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Hedge-high Snow, Paraffin Incubators & Bridesmaid Duty – a Lincolnshire Childhood

Jo Houlden was born in 1943. Her sister, Joyce Thorndyke, was 15-years older and entered service at South Ormsby Hall as a cook in 1942. When Joyce married Harry Parkinson in June 1948, Mrs Massingberd-Mundy hosted their wedding. Joyce and Harry didn’t get their honeymoon until 1949, and chose to spend it at the Isle of Man TT as they were both motorbike-mad.

Jo was nearly five-years old when she served as a bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding. She remembers the reception, held in the Hall’s ballroom. She also recalls being part of a group picture near a big hedge. In the run up to the wedding, Jo visited the Hall a few times. She grew up in a farmer’s tied cottage with no bathroom and no running water save the pump across the road. Consequently, the Hall’s kitchen, with Mrs Massingberd-Mundy in charge, made quite an impression. In her mind’s eye, Jo can still see a huge interior with glass jars everywhere, presumably for preserves as there was little or no refrigeration. She was also intrigued by the dumb waiter and was given a ride in it.

South Ormsby Hall, 1930s

Jo remembers another 1940s wedding, when Bertha Butters married Jim Fairburn at St Andrew’s Church, South Thoresby, in the hard winter of 1947. Together they established one of the county’s major egg-producers. Jo helped Bertha’s dad to collect eggs and was fascinated by his paraffin-heated incubators with their warm, sweet smell. Harry Parkinson was Jim’s best man, and Joyce and another sister were bridesmaids for Bertha. It was so cold that the ladies wore muffs in preference to holding flowers.

The severe winter of 1947 lingers in Jo’s memory. The Hall’s lake froze over and Joyce skated on it with skates borrowed from Mrs Massingberd-Mundy. There was so much snow that you could walk on top of the hedgerows at Driby Top. Joyce dragged Jo by sledge to the Hall while farm labourers struggled to clear routes with spades and tractors.

In later winters, some tractors and heavy vehicles had snowplough attachments, while car drivers kept snow-chains handy. Throughout her childhood, Jo had at least one week a year off school due to snow blocking roads.

Jo now lives in Wragby but retains fond memories of South Ormsby. When she passed her 11+, Mrs Massingberd-Mundy visited to offer congratulations and a 10s note – a fair sum at the time. In 1963, Jo married her husband at St Leonard’s Church. As a farm worker, he only earned £3 per week, and Jo earned half-a-crown less as a factory worker in Alford.

Reading ‘My Days’ brought back strong memories for Jo. Few people will see as much change as she’s experienced in one lifetime.


* Hall image courtesy of David Brown

* Snowdrift images courtesy of Simon Harrod and glasseyes view, both via Flickr CC


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