Interviews & Memories
Members of the Threapwood History group have conducted a series of interviews with residents of Threapwood past and present to try and capture memories of times past. The group is grateful to all those who have taken part. Any comments on the interviews should be made to our facilitator David Paton by email.
Just click on the names below for each interview or memory;
This interview is the first audio recording made by the group in July 2011. Vera Hannaway was a native of Liverpool who, during World War 2, was evacuated to Threapwood. Now living in the USA Vera relates her experiences in Threapwood to David Paton. Click on the "Play" button below and turn on your speakers.
Update - David Paton
Thanks to her lifetime friendship with our committee member Jill Broad, Vera Hannaway has visited our village twice in recent years and as well as the ‘sound’ version above she has now given us a written copy of her memories of being in Threapwood during her two years here as an evacuee. Vera lived in Paradise Street in Liverpool and was first evacuated with her older sister and her twin sister in 1941 to the home of a Mrs Hughes and her dog Heather in Chester. It must have been a huge wrench for those families concerned as parents were not allowed to go with their children as obviously it would have been almost impossible for parents, billeting officers and receiving householders to have taken whole families into their own family homes for an indefinite period.
From Chester they were moved to a farm where she was unwillingly put on a cart horse which she remembers not liking! They were then moved to what she describes as a ‘grand house’ when for the only time they met the owner. There the elder sister, Pauline, looked after them all collecting them from school, getting their meals as well as looking after their daily needs. From here they were moved to an ‘ordinary house’ and it was here that Pauline had her 14th birthday which meant that they all had to return back to Liverpool as it appears that 14 year olds did not qualify for evacuation? They had an elder brother who had gone to war and been torpedoed, rescued and on his return home to Liverpool insisted that his sisters must be evacuated again! So Vera and Shirley’s story continues........
Shirley & Vera Hannaway
We were evacuated from St. Clair R.C. School in Liverpool. Prior to that we had attended St. Peter's on Seel Street. St. Peter's had been heavily damaged during the bombings of the dock area of Liverpool. Our family moved to the suburbs of Sefton Park. This was further away from the docks, where my mother owned a newspaper and tobacco shop. We were not in the school building at the time of the bombing. On the day that the St. Clair school group was leaving, Mama walked with us as we joined them, walking down Gainsborough Avenue. We all got on a bus to Lime Street Station in the city. My father worked there. My twin and I were the last to get on me bus. Mama kissed me goodbye, but the bus conductor kept hurrying us and shouting at us to get on. In the rush Mama didn’t have a chance to kiss Shirley goodbye. For the rest of the time that we were evacuated, Shirley thought that mama didn't love her because she hadn't kissed her goodbye.
Our parents were not told specifically where we were going. This was for security reasons, fearing the trains full of children would be sabotaged. When we got to our destination we wrote to our parents to let them know where we were living. We were sent to the closest place that seemed safe from being bombed. We went to the border of North Wales. The children from London were sent to South Wales and other places out in the country. When we got on the train in Lime Street Station I don't remember being upset, or the other children crying. I think it was more about being excited. We changed trains along the way but I didn't know the name of the station. There were women on the platform with a bag for us containing a sandwich and an apple. Shirley and I were given one bag between us. Twins as usual, had to share. From the last train, we went on a bus to Threapwood.
While we were on the bus, riding through the village, the children were shouting out and claiming the houses where they wanted to live. 'I want that one! They have a horse!" I want that one! They have cows!" The bus took us to a two room school. We were all put in one room and a Mrs. Broad from the village took charge. I found out later that she was an Aunt of my friend, Jill Broad. The people of the village came in to pick the children they wanted. The bigger boys went first, they could help on the farms. As we were from a Catholic school, the children were from large families. When the eldest child of the family was chosen, he or she would say "My mum said we all have to stay together". Well, this wasn't possible, so there was a lot of crying as the families were separated.
I think there were about fifteen or twenty children in our group. When we arrived, Mrs. Broad immediately pulled Shirley and I to the side. She had us stand behind her, away from the other children. I think she recognised that we looked a little different from the usual poor Liverpool Irish children. Our hair was clean and shiny, our shoes were polished and we had no safety pins holding our clothes together. When all the children had a home to go to, Mrs. Broad put us in her car. 'Well, we were thinking we were going to stay with the Broad's and they owned a car which was very rare at that time. But no, she drove us to the Platt's house. Mrs. Platt worked in the Broad's home. I know that she did the laundry and ironing for them. Mrs. Platt opened tile door.
She was a woman of about thirty years of age, very slim and neat looking. She had black lace up shoes, a white apron with a bib which covered her clothes. Her dress was three quarters in length - and to top it off, she was wearing what looked to me like a nurse's hat or a Dutch cap. I had never seen a woman wear this before. She had high cheek bones, rosy cheeks and bright eyes like a bird. Mary Poppins, without the magic. Mrs. Platt stood in her doorway on the top step. She told Mrs. Broad "I'm not taking any more vac's". We were standing off the steps, on either side of Mrs. Broad. Mrs. Broad had one hand in each of our backs and kept pushing us forward. We would take one step forward up onto the step, and then one step back down. This on and off the step went on for a few minutes. Finally, Mrs. Broad said to Mrs. Platt "Will you just keep them for the weekend? I have another place for them but it is getting late and is too dark to go now. I will pick them up from you on Monday." Mrs. Platt must have liked us because we were with her and Mr. Platt for two years.
My twin sister and I (pictured right) were about eight years old when we went to 'the Platt's. We were the youngest children in our family, with four older sisters who doted on us and looked after us whilst our mother ran her tobacconist shop. They dressed us, fed us and put us to bed. It could he said that our feet never touched the floor. When Mrs. Platt took us to bed the first night, we stood there wailing for her to undress us. She said "Come on, get undressed." We only took our gym slips off. Again, she told us to get undressed. We replied "But what if mere is an air raid?” We had been sleeping in air raid shelters and under the stairs for weeks. We were afraid we would have to run out of the house and not have enough clothes on! Mrs. Platt told us that there would not be any bombs there. We were able to go to sleep for the first time in a long time, without the fear of our house being bombed. For our first dinner at the Platt's, we sat at the table, our food in front of us and our hands folded in our laps. Mrs. Platt said "Come on eat up”. We replied "Who is going to cut up our food?" She told us to cut our own food, and we did.
After we had been with them for a few days, Mrs. Platt asked us if we knew how to sew on a button. The answer was no. She showed us how. She also taught us to sew a hem and repair the elastic in our knickers. She also taught us things about her garden. We learned the names of all of her flowers. I remember very well, a big garden of nasturtiums behind the double doors that let into the back yard of the Broad's, where the bakery and town water pump was. Mr. and Mrs. Platt taught us a lot about country living and the right thing to do. Of course, we came from a very good family and that made us all the more compatible. Our parents were given a list of clothing we would have to take with us. I only remember the shoes. They were to be lace up boots and clogs, something that no one in Liverpool wore. I hated them. We wore the boots to school. We wore the clogs at home and on the weekends. We also had black patent leather ankle band shoes. I think they are now called Mary Jane's.
I believe that the British Government paid the foster parent's money, but I have no idea how much. Mr. Platt went out to work each day, walking to a nearby farm. As far as I knew he milked the cows and did general farm labour. He looked like a farmer. He was well built with red cheeks and sandy coloured hair. He was land and jovial. He would let us sit on his lap. We would sit on either side of him and each comb one side of his hair. He would tell us silly rhymes. At times, Mrs. Platt seemed to step in between us and Mr. Platt and stop our fun. I realize now that she was reminding him not to get too close or attached to us, that we could be taken back to Liverpool at a moment’s notice. Mrs. Platt was not affectionate with us. I can see now that she was also protecting herself for the day that we would leave them.
We were Catholic and the Platt's were Protestant. They never talked religion to us. They took us with them to their little church for a Thanksgiving service. I can remember feeling like we were a family, as I was standing next to them in church. I think they felt the same way, as they seemed very happy that day. Mrs. Platt would get us up very early, in the dark, on Sunday mornings. She took great care in putting our hair in plaits and dressing us in our ankle bands, white socks and best coats. She would put our berets on our heads with great deliberation and then say "And they better look like that when you get back." We would go to Mass in Malpas. A bus would drive around the village, picking up Catholic children to take them to Mass. As soon as we would get on the bus, the boys would start teasing us and our hats were snatched off our heads and thrown around the bus. It was so upsetting. What would Mrs. Platt say? On the way home from mass we would sort each other out before getting home.
Our Protestant friends went to chapel on Sunday afternoons. We would walk with them and then play around outside until they came out. Every week they would beg us to go into the chapel with them. Every week, we would tell them that we were not allowed to go into a Protestant church. One Sunday, they dared us and then double dared us. Well, you can't say no to a double dare. I was not at all impressed with this Protestant chapel. I looked around and decided right there and then that I would not become a Protestant. There were no candles, no incense, no paintings, no "what colour is the priest wearing today". No glamour in this at all. I don't think being a Protestant was for me. When we walked out of the chapel, it just so happened that a Catholic girl was walking by. Shirley said to me "There Margaret. She will tell on us." We didn't think any more about it. When we got to school on Monday there was a silence in the class room. Our teacher, Mr. Shannon was walking up and down in front of me class. He asked us our surname and was our father a Catholic and was he from the North or the South. As we were only eight or nine years of age, we had no idea what he was talking about. He told the class what we had done. I thought the German's were the enemy, not the Protestants.
I sent a telegram to our parents to inform them what we had done. They ignored the telegram because there were more pressing matters at hand. At the time, Liverpool was still being heavily bombed and our older brother Stan, who was in The Royal Navy, was missing in action. His ship had been torpedoed for the second time. Thank God, they later found out that he had been picked up by a German ship and was in a prisoner of war camp. He returned home after the war was over. I remember going to Malpas one day with children from Threapwood. We were playing around the cross or monument in the middle of the road. There was not any traffic in those days. A man was nearby and-heard our Liverpool accents. He started questioning us, thinking we were runaways. The other children explained that we were with them. He asked about us because, there were some evacuees that just walked off from their foster homes, trying to get back to Liverpool.
One of the happiest days I remember from when we were evacuated, was when we went to a farm to help bring the harvest in. The Platt's and a lot of other neighbours were also there helping. It was a lot of fun, playing with other children. The adults also seemed to be having a good time, working and laughing together. One day Mrs. Platt told us that Mrs. Broad was taking us to the Chester Zoo. She told us the Chester Zoo was not far from Liverpool and we might see someone that we knew. Jill Broad's Grandmother was taking us. Mrs. Platt told us she was bringing sandwiches for us. We walked through the zoo and I don't remember seeing a single animal. I was searching all the faces walking towards me. I was hoping I would see Mama or Dada, or Auntie and Uncle Bob, or maybe a customer from my mother's shop, or Doreen, a little girl we played with in Liverpool. No, I didn't see anyone I knew, but I did have lunch to look forward to. Oh, it was going to be more than we were used to. Biscuits and sweets and that delicious meat paste that I had only tasted once or twice. I was always so hungry during the war years. Big let-down. We had cucumber sandwiches. So, the big outing to the zoo was a big disappointment. I didn't see anyone I knew or get to eat lots of exotic food like cake or meat paste.
|William Platt - photo courtesy of Jill Lewis|
Jill Broad was our closest friend while we lived in Threapwood. We would play around the side of the house where there was a little alcove. It had a long seat against the wall. We played with dolls, dressing and undressing them. I think they all belonged to Jill. They were such happy days, in what we called "Rose Cottage". Every now and then Jill's mother would come rushing around the back, give a quick look-in, and then back to the house. Sometimes she would ask us to pick berries for a pie she was making. We would just be taking our time and messing about, while we were supposed to be picking. She would have to come out two or three times to see how much we had, before there was enough for a pie. On Saturdays it was our job to clean out the hen house. It was at the end of me field, right next to the road. As the hen house was elevated, we could see over the hedge.
We would spend most of our time talking to passers-by. It took us all afternoon to finish the job. This was probably by design, to keep us out of the house and Mrs. Platt's way. I have read a lot of books about evacuees, how badly some were treated by their foster families. That was not the case with us. The Platt's were very good to us. We were very well taken care of, we were never shouted at or had to be punished. The only memory I have of the day we left Threapwood was being excited and happy to leave. We longed to go back to Liverpool and to be with Mama and Dada and our four big sisters. I didn't realise until I had children of my own, what a loss it would have been for the Platt's when we left. For as good as they were, I always had a longing for Liverpool. After we left Threapwood, Mama asked if we would like to visit the Platt's. We went to visit a few times during the summer months. When I grew up I married an American serviceman and moved to America.
On my return visits to England, I always made time to see the Platt's. On one of my later visits I asked them what it was like for them when we left. Mrs. Platt said "Well, I didn't know what was wrong with me. I was just so unsettled. I kept walking to the window at four o'clock, expecting to see you walking down the lane. All I had left of you was a button off of one of your coats. It was in my button box."
In closing I would like to say that hardly a day passes that I don't think of the Platt's. I am now eighty one years old. I didn't know how much they loved us and didn't know how much I loved them. I wish I had told them how much I loved them.
