101 School & War in 1944
from Issue 136, 2006
I was to start just after the Easter break in 1944. I remember being taken
along on my first morning at school carrying over my shoulder the famous
gas mask. It was blue in colour with round lenses and had a long
nose/valve that stuck out the front that made very rude noises when I
breathed heavily. I was to get many a scolding from Miss Wright over the
tunes and noises that I made when wearing the mask.
The cardboard box that contained the gas mask was not designed to withstand the climbing of trees and scampering over walls; I think I got a new box a week, as well as a good telling off. Although it was handy to put fruit in from scrumping episodes, it always amused me how my sister, like many of the other girls, would decorate or cover the gas mask box with fancy wallpaper or put lipstick or such likes in it.
The following weeks and months were to get more exciting due to all the activity of the Army that was stationed in and around the village. My sister Gwen was requested by Mr Garlick the village policeman to be a nanny to the children of Major Perry and Major Brumell, who were two Army requisition officers who came to live in the Manor House, whose company I was to relish as they had a horse that I was able to learn to ride on.
The school playing field was soon to be filled up with many armoured
vehicles, alongside tents and cooking facilities to feed the many soldiers
that were to crew them. The soldiers would sleep in our classrooms over
night. Many a morning when arriving at school they would be putting all
the desks back into place. We were encouraged to take papers and books to
school for them to read in the evenings.
The headquarters for the 13–18 Hussars were in the big house at Cornhill
and the tanks and armoured vehicles stood on both sides of the road for
hundreds of yards covered in camouflaged netting. A very large Nissan type
building was erected in one of the fields for the REME repair unit and the
One of the reasons for knowing what was going on at Cornhill was visits we paid to Uncle Harry Able who lived in the old Toll House in Watling Street. On one occasion a Wellington Bomber was to crash in the field just to the rear of Uncle Harry’s home.
The sky over Bugbrooke during this period always seemed to be full of planes of every description. There was noise from the very busy railway, with some trains carrying tanks, lorries and guns for the army. The canal was also very busy, the boats seemed to run all day and through the night, as you could hear them chugging away. Just before the Normandy landings I was to witness the army erecting a Bailey bridge over the canal on the narrow part by the wharf where there once stood a swing bridge. This was to carry very large tanks over the canal and down into the Wheel Pits through the brook and up through Browns Yard and on up Pilgrims Lane. While this was going on hundreds of soldiers were to wade across and through the canal, through gaps in the hedge and down into Bugbrooke.
It was quite common to see many soldiers coming through the village during this time, either following the road or coming over the fields, up back yards crossing the road and carrying on out the back yards of the opposite houses. At times all the dogs in the village started to bark and carry on so as to fetch all the folk from out of their homes. Living near to the school and spending quite a great deal of time sitting on the kerb opposite the Co-op shop, I was to witness many convoys of army vehicles travelling through Bugbrooke.
After the Normandy landings had taken place, on one particular day the sky was full of aeroplanes pulling gliders. I witnessed a glider break away from an aircraft as they came over Bugbrooke. It turned and came over the High Street and the Co-op where I was sitting, with the cable hanging from the front of it. It turned back towards the village of Heyford disappearing over the roof tops out of sight. I learned years later that it had crashed in a field next to the double bends just before one reaches Heyford, killing all that was in it.
The odd tractor would pass by, mainly being driven by a Land Army girl. Little did we realize at the time that they would replace all the horses that were in the village during this period. The other spectacular site was Mr Bill and Mont Grant with their steam engine pulling all the threshing tackle through the village to and from the farms after harvest time. On the odd occasion we heard the air raid siren warbling away, or the long steady ‘all clear’ sound that it gave out. On some mornings the village would be covered in lengths of silver tin foil that were dropped by aircraft during the evenings. We would collect them up and plait them into shapes like corn dollies.
During harvest time in 1944 the air raid siren went off; this was due to a
German plane firing at men working on the railway. It had started
somewhere near Blisworth and followed the line towards Heyford, before
swinging away towards Bugbrooke firing at one of the Heygate lorries
travelling along the Heyford road. I was in the fields at Mr Campion’s
farm along with my sister Gwen, younger brother Malcolm and Audrey who was
a few months old in a pram. It fired at men working in some of the fields
and anything that it could see. Gwen managed to get us all under the hedge
next to Smiths Lane. The rounds that were hitting the ground near to us
shook like a cart horse running past with wood and soil flying everywhere.
