Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Arbury Life In The 1880s...

An aerial view of part of the Manor Farm, on Arbury Road (often referred to by locals as "Arbury Meadow Road"), c. 1950s. The larger house, to the left of the picture, was the Manor Farmhouse - often referred to locally as the "manor house". To the right is the house occupied by my great-great grandparents from the mid-1880s to the early 1920s. The track running across the photograph was known as the "drive" and formed the basis for the route of Campkin Road.

Several local people have described the modern road as being "slightly over" from the route of the old farm drive, which is quite right - Campkin Road is much wider than the drive, which lies buried under front gardens and concrete.

The land at the bottom of the picture is now occupied by the Manor Community College.

Here is an edited extract from Grace & Co, a forthcoming book...

My great-great grandparents, Richard and Amelia Brett, moved from King's Hedges Farm to the Manor Farm c. 1886.

Richard and Amelia’s days soon fell into a set routine. Richard would go out to work on the farm early each morning. The 1891 census reveals that he was then employed as an agricultural labourer.
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The 1901 census lists him as horse keeper, one of two employed at Manor Farm at that time.

Richard’s break would come at around midday and he would then have his “docky” - a meal consisting of a piece of pork, a piece of bread and a jug of tea or beer. Richard always loved a nice big chunk of cake to go with his docky if any was available. He adored cake! The docky would usually be taken to him by Amelia or one of his children, and eaten out in the fields.

Amelia’s days would be devoted to the house and children.

Amelia attended the Wesleyan Chapel in High Street, Chesterton, and also joined the Mothers’ Union at the village’s St Andrew’s Church. Her favourite hymn was "When I survey the Wondrous Cross".
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To Amelia, "The Great Plan" was simple enough: you lived, you were good, you went to Heaven. She would often gaze up at the blue skies over Manor Farm and imagine the wonderful Golden Gates of Heaven just beyond. A very firm rule of hers was “never pick up a needle on a Sunday”.

When storm clouds gathered and the Golden Gates seemed far away, Amelia would bid her children to hide under the big kitchen table. She would then go around covering up all the mirrors and cutlery before joining them. She was terribly afraid of thunder and lightning.
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Richard was, like many countrymen, something of an expert at predicting the weather. On a bright, sunny morning he might advise: “Take your coat with you, it’s going to rain!” If the person to whom the advice had been directed did not heed it, they usually regretted it!

The Bretts kept chickens, and these were Amelia’s responsibility. She grew very fond of them, and would never allow any to be killed for meat. Amelia’s chickens’ eggs were remembered as being particularly nice. Perhaps the chickens made a special effort to repay their soft-hearted mistress for a safe billet!

There was no gas or electricity at the Bretts’ house. The only lighting was provided by oil lamps.
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Water had to be drawn from a pump in the big, brown stone kitchen sink.
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In 1980, Reginald Jones, one of Richard and Amelia’s grandchildren, recalled the pump at the Bretts’ house:

“A bucket of water had to be put by because, to get the pump going after it hadn’t been used for an hour or two, you had to ‘prime’ it. You had to pour water into the top of the pump where it goes up and down, and you’d hear it gradually suck and gradually water came out of the spout. ‘Water fetching water,’ that was the old saying. That was the only water they had, which was a pipe sunk into the ground to quite a depth.”

If hot water was required, it was boiled in the kettle or a saucepan. Larger amounts for clothes washing, etc., were supplied by the copper, which was heated by a wood fire. There was no drainage and used water was poured away over the grass in the back garden.
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Baths were taken in a tub in front of the fire.

Amelia’s whitewashed brick kitchen was dominated by a large range, on which she did all her cooking. A great family favourite was roly-poly pudding. The only trouble was that preferences about fillings differed!

Clever Amelia managed to please all. Once she had rolled the pudding out, she would spread one section with jam, another with treacle and another with dates, and leave the final section plain, to be eaten with brown sugar. The pudding was then rolled up and each section securely tied with string so that the contents would not mingle. The result? Happy faces all around the dinner table!

Amelia’s spacious pantry was always kept well stocked. As well as freshly baked loaves, which she kept in a large stone pot near the pantry doorway, the shelves were always full of good things such as jams, peas and cooked new potatoes. Her children often crept in for a munch!

Many years later, several of Amelia’s grandchildren told me that, at meal times, she would always sit with her chair sideways on to the table. This was a habit that she had fallen into over the years so as to be ready to leave the table quickly to fetch things from the range, attend to her babies, etc.
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As the years went on, Richard built up a large piggery. He took pigs to Mr George Rooke, who ran a butcher’s shop at No. 62 Chesterton Road. The pigs would be slaughtered in a yard at the back of the shop. Richard would sell some of the pork to Mr Rooke, but always brought plenty home with him. Amelia hung some from the beam in her kitchen for ham and also salted some. She enjoyed salted pork for her breakfast...


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