My father went to the Great War of 1914-18 leaving my mother with my sister, Kit, at The Gardens, Gainsborough Road, Winthorpe. Kit was actually born on The Drive, off Holme Lane, whilst my father was waiting for The Gardens to become vacant.
Whilst father was in France, mother ran The Gardens with the help of an elderly man, whose name was Hague. He lived at the top of the Back Drive to Winthorpe Hall. His house and Mrs. Biglie’s were pulled down to build a bungalow. Hagie, as we called him, used to say to my mother “Put her in the pram, Mrs., I’ll watch her while you do your work.” I understand he gave my sister, Kit, a tin and some worms in the pram. Now, Kit always put everything in her mouth, so mother always wondered just how many she ate, and who knows, perhaps that’s why she became Rural Studies Consultant for Nottinghamshire and loved nature so much! Hagie told my mother he remembered a year in the 1890’s when the sun shone so much that there was no grass for the cattle and the foreman sent the men out to cut branches off the trees to feed them.
A Rev. Clement W.H. Griffith was the Rector in my early days, followed by Rev. Gresham F. Gillett, a wonderful man - a great conservationist and a welfare and youth club organiser, 50 years before such things were thought of. He had a dog, a little white Cairn or similar breed, called Caesar Augustus Imperatus, ‘Imp’ for short. Rev. Gillett had been Bishop of Lebombo, a district of Swaziland, South Africa, but after frequent bouts of malaria, had to leave Africa. He told my father how to grow arum lilies – ‘always keep their feet in water!’ The fields in and around the village were mainly meadow for the cows to graze or to make hay and there grew the most wonderful flowers; corn cockle, corn marigold, ox-eyed daisies, giant bell flowers, knapweed, sorrel, cowslips, many trefoils and early purple orchids. We always went to pick the latter as soon as they were out and we’d be sure to meet Rev. Gillett on our way back and he’d point his walking stick at us and say, “You know, every time you pick one of those beautiful orchids, the plant dies. Soon there will be no early purple orchids left in Winthorpe.” He little knew that it wasn’t we children who would destroy them, but the farmers ploughing up the fields during the war.
Rev. Gillett helped boys from the poor areas of town; any night during the week they could come up to the Rectory where he had a billiard table and darts etc. One little room was lined with shelves and filled with books and we could borrow as many as we liked. He had a wonderful choir for 10am, 11am and Evensong services. As he was a bachelor, a very large lady called Mrs. Heppenstal took Sunday school. She lodged at The Hollies on Winthorpe Road and she had two parrots in cages on her dining room table. We learnt not to poke our fingers in at them! Mellars, the cowman, milked the cows at Old Rectory Farm. Then with a yoke across his shoulders and two brimming pails of milk, he walked up the Back Drive to the dairy, where he churned the milk and left frothing bowls of skimmed milk and cream on the other side of the churn. We children picked up our fresh milk on the way home from school. One winter’s day, I was about seven years old and toasting pikelets in front of a roaring fire, when my mother said, “I’ve seen Mrs. Neverson, the cook at the Hall, and she says there were drops of cream on the floor.” There was a silence, my face burned and I don’t think it was from the heat from the fire! Now, who suggested it I don’t know, but there were quite a few of us dipped our fingers in the cream. The quantity of butter made had considerably fallen that week! Another day, Mrs. Need came over to Mother and said, “Tell Bettie to go to cook and ask for a bucket of water, soft soap and a scrubbing brush and scrub down the wall where she has written her name.” This wall ran from Suzanne Holmes’s gate to the Hall entrance. Now I’m sure, even at the age of seven, I would have had more sense than to write my own name, but I did have to scrub that wall!
