each year when work took second place to celebration. The first was on the evening of 21st October, when Staff and Students appeared for supper in best bib and tucker with the reigning May Queen robed in honour of St. Ursula, Patron Saint both of Whitelands and of Teachers in general. The second occasion was May Day, always celebrated on a Saturday, when students were joined by former students, most of them members of the Guild, VIP’s and visitors. It was thanks to John Ruskin that the tradition of electing a May Queen began. She was chosen from the first year by her fellow-students, not for academic prowess but for her character. A special robe was made for her shortly before the event, in the early days by students but by the 1930’s by Miss Merton the craft lecturer who also designed it, using a member of staff for a model. It was usually fairly obvious some time in advance who was likely to be chosen.
On the eve of May Day, when the result of the ballot was announced, the Queen elect was whisked away for a fitting, any necessary adjustments were made and her parents were notified so that they could be present. She would be seen robed for the first time when she entered Chapel on May Day for her Coronation carrying flowers to match her dress, and followed by two chosen friends and all the former Queens who could attend, each like herself robed and carrying matching flowers as on the day of their own crowning. The only exception was the Queen of the previous year who would await her arrival, carrying and wearing forget-me-nots. During the ceremony she would receive a Ruskin Cross and Chain and a work by Ruskin. Originally Queens received his complete works. After the celebration lunch, 1st year students, the new Queen’s contemporaries, performed May Day Revels, dance and mime, always including maypole dancing. In our case this all took place on the flat roof of the college, outside the Principal’s office and the Staff Common Room.
For both of these celebrations every student was expected to wear an ivy wreath on her head; First Years made the wreaths for their Godmothers. Fortunately there was plenty of ivy to be found growing on the fence which separated Whitelands from the Royal Hospital, and black tape did not cost much. Making a neat job of assembling the wreath was another matter, especially if the head of the wearer was very small with a minimum of hair, and her personality unsuited to a flamboyant concoction.
These two years passed at great speed. School Practices alternated with periods of work in college. When teaching we travelled on buses or crowded underground trains loaded with a variety of pieces of home-made apparatus, the smaller the better, lesson notes, posters, often small livestock. We ate frugal lunches, usually of the beans-on-toast variety, at Lyons or the ABC, and thankfully collected our allowances after the event, seldom more than 1s 2d per day, grateful indeed if we had managed to save a few pence with which to buy a bar of chocolate on our next trip to Putney High Street.
Final exams took place at intervals between Easter and the end of the summer term. During that time we were all seeking jobs, filling in application forms, being interviewed in College by nearby authorities or taking time off to travel for the same purpose. Students who came from the better authorities were not only helped financially during their training but were guaranteed posts when they were ready; they could often go off and work for a few weeks after the exams before the school term ended.
I had always dreamed of living at home and working locally, travelling by bicycle until I could own and drive a car, so that I could contribute to the upkeep of our home and eventually give my parents a few treats. It soon became obvious that this dream was unlikely to be realised, at least in the near future. Most of the local schools, except in Banbury, were small village establishments, often with only one teacher. Even in Banbury changes of staff were few and far between. Oxfordshire Education Authority did nothing to help or encourage the newly qualified.
Eventually I was appointed to a post in Ipswich, where I had applied to specialise in Music in a Senior School. Shortly after accepting, like dozens of other young teachers over a number of years, I was told that I must first work for a year in a Junior school. I was devastated. Several years later the Director of Education for Ipswich was removed after the Young Teachers group of the NUT, backed by the parent body, protested. I was attached to Stoke Junior Mixed School, a very new, two-storey building catering for Infants on the ground floor and Juniors above, set in an enormous playing field, close to the entrance of the tunnel over the main line from Liverpool Street to Ipswich.
THE PARTING of the WAYS
Having had to remain in college during half-term holidays to save train fares, I had only seen my family during my period of convalescence following my burns and during college vacations, mostly quite short, before I went home for good in July 1938. Gwen was now at the end of her second year at BCS and doing well. Arthur had finally completed two years as an ‘Improver’ after his apprenticeship failed. He had expected at this stage to be able to join the work-force as a qualified electrician, but without his indentures this would never happen. He was unsettled and frustrated, especially after I had completed my training successfully. Eventually he tried to join the RAF. He went for an interview with Jim Taylor and another Wroxton lad, but only Arthur was accepted. He was sent to Henlow where he remained until he had finished his training and was ready for posting as AC2, ground staff.
Dad was now in his early 60’s. Mother had had to give up her nursing to cope with looking after step-grandmother as well as the home. She eventually surrendered her CMB certificate when she was unable to take an update course in modern midwifery techniques. I had to start my new job before the end of August. The area around Ipswich was largely agricultural, so instead of 5 weeks summer holiday children were given 4 weeks then a full week at the autumn half-term for potato harvesting. I had found lodgings with a childless elderly couple, the Wordley’s.
The speculation as to the outcome of Edward VIII’s friendship with Wallace Simpson, his subsequent abdication, and marriage, followed by the accession of George VI and his coronation on 12th May 1937, with other excitements such as the burning down of Crystal Palace in November 1936, caused the interest of ordinary people to be focused much more on events at home and the doings of our Royal Family than on events of national importance taking place in Europe, where there were all too ominous signs of things to come.
