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1986/1987/1988: Mrs Hinchcliffe's Old Arbury, Chesterton And Vicarage Terrace Memories - Part 5

Mrs Elizabeth Jones outside her house in George Street, Chesterton in the 1920s. 'Uncle Albert built the bay window onto their house,' said Mrs Hinchcliffe. 'He was a very clever man.'

Mrs Grace Hinchcliffe's memories, contributed to the Arbury Archive in the mid-to-late 1980s, continue. 

'It makes me think, how the school leaving age has gone up and up. My mum and dad were eleven when they left. I was fourteen. Now it's sixteen [1987]. Of course, it's eighteen if you stop on. But I often think how young Mum, Dad, Uncle Arthur, Aunt Lou and them were when they left.

'Uncle Arthur and Aunt Lizzie were the oldest two. 

'Uncle Arthur was born in 1881 - I saw his birth certificate when he applied for his pension - and Aunt Lizzie a year or two later. Well, Uncle Arthur worked as a maintenance man for one of the colleges, then had to go to war, then worked at Girton College until he retired. His wife was ill for years, and Uncle Arthur coped, all very quiet, gentle and steady. It's like I said, we didn't like it at all if men cried or anything. Terrible thing to see a man cry. Yet he went through so much. 

'Auntie Lizzie was the second born, and she was lovely too, quiet, steady, kind - lovely auntie. But she occasionally had sort of... miserable times. I think it's called "melancholia" but one thing had played on her mind ever since she was a young girl.

'One day, when she was in service at one of the big houses in Chesterton Road, she got some time off, unexpected. Her afternoon off was changed at the last minute. Well, she decided to pop over to Arbury to see her mother. We're going back to before I was born. It would have been in the 1890s this happened.

'Well, Aunt Lizzie walked from Chesterton Road to Arbury and she was feeling excited. Of course, she couldn't phone Grandma to let her know she was coming, you had to be rich to have a phone in them days, and when she got to Manor Farm she found Grandma had invited somebody round for a cup of tea. That wasn't like nowadays. If you had somebody round for a cuppa in those days, you made a fuss - best cups and saucers, scones or cakes or whatever, and whoever was coming would usually turn up in a nice hat.

'Aunt Lizzie walked in and Grandma welcomed her, of course, but she had to be polite to the visitor and Aunt Lizzie felt neglected. I mean, here she was, Mum's big girl coming to see her having been out in the work world, and Grandma didn't fall all over her.

'Aunt Lizzie couldn't see the situation clearly at all, and years later, she still spoke of it. She didn't think Grandma really loved her. I'd say: "Oh, I know she did, Aunt Lizzie...' And I'm sure she did. Grandma was a very loving person. But Aunt Lizzie would say: 'I don't know...' The doubt never left her.

'This makes me think about how young that generation was when it went out to work. Still children really, and if you were a bit sensitive, some slight, silly things might stay with you forever...'

Elizabeth and her son, Harry, ran the shop side of Albert Jones's decorating business on Chesterton Road. Albert had the large contract of painting Victoria Avenue bridge and the railings by Midsummer Common and Jesus Green.

Mrs Hinchcliffe talked further of the First World War years, 1914-1918. I had organised material to aid her in putting events in chronological order.

'Looking at birth certificates and marriage lines and news snippets helps you place when things happened. I remember Aunt Maud Brett marrying Alfred Jarrett in 1915. Me and [cousin] Muriel were bridesmaids. We were in the carriage on Arbury Road, on the way to St Andrew's Church, when I apparently told Muriel off for giggling! "Ssh, you musn't laugh at funerals!" I apparently said. I was only little, of course, and don't remember a thing, but Muriel often laughs about it!'

The next certificate was a death certificate, dated from the following year, 1916.

'Dolly Jones, my cousin, Aunt Lizzie and Uncle Albert's daughter. She was only nine when she died. Meningitis. I don't really remember her very well, but I remember the terrible sadness in the family. Of course, I was simply told she'd gone to heaven and that sort of thing. I didn't understand about death and I don't think anybody told me Dolly had died in so many words. But I picked up on the atmosphere. It was terrible. I'm sure Dolly did go to heaven. It's not those who pass on that suffer, they're at peace. It's those they leave behind.

'It was said that Dolly got the infection when she was getting onto a bus behind a woman in a filthy old coat. As she got on, her forehead knocked against the woman's elbow and that's how the infection set in, that's what the family said.'


Dolly Jones and her brother Harry, 1912.

A wedding certificate came next as we moved on through the pile of papers.