The best part was the fuss they made over us when we eventually got home
As I remember the Sunday school was to have different religious children
attending it. Amongst other different schools around the village, for a
short period the school would take the village children in the mornings
and the evacuees in the afternoons,
There was always something going on that took my interest; once a barrage
balloon had broken away from somewhere and drifted over rooftops with a
policeman and soldiers following it. I remember a very heavy hail storm
which smashed windows and roof slates, some of the stones were as big as
hen’s eggs. I used to watch my father and Mr Campion and Mr Barford make
petrol bombs with rags around the corks in bottles, filling lots of old
beer crates from Phipps Brewery. They were never used and after the war
many of them, along with hand grenades, were buried in the grounds of the
Grange. A steel pole was erected over the pit, the pole was accidentally
removed once, and as far as I know they still remain there. I watched the
home guard erect railway sleepers in the centre of large fields or help
build hay or straw ricks as well as leaving old farm equipment in the way,
so that German gliders would not be able to land. Later, I heard an
ex-German prisoner of war say to Mr Riggall from Heygates farm, that it
was a good idea to have poles in the centre of a field so that the cattle
could rub and scratch themselves.
summers day during the Second World War, I sat on the double kerbing outside
the school at Bugbrooke, with my youngest brother Malcolm. We very rarely
moved from this area, because mother knew where we were, as she occasionally
would look along to see if we were okay, as our house was only a few yards
away. Some days there would be lots of soldiers coming through the village on
manoeuvres, along with lots of army lorries towing very large guns, also
travelling through Bugbrooke amongst these vehicles were Bren gun carriers, as
well as very large tanks. Occasionally a horse and cart from one of the local
farms would pass by, with the clip clopping sound from their hooves, as well
as the white marks on the roadway that the iron rims on the wheel made.
It was during a lull with not much going on
during this particular day, when Malcolm pulled on my arm, and muttered a few
words about a monster. I looked to where he was pointing, and walking towards
us making no noise in any way or form, was this huge grey creature twice as
tall as the man that was walking with it. It was the first time in our lives
we were to see a live elephant; we tried to run back to the safety of our
home, but it moved faster than we had realised, and when we saw its trunk
reaching out towards us, we doubled back. Malcolm ran up Mr Heygate’s
driveway next to Miss Hazel’s house to get out of the way of it. I was to
get into the small gap that is between Miss Hazel’s house and the cottage of
Nobby Clarke the next house along.
The man with the elephant started to laugh and
called us to come from out of hiding, to come and see his elephant. We were
very reluctant to do so, but after a short period we did, but we were to keep
our distance from it for a start. I shall never forget the smell that it had,
and the size of it, with its large trunk reaching out sniffing and blowing. It
had very long eyelashes around its eyes that occasionally blinked, also it
never stood still like a horse does, it kept nodding its head, and moving its
body and legs about. After a short stop the man and the elephant walked off
down Church Lane, so silent for such a big animal.
I since have learnt that it had belonged to
Fossets Circus, and it was used at times to pull a plough in the fields, or to
go and help shunt railway trucks about in the siding at Northampton Railway
Station, as well as Weedon Station. Perhaps on this particular day it was on
its way to Weedon, I do not know.
Pilgrims Lane is probably named after the Quakers
who lived here in the 1600s. Bugbrooke had the third biggest gathering
of Quakers in Northants at that time. If you follow the footpath from
Pilgrims Lane past the bottom of Campion School playing fields and the
Sandpits you will eventually come to a small bridge over a stream. It is
believed this is the point at which persecuted Quakers from Bugbrooke
and Kislingbury would secretly meet to continue their beliefs. It is
thought to be the site of the “Hallelujah Corner” recorded in old
is taken from a recorded conversation with Arthur Jeffs, to whom this
piece is dedicated. Arthur's tale begins in his home village of
Bugbrooke, which in the 1930's had a population of about 900, including
those from surrounding farms and hamlets.
second Saturday in October was recognised as Bugbrooke Fair....
father would say 'come on boy bring the truck and help me with the
potatoes', for it was the time of year to harvest them, to bring them
home from the allotment. One night we would sit in the barn and sort
them out, the ones to eat, those for seed the following year and the
small ones together with the rough ones for pig feed.