On 12th March 1938 Germany embarked on her programme of aggression by annexing Austria. Searchlights played regularly across the night sky over London. On Armistice Day, 1937 white ‘peace’ poppies had been very much in evidence. On 28th September 1938, the British Navy was mobilised, one day before our Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, after a meeting with Daladier, Hitler and Mussolini, representing France, Germany and Italy, signed the Munich Agreement and returned to England assuring us that there would be ‘peace in our time’. On 30th September I was due to receive my first salary payment, for 5 weeks work. A holiday was announced for that day so that everyone, nation-wide, could be fitted with a gas-mask. Hitler continued his aggression in Europe despite warnings from Britain. ‘Guns before butter’ was the slogan which encouraged the German people as they came to terms with the austerity demanded as they prepared for war. In April 1939 Conscription was introduced in Britain. In May the Anglo-Polish Treaty was signed in London.
While Hitler continued to pursue his aggressive policies and Italy began to follow his example, Britain strengthened her links with friendly European countries. She also made overtures to Russia, The Spanish Civil War ended on 1st April but Italy seized Albania on 14th April and on 28th April Hitler denounced both the Anglo-German Naval Agreement and the Anglo-Polish Treaty signed in London. On 10th July Mr. Chamberlain reaffirmed the British pledge to Poland.
Even so, when I went home at the end of July having completed my Probationary Year I was oblivious to the danger ahead. I took Gwen with me to Thorpe Bay to stay for a week with the family of an Occupational Therapist whom I had met in Ipswich. It was my first opportunity to begin to really get to know her, the age gap having hitherto prevented us from sharing much of our lives. During the last week of August there were regular broadcast messages recalling troops on leave and, eventually, teachers. I returned to Ipswich several days early. At last now I was beginning to sense the impending crisis, but it seemed scarcely possible that it could touch Wroxton and I had no fears for the home and family I was leaving behind in that very rural part of England.
THE OUTBREAK of WORLD WAR II
Once back in Ipswich I was directed to a centre where in company with many other teachers I wrote details on Ration Books in preparation for their distribution. Here on Sunday 3rd September at 11 o’clock I heard the broadcast by Mr. Chamberlain, announcing that we were at war with Germany, as a result of her invasion of Poland two days earlier. As from 5.00 pm France also became involved. Within minutes of the end of the broadcast the first air raid sirens sounded, but there was no sign of action and the All-Clear followed very soon after.
A comprehensive plan had been made for the evacuation of the most vulnerable citizens from London, mainly children and expectant mothers. We were a ‘receiving area’, so all schools remained closed. Quantities of food-stuffs - corned beef, biscuits, chocolate, tinned and dry goods - together with carrier bags were delivered to the empty buildings where staff packed the bags with items suitable for the types of evacuees who were to receive them. Once billeted they were to hand them to their host family so that they could be fed until they received Ration Books and were registered with the appropriate suppliers. For several days we waited for our quota or evacuees; none came, so the food had to be returned to the cartons in which it had been delivered, ready for collection. An open air classroom was set up in the school field from which an attempt was made to set work for any pupils interested enough to collect it. Few were!
Soon we had settled into a routine, taking rationing, black-out, sirens - Alerts and All-Clears - in our stride. Once back at school much of our time was spent in the underground shelters, built at the edge of the playground. I still remember my Registration Number, TVAW40/3. Unfortunately water drained continuously from the hill behind us through which the tunnel had been cut so that under the duck-board floor there was always water. The warmth generated by hurricane lamps and up to 60 people produced a continuously humid atmosphere which quickly took its toll of the weak-chested.
Householders had been provided with Anderson Shelters, corrugated iron structures with rounded tops capable of sleeping 4 people, which were set up, partially below ground, as far from the houses as gardens permitted. The alternative was to get under the stairs. Small cases containing basic necessities including food were kept handy in preparation for any hurried exit to the shelter and beds in it were kept ready for use. Travel was discouraged unless absolutely necessary. Warnings against careless talk were everywhere.
By November it was obvious that Ipswich was vulnerable. There were no concerted raids but it was in the path of returning bombers and sustained damage on a number of occasions when munitions were jettisoned to enhance the pilot’s chance of reaching home safely. First came a land-mine, which landed not far from my lodgings. I saw for the first time streets littered with broken glass and buildings with gaping holes where windows should have been. The few evacuees went hot-foot home.
Soon the government via the Ministry of Food began to circulate ideas as to how to make the best use of rations - recipes broadcast, leaflets by post if requested - and also how to put to good use any unusual edible commodity our cargo ships might bring home; Seville Oranges, Limes: I still have the marmalade recipe and use it regularly. One of the suggested dishes was Woolton Pie, named after the Minister of Food himself. Soon we were using dried eggs, and making marzipan for the very occasional celebration cake from soya flour and almond essence instead of ground almonds. Concentrated orange juice, cod-liver oil and milk powder for babies were available at all clinics. As the demand grew for women to replace men at work meals began to be provided in all schools, price 10d a day; poor children paid nothing. I had in my class of eight year olds several very poor and mentally handicapped children who also received a round of sandwich each day to eat at break with their 1/3 pint of free school milk.
