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My Days – Chapter Three

Leaving Home

When I was 16, I went into private service at Market Stainton with the Parker family. They were great. I went there as a housemaid. There were six servants. I enjoyed it. It was about three miles from home, and I used to pushbike home on my half-day.  We got one half-day off in the week, and another half-day every other Sunday. We had to be in at 10 o’clock.

Mr and Mrs Parker had a son and a daughter. The daughter, Lydia, was great. She used to ride and went hunting. She looked great in her clothes. At night after the hunts, she used to come down to the servants’ hall and tell us all about her day. We used to ask her if they caught any foxes but she said, “we never do, we go for the joy of riding”.

Lydia used to go riding most days. Her mum was always after her to do little things. The nursery was still furnished, so Lydia used to spend a lot of time in there. When she wanted to go riding, she used to hide in there and call to us girls to look where her mum was. Lydia was 23 at the time, mind you. So, we used to find her mum then let Lydia out down the servants’ staircase and out the back door. Off she used to go, and soon after her mum was on the trot calling Lydia.  “Have any of you girls seen her?”  Of course we hadn’t! What fun we had.

I really loved living there. It was near home, and I had a boyfriend. His parents lived in Market Stainton and his sister came into the Hall once a week to clean which was very nice. There was a post office in the village, which was only very small. At night I popped out to the shop, hoping to see my boyfriend. Sometimes I was lucky, but sometimes I came back disappointed.

The cook and the kitchen maid at the Hall were very nice. If I had a bit of spare time in a morning and there was a dinner party at night, I would help the kitchen maid to pluck pheasants and skin rabbits. At night, when I had tidied the bedrooms, folded the clothes they had taken off to dress for dinner (I had laid the evening gowns out for them to put on), turned the beds down, and put hot water bottles in the beds, I would go into the kitchen and dry pots as there was such a lot. We all had our own jobs, but we were great friends and helped one another. For supper we had leftovers from the dinner party. It was great.  I often think of the girls and the times we had.

Before I worked there, my half-sister Evelyn worked at Ranby Hall, only two miles or so from Market Stainton. The lady and gent – Haggs, they called them – went abroad for weeks in the summer and took some of their staff with them. While they were away, Evelyn, who was head housemaid, was short of a girl and asked if I would like to go and help her. Of course, I jumped at the chance to earn myself some money and buy some clothes as I had very few. Grace would give me a dress or jumper or suchlike when she’d finished with them.

So I went to live in at Ranby Hall. The kitchen maid and I shared a room – one bed of course. I never realised what my half-sister Evelyn was really like until then. She was awful. I couldn’t do a thing right. It seemed that she had never got on with any of the staff. The first Monday I was there, she was in the room at 5.30 calling me up. It went on for a few mornings, and the kitchen maid – I can’t remember her name – said, “we’ve no need to put up with this, let’s lock the bedroom door”. So we did. My, wasn’t she mad! I led her a dance, but I stuck it out until Mr and Mrs Haggs came home.

Mrs Haggs got me in with Mr and Mrs Parker at Market Stainton. That was how I got there. My half-sister never liked me after that but there was no love lost.

Images above:

Left – me at 16-years old.

Right – my brother Sid.     

 

Can anyone remember the pylons at Stenigot Top*? I think there were four of them. After the Second World War they took three down; one still stands . Well, my brother Sid helped build them. During the war, he went abroad to Aden building them. Him and one of his mates fell from the top of one. My brother didn’t come off as bad as his mate who broke his back and never worked again. He had two children. Dad used to worry about Sid up on the pylons.

I’m afraid I’m going back a few years to when we had the shop. My mum, sister Grace and brother Sid used to get up very early to go mushrooming in the fields at a place called Gatley Marsh. The fields were covered with dew, but there were plenty of mushrooms as big as tea plates. Lovely! We took straw clothes-baskets and other baskets. We used to come home wet-through but had a lovely breakfast before going to school. We used to love it. Mum sold the mushrooms in our shop and dad took some to market.

Back to my brother, Sid. After he fell, he came out of hospital and he tried to work up on the pylons again but he’d lost his nerve. I don’t wonder at it. He was made foreman. He worked in Aden for years. We didn’t see much of him after that. In fact, I can’t remember him living at home anymore. He used to come home every now and then on holiday, but not for long. The years just passed and we grew apart.

He came home one summer and went for a check-up to the doctor in Louth. He told him he was fine – “I will see you in a month’s time” – then Sid walked a short way and dropped down dead. He was in his sixties. It was such a shock.

* RAF Stenigot opened in 1940 as a radar warning station. Its role was to provide early notice of enemy bombing raids on Sheffield, Nottingham and the Midlands. The site originally featured four steel transmitter towers standing at 350′, and four timber receiver towers at 240′. One 350′ tower remains and has been used by the RAF until recently to select and train aerial erectors.   

Images above:

Left – The last remaining Chain Home radar-transmitter tower at former RAF Stenigot, photographed in 2016.  

Right – My sister, Grace, with her daughter, Joan.

 

To make it worse, our nephew Jack Crowley was under the same doctor as Sid. Sid had picked Jack’s tablets up because the doctor just gave them to you in those days. When they found Sid, they thought he was Jack. They got in touch with his wife in Donington on Bain and she said, “It can’t be him, he’s on a job at Grimsby”. Jack drove a big cattle-lorry. They eventually found out who was who.

Sid never married. He bought mum’s house and lived there until his death. It was a nice way to go for him, but not for us. Jack died about four years after with a heart attack, leaving two sons and a wife. The last I heard, they were still living in Donington on Bain.

My sister Grace died several years before Sid at Holton Holgate. Cyril, her husband, followed two years after her. They had one daughter, Joan. She didn’t know me. Why, I don’t know. I was goodness in every way to her. When she was young, I knitted all her jumper-cardigans and everything. But when she married, she didn’t want to know Bert and me.

When her mother Grace was in hospital, she rang a friend of mine to say where she was but that I couldn’t go to see her – only her and her dad could. I couldn’t believe it. I was working at the house of a gent – Mr Barnes – at the time, so he rang the hospital and they said, “of course you can come, why not”. By the time I could get there, Grace had gone. I still sit now and wonder what Grace thought of me for not going as we were so close. Bert and I went every fortnight to see her. I’ve never seen her daughter since the funeral.

Why are people like that? I can’t make it out. I would have loved Joan to be friendly with me because there is only me left of the family. To sit and think of such a big family and only me left – it hurts. We used to have such good times. Joan must feel lonely at times. She never had any children. I suppose she has friends. But as we say, that’s life. Grace, her mum, was such a friendly person and would do anything for anyone. She worked very hard, like me.

Cyril, her dad, still lived in the bungalow, on his own, after Grace passed on. Someone found him dead one morning. It was very sad. I liked him very much.

Before Grace married, she was in service at Skendleby with a lady and gent called Lindsay; very nice people to work for. Grace was married from there like I was from South Ormsby Hall. Once a year, the Lindsays went to Scotland for several weeks and took some of the maids with them. Grace was one of them.

I was working at South Ormsby Hall at the time. I used to bike to Skendleby to Cyril’s mother’s on my half-day, and Cyril would bring me home until I met up with Bert. Bert used to come to Cyril’s mother’s at Skendleby after he left work and bring me back to South Ormsby. Cyril’s cousin, Joan, looked after Cyril’s mother as she was ill for a very long time. We used to have some real good times. They looked forward to Bert and me going. When Grace went to Scotland, I still biked to Cyril’s home. It was about eight or nine miles from where I worked, but I loved the bike ride.