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Mrs Hinchcliffe's Memories of Old Arbury, Chesterton & Vicarage Terrace - Part 8

The eighth part of Mrs Grace Hinchcliffe's memories of rural Arbury, Chesterton and Vicarage Terrace in the early 20th Century, contributed to the Arbury Archive in the 1980s.

'One day, I was on my way to Arbury to see Grandma Brett and Aunt May at Manor Farm. They were both ill and it was a lovely, blowy spring day with blue sky and chilly winds. I was about twelve or so. At that age, you're full of life and I was going up Milton Road and I said something like: "Please blow Grandma's and Aunt May's illnesses away!" - something like that. And as I went up Arbury Meadow Road I almost felt like it might work. It was such a glorious spring day. But when I got to the farm, Aunt May was sitting in her armchair still and Grandma was upstairs in bed and nothing had changed. Of course, you couldn't get rid of Sleeping Sickness and TB by wishing!

'I prayed for them too, but I believe now God knows when our time is up and that's that. We all have our day. Grandma took it all like that. Her faith was very strong - and if this was God's will, that was all there was to it. She sat in bed, sweet as ever, and I used to go up and sit with her and read to her and she'd have her window open and the breeze would be coming in from the Park meadow. It was a very peaceful atmosphere in that room.

'I remember Grandma's old text over her bed. That was framed in passe partout - sticky tape you wet and stuck to the glass and backing. That was popular because you couldn't get all these cheap frames you get now. I went to Sunday School with Muriel to the Wesley Church in King Street and they used to give you little texts there to show you'd attended at the end of each day. It was morning and afternoon. Mum always made sure I showed her mine! When you'd got twelve, you handed them in and got a big one you could frame in passe partout at home. I think Grandma's text came out of a seed catalogue!

Amelia Brett's text.

'Uncle Frank had been gassed in the war and wasn't that well still. He moved out to lodge with Mrs Carter in Old Chesterton. The family had known Mrs Carter for years, and Uncle Frank married her daughter, Annie, a few years later. They lived in the house at the sewage farm on Milton Road and Uncle Frank worked there.

'Uncle Frank was a lovely man with a lovely sense of humour and he made up stories sometimes to keep us amused. I remember once wondering if Grandad Brett had been like that when he was young. Grandad was a workhorse for the family, and you needed to be with a family of eleven. I loved him. He was a very quiet man, but he could lay down the law with his children at times. Grandma sort of... looked to him to do that, because she found it hard. That's how she ended up with one of my aunties throwing her hat on the fire because it was "old fashioned"! My mum... well, I'd never've dreamt of doing such a thing with one of her hats! The same with Grandma Prevett really. You wouldn't dream of such a thing because you'd regret it!

'The hat-throwing was just a one-off, and my auntie had been very young when she did it, because she was a lovely person and learnt better. But the horror of things being "out of fashion" was very real even back then, and she thought she was saving Grandma embarrassment being seen out in it! Being "in the fashion" was all the rage amongst us youngsters.

'Grandma Brett was very quiet though - although she had a great fun side to her - dressing up as a tramp every Christmas for instance, and knocking on the door and being brought in. This was a way to teach us about people less fortunate than us, I think - but she made it great fun!

'Anyway, I'm getting off the point. What I wanted to say is I remember being out with Grandad Brett one frosty night. The stars were lovely and the Manor Farm Drive was frozen solid. There was ice and puddles. You had to watch your step because there were grooves where carts and bikes had been down and these were icy too. I can't remember why we were out, just a stroll probably, but when we got up to Arbury Road I piped up: "Grandad, why is it called 'Arbury' Road?" I was always asking questions.

'Grandad said: "When the explorers set up their camp at the end of the road, they had to fight through miles of brambles and twisted old tree roots and all sorts before they found it. Suddenly, they came to a lovely clearing, with bushes all round, and there were raspberries and blackberries and strawberries growing and the leader said: 'Ah, berries!' They were very pleased with all that food to eat and they set up their camp and built their huts and called it 'Ah, berries' after what the leader said when they first saw the clearing. As the years went on, the bushes got old and died and people forgot how the name came about. The way they said the name changed over the years until it got to Arbury."

Life must have been sweet in Ah, Berries!

'I'd never heard Grandad talk like that before, and I suddenly wondered what he was like when he was out at Histon as a young man before all his responsibilities. I knew he was having a bit of fun with that story, I never believed it for a minute, but I wondered if I was getting a glimpse of what he'd been like before he grew up and had to be serious! It seemed strange really - imagining what Grandad Brett had been like as a young man, because he'd always been.... well, I called it "old", to me!

'That night sticks in my mind, with everything frozen and still and the twinkling stars. It was really beautiful.

Richard Brett

'It was hard with Grandma and Aunt May both ill, but they muddled through. Esther Clifton used to help out. She was there a lot, lived in for a while - it was a paid job. Later on, she married one of the Nicholases who had the timber yard in Carlyle Road. I thought a lot of Esther. Aunt Lil was still living at home for a time, and my dad was working close by. He'd pop in several times a day, and if he was needed other times somebody would go out and fetch him. And Uncle Arthur, Aunt Lizzie, Aunt Lou, my mum, Aunt Cis, Uncle Frank and neighbours and friends would all pop in, so they got by.

'Anyway, Aunt Lil got married to a farmer called Bert Levitt in 1923. He was a lovely man and me and Muriel were both set to be bridesmaids. But I got a really horrible, chesty cold and ended up stuck at home - boiling my head over a bowl of hot water and Friars Balsam!'

Part 9 is here.


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