you might wonder why I'm telling you all this, but you see, the small
ones we sold to a local man who owned a haulage and cattle transport
business and kept pigs, the money from this little venture was shared
amongst four of us to spend at the village fair, we had to help or there
was no pocket money.
well remember the excitement of waiting for the day when George
Billings' fair was due to arrive. Already the brightly decorated posters
would be on display in the shop windows, the village notice board and in
the window of the Bakers Arms public house on whose premises the fair
would be held.
was about eleven or twelve and I remember how we would listen whilst at
school to hear the big Burrell engine 'Lady Pride of England' come
puffing past, along with 'Lady Junior'. Most of us would be so excited
and tried to get a glimpse out of the windows that overlooked the road
to see if we could see the arrival of the trucks and the horse drawn
time seemed to drag until the bell went at four o’clock when we could
at last rush out and run along to the pub yard about three hundred yards
away, passing as we went, the convoy of wagons standing in the street,
ready to pull into the yard and into the orchard at the rear of the
gateway with a pair of green gates situated rather awkwardly in the
middle of a big red brick wall was the main obstacle to overcome, in
order to pull into the orchard (these were, the ex-landlord told me,
knocked down on more than one occasion on the fair’s visits). The
trucks had to be uncoupled in the street and manoeuvred by the Showmen
with the help of the local children, pushed into the pub yard, then
pulled by the engines into the orchard.
Billings would pick a few lads to help fetch the water from the local
brook about half a mile away in his horse-drawn cart. Other children
helped in the build up of the immaculate Gallopers, helping the older
Showmen build up their stalls and running errands.
this would go on until the Showmen and their families called it a day,
we would go home and the gate was closed behind us.
we left we were not forgotten by this grand old gentleman. He would
remember who had helped him and the next day we would be wanted again to
help with a few more jobs. Once the fair was built up in all its
wonderful array it seemed to us to be like a small fairyland, a
glittering spectacle even before the lights were switched on.
stood the giant Burrell in the gateway, all set to drive and provide
power for the lighting, while behind the stalls neatly arranged stood
the caravans, the empty trucks and the small Burrell 'Lady Junior' who
was waiting until the end of the fair to do her little bit in moving to
the next port of call, which was a village two miles away.
long last the opening night would arrive and off we would go with a few
pence in our pockets, hurrying along in order to get there before the
start of the fair, as we had to try to get on the Gallopers for the
first ride, which was a free one every night.
must say that was a good thing, as our money didn't last too long with
some of us, it was a real treat to have a copper or two. I know only too
well that some of our friends hadn't even a penny for a single ride,
which was the fare at that time. On reflection we had twice as long on
that ride as children do today for much more money.
we entered through the yard towards the orchard with a feeling of
excitement we'd stare in amazement as we passed the Burrell 'Lady Pride
of England' rolling her engine and hissing steam.
was then that we would get our first thrill of the fair, the wind would
blow her smoke downwards and round about us, and the warmth from her as
we passed would warm that cold shiver of excitement.
that we would walk on into the aroma that you find at the fair, mingled
with the smells of freshly made Toffee Apples, brandy snap and rock.
"I seem to recall the rock stall did as good a trade in those days as any of the others stalls, nearly everyone purchased some at some stage of the fair's stay. A stick of the old-fashioned rock was to us as great a part of the fair as a ride on the Galloper horses or a win on the coconuts.
fair in the village mostly comprised the same tenants each year, and
from memory it was George Billings' Gallopers (the main attraction) with
young George in control, this formed the centre-piece of the fair,
whilst on the extreme left were the families superb Swing Boats (a high
park four piece set) and also on the left as you entered the orchard the
Billings family's unique 'Stick Em's' and Cork Shooter, with some very
the right something not seen on the fair today, a nine pin skittle
table. On this particular stall you could win an amount of nuts (either
Barcelona or cobnuts). I have seen on more than one occasion my father
win some nuts on this game, and in doing so a half pint mug of nuts
would be tipped into his pocket for knocking down a certain number of
stall was lit by old paraffin flare lamps and it caught the eye of all
the elderly fellows in the village who thought it was going to be easy
to win. The next stall was the rock stall with Mrs Elias Shaw in charge
with windmills, flying birds, lucky bags and sweets etc. Mr J Redden was
present with his coconuts and over the garden wall Jo Heaton with his
'touch em's' and Jim Norman with his juvenile ride and 'wheel 'em in'.
quickly the time would pass and all too soon we would have to head for
home before the closing of the fair as school was next morning. All the
way home we could hear the music of the Verbeeck Organ which made us
long to be able to turn back, but sadly we couldn't. On looking back in
the direction of the fair we could see the glow of the lights in the
the Friday and Saturday nights we stayed until the fair closed as there
was no school, and if we were lucky we could once again scramble on one
of the horses or cockerels for the last ride, as that was a free one.
