The Smallholding and White Cottage.
This cottage opposite the pub was occupied by Mr and Mrs Clark. It was a small holding of about forty acres, as on all the farms on the estate, it had some close land, and some on the meadows down the Moss lane, and some over the railway down the Moor lane. This house had only one main room, and a scullery, then a lean-to on the back of the house, this was used as a dairy to cool and store the milk churns over night, until the milk man came the following morning. Upstairs it had two bedrooms, and the only privy was a little brick and tile loo, under a bush, down the garden path. In this house they brought up a family of six children.
Old Harry Clark, I can only just remember, (1940's ) not a very tall man, and quite round in his later years. He was a wheelwright by trade, and worked in a low tin roofed shed down below the wooden pole hay barn. He was a man who enjoyed a joke, and quite mischievous in a nice way. It was said that when bagged fertiliser first came out, Charlie Finnimore, [of Yews Farm] sent a new man to spread it on the meadows under the Ashes Wood. It turned out he had spread it on one of Harry's small fields down there. Later Mr Finnemore realised the mistake, and went round to see Harry for recompense, only to be told very politely that he did not want it, and that he could send the man down the following morning to pick it up again, as he did not mind at all!.
Mrs Clark, Harry's wife, could only just get about, and getting a very old lady, like Harry she was quite round, and had her own chair by the fire where she could easily reach the kettle, without having to move. In fact as a child I was amazed that when Mrs Clark was sitting down she seemed to have no knees. Her part in the carpentry business, over the years, was to line the coffins that Harry made, for the local people, who were then buried in St
They had six children, Henry [called Harry] the oldest, Jim, Bill the youngest, and three daughters in between. Henry worked for the post office as a postman, and travelled to work in a little old
7 car, the one
that had a straight up windscreen and a starting handle permanently out in
front. Henry was the smallest of all the family, and walked with a heavy
limp; this was due to him having a short leg and had a boot with a four or five
inch sole. Austin
Henry lived with his wife Nell in the cottage next to Cooksland Farm gate, on the other side of the lane was a small garage for his car. Nell worked up at Cooksland House for Major Eld, and her father lived in a small room, or lean-to, on the end of a house on the end of
Smithy Lane. He was Bill Ecclestone a
very old man when I was a child; he helped around the different farms when
needed. His worn-out body seamed to lean forward, almost forming a loop under
his bracers, where his chest had been. He wore corduroy trousers that
were tied below the knee with string, and old boots that had worn out
laces. The shirts worn in them days all had loose collars, his shirt at
work had no collar or stud to hold the neck hole together, and looked as though
it had seen many washes [ and missed a few as well]. He lived an independent
life in his small room, but well looked after by his daughter Nell.
Jim was the tallest of the family, and when married lived in the second house up the Coton lane [turn left at the west end of the village second house on the right]. This had a craft, [Crofters have crafts- small field] where he kept hens and reared a few pigs, I think it had two pig sty's. He worked as carpenter for the estate along with Eric Kilford who was the builder bricklayer; Eric built up Kilfords the Building firm and employed quite a lot of men. Jim took over from his father, when his father became too old to continue, having learned all the skills needed to become a wheelwright, and all the traditional tools that had built up over the years for that trade.
When the Cumbers council houses were built, in the 1950s, Jim moved into No10, and Bill moved into No9, right opposite the farm and workshop. By this time Jim was full time, having taken over from "The old Chap". Jim and Bill built a new workshop, with double doors that would lock, a great deal higher and bigger than the one the old chap used. A complete farm wagon could be built and painted all indoors, and a good deal lighter as well.
As I said Jim was tall, all of six foot, but I expect that working all his earlier days in low cottages, and always ducking his head, he carried his head slightly forward, giving him a slight hump on his shoulders. [Not quite as tall as he should be], they all had caps on in them days, and Jim had his pipe always in his teeth, not always lit. I think it was St Julian tobacco, that he smoked, and I got as much pleasure, from the smell of the smoke, as he did smoking it. You get the ambiance of a room when you walk into it, so you did from Jim's workshop, with the smoke from his pipe, or the new cut oak shavings, or the fresh new paint when he's finishing off a job. His pipe spent that much time, in his teeth, that it wore his teeth away in that one place, to the extent that he could clench his teeth tightly, and the pipe would still hang comfortably. In normal talk, he would talk with the pipe in place. But if some cussing was to be done, it would be a prodding motion with the pipe in his hand. But more often than not it was tongue in cheek cussing. [Enough about the pipe].