At the end of the war most evacuees were able to return home and life for them and their war time hosts resumed as normal. The contribution of those who had opened up their homes was marked by a letter sent out in the name of Queen Elizabeth (wife of King George VI) which thanked those involved. A letter was also sent to returning evacuees from King George VI in which he marked the end of what for many would have been a traumatic experience. The letters received after the war by Mrs Platt and Vera Hannaway herself are shown below.
I was born and brought up at Rose Cottage, Back Lane, Threapwood and have one brother and two sisters. I enjoyed every minute of my childhood. We never had a lot of money but everyone seemed to share in those days. My Great Grandmother, Mrs Mary Blything, was the local nurse and my Dad used to tell us she very often had to rush off to either help bring a baby into the world or to lay someone out who had left this world! I remember my Dad, Jim Blything, used to help Mr Pembridge at the church and used to call him Old Pem. Dad used to have to go early to get his surplice and the communion ready. The fair that Lucy talks about in her interview used to be set up in dad's field and sometimes a circus came and we would have a free go on rides and/or stalls because it was our field! The first telephone that I remember was at Auntie Mary Cluttons at Horseshoe Cottage and you had to wind it up to use it!
I remember going to Broughton Hall to see Sir Watkin William Wynn's Hunt meeting and the lovely big Oak trees along the road to the hall on both sides. My husband, Ted used to work for the agricultural contractor Bill Vickers and when they planted Miss Howard's fields they had to leave a footpath through the crop for her to be taken to Worthenbury Church. When we had the annual Sunday School Trip nearly all of the local mothers and children would go and some of us would all share our picnic on the beach. I remember Dad being Lord Mayor and Mrs Joe Dutton, our neighbour, being Lady Mayoress for the annual Sarn Wakes.
I remember a Miss Sellers teaching at the school plus Mr Blann who later went on to be headmaster at Malpas Alport School. At school I remember Miss Mountford dishing out our school dinners. She used to roll her false teeth around in her mouth and the lads used to tell us not to have the gravy because they had seen her drop her teeth in it earlier!! I remember taking the slops to Pickerings with two of us to each bucket. On our way to school in the autumn we used to collect rose hips to be sold to make rose-hip jelly or juice. I remember two huge bears just inside the doors at Broughton Hall.
I remember one of the first cars that I saw was a very funny looking vehicle because the boot lid lifted up with an additional seat underneath it which was called the Dickie Seat. A Mr Nate Dulson drove a Miss Royles about the area in this car.
My Dad, Jim and his uncle William were at one time together in the army in the Northumberland Fusiliers.
We used to get our drinking water from Mr Shillam who was married to Sally Cotton. Our washing water was carried up from the Drumbers brook and/or rainwater caught in tubs from our roofs. Are any of the pumps and wells still working? If not they should be as the water was lovely. Mr Shillam used to mend shoes and sometimes repaired our family shoes free of charge in return for something which my mother had knitted or sown for them.
I loved reading the memories of Lucy and I am aware that my memory is not as good as hers but I know of a lot of families who still have relations near and some sadly who have apparently disappeared. Sometimes I wonder where are the Haywoods, Hoopers and Bebbingtons The Greaves. I still see Lily Dawson (nee Fowles) who lived where Arthur Dulson lived in the old house at the back of Lilac House, although she is 90 she still comes to Whist Drives! I have loved reading other peoples 'memories' and hope that mine have been useful as well.
Memories of LA
After the above interview with Elizabeth Crump appeared on the website a reader got in touch to share her own memories and family history research. An edited version of her letter to Mrs Crump appears below.
Dear Mrs Crump,
First of all I would like to thank you for allowing David to pass on to me your details. I started looking into my family tree last year; at times I wish I had never started, at others I wish I had started when my Grandmother was still with me. My mother's family (BIything) originate from Tarporley and I will try and explain how I get back to Threapwood, so here goes.
My Mother was born 17th April 1942 - Joyce Gwendoline BIything. Her father was Horace BIything born 1st September 1913. His father was Oswald BIything born 1887 - Died 31st December 1971 aged 84, he is buried in St Helen's Church yard Tarporley. At the age of 15 he worked as a cowhand at a farm in Tattenhall. He lived at Birch Heath Road Tarporley, before moving into Rose Mount Farm, Tarporley. Oswald had the following Brothers & Sisters:
Mary Ann born 1875, Thomas born 1877, Benjamin born 1879, William born 1880, Margaret born
1884, Ellen born 1887, Nellie born 1890, Fred born 1891, Edward Arthur born 1894, & Lilly born
Oswald's father was Benjamin BIythin (they dropped the G) 1851-1914 (married to Rebecca Dodd). Her father is registered as Ellis Davies. They married at the Parish church of Threapwood which at the time was in the county of Flint on the 29th December 1874. They were married by Aaron BIythin who was the Vicar of Threapwood. Aaron was Benjamin's brother. Benjamin also had another brother Thomas born 1856 and two sisters Ellen 1849 and Mary or Margaret.
Benjamin's father was Benjamin born 1817 in Iscoed he was married to Mary Jones, born 1819. On the 1841 1851 & 1871 census they are registered as living in Threapwood next door to the Vicarage. Benjamin's (1817) father was Benjamin BIything born 1791 - 1864 (from what I have found out he ended his days in Goldbourn Bellows, Tattenhall. He also was married to a Mary. Benjamin's (1791) father was also Benjamin born we think in 1760 and lived near to Shocklach.
I hope I have been able to explain my connection to Threapwood and therefore a possible connection to you. My next move is to visit Threapwood and view the parish records to see if I can find any further information.
John Raymond (Ray) Fox was born at Dymocks Mill close to Threapwood in 1936 to John and Lilly Fox. His father John was also born at the Mill back in 1898. His grandfather, another John, had moved there two years earlier from the Queens Head at Sarn where he had met his wife Alice Woodall who lived on the other side of the brook at Sarn Mill.
Milling was the principal occupation for the family and one of Ray's first memories at Dymocks Mill was playing in the mill when one of the large oak spokes of the crown wheel cracked his head. His father had a good team of horses that would be used to collect grain from Malpas so that it could be milled and sold on as cattle feed to local farmers. The mill had a flour dressing machine but Ray can't remember it being used. An oak plaque above the door at Dymocks Mill was inscribed with the words: "Remember miller , be kind unto the poor and of the rich take but thy due, be shoor. WDM".
Situated in the bottom of the Wych Valley with its steep slopes on either side the Mill could be an inhospitable place to live at times. In winter the low sun seldom reached the valley floor and Ray can remember long periods of freezing weather and having to break the ice for the animals to drink which included a number of cows that had to be milked each day. In times of heavy rain the sluice gates had to be opened to prevent the mill pond overflowing and it was not uncommon for the surrounding fields in the valley floor to be flooded. However, in summer the mill was popular with local children who used to come there to swim in the mill pool.
Ray recalls that one day when the mill was in operation he was sent to close the sluice gate and noticed something silver below. His father got him to stand in the water wheel while he released the object from the sluice gate and Ray had to catch the eel with his hands. It was quite common for them to catch and eat the eels. They used to rub their hands in salt to help grip the slippery creatures. Another day the water close to the sluice gate shimmered silver as a shoal of sticklebacks gathered.
As the Mill was located on the Flintshire side of the Sarn Brook, Ray went to school at Tallarn Green. The school had about 60 pupils aged between five and fourteen split into three classes. The teachers were Mary Birch, Miss Lloyd and the senior Mr Jones. He can remember playing one day in the valley behind the school when one of the older lads broke his leg jumping across the brook. To get him back up the slope they took one of the toilet doors off and used it as a makeshift stretcher. He recalls seeing his first film in Tallarn Green projected onto a screen at the back of a traveling van.
As with most of the children, Ray left school at fourteen and besides helping his parents with the mill and farm he started work with Albert Williams who was expanding his business as an electrician wiring houses to embrace the emerging market for televisions. Albert was married to Lucy Williams who still lives at the Groves in Back Lane. After a few months he was offered an apprenticeship with Stuart Pinnington where he worked as an assistant with a TV engineer who had moved up from London. The engineer decided to set up his own repair business and Ray moved with him.
At the age of twenty one, Ray signed up for his national service. After a spell of square bashing at Bridgenorth, Ray was posted to the early warning radar station at Neatishead in Norfolk and then to the fighter control base in Cyprus where he gained valuable experience.
Back in the UK, Ray joined Stan Rooke at Malpas Electrical just as colour television began to take hold. The business was based at the Market House and he remembers a cellar below with a bricked up entrance to what used to be a tunnel running under the road towards the Vaults Public House on the other side. Ray saw the potential market for colour televisions and decided to set up his own business. He bought the old Chapel at Horseman's Green where he lived with his wife Irene and converted the adjacent cottage to a workshop from which he traded as J.R. Fox Ltd. until he sold the business in 2002.
In 1973 Ray and Irene did a swap with his parents who were by then living in a cottage known as Lansdale that was reached along a cinder track off Back Lane in Threapwood. The old cottage required serious renovation and it was decided to replace it with a new dwelling which now stands on the original site. A year later their son Carlton was born and now lives at Lansdale with his wife Joanne and children Lucy and Alfie. Ray and Irene have moved to a smaller property in Prees but keep in close contact with their family and friends in Threapwood.
Rays parents had purchased the cottage from Harold and Sally Shillam. Harold used to like a drink and Ray recalls the story of him taking one of Sally's cows to market at Whitchurch. He spent most of the proceeds in the pub but managed to buy some sausages which were seen trailing out of his pocket as he staggered home along the cinder track. Harold was a cobbler and his workshop - a green timber shed still stands in the garden at Lansdale. Ray remembers the old cottage having two rooms downstairs with winding stairs to a single large room above. Water was drawn by a hand pump which was subsequently purchased by Albert Williams and now stands at The Groves. He remembers gleaming horse brasses over the old black range that always had a kettle suspended on an arm where it simmered above the stove ready to make a cup of tea for any callers. The outside walls of the cottage were lime-washed to help waterproof the brickwork. The old farmstead behind the neighbouring Hollies is one of the few examples of this treatment still remaining in the area. The toilet was down the garden in a small brick structure with a thatched roof.
Ray recalls a big frost in 1947 with the roads iced up for over a month. Ridges of ice built up along the middle of the roads and welding machines had to be used to generate a current that would warm and defrost the pipes below the surface. It was not uncommon for water supplies to be frozen up and he remembers providing water to Daisy Nixon at Welsh View when her stand pipe froze.
Don and Amy Banks lived across the valley from Lansdale at the Mill House where they kept cows for milking. Mrs Banks was known for being forthright and her raised voice could often be heard as she argued with her husband or anyone else that got in her way but occasionally things got more serious when the sound of buckets being thrown around the milking shed rang out. The Banks' cattle would often get out and wander along the lanes foraging for anything on offer - hence the reason for a cattle grid at the end of the drive to Lansdale. The Banks' owned what was by then the already derelict Windmill, the sails had blown off in a gale but much of the running gear was still in place. Ray's Mother can remember it as a bit of a playground and sliding down the sack hoist chain. Another colourful character was Sid Griffiths who lived in Greaves Lane. He could regularly be heard singing hymns and Vera Lynn type classics at the top of his voice - fortunately he had a good voice. Sid used to cycle to Whitchurch with a cart behind his bike to carry the shopping. It would not be uncommon to see Sid cycling round Threapwood with his adult sister in the cart.
The Chapel provided a focus for the community with events being held on the adjacent field. Ray recalls the last event to be held on the field - a celebration of the wedding of Charles and Diana sometime after the Chapel had been closed. Likewise the hut at Tallarn Green had also provided entertainment and back in the 1940's he remembers singers and conjurors performing there. On one occasion he recalls a small traveling fair with swings and roundabouts setting up in the field at Lansdale to entertain the local population.
Jane has many lovely memories of her childhood in Threapwood - a very happy time,with lots to do and surrounded by a busy and kindly community -few cars, everyone walked or cycled. Jane was born in Shocklach, moved to 2, Chapel Cottages in 1944, Both her mother, Irene and father, Lesley were born in homes in Shocklach owned by Broughton Hall. The family moved to; Mayborne cottage in 1945 where sister Pam, was born, then Martin, who still lives at Mayborne. She has an older brother, Ken and sister, Doreen. Remembers table in centre of the room with lamp hanging over. They would read or listen to the radio, . Dick Barton, Special Agent Father, Lesley, was manager of Home Farm which was always immaculate. He was the eldest of 8 children and the first to be married so lived at Mayborne Cottage. Two of his brothers, Jim and Sam worked at Broughton Hall. He had 2 uncles who also worked at Broughton Hall -Bill Mort cycled from Farndon,Fred Citlorv who looked after the horses. He was married to Annie who cooked for Miss Howard.
They lived in Greaves Lane. Jane remembers red squirrels in the wood, nut trees in the orchard. there were 3 orchards, one for middle lodge, bottom and Mayborne. When Jones bought farm, kept pigs and wrecked everything. Glass house -back of what is now Broughton Park, was for grapes. Veg and flowers for the house, azaleas/rhododendrons/lilacs were just in Broughton House grounds. Family kept 2 pigs, one to eat, one to sell. Hampton Butchers delivered once a week. Mother went out for the day when pigs killed. Some shops locally but many shops also had delivery vans. Mr Ball fish/fruit and veg came once a week - had Probins shop in Malpas - had open sided vehicle and scales. Broads delivered food, with a big order on Friday.