During my last two years at Lilley and Stone High School, Herbert Emerson would cycle down from the top of the village at 5am in spring, climb up to my bedroom window and wake me up! How would that be misconstrued in these days? I’d dress and we’d go down Holme Lane and along the Fleet. In those days it was a wide muddy area of reeds and water blobs. (marsh marigolds to give them their correct name) Mallards were nesting and we would take a couple of duck eggs for our breakfast, in spite of keeping our own hens! There were reed warblers, pipits, linnets, red-legged partridges, pheasants, cuckoos looking for reed warblers nests and larks ‘singing out their hearts at Heaven’s Gates’ and we even heard and saw curlews! In the school holidays we’d be down there all day, and I once asked my mother if she worried about me, and she said, “No. One never heard of ‘missing children’ then or any other of the awful things that happen these days.” When Frank and I, along with Nigel and Jose who lived at Whitewalls, a semi-detached house near the corner of Hargon Lane, we have counted from their dining room window 17 mad March hares, boxing in the field, that is now South Field housing estate. I remember taking Nigel and Jose up to the cornfield at the top of Hargon Lane where I’d found a root of corn marigold and a beautiful blue succory. (chicory) Where can they be found now? Cowslips are no longer in existence. Several years ago, when I was walking Jess, the dog, just over the railway crossing, there appeared a root of cowslips. The next year quite a large root was growing. Several days later, there were just two holes in the ground.The lane sides used to have birds-foot trefoil and cinquefoil silver weed with their beautiful yellow flowers. In 1993, I counted the wild flowers down on the right-hand side and there were 27. On the opposite side, coming back, there were 23. In about 1995, there were cranesbills, (lesser and greater) one root of meadowsweet and the rest just goosegrass, plantains and nettles.
On Saturdays, the sexton’s wife, Mrs. Hill, used to come for water to scrub out the church. My mother used to boil the copper up and Mrs. Hill came several times for the water and did a lot of talking too! I listened spell-bound! I wish I’d listened harder, though I do remember her telling about the night the old church burnt down. It was wooden and I gather it was somewhere at the back of Rectory Farm (probably Old Rectory) garden. There was never ‘gossip’; everyone helped one another. On Saturdays people came up to the churchyard to tend the graves and they came to us for water.
In 1936, the Tennis Club asked if the courts could be open for play on Sundays. Rev. Gillett, in his wisdom, said they could be open from 2pm if people were going to church they would have been by then! When he died, his wonderful library was sold and dispersed. One day my old school friend, Frieda, came over “I've got a Christmas gift for Nigel” Nigel was home from Aberystwyth in Wales, where he was studying Zoology. She presented him with four leather-bound books with a Bishop’s Mitre imprinted on the front. When I opened them, on the inside cover was another Bishop’s Mitre and a label saying ‘Gresham F. Gillett, Bishop of Lebombo’! So his books on the Wildlife of the Norfolk Broads, printed in the middle of the 19th century, came home to Winthorpe!
It is said that lightening never strikes the same place twice. That is not true! Father and Kit had gone out with a bus load of policemen to some beautiful gardens in Yorkshire. Father saw a gentian that was not of a type in our garden and looked all around to see if he was being watched. An Inspector friend said, “Harry, you just walk up to it, pinch it and not look around, if you do that’s the first thing we’d notice." Meanwhile, back in Winthorpe mum and I were sitting either side of the fire and the chimney was struck by lightening. Not only were we stunned with shock but we couldn’t see each other for the soot flying around! And the chimney pot was in the road! The second time, Jose was two and we’d been with granddad in the greenhouse when the lightening began. My father said, “Better take her inside, it’s rather frightening in here.” So we went along the garden path towards the house. I was holding Jose’s hand, when suddenly she was thrown up in the air and my right hand and arm went numb. She cried because she ‘tingled’! Dr. Mary Collis came up and said that we had been struck and but for the fact that Jose was wearing her new red wellies (welligogs as she called them!) to show her granddad, the results could have been serious. The third time we were at Whitewalls and an ash tree and a redwood in the Old Rectory Garden were struck. We were in a direct line and because we had an immersion heater on for warming water for baths, that took the strike.
Nellie Davis who lived at 4, The Drive used to take me out in the pram. One day she took me down to her mother’s. Mrs. Davis did the washing for the Hall and she called for Nellie to look at the potatoes, so I am told, and Nellie left me on the sloping path. I bumped up and down in the pram, off came the brake, down went the pram, crossed the lane (Holme Lane) and landed upside down in the dyke, (The Fleet) with me underneath! A piece of glass had stuck in the top of my head! Mrs. Davis pulled out the glass and put me in the dolly tub (for doing the laundry) and ‘dollied’ me till I stopped crying! My father said that the bump on the head that was what was the matter with me!! I still have the scar.
