Part 3 Albert Booth remembers

The Allotments 

In the early 1900's Calvert was the biggest allotment field, being about 20- 30 acres. Most families grew a lot of potatoes. We normally grew about a ton and stored them up at the old windmill. We also kept two pigs and what we as a family did not eat the pigs did. There was 'Sheepland' and 'Parkfurlong' opposite and 'Budget Piece' which is now the Playing Field. There were allotments on all that land. Some holdings were bigger, being three or four allotments in one. People used to feed a lot of pigs in those days. Several people in the village kept pigs including Mr. George Clark and Mr Jack Hillier. They had quite a lot of ground and sometimes they could be found digging their allotments by moonlight. In those days, because of the large number of animals kept on farms, there was available, for a very few shillings, plenty of manure for allotment holders to use.


We were able to supply our allotment from the farm belonging to Mr. Will Smith at the top of Blakesley Hill at the time I worked for Mr. Oliver Brown. I was able to buy it for 9d. a load, plus have it carted and tipped out near the church. Then it had to be wheeled by barrow to the allotment. Ours was the fourth one down. One year my father took first prize for the best allotment. Later he had two plots and a few years on he won first prize with the other one. At the time competition was very keen. Members were very interested in getting good results and the whole place was a hive of industry .One thing about it, it was well-drained soil, ironstone underneath but the topsoil was light and very easy to work. The produce helped to keep the family going at a time when wages were low.

Farming around Greens Norton

At the beginning of the 2Oth. C it was mixed farming in this area, horses provided all the power. Ploughing was carried out in the Autumn and early Spring, using two horses to pull a single furrow plough. The ploughman, who was also the Waggoner, took great pride in his work, having fed and watered his team by 7 am he would then work through until 3 pm, eating his packed lunch about 12 noon. His first thoughts on returning from the fields would be for his horses; they would be groomed and fed and made comfortable for the night. Wheat, oats and barley were drilled in Autumn and Spring, hoeing and weeding had to be done by hand as there was no spraying as we know it today. March was lambing time, the shepherd having sole charge of the flock. On some farms a barn was made available for the sheep and a special hut for the shepherd so that he could stay with the sheep until lambing was over. A practice long discontinued was folding sheep on turnip crops where they fed themselves and manured the ground. Sheep were also folded on young wheat, the theory being that this grazing would encourage growth. Sheep also had to be dipped and washed before shearing, not all farmers had their own facilities, so flocks would be driven to other farms for this operation. Shearing was done by hand in May -extra labour was needed for this hard work. Later on a machine was used, but still turned by hand. 

Most farmers owned a few milking cows, the milk mainly for their own consumption, also for butter and cheese. the remains would go for pig feed. Some would deliver to village people. ; later when the herds grew, the milk was sent to the main dairy at Buckingham. Bill Smart was the first farmer to start bottling milk in the area for delivery. Walt Smart was a local character who farmed a small holding at Bengal; his wife delivered milk to a few customers in the village.

An extract from the school log dated 18th. March, 1935 stated 'Supply of school milk commenced this Monday. Mr Francis of Glebe Farm supplied milk for 50 (I think it was in bulk). 'John Brown came to Greens Norton in 1921 and lived at Home Farm on the village green, he delivered milk in the village, this duty was carried out later by his daughter Gwen. Harry Picketts worked for many years for John Brown. Spen Barrett lived at the Mill and worked the farm for Mr Guinness. 
Quite a few farmers kept bullocks to be fattened and sold at Northampton market. The cattle had to be driven by road, on foot, on a Saturday. After their sale the farmer would usually purchase some more and these would have to be driven home, again by road, on foot. 