There was a P.O. in Oldcastle Lane and garage at smithy. The best fish and chips were in Malpas, where the laundrette is now. Threapwood School 3 classes - Mrs Davis- infants, Mr Bland - juniors, Miss Sellars - destroyed all the photos. They had no toys to play with so were told to chase leaves. Jane left at 15 and went to work at Purcells, bakers at the Sarn, in the bake house. She had a bike, her pride and joy, bought when she was 12 from Furbers of Malpas. She worked five and a half days a week, came home for lunch every day.
Purcells had delivery vans going to Worthenbury and Shocklach. Gladdies shop on the way to Malpas, he had a delivery van, she would get a penny sugar bun on Fridays. During school holidays, Jane with Rita Langford and Sibyl Evans would be out from early morning until late - looking for the first new flowers - violets, primroses, cowslips and bluebells. They knew where the birds were nesting, how many eggs on each nest and how many hatched. They would paddle in the brook on Parrys Lane if there was no bull in, the field - if he was there, they would run like mad! Spent most of the summer by brook on Parrys Lane - from early morning till they were hungry at teatime!
In the winter, they would go sledging in Broad's field. Jane's brother made the sledge, so heavy it took 3 to pull it up. Remembers sledging in the moonlight. Sunday's Sunday school in congregational chapel by monument. Would dress up, wear straw hats and sing for their parents on 'Children's Anniversary'. They would take 6 pence or 1 shilling per week to save up for trip to Rhyl or Southport in the summer. They went to Threapwood Church where Irene arranged the flowers - that Jane does now. Lesley was a sides man at Shocklach Church for 54 years. Jane remembers sitting on the crossbar of Dad's bike with Pam in the basket -going to Church or to Grandma's.After work
The bus went to Wrexham 3 times 1-5pm. Bus for Chester Saturday 9am. Went shopping on sat afternoon, for the dance on sat night.
Mayfair dress shop. Wrights corner shop, Lloyd Williams M&S and Woolies. First pair of nylons cost 9/11d, from C D Jones. Jane's wages were spent on a pair of high heeled shoes, Saturday nights she would bike to Malpas, Jubilee Hall, catch the Tilley [mini] bus to either Bickerton or, sometimes Whitchurch to the dance. Sometimes there were dances at Tallarn Green or Farndon when she would go on her bike.Jane married Leigh at Shocklach Church and lived there until they moved to Bottom Lodge, and has lived there for 50 years.
Leigh had his Dad's car, then he bought his own, worked as an agricultural engineer for Kirby's, Rogers and Jacksons, was made redundant so became self employed.Broughton Hall
Jane remembers Miss Howard in a wheelchair and called her 'Lesley's daughter 'Jane remembers her mother talking of Miss H playing organ in Shocklach Church with diamond rings on her fingers.Top Lodge/Broughton Lodge
2W Rees Lang Foxall1958 Mrs Woods 1954? Mewes Ken Fawkes 2 children, Peter and Ann, Moved 1953 Gibbons - 3 boys, Denis, Dick and John, Eileen Lambit 3 sons one called John.
Kennet-shot Trixie, Jane's cat. Gave Pam spaniel [Candy] on her firstbirthday1930/40's Bill Feeman Gamekeeper
I was born at `Rose Villa' Sam Bank, Threapwood, in January 1937 - the only child of John and Hannah Davies. My mother a teacher from North Wales came to Tallarn Green School on supply work in 1925 - met and years later married my father who lived at the 'Mill House' Sam. He worked in the Mill Office all his working life. My parents moved to 'Rose Villa' in 1936. The house at that time was owned by Mrs Herbert Bate who lived at Upper Wood Farm (opposite the church), later to be farmed by the Pickering Family. We later bought the house from Mr Bate and my parents spent the rest of their lives at 'Rose Villa'.
My earliest memories include being taken in my pram to 'Sam Bank Farm' - Mr and Mrs Frank Young lived there and the front part of the farmhouse (facing the hills) was a small shop, which I believe in earlier days was run by Mrs Young's mother, Mrs Allen. Shortly afterwards, in September 1939 the Second World War against Germany was declared; and life for everyone became very hard indeed. All married teachers had to return to work and my mother soon commenced her duties at Threapwood School in 1940 - she taught the Infants. The Head Teacher at the time was Mrs Herbert Bate, formerly Miss Dorothy Coates. She had become Mrs Bates' second wife and taught at Threapwood for years.
As the air raids really got under way we all had to live with blackout curtains at all windows. Checks were made to make sure no light showed from within the buildings. The German planes arrived each night - on their way to bomb Merseyside. A number of bombs were dropped on this area and many people thought that the pilots looking for the munitions factory at Marchwiel (now the Wrexham Trading Estate) saw the dark mass of the Greaves Wood and let the bombs go! The men of the village went out every night on look out. I remember night after night being rushed under the stairs as the planes came over.
In no time our lives were changed by the arrival of school children and their teachers - bombed from their homes in the Liverpool area. Threapwood School was now packed out! The children, many of them without any clothes to wear were taken into our homes. What an upheaval for everyone concerned! A little girl `Jean' came to us and my mother sent frantic letters to her sisters in North Wales for any children's' clothes they could spare, not just for us, but for our neighbours also - some of whom had never had a family but suddenly had two or three young children arrive on their doorstep with hardly a thing to wear - panic all round!
Soon large brown parcels would arrive from the family, the contents pounced on with delight and sending Mum running up the road with help for our friends. Somehow, we all came through the trials and tribulations of those years; life was hard then and for some years to come, as many of us had no electricity or running water in our homes. We had to carry many buckets of water a day for all uses. We carried it from 'Sam Bank Farm' if they had pumped some up, or from the well at 'Well House' Sarn. It truly was hard work up and down the Sam bank!
One happy memory when I was a teenager does stand out - it was June 1953. The celebration of The Queen's Coronation. The Threapwood village celebrations were held at 'Broughton Hall' (sadly long demolished) by kind invitation of Major and Mrs Wood. The weather was cold but things went ahead and I well remember all the small televisions placed around in order for us all to see the event! For many of us it was the first time we saw television!! I still have a Coronation Medal given to me that day, not, I hasten to add for taking part in sports but for helping (along with many friends from the village) prepare the food for the Big Day! We spent hours in the Hall working very hard but I'm sure we all enjoyed ourselves. Lovely memories.
In her childhood she remembers that Threapwood in her opinion was a very friendly place to live where everyone knew everybody else, where there was a good community spirit and neighbours would always be on hand to help anyone who was unwell or needed a hand to do a particular job.
She attended the local Threapwood School where the main subjects were the 3Rs Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (no calculators of course) with a little history and geography, always one hour of scripture (RE) and a lot of different handicrafts including leatherwork. The school had two teachers Miss Stevenson who lodged at Frontier House with Totty Pallin (whose brother's name Alf is on the war memorial). The second teacher was Miss Lovatt.
At the age of 11, Lucy continued her education at Tallarn Green School along with Tom and Harry James, Mary Birch and Betty Taylor. This was because their parents thought Tallarn Green School was better than Threapwood. The move was as simple as her father going to the school and having a chat with the teachers and arranging a date to start.
Games played at school and other times were rounders, marbles, conkers, bowler (metal ring about the thickness of your finger with a hook on a handle, the hook went around the metal ring and you ran along with the bowler).
Public transport from the village was much better than today. There was a bus service every day Monday-Saturday going to Wrexham in the morning and returning in the afternoon. This service was operated by Hodson and William of Marchwiel. As well as this there were four extra routes on a Thursday and Saturday, the last bus out of Wrexham on a Thursday and Saturday being 21.30hrs.
At this time villages made their own entertainment but much time was spent by all members of each family in looking after animals. Virtually everyone in the village had one or two cows, always kept at least two pigs fed as much as possible on scraps usually one being sold and one being killed and eaten by the family after curing in a tunnel, the sides of bacon being hung from hooks on a beam as well as making sausages, black puddings and brawn. Most families had at least enough hens to provide them with eggs, many having eggs to take to Wrexham for sale. Everyone had a large vegetable garden and grew enough potatoes for the year and other vegetables for at least their own use.
This meant that the food eaten in those days did not have the continuous variety we have now, meaning that menus were seasonal. But food was eaten fresh from the garden so inevitably still had all their nutritional value were natural, organic and did not contain the additives and chemicals we have in our food today. At this time also food was not wasted by "sell buy dates".
Returning to entertainment in the village it was traditional on Sundays to dress up, most villagers going to church or chapel then taking a walk around the village on these walks it was usual to meet up and chat with around 10 other families in the village as you walked around. During the summer months a number of garden parties would be organised usually one at Broughton Hall, one at the rectory and two at Greaves Villa, home of Billy Lea who had farmed at the Greaves Farm and built Greaves Villa for his retirement. Tickets for these events were one shilling (5 pence). There would be stalls, a bran tub, children's fancy dress and a band would play for dancing on the lawn. There would also be a charabanc Sunday School trip to either Llangollen or sometimes Rhyl.
Once a year everyone would enjoy the weekend of the Sam Wakes which was always busy as residents would invite relatives and friends to the event. There would be a fair with various stalls, coconut shy, shooting and swing boats. Various games and competition were organised two that stick in Lucy's mind are chasing the greasy pig and chasing the cockerel. There was also another event when once a year (early July) a travelling fair would set-up on the Drumbers Field in back land and would stay for 3-4 days.
The community was made up in the past (1 930s) of farmers, farm workers, cattle dealers, drovers, grooms, shop keepers/bakers, blacksmith (what is now Smithy Garage), publicans, rector and hustlers. Cattle dealers were Coopers, Dogland Farm and Albert Broad of Somerset House. Shops were Broads and Purcells and Mrs Jones' sweet shop at Wellhouse Sarn.
Hustlers were the villagers who had market stalls in either Wrexham or Chester. They were;
Mr Lloyd Gostage (Lucy Williams' father) Wrexham Market
Fred Atkin Wrexham Market
Speed Family Chester Market
Mrs Nicholson Wrexham Market
Annie Beckett Wrexham Market
Wrexham Butter Market had rows of slate slabs, here you could sell butter, cheese, vegetables, fruit or flowers, mushrooms when available from the surrounding fields were eagerly bought by the mining families of Wrexham. The cost of space in the market was one shilling per yard of space on the slab which included the yard under the slab.
Cattle drovers would regularly drive 30 to 50 cattle through the village usually with 4 dogs to or from the 2 cattle dealers in the village.
There were 3 doctors in Malpas, Dr Pauline and Dr Richie who were at Prospect House and Dr Jordason whose surgery was at the Hayes in Malpas. The district nurse lodged at Frontier House.
Mr Lanceley was the local vet who worked from the house next to the chemist (now a pet shop) in Malpas later the vet here was John Pollock.
The Post Office has moved around quite a bit and is first remembered (about 80 year's ago) at Cheshire Cottage (presently the home of John and Joan Cotton) run by the Ditchfields it was here that the first public telephones in the village was placed with a handle on the side which you had to turn. Prior to this the only telephone in the village were at Bank Farm (farmed by Lewis), Broughton Hall (Howards) and Somerset House (Albert Broad cattle dealer).
From Cheshire Cottage the Post Office moved to Bakers (The Blacksmith) who ran the Smithy (now Smithy Garage), Bakers were also the local coal merchant. From Bakers the Post Office moved to Reg Aliens, Oldcastle Lane run by Mrs Allen and from here to the cottage opposite Somerset House (lived in for many years by Mr and Mrs Suckley). It is thought that for a while there was no Post Office in Threapwood the nearest being in Tallarn Green. Now of course back at Smithy Garage in the hands of Ron and Helen Groves.
In the past the villagers of Threapwood really never needed to go to town shopping. Indeed Lucy says her mother only went once a year with a list she worked her way around Wrexham making the purchases on her list then returning back through the town collecting her purchases on her way back to catch the bus to return to Threapwood where she would be met by her husband to help carry the shopping. The reason for this is that there were numerous vans which called from house to house to sell their goods.
Purcells, Tallarn Green
Passeys, Chorlton Lane
Hiles, Malpas (later became Bradburys)
Reads, Hampton (later became George Hills)
Evans from Farndon sold many household items such as paraffin, soap, wallpaper and many other household items. McKay called once per month selling clothing - ladies, gents and childrens Tommy the Mug Man would call about 4 times a year, selling all types of crockery. There was a shop at Sam Bank Farm approximately 70 years ago run by Mrs Allen who sold groceries and other miscellaneous items. Mrs Allen was noted for the Christmas cakes she made and sold.
Until up to about 1800 much of the village of Threapwood was common land. A man could at this time claim for his own as much land as one man could fence in a day and build a shelter on the land and have a fire lit and smoke going up the chimney. Once a shelter had become established it could be enlarged and extended as time and money for materials became available.
The property where Lucy Williams lives, the Groves, can trace its origins back to this and is one of the houses of Threapwood that was established this way. The rateable value on the Groves was originally twelve pounds and ten shillings.
