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R Leach – Northamptonshire & Bedfordshire Life July 1986
R Leach - Memories
I was born in Wellingborough Road, Rushden, on 18 November, 1895, but when I was only eight weeks old my father and mother moved to Co-operative Row, between Griffiths and Crabb Streets. It was the top one of a row of ten houses belonging to a Mrs Brawn who lived in a large house in Park Road, and it had an ample living room, a front room, a kitchen, a spacious hall, and a staircase leading to two good-sized bedrooms.

Mother's comprehensive kitchen range

There was no mains water - our supply was pumped from a well. Neither was there gas nor electricity. The fire was used for cooking and to heat water. A trivet was fixed to one side of the fireplace and a kettle or saucepan could be placed on this and swung over the coals. On one side of the fire was an oven, and on the other a boiler which was first filled with cold water and which then had to be ladled out when hot When a knob on the bottom of the three or four bars which held the fire in was pulled, a rack came out and food could be placed upon this to roast Also, my mother had what was called a 'Dutch oven'. It was made from strong tin and had a half-round swivel top. There was a bar at the top with hooks from which meat was hung, and when cooked on one side the lid was turned over for the other side to cook. It was, in effect, a grill and fat dripped into a tin at the bottom. This Dutch oven was placed upon the rack before the fire. Lighting was by paraffin lamps, and we carried candles to go upstairs.

There were eight smaller houses further down the Row, then another eight much smaller ones near the bottom, and right at the end a bigger and better house built for the manager of the Cooperative Society's grocery and butchers shops which stood in High Street South. There was also a bakehouse to which we took our Sunday dinners - meat in a tin with pudding mixture poured round it - to be left while it cooked, then carried home to eat.

The Infant & Junior Schools in Newton Road
Newton Road Schools
My brother, Sydney, was born when I was two, and later we went to Newton Road school together. Our path took us through a private way leading into Park Road beside the Brawns' orchard. Mrs Brawn often kept strict watch as we passed homewards on autumn after­noons, and when apples fell onto the pathway she would order us to throw them back; over the fence. Mr Brawn was more kind - he would let us keep those which had fallen.

When I was seven-and-a-half we moved into a new house at 34 Robinson Road. It was lovely, with fields at back and front, trees to climb, hedges where we gathered blackberries, and a pond in a field where Portland Road now is and where we caught newts. There was mains water in the new house but my father didn't like it so for the first few weeks he used to take a bucket to a pump in Newton Road, opposite the Fire Station, to get his drinking water. My mother had her first gas cooker, and lighting was also by gas.

On Saturdays we had a halfpenny to spend and with that could buy two different kinds of sweets. On Sundays my father bought more sweets, a comic paper which we were allowed to read after dinner and an apple or orange to share with my brother. We thought we were very lucky children - we didn't expect any more.

Each year we all went to the seaside - usually Great Yarmouth. In those days, many people took their own food and the landlady would cook it

Also, there was an annual Band of Hope excursion, usually to Hunstanton; it cost two shillings and threepence. The train was packed with sometimes as many as 14 in a compartment

During the summer holidays my father often hired a pony and trap and would take us through Hinwick to Dungee Corner. A kettle had been filled before leaving home, and food packed, and after the drive out a framework of sticks was placed over a roadside fire and the kettle hung from it to make tea - no need for thermos flasks then!

The Man with the Dancing Bear

The Oakley Arms at the corner of Washbrook Road and Wellingborough Road
The Oakley Arms
Once my brother and I had a country holiday with relations who lived at Grendon in a large farmhouse with two staircases. The only way there was by a carrier's cart which left the Oakley Arms at Rushden for Yardley Hastings every Saturday. The journey was an adventure and I always remember the way in which, as we were leaving Wollaston, the driver pointed with his whip at a distant church and announced that it was Grendon, our destination.

Occasionally we would see men who travelled about the county with a bear which was attached by a long rope to a pole. The man would hum a tune and the bear danced upon its hind legs, my father used to tell of a fright he had when, aged eight, he was walking across fields one dark winter's morning from his Irchester home to begin work at Sanders Lodge farm, he stumbled across a dancing bear whose owner was asleep in the adjacent hedge.

Rushden Feast was a time for family reunions. We children were given our tea first, then handed twopence to enjoy ourselves at the fairground. The money had soon gone - a halfpenny for a stick of rock, a halfpenny for a squib and a penny ride on the horse round­about Then we would have to wait impatiently for the adults to arrive at about six o'clock with another twopence each.

At Christmas time my father always had some extra money in his wages and he used it to buy our presents. Our stockings on Christmas morning would be found with a penny in the toe, some sweets, an orange and an apple and a small toy or other gift

Father fancied sticking his fingers in

It was quite a busy time getting puddings and mincemeat made before Christmas. Puddings were boiled in the copper for three or four hours. Mince­meat took a whole evening to make as raisins needed stoning and this was a long, sticky job. They