Saturday, November 29, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
The barn fire at Lower Mount Farm and the chickens that were lost took me back to the 1930’s, when we were coming out of another recession of 1929 and things were pretty tough for village folks. In those days people even in the smallest council house garden kept a few chickens, which although kept in a pen, could be classed today as free range. They had a chicken house or coop in which to roost and lay their eggs, and a pen in which they could scratch for insects, worms and other food. Of course, they were fed scraps from the kitchen such as greens and vegetable peelings and scrap fat. Most people had a kitchen garden or an allotment to grow vegetables.
I am now going to describe how my father and mother managed their lives in that time period and through the war. We had quite a large kitchen garden area in which were a pigsty and a chicken house and run. In the early years of their married life, my father kept three or four pigs to fatten up and when ready he would take them to Colliass’s Slaughterhouse in Bourne End to slaughter. My father also besides at that time being a journeyman butcher was also a licenced slaughterman and when required did all of Ernie Colliass’s slaughtering for him. So my father and then, what he did not require to cure for bacon or ham slaughtered the pigs, was sold in the butchers shop on “The Parade”. As a matter of fact he apprenticed slaughterman at the Cookham Slaughterhouse, which use to be behind Dudley Sims butchers shop and later Jack Smith Butcher in the high street.
I strayed a little off the subject in the last paragraph, but back to the chickens, as they became the main product at Widbrook coming up to Christmas. Every March my father would buy through the mail nine dozen day old sexed cockerels from Sterling Poultry Farms in Andover, Hampshire. These would be dispatched by train in the morning and would arrive at Cookham Station in the afternoon. My father would pick them up from the parcel office and bring them home. My mother then took over and looked after them feeding them on mashed hard-boiled eggs and fine ground maize. She kept them warm in the kitchen until they big enough to move to a pen on the lawn. When big enough and had got their first feathers my father the moved them to bigger pens on the common to feed on the longer grass, but to now receive more solid food including waste scraps of butchers fat from the shop. During this period the odd bird was lost to cause unknown or it was found that some of the cockerels were pullets, that of course was a plus and were moved to the henhouse at the top of the garden. In that pen my father selected a cock each year for breeding stock, as he did like to raise his own hens where possible from his own stock, putting a clutch of thirteen eggs under a broody hen. Twenty-one days later we had a mother hen and a brood of young chicks, all home bred.
Every night the cockerels on the common as were the henhouse in the garden locked up to prevent being raided by foxes. By December these birds had put on quite a good weight and coming out at a dressed weight of between six to eight pounds. About two weeks before Christmas my father would start killing about twelve birds a night and he and mother would sit in the shed and pluck them by lantern light. Next morning they were taken to the shop where he would dress them and they would go into the large walk in cooler that he had, ready to be picked up by customers for Christmas.
The chicken ark shown in the photo above is similar to the size but not the shape as my father built his square to hold about twelve birds. They were moved every day on to fresh grass. Water towers were in each ark as was the chicken run and always treated with Permanganate of Potash to keep the birds healthy.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
He was a rotund figure of a man with a round head with a receding grey hairline, dressed in his charcoal grey clerical stack. Yes that is a little boy’s description on seeing the Reverend Benjamin Huddleston Hayward-Browne for the first time when he came to check the attendance register at Holy Trinity School in 1935. He carried this task as he was as in later years found out was chairman of the school governors. On other occasions another board member Miss Gwen Pinder-Brown carried out this task.
As we had a scripture class every morning he came around twice a year just before the exams to test us on what we knew from the syllabus that we had been taught from. I am not sure if it was the teachers that were being examined or we.
When we arrived in Mrs. Snapes class for two years, and we had singing lessons, which I enjoyed, which included such song as “Gossip Joan”, “The Keelrow”, “The Keeper” and “On Richmond Hill”, plus many other English folk songs. Every couple or months or so, “Big Ben” as we boys had quickly named him, used to arrive to listen to us singing. This is where he would pick his recruits for the church choir we found out. He would leave having not said a word. Then there came a time when he would tap you on your shoulder and say “Friday night, five o’clock at the Church, Choir Practice, and don’t argue, I’ve asked your Mother already!” It was only the boys that he wanted, as in those days the church choir was an all male entity. The men joined us at six o’clock and we would go through the psalms and hymns for Sunday services and any anthems that we were practicing for a Festive occasion.
Then came the time when every boys voice will break, and no longer can you reach those high treble notes. You think at last I’m free! No luck you get seconded to being a Server and a Crucifer, and at that time church bells were about to start ringing again, while they had been silenced for the early years of the War. So I learnt how to ring on a silenced bell for a while before the ban was lifted. One exciting thing was we had girls who were learning to ring as well, that made the task very enjoyable.
Being a bachelor for quite a while, towards the end of the War he met a lady from the New Forest and they were married. I can remember that the Easter of 1946 the Parish raised enough money to send both the vicar and his new bride on a holiday to North Africa, which had just opened up for tourists.
In July 1951 was the last time that I had a long chat with him in his study at the Vicarage, before setting sail for Canada. He had mellowed somewhat from those early years and he hinted then that he might not be in Cookham when and if I should return. The war years had been quite a strain for him and he was glad to have the support of a wife at last. By the time that I returned in 1954 he had left the village and taken a living in the small parish of Icklesham in Sussex in 1952. I did visit them once, and found that they were quite happy with a small congregation and a very relaxing life.
Many thanks to Pam Knight for help in obtaining the photographs in this story and help with some of the facts here contained.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Having touched on the new church organ of the 1930’s. My thoughts go back to my early school days, which finished then at 4:00 p.m. In the afternoon, my thoughts turn back the autumn and winter months, when one hurried home to a nice warm log fire and tea. Because at 5:00 p.m. on the radio was “Children’s Hour”. Yes that was the time of day when all childish activity came to a halt, and silence reigned supreme.
In this section I am going to cover the radio itself, as it was far more complicated to use than the transistor frequency modulated unit that you carry in your pocket and are available today.
First of all, not every home was equipped with electricity, and others like the farm workers cottages at White Place Farm cooked and lighted their homes with paraffin, and “Valor” paraffin stove for heat. I guess we were fortunate to have mains gas and water at Widbrook. So that left those without electricity the problem of how to power a radio set.
The High Tension and Grid Bias Batteries.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
As far as I can gather Holy Trinity Church has had an organ to provide music for the Sunday services. In the early 1900’s it was powered a young boy, usually a choirboy whose voice had broken and was not required by the vicar as a server for that service. His job was to on the nod of the organist/choirmaster start to pump the bellows with a large pole handle and keep up a steady rhythm for the whole of the hymn or psalm. This was one job that fell to my father for a year or so, before he was involved with his profession.
There was one problem with the organ though, and that was the electric motor. On Sunday evenings it caused interference with Sir Algernon Guinness’s new Television, the first in the village, on a Sunday evenings during the service. As broadcasts from the Alexandra Palace were only from six until nine in the evening. Not to put the church to anymore expense, Sir Algernon ordered, and had an electrical suppressor fitted to the organ motor.
Since that time the organ has served the church well, with a couple of major overhauls, and relocation to its present position, it has served the church and village well.