Saturday, February 28, 2009

Making your own Rabbit Nets.

A Village craft that has gone.

A great many old country ways are fast vanishing from the village scene, none more so than in the Cookham’s. There was a time when most village boys had learned not only at school a formal education, but how to live off the land in a great many ways. How to catch vermin like rats and rabbits was just one way of putting a copper or two in your pocket to spend at Mrs. Vales sweet shop, or the latest dinky toy from Nat Smith on the Colonnade in Maidenhead.

The first picture is of a Purse Net or Fish Net needle. Sometimes called a bobbin or shuttle and were made of a straight grained wood like Deal. Most country folk made their own and I made mine from boxwood that my father had received his tins of Corned Beef from the Argentine. I would trace out the outline of the needle on the wood and cut it out with my hand fretsaw, finishing off with a penknife and sand paper. My string was butchers string from the shop and the rings were curtain rings that were no longer in use. I found also that the wooden pin would break off, so I resorted to drilling a hole up through the center and inserting a 4” nail in its place, afterwards there were no problems.

The Purse or Rabbit Net.
Note the white drawstring that ran around the outside of the net and was pegged firmlt into the ground. So when the rabbit hit the net fast thedrawsting would close the net and the rabbit was trapped.
I made about twelve of these nets to start with, as you never knew how many holes there were in the warren, plus there were also the emergency boltholes, which had to be covered and sometimes hard to find. Mind you I had a very good teacher in Ernie Holland of White Place Farm, who started me out with my first ferret.
I also found in the making of the Purse Nets for catching rabbits, that I could make very good Christmas presents using the very large wooden curtain rings to make string shopping bags.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A little village farming history

Lambs were born in Cookham Dean.

September 29, the feast of St. Michael and All Angels or Michaelmas fell about the time of the autumnal equinox. The equinox marked the period when the nights would be getting longer and the earth would begin to die. It would be also the time when farm workers would change jobs as their skills would have been recognized at the various farm shows and it would be a chance for him to renegotiate with his employer, or to find a new post to benefit himself and his family. A second time of change was on Lady Day. The 25th of March, which like Michaelmas was at the point in the season in solar calendar of the vernal equinox, and the time of new life.

This was not a period of great change on the farm, but was at time before the seasonal work of spring sowing and cultivations got under way. Also it was the period when the day and night in the English countryside were equal.

The water meadows of which there were a great many in Cookham, would start to drain from the rivers winter high water and the first flush of good spring grass for the milking cattle would appear. With it of course this first of the young lambs would arrive.

The Copas family at one time had quite a large flock of sheep, and it was always fun to go up Terry's Lane to see the young lambs gamboling around in the pasture.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Ploughing Match of 1900.

The art of the ploughman.

Agricultural Shows and Ploughing Matches have been the norm for a good many years. It was at these events farm workers showed their skills in various events in ploughing through to rick building and thatching.

The diagram is to show in theory how the ploughman would set his furrows. To polish the sides of each furrow so the scattered grain would fall to the bottom, a piece of triangular pig iron about two feet in length was towed on a chain fixed to the plough.
The moldboards of these match ploughs were on the average 5' 6" in length with a very gradual twist so that the sod being turned stayed in one piece. Today ploughs have changed to digger or semi-digger moldboards and reversable ploughs are the norm.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Belguim Shire Horse

Such a pair were Rodney and Colonel.
The farm ploughmen were the elite among workers during the Victorian, Edwardian period of English history and large estate owners like the Astor family was very keen to maintain the best with the highest skills. To this end they would take their ploughmen to seek out a pair of draft horses to their liking, knowing full well that they would be well looked after and trained to pull the plough.

The reason behind this was that a straight and polished furrow was required for the broadcast sowing of the grain crop, as the seed drill had not yet been invented. Hand broadcasting was carried out and the grain would fall and slide to the bottom of the furrow ridge. The field was then harrowed crossways to the ploughing and the seed covered up before the ground was rolled.

When the seed sprouted and the first green appeared; it would be a very proud ploughman who would point out how straight the rows of grain were. Of course the farmer and landowner were just as proud when they were showing their friends around the estate or farm.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

One of the first Farm Tractors

The Internalional 10-20 Tractor.
The International 10-20 tractor was the first farm tractor to be used in the village of Cookham. It was purchased by the Astor estate for use on White Place Farm in the late 1920's to help cut down the use of horse teams for ploughing. Even then there was still three plough teams as well as several single horses for other work. I remember Ted Barrett was the champion ploughman at the Royal East Berks Agriculutural Show for a great many years. His certificates lined the walls of his cottage and matched pair of Belguim horses called Rodney and Colonel. George Parker who became the driver of the 10-20, could plough as much and sometimes more than the three horse teams in one day. This was the beginning of the end of horse power on the farms in the farming community.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Old Farm Impliments that have been used in Cookham.

