Saturday, 25 January 2014

Smithy Lane Cottages 1948

Smithy Lane Cottages, now demolished, were situated halfway along the village on the south side of the road, these were occupied by three families, at the far end out of the picture is the front door is the cottage that John Lowe with his wife and family. The main front door with the porch Jim Doughty and his wife Vera  and at this end Bill Ecclestone and his wife , (thats Mrs Ecclestone in the picture at her front wicket) they lived in the smaller section attached to this end of the main house, it can be seen in the lower picture on the right. I understood that Bill was the thatcher, he got too old and unsteady to repair the thatch on the old estate cottages and no one left with enough skills to do that kind of roof repairs. 

To add to the problem of thatching, combines were just coming in and the wheat crop had to be left standing another two weeks to get fully ripe, by this time the straw was brittle and broke up going through the drum of the combine head first. When cut with a binder there was some green and life still in the stem/straw, and harvested long so to speak, then later in the winter it was fed into the threshing drum parallel with the rotation of the drum the straw coming out still long.  
As time went on new varieties of wheat were bred with shorter straw and higher yielding of grain. Now some fields of wheat are grown for its straw here and there for the thatching industry, such as there is, harvested in the old traditional way.

These were taken down to make way for the second lot of twenty houses and four bungalows, two of which sit on the site of these old cottages. The cellar to the middle one reached out from under the house almost to the edge of the road, it took almost half the rubble from the house to fill in the cellar

Bill Ecclestone with his dog standing looking back at who is taking the picture, his cottage is on the right. The over hanging branches of the oak tree on the right was sawn down by two men and a cross cut saw, the old stump is still there, rotting away with some flowers now planted in it. Again that was sawn down to make way for the new houses, the hedge and hedge bank excavated out to make a road way in to a cul de sac, Bramall Close.  

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Two Green Farm Cottages

This was a pair of cottages butting right up to the churchyard fence, in fact the one facing the church had its front wicket opening into the churchyard and a footpath through the grave stones to the lych gate, and that was the main way to and from that house. (see the bottom picture).

The second house faced away from the church and over looked the Church Farm rickyard and was lived in by a very old lady who's husband had died some years ago. She was loosing her eye sight and also going deaf, she had always fetched her milk from the farm. It got to a stage where it was not safe for her to be walking out, so we would take her milk across the road to her. The house had no mod com's the loo being in the small brick and tiled toilet bottom right in the picture, and only one cold water tap over the sink in the scullery. Prior to 1952 water had to be fetched from the village green pump opposite the school.
 When old Mrs B died, the house was never used again, the same as with the other thatched houses, it wanted re-thatching, the thatch had started to rot around the chimney. In the bedroom above the living room with its wide inglenook fire place was the main wide chimney part of which was faced with wattle and daub and a part timber frame, this collect the smoke from the wide inglenook below. The cast iron range that all these old house had was framed in bricks and a brick main chimney, a long oak beam formed the inglenook.   
When it was pulled down it revealed some old ships timbers that formed the main frame of the house, they were old very hard black oak, when cut with a chain saw, sparks came off the blade. Holes and joints were carved into the timber where they had been fitted together in a ship, now they were used  in a house they were assembled bottom up, inverted and reached up to beneath the ridge of the roof.
The stairs to these old house were formed around a central pole, the steps doing a half turn round it to reach the bedroom above which was little more than a hole in the floor of the bedroom with a hand rail, the second bedroom was accessed through the first.  

Two Green Farm Cottages.
The cottage on the right had only one bedroom window, a front door and window below that and a small scullery window on the far side

The same pair of cottages, the one facing the church had a wicket from its front door through the church yard and out the lych  gate

The second cottage facing the church had two rooms downstairs, a fire place in each, hence the chimney at the end if the house and two bedrooms. This is a much older picture than the top one, the houses appears in very good condition, and looking at the old grave stones in the picture, you can see exactly where the old front wicket used to be and the position of the houses themselves prior to being demolished. The new house built on that site was positioned some thirty feet further away from the church fence.