It has only been in the last 40-50 years that septic tanks were added to the house to enable the luxury of a WC. Until then everything was collected in the bucket in the toilet down the garden. There was always a trench dug in the garden where the bucket was emptied. The soil was later put back the trench filled and was then the place to plant the runner beans which always grew well.
The field on the left just past the brickyard towards Oldcastle has a spring and well, residents in Sandy Lane, Back Lane and Oldcastle Road collected water from here. A system was also put in place to pipe the water to wells at various properties in Oldcastle Road, Sandy Lane and Back Lane. This was done by the pressure from the spring and filled the wells starting with the first one at Top Wood once this was full water then passed on to the next well and so on. Residents from the Greaves Lane area would cross the fields to the spring in the Dingle for their water. Mains water was piped to the village and mains electricity was available in the village from about 55 years ago.
Windmill - This was owned in the late 1800s by George Kerrison who lived at the farm and worked at Broughton Hall. Lucy says that her father told the story of him marrying one of the maids who worked at Broughton Hall in his dinner hour. He took her back to the farm and said "this is Mr Kerrison's House and Mr Kerrison is master here" and then went back to work. At this time, about 120 years ago, Mr Kerrison would use the windmill to grind a few bags of corn for people but it was not worked commercially. The sails on the windmill came off in a gale about 80 years ago.
Churches/Chapels - St. Johns Church in Threapwood was joined with the church at Tallarn Green in the late 1800s/early 1900s. The rector was Rev. Malin who lived in the rectory in Tallarn Green. From approx 1930 St. Johns Church was combined with Worthenbury.
About 85 years ago the Rector was Rev. Pembridge and the church was combined with Worthenbury. Approximately 1945/50 after the second world war, St. Johns Church was combined with Shocklach St. Ediths.
The Congregational Chapel in Threapwood in the early 1920s was virtually full each Sunday and had a choir. There was a Sunday School which totaled approximately 20 children. The Chapel had its own minister Rev. Everett who lived in the manse in Chapel Lane, the next minster was Rev. Griffiths. At this time Threapwood Congregational Chapel was linked to Chorlton Lane Congregational Chapel. On 11th November 'armistice day' a service was held outside at the war memorial. Service was held on the date not the nearest Sunday.
Brickyard - The brickyard had a site each side of the Oldcastle Road. The site on the right-hand side going out of the village closed approximately 80 years ago. The site on the left-hand side continued until approximately 60 years ago and was run by Dan Fowles. Clay dug out was brought up to the surface level on small trucks on a track. On the brickyard on the right the diggings filled with water from the springs and was used on the summer by villages as a place to swim.
John Cotton is not a native of Threapwood but after moving around the country came back to the village in 1946/7 and lived at Middlewood Farm. In those days there was a water hand pump in the yard and many local residents went there for their water. Later there was a powered pump between Middlewood and Upperwood Farm. Each farm and/or household had a couple of pigs, hens/capons and geese in the yard plus a substantial vegetable garden. Some of this produce would be bartered between families for all sorts of goods. The pigs were kept to eat any waste and one would be sold on perhaps and one killed and stored in brine for the family. This all started to change in the 1960's when vans from local shops and butchers started to call round on a regular basis.
John moved into Cheshire Cottage in 1960 - it was formally a Broughton Hall Chauffeurs house and also had been the Telephone Exchange!
Just about everyone that left school stayed working on local farms and for local builders. John joined George Albert Williams (Lucy's husband) in his electrical and TV business which was in Tallarn Green and remembers fitting electricity into Broughton Hall in 1950/51 and immediately used it for the public address system for the village fete at the Hall. John recalled how much land and farms that belonged to the Broughton Estate and listed the many local farms that were tenants of the estate. He recalled that Major Wood took over the Hall in the 1950's but due to high death duties most of the farms were sold off to sitting tenants. Major Wood had a skiing accident with resulting complications and died. This left his wife still young and she re-married a Major Williams and they moved into one of the few farms left 'The Soughans' and then they moved away to near Warrington for a few years. They then moved back to the Soughans with 4 children, Robin, Charles, Stuart and Annabel. However, Mrs Williams died at a fairly early age and Major Williams was last heard of in the home in Whitewell.
John also remembered being at Threapwood School and one day a week they would be taken to the Alport School in Malpas on a bus via Shocklach and Tilston. The school had no electricity just a coke stove and their lunches were brought from Chester in a Lowes Removal Van - any left-overs were taken to Pickering's pigs at Upperwood Farm. A dentist visited on a regular basis with a pedal powered drill!! The school had an annual party for 80-90 children and the oil lamps from the church were fetched off the nails and returned after. The school was also used for political meetings before elections.
One night some local pranksters climbed on the roof of the school and turned the cowls over plus some of the school vegetable garden was dug up and also put on the roof. The first that anyone knew about it was when Mrs Simmonds lit the coke stove in the morning and the building was filled with smoke. The Police were called and all the children interviewed! Once a year there was a week off school known as 'potato picking week' when John, Ken Duckworth and Ken Chidlow would go and pick potatoes at Frank Higgins farm. They also used to go damson picking when these were ripe but whilst they liked working with the potatoes they hated damson picking! In a good damson year many damsons were collected by a regular chap and went for dyeing. On Saturdays/Sundays it was popular for the young of the village to go and pinch wood, fencing posts and rails - anything that would burn!
On Saturday evenings it was popular with the young people to go to Wrexham on Willy Hodson's bus (Williams & Hodson's of Marchwiel) later to become a Crossville. There were slatted wooden seats on Willy Hodson's bus - however, the last bus back left Wrexham at 9.30 so it was impossible to see the end of any films watched at the cinema!
John established John Cotton and Son electrical contractors in 1976.
Rose Starkey (nee Peers) was born at Fir Tree Cottage, off Chapel Lane, the youngest of 4 children.
This was a two up, two down cottage with no running water and lighting was by Tilly lamp. Drinking water was fetched from Broads and Jack Bebb also had a well. She recalls that, as was common at that time, baths were taken in front of the fire using either water from the pond or, occasionally, 'black water'. This was water taken from the butt which had been discoloured by the output from the chimney. With six people and two bedrooms, she slept with her parents. Her father worked at Bournes and her mother milked cows at Bates' farm.
Rose started school at 4 years of age, at Threapwood School. The headmistress at this time was Mrs Bates (nee Coates) assisted by a Mrs Davis and a Miss Riddal. Discipline was maintained with the use of the 'pump' (plimsoll). Classes were from 9 - 3.30. Hopscotch was a playtime recreation.
Of the war years she remembers a search light battery at The Plassey and an aeroplane - probably enemy - crashing at Hampton. She also remembers, not unreasonably, being out one evening when an enemy aeroplane came over. Told to get down she sat in a nettle patch.
There was a dance held at Worthenbury to celebrate V.E. day.
There were, it seems, post war, bus trips to Rhyl and also a bus run by Williams and Hodson, which used to run between Malpas and Wrexham via Threapwood. There was also a Crossville bus to Whitchurch, via Edge's chip shop in Malpas.
In the late forties she met and married Gordon Starkey and moved to Oldcastle Lane in 1958. Gordon having already purchased the house. There was a cottage behind the house where there was a Post Office. (This is where Katherine and Mark Humphreys now live.) Gordon kept pigs and milked cows as well as enlarging his haulage business. He remembers that Bournes was, at that time a show farm which used to attract a lot of visitors.
Rose's mother was in hospital for over 6 years from 1971-77 having suffered a stroke and then having cancer. Her father died in 1972.
Rose worked firstly in the house at the Holy Land. She worked from 9-2 for 7s 6d (35p) per week. She later worked in Broad's shop where she did 5 1/2 days from 8-6, for 35/- per week.
Of the local people they remember there was Harry Baker, the blacksmith, who was, seemingly, a somewhat testy fellow.
There were two cottages behind Lower House which were in habited by a Mrs Coffin and Jim Povey.
Lower House was owned by the Atkins. A Mrs Scott lived at 2 Rosemary Cottages and a Mrs Blything, lived in a house in Back Lane, just below Welsh View. A Mr McKenzie lived where Chris and Paula Williams now live and Hall and Parker where the Lightfoots now live. A Mrs Ryles lived where John and Caroline Minoprio live now.
It was mentioned that a local man, Dick James, used to keep fighting cocks. It was alleged that there was a cock pit at Penley.
Gill Edwards - was born at Rock Cottage in the Sarn. Her parents lived in Shocklach but as a 4 year old they moved into an L shaped cottage on the site where their bungalow is now. She remembers going next door to Hewitt's and Ron Cluttons on the corner to fetch water from their hand pump. After a year at Threapwood school the cottage was condemned and as a family they moved up to the Oathills in Malpas and she attended the Alport School. However, her father who was a local builder had bought the craft next to the condemned cottage and over a period of 5 years built the original bungalow in his spare time which stands next door to them.
They all moved back to Sandy Lane (which actually was a sandy lane) and she can then remember biking up to Malpas Alport School with Doreen Davies (now Manning) and Elizabeth Blything (now Crump). Gill has always enjoyed sport and remembers playing a lot of tennis at Tallarn Green with Broads, John Davies and John Shone. Also many evening of table tennis in the Temperance Hall at Tallarn Green.
Gill enjoyed her considerable involvement with the Sunshine Club for 30-40 residents at Threapwood Chapel and remembered that Mrs Arthur Broad from Somerset House was the first leader. There were a number of public meetings to keep the chapel open but the lack of facilities made it impossible. The last function on the chapel field was in 1977 for the village to celebrate the Queens Silver Jubilee. She also recalled Mrs and Mrs Atkin from Lower House (where David and Wendy now live) bought a plot of land at Threapwood Church from Mr Bates of Upperwood Farm in 1961. Their intention was a plot for their own graves plus any spare room for Threapwood residents only. However, they died before all the legalities were completed and consequently were buried in the old original burial area.
Gill remembers her granddad working up at the brick yard on Oldcastle lane from where many of the bricks used in our local properties were made.
Gill recounted one particular evening when Bill had his heart attack, the ambulance couldn't locate them and when they did arrive the driver appeared visibly shaken. It transpired that as they passed the churchyard she was sure she had seen a female ghost. Gill was able to confirm that it was probably Sid Griffiths who apparently liked to dress up in his mother's clothes!! Sid was also the local paperboy - reading peoples papers was a favourite pastime it seems!!
Gladys Roberts (Nee Mellor) was born at Churton; she was one of five children: 2 boys and 3 girls.
She went to school in Aldford at 5 years of age and left when she was 14. There were 100+ pupils at school including 36 infants. She remembers that the Duke of Westminster used to host a Christmas Party for the pupils where, apart from food, every pupil received a small gift. Gladys passed her 11+ but it 'wasn't convenient' for her to take up her place at the designated grammar school.
Other than shopping, she had a restricted social life as a teenager. At 12 she was doing some work at William's Stud Farm in Churton. Here they had cows and also grew strawberries and vegetables. At this time she learnt to plough with a horse and one furrow plough.
Her family moved to Shocklach meadows around this time. This area used to flood (perhaps it still does) and she remembers having to go by boat, with her father, into the village to obtain groceries from what was then Baxendales shop and to collect coal left for them at either Goodwins The Fish (this was a farm but not of fish) This farm had a large retail milk round.
She also worked for Charlie Moss at Hitchens Farm in Shocklach. She remembers that, despite social restrictions, she met her husband-to-be at a dance at Tallarn Green. They married in 1948 at Tallarn Green and lived with his parents at Fenny House for eighteen months. They then moved to the Knook, a one up, one down with a rear wash house, where they lived for the next 10 years.
She recalls that water was a problem. They obtained some water from a neighbours well but a lot of their daily needs had to be carried from Sarn. There were it seems, two cottages and a shop between Rock Villa and the pub. Nearby there was a spring from which they got their drinking water. It seems that water pipes were only installed in stages, during the late 50's.
They moved again to her current home in 1960. This was a small holding owned by Frank Young of Sarn Bank Farm. They eventually were able to buy this holding but it was not big enough to support a family now four in total. They had had a boy and a girl in the late fifties, early sixties (her paternal great grand parents lived at The Diggery near Greaves Lane East). Her husband, a man who could turn his hand to anything, used to service and repair Broad's cars and vans from time to time. He later went to work for a company in Ellesmere Port. He died in 1973.
She remembers using the bakery and the shop in Tallarn Green and also the Sarn Mill, owned at that time by a Mr Young. She remembers, as a child, going to Broughton Hall with her parents to enquire about renting a cottage in Shocklach. They were kept waiting, then asked them to stand with the window behind them (?) during the interview with this reputedly formidable lady. The request was turned down because Glady's father did hedging and ditching on holdings owned by the lady.
She remembers families who have lived in Greaves Lane: the Pierpionts, Bebbingtons, Sanderson and Williams. There was also Mary Lee at Greaves Villa. Harpers (now Suckley) Twiss (T & E Broad), Joe Bagnall - Mount Cottage, Beryl Dutton having a bungalow built in the 60's and a Mrs Davies - ex Mount Pleasant in the next one.
