I was born on November 9th 1918, the second of four children. We grew up at No l Bleach House. The old Bleaching House had been made into 3 cottages and our cottage consisted of one bedroom, one living room and a kitchen. The lavatory was 25 yards down the garden and consisted of a bucket that had to be emptied weekly.
The old Bleaching House was situated on the main Lincoln Road, 2 miles from Newark in the Parish of Winthorpe. The cottages belonged to Miss Gilstrap of Winthorpe House and our rent was l/6d a week. After my father deserted us we lived rent-free.
We had a good-sized garden and an orchard consisting of three apple trees, five plum trees, one damson and one pear tree. We also had red and black currants and two gooseberry bushes. One of the apple trees was a Russet, which was truly delicious. It was always known as my tree because I ate most of the apples. The tree grew sideways and I would sit there hours with a book, I do wonder if it is still there. We grew our own vegetables, all four of us children had to work in the garden and my mother managed to look after the flower borders.
Although it was a lonely road, it was ideal for young children. We had the stream passing by the front of the house and it was an endless pleasure to us; we spent lovely summer days catching tiddlers and water beetles and of course we had the usual frogspawn. We also had Winthorpe Park next to our house and we knew every tree and many happy hours were spent there, it was also our nearest way to school.
I have never been able to find out about Bleach Houses. It was on the Ordnance Map as the Old Bleaching House, I was very proud of that fact and pointed it out at school to anyone remotely interested. I do wonder if it had been a farmhouse because there were farm buildings on the other side of the stream.
The main road to Lincoln passed our house and in those days it was possible to play whip and top as far as School Lane. There was very little traffic, the beer lorries used to stop at the stream to get water and we used to swing on the back of them to get a lift as far as the lane. I realise now what a dangerous thing it was to do and although the driver got very cross with us we still did it.
In those days there was no electricity, gas or water laid on. We had a pump for water which supplied the three cottages and we all had rain water butts. This was used for washing ourselves and our clothes, we had a fireplace with a boiler at one side and it was always kept full of water, which was very convenient, we had a fire all the year round, as we needed it for all our cooking. We used 2cwt of coal a week, which was 2/6d a bag. For light we used oil lamps. Actually we only had one, which stood in the centre of the table. We actually sat round the table because it was the only way we could see to read and write. We had a carriers cart call to sell us paraffin and candles and anything else to do with the household. The baker called three times a week and we walked into Newark once a week to do the shopping. My mother always wrote a shopping list because nothing must be forgotten.
The doctor came out from Newark to treat us but we still had to walk into town to pick up the medicine, we also used to go for our neighbour who was old, she used to give the one that went the princely sum of 2d. for, that we used to go to Dr. Kinmonts on the London Road.
I feel I must write about Winthorpe School, there were 2 classrooms; one for the infants and the big room was for the rest of us.
Miss Hibbert taught us from standard 2 onwards and she was very strict with all, but I realise now what a good teacher she really was. She was also very go ahead. When I started school at the age of 3 years she used to come from Newark on a motorcycle in all weathers. She then moved on in later years to an Austin 7, it was a black one with a red trim Reg. No. UL 454. The schoolboys used to have the job of cleaning her car. I think they enjoyed doing it even if it was in their dinner hour.
All the children from Langford and Winthorpe attended this school and I still have a photograph of the whole school in 1928 all 34 of us.
Lincoln Road was very lonely in those days; there were only 3 houses between us and the Walnut Tree Public house. My sister and I aged 3 and 4 years old walked every Sunday morning as far as Nursery Place in Alliance Street, Newark, to visit our grandmother. We also fetched the Sunday paper for my father and I often wonder why we had to do this when he had a cycle. He was a very popular photographer in Newark in those days and left hundreds of glass photographic plates behind when he left us to fend for ourselves, and of course my mother smashed them all.
Anyone reading of my life when young would probably think it was very boring, but it was not so. We were all picked for the school and Sunday plays and we loved all the practising for the great day. We always went to church twice on Sundays and our Vicar (Mr.Gillette) used to allow the Sunday School children to take books from his library. He had a lot of bound copies of the ‘Sunday at Home' and the ‘Quiver.' They were very heavy but we did not mind as we enjoyed them so much. We all used to sit around the table with the one oil lamp and I still think of those days as being really happy. My mother always encouraged us to read and I am glad she did. For amusement we used to play Snakes and Ladders and Ludo, and Jigsaw puzzles were a great favourite. I think the house was demolished in 1947.
Mrs. Mabel Barker. (neé Osborne) March 1993.
Courtesy of The Resource Centre.