THE FAMILY FEEL the EFFECTS of WAR
When war broke out Britain was very ill-prepared and very short of armaments, especially ’planes. Of all the fighting services the Navy was best equipped, but it was soon losing ships of all classes as a result of enemy submarine activity. Hitler’s plan, ‘Guns before butter.’ had paid off. German forces were highly motivated, well-equipped and organised. The Hitler Youth movement which indoctrinated its young members with Nazi ideals and trained them for entry to the fighting forces, together with a ruthlessly efficient Gestapo, made Germany a formidable enemy. Italy under the dictatorship of Mussolini, was its ally. Our interests and territories in and around the Mediterranean and the north coast of Africa were at risk, and liable to be attacked if the war moved far enough south. We needed to be ready to meet that situation if it arose.
From the early days of the war service personnel were sent out in considerable numbers to North Africa, Arthur among them as soon as his training at Henlow was completed. By leaving Ipswich as soon as school ended and travelling in the black-out I was able to see him for a few brief moments before he boarded his train at Banbury Station at the end of his Embarkation Leave. He was stationed at Aboukir, not far from Cairo. At first he had a wonderful time; a full and interesting social life, no shortages or rationing. His best friend organised a choir and a band. Arthur joined it - I think he played a cornet. Contacts with home were very irregular, largely due to the U-boats for ever on the attack in the shipping lanes used by our convoys. The men were being trained to operate in desert conditions but Arthur developed an allergy to the combination of sand and diesel fuel which resulted in a bad rash on his hands and for a time he was sent to Syria.
Once war in the desert began, life changed rapidly. As the Italian forces were driven back, the RAF and its ground maintenance staff followed hard on their heels. At Castel Benito the jeep in which Arthur was travelling hit a mine. What happened to the men travelling with him he would never say. He was invalided back to a hospital in the north of England. Once recovered he was sent to Norway. Eventually he returned to England. We met once when he broke his journey across London to visit me in eastern Enfield where I was living and working by then; I was lodging with Flossie Crocker, another much older Whitelander who had left in 1912. Gone was the confident young man I remembered. He was withdrawn and reluctant to talk about any of his experiences.
Eventually he met Lilian, a WAAF, whom he later married. After he was de-mobbed he worked for some time for Spillers before joining Metal Box with whom he remained for the rest of his working life, travelling widely to visit their various plants in England and abroad. His RAF training and experience confirmed and consolidated his expertise as effectively as any set of indentures and throughout the remainder of his working life he demonstrated his skills in electronics at which he excelled.
Gwen meanwhile was still a schoolgirl and her first three years at BCS were untroubled. When war broke out in 1939 rural Oxfordshire seemed a very safe place to be - and in consequence Wroxton was overrun with evacuees. Thither I returned each holiday with pleasure and relief. When Pawson & Leaf took over the Abbey, two of their employees, a Jewish couple the Nazebys, lodged at Thisbe Cottage for a time. Gwen recalls them as very pleasant, and that Mrs. Nazeby always wore bright clover lipstick. The employees together with the Vicar, Rev. West, formed a drama group and Gwen was asked to play a juvenile part in The Dear Departed, performed at the village hall. Other plays and other parts followed and she developed a keen interest in amateur dramatics which she has maintained ever since.
In February 1941 when she was just one term into her 4th year, BCS was destroyed by fire, by accident and not through enemy action. Various other centres were found where lessons could continue, but the loss of equipment, and the problems of travelling hither and thither must have been utterly devastating for staff and pupils alike.
For Gwen worse was to follow. Before the time came when she could take her exams and decide upon a career she had twice to take responsibility for the home while Mother was in hospital. Step-grandmother was very frail now but not yet totally dependent, so Mother could still take the few midwifery cases that presented themselves in the surrounding villages. One day she pricked her finger on an old-fashioned safety pin while dressing a baby. It refused to heal and frequently bled profusely. Dr. Hudson, now our family doctor, fearing that she might have a melanoma, arranged for her to go immediately to the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford, having first alerted Mother to the fact that she might lose her arm. I could get no leave of absence and the journey from Ipswich and back was too long to allow a weekend visit. Fortunately the doctor’s fears were unfounded.
Not long after, in 1942, Mother was ill again, with an attack of meningitis. She was admitted to hospital on Dad’s birthday, 1st March. It was a Sunday and Gwen had great difficulty contacting Dr. Hudson; he was a Quaker and when she first rang in the morning he was at service in Sibford. By the time he eventually arrived about 5.00pm Mother was semi-conscious and he immediately called an ambulance. Amelia Eva was bedridden upstairs now with a broken hip. There was no possibility of Gwen and Dad looking after her unaided. She was put on one stretcher and Mother on the other with Dad and Gwen in between. They left Amelia Eva at Warwick Road, the old Workhouse, by then a geriatric hospital, Mother was taken on to Horton Hospital. Dad and Gwen sat anxiously by her bed until morning before walking home to Wroxton, then Dad went on to work. No work, no pay!