The following series of letters are from a Belgian who lived and worked at Broad's Bakery in Threapwood - the Holy Land during World War 1. A friend of Bill Peers he continued to exchange Christmas Cards and letters for many years after returning home. Click on the image below to open a PDF file containing the letters which contain memories of time spent in the village.
Dear Mr Broad
I am writing on behalf of my mother and in reply to your letter requesting information about Threapwood. I will write down the information just as she told it to me. Her maiden name was Griffiths, Florence May Griffiths born at Tallarn Green in 1902. Her grandfather was Thomas Williams, his daughter was a Griffiths and my mother was their daughter. Thomas Williams was the last to work the windmill. In 1918 there was a flu epidemic called the "Black Fever" by the locals. My mother's parents both died with it within two weeks of each other.
In 1917 there was a terrific thunderstorm that caused damage on most of the surrounding farms. Pear Tree Cottage (where my mother was living at the time with her grandfather Williams) was struck by lightning that blew the fireplace right out. At Broad's house on the wood (opposite the Methodist church that was) a horse was hit by lightning.
She remembers the names of Eddie Broad and D'Arcy Broad. Granddad Thomas Williams was a churchwarden at Threapwood Church and my mother played the organ there for seven years (she remembers the seats being altered but doesn't know when. She was in her teens. I myself can remember living at Pear Tree Cottage (where I was born in 1922) with granddad Williams. I can remember going to Broads shop on the wood when I was only 4 years old and fetching the milk in white enamel can from Sally Cotton's farm at Threapwood.
I also remember another farmer by the name of Mr Shillom somewhere on the wood. My mother was married to Hugh Humphries from Worthenbury in 1919 when he returned home from the war with a military medal a local hero. She says the vicar was C R Pembridge and he was vicar for Worthenbury and Threapwood and he did their marriage service at Threapwood church. She remembers a small roomed cottage down the Drumbas (I don't know if that is the right spelling). The windmill house used to be a shop when granddad Williams was there, he brought up five children there. When he left the mill my mother said he used to take butter and cheese etc. to Wrexham on Thursdays and Saturdays in a pony and trap.
My Mother's father and her uncle Bert founded a minstrel concert party called the 'White Star Minstrels' they used to black their faces with burnt cork and gave concerts at Threapwood and the neighbouring locality. She also talks of Broughton Hall and the Squire who was crippled (she says that it was rumoured that his nurse dropped him when he was small). My mother's friends were daughters of Mrs Fowles (wife of Dan Fowles) who lived at the Sarn. There was Ursula, Mona and Sylvia. Sylvia's daughter is a Gillian Lyford and I believe she still lives in Threapwood up Sandy Lane. The house is called Sunny Haven. I hope this will be of some help in your research and I wish you all the best with your book. Yours
Albert Hugh Humphreys
PS My father used to work at the brick works on Threapwood. I can remember him firing the brick kilns when I was about six years old. And by the way the men who took the goods to market in pony and traps were called "Lucksters", so says my mother. Mrs Fowles had five daughters and on a Sunday she used to dress them up all alike and send them off to church at Threapwood and they were all in the choir. If Mum remembers any more I will drop you another line. A.H.H
When my Uncle George Hopley, who farmed at Worthenbury near Bangor on Dee, wrote to my father saying that there was a small farm to let on the Broughton Estate at Threapwood he applied for, and got, the tenancy. I was then seven years old so it must have been in 1929.
Life at Frontier House, Threapwood, was an entirely new chapter. As far as I can remember, we were driven there having sold the Albert on moving from Mere House and followed a large furniture van with our belongings. Uncle George Hopley had bicycled over from Bowling Bank Farm and was leaning on a field gate awaiting our arrival. Heaven knows how long he had been there. I liked the look of our new home, compact, half timbered, with outbuilding, an outdoor pump for our drinking water (there was a separate pump in the kitchen fed from the rainwater which fell on the roof) and a bed of primroses on the grassy bank at the front of the house. To a child's eyes it looked full of promise, with a field at the rear and another across the road - this one with a small pond full of bullrushes and reeds. They totaled five acres in all and the rent was £24 p.a. As soon as we had settled in, the question of my schooling came to the fore. I was only too glad to turn my back on the school at Wistaston with its unsatisfactory headmaster.
My parents decided that, for the time being, I should attend the Church of England village school at Threapwood, run by a benevolent old spinster named Miss Stevenson, and with a junior mistress to teach the smaller children. This was to be a stop-gap until such time as I was old enough to attend a secondary school. My Shropshire relations, on my mother's side, lived in and around Ellesmere, where there was a public school called St. Oswalds and some thought was given to getting me on the roll there. My poor health - my mother regarded me as being 'delicate', rather went against the idea of my boarding, so it was decided that when I was old enough I would sit the entrance examination for Grove Park school at nearby Wrexham and travel up daily from Bangor-on-Dee Station on the old Cambrian line which ran between Ellesmere and Wrexham.
Threapwood school was anything but an intellectual hothouse as most of the girls there were destined either for service with some large family or, in the case of the prettier ones, to become farmers' wives. The boys expectations were limited in the main to being farm labourers, gardeners or artisans. They were all destined to leave school at fourteen and start to earn a living. So, for the girls, the accent was on needlework and the boys were taught handicrafts. I remember doing raffia work and even making toys out of decorated matchboxes! Of course we had to do some basic arithmetic and geography. I was quite good at the latter, but I found 'sums' tedious in the extreme and this may have laid the foundation for my continuing dislike of all things mathematical. Unlike the education at prep schools, with their introduction to French and Latin, it is doubtful that I would have passed the Common Entrance exam for St Oswalds, so that was a dead duck anyway.
Many of the Threapwood children came from old settled families who had fled as fugitives from justice to this borderland area between England and Wales, taking advantage of the fact that there was a lack of the necessary legislation to have them arrested. Fights among the men were not uncommon (the very name Threapwood means disputed territory) and the women too had been known to do a spot of hair-pulling on occasion. There was a village policeman named Hazelhurst and I remember his describing to my father the difficulty he'd had separated two fighting women who were scratching and wrestling on the ground. He fancied himself as an expert in all things and his favourite expression was 'nobody knows nowt about it nobbut me'. On one occasion at least he was proved wrong for he prosecuted the proprietor of a travelling circus because the traction engines were causing a smoke nuisance. In his cross examination the defending solicitor asked him what was the difference between smoke and steam. He didn't know and of course the case collapsed.
My C. of E. school was about a mile and a half from my home and I used to walk to and from it with other children of the locality some four times a day as school lunches were unheard of. Some children came from further afield and my friend Mick Freeman, the keeper's son, had twice that distance to cover from Lower Lodge on the Broughton Estate.
The local Squire was old John Howard who lived with his spinster sister, Elizabeth, at Broughton Hall. He was a bit of an old despot, crippled by poliomyelitis in his youth, who used to travel round his domain in a self-propelled wheel chair. When he wanted to speak to any of his tenants he would pull up outside the cottage and ring a hand bell, expecting to be heard. The local schoolchildren were instructed by Miss Stevenson always to greet the Squire or his sister with, in the case of the boys, a raised cap, or, with the girls, a curtsey! A touch of the old feudalism still rampant even then.
When the Howards eventually died, the estate was broken up - the house sold for a pittance, demolished and replaced by a modern Bahaus-type architectural monstrosity. Although Howard had been plagued by paralysis the family previously enjoyed shooting and yachting. While we were at Threapwood they had a great friend, a Miss Ryall, who lived at a large house near the church. She had a dilapidated car which we used to see being driven to the Hall each evening when she joined the Howards for dinner. Rumour had it that she was one of the victims of the Irish 'Troubles' and the Ryall Estate in Ireland had been burnt out by the Fenians.
The old butler, Jenkins, liked a flutter on the horses and his saturnine figure, clad in a dark formal suit, shiny with age, could regularly be seen on his way to the village post office to lay his bets by phone. It was only in later years that the village would sport its own phone box. The post office was run by a Mr and Mrs Ditchfield. He was a very gentle old man and of course they had no car so when he had to go to hospital in Chester my father volunteered to take him. The old Albert had long since gone to the scrapyard and had been replaced by a second hand Rover '9', a dreadful machine with a vicious clutch which my father had never mastered. Mr Ditchfield took his place in the front passenger's seat and my father took off in a series of kangaroo hops which gradually subsided as we gained speed, at which point Mr D said appreciatively 'How wonderful these machines are, Mr Stringer. They respond to your every touch'. My mother and I in the back of the car had a job to control ourselves.
The Ditchfields had their share of life's tragedies for their only child, Connie, had a severe mental breakdown and was confined to Upton Asylum near Chester. The family is buried in a quiet part of Worthenbury churchyard.
My father was no mechanic and never liked driving anyway. The Rover used to boil and blow the water pipe to the radiator regularly. Someone suggested boring a hole in the radiator cap to let the steam out and so he got the local blacksmith to oblige. The result was a fountain of steam and boiling water squirting out of the cap on our next visit to Wrexham, which meant a replacement cap had to be found.
For the first two or three years that we were at Frontier House, the 'Village Postman' was in fact an elderly woman who still wore the uniform provided in the Great War. It consisted of a thick dark blue serge jacket with red piping and a matching skirt, together with a slouch hat to complete the ensemble.
I had two particular school friends, John Lampitt the Head Gardener's son from the Hall, and Mick Freeman, son of the Gamekeeper. In the summer months we used to play cricket in one of our fields for hours until we were too exhausted to run and chase the ball any more. I had a decent willow bat and proper stumps but never got as far as pads. Balls came from Woolworths at Wrexham. These were made of glued and compressed cork, painted red and with artificial stitches. They had their limitations for, apart from being fiendishly heavy, the paint soon wore off and then the cork would start to disintegrate, especially when wet with dew. They also became so sticky that it was sometimes difficult to let go of them when we were bowling.
John Lampitt (pictured right) and I had bicycles and used regularly to ride up to Wrexham to see the 'pictures' and even further afield, perhaps to the Bickerton Hills or Llangollen, there to scramble up to the top of 'Crow Castle' (Dinas Bran I think is the proper name).Mick didn't have a bicycle and for that matter didn't really need one as he fully occupied himself with his bird-watching, his pigeons and a tame ferret. He would put the latter up one sleeve of his jacket and it would emerge out of the other. He was a real country boy full of country skills and it was he who taught me the value of always carrying a sharp pocket knife to whittle sticks, make pop-guns out of bored out elderberry stems, and later catapults. What joys the modern generation miss with their tellys, mobiles and the embargo on carrying knives. Incidentally, I have always carried either a pocket or penknife from those days to this.
Mick had some tame pigeons which would perch on his head or outstretched arm. This inspired me to get some too, kindly supplied by my Uncle Alfred Taylor who had 'racers' in his loft in Crewe. Some of them had taken part in the Rennes to England race and they were all of good breed. We made a loft for them above the pigsty at Frontier House; they had to be kept in for six weeks to dull their homing instinct, but when this period of quarantine was up and the day came for their release, the pleasure of seeing them enjoying their freedom was dulled when three of them took off, never to be seen again. Unlike Mick's birds, mine never became tame, but at least they stayed with us and, in no time, started to breed.
To keep the numbers down I used to take the occasional egg which, being white, made an excellent target for my father's .22 BSA pump action repeating rifle to which, from the age of about eleven, I had free access. What would the firearms people think about that today! I had my first air gun, a chromium plated Diana which shot ball bearings, at the age of five, when I was not even strong enough to cock it. My father did this for me and taught me to shoot safely. He was very strict and would be angry if any gun, including a toy one, was pointed in anyone's direction. In time I became a tolerable shot and one of my great joys on holiday was to shoot at the galleries invariably found at major fun fairs. No doubt these have gone the way of such pleasures, and are now judged to be unsafe. To be fair, I suppose they could present a mortal risk as the rifles were mostly little Winchester .22 pump action repeaters - a bit like my father's rifle. They would have been capable of killing at a considerable distance, even though they were only chambered for the 'short' cartridge with its 30 grain lead bullet. Those little rifles were by far my favourite, the ultimate being the revised Model 62, which still retained the beautiful breech and hammer action of its predecessors.
Before the war we used to cycle miles. Wrexham, Llangollen, Ellesmere, Erbistock - a local beauty spot - Dymoke's Mill and, of course, neighbouring Bangor on Dee, once the site of one of the great monasteries. The roads were almost free of traffic and we wandered from side to side, sometimes with our feet on the handlebars and frequently with our hands off! Because of this, in the season the roads were the best places to play 'whip and top'. The best tops came from a village shop at the Sarn and were shaped like a mushroom. There was also a season for 'bowlers', also made possible by the scarcity of traffic. Bowlers were hoops of iron steered by an iron rod with a sort of bent hook at the end. To apply the brake all one had to do was to reverse the position of the hook and apply reverse pressure. Both hoops and the hooked rods were made by Harry Baker who had the smithy at Threapwood. Games were strictly seasonal and of course included 'conkers' in the Autumn when the horse chestnuts were seeding. Outside the Smithy there were two hand-operated petrol pumps with glass containers which had to be filled with petrol to obtain an accurate measure and were then discharged to the car tank - historic pieces which I'm sure have long-since disappeared.