The Hay Knife.
Before the age of the modern tractor hay and straw mobile bailer, hay and corn sheeves were held in ricks. These ricks were built in what was called a Rickyard, or at the corner of a field which had easy access.
The Hay Knife traditionally styled in high carbon steel with Hardwood Handle. At the start of the 19th century, agriculture was very labour intensive. Everything was done by hand - sowing, reaping, turning and gathering hay took a long time. Tools like a Hay Knife when in the hands of a skilled farm worker, who cut the hay into blocks called a "Truss" each truss weighed about 56lbs in old hay or 60lbs in new hay. This man was called the "Haytier", from which over the years the surname of Hayter has derived.
Some haytiers were freelance workers who travelled around the smaller farms, where a farmhand did not have the time or the skill as a haytier. In a lot of cases these men were attached to a Corn chandlers business.
The last time I used a tool such as this was to cut silage from a pit silage heap. I do understand Jim Ricketts had one in his old collection in Cookham Dean.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Cookham Station Signal Box and Signal Staff.

Layout of a standard GWR single line signal box.

Another piece of Cookham Railway history, which has long since disappeared, is the manned Signal Box and Level Crossing Gates.

The photo above shows a replica of the Cookham Signal Box except for one thing that the Level Crossing wheel would have been placed at the near side of this picture.

The single line Signal Staff. In 1912 GWR engineers Blackall and Jacobs invented the Electric Key Token (EKT) system and thereafter the GWR used EKT for new work and the replacement of old equipment. This Key Token was carried in the handle of the staff with a drawing from memory below.

The fireman on the engine would drop off a staff and pick up the next one as the engine passed the signal box. No photos or drawings are available of the two poles that were used for that purpose.

There were two keys that were in use. One between Cookham and Maidenhead, the other between Cookham and Bourne End. On arrival the key was inserted in the arrival switch which told the Maidenhead Signal Box that the train had arrived and also to inform Bourne End that a train was about to enter the section between Cookham and Bourne End. The photo above shows a replica of the EKT token or key.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Wartime Dynamo Torch

The Air Raid Wardens Issue.
This handy device was very useful in the days when even a simple bicycle lamp battery was very hard to come by. Also that a red rear light was mandatory due to the restricted headlights imposed on all cars. This was a very handy tool that could be used at anytime.
I found that this useful torch is still available today and found in the most odd places, like the island of Rarotonga. Of course the construction is different and instead of a small flashlight bulb, it is replaced by three Light Emitting Diodes (LED's) and a small but efficient rechargable battery has been added.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Cookham Manor now in Didcot

The Railway has been part of Cookham since the 1850's.
It was while searching through files on the history of Cookham Manor that I came across this article and photo of Manor Class 7808 engine of the GWR. Also it has been retired as a working model of this class in Didcot. Here are some of the history and facts provided by the Great Western Railway Preservation Society, to who we are most grateful.
As long ago as 1901 the traffic department of the Great Western asked for this type of locomotive. It was a very long time in coming, although the 'Halls' and 'Granges' filled the need except that they suffered route restrictions due to their heavier weight.
The first twenty 'Manors', built before world war two, incorporated the wheels and motion of withdrawn 43XX class engines. The last ten were built by BR in 1950. The 'Manors' were originally allocated to various English depots, but in 1943 several were transferred to the North Wales area, being the first modern passenger engines seen there.
Detail design modifications over the years have greatly improved the performance of the class. Their light weight makes them ideal for use in preservation: no fewer than eight have survived.
7808 is the only 'Manor' obtained directly on withdrawal by BR. Bought by a Society member in 1965, it ran from Gloucester depot in steam to Ashchurch, where it was based with 6697, until they both came to Didcot in 1970. A very sprightly member of its class and held in high regard by crews, before withdrawal it had, very unusually for its class, been fitted with a larger 4,000 gallon tender. 'Cookham Manor' has seen considerable main line use on special trains organised by the Society, but currently has 'static' preservation status.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Frank Sherwin Watercolour Artist

Frank Sherwin Watercolour and Poster Artist.

Frank Sherwin was born in Derby on 19 May 1896, the son of Samuel Sherwin, a prominent member of Derby Sketching Club. He studied at Derby School of Art and then from 1920 the Heatherleys School of Fine Art in Chelsea.
He was a painter of landscape and marine views in both oils and watercolour, but specialised in the latter.
He was best known for his railway posters, promoting travel by rail to holiday destinations all over the British Isles. A member of The Royal Society of British Artists and the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours, he lived in Cookham on the River Thames for 46 years until his death in 1986. He was as I remember him a very quiet and unasuming man, who was devoted to his family and his art.
He exhibited his prolific work regularly in London between 1926 and 1947, and was shown at The Royal Academy, and the Arlington Gallery, as well as The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, among others. Derby Art Gallery have examples of his paintings. Not as well known as Sir Stanley Spencer maybe, but his work was viewed by millions who travelled the country by train, enticing them to take a holiday at one resort or other. During the war I believe his water colour production was used in many Wartime Posters but, I cannot substansiate this fact. I do know though, that he was an advisor to the War Office on camouflarge of airfields in East Anglia.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

