The Thurlows

Village News & Information

Early years and cottage life

I was born in one of a pair of thatched cottages in The Street, now merged into one large cottage with the very nice name of Larkspur Cottage. My father, Monty, was the head gardener at Little Thurlow Hall and my mother, Eva, had been the cook at the Hall. My parents lived with my grandfather, Alf, who was the village cobbler, having his shop at the end of the passage between Porch Cottage and Larkspur Cottage. I spent many hours sitting with him in his shop, watching him at work.

Most of the villagers who came with their boots and shoes to be repaired would sit down and have a chat and a laugh – the pace of life was much different in those days. I remember my grandfather would hold the rivets he was using in his mouth and still carry on with the conversation. I used to be taken out in my pram by Dorothy (Doff) Bumpstead (Martin, that was), who lived in The Limes. I often see Dorothy and we have a laugh about those days – she still remembers the hot jam tarts or buns that my mother would have ready for us when we came home.

Our neighbour was Mr Akehurst. He had a son, David, who was a chef at a London hotel. After a bungalow had been built at Little Thurlow Green, Mr Akehurst moved there and Mrs Bradnam, who had been at Street Farm, moved next door. She owned both the cottages and was a nice friendly lady.

My brother, Michael, was born in 1933. Life in our cottage was very cosy. The table in the centre of the living room was the hub of activity during the winter months. The paraffin oil lamp stood on the table in the evenings, and we all sat round the table to read, draw, and play cards, draughts or dominoes, while my mother worked at her ironing, sewing, mending and knitting and sometimes made hearth rugs by pegging strips of material on to a Hessian backing.

The room was heated by a cooking range, a ‘Tortoise’, which was cleaned and polished with black lead. The flues had to be cleaned at regular intervals for the oven to function properly. The flat irons were heated on the top of the stove, as were the saucepans and kettles. Coal and wood were the fuels used. During the summer months, the cooking and boiling of kettles was done on the paraffin oil stoves, Valor and Beatrice being the most popular makes (some single- and some double-wick burners).

Almost everyone kept chickens and a cockerel. Surplus eggs from the summer months were preserved, ‘put down’ in a bucket using waterglass and used during the winter months for cooking. The cockerel provided the Christmas dinner.

We had a ‘Cossor’ wireless set, which used three batteries: two dry ones, a high tension and a gridbias, and a wet battery, an accumulator which had to be recharged. The used batteries were collected weekly by Chapman’s of Haverhill and exchanged for a charged one. Each customer had their own batteries with their name on. Popular programmes we listened to were Henry Hall’s Guest Night, In Town Tonight, Music Hall and the News and Sport. We were limited to the amount of time we used the wireless in case the accumulator ran out.

My father had an allotment which produced a regular supply of vegetables, plus some cordon apple trees he had grafted, together with raspberries, gooseberries, strawberries and red and blackcurrants. So, since my mother was a good cook we had some very nice meals. The surplus fruit was preserved, some being bottled and some made into jams and jelly. We also used to gather crab apples for mother to make into crab apple jelly. Water for drinking and cooking had to be fetched in buckets from the pump outside 120 The Street. Water for baths and washing clothes was taken from the water butts, using the rain water collected from the roofs.

During the summer months when the "soft water" had all been used up, water was carried up from the river in buckets, using a shoulder yoke and chains. Steps were cut into the river bank to enable us to delve the buckets in the water. It was quite a long walk, all uphill, but it had to be done to be ready for the Monday wash. The water was heated in a copper located in the back-place, which used the same flue as the fireplace. I sometimes helped my mother by turning the handle on the mangle.

The outside toilet was down the garden. During the winter months a visit to the privy in the hours of darkness was quite an adventure (especially if it was snowing), and we carried a lantern that held a candle to find the way. Our toilet like most was covered in honeysuckle and in the summer months it gave off a very pleasant scent.

Living in a thatched cottage so close to the road caused some anxious moments when the road repairmen were working nearby, as the tar-pots were coal-fired and the steamroller would sometimes stop outside while the driver stoked up his fire. The chimney should have been covered by a spark-protector but this was not always the case, and when the roller moved off sometimes a few red-hot sparks were released. The worry then was where they were going to land. The thatch was usually bone dry, since the summers were mostly hot and dry in those days.




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