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Mr Joseph Hakes

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This paintby Stan Clark is of Joseph Hakes emptying the toilet buckets on his round in Bugbrooke. He had a small barrel of creosote that he soaked squares of sacking in, and he used these to help carry the buckets to the cart. He also had a yoke for the times that he had to carry the buckets a great distance, such as all the way from the bottom of Gilkes Yard.

He worked for Harry Gilkes who had a contract to empty the buckets and when the cart was full it was spread over those fields within the village farmed by Mr Gilkes. One of these fields was the first on the right past the railway bridge down Ham Lane, on the way towards Corn Hill. Another field was up Camp Hill opposite the eight council houses on the Gayton Road, where we once lived. He usually did this job at night-time and so was nick-named (amongst other names) the midnight cart. The smell was unbelievable!

During the nd World War years, because of a dispute, Mr Hakes stopped doing this job in the dark hours of the evening, and John Gilkes and his brother Harry started doing this job for a short period. There was no street lighting so it was quite a problem to see what they were doing or where they were walking. Many a time the men doing the job would trip and fall over the edges of the paths and leave quite a smelly old mess, and sometimes they themselves would fall in amongst it!

I remember coming from school during lunch times and walking up Camp Hill back home for dinner, as we called it in those days. We had to pass Mr Hakes with his horse and cart and the smell would be somewhat strong. It was not so bad in the winter months, but in the summer with all the flies, it was something else! It used to attract the birds like swallows, swifts, and house martins wherever the cart went, as well as to the fields where it was emptied.

One winter when we had a slide on the ice that went from the top of Camp Hill to the bottom, Mr Hakes came up the hill with the horse and cart and walked onto the slide that was covered in snow. The air was not only blue with the smell, but with language as well. During these very cold winter spells, the contents of most of the buckets were frozen solid as most of these closets were out in the cold well away from the houses. When it was deposited on the open fields the cart left lots of bucket shaped ice sculptures on the ground.

Another thing that would happen when all this effluent was tipped out across the fields was that the different coloured pieces of newspaper would dry out and would go wherever the wind had the mind to blow it. The Chronicle and Echo paper was normally greyish white, but they produced two other papers. One was pink in colour, and the other was a green sports paper. I spent hours as a child cutting papers up and threading the squares onto a piece of string for use in the toilet!


Stanley Joseph Clark  


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