As an added complication at this time the family had a male lodger, Mr. Gray, in the downstairs front room; he had full board Monday to Friday but spent weekends away. He seemed a very nice man. He had a good position at the ironstone works and an impressive string of letters after his name. He regularly took The Lady and would send away for parcels of ladies clothes, mainly underwear or night wear, which he said were for his invalid wife. As it eventually turned out this was entirely untrue; he was in fact a homosexual, also an impostor. He stayed for quite a long time, until he was eventually removed by the police.
With Mother in hospital, Gwen had to set about preparing food for Dad and Mr. Gray. She vividly remembers repeated trips over to a good friend and neighbour on the estate, Mrs. Bull, to ask how to make suet pudding and suchlike. She could then cycle to visit Mother before returning home to cook the evening meal.
Mother was very ill at first - she was in a coma for several days and a rumour went around that she was dead - but she eventually recovered and came home. Amelia Eva hated Warwick Road so she too came home, until the next crisis. She was readmitted quite soon after and died there on 29th July 1942 aged 95.
While all this was going on, Gwen missed a fair bit of time off school and often could not concentrate well on her school work or her homework. She was a bright enough girl and very practical, but never academic, and she did not enjoy her time at BCC. She does not recall ever receiving any praise for her scholastic efforts. Unhappily, all too often she suffered by comparison with me; one of the staff would look at her pointedly and remark, ‘Your sister was very good at this!’
Soon after Amelia Eva’s death she left school to train as a Welgarth Nursery Nurse. She enjoyed her college days much better. The Welgarth Nursery Training College had been evacuated to Bourton House near Shrivenham in Berkshire where Lady Butler, the owner, still lived in one wing and treated the students as if they were members of her family. Her husband, the late Sir Cyril Kendall Butler, had been a big game hunter so the house was full of priceless treasures and the garden and grounds were magnificent. Work was hard, starting desperately early in the morning, but Gwen still remembers her two years there as a happy time.
Having qualified she would normally have been able to pursue her career in one of several ways. Employment with a private family would have given her pleasant surroundings in which to work and opportunities to travel; this was what she would have liked to do. Unfortunately the war more or less ruled out all such possibilities. State nurseries were springing up like mushrooms to enable mothers of young children to make a contribution to the war effort and it was in such a nursery in Reading that she was eventually employed.
Mother and Father remained in Wroxton, keeping the home up for us all as and when we could visit. Dad was still working; he continued until well into his 70’s. One of his wartime jobs was on the new goods yard at Banbury Station. Hardly had he climbed down his ladder and left the site on the day he completed the glazed sections of the roof when a bomb from a lone raider fell near enough to completely shatter his handiwork.
Shortly after America joined the war American troops were brought to Banbury, which had by now grown almost beyond recognition. A Maternity Hospital was established in part of the old workhouse. Mother was asked to take up her midwifery again to help staff it. She worked there for several years as a Night Sister. In her spare time she took an active part in the Wroxton branch of the WI, started by Mrs. Drysdale.
On 14th November 1948 Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King George VI and heir to the throne, gave birth to her first child, a son, Prince Charles. The Banbury Advertiser took a keen interest in the birth of a local child on the same day just a minute later, and in the very senior midwife responsible for the delivery, who had also delivered the baby’s mother 18 years before.
"Exactly sixty seconds after the first cries of Britain’s youngest Prince first echoed in the specially furnished suite at Buckingham Palace on Sunday night, a Banbury midwife, renewing an "acquaintance" first made 18 years ago, glanced at the clock on the wall of the ward at the maternity block of the Neithrop Hospital to fix the time of birth of a daughter to young Mrs. Elsie Tuzzio.
Eighteen years ago, Sister L. Cadd, then a district nurse, brought Mrs. Tuzzio (daughter of Mrs. Gardner of Wroxton) into the world. On Sunday night, as a sister at the hospital, she was midwife at the birth of one of the few children in Britain who will share not only the birthday but the hour of birth with the prince."
The paper goes on to record details of the baby, a girl Sandra Elizabeth weighing 8lb 4oz, and its family. There is a photograph of Mrs. Tuzzio with Mother standing by holding baby Sandra but it is too faded and indistinct to reproduce. These Tuzzio’s were related to our childhood ice-cream vendor.
The 1940’s saw a mending of fences between Dad and the Wroxton church. There was a new vicar now, Rev. R.C. West. The PCC minute books record that in 1943 the vicar invited him to a PCC meeting for the sake of his expert advice on some troublesome dampness in the vestry. He and another local man, Mr. W. Baker were entrusted with the task of putting this right. In 1944 he was unanimously elected as Peoples’ Warden for the parish, a post to which he was re-elected annually thereafter until he resigned in the 1950’s because of his advancing years. In 1945 he was also voted onto the PCC. Mother too was a member of the PCC for several years until she resigned in 1949, to be replaced by Lady Pearson. In 1950-51 the parish was without a vicar for a while and at the end of the interregnum the PCC recorded a vote of thanks to Dad for all his hard work during that time.
