Writing his monthly article in February's 1987 Focal Point, the Rector of All Saints' Church, the Rev. Anthony Keeble Shaw said he used to sit and gaze from his Rectory dining room window, where he had a clear view at the cockerel weather-vane on top of the church steeple. He often saw birds perched on the vane and wondered of its size.
One morning there was a bird on the cockerel's head and another its tail. He wondered if the birds got disorientated slightly as the wind changed direction a little and the world seemed to move round. He had often watched many times to see if when one bird flew away, it would kick back a bit with its legs and spin the vane a little, but never had his question answered. He stood for 10 minutes and nothing happened - the birds just stayed where they were, counting the lorries on the A1. Turning briefly to sit down and watch and turning back again saw that one of the birds had flown. The other bird also waited briefly until he was distracted before leaping into the air with a shrill squawk of triumph to defeat the silly old vicar.
Reading this article in Inverness-shire, Scotland was, former resident of Winthorpe, Mrs. Betty Buxton. She immediately got out pen and paper to write to Peter Milroy, the then editor of Focal Point.
The following is her article that appeared in March's 1987 issue of Focal Point.
"This morning, returning from a walk up the Glen Road and on to the moor, back along the Calder Glen, where the river is little more than a trickle, as it has been all the year, so shallow in fact that the salmon could not leap up to spawn, I met the "Postie." "I've brought you a letter from your friend," he said. There, through the letterbox was a brown envelope (no, not a bill) from Mary Gatiss, bursting with news and the Focal Point. Lunch had to wait. I was intrigued with the Rector's letter about the weather-vane, for the cockerel ruled my life from the waking moment until bedtime.
My father came to The Gardens in 1901 and the first glance every morning was up at the church to see where the cockerel was facing, so that my father, or one of the men would know which way to open the doors and ventilators of the greenhouses.
To answer the Rector's question - one morning after a windy night just after the War, I would think 1945, father came into the house with a smug look on his face. My Mother said "Now what?" Father replied, "As Mr. Asquith said, we'll wait and see." My Father could be quite annoying at times. It was almost a month before the Churchwarden, Mr. Branston, came round and said, "The cockerel has gone from the church steeple!" Of course, father had found the cockerel and he took Mr. Branston back along his own drive. There amongst the snow-heavy shrubs the missing object was lying. The cockerel was carried out of the garden by several men and put in the potting shed on the bench and from beak to tail it measured just over six feet. It was peppered with shot and it was decided that the soldiers in Winthorpe Hall had been using him as target practice.
He was re-gilded and after many consultations as to cost, a long ladder was put over the porch entrance and up went the cockerel. He has been re-gilded since, when the lightning conductor had to be replaced. Incidentally, I also went up the ladder, the view was spectacular, but I daren't write what my parents said to me!!
He was, and still is a marvellous foreteller of the weather. If jackdaws sat on him (did the Rector see jackdaws?) it was a sign of bad weather, high winds, storms and snow etc. If he pointed to the river, very little rain. If he looked down to Ransomes (RHP), heavy rain and if he looked to the north east, very cold, especially in May for the Show.
I couldn't resist answering Mr. Shaw's query, only few that still live in the village will recall the episode."
Mrs. Betty Buxton lived at The Gardens, just below All Saints' Church, before moving to Scotland to be near to her son and his family. David Jackson now occupies the house.
The Branston family lived at The Grange a large rambling Victorian house. It was demolished in the 1960's to make way for the Spinney estate. Part of the garden of The Grange was used to build a bungalow for the Rector. This has now been sold.
Rev. Anthony Keeble Shaw was Rector of the Churches of Winthorpe, Langford and Holme and Diocesan Inspector of Church Schools in the Diocese of Southwell from Sept 1996 to Sept 2001. He now lives in retirement with his wife at his home in Lymington, Hampshire.
Before moving to Winthorpe, Rev. Anthony Keeble Shaw was Head Co-ordinator of Key Stage One in a London School and on the staff of St. Mark's Church, Regents Park in the Diocese of London.
Mrs. Mary Gatiss lived at Hillside, a house opposite the Village Hall.
Pat Finn. October 2007.
Further readings can be found in :
All Saints' Church in Volume 1.
The Village and its Houses in Volume 1.