There was a good team of bell-ringers and they practiced in the week. The moment the bells were ‘rung up’, I started yelling and the only way to stop me was to be put me in a bath. I think I’ve had baths in quite a few different houses depending whereabouts in the village I was when bell-ringing practice started!!
When we killed a pig, we were sent out with a ‘fry’ on a plate covered with veiling. We were often given 2d and always the plate was handed back with “I haven’t washed the plate; it’s bad luck, you know.” And when neighbours killed a pig, they brought round a fry but the dishes were never washed! One lady asked me during the war what we did with the lungs. I said they were cooked for the fowls; the only thing wasted was the squeals!! And she said could she have them for her mincemeat at Christmas. Perhaps the correct name should be minced meat as she said they were always used for that purpose. Johnnie Boddy killed the pigs. I remember him as a very small man with a tall black hat with what seemed to me, as a child, dozens of brass buckles all gleaming. He’d say, “Have the copper boiling for 6am.” He’d arrive sometimes as late as 9pm, drunk from all the beer he’d been given, but he killed the pig by cutting its throat and the pig never squealed. It was hung up on a beam in the kitchen and sawn in half down the backbone and never a single wrong cut. He came in the morning to cut up and then went on his rounds killing others. He walked to all the farms carrying his sackcloth bag of tools of trade. He would cut off the pig’s head as soon as he had ‘stuck’ it, then cut off its ears, take out the brains and put half on each ear and give them to my sister to carry to mum.
Betty Buxton 2009.
Lilian Bessie Euston was born 1919 in Winthorpe. Her parents, Henry and Ellen Euston came to the village in around 1907. Henry from Sunningdale, Berkshire, to take up the position of Head Gardener to Captain Walter Need of Winthorpe Hall and Ellen from Longborough in Gloucestershire, as a companion to Mrs. Need. They lived at Winthorpe Hall Gardens, later called ‘The Gardens’ which is situated on the hill just below All Saints’ Church. Betty was, in fact, born in this house and left only at the age of 75. Following the death of her husband, Frank, and her older sister, Kit Euston, Betty went to live in Inverness-shire, Scotland to be near to her son and his family. Betty Buxton died in Scotland on June 7th 2009, just short of her 90th birthday. She was cremated and, in accordance with her wishes, will be brought back to the village where she was born, and her ashes buried in the grave near to her beloved ‘Gardens’ with her mother, sister and husband.
Rev. Clement W.H. Griffith was Rector from 1895 – 1918.
Rev. Gresham F. Gillett was Rector from 1918 – 1939.
Ellen Mary Euston (Betty Euston’s mother) died 31st December 1967 aged 83 years and is buried in the family grave in the SW corner of All Saints’ churchyard, Winthorpe. A gravestone marks the spot.
Henry Richard W. Euston (Betty Euston’s father) died in the first quarter of 1974, aged 87 and is buried in the family grave. There is no gravestone.
Kathleen Emma (Kit) Euston (Betty Euston’s sister) died on 15th September 1993, probably in Winthorpe Hall Nursing Home. She was cremated and her ashes were interred on 4th Oct 1993 in the family grave. There is no gravestone.
The White House, a semi-detached house on the corner of Hargon Lane and Gainsborough Road, is possibly the house that Betty Buxton called Whitewalls.
Pat Finn. January 2010.
The ashes of Lillian Bessie (Betty) Buxton were interned with her family in the S.W. corner of the church graveyard on the 11th April 2010.
The old gravestone of Ellen Mary Euston was removed and replaced with a new one which reads:-
ELLEN MARY EUSTON died 31st Dec.1967 aged 83 yrs.
HENRY R. W. H. EUSTON 10th July 1886 -.8th Feb 1974.
Their elder daughter KATHLEEN E. EUSTON 1914 - 1993.
Their younger daughter LILIAN B. BUXTON 1919 - 2009
and her husband FRANK R. BUXTON 1919 - 1992.
'And tonight I long for rest.'
Pat Finn. July 2010.