James Mason

Film Actor: James Mason.
There are not many people that are aware of this fact living in Cookham today, will know that the late James Mason was once a resident in Cookham Dean.
He was born on the 15th of May 1909 in Huddersfield, Yorkshire and died of a heart attack on the 27th of July 1984 at his home in Lausanne, Switzerland.
He was a wartime resident in Cookham Dean and then moved to Hollywood in the late 1940's.
He was educated at Marlborough and Cambridge, where he was studying to become an architect. It was at Cambridge where he took up acting as a lark and the bug bit. Though he was turned down for one part and told to consenentrate on architecture by a fellow student Alistair Cooke of "Letter from America" fame.
He left Cambridge and joined several stock companies and finaly the Old Vic under the wing of Sir Tyrone Guthrie and Alexander Korda. He played for quite awhile as a stage actor, with small parts now and then in small short or quickie films.
He will be best known for his lead with the actress Anne Todd in "The Seventh Veil." It was his mellifluous voice that drew the attention of the cinema crowds. Also in such later film as "North by Northwest" and as Captain Nemo in Jules Vernes "20 Thousand Leagues under the sea."

Friday, February 6, 2009

Buried in Wool

This was a Law in the 16-1700's. It may be of use to anyone who is researching their family history:
While looking through Parish Records you may notice that an entry saying 'Buried In Woollen' has been made. Probably this will simply be A or Aff, short for affidavit, which had to be legally sworn to say that the act had been complied with, but if a family were poor and could not afford a woollen shroud, the entry may have the word 'naked' written instead. Further information may be found in Churchwardens's accounts or vestry minutes if they have survived.
From 1666 to 1678 Acts of Parliament were passed, The Burial in Woollen Acts, to help promote the declining wool trade. This stated that all dead bodies excluding plague victims must be wrapped in wool only for burial and a certificate issued to that effect by a Justice of the Peace or a neighbouring clergyman and presented within eight days of the burial. However this did not preclude a coffin as well.
Act 30 Car. II c.3 (1677) stated that it was:
“intended for lessening the importation of linen from beyond the seas, and for the encouragement of the woollen and paper manufactures of this kingdom”.
If this law was ignored there was a penalty of five pounds, or the goods and chattels of the deceased could be seized in payment.
The law stayed in force until 1814 when it was repealed by 54 Geo III c. 108, but was usually ignored after 1770.
My thanks to fellow researcher Lorna Cowan, for this piece of information which may be of help to others.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Who, I wonder remembers this tasty item.

Smith's Crisps with the blue twist salt wrap.

How many of my readers will remember going to a local pub on a summers evening and you sat outside with others drinking a glass of R.W. Whites lemonade and having a bag of Smith's Crisps to munch on, and the careful opening of the packet to hunt for the blue twist packet of salt. On the odd occasion there was no salt to be found as it had been missed at the factory. I remember also that they were shipped in square metal tins to keep them fresh, with 24 packets to a tin.

Pubs were not the only place you buy them as, Mrs. Vale, Annie Slack, Budgens, The International and the Off License did. There was something about the flavour of Smith's Crisp that no crisp company comes close too today, except maybe "Pringle's."

The R.H. White bottling plant if my memory serves me correct was on the Slough Trading Estate. They also bottled Corona soft drinks under license and "Tizer the Appitizer."

A one time Cookham challenge.

The Yard of Ale Challenge.
There was a time when Cookham supported 13 pubs and 1 Off License, and the challenge to drink a "Yard" of ale was a sport among the young. Mind you they were not driving cars as the mode of transport was a bicycle or to walk in those days.
To drink a yard of ale (2 imperial pints) was no easy task and would take many tries to complete. Then the more adventurous would try and beat the clock. This would end up in most cases with the ale ending up over the contestant than in them.
The glass yard glasses are now quite rare and are classed as a valuable antiques. If you find one it will be on display and not for use. There are still some areas in Britain where the contest is still carried out, but now they use plastic glasses holding the same measure of two imperial pints.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Why my interest in the Village History

There has been quite a few people pass the remark of why, when I live so far away from Cookham, that I have so much interest in the village and what goes on today. The answer is very simple: "How many people living in the village have proven family connection with Cookham that dates back to the late 1700's.
Here is a short transcript that has been sent to me:
'William b1807 and Ben b1824’s parents were:
William Hatch b1777 and Sarah (Mary) Chitts. This William b1777 was brother of your own James Hatch b1789 who married Elizabeth Parsons.'
So you can see why my keen interest in the village history and its people who as Rupert Brooke stated "Bore, Shaped and made Aware" the village of Cookham.
My many thanks to Pam Knight and others who have made my postings possible in this Blog.