'Aunt Beat, Mum's sister, and Uncle Alf! They were married at St Matthew's Church and I was a bridesmaid again. This time I could appreciate it, when Aunt Maud got married I was too young.

'Aunt Beat worked at Crossman's Knitting Factory, but she loved housekeeping. It was a real passion with her. Her house was so spotless you could've eaten your dinners off the floor!'

Mrs Hinchcliffe - young Grace Brett - as a bridesmaid at an aunt's wedding at St Matthew's Church, Cambridge, 1924.

The next item was a 1919 newspaper 'in memoriam' to Alfred Brett, Mrs Hinchcliffe's uncle.

'He died in 1918, not long before the war ended. A terrible shock. I went over to Arbury to see Grandma and Grandad Brett and I remember them sitting there, looking really old. All of a sudden - they looked really old. It took the spirit right out of them. They just sat in the kitchen and Dad was there and Aunt Lou and everybody was talking in quiet voices and it was awful.

'Then there was all this business that followed on - over whether the family lived in Chesterton parish or Impington parish. It turned out to be Impington, so Uncle Alf's name had to go on their war memorial. I know Grandma had the jitters a bit because she'd always thought Manor Farm was in Chesterton parish and had always put that on the census. She thought she might have broken the law - but she hadn't, of course. There were a lot of mistakes like that then.'

'Cambridge Daily News, 14 June, 1919.

The next document was a death certificate.

'Aunt Floss Ward, Mum's sister. Poor Aunt Floss! Meningitis again. She lived in Green's Road with Uncle Ern and they had a little tot... a little girl called Gladys. Well, Aunt Floss died and Gladys came to stop with us for a while. She was only a toddler... I remember she stayed in my room, Dad brought a cot in, and Mum would come in and kiss us both good night, go to leave the bedroom, and Gladys would always pipe up: "Musn't shutee door, mustee, Mummy?" Of course, Mum always left the door ajar.

'Poor Gladys - breaks your heart to think of it...'

Moving onto the next item, a newspaper cutting, Mrs Hinchcliffe said:

'Look at this - 1918 again! Terrible year - we lost cousin Dolly, Uncle Alf, Aunt Floss and Uncle Fred Prevett. Now, Uncle Fred really still stands out in my mind, even after all these years, because I went to his funeral. 

'Uncle Fred was only a young boy. I remember he was very cheerful - always whistling as he went about - and then he went in the Navy and he became a First Class Boy. Well, he died at sea on his eighteenth birthday. It was some sort of flu bug that killed him. He had a fever. I was told he was embalmed at sea - though I didn't know what "embalmed" meant to be honest - as Grandma and Grandad Prevett wanted him brought home for burial.

'Mum thought I was old enough to go to the funeral. It was at Mill Road Cemetery. The Navy was engaged elsewhere so the Army was in attendance. There was a gun carriage and the men lined the entrance to the cemetery, forming an arch with their guns for the coffin to pass beneath.

'They had a bugler there who played the Last Post. It sounded so forlorn. I can't hear that on the telly or anything even today without being right back there...'

While misery and grief beat jollity hands down in 1918, Mrs Hinchcliffe ended this particular chat with a much more light hearted story...

'I was about nine and I thought I'd walk to somewhere really far away and then come back again, all by myself. I thought I was grown-up, you see. Well, I was at Grandma's and I came out of the farm and walked up Arbury Road, right up to Arbury Camp and Histon Road. I think it was early spring because although it was sunny, there were lots of clouds coming and going.

The Arbury district 1900.

'Well, as I walked, the sky got blacker and blacker, though the sun was shining through gaps in the clouds at times. "I don't care!" I said to myself. "I'm going to walk right out to somewhere really far away!" Then it started pelting down with rain. It was like something out of a bucket. I was walking towards Histon and I said to myself, "I don't care! A little drop of rain won't stop me!" But in the end I was wringing wet and my shoes were squelching so I walked all the way back to Arbury. And that rain didn't let up - not a bit of it! It was in my face and there was a wind blowing and it was terrible!

'When I got back to Manor Farm, the sun came out. Grandma Brett was very worried, she thought I'd catch a chill, so she stripped me down and dried me and made me put on an old dress of Aunt Lil's - which I didn't like as I'd set out in one of my favourite dresses, which looked like a soaked rag when I got back.

'My shoes were ruined and Mum was really cross. REALLY cross! I never set out to walk "somewhere really far away" ever again. That spirit of adventure, you see - always getting me in trouble!'

Part six is here.


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