Perhaps my greatest pleasure as a child came from fishing. In the fields around Threapwood there were many ponds in which one could find several varieties of fish from lowly sticklebacks to roach, dace and the occasional tench. I think there is nothing so absorbing as watching a float bobbing up and down and then slowly sliding below the surface. My friend John Lampitt was better at the game than I was as he seemed to have an inborn instinct knowing when to 'strike'. The local farmers didn't seem to mind our trespassing on their land and we were careful to shut field gates after us. That's me on the right aged 16.
One of the local inhabitants was a retired policeman named Tom Mercer and it was he who introduced us to the mystery of 'bobbing' for eels. My apologies to sensitive readers because this most effective method was both messy and cruel, consisting as it did in using a baiting needle to thread a loop of strong wool through at least two dozen large earthworms. This line was then caught up in a series of loops like a bunch of grapes and tied securely at the top. The method of using the 'bob' was to sink it in the water using a stout rod and line with a lead ball weight to keep it on the bottom. The teeth of eels are curved backwards, effectively to seize and hold their prey so when they bite, their teeth get entangled with the wool. The tip of the rod bends indicating that the bait is attracting attention. It is essential to pull the eel out quickly as the entanglement is only temporary and so the next part of the operation has to be carried out speedily. Tom Mercer always carried in his coat pocket some dry sand to enable the slimy creature to be held long enough for a cut to be made at the back of the head, severing the backbone. The immobilised eel was then put in a canvas bag. We were similarly equipped and always used the recommended curved pruning knife to administer the coup de grace. When we fished for eels for food using this gruesome and highly effective method, we always put small eels back into the water. There is nothing so delicious as eel cut into sections and fried in butter. Of course the leathery skin has to be peeled off, using pliers if necessary, and this is an acquired skill in itself. No wonder the Romans regarded eels as a great delicacy for there are no small bones to contend with and the single backbone presents no problem as the nutty-tasting flesh falls off when it is properly cooked. The eel has an incredible life story. When mature and ready for breeding, it will make its way considerable distances overland using its gills to store water and taking advantage of dew and wet grass to keep itself moist until it can instinctively find a convenient water course leading to the sea. Then comes the incredible journey to the Sargasso Sea, where at great depth they spawn and die. The young elvers, flattened in shape at first, then make the great journey back to the rivers from where their parents set out, assuming the more familiar round section of their parents. Unfortunately, elvers are a delicacy too, and they are netted in such large quantities at the mouths of rivers that the population has gone seriously down. It would be wonderful if a moratorium could be called, even for a limited time, to enable stocks to build up again.
As I write, greater attention is being given to this wonderful fish whose very existence is under threat. Apparently one of the problems is the provision of concrete anti-flood barriers which arrest the progress of young elvers in their migratory journeys up rivers.
Most of my fishing tackle came either from Albert Smith or Alcock's, both of Redditch. My bamboo coarse fishing rod had a cork handle with two greenheart tops of different lengths, now owned by my grandson, Theo Williams, while the one I used for 'bob' fishing was short and of a nondescript wood designed for use at sea. Alcock's did a splendid little split cane job called 'The Light Caster' designed for use with a fixed spool reel. Funds didn't run to such luxury but many years later I was able to acquire both, which were very effective spinning for pike.
When I began to tire of pond fishing the idea came that live baiting for pike might provide a more exciting sport and I sent off an order to Albert Smiths for what I think were called Jardine's Snap Tackles so that John Lampitt and I could try our hand at this branch of the sport. Our plan was to catch small roach as live-bait to which the three hooks of the snap tackle would be attached. We planned to cycle to Ellesmere and fish in the Shropshire Union Canal using large floats. We had to catch the small roach for bait on the previous day and keep them in a bucket of water overnight. The next day we set out taking it in turns to carry the bucket. All went well until we were about a mile from our destination when bucket and bicycle got out of control and I dropped the lot. The road was now covered with flapping fish and we had to get more water which, coming from a nearby house tap, didn't suit our charges for several of them died before we could get to the 'basin', an open area at the junction of two canals. After the disaster with the bucket I don't think either of us thought we were going to catch anything and that proved to be the case, except that after about an hour's fishing I HAD A BITE. This was just about the most exciting thing I had experienced because my float started to move about slowly over the surface and then slide quietly down into the depths. I struck with all my might and felt something heavy and moving strongly at the end of my line. Then, after a few seconds of almost paralysing joy, all went slack and I knew that whatever it was, I had lost it. We ended up putting the surviving bait back into the water and headed for home. That was over seventy years ago but the thrill of that brief moment still burns in my memory.
One of our neighbours at Threapwood was Harry Evans at the Wood Farm. He had five daughters and I was in love with the eldest, Marjory, and used to follow her around like a lost soul. They had lots of outbuildings in which we could play, and a duck pond where they used to float in a large wooden tub called a 'turnel' used for scalding pig carcases to remove the bristles. When my mother heard of these boating adventures she put a stop to my joining them in case I fell in, which made me feel like a modern day victim of over-stringent 'health and safety' rules. The Evans's had a big old Austin car which gave my father a hernia when he once tried to open the sunshine roof. The only other cars in the village belonged to John and Elizabeth Howard (smartly painted in their livery of black with bright yellow wheels), our own little Rover 'Nine' and that of Eddie Broad, a horse dealer. Towards the end of our stay at Frontier House I was the proud owner of a motor bike, the noise of which I had "modified" by hammering a poker down the exhaust pipe to open up the silencer baffles. The noise must have been fairly deafening but with my leather helmet on I hardly noticed it. One day on my way to Wrexham I turned a corner to meet Mr Broad, a local horse breeder, coming towards me on horseback. He seemed to be cheerily waving so I waved back. When I returned, my father told me that Mr B had complained that his horse had bolted when it heard and saw my machine and had crossed at least three fields before he could get it under control. Some time before this incident he had boasted to my father that he had recently bought a new horse which was a "bloody good lepper". I wonder if it was the same one I had startled.
Not far from Worthenbury there was a splendid old Manor called Emral Hall which had, for centuries, belonged to the Jacobite Puleston family. Like so many country seats it had fallen into disuse because of the cost of upkeep and by the time Eddie Broad bought it in the 1930s it was probably beyond repair. It was demolished and some of the material sold off. I think the staircase, and certainly a barrel-vaulted room with its ceiling decorated with the labours of Hercules found their way to Clough Williams Ellis's Portmeirion. Fortunately the loss of such heritage property has been recognised as a national tragedy and there is now legislation favouring its survival.
The only game I half-enjoyed was cricket, although I rose no higher than membership of the form team at Grove Park, my grammar school at Wrexham. My preferred position was in the outfield where by the law of averages the ball was less likely to be hit in my general direction. When it did come within catching distance I was nearly always wrapped in my own thoughts and, with the furious cries of the side ringing in my ears, would run round in circles hoping to catch a glimpse of the ball, but without hope of doing anything more constructive. Cricket in the field at Frontier House seemed altogether a friendlier and less competitive affair! The thought that one day I would have my own cricket team could never have entered my head.
For the first few months after I left school in July 1939, I travelled up to an office in Crewe from Threapwood on my 250cc Red Panther motor bike, the same one which had so effectively tested the mettle of Eddie Broad's "bloody good lepper". It was obviously going to be difficult to continue this journey indefinitely, especially as my liking for speed had resulted in one accident and several near misses, so my indulgent parents decided to buy a house on the outskirts, the Haslington side of the town. We were, however, still at Frontier House when the unfortunate Mr Chamberlain announced that we were at war with Germany due to Hitler's refusal to back down after his invasion of Poland.
Some Threapwood Worthies
The blacksmith was named Baker and he ran a traditional forge, little altered over the centuries. Opposite was the village shop run by old Mrs Broad and her son Geoffrey. Adjoining the shop was their house, a large, probably Georgian building which had once been an inn. When my mother and I were shown round the house by Mrs Broad, a stain was pointed out on the floor of one of the upper bedrooms where it was said a murder had been committed. We were also shown the original painted inn sign showing two emissaries returning to Palestine from Egypt shouldering a pole which was attached to an enormous bunch of grapes. The inn was called The Promised Land.
The parson was the Rvnd Pembridge who also officiated at Worthenbury. One day driving past the stack yard at Broughton with my father, he said, somewhat uncharitably, that old John Howard would need more than that amount of timber where he was going when he died. There was obviously no love lost between the two.
When we first went to Frontier House in 1929, apart from the people at the Post Office (Ditchfield), the farm opposite was occupied by a Mr and Mr Speed. They were followed by someone named Griffiths whose son was nearly drowned when he fell into a water butt and was resuscitated by my mother. They were followed by people called Platt who eventually bought their own farm when the estate was broken up.
Opposite Miss Ryell's house was a farm occupied by I think a Mr Bates who fell off his bicycle in the dip in the road and was killed; it was said that, having been wounded in the Great War, he'd been fitted with a silver plate in his skull and this was his undoing.
The non-conformist parson was a Mr Everett and I have a hazy memory that when out shooting with Mr Broad he managed to blow part of his foot off.
Last, but by no means least, was Tom Mercer, my mentor in the art of eel fishing. He was famous enough in his policing days, to merit a two-page spread in a local newspaper detailing his exploits. He lived for a time at Frontier House, having bought the freehold. He would have had plenty of opportunity for eel fishing as the brook which ran along the bottom of the field closest to the house was full of them. I know because I used to set night-lines for them in the school holidays with considerable success. They provided many a tasty meal. His memorial plaque is in Malpas Church.
All this has been dragged from my memories of over 70 years ago but nevertheless living at Threapwood was a colourful experience to impress in parts.
5th June 2013
This contribution by Alan Hooper was originally entitled "A Journey back to our Youth". It was written in 2003 as a memorial to his eldest brother Barrie Michael Hooper.
Four elderly brothers took a trip of more than fifty years into their past, a while back, leaving one behind in a day of some sorrow and much nostalgia. It was a trip in which Alan, Clive and Laurie took brother Barrie's ashes to a location requested by him as a final resting place.
We returned as giants into a fairy tale land, to the village of Threapwood, in Cheshire, which was our home as children. We had arrived in this idyllic setting in the early part of the Second World War where we had escaped the trauma of the bombing of Birmingham.
When we lived here as children we saw the houses as large and stately, the farms had wondrous expanses of fields, meadows and woods, which we constantly explored. The roads were wide open highways with tall magnificent hedgerows and banks, which in spring bloomed with primroses and crocus, with the hedges containing all manner of birds’ nests, The ponds were many acre lakes full of perch, roach and tench and the occasional eel, where we fished from dawn to dusk, catching the silvery roach on dough balls, or casting into the wide rivers for snigs and bullheads.
Now we see the roads as narrow country lanes, barely wide enough for two small cars to pass. The ponds are tiny, the rivers small enough to jump across. I, as the eldest, remember it best. I was five when we escaped the horror of the war and moved from Birmingham to this remote area of Cheshire, on the Welsh border. It was ten years later when we moved back to the bustling Midlands, leaving behind a way of life that still exists more than fifty years later in this forgotten village.
Our old country home is still standing, much smaller than we remembered it, but still in remarkably good condition due to the Hewitt family, who have owned it since we left. The Hewitt's, now in their seventies, welcomed us into their home and showed us all over the old house. It was much as we remembered it, except for its size, now diminutive compared to our past recollections.
As we spoke with the Hewitt's, we were reminded of incidents from the past. Mr. Hewitt was the local barber, of sorts. He had his salon in his hay barn, where you sat on a hay bale to have your hair cut "short back and sides" with hand clippers (electricity had not arrived yet), and for which we paid sixpence. They recalled us as a wild bunch of kids who got into all manner of mischief, like poaching rabbits and scrumping apples, to name a couple of our endeavours.
In front of the old house, off Back Lane, is a small meadow, where we played for hours as kids. It was level near the house and off to one side was a slope where we tobogganed in the winter, the other side sloping down to a stream, mostly fronted by bushes where we built huts and played "hide and seek". It was in this stream that we scattered Barrie's ashes and watched them disperse in the current, while wishing him a happy return to the place he loved.
We stood for a while, three elderly men, in quiet contemplation for our departed brother, dreaming of a time in the past when we all happily played in this scenic pastoral setting and now remembering the present fifty or more years later. We slowly returned to the old home where we said our goodbyes to the Hewitt's. At the top of the lane was a new house none of us had seen before. The owner, a young fellow, was in the front yard. We spoke to him and introduced ourselves, and told him why we were there. He was too young to have been around when we lived there, but he said his father, John Cotton, would remember us. This name I could not bring to mind, but we told his son we would look him up.
We drove from the old home, past some of the houses we remembered, the Shillams who had originally owned our old home. The Duckworth's smallholding, past the "Drumbers" which was a shortcut to school, a footpath which meandered down a lane, across a stream, up the hill on the other side, past a small farm, whose dog always came rushing out to chase us kids to school. The Clutton's, now long gone, down past the church and the old two room schoolhouse where we had started our education. I was seven or eight when the school attracted much attention when the local hunt killed a fox in the school yard. The huntsman cut the ears and tail off the fox and "blooded" some of the kids, for good luck. This started a furore from the anti - hunt followers and precipitated a public outcry.