These old houses disappeared around the time the new Council houses were built, mains water had already been brought in and a new sewage system to cater for the new houses.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Wents Wood Cottage

Another of the old cottage from the past

Wents Wood Cottage was situated out of the village very close to the perimeter runway of the old war time Seighford airfield, so close in fact that a disabled Wellington Bomber came into land, landing on the grass up the centre of the airfield. It skidded across the perimeter track across the garden of the cottage and stopped with its nose cone along side of the bedroom window and main wing up to its gable end .
 It was said that the old lady who lived there popped her head out of the bedroom window and asked the pilots if they were okay, only to be told by them to get out of the house now, as the whole lot could have gone up in flames, but as it happened it did not catch fire, and was towed back onto the airfield the following day.

Wents Wood Cottage
Like most of the old cottages around here the ceilings were very low, the bedroom window in the picture was only a few inches off of the bedroom floor. As you entered the front door it was only a shallow step into the house, the main thing I remembered about it was the grandfather clock just through the door on the right, it was taller than the rooms ceiling so a hole had been  made up into the bedroom above between the beams to allow the clock to stand upright.

As you see in the picture this house has a relatively shallow pitched roof, suggesting that it had been built from new as a tiled roofed house, some houses in the village, the Holly Bush pub for example has a very high pitched tiled roof, the angle used for a thatched the roof .

This picture was taken towards the end of its useful life, as its occupant became older so the vegetation started to over whelm the garden, and later the woodland eventually engulfed the empty house. the useful tiles and bricks that could be reclaimed were taken until the house was totally demolished.

 No other house was built on the site and is now just woodland.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Woodman's Cottage (picture mid 1930's)

This cottage was situated half way between the Village Farm house and the Beeches Farm house on the Beeches side of the road.  
As with all the cottages, they were allotted to the different craftsmen, or if the cottage was "tied" cottage to one of the farms it was always a farm cottage. 
 In this case it was the Woodman's cottage, the woodman being employed by the estate to look after the many different woods and coppices around the estate. From planting to felling, cutting up trees into suitable lengths to cleft posts and rails for fencing, and doing the maintenance to all estate fences . 

Woodman's Cottage
The picture looks a bit too tall and narrow, but you get what it looked like. In the picture is Aurther Lawson the last woodman to live here along with his son and daughter plus the dog, in fact he had three children.
His son became a railway engine driver, when the railways were still in steam and towards the end of his career went onto diesel loco's. His older daughter lived and work at home as they had lost their mother, working part time in the house at the Beeches Farm, her husband Bill also worked full time at the Beeches Farm.
After Aurther retired in the late 1950's the family moved into one of the new council houses opposite the village shop and after a few more years the cottage was pulled down and the site cleared and amalgamated into the adjacent fields. There is almost no trace of where this house had been other than a post in the fence and hedge.
I remember one day there was an almighty scramble for a long ladder, a pan of fat had been accidentally spilt on the fire, causing the chimney to catch fire with sparks coming out of the chimney and landing on the thatch.  It almost met its demise that day, but a long thatching ladder kept at the Beeches was hastily put up the roof and sparks quelled.
The place where the thatch seemed to give way first on these old houses was around the chimneys and once they started to leak in the rot got deeper into the thatch until the whole lump of rotten straw sank into the house.
 As I said before about other old thatched houses, the estate man who "did" the thatching around the village cottages had become too old and died and no one else had the skills to repair them, the only man who attempted top repair the thatch in the 1930's was the wheelwrights son Jim Clark. Many of them wanted a complete stripping and re-thatching, and that never got done. The new council houses were too big a draw on the village population for them to want to live back in the dark ages in these old thatches cottages.

A new sewage system was put in through the middle of the village just before the new councils houses went up and that ended the "bucket and chuck it" down the garden toilets that all the old houses had.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Cobblers Cottage

Cobblers Cottage

This cottage was demolished around the mid 1950's, and when I was going to school 1940's  it was still the cobbler Bill Emery who lived there on his own. As you went through the front door into his living room, then turned left into his work room, it was the left widow on the front of the house.
 In the corner by the window was a huge pile of old worn out boots and shoes, as you would see a pile of old horse shoes outside the blacksmiths shop. he sat in front of his window working with his last, and a pile of new and part used hides. his tools on the table under the window. When work horses were used about the farms, it would be making and repairing harnesses. 
This was a two up two down house with a fire place under the chimney you see, it had a scullery out back with a boiler (often called a copper) and toilet down the garden. 

To the right twenty paces and that was where pump cottages stood.

After the cobbler died, an elderly couple moved in with their two unmarried sons, both of whom worked, one Green Farm as a cowman, and the other Village Farm as a wagoner, later he became the tractor driver.