Hay time began later in May, men with scythes would work from first light to cut a way around the field for the mowing machine to come in later. When the grass was cut, it was left to dry, turned several times, then put into small 'haycocks', later to be gathered and carted and stacked into a rick. When settled this would be thatched, like a cottage. The men took great pride in this work. Harvesting would follow about August. A binder, pulled by horses, would cut the corn, a boy sometimes rode the lead horses to keep it going at a reasonable speed. The corn would leave the binder in sheaves, these would then be shocked (or stooked) about eight sheaves to a shock. When dry, these would be carried and made into a rick. Great care and skill was required to build a corn rick; again this was thatched awaiting the time for thrashing. Some farmers had their own machinery for this job, but mostly a Mr Smart of Field Burcote did it. Mr Albert Wright and Mr Arthur Wilinson travelled the district with a big thrashing machine and a steam engine. They would travel to their job and 'set up' one day, ready to begin work the following day. They always carried their bikes strapped to the box so that at the end of the day they could cycle home. Both hay time and harvest called for extra labour which was always obtainable, whereas today, two men are all that are required. 
Around November most farmers would have a pig killed; this would be carried out by the local butcher on the farm. The meat would then be cut up and stored in the cellar. The farmer would be hoping that the weather would not be too mild, as there was no cold storage at that time. Hens were kept on most farms and these were free range. After harvest the coops would be taken into the cornfield and the hens would feed on the remaining grain until ploughing time.

Up to the last War the village was a great centre for hunting horses, which hunted with the Grafton. These horses were owned by Mr Guinness at the Hall, Major Williams at the Court, Major Lyons at the Butchers Arms and Mr McDonald at the Manor, also Mrs Barnard at Duncote Hall. Each would employ a head groom and several stable lads. Well-known local head grooms Albert Booth were Mr Whiteman, Mr Bond, Mr Roberts and Mr Miles. The season started in September and lasted until April when the horses would be turned out to grass. The stable hands were usually dismissed until the following season; most of them would find work on the farms, the head groom being kept on.

Public Houses 
There were four Public Houses, the 'Butchers Arms' being the only survivor, although this is not the original building. For years it was an old stone building but unfortunately it was burned down and the present premises were erected to take the place of the old country inn. The three other pubs were: 'The Gate' -on the corner of Bradden Road, now a private residence: 'The Red Lion' -in a courtyard just off the High Street almost opposite Hunt's the butchers, now also a private residence: and 'The Robin Hood' -the off-Licence previously mentioned. Considering the population of Greens Norton at the time, you can see from this that they were well supplied with places of refreshment as, of course, most villages were in those days.

As there was little or no mechanical transport, there was more local activity in providing building services. The names of builders that come to mind are Maycock, Williams, Ratledge and Hefford who employed mainly painters and carpenters.

There was no bus service until after the 1914-18 War when Mr Basford, together with a chap called Hornsby, decided to run a bus, but we made an old ambulance type of vehicle into a small bus with seating on each side so that passengers faced one another. We used to refer to it as 'the hen house'. It was also used to take people to football matches.

When starting school at four years old we had to go to the building now called the Reading Room, where we stayed for one year. There were three sisters who took it in turns to take the class: Mrs Perry, Mrs Garrett and Mrs Gamage. When we arrived home from school I remember my mother would ask who had taught us that day and we could not understand why she was so amused when told that Mrs Carrott or Mrs Cabbage had taken the class. Small wonder that four year olds misheard the unfamiliar names of Garrett and Gamage- On reaching the age of five we transferred to the Village School and I remember a Miss Syrett took the Infant Class. She was very nice and was good to us in the classroom. I remember I cried when she had to leave. My parents could not understand why I cried but I knew I would miss her kindness. The Headmaster was Mr Phillip, Second Master was Mr Josh Bannard and another teacher who was the Headmaster's sister, who left on marrying Mr Groom. We left school when we were thirteen. There was no time for sport, particularly once gardening time came round, and we used our spades. But we enjoyed ourselves. Most families had six or seven children. There were the Mansfields, the Lucases, the Smarts, the Booths. We needed a lot of food but I cannot remember going short of anything as most families grew their own vegetables and many kept one or two pigs. Clothes, I remember, were a problem and most of us had to wear 'hand-me-downs'.

It was many years before I could afford to buy a bicycle. Even before I left school I worked to help to pay for my keep. I took a milk round for Mr Perry for a shilling a week. This meant getting up at seven in the morning and delivering round the village and right down to the Hall. A Mr Derrick was butler at that time and Mrs Derrick would give me a piece of cake most days to help me on my way. The milk was in a large oval bucket which was very heavy to carry down Old Bengal Lane and up Frog Lane to the Hall. During the 1914-18 War I would sometimes meet a Mr Ray Freeman (who was billeted at Towcester) who would carry the bucket for me up Frog Lane. 