We passed "Rose Villa" where our first teacher, Mrs. Hannah Davies, had lived. Her daughter Lena, with whom we went to school lives close by, but we did not find this out until later. Miss (Dolly) Coats, later to become Mrs. Bates, marrying for the first time at age sixty two, and then retiring as the head teacher at the school, is now long gone, but still remembered. We carried on to the Sarn, a very small village, partly in England and part in Wales. We lunched at the Sarn pub. It hadn't changed much over the years. Dad occasionally went there for a pint of mild, back in the past. It is now frequented by the younger set and serves pub lunches and dinners, certainly an upgrade from what it was years ago, when a few old local yokel's hung out in its run down old bar.
After lunch we drove back through the village, looking at the Chapel where we went to Sunday School, past some old houses and some new, turned left at what was once "Broads" shop and bakery, to where John Cotton lived. John and his wife Joan were puttering around outside their house, apparently awaiting our arrival. We were invited into their home and given cups of tea. We explained our visit to the village, and found that John had been one of Barrie's best friends, and remembered him well. The next hour and a half was spent with John coming up with names of people who had lived in the village back in our youth. It was quite strange to me to hear these names again after fifty years. Some still lived in the village, and others had passed on. We three brothers suffered some pangs of nostalgia just listening to John resurrecting these old names.
Long forgotten incidents were recalled as we sat there reminiscing about things in the past, and how things had changed, not necessarily for the better, in the following years. We took our leave from the Cotton's, unwilling to drag ourselves away from our past, but having the need to travel back to our future in the present day world. Out of the village we traveled, wistfully looking back as we set out for the Town of Malpas, where we had later gone to school. I could still remember Herbert Cyril Yates, the Headmaster, Mr. Shepherd and Mr. Peters and of course "Monkey" Hughes, a very unflattering nickname for our lady math’s teacher.
Malpas has barely changed in fifty years, it has a few new houses, but is still able to show off its half timbered houses of the sixteenth century, the twelfth century church and the cross at the road junction in the town centre. Our old school, Malpas Alport School, with its Horse Chestnut tree in the front playground is still standing. I can still remember the old school song, both verses, word for word. Further out of the town there is a larger, more modern school, built to educate the present population, which we passed on our way to the main road and back to our lives in the present.
The Old School Song
We boys and girls are proud that we belong to Malpas School, where we were taught to play the game, when danger’s near keep cool.
Though scholars come and scholars go our minds will be the fresher, as we look back upon the scenes of this small part of Cheshire
Our fine old church that stands serene with quaint old town surrounding and our majestic chestnut tree our old boys pride abounding.
As in this world we take our place and memories we pool, ‘tis then our hope and pride’s most felt, for Malpas Alport School, for Malpas Alport School.
I still know the tune but don’t know how to put it down on paper.
The Hooper family moved to Threapwood in the year of 1939, father Sidney Hooper, mother Doris Hooper and their three children, Alan, Clive and Barrie, all under the age of five. In the picture below are:- standing Laurie, Barrie, Dad, Alan, Clive – seated Mum with Phillip. We moved from Selly Oak, Birmingham when the Luftwaffe started bombing the area, primarily the Austin Motor Works nearby. Somehow my father had found a home for us to escape the bombing; the Hollies on Back Lane, Threapwood, owned at that time by Mr Shillam who farmed about a quarter of a mile away and was the source of our drinking water.
My early memories at the Hollies are now vague as are my memories of people and places in the village, except for some instances that still dwell in the synapses of my mind. I apologise at this time if some of the names are mixed up or inaccurate as it is over sixty years ago that I am trying to remember with a mind that is now in the advanced stages of senility. Please correct the obvious inaccuracies when you come upon them. (Web Master Note :As requested by Alan some of the references in this thesis have been updated and/or verified by David Paton of The Threapwood History Group on behalf Alan and are referenced by his initials (DP) within his memoires.)
Casting my mind back I do remember a particular instant when at the age of five I stood before Headmistress, Miss Dorothy Coates looking up at her as I stood before her lectern reciting my name and address as she wrote it down in the school register in that old two room schoolhouse, divided by a wooden partition separating the young kids from the older kids. As an infant my teacher was Mrs Davies, who taught the young children with Miss Coates the older ones. I don’t remember at what age you went from the infants to join the older kids. I remember Mrs Davies daughter, Lena starting school - I believe she was a year or two younger than me and I always thought how cute she was.
I know I had to walk to school and back every day, I suppose about half to three quarters of a mile each way depending on whether we went via The Drumbers if dry or round the roads if wet – however it seemed like two miles to a five year old!!! On the way met up with the Blything kids, Billy who was about my age and later Elizabeth, also the Duttons and the Cluttons - Ron is the only Clutton that I remember except Gordon, who was older.
The short cut to school was across the Drumbers, a lane off Back lane, down a footpath, across a stream, up a bank to the road close to the school. Many times we tried to cross the Drumbers stream when it was flooded and had to return and come around the road. The Windmill House, owned by the Bank’s a farm at the far side of the Drumbers had a small dog that always came running out when we passed by and nipped at our heels, but I never remembered it biting anyone.
Another incident that sticks in my memory (I don’t know what year it would be) was when the local Hunt killed a fox in the front school yard scattering guts and gore all around. The Huntsman cut the ears and tail off the fox and proceeded to ‘blood’ the kids standing around at playtime daubing the blood across their foreheads until Miss Coates came out and screamed at them for it. There was a great fuss when local papers got wind of it and proceeded to raise the ire of the anti-foxhunt group.
At a later date Miss Coats or Dolly Coates as we kids called her behind her back, went and married a neighbouring farmer, a widower, Mr Herbert Bates. It was her first marriage and she must have been in her sixties. I remember her at lunch time walking across the field behind the school to the Bates farm to have her lunch with Mr Bates. When they retired she went with Mr Bates to live at the top of Tallarn Green in a small cottage and I always used to visit her when I was in the vicinity, which she seemed to like.
We three kids must have been a handful for my mother as my father still worked in the Midlands and was only home every three or four months for a day or two. She was from the city of Birmingham and had never lived in the country before; nevertheless she managed to cope with the help of friends in the village, especially Millie Duckers who lived in the cottage at the end of our lane. Jimmy Duckers was her son and he was older than me and my brothers. I can only remember one other of her children and that was Mair, pronounced Maya. I think she was the youngest of her children. Millie was divorced but that didn’t stop her having two or three more kids, all with different fathers. In any event she was the best friend that a family could have.
When I was about six they started to evacuate children from Liverpool to keep them from getting bombed out, a daily occurrence as the German bombers hit the city while trying to bomb the docks and shipping. Our home, The Hollies was quite a large house, certainly larger than for our needs and so we took in two young people, Elsie and Jimmy Griffiths. I think Elsie may have been thirteen and Jimmy, eleven. They stayed with us for about six months until moving on elsewhere. Our next evacuees were Mrs Hancock and her two children, Frankie and Marion. Frankie was my age and we became good friends, Marion was about five. They stayed with us for eighteen months, or more, when they moved to a cottage somewhere between Oldcastle Heath and Malpas and were there when we left Threapwood. Next came the James Family, Mrs James, daughter Linda, who was about five at the time and later a baby boy I think was named Billy? Mr James was a merchant seaman and only came to the house very infrequently. They stayed until nearly the end of the war and then the whole family moved to London where they stayed with Mrs James’s sister in Putney Bridge and from there they moved to Clapham Common and then on to Basingstoke in Hampshire. After two years they moved to Australia and at the time daughter Linda was 17 years old and she has lived there ever since. I did have one evacuee friend whose name was Oswald Finn or Ozzie as he was more commonly known. I can’t seem to remember who Ozzie stayed with, in the village but I think it was on Oldcastle Lane. We were friends until my family moved away and I lost touch with him.
From what I can remember about the wartime the local people looked out for each other. We were very poor but mother was still able to put food on the table for us kids, even if she went hungry herself. I know we got milk from a farm (DP - Topwood Farm) on Dog Lane close to the junction of Oldcastle Lane, Sandy Lane and Back Lane. The elderly Cluttons that lived on Oldcastle Lane were also a big help and friends to our family. I believe they were related (aunt and uncle) to the Cluttons who lived at the bottom of Sandy Lane. (DP suggests that this was Vic and Polly (Mary) at Horseshoe Cottage - his onetime neighbours). There is a story about the Cluttons who kept pigs in a sty close to the house. At this time meat was rationed and any animals raised had to be registered by the Government, who took the animals, paid a certain rate per pound for them and then sold them via the rationing. The officials who looked after this project would come and check on the animals periodically, but what they didn’t know was that the Cluttons had an illegal sty containing more pigs out of view at the end of their orchard. I know my mother saved potato peelings to take to feed the pigs and in return getting some illicit meat.
Even though the village seemed tranquil and peaceful, the war raged around us. Every night you could hear the night bombers droning overhead on their way to bomb Liverpool. If it was too misty or they just couldn’t find Liverpool, they would turn and drop off their bombs on the way back to Germany. I believe that a fake city had been set up off the Dee estuary, in the marshes making it look like a real city, complete with lights to fool the enemy. I believe it was quite successful. After the war an unexploded bomb was found in a gateway of a farm near Oldcastle. For years this bomb had lain in the deep mud of a gateway which was in continual use with cows and tractors passing through and over it without the bomb exploding. It was removed by the army and exploded safely later.
My closest brush with the war was when I was coming home from school, walking down the lane to our house when I heard a plane engine close by making a stuttering sound. We had been told that if we heard a plane it might be a German plane that would try to strafe us as we walked so we were to dive into a ditch, which I did, into thick mud. I watched the plane fly low overhead with flames coming from the engine. It disappeared into the distance and I heard a crump as it landed. I went home and told my mother, who hadn’t seen or heard the plane and she didn’t believe me as I stood there covered in mud. I was sent to bed with no supper for lying! Next day she found that a plane had crashed over towards Oldcastle and we later learned that three airmen from the Polish Air Force had been killed on the training mission when the engine set on fire. They tried to land in a field that was too short and crashed into a bank. Later mom surprised me with a beat up old bicycle because I hadn’t told her a lie. I had that bike many years until it dissolved into a pile of rust.
When I was nine my parents decided that I should attend Malpas Alport School and my old bike was central to this move as I would ride it three miles each way to and from school every day. The Headmaster was Herbert Cyril Yates and my teachers were Mr Lloyd and Miss Hughes. Later my teacher was Mr Richard Shepherd, who to me was a hero, not only as a pilot shot down in the war and surviving, but what he did for me as an individual. It was through his efforts that I was able to attend Shrewsbury Technical College at age thirteen and encouraged my running career, of which I went on to greater heights later in my life, representing Birchfield Harriers, Staffordshire and Midland Counties, mostly in my specialties of quarter mile and quarter mile hurdles. I was six feet tall at age twelve and very fast due to my escapes on poaching expeditions and being chased by gamekeepers, who had neither the speed nor the inclination to chase me too far. I topped out at six-two and added many more pounds later in life. Before I left Malpas Alport School I became Head Boy, a great achievement for a kid from a small village. Betty Pace was the Head Girl as I remember. I then left for Shrewsbury Tech.
The Hooper kids were well known for roaming the fields and pastures around Threapwood, chasing rabbits with our dog Towser, or fishing for Roach and Tench in the ponds around the village or fishing up and down the Sarn Brook from Dymocks mill to the Sarn for dace and eels (snigs). The eels we would take home peel the skins off and cut them up into pieces and deep fry them, which we kids did ourselves as mum wouldn’t touch them. They were delicious. Further up the Wych Brook towards Worthenbury we would try to catch Fluke, small flat fish that came up from the sea to spawn in the local tributaries of the Dee River. Sometimes we caught much larger ones as big as a dinner plate, which I suppose were actually Plaice. Sometimes we would meet up with an old man who would be ‘blobbing’ for eels on a contraption he made himself by threading worms on a line. One time I caught a very large trout in Wych Brook above the weir at Caenant Wood. No one knew how it could have got above the weir unless it was caught elsewhere and returned to the stream above the weir. It weighed nearly four pounds and tasted very good. On warm summer days in the school holidays we would go swimming in the Wych brook taking the old lane opposite the end of Back lane and Sarn road, past the farm on the left (DP Middlewood Farm) and down a lane and then through the fields to a bend in the brook which had a swimming hole where many of us kids and some parents would spend many happy hours splashing about in the water pretending to swim and having a great old time until the flashes came, which was when the water rose as the millwheel at the Sarn mill was started up by releasing water from the mill pool to turn the wheel. We then had to wait until the flashes subsided until we could again ‘swim.’