Every horse would be occupied by two people.
so the last ride would be set in motion, and from the organ came the
strains of the music that would end each night's performance, the melody
of 'Christians Awake'. The ride would stop and so would the music, for
yet another fair was nearing its end.
more night was left although the people would not have much money left
to spare after spending it the last three nights –
still came to say their farewells, hoping that the following year would
once again see George Billings' wonderful little fun fair in the
the weekend we would venture into the yard over the next couple of days
to see if all the loaded trucks and caravans had gone. When we went to
school we would take a peep, but sadly only to see an empty orchard with
the remains of a broken windmill, perhaps the broken shells of a coconut
or two lying in the wheel marks of the trailers imprinted in the churned
Barker, landlord of the Bakers Arms, would see us and say to us 'you're
too late lads, go away, come back next year' and would walk off
small village fairs would pass every year, leaving happy memories
amongst young and old alike. On the weekend of the fair many relatives
and friends of the villagers would return home for perhaps the first
time in a year. In this area it is almost recognised to come home for
the fair –
even though a fair has not been held in the village for many years now
still this old custom of visiting is kept up.
1936 George Billings' Gallopers once again dominated the fair in its
usual central position, but unbeknown to everyone this was the last time
they would be seen at a Bugbrooke fair. A few months after they were
replaced by a set of Dodgems and the Gallopers were packed away.
year 1937 brought a totally different picture to the fair. The glory and
the atmosphere of the past as we knew it had gone and a new generation
were visiting now and nothing seemed the same now the Gallopers had
was to be the first blow against the fair, the first nail in its coffin.
The people didn't seem to patronise it as in previous years. The
following year the Showmen were to learn that the site was no longer
available. The owner of the orchard now had a large number of pigs
running about so another site had to be found if the fair was to
site was found but it was the other side of the village but this only
lasted two years. All the time the fair was getting less support. For
these two years it was held under the John Abbot banner who presented
his Dodgems and stalls and young George Billings with his stalls.
the war a small contingent of amusements once again set up in the same
field, they belonged to John Strudwick and his family. They attended for
about four or five years and their attractions comprised a set of
juvenile Swing Boats, three or four stalls and in all a very attractive
my knowledge that was the last time a fair attended Bugbrooke, talk to
any of the elders in the village today and they only remember one fair -
that presented by George Billings, his attractive Gallopers and
by kind permission of ‘The Galloper’.
This is a record of information gathered by Stanley Joseph Clark, with encouragement from the late George Freestone from Blisworth. It is based on notes taken at the time, from listening to the late Fred Lovell (Painter), and information from elders who were still alive at the time, as well as personal experience of witnessing events as they occurred.
the late 1940s and early 1950s, when living at No 6 (now 41) Camp Hill, Fred and Frank Curtis were to build
a bungalow each, next to their fathers bungalow. This was on the waste ground
that was exactly opposite the two blocks of council houses that stand on the
left up the Gayton Road. Before the Curtis family acquired this piece
of land, Mr William (Bill) Howard used this land for allotments, as well as keeping
pigs and pigeons on it. As they started to clear this piece of land, along with digging out the
footings for these two bungalows, the foundations of some buildings were
uncovered, along with several water wells. Old
Mr Fred Lovell (Colin's father), told us that they were the remains of
the former Bugbrooke Poor House or Work House, and village lockup that
was used for drunken disorderly persons etc. that once stood on this site.
gathered other information with the help of Mr George Freestone and Mr Allan Burman, photographer to the
Northampton Chronicle and Echo.
until 1834, every parish had responsibility for administering the Poor
Law and were compelled by law to have a Poor House
within the Parish. In this year the Law was revised and larger Work
Houses were to be built in the towns that would undertake the responsibilities from the
surrounding parishes. A large Work House was to be built on Wellingborough Road
opposite St Edmunds Church, and another at Daventry, on the Old Coventry
Road A45. This was about 1836.