No one wanted these old houses back  in the 50's as  the only value to them was the land they stood on, so became building plots. The thatch was starting to rot away and leaked around the chimney and ridge, and no one in the village at that time had the skills to re-thatch them, the chap who was the thatcher had long since died.

 As the new Council houses were built so the occupant of these old properties were move in,  first it was ten new houses the a few years later another twenty four were built, and by that time all the very old cottages were being pulled down and new houses sprouting up in their places. 

Old houses mended, Cost little less than new before they're ended.
Colley Cibber  (1671 - 1757).

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Pump Cottages Seighford, demolished 1952

This is the first of quite a few of the old houses demolished with pictures of how they looked at the time and in most cases who lived in them. 

This pair of cottages were tied houses to one of the farms in the village, all belonging to the estate, they are/were half timbered and thatched, with very low doors and ceilings. They had two up and two down, you had to walk through the first bedroom to get to the second one.
The big double chimneys half way along the roof were from the inglenook fire places with an open small cast iron range in both houses, the other chimneys were from the rooms at each end of the houses, (see bottom picture) 
This is the village pump situated between the shop and the houses  you see above, the picture is dated around 1890.
Its two cottages with the left end to the road with the one front door above or just to the right of the little girls head. The division of the two houses is between the two bedroom windows and identical cottage off picture to the right 
The same pump, maybe turned round a bit, this was taken in 1948 when the mains water was piped into the village and this was the last time the pump was ever used. All the wells were automatically condemned and filled in (that is except for ours at the farm which is still usable).
The two women on each side were the last occupants of these two old houses, as within a few years 10 new council houses were built in the field behind the hedge in the picture . The car on the road is parked opposite the village shop

This is the back of those same cottages, this gable end is up to the pavement on the roadside, they only had one tap put into each house over the old kitchen sink. Water was heated over the fire in a big Kettle. The toilets were down the garden, the small tile roof at the far end of the houses,( bucket and chuck it type). Electricity was put into all the house in the village around 1940.

The Cast Iron Range 

In years gone by, when cooking was done 
Burnt coal and logs, with pots upon,
The cast iron range, came into use,
House and cottage, all black and spruce.

Blazing fire, reaching up and back,
To chimney hood , all sooty and black,
 Had two ovens, with big black knobs,
To cook for the family, and bake the cobs.

Kettle on a hook, swung over the fire,
Always on the boil, till tea we desire,
Pots on the side, to boil the taters,
Pan on the trivet, fry bacon for the platters

A toasting fork, to toast stale bread,
Hung on a nail, in the homestead,
Nothing was wasted, all was used up,
Meat boiled off bones, made broth to sup.

For years and years, ranges were used,
Then lectric came in, and every one enthused,
Cooked with a switch, on the wall turned on,
Off it went cold, heat from the range be gone.

Owd Fred

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Good old Seighford

Good old Seighford

It’s a job to know where to start, as the village and its occupants from years gone by are in the St Chads Churchyard, every time you walk through the grave stones you find yet another family name and of a trade’s men farmer or farm workers and all their families.
Up until the 1940’s we were almost self sufficient as a community.

The wheelwright made all the gates built all the farm carts wheel barrows and feed troughs and was also the undertaker.

The blacksmith as well as shoeing all the horses in the area repaired the machinery most of which was horse drawn, hooping wooden wheels with the wheelwright, right down to making iron work in the old fire places trivets, chimney cranes and the like.

In The estate yard there was a handyman come builder come Thatcher who, a man who could do he plumbing, most of that was lead pipe, the galvanized iron pipes were only just coming in.

The village shop carried most of the basic necessities like salt sugar flour and also the Post Office, and also sold paraffin for the oil lamps in the houses and cottages, and for the tilly lamps used to carry outside and in the farm buildings.  

 The School. Children walked in from as far as two miles away in all directions, from the surrounding hamlets. The head teacher at one time was also the tax collector and would put pressure on the children when money was due.

The Pub. Beer was brought up from the cellar on big jugs, and the customers would sit at a scrubbed wooden table with all sorts of oddment chairs. It would be all local people who walked or came on a bicycles.

There was also a Cobbler who made and repaired boots and shoes, as well as repaired horse harness, and all things leather.