THE GOOD OLD DAYS AT WINTHORPE SCHOOL
I wonder how many of us can remember Miss Hibbert, I have no idea what her Christian name could have been. She was the Head Teacher in the 1920's and taught from Standard 2 to Standard 7, Miss Cook taught the Infants.
There was only two rooms, both had coal fires, one in the Infants and two in the big room, there was a lobby with a cold water tap, there were two playgrounds as boys and girls were not allowed to play together. Miss Cook never made an impression on me, although I started school at 3 years old, my sister was 4 years old and I went to school to be company for her.
We used to go through The Park except when it was snow bound; I never ever remember my father or mother taking us to school. Miss Hibbert was a formidable person, she was very tall and gaunt and had grey hair, and probably not anywhere as old as I thought she was. She lived in the first house next to Maltbys in Bargate and though this might seem unbelievable today she came to school on a motor bike whatever the weather, this was the year 1921, it must have been marvellous for her riding up Winthorpe Road as there was very little traffic in those days.
As soon as I reached Standard 2 my life changed. Everyone just had to learn! The sums in those days were much harder then, we had such things as, and if a farmer sold a bag of potatoes for so much how much would he have paid for.
But teach she did, out came a map of the World and she made sure we knew about the British Empire, I always used to feel so proud to think we owned so much, India was always very interesting to me, as Winthorpe had Colonels, Majors and Captains all who had served in India and had settled in Winthorpe, of course none of their children mixed with the village children.
Miss Hibbert was a great teacher for mental arithmetic and spelling, I think I am as good at mental arithmetic now as I was in my young days, but spelling was Miss Hibbert's forte. Friday afternoons were devoted to this marathon, she never made any distinction between Standard 2 and Standard 7 and this lesson really kept us on our toes, I cannot believe anyone could not spell when they left Winthorpe School.
I suppose when I was about 10 years old Miss Hibbert parted with her motor cycle for a small Austin car it was black with a red trim V6454 and the boys loved it. It was kept immaculate although they tended to climb all over it but they never harmed it.
I never had the cane, she never used it on the girls but she was ruthless with the boys, she always made them fetch the cane from the lobby, it wasn't until I was about 12 years old that things changed, I remember one boy fetching the cane out and promptly lift his knee up and break the cane in front of her. I never remembered her showing any emotion but she must have felt very inadequate at this time.
Anyone who remembers Miss Hibbert will not feel affection, but I am sure we all had the greatest respect for her and she was a truly dedicated teacher. I left Winthorpe School when I was thirteen and never saw her again, I feel rather sad and I don't even know when she died.
Extract from The Newark Advertiser.
Courtesy of The Resource Centre.
There is a discrepancy in the vehicle registration number.
Bleach Houses were on the village side of the A46 and A17 roundabout among where there is now a group of trees.
You sometimes see a police patrol car sitting there.
MY TEENAGE YEARS
Being in service since I left school at fourteen did not give me much freedom for any other activities having only one half day a week. My main interest was to see my mother; homesickness was one of my biggest troubles. I did have a cycle by this time it had been given to me by a friend of my mother's and it was the most useful gift I had ever received.
I went everywhere on my bike, in the summer time I used to cycle from Girton and it was as if I was flying, so anxious was I to see my mother. When I started work at Miss Gilstraps I still found it just as useful as I could cycle to Newark on my half day.
At sixteen I met a young man, I was meeting my friend who worked at Coopers in Victoria Street and. two young men were waiting for her. I did so like the look of Maurice, she told him and arranged a meeting for my next half-day. I was so excited I found it difficult to sleep. I dare not tell my mother; it was bad enough when I bought a jar of Elfrida powder cream from Woolworth's which was 3d at the time. No self-respecting girl used make up, my cheeks were very red and I wanted to cover them up, the cream was to the back of my drawer for years.
Maurice continued to see me, he used to walk to Bleach Houses and so met my mother and luckily for me she liked him. He had no money as he was out of work; he had served his apprenticeship at Blagg and Johnsons and was then sacked. He found it impossible to get another job. We used to go for a walk through Winthorpe Park and down Holme Lane and sit by the river. I thought it was so romantic, he persuaded me to meet one Sunday night at the gate just for five minutes, and his friend would bring him on his motorbike. I was supposed to listen to the evening service on the wireless and this particular night it was the memorial to King George V. I ran down the drive to tell him, so afraid I might be caught. We kissed each other and I ran back as quickly as I could. When the servants came down for supper they asked me if I had listened to the service, I just nodded and I felt so ashamed of myself for lying to them.
When King Edward's abdication was at its height the cook was frantic with the "goings on," she thought he was awful, but me, my head full of romantic dreams, thought he was wonderful to give up the throne for love.