do not know the period in time when Bugbrooke work house was built, but
Mr Lovell did say that it was built on part of
Bugbrooke common land that once ran on the right hand side of Camp Hill and on to Bugbrooke Downs. That also was Common Land at the time, as this was before the Enclosure Act was
passed just before 1805 period, so he had been told.
after the 1834 law was passed, and the larger work houses in the local
towns were constructed, Bugbrooke Work House became
redundant and was left until it was nearly derelict, then a decision was made
to pull it down. This is according to Mr Lovell who said this information was handed down from his
parents and grandparents. The period of the demolition I do not know,
but all the materials, including the sandstone and good wood from the roofing,
floors etc., were taken up Pilgrims Lane and used to build the house where his son
Colin had just moved into; this house still stands to this day.
workhouses were to make their inmates wear different coloured striped clothing on a white background. From what I can gather, prayer time was
sacrosanct; for missing prayers or swearing, fighting, interrupting the preacher, or
such like, the punishment was to be 24 hours on bread and water in the village lock up, that was on the same site, next to the
work house. For those in the work house, if deemed to be fit enough for work, all manner
of jobs were to be completed. This was from chopping sticks for fire
lighters, to helping out with the laundry or the breaking of stones that
were later used on the highway; the jobs were endless.
the information I can gather, there were over 230 rules laid out by the
London Work House Commission that had to be strictly adhered to.
Families were segregated, men in one ward, women in another,
and children in another. Married couples, no matter how long they had been married, were parted from each other and their children, and had to live
separately. Some of these children were sent to the colonies by certain
religious groups. Inmates could be transported to other areas in the country where labour or a work force was in demand.
is on record that many boat loads of inmates from the London area passed
through Bugbrooke on their way by canal up to the north of England to the very large
factories and mills that demanded a large influx of workers. This was
before the railway was constructed. They were promised accommodation
along with a plot of land (this was due to
the New Allotment Act that was passed in Parliament during this period in time).
of the large mills and factories built houses for their work force, this
was to entice people to come and stay, so that they had a stable work
force. Some of the companies that did this were: Cadbury Chocolate, Salt
Family Mills and many more. Many of the large coal mining companies
followed suit and at a later date the Railway Companies were to do the same. The movement of thousands of people was mainly
an after affect of the Enclosure Act being enforced, for it was
responsible for throwing hundreds and thousands of people out of work, and off the land, during the
period between 1775 and 1805.
Stanley Joseph Clark
photos have been supplied by Mrs Doris Pearson of Spencer Close together
with her recollections of the lightning strike in July 1940.
was then living at the ‘Mill’ with husband Jack and decided to walk
into the village on the July afternoon in 1940. When a storm blew up,
she ran to Mrs Hefford’s house opposite the old Manor House on High
Street, for shelter. Just as she entered there was an almighty bang,
which was when the church spire was struck.
Johnny Leach who was a Dr Barnardos evacuee aged 7 at the time, was boarded in Bugbrooke, and caught a much closer impression of it. His recollection is that he was sheltering from the storm under the west end belfry door on the 23rd July 1940 when the strike happened. He remembers masonry falling all around him and all of the bells coming down. He ran out towards West End, and tripped over, and in front of him lay a fireball that hit a Laburnum bush. That’s where they later found him still huddled up. He said he thought Hitler had found him, as Barnardo’s had told him they were moving them from London to hide them away because Hitler was looking for them.
1963 family gathering was to celebrate the 100th birthday of Mrs E
Poole, of Church Lane, Bugbrooke”, says her grandson John Billingham.
From left are Gordon Barnes and his wife Pam, John's mother Nina, his
grandmother, Catherine Meaning and Lottee, his aunts, his sister Barbara
and Henry Barnes. He adds: "Grandma broke her hip at 100 years of
age and lived to be 102 (1863–1965). She died at her daughter
Catherine's home in the Isle of Wight. I was pleased to see the photo
and roll back the years." Readers Jane Barker and Pam Frost also
recalled the occasion. Jane remembers children from the village school
taking gifts to Mrs Poole. "Granny" Poole was Pam's
grandfather's next-door neighbour
by kind permission of the Northampton Chronicle & Echo