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1986: Mrs Wiles Remembers Old Arbury and Chesterton: Part 3

1908: The Park Pasture at Manor Farm (later the site of the Manor School) was the scene for this happy wedding photograph, taken by Starr and Rignall Photographers of Cambridge and Ely - Thomas Walter Ashman and Louisa Brett were the happy couple. I have marked on the names of the main family members (the bride and groom are self explanatory!) - all who feature in Mrs Wiles's recollections. One of the Manor Farmhouse ('Manor House') chimneys can be seen in the background. Lydia Prevett was then in service there. She was a bridesmaid at the wedding and married Henry 'Harry' Brett in 1910.

The third part of Mrs Muriel Wiles's memories of the Arbury and Chesterton district during her youth. Mrs Wiles (1909-1987) contributed these recollections to the Arbury Archive in 1986

'Mum and Dad met while Mum was working in Newmarket,' said Mrs Wiles. 'Dad would often cycle all the way from Newmarket to Arbury to visit Mum at Manor Farm.

'Mum said Gran and Grandad were very taken with Dad, and soon a wedding date was set - the 12th of September, 1908. That was my parents' wedding day. 

'The day brought what Mum always called "real heat wave weather" and the jellies wouldn't set!'

Brett relatives from Histon and Impington and the Ashman relatives of Walter, together with many friends and well-wishers, converged on Manor Farm after the ceremony at St Andrew's Church in Chesterton for the wedding reception. Jellies or not, there was a grand spread and Richard and Amelia had booked Starr and Rignall to take some photographs in the Park meadow at Manor Farm.

'They looked as if they owned the Earth, in the photograph. But they didn't. Grandad was a very hard worker and kept the family in as much comfort as he could,' said Mrs Wiles in 1986, looking at the main wedding group photograph which hung on the wall in her back room at Springfield Terrace. 

'My mother often looked at the photo and said how lovely the fashions were, and then she'd sigh because hemlines had come up and the hats had gone. When I was a little girl, I looked at it and said: "Mum, why are those ladies wearing cakes on their heads?" Mum was taken aback, but that's just what those hats looked liked to me!

We're hoping to build this 1920s map of the Arbury/New Chesterton district up into a handy reference to all the locations mentioned by Mrs Wiles during this series. Note the locations of her cousins' and the Bretts' houses, her father's allotment, her uncle's smallholding, the Roman road, and the Arbury, Arbury Field and 'Boy's Pit' fields at Manor Farm.

'Mum felt tired out as her wedding day wore on. There had been a lot of heat, rich food, hand shaking, guests and it was all a bit much really. She popped upstairs at one point "just to fetch something" - but the sight of her old bed was too much for her. She eased off her shoes and, being careful not to crease her wedding dress, laid herself down. She'd just have a minute's rest, she thought.

'Well, downstairs, Dad was tired out too. There were guests all around the farmhouse and in the garden as the stars came out to twinkle, and he sat himself down in the parlour in an armchair to wait for Mum to come back down.

'And they both fell asleep. Well, of course, nobody had the heart to wake them, and when they did wake up, it was the next day! Mum often told us the story of her wedding day over the years - and what a wedding night! We did laugh!

Mrs Wiles in her back garden at Springfield Terrace in 1985. She was a keen gardener, although she wished that her garden was wider. The gardens in the Terrace always seemed amazingly narrow to Andy.

'It was lovely when I was young because I had cousin Grace living just up on Milton Road and cousin Reg on the corner of George Street. We often went up to Uncle Harry's smallholding at Manor Farm. "Chase Through The Artichokes" was a favourite game there!

'Mum told me that the Park meadow at Manor Farm had been much bigger when she was a girl. The Council chopped part of it up for smallholdings, including Uncle Harry's. Two of the big fields of the farm survived the sale - Arbury and Arbury Field - because some people had big smallholdings - like Mr Camps who lived next door to the Sales at the top of the Drive by Arbury Road. There was a smaller field a bit further up than them, by the water course near where Grandad had his ground. It was called "Boy's Pit". It was called that, so Mum said, because a boy had drowned there many years ago. She didn't know who, and neither did anybody else I asked. His name was long forgotten.

'Boy's Pit... it was.... well, it was a creepy thing to call it really, although it was done as a remembrance. But I still had a lot of happy times playing there with Grace and Reg and George Wright.

'One day, I was up there on my own and suddenly the sun went in and the water turned from blue to dark grey and it looked... well... quite sinister! I went back to the farmhouse to Gran as quick as I could. Isn't it funny how weather changes the mood of a place? I've often thought that.'

A postcard from Portsmouth to Mrs Wiles (then aged ten) at Springfield Terrace, dated 20 July 1921. This was from her Aunt Lydia, wife of Harry [Henry] Brett and mother of Grace. Lydia had gone to work for Mr and Mrs Pepper at Manor Farm as a young woman, and Mrs Pepper had bestowed on her the name 'Annie' (names like Lydia were often not deemed 'appropriate' for servants by their mistresses) and this name rather stuck. Mrs Wiles always spoke of her as 'Aunt Annie'. Note the tilted stamp denoted an extra kiss to go with the x's. The family did not use phrases like 'most ripping' or 'simply lovely' in speech!

Dear Muriel,

Just a card to say I am having  a most ripping time. It is simply lovely here. I've been in the sea to bathe in a bathing costume. Has Uncle Harry shown you the photo of us in the sea? It was great fun. Have you seen Grace? I have not had a line yet from Uncle Harry. Fond love to all, Auntie Lydia x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

A straight-backed, sitting posture was considered most important when Mrs Wiles was attending Milton Road School. 

'I remember us all sitting there with our arms folded behind our backs! Not that we were always so well behaved. Me and Grace scratched our initials into the privy wall here [at Springfield Terrace] and into the wall leading into the Terrace. A lot of kiddies did the same! Funny really... I suppose it was for posterity or something!'

We went out to look at the wall in the 1980s to see if we could find the 'G.B.' and 'M.A.' initials, but several generations had been at work since then!

The wall leading into Springfield Terrace in more recent years.

Part 4 of Mrs Wiles's memories is here.




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