In those days the people of the village helped one another in times of trouble with no asking I well remember that if any allotment holder was taken ill, word soon went round and before you knew it the allotment was dug by good neighbours"

Feast Day 
When the fair came to Greens Norton on Feast Day in early September it was one of the highlights of the year for the children. We used to go and meet the caravans and amusements as they came along the Turnpike (A5) from Fosters Booth We would watch the Fair being assembled and then it would be here for two or three days." It was held in Mrs Garret's field opposite the school. For several years it was held in my father's field" Albert Booth) The chief attractions were the horse roundabouts, swing boats, coconut shies, hoopla and the shooting gallery where the targets were small white balls continuously moving on jets of water" There were also donkey rides for children. Towcester band came in on the Sunday and I remember a bandsman sending me to the 'Robin Hood' for packets of cigarettes". In those days ten Players cost 3d" and two packets of Woodbines cost 1.5d" The bandsman told me to tell the lady at the 'Robin Hood' that he would pay for them that evening and she was quite trusting and handed over the cigarettes to me"

The Boy Scouts 
An interesting event for the boys of the village was the formation of a Boy Scouts Group. We were encouraged by Lady Lane and Miss Bairstow who lived at the lodge of the Mansion" We met in the big room at the Butcher's Arms once a week and sometimes we were invited to the Mansion where we were treated very well" Sometimes we camped in the grounds. 
The gentry used to employ a lot of labour, including grooms, gardeners and inside staff" I can recall Mr Guinness, Mrs Barnard and Miss Watson" A staff ball was organised every year. This was a big event and they used to treat the village well"

Mr Frank Lay was greatly in demand as the village blacksmith" He lived at 'The Rest' and employed four or five blacksmiths as well as members of his own family. Another blacksmith was Mr May who also employed one or two of his lads" They were kept very busy, as at that time there were numerous farm horses that needed regular shoeing, as well as farm implements that needed to be maintained in good condition" There were many big families. About a hundred and twenty people lived in the houses in Chapel Yard " The houses included the four at the bottom, of which only two remain" I can recall the Phillips, the Maycocks, the Tews and the Atkins" They all had families that went into double figures"

Earnings of the average worker 
Before the First World War wages were very low" My grandparents were married on two shillings a week, my grandfather being a farm labourer. There was little other employment and two shillings was the average wage" Tradesmen had to be very good at their work to be in demand and perhaps earn as much as one pound per week"

Local Employment 
Employment was mostly on farms" It was hard work" As readers will know, at that time there was no mechanisation" Mr Turner at the Park had ten maybe a dozen labourers in his employ." Mr Whitton at Caswell also employed about a dozen men" There were two big farms further up at Blackridge and all the farmers round about employed three or four men"

The Local Brickyard
The brickyard on land between Kingthorn Mill and Bengal Manor was owned by Mr Williams, the builder" Spen Barrett and his father worked there for a number of years. At times, if there was a shortage of building work, they would be helped by some of Mr William's employees" It was interesting for us lads to visit the brickyard at night when they made fires to burn the clay. It was very hard work getting the clay out of the pits because it all had to be dug by hand, put into a barrow, wheeled for about a hundred yards and tipped into a big hopper which revolved by means of a pony walking round and round. This churned and mixed the clay to make it ready for use. Then a wire was used to cut through the clay to remove any stones. There was a lot to do and it was hard work making bricks, tiles, and pipes. It was a regular source of interest for us to go and watch them working. The hollows in the fields can still be seen today.