It was always a big joke when Jim and his wife Minnie, went on holiday for a week to the seaside with friends. Minnie would have Jim move all the furniture, to dust and polish, "even behind the bl---- wardrobes had to be cobwebbed" he went on, in case someone had to look in, while they were away. Minnie was a big friend of my mothers, and was very proud of her new house, number 10 The Cumbers. She was also keen on her flowers garden, and front lawn. Jim had to do the lawn mowing and dug and planted the veg patch. His comment to these jobs was "Why didn't they build the B motorway across my front lawn, or at least tarmac it" he went on, "I could sweep it off and paint it green each spring and save all this work."
Bill, the youngest of the family, looked after the cows. Up until the 1950s they were hand milked, and then they had their first milking machine. Then followed a few years later with a bulk milk tank, they stopped picking milk up in churns shortly after that. Bill had 14 cows that was the maximum that the sheds would hold. They were well looked after, and heavy milkers, and nearly always turned out for the night onto the craft opposite the Holly Bush Pub. During the day they went down through the ford, to the banky field at the end of Moor lane, or the field at the top of the road bank on the right. At the ford the cows came from all directions, Village Farm cows came down the bank to the ford the up the Moor lane, Church Farm cows went down the same way as Bills. On the village green, Green Farm cows would be going out, and also Yews Farm cows went across the green to the
On a few occasions Bill would have to encourage his cows to move across the path of another herd, or sometimes meet another herd head on. He always had a long nut stick, and always on his bike when on the road with the cows, and when a problem like this came up, he would get off his bike, and gently tap his cows on through the opposing "team ". He rarely lost any or picked any extra up, the cows knowing there own fields or sheds.
In his younger days Bill was in the village cricket team, often he was wicket keeper, then when in batting he would hit and run, and really liven the proceedings up, scoring some very quick runs, or getting himself or his colleague run out. The cricket square was in the middle of the present village football field. It was a football field then as well. During the week the cricket square was fenced off, and Bills cows would graze round it. Always a joker he would examine a persons ploughing, to see if it was strait. If it was one of us younger ones, and it was crooked, he would be relentless in telling anyone who would listen, as to how many dead rabbits he had picked up. Telling them how they had broken their necks, running round the bends in the furrows. Another wease he had was when someone had spent a day working hard at cleaning or sweeping up, he would say "That looks better, which have you done ?", then watch for the reaction, then laugh.
Only a small man, he had a job to reach the floor when astride his bike, and with his Woodbine lit, and his nut stick across his handle bars, set off promptly at three fifteen to fetch the cows in. As long as everyone else was at the regular time, the herds would not clash.
They had a little grey Fergy tractor, which was used to cart the muck out to the field in winter, and in the summer, they would mow the meadows for hay. Then when they wanted timber for carpentry, they would be off down to Henry Venables timber yard on the tractor, sometimes for wide elm boards, still with the bark edges, for trailer floors, or oak for making gates, or timber for making a coffin.
If anyone died in the village, Jim and Bill would be called. I remember one occasion when Bill was not available, Jim called my brother and I to help him lay out a neighbour who had died that morning. The first thing we were asked to do was to lift the pantry door off its hinges, and put it on the table. Then we helped lift the deceased onto the door to lay her out, this was a normal procedure as there is not much room in a lot of cottages, and pantry door or scullery door had hinges like a gate, and could easily be lifted off. When Jim was walking off down the village, with a long notched stick in his hand, we knew he was off to measure a body for the coffin. People did not have long measuring tapes, as we have now, so a long measuring stick was used. [Carpenters usually had a wooden two foot rule]. If you are a person living in one of the Seighford cottages, you may never realise what your old pantry door had been used for, besides blocking a hole in the wall.
After having got the measurements required from the body, Jim would proceed to make the coffin. This would take all afternoon, and he would work into the evening to get the job done. On occasions Eric Bennion would call with his car, to transport the coffin to the deceased's house, discreetly covered with a blanket. His car had a large carrier rack on the back the right size. I heard a story about Eric, carting a coffin about on the back of his car, when food rationing was on. There were strict restrictions enforced by the police, usually by the local bobby on a bike based at Great Bridgeford the next village. Eric, Jim and Bill had to move a pig that had just been killed at one of their houses, to someone who wanted it, but shouldn't have it because of rationing. So the obvious way was in a coffin, covered up on the back of Eric's car, and at night. I believe they passed the police but were never suspected.
Of coarse all the men of working age at that time, were in the "Home Guard" based in Great Bridgeford village hall. No end of contraband food exchange hands without a ration book in sight, not all of them worked on farms or were farmers.