MY WAR YEARS
At the end of the Summer term of 1940 I was still teaching Juniors at Stoke School. The war was about to enter its second year. Opportunities to specialise in any subject were growing fewer as male teachers were being called up and could not always be replaced. We were spending an enormous amount of time in shelters where Music meant community singing to pass the time because so little formal education was possible. At term ends the journeys between Ipswich and Banbury, involving as they did a journey across London from Liverpool Street to Paddington, were horrendous. Trains were erratic, air raids often made movement in London difficult if not impossible. A murky station late at night in the blackout was not a good place for a young woman to be alone. I decided to move nearer home as soon as a suitable post could be found. I was very fortunate in being appointed to an Upper Junior School in Chesterfield Road, Enfield, the eastern end. The main industry was the manufacture of Bren guns. Each lunch time a column of cyclists 4 deep made its way from the factory past the end of Chesterfield Road.
The school building was old, with two storeys and had large playgrounds either side. Infants occupied the lower floor. Upstairs several of the classrooms had wooden panels which could be folded back to give extended space. A corridor in which Assemblies were held ran the length of the building, there were stairs at each end. Cloakrooms were downstairs. Adjacent to the Infants' playground was a separate Lower Junior School of the Central Hall type. There was very little communication between the three units. I started work there on 1st April 1941. I was already working for an ARCM in Class Singing and Aural Training (Section 13) and taking in addition the Optional Harmony and Counterpoint, with a view to a Degree in Music at a later date. I never had a piano in my lodgings so I had to do all my practising at school, often after dark when only the Auxiliary Fire Service and Fire Watchers were there. In 1943 I moved to Enfield Town where I joined the ladies’ section of the choir at St. Andrews Church, and where Miss Haclin who had taught me Botany at BCS was now teaching at the Royal Grammar School.
I lived first with the Platts in Ladysmith Road. Mrs. Platt was a widow, and severely affected by rheumatism. Her unmarried son Freddie was in the Army, her daughter, not long out of school, was doing secretarial work in London. After about a year Freddie was moved nearer home and could visit more easily, so I had to vacate his room.
There was not much opportunity for relaxation or leisure during those years but in 1941 a friend and I managed to get tickets for a Promenade Concert at the Queens Hall. A few days before the concert the hall was bombed.
Having passed my ARCM I began immediately to work for a Bachelor of Music degree and by the summer of 1944 I was ready to sit for Part 1. This entailed three written papers and an aural exam. The first paper was on a Thursday afternoon in late June at Imperial Institute, London. That night the first V1 Flying Bombs, Doodlebugs, landed on Britain. I had two more papers to do on Friday. Getting to London was a nightmare. Once there, Alerts and All-Clear signals followed each other in rapid succession. No one was quite sure what Hitler’s latest weapon looked like. The first exam session started late, so time allowed for both was curtailed and allowances made. On Saturday I had an aural with Gordon Jacob. The journey was no easier, and his first request to me was that I describe the acoustics of the Air Raid Siren!
On Monday we spent most of the day in shelters. On Tuesday the Education Authority decided that since enough was now known to recognise an approaching Doodlebug, instead of going straight to shelters when the Alert sounded we should continue to work while the headmaster had assessed the situation; could anything be seen or heard or, worse still, had the sound of an approaching ’plane stopped? This would mean it was making for the ground.
That day, the bell for the end of morning school had just sounded when we heard the Alert. We remained lined-up outside classrooms until dismissed by the Head. A colleague and I were on Dinner Duty, so we went at once to our playground. A few minutes later, "Ours!" shouted my colleague as we spotted a small black shape in the sky, coming our way and silent. Together we chased and hustled children out of cloakrooms from every corner of the playground and into the shelter at the front of the school. I was halfway down the steps with my colleague behind me when the bomb fell. I felt as though I had been thumped on the back of my neck. The noise of destruction was dreadful.
When it subsided we dared to look out. The row of terraced Victorian houses opposite were minus windows; glass was everywhere; curtains in tatters hung out of holes where glass should have been. By the time we were allowed to leave the shelter, Police, Ambulances, and Wardens were in action, and parents were arriving with as much speed as possible. Fortunately the Bren Gun factory was closed for a holiday or there would have been carnage in Station Road; the cyclists would have been on their way home for dinner.
The bomb had fallen on some spare land which was being cultivated, partly by the school, as allotments. The Lower Junior School building was badly damaged and one Infant Teacher who had taken shelter there killed. The church next door was slightly damaged and a large emergency water tank just outside it blown to pieces. One of my boys, on his way home was badly cut by one of the flying fragments. One of our Dinner Ladies who was setting tables in the lower hall was cut by flying glass. Our own building appeared intact, but the partitions between classrooms were twisted and torn apart and the outside door nearest to the blast could not be properly closed. Before we knew it, all our needlework material and quantities of stationery had been stolen. The only other casualty was the son of one of the workers who was taking holiday to be home with Dad. He had spent his time hanging around school with his bicycle, quite unsupervised; luckily his injuries were not serious.
