Oral History

Mary Belton

Miss Mary Belton remmembers.

Interviewer: Mr. D. J. Wood (DW)

Interviewed: Miss Mary Belton (MB)

Date of Interview: 23rd August 1984

MB. It was Mary Bonser who lived in the cottage in church Lane, Barwell, with the pump at the end of the garden. It was an old fashioned garden with currant trees, gooseberry trees and pinks, and all the old fashioned flowers. We depended on this pump for our water. I used to take two buckets round just before one o'clock, to wait for my father coming out of the rectory gates. My father was gardener at the rectory. He would pump two buckets full and carry it round; put it through a filter in the back yard. That was our water supply.

DW. Wasn't there any piped water then in Barwell?

MB. No not then, there were pumps in several places. I remember one being just by the Red Lion. There was a pump near the Blacksmith's Arms, and another down by the Marl Place, I would say. I remember them quite well. Of course the soft water we caught in tubs for washing purposes but for drinking water we depended on the pumps. There used to be two stones like seats, they were for a child. I used to sit on one of them and it's still there by the pillar to the old rectory. I asked if I could have that because I used to sit on it so many times waiting for my father to come out of the rectory; but it's sunk into the ground, you can't move it. It's a big grey stone.

DW. And that's where the old rectory used to be?

MB. Yes, that was the entrance. There were two entrance gates but they have built it up now and make it a narrow entrance into the back of these houses. The earliest recollection I have is going to church and waiting for my father and running after him in the rectory yard. He lifted me up on one of the horses. That was a big treat for me.

DW. Whose horses were they?

MB. The old Rector's

DW. He had a horse and trap then?

MB. They had carriages; several carriages. The coach House was only demolished two or three years ago. The pulley was still there where they took the tops off the carriages in the nice weather and they rode out in an open carriage. They used to go about to different places in this carriage; they never did have a car. Canon Titley never had a car. Of course, I went to this school throughout, they didn't move on like they do now.

DW. Was it the church School?

MB. Yes, Church School. I remember the first day I went, it was a little square room. We sat round on low seats and there were desks fixed up to the wall, fastened up, and you drew them down over your head. We played with trays of sand. we used to have concerts once a year. Mr. Elwell used to get the concert up.

DW. Mr. Elwell was the Headmaster?

MB. Yes; and he took us to the sea for a day. I remember going to Blackpool. Most of the children had their parents with them. I didn't, the friend I went with was Florrie Martin, the policeman's daughter. We ran all the way to Elmesthorpe Station early in the morning, between five and six I would say, to get on the train. We didn't get back until early the next morning. It was just getting light. It must have been in midsummer I can remember someone there with a pony and trap pushing us into it, saying come along we've got room for you. we got into the trap and went home. I didn't wake up till about ten o'clock, and my mother got me up and said "you'd better go to school." There were very few there. I remember Mr. Herbert saying "here comes another one." So we went wandering in but, of course, nobody got the cane or anything. I remember having the cane once just for being late and I felt dreadfully ashamed to think I'd had the cane.

DW. Did they use the cane a lot then?

MB. Well they did on the boys, yes, but not much on the girls, but you had it across your hand if you were late or did anything wrong. I remember the old fox that used to be stuffed on the top of the cupboard in one of the schoolrooms. Then there was the shield hanging on the wall that the boys had won at cricket. I don't know what happened to that. I suppose it's still there somewhere in the school.

They used to ring the bell; that's been taken down now and it was a great honour to be allowed to ring the bell. The first bell went at a quarter to nine and the second at just before nine.

DW. How many were in the school, was it a big school?

MB. It seemed there were a lot of children really. Well there were three classes in the infants and seven standards. You went up to standard seven before you left; you left when you were thirteen and I should say there was between thirty and forty perhaps in each class.

DW. So quite big classes then?

MB. Yes.

DW. Did you go straight into the Post office when you left School?

MB. Oh no, no I didn't, it was a long while after. I stayed at home with mother. She was an invalid and I was the youngest of the family and the others had all got married.

DW. So you had to stay at home and look after your Mum?

MB. Yes, I did do yes. I did go to work on and off, and then after my mother died, she died at the beginning of the war, I went on the post straightaway.

DW. So you were doing the post all the way through the war?

MB. Well not really, because my mother died in 1942, so the war had been on for three years hadn't it, almost. I gave it up and then after a year or two I went back again until I retired, and that is how long, ten years. So a good many things have changed since then; even on the post round.

DW. So you've seen a great deal of growing in the village?

MB. Yes, oh yes, because at one time one person could do the lot, there wouldn't be so many letters as there is now. I'm talking about a long time ago, when they walked around the farms but the part of it I did was the High Street, Mill Street, Stapleton Lane, and part of Shilton Road, so I walked you see. I wasn't one who went on a bicycle or anything. Quite enjoyed it really because I got to know a lot of people.