Our shopping was done at Broads shop on the Malpas road. Across the road was a petrol station and smithy and in the house next door was a sweet shop, run by an old lady, where if we had been good and mom had enough pennies we would get the treat of a sweet. I remember the bakery at the back of Broad’s shop in Threapwood, the baker being Geoffrey, the son of Mrs Broad. Another grocers shop was at the Sarn, just across the bridge, which I think was called Purcells and there was Gladdy’s Bakers shop in Cuddington at which I worked one summer on Saturdays delivering bread and buns around the neighbouring farms with Billy Gladdy, in his van while his brother Alan delivered around the village of Malpas. For this I was paid half a crown and I could take home some left over bread and sugar buns. Before the delivery round I would watch the baker cut the dough into one pound slabs, his accuracy at weighing was uncanny as was his aim as he would lob the cut piece into the greased pans that lined the floor, hitting them dead centre every time, even though they were many feet away. Once or twice a week a delivery van would come around the village selling fruit and vegetables and some groceries. I’m not exactly sure where they came from, probably Malpas or Shocklach. (DP adds that there were a selection of local delivery vans some of which were operating in Alan’s time here in the village and then more became available with some continuing well into the ’70s and ‘80s – there were butchers such as Griffiths/Farndon, Griffiths/Bangor on Dee, Reads/Hampton [later became George Hills and used to cut up meat on the van!] and Hiles’s/Malpas [later to become Bradbury’s] – as well as Broads/Threapwood, Gladdys/Cuddington and Purcells/Sarn other grocers were Passeys/Chorlton Lane, Jones/Tilston, Frank Jones/Sarn and Salts/Malpas – also Green Grocers Balls/Malpas. General products included Whitchurch Laundry, Evans/Farndon for Paraffin/General household products, Wycherleys every Monday with leather goods and general garden/farm items and maybe one of the first catalogue firms Kays had a local delivery service as well!)
Most evenings were spent listening to the radio or wireless as we called it then. The wireless was run by a dry battery and an accumulator as we didn’t have electricity, only a paraffin lamp or I think they were called Tilly lamps. The accumulator had to be periodically charged and was sent to Baxendales in Shocklach to be recharged and we were not able to listen to the wireless until it came back. I remember our favourite programme as being ‘Dick Barton, Special Agent’ the show always starting with the music, ‘The Devils Gallop.’ Dick, imagined as a tall, broad shouldered handsome man, his assistant Jean Hunter, a tall ravishing blonde bombshell and Dick’s sidekicks, Jock Anderson and Snowy White, getting in and out of all sorts of scrapes and winning out in the end.
It was many years later, when I saw on television the original radio actors who were the voices of Dick Barton and his assistant Jean Hunter. Imagine my disappointment to see Noel Johnson, the Dick Barton, as a small skinny man with a bald head and Lorna Dermott as his assistant, a short buxom woman, as round as she was tall, who looked like someone’s grandma. Talk about our imaginations running wild, but this is what the wireless portrayed and you had to use your imagination when listening to these shows. I do not quite see the kids of today having the visualisation to listen to shows of this nature, as their lives are now more obsessed with texting, tweets and twitters.
Our only other outlet for entertainment was to travel to Wrexham on Williams and Hodsons bus on Saturdays and take in an afternoon matinee film show, which were mostly short serial films and a main event. I remember one trip home as I was sitting in the front of the bus near the driver when a motorcyclist passed us at great speed. The driver said if he kept up that speed around these country lanes he would wrap himself around a telephone pole. Talk about prophetic as further along the route we came upon an accident, the motorcyclist had run into a telephone pole, head on and killed himself. The adults forcibly restrained us kids from looking, but we could see blood and gore splattered on the pole to remind us that life is fleeting. Helmets were not worn in those days as they are now.
There was no real entertainment in the village, except for whist drives on some Saturday evenings usually in the winter months that were held at the Congregational Chapel. I remember these whist drives particularly as I used to play in some of the games. I was able to do this because my mom played cards with Mr and Mrs Clutton, whose home was at the end of Sandy Lane and Back Lane. I was five when I watched the adults play and making up a foursome sometimes, I learnt to play at about the age of six. Sometimes at the Chapel games there would be a person short at a table, so I filled in, much to the dismay of some of the players, until they found out I could play as well as some of them. I won a third place at age six and a first place at age eight, so I must have been some good.
Our local church, St. Johns did not do anything for the village except for the services on some Sundays. Although we were baptised into the Church of England, my brothers and myself always attended the Congregational Chapel, because they had a Sunday school for kids run by Rev. Griffith, a Welshman with a very strong accent. I remember us belting out hymns at the tops of our voices, still remembering the words of some of them to this day, so it must have taught us something. I still think to this day that the Sunday School for kids was more like a baby sitting service so that the parents could get a couple of hours of peace.
The Chapel hall periodically had rummage and bake sales, probably a couple of times a year. I remember my mother would buy clothes for us kids at the rummage sales, which for the most part I got first, being the eldest. I would wear them until I grew out of them, then they would be handed down to Clive and eventually Barrie, who was always the most shabbily dressed until our fourth brother Laurence, or Laurie, as he was more commonly known, was born in 1944 who then inherited the hand-me-downs.
I can remember the Memorial outside the Chapel that was surrounded by iron railings, in particular, because when my mother gave me the bike, I rode it very shakily down Back Lane and turned towards the Chapel and seeing some friends, tried to stop, unfortunately the bike had a mind of its own because I ploughed into railings with my face hitting the bars, my nose in between and my face scraped down the bars until I hit ground. I had two red streaks down my face for weeks afterwards to remind me that I had to stop the bike with the brakes and not with my face. Fortunately the bike survived the crash as it was made of sterner stuff.
Once a year a circus/fair came to the village and was set up in Blything’s field on Back Lane, adjacent to the Drumbers lane where it would stay for a few days. They would set up their ‘Big Top,’ which was miniscule and a few side shows. The whole thing was probably run by one extended family as they did the circus acts and run the sideshows. I remember them coming for a number of years, but don’t know from whence they came or where they went to. They seemed to do good business because folks from miles around came to the shows. It was quite an annual event.
I remember that the farm (DP The Vicarage) just before the Church was owned by an elderly Irish lady (DP Miss Rhiall who managed the Broughton Hall Farms for the Howards) she had an old car with a ‘rumble/dickie’ seat at the back. I think Mr Dulson (Nathaniel nicknamed Neet) used to drive her around in it when she was older. We knew Mr Dulson quite well as he lived on the corner of Back Lane and Sarn Road (DP the cottage did and still does belong to The Vicarage) and used to herd some of the elderly lady’s cattle to pasture every morning and back every evening to graze in the fields next to The Hollies where we lived. Some of the cattle were the Jersey breed, others Friesians.
Miss Howard of Broughton Hall also had an old car with a seat in the back similar to the other one and could be seen at times driving around the village (DP but this car had the wheels painted yellow to denote that they supported the Liberal Party!). I understand the old Broughton Hall does no longer exist, which is a pity as I always thought it was a wonderful house. I had been inside on a number of occasions, particularly Carol Singing at Christmas when we were invited inside and given eggnog and mince pies. I think Mr Howard was an invalid and rode around in a wheel chair, to be seen all around the village and his estate. I don’t know if I am remembering this correctly, but someone from Broughton Hall passed away, probably old Mr Howard and the hall was taken over by a son or some other relative whom I believe was a military person – the features that I remember was that he was quite distinguished, tall and had red hair. (DP yes Mr Howard passed away and his nephew Major Wood succeeded the family at BH)
Any one old enough had to remember the Hooper kids who roamed far and wide around Threapwood with our dog, Towser, a hound of an indistinguishable breed, probably a cross between an Alsatian and a Setter, whom my dad rescued as it was about to be put down and brought it home as a pet for us kids. I was five at the time and the dog was six months old. Someone had tried to train it as a gundog, but Towser was scared of gunfire and so was destined to die. Towser went everywhere with us as we roamed the neighbourhood, even meeting us from school and it was a very sad day in our lives when Towser had eventually to be put down at the age of fifteen when we lived in Walsall Wood in Staffordshire. I have many stories about our dog and other pets, far too many to mention here, but including, starting from the smallest, white mice, white rats, ferrets, a hedgehog, Angora rabbits, a tamed wild rabbit, a tame pigeon, and a barn owl.
The owl I will tell you about. Dad came home in his car one evening and sitting on the back seat was a small white fluffy owl. Apparently the owl had crashed into the windscreen of the car, at dusk. Dad got out and picked it up, thinking it was dead and put it on his back seat, to find later that the owl was only stunned and was sitting there, looking at him. Mom, who had a heart of gold when it came to animals, fed it with bread and milk and as it seemed to be recovered, put it into the barn at the lower end of our lane at the Duckers house. She kept feeding it until it grew full size, about a foot tall, until one day it attacked her as she entered the barn, at which point she decided that it could fend for itself. That owl stayed in that barn for many years and could often be seen at dusk silently flying around the neighbourhood. Maybe there is one other story that is worth telling about an animal.
Pictured right are - Alan standing and seated left to right Clive, Laurie, Barrie – taken about 1944
Coming home from school one day we found that a large hedgehog had been run over by a car. It had four babies, two of which had also been crushed, but two were alive, nuzzling around the deceased mother, which we took home to mom to rescue. She fed them with warm milk, one died. The remaining one thrived and was fed with mom’s patented animal food of bread and milk. We kept it in a shoe box near the fireplace and it grew to full size. Mom let it out at night time and in the morning it would be on the doorstep waiting to be let back in, when it would go back to its box and sleep through the day. This went on for weeks until one morning it was not waiting to be let in and did not return. More weeks went by until one morning mom opened the back door and there was our hedgehog, with five babies in tow. She trotted into the house over to the fireplace but could not find her box, at which point she turned around and went back out, the babies following, and was never seen again.
Clive and Barrie followed me to Malpas Alport School as they got old enough, but Laurie never went there before we moved. Our family finally moved back to the Midlands to Walsall Wood, in Staffordshire around 1951, where the fifth brother, Phillip was born. All of the Hooper brothers were born in different counties. I was born in Sheldon, Birmingham in Warwickshire, Clive was born in Bournemouth, Hampshire, Barrie in Poole, Dorset, Laurie in Threapwood, Cheshire and Phillip in Walsall Wood, Staffordshire; quite an accomplishment.
My mother and father have both passed away, mother at age of only forty five, I suspect due to the ravages of the war. Our youngest brother Phillip passed away in 1999 at a young age and never married until a few months before his death. Barrie passed away in 2003 from Alzheimer’s disease. His wife Muriel is still alive and very well. Clive, who lives in Wednesbury, Staffordshire is quite frail now having been suffering from Multiple Sclerosis for a number of years. He is married to Iris and they have been married for over fifty five years. Laurie is in good health and has just retired from a small business he owned. He is married to Pauline.
After leaving Threapwood we lived in Walsall Wood for many years. I married Ruth in 1959 and we have now been married over Fifty Four years. I worked as a designer draughtsman for a few years until I moved to being a designer of leather goods and learning my craft in Walsall, Staffordshire, which was considered to be the leather capital of England. We moved to the United States in 1968 with our two sons Richard, and Graham so that I could continue my career in leather goods design, early on designing for some notables such as Pierre Cardin and Bill Blass and later running small companies, one a subsidiary of Nike, finally retiring from the well know handbag manufacturer Dooney and Bourke, being in charge of manufacturing design in their factories in Puerto Rico in the Caribbean. We owned a house in Maine to which we returned after retirement until moving to Spring Hill, Tennessee, just south of Nashville to be close to our children and our grandchild Kelly.
My days now are mostly spent playing golf at a nearby golf course, less than one mile away or attempting to write stories, mainly science fiction, traditional fiction and humour. I started writing before I retired as an outlet for something to do in my old age. I have had no meaningful writings published except for some quality control training manuals for the leather goods industry and some newspaper articles. I have a collection of humorous stories that I have been told by my writing friends I should try to get published, but I never started writing with that end in mind, just doing it for fun!
I realise that as I continue writing this thesis it is getting to be more about me than my memories of Threapwood, so you may delete what is not relevant to the Historical society’s needs. If this is more than enough for your needs, so be it, but I keep getting more and more recollections of my time in Threapwood and as I jokingly said to David Paton I could probably come up with a memoir of 100,000 words if pushed as there are many more instances that have aroused my interest in reading the interviews and memories of the people in the Threapwood History Group.
The biggest problem that I have is that I see all of the names of people and places in those interviews and know that I should know them as they are very familiar, but cannot relate names to faces or situations or the locations of places named in those interviews. There must be thirty or forty family names that I recollect but cannot place them. Like I said, a memory is a wonderful thing until it goes senile.
Love and best wishes to all.
Please remember me.
Postscript March 2016
After reading the new entries in the Threapwood History site, I remembered something that I had forgotten. This concerned 'The Hollies' house, which was probably ahead of its time with amenities as far as an indoor water supply was concerned. In the attic were two large water tanks which caught the rainwater coming off the roof, which could be heated by the coal fire hot enough for a bath. Upstairs was a bathroom which would be quite modern by today’s standards except there was no indoor toilet. That was outside, as was most peoples. This water collection system was not drinkable though, we carted water from Shillams farm for that. It's quite strange how these small incidents pop into one’s mind.
It’s great to see that you still have fun in the old village, much the same as we did back when.
Most of the frivolity back in my time was held at the Methodist Chapel, with the bring and buy sales and the Friday night whist drives, which I started playing in when I was six. I think I won a first prize at age eight much to the discomfort of the older folk. I can remember when a newcomer would come to the table and find a young kid playing, to be told not to worry as the youngster knows how to play. We played a lot of cards when was young, mostly with the Clutton's from the end of Sandy Lane. There was not much else going on in those days.