Maurice was my true love, I went with him for six months and then he told me he would not be seeing me again as I was too young, he was twenty three, and he left me and I knew nothing about sex even after this six months.
I was eighteen before I started living a better life, my mother was ill such a lot of the time the doctor said I should really be living at home as there was only my young sister with her. This was music to my ears at last I would not have to be in service any longer, I could have hugged Doctor Hine.
I think he also put the idea into my mother's head to move into town and we moved into a flat in Boar Lane. This was real luxury with an indoor toilet and bathroom. My mother's friend kept the Central Cafe in Middlegate and it was arranged that I should work there as a waitress. I was soon doing half the cooking as well and after about six months I began to feel ill and the doctor said I must give up this work much to the consternation of the cafe owner, my mother lost a friend and I was out of work.
Luckily for me Marks and Spencer were advertising for assistants for two days a week. I applied, very nervously. They would never consider some one who had only worked in service. My joy knew no bounds when they employed me. I worked Wednesdays and Saturdays and I had never been so happy. I had a little cleaning job in Magnus Street and I felt myself quite well off.
My mother was not too happy living in Boar Lane, she had lost her life long friend because of my illness and the rent was 30/- a week which was a lot even with my sister at work, she was at Pipers Penny Bazaar. I decided to look for somewhere cheaper. Prices owned some houses in China Place down Sherwood Avenue and as they had one vacant I went to Coddington to see Mrs. Price. She was an old lady but seemed to like me. I explained why we needed this house, which I had already found out, was only 8/- a week and I was in luck. She also let me try her wedding ring on, goodness knows why; it was so heavy and no doubt valuable.
There were four rooms in this house and a bit of garden. Of course nothing is perfect, there was no bathroom and the toilet was at the end of the row of houses. As we had lived all those years at Bleach Houses it did not bother us at all.
Life for my sister and I was so much better now that we lived in town, we could afford to go to the pictures once a week, my sister who was the pretty one seemed to get treated. I was not nearly so lucky, but at long last I met some one that knew Maurice and I was anxious to find out about him. He told me that Maurice was getting married as he had got his young lady pregnant, although he did not say it so delicately. I just could not believe it, he had always treated me with the greatest respect but it was true never the less. From then on I knew I must forget him.
Our town had two picture houses and a new one was built about 1937 and Maurice had a job at last. The Palace Theatre was always a popular place, the queues stretched along Appletongate and another queue would form along the side of the theatre, there was a glass awning to shield us from the rain. There was also a Commissionaire to watch over us if we seemed a bit to eager to get inside. The Kinema in Baldertongate wasn't nearly as nice; in fact it was called ‘The Flea Pit.' It had to be something very special for us to go there. The Odeon was very grand and it had a foyer and we did not know what a foyer was, we loved going there, they had double seats for couples and the back seats were also in demand. I refused to sit in either. I wanted to see the films and the news; I suppose I wasn't the best sort of girl to take to any of these places. I felt my sister who was so much younger than I did not mind at all.
Now that money was less tight I bought a wireless, it was only 70/- and worked on a battery and an accumulator, which had to be charged each week for the price of 6d. We were very careful carrying it as the acid ruined your clothes. The wireless was wonderful, to my mother it gave endless pleasure, she loved "In Town Tonight" and "Saturday Night Theatre." We listened to all the dance bands of the day, Henry Hall, Jack Hilton, Mantovani, I liked him the best of all.
A new swimming pool had been built in Sherwood Avenue; it was the most popular place in Newark during the summer months. My sister was a marvellous diver and swimmer, I was never as good, I could only swim one length of the pool, but the freedom I enjoyed! It was so good to be doing all these things.
I belonged St.Leonards Church; I didn't feel right without a church to go to. My sister would have none of that. I didn't mind going on my own, we did various things such as play-acting, which suited me. It gave me an outlet from every day life. About this time Marks and Spencer offered me full time job. I couldn't believe it, me who had been a kitchen maid was now going to be in charge of a counter, only a small one I must admit I was put on the Corsetry counter. Brassieres as they were called then sold at 1/- and a roll-on at 1/11. I was lucky to take five pounds a week. I had never been so happy, I could use my brain at last.
Looking back I realised how much richer my life had become, by now I had a young man and I met him two or three times a week, although I didn't know whether he was serious or not when he talked of marriage, and so my teenage years ended quite happily.
Mrs. Mabel Barber. (neé Osbourne) April 1996.
Courtesy of The Resource Centre.
Further readings can be found in
The Village and its Houses in Volume 1.
Bleach Houses in Volume4.
Winthorpe Park in Volume 4.