My first job

My first job on leaving school at the age of thirteen was with King's the Grocers at what is now No. 26 High Street. There was a wooden hut where we kept a pole-van and the two horses to draw it.
On Monday we went to Bradden, Blakesley, Wood End, finishing up at Maidford and Adstone, then back to the village. 
On Tuesday we went to Litchborough, Farthingstone, Little Preston and Preston Capes. 
On Wednesday -Duncote, Fosters Booth, Grimscote, back across the Turnpike (A5) to Pattishall, Tiffield and Caldicote, then along the Turnpike home. 
Thursday was a half day, the remainder of the time being used for general clearing up. 
On Friday we went to Towcester, Pury, Pury End, back across the Turnpike to Alderton, Grafton Regis, Yardley Gobion and back down the Turnpike. 
In the winter when we got to Cuttle Mill we used to walk up there to keep warm as we had no protection over the front of the van. After knocking at doors, we always greeted the customer with the same list. I must have picked it up from the others who worked on the round .-

Tea, coffee, cocoa, Sago or tapioca, 
Currents or raisins, 
Soap, soda, talcum and blue, Case they take over 
Jams and marmalade too.

Try our home-brewed beer 
1/6d., 1/8d., and 2/- for four quart bottles.

It warms the heart without inflating the brain.

We had quite a long working day, usually not finishing until about 7 pm. On Saturdays we would go to Towcester and Abthorpe, then back to the store to fill up ready to go round the village. We would have tea and then, starting at Bengal, would be just about finished as customers turned out of the 'Butchers Arms' at 10 pm. We sold a lot of goods in the village in spite of the fact that there were two shops and the Newmans and Withers came in from Towcester with their vans. However, King's always held their own and sold an enormous quantity of goods. They gave good value for money.

Village Shops

I believe there were two butchers in Greens Norton. Mr Hornsby (where the present butcher's shop is now) and Mr Perry whose premises were opposite Mr Peter Williams, the coal merchant, (where Mrs Dove now lives). Mr Perry had a slaughter yard where he killed a lot of beasts for villagers as well as for other butchers. I know he also sold meat because we bought from him at the time we lived opposite. The premises incorporated a pub called 'The Robin Hood' which was an off-licence only, meaning that drinks could not be consumed on the premises. In good weather customers could sometimes be seen drinking in the garden. 

There were two grocery shops in the village. The Store and Post Office premises were owned by a Mr Famham and the other store by a Mr Eales. As well as the shops serving the village it was surprising the number of trades people who came into the village in those days. As mentioned previously, I can remember two grocers' vans, also coal merchants and chimney sweeps coming in from Towcester.

Transport Road and Rail

Around 1905 Thomas Swann, with the help of his daughter Lottie, ran a carrier service from the village to the Market Square, Northampton. Very often Lottie would have to walk as far as Tiffield before there was a seat on the cart. Thomas's son, Harry, owned and ran the first recorded bus. Later, Harry Swann and Walter Lawrence (late of Wappenham) drove buses for Whitlock of Towcester. Walter Lawrence started his own bus service from Wappenham to Northampton (Wednesday and Saturday) and from Wappenham to Banbury on Thursdays. Lottie Swann was conductress for him; she walked from the village to Abthorpe crossroads to catch the 9.30am bus to Northampton. She still acted as carrier for the village, taking shopping lists for villagers, morning and afternoon, and delivering the goods to the door at the end of the day. Later on, Arthur Basford was to carry on with the local bus service. His first vehicle was a 1914-18 war ambulance, which was converted to a bus by Mr Booth, the late father of Mr Albert Booth. On many occasions the passengers would have to walk up Church Hill before joining the coach. The Basford family at this time lived in School Lane (opposite the Post Office), site now of lock-up garages. Repairs were carried out here and on the Green, which at that time was owned by Mr Basford, but later donated to the village when he moved to 'The Rest'. It was about this time that more buses were purchased. Later, the Basford family moved to 'The Dingle', the site from which the coach company operates today. Local lads were employed as drivers, among them Jack Rogers, 'Trimmer' May, George Wilkins, and Joe Thorneycroft; also later, Bob and John Basford, who were to carry on their father's business. In 1952 Basford's coaches were some of the first in the area to run to France. The nearest railway station was situated in Towcester. This was used regularly for journeys to Bedford, Banbury, Stratford-on-Avon. Many of these journeys were excursions organised by Mr. J. Cox. It was also very handy as a goods depot for a rural district, packages being delivered by horse and cart to local villages, later by lorry. Local coal merchants also had their coal delivered there. 

The branch line from Norton junction to Banbury closed in 1959; the entire line closed in 1964.