A plan for evacuation was immediately put into action. One week later a large party of us with gas-masks, luggage and labels, after an exhausting, day-long journey, found ourselves in Oldham. A thick, wet mist hung over everything; all we could see were ghostly fingers of factory chimneys pointing skywards in all directions. Medical checks were carried out next day before the children were billeted. My colleague and I returned to Enfield. The children still there were taught in several downstairs rooms while equipment was salvaged and the upper storey repaired. Some of our senior classes were housed in the nearest secondary modern school. Soon the evacuees began to trickle back, by which time some of our classrooms had been repaired, and we could function as a complete school once more.
Before long, Hitler launched his next deadly weapon against civilians, the V2 rocket. They fell from the skies without any warning. One evening I visited a house occupied only by an elderly widow and her daughter, in search of lodgings. The next Saturday morning there was an enormous thud. So far there had not been any rockets near us. This one fell directly on the house I had visited so recently, so my search began again. Eventually I was able to share a house with an elderly teacher not far from where I had lived before, so I could continue to sing at St. Andrew’s.
THE END in SIGHT
When war broke out in 1939 many people thought that it would be but a 9 days wonder; the remark, "It’ll be over by Christmas!" was commonplace in the first few months. By 1945 most of Europe was either occupied by Germany or actively involved. Japan had taken up arms on the German side and as a result of their bombing raid on Pearl harbour in December 1941 America had come into the war on the side of the Allies, France and Britain. Russia too was involved and bitter indeed was the fighting in North Africa, once the 8th Army launched its offensive. Italy had surrendered in September 1943,and on D-Day in June l944 the invasion of Europe via the Normandy beaches began. By the spring of 1945 Germany was being pushed back on all sides, and her occupied territories liberated. Not even the suffering of his own people would induce Hitler to surrender. Rockets continued to rain down on the South of England ; on 26th April 50 fell, killing 2,754 persons. On 1st May German radio announced the death of Hitler. On 7th May the German Foreign Minister broadcast unconditional surrender. World War II against Germany officially ended at one minute past midnight on 8th May 1945, VE Day. Great were the celebrations throughout the land, but I cannot remember doing anything special; the relief that it was all over was enough.
All attention was now turned to the Far East. On the last day of July over 1000 ’planes bombed the Tokyo district of Japan, to be followed by the dropping of the first Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima. Within 4 days Russia had declared war on Japan and a second atomic bomb devastated Nagasaki. The Japanese surrendered to the Allies on August 14th and VJ Day was celebrated on August 15th.
Gradually the troops were brought home and de-mobbed, although this did not always happen quickly. My future husband had a particularly frustrating experience. Although he was called up into the Army, for a variety of reasons he did not see overseas service during the War, but shortly before it ended his regiment was given orders for Palestine where it was to uphold the British Mandate. VE Day saw him confined to a ship, still in harbour, on which he and his contingent had just embarked. They were denied shore leave lest they should celebrate too well and fail to return.
I stayed on in Enfield, although I later transferred to Bush Hill Park School as a specialist music teacher. Sadly, I had no opportunity to pursue my music degree any further. I finally left in the summer of 1949, the year of my marriage. I met ‘Ken’, Kenneth Webb, on a CHA holiday in Totnes in 1947; he told me he first noticed me because of my distinctive Oxfordshire accent! By then he had completed his army service and was working as a hospital administrator in Kent. He was an only child whose father had died during the War. His mother was none too keen on his finding a bride but we met regularly in London and eventually he proposed to me, one afternoon in Green Park. He found a new job at Botley’s Park, a mental handicap hospital in Ottershaw, and after our marriage we set up home in Addlestone.
ONE HOME BECOMES FOUR
Within a few years of the War all three ‘fledglings’ had flown the nest and set up homes of their own. Arthur’s marriage to Lilian in the Spring of 1946 was followed two years later by Gwen’s to Len Crawley. Ken and I were married in Wroxton on 17th September 1949. For many years Arthur and Gwen lived in or near London, while I was in Surrey. Mother was an excellent correspondent and kept us in touch with each other but meetings were few. Grandchildren arrived; first Jennifer, a daughter for Gwen and Len, in July 1949, then in 1951 our son Eric in February and David for Arthur and Lilian in May, lastly our daughter Rosemary, a sister for Eric, was born in May 1954. They were all very much loved by their Grandparents and delighted in visits to Wroxton.
Dad continued to manage his large vegetable garden, and when well into his 80’s used his last piece of oak to make a small table to stand beside Mother’s chair, on which she could put her book, her glasses and her cup of tea. He continued to bring home firewood, and hedgerow fruits in season. These Mother made into pies, puddings or jams. She in her turn kept up the strawberry patch and the flower beds so that whenever we visited we returned home with all sorts of good things from garden or store-cupboard plus, while the children were small, beautiful hand-knitted garments.
Mother’s health began to show signs of deterioration. She developed mild cardiac malfunction which took a long time to control because she proved to be allergic to the most commonly used form of Digitalis. She had several spells in Hospital, first for a frozen shoulder and later for the removal of her gall-bladder. Once again, Gwen was the only one of us who could give assistance, and then only while Jennifer was not at school. About 1960 some small bungalows were built on the Leys. Mother would have liked one of these but Dad would not move, so at Thisbe Cottage they remained.