There was six farms actually in the village, the land and fields belonging to them spread out in all directions, although on the area of peat land on the east side of the estate, everyone had a portion, so it fragmented all the farms. There would be around fourteen farm workers all in tied cottages, cottages that went with the job, and as tractors came in the number of workers reduced, milking machines again reduced the labour force, old cottages went into disrepair and were eventually pulled down to form a building site for new house’s.

The Landlord lived in the “big” house on the bank just out of the village, rent was paid to him on rent days “Lady Day”, and “Michaelmas day” at the Holly Bush pub. When you had paid the rent to the agent, you were then invited to have a drink at the bar on him. I was told by my father that in his early days on the estate they all went to a hotel in town to pay their rent, and stayed for a slap-up meal.  It was a change of estate agent that change that to the pub in the village.

The Village Farm Cottages
Each farm worker had a cottage, went with work they did,
Work was hard worked long hours, to earn an honest quid
Dug the garden to grow the food, all to feed the kids,
Milk and logs they came free, with the work they did.

Men left the land to get more money, cottages left empty,
Thatch it rotted let rain in, knocked them down for safety,
Tiled roof ones they lasted longer, ventuly they succumb,
Rubble for field gateways, a new building plot become.

Owd Fred

The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village.

Marshall McLuhan (1911 - 1980)

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Tracks Across Fields

    On the old American cowboy films that I like watching, they always seem to have an Indian tracker, to follow the hoof prints from which they seem to know, how many horses, which direction they are going and how long ago they passed that way, and even if one horse is carrying two people.

 My self watching these movies I always notice the horses themselves, how they move, the "gait" , or if one is lame, and always wonder how all the bullets only seem to hit the riders and rarely ever the horse.  How when a rider is shot and the horses head is brought round sharply, it falls to the ground without ever being hurt. 

The cattle stampede for miles and miles, when in fact they tire after only half a mile, then slow down, and when moving a large herd you could not expect them to do any more than three miles per hour. As in every herd there are always leaders, as long as they are pointed in the right direction the others follow by instinct.
Just a few of our April born calves picture taken end of September

This is our "leader", she is a Simmental cross Frisian cow, the cross bred suckler cow has a tendency to produce more milk than the pure bred beef breed. Her Hereford calf  as you see came out a  pale red colour. I have always noted the width of her muzzle, almost as wide as her eyes.   

The wagons used in films when they are in a wagon train, how rusty and dull the iron hooped wheels are, from my own experience of iron tyred wagons used at harvest time they are bright and shiny metal, but then I am only being picky, the film wagon trains perhaps will only do a few hundred yards while shooting takes place then parked up to continue going rusty again.

Back at home here in the middle of the UK I have become a tracker, just by default. If an odd one of the cattle get out of their field and onto the road, the first thing they do in a strange place is to lift their tail and let go some droppings as they walk, and from that and the hoof prints on the grass or in the mud you can see whitch way they went and what size of animal you are looking for, or if more than one how many. In our case if an animal gets out its either just one , who maybe in season, or if more than one, it most likely all of then get out on the herd instinct they seem to possess. 

Its the same with tyre marks that have recently driven out of our yard, in wet weather its fresh wet marks down a drying road or its dusty tryes marking the road, I can tell if some one has driven up my yard and how long ago and can recognize the tyre prints of most of my friends and neighbours vehicles and tractors.
In the fresh snow its the easiest first thing in a morning, all the small animals and bird that burrow and roost all looking in vein for food.           

                                                             Tracks Across Fields
Tracks across the fields, and tracks off down the lanes,
In the snow in the mud, fresh tracks still it rains,
Paws, feet, hooves n’ boots, wheels with grippe tyres,
Big and small, heavy and light, not long then they expire.

Every print has a tale to tell, on who has crossed your path,
See the direction that they went, and if they’re causing wrath,
Follow to see where they go, and if they came back that way,
Intruders can see, up to no good, or if they’re out to play.

All the prints tell a tale, the pattern they leave behind,
The claws on paws and the gait of the stride aligned,
There’s webbed feet and long toes, belong to who knows,
And there’s birds that land, and take off like the crows.

There’s cows and there’s calves, and horses with shoes,
See how many have passed, that way from the clues,
Tyres leave prints be it bikes or cars, tractors and all,
Speeding and skidding, or getting stuck when they stall.

You can read every where, who’s has been up that way,
Prints and tracks tell a tale all every day,
You may be alone, but someone’s been up there,
A crossing of tracks in the lane be aware.

Owd Fred

One who walks in another's tracks leaves no footprints.