I will tell you one thing about when I was a little girl. We used to go May Poling, four or five of us used to dress up in a white frock, if you'd got one or a summer frock. We used to make paper flowers and the old fashioned wooden bowlers that we used to bowl about, we used to trim it up, and one of us was picked for the queen, we carried a stool for her. We used to go around door-to-door singing on May Day.

I was a very small girl. My mum had washed my dress and ironed it and we would set out. The first place we went to was the manor, Tommy Powers lived there, and we were very proud. But it had been raining and there was several puddles about and the dog heard us coming and it ran out. I was small and it knocked me over in a puddle and that was the end of the May Pole for me.

When we were children we used to go after daisies in the early spring. We were always frightened of Mr. Powers because he always carried a gun, and very often had a dog with him. We had only to say here's Tommy, and we all flew for our lives, we were so frightened of him.

I remember Mr. Peberdy who lived up Kirkby Road, he was a character. He used to say "It's now't to what it will be" when the First World War was on. I remember the zeppelins coming over and I heard the bombs dropping on Loughborough.

DW. Did you have any bombs dropped on Barwell?

MB. No, that's the nearest I think, Loughborough. I was at school then. I can remember the brake drawn by two horses running from Shilton to Hinckley in the afternoon, three o'clock. Chestermans brake and it was the biggest thrill out to get on that. The lady next door used to take me some times. She used to put up her hand and stop it, and we used to get in at the back, climb up some steps to get in it. It was open, what I remember of it. Perhaps we only went in the summer. Later on there used to be one or two running from Barwell to Hinckley. They were covered in. You got in at the back and there used to be a lantern lit in the winter, dim lantern. It used to jog along, it did. It stopped in New Buildings, and that was the highlight of the week if you 'appened to get to Hinckley on the brake and go into 'Aucotts' cake Shop down the bottom of castle Street, and have a fancy cake and a cup of tea.

DW. What about the old shops in Barwell?

MB. There used to be a shop near to us, Mary Arguile kept it. It's chrisy Hills now, and her mother and father had it before her as a fish and chip shop, but she changed it into a greengrocers and sweet shop. When Mrs. Arguile kept it I can remember seeing tallow candles hanging in bunches from the ceiling, and my mother used to send me for some vinegar or something When we had any newspapers that we didn't want, she used to say "take them to Mrs. Arguile" and she used to give me a few sweets in a bag for them, old fashioned pear drops. Then there was 'Herberts' at the Top Town, where Cousens Butchers Shop is now. That was a cottage and one room was a sweet shop. There was a big heavy curtain for a screen, so that people who went in could not see in the living room. On Guy Fawkes Night she used to make homemade toffee and sell it on a tray. They were also agents for the "Leicester Advertiser" I think, but perhaps only delivered it, because there weren't many people took newspapers in those days.

Shorlands the tailors was next door, then there was "Redden' down the bottom, opposite The Red Lion, that was a grocer's shop one side and a butcher's shop the other. I used to go there for black treacle, she used to turn the tap on and it came out of a barrel. Next door to them was the shoe repairers, named Johnson, coming up the street, this is next to where crowfoot's office is now, a private house, and the people in it named "Smith". Her two daughters were dressmakers, and if anyone wanted a dress they used to go there. There were other dressmakers in the place, but she used to put no end of hooks and eyes on. She did them very well indeed. But you had to wait such a long while when you thought they would be ready.

I've got an old photograph somewhere, very old; nobody living would be on this photograph. It was the Sunday school treats at the Rectory. They always went on the lawn, all the boys had got caps on, and there was no end of children. The people in the background, you see were all the people who had donated to the "Treats". I suppose they just went to see them feed. I can remember the old Sunday school "Treats" though. We used to go round the village and then come back to the Rectory and march on the lawn to the sound of the band playing ยท'onward Christian Soldiers".

The servants would all come out and stand looking, and the tears would be running down their faces to see us going by. It seemed as though it was always nice and sunny, and we used to sit down on the grass, they used to come round with bread and butter first, and a mug of tea (you took your own mug) and then you had plum cake. They used to bring it round in clothes baskets and then afterwards we would go up to the nigh close for games and races.

Miss Titley, Miss Lillian and Miss Louisa used to buy a bottle of sweets from a stall. The shopkeepers were allowed to have a stall if they wanted. They threw these sweets up in the air and you had to catch them. I only remember catching one and we used to shout "this way miss".

DW. Attitudes to the church have changed quite a lot?

MB. Oh yes, you get more vandalism than anything now from a lot of the children. Very few go to Sunday School, but those who do go are quite nice children and well behaved but a lot of them don't know a thing. It's a pity really.

Transcript by: Jean & David Wood.