In Spring 1961 Ken, my husband was diagnosed as suffering from malignant hypertension, although I was never given any clue as to the exact nature of his condition. 6 weeks in hospital and all possible tests failed to find a root cause. He returned home very frail. He was unable to return to work until late summer, and only then by using our recently acquired car, a second-hand Ford Anglia, to travel to and fro; before, he always rode his bicycle. He had sold his previous car, an ancient Austin, shortly after Rosemary was born when it was beyond repair and at that time we could not afford to replace it. He was being treated with the most modern drug available and regularly monitored. His doctor told him that all seemed well, but the least exertion was beyond him, even clipping lawn edges, and he so loved his garden.
In the Spring of 1962 Eric passed his eleven-plus exam and was given a place at Strode’s, the Coopers’ Company boys’ grammar school at Egham. In March, Ken’s Mother who was living in Sidcup with a distant relative of his Father was taken to hospital after suffering a stroke. The next few weeks were both difficult and painful. The Hospital did everything possible to persuade us to take her into our home, a three-bedroom property with no downstairs toilet facilities, housing two adults and two children of different sexes. She would be a heavy burden; for many years it had been all too obvious that she had internal problems and one of her nieces had for some time refused to entertain her overnight. Far more important, our Family Doctor had warned us that if we took such a step Ken’s health would inevitably suffer. There were no Geriatric beds to be found locally and as she had not been a local resident she would have no priority for sheltered accommodation. If we ignored his advice, even if the results were disastrous, he would not be able to help.
Neither she nor her sisters knew the seriousness of Ken’s condition. One sister in particular left us in no doubt what she thought of us. Her German Ward Sister was equally unpleasant, despite having had Ken’s health problems explained to her. Every weekend, either Ken alone or all of us visited her, until Whitsun weekend when we paid what was to be Ken’s last visit to Wroxton. While we were away she had a severe haemorrhage. It was confirmed that she had Cancer, so we heard no more about taking her into our home. She was moved to St. Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup where she remained until, two days before she died, she was taken to the Hostel of God in Clapham. Our weekly visits were continued to the end. Her funeral at the South London Crematorium took place on 31st July 1962.
That year we had planned a holiday in late August and early September, taking advantage of Eric’s longer holiday before going to Strode’s and allowing Rosemary to miss the first week of term. In the intervening weeks we were able to entertain for the first time Violet Webb, a cousin of Ken’s Father and Eric’s Godmother, who had recently lost her own Mother and was now free to travel. She was delighted to be included in the trip to Windsor to buy Eric’s school uniform. Little did we know how valuable our time spent getting to know Violet would be to us all in the future, or how soon that future would begin. We had an excellent holiday in Swanage before settling down to what we hoped would be a normal family life once more.
THE END of a QUARTET
Eric had now to travel to and from school by train. Rosemary was in her second year at our local Primary School, and I was working a few sessions each week at the Secondary School. Ken’s Mother had made no will so he had the task, with our solicitor, of obtaining Probate and sorting out her affairs. By continuing to use the car he could still work, but it was obvious that his health was deteriorating. On about 10th October 1962, after taking the car to the garage for servicing and calling on the Solicitor, just across the road, he walked home - not more than a mile. He completed the journey, but before arriving had a heart attack, severe enough in our Doctor’s opinion - conveyed to me much later - to prevent his ever working again. All drugs were withdrawn and it was arranged that he should attend hospital on 16th October for tests.
That morning he woke at 6 o’clock, in great pain. Neither the prescribed dose of medication immediately nor a further dose sanctioned by the Doctor half an hour later had any effect. He died from a cerebral haemorrhage before 8 o’clock and it was not until I read the letter which he was to have taken to the hospital that I knew that he was suffering from malignant hypertension and that there had never been any hope of a complete recovery. He was only 50. The cremation took place at Woking on 19th October and his ashes were laid to rest shortly afterwards in the Garden of Remembrance in the churchyard of St. Paul’s Church, Addlestone, where our Banns had been called in 1949 and where we had worshipped regularly as a family during the 13 years of our marriage.
Thereafter Violet, although living in Blackpool earning her living as a Housekeeper to elderly people, visited us every year and took a great interest in the children. Gwen, Len and Jennifer spent Christmas 1962 with us, and it was Len who collected and hid the bicycle which was to be Eric’s Christmas present. On Boxing Day we joined our close friends, the Wheeler’s. Mr. Wheeler, Ken, taught German at Strode’s, where three of their four sons were already pupils. Before we set out to walk home, snow began to fall. By next morning it was thick, roads were bad and the weather was worsening. Len decided that for safety they had better return to London. We did not see the end of the snow until February.
Fortunately I had been taking driving lessons from the early summer. The notification of my test date in early November awaited our return from holiday but I managed to keep it from Ken. After only 22 hours in a driving school car with an instructor I passed the test at my first attempt, but lack of practice and the need to drive our own car which I had never handled made my first few months on the road a very daunting experience. For many years, before setting out on any long journey I had the most dreadful nightmares.
