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1986/1987/1988: Mrs Hinchcliffe's Old Arbury, Chesterton And Vicarage Terrace Memories - Part 3

Mrs Hinchcliffe in 1986.

Part three of Mrs Grace Hinchcliffe's memories, contributed to the Arbury Archive in the 1980s. Mrs Hinchcliffe (1910-1998) told us of her childhood and teenage years in the Arbury, Chesterton and Vicarage Terrace of the 1910s and 1920s. She was a cousin of Mrs Muriel Wiles, whose memories are also featured on this blog, and the differing personalities and recollections of the two make for fascinating reading.

'Mum was bringing me up to be a young lady. It wasn't a very good idea because we were working class really, but she wouldn't even let me wash up a spoon - bless her! But really I was full of mischief and loved an adventure.

'We had a saying about some housewives who were what you might call "jumped-up". They'd spend out on things to make their houses seem a bit posher, and skimp on necessary things. We'd say: "All fancy net curtains and half a bloater for dinner"! Mum wasn't like that - but she did see me as a young lady. Dad idolised me, of course, and he was quite happy to see me made a fuss of.

'I remember one of the fields on Arbury was called the Park, and it was next to Grandma Brett's house at Manor Farm. It was often empty or there might be a few cows, but for a while there was a big old bull there, all on his own.

'Well, I liked to sit on the wall on the edge of the Park near Grandma's house and tease this old bull. I'd call out to it, and wave my arms about. It was a docile old thing, but when Mum saw me she was really... well... alarmed I suppose. She was in quite a state and she told me this story about when she was in service for the Peppers.

'She'd been coming home one night in the dark and was out on Arbury Meadow Road. She decided to cut across the Park because that cut off the corner. It would be like cutting across the Manor School grounds from Arbury Road to a house you're going to in Campkin Road now [1987].

'Well, halfway across, she fell over something. It was pitch dark, but the thing she fell over got up, snorted, and came after her! She threw herself over the fence near the big house - and just in time - because she said it was right behind her. It was a bull!

'Of course, I was impressed, but I wasn't frightened. What an adventure, I thought! So I was back on the wall teasing the bull again as soon as her back was turned. She didn't intend that, but that's how I was!

'Poor old Mum! I gave her a few grey hairs, I'm sure!'

A cow peacefully grazing on the future site of the Manor School playing field in the 1930s. The wall and the Bretts' house can be seen to the right.

Despite her mother's efforts to bring up her daughter as a 'young lady', Mrs Hinchcliffe was fascinated by many domestic tasks.

'Men didn't have it easy. If a man cried we thought it was terrible, and if he was interested in housework or suchlike we called him "wishy washy". There was a lot more tough work out in the fields and all that then, and the machines that made things easier, like threshing machines, were only just coming in in Grandad Brett's day. Even today, with all the machines we've got to make life easier, you don't see these women's libbers shouting to get on the dust carts and down the pits. I was glad I was a girl. 

'Not that women's work was easy, doing the washing in a copper that was heated by a wood fire - no gas or electricity - and wringing out with a mangle, using a range and keeping it clean, no hoovers - but a lot of it was nicer. Men did most of the really hard physical slogging out at work. And if they hadn't done it, we wouldn't have had anything to eat or roofs over our heads - it's as simple as that.

'I wanted a home and a family to bring up, and a big strong husband when I grew up. Nowadays people have too much time on their hands and instead of using it to make things better, they bicker, make mountains out of mole hills and rewrite the past, like these women's lib people. I don't think the human race will ever sort itself out at this rate.

'I spent a lot of time with Grandma Brett in Arbury and I used to love to watch her cook. Her roly-poly pudding was so clever. The family liked different fillings, so she'd please all by spreading one part with dates, another with jam, another with treacle and leave one part plain to be eaten with brown sugar. Then she'd tie each section up with string, and the contents never mingled!

'She had a great big pantry and she always had freshly baked loaves in a big stone pot just inside the doorway and jams, peas and cooked new potatoes on the shelves. Me, Reg and Muriel often crept in for a munch!

'I loved it when I was at Aunt Lou's in Springfield Terrace and she got the flat irons out. I loved watching her ironing - especially shirt collars. A lot of them came separately in those days. To this day, I love ironing shirt collars! Well, the years passed and the hoover and the washing machine came in, and Aunt Lou was disgusted by them. She thought they did nowhere as good a job as hard graft, and if she was visiting and somebody put the hoover on, she'd always get her clean, white linen handkerchief out, lean back in her chair and put it over her face!

'The Bretts were a quiet family. Well, not quiet, that's the wrong word, they were often lively and liked a laugh, but their lives were peaceful. Not much happened. Still, poor old Grandma had turned over poorly in the fog one night on the way home from Cambridge. This was long before I was born, but I was often told about it. Well, she snagged her bag on a hedge, making a hole, missed the Arbury Road corner, and went on down Milton Road, not knowing that the sprats she'd bought for tea were dropping out! In the end she fell in a ditch near Milton Gates and it was the only the trail of sprats that helped Grandad and Uncle Arthur, who was then a little boy, to find her when they went searching for her.

'Now that really was an adventure!' Mrs Hinchcliffe laughed.

A postcard from Miss Mabel Brett of Manor Farm, Arbury Road, Cambridge, to her sister, Mrs Louisa Ashman at 7, Turf Terrace, Newmarket. Alfred Brett, their brother, had joined the Territorial Army and Mabel notes: 'I have put an X against Alf'. The card, postmarked 25 August, 1913, reads: 

Dear Sister, Received letter quite safe. Hope you are all well as it leaves us all the same. You can expect Alf and me over to day [sic] week, weather permitting. Dad has got his corn up. Arthur is having his Holiday this week. Mother, Arthur and Lil went to Felixstowe last Wednesday. Quite swanko.

Love from sister Mabel. Will tell you more when I see you. xxxx

Note, that although most of the stamp has been removed, it is tilted in the then fashionable way to indicate a kiss. And 'swanko'? That meant 'posh', 'showy'.

At the time of the 1914-1918 war, Mrs Hinchcliffe was a child.

'I remember there was an atmosphere of worry and Uncle Arthur, Uncle Alf and Uncle Frank all enlisted. Uncle Alf came back in his uniform with a mustache and I thought that very odd because he'd never had one before and, me being little, it took me a little while to get used to him like that. It was a bit like a stranger at first. My mum's brother, Uncle Andrew Prevett, had a waxed mustache and that seemed very odd!

'It was all very odd one night when Mum and Dad came into my bedroom at Milton Road and opened the curtains. There in the sky was this huge airship, a zeppelin! I was only little and I'd never dreamt of such a thing! It made a kind of low zoob-zoob-zoob noise. I got up and joined them. I remember they both seemed a bit trembly, and Mum said she thought it was looking for the gas works. Of course, I didn't know what it all meant and I was totally fascinated, blissful in my ignorance!'

Part 4 is here...

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