THE END of the ROAD in SIGHT
On 19th January 1964, less than two years later, Dad died at the age of 89. Mother, knowing how much he feared hospitals, nursed him at home. His bed had been brought downstairs into the sitting room. Again it was Gwen who was able to help. I saw him for the last time a few days before he died. His last words to me were, "I am so looking forward to meeting my mother." How much he had missed her over the years I could never guess.
In the Deanery Magazine the vicar of the day wrote: "Mr. Frank Cadd was a man of faith who served the Church in Wroxton over a period of very many years, and in his time had been a choirman, a bellringer, a sidesman and a churchwarden. We mourn one who had a deep love of the parish and of its Church, and a knowledge based on long experience."
After the funeral I stayed on for one night; it was all, the leave I could take. Mother was now alone. Fortunately there were several good neighbours who watched over her when neither Gwen nor I could be there. During the next two years she was often in hospital for short periods because her heart condition caused lack of oxygen to her brain. It was during these times when we visited home together, that Gwen and I were able to sort out some of the things that had gone wrong in the past and caused deep hurt to all of us. It soon became obvious that Mother’s health was to blame, although she had no recollection whatever of the incidents or the remarks that had as it were ‘started the fire’. It was a great relief when we at last understood the truth of the matter.
In 1967, after Jennifer had finished her education and was working, Gwen and Len moved to St. Teath in North Cornwall. Thanks to their generosity the children and I spent many happy holidays with them. It was with a heavy heart indeed that I said goodbye to them when they left to join Jennifer in Australia in 1984, having spent their last week in England with me in Milton Keynes.
Mother battled on in Wroxton with the help of neighbours and the little we could do in the short time we were able to spend with her. She lived entirely downstairs, and it was no longer possible for us to stay overnight. As often as we could Gwen and I would make one-day visits, taking with us whatever provisions we needed, and extra for her store-cupboard. Arthur was quite often in Banbury on Metal Box business and would call in to see her before returning.
She no longer had Dad’s dog. Maggie had got out at the ‘wrong time’ just after Dad’s death and had celebrated her freedom with the help of one of the village dogs. Gwen cared for her in London until her seven of her eight pups were weaned and all but one in good homes. After that, she and the last pup came to us in Addlestone, and we found a taker for the pup later that summer. She was a good companion for many years but Dad had been too old to train her properly and she would never, ever behave herself unless she chose to, which was not very often.
In the early summer of 1966 Mother developed fluid on her lungs and was taken to the Horton General Hospital in Banbury where she had trained over 50 years before. I last saw her on Saturday 21st May. She died later that day within hours of my leaving, and was buried with Dad in Wroxton Cemetery on 28th May. She was 77. The Vicar wrote: "Mrs. Cadd had often been in poor health in recent years, but with great independence of mind and spirit she would never give in. We must now offer our condolences to the family of one much respected in Wroxton, and beyond."
After her funeral Gwen and I remained for a few days until the house was completely cleared and cleaned. Arthur had seen to the disposal of the heavy items before he had to return to work. We kept a few treasured items for remembrance, the rest had to go to a dealer. But many years later in the early 1990’s when Eric and his family visited the village they fell into conversation with the elderly occupant of Thisbe cottage of that time as he tended his garden and he told them that some of Frank Cadd’s fixtures and fittings, shelves and suchlike, were still in place and much appreciated.
We said goodbye to the good neighbours to whom we owed so much, and to the few Cadd relatives still resident in the village. Percy, Dad’s cousin, still lived in Church Street. Will, Dad’s eldest nephew and his wife Winnie were by then living in a new bungalow on the Leys, almost opposite Thisbe Cottage. Will only survived about two years and after Percy died Will’s youngest brother Ernest my youngest Cadd cousin two years my senior, inherited his property. [Erratum Violet Malins tells us that the Will's youngest cousin was not Ernest but Albert.] Some years later with his wife Doris he returned to Hook Norton. Winnie, Will’s widow, lived on in the bungalow until lung trouble made it necessary for her to reside permanently in hospital.
I returned several times to the village with the children, first to deal with the additional inscription on the headstone and its re-erection and later, while any remained, to visit relatives. I also carried on Mother’s self-appointed task of keeping in touch with Cadd relatives by letter. One or two of them are still alive and corresponding in 1997.
Only two gravestones now remain to bear witness to the presence in Wroxton of the Cadd family: in the churchyard a simple headstone of local Hornton stone to the memory of my Grandfather George Cadd and Amelia Eva, his second wife. In the cemetery on the Horley road one of marble in memory of Frank Arthur Cadd and Lilian Ellen, his wife, my Father and Mother.
[And now of Mum herself.]
Alpha and Omega
From far, from eve and morning
And yon twelve-winded sky
The stuff of life to knit me
Blew hither: here am I.
Now - for a breath I tarry
Nor yet disperse apart -
Take my hand quick and tell me
What have you in your heart.
Speak now, and I will answer;
How shall I help you, say;
Ere to the wind’s twelve quarters
I take my endless way.
from A Shropshire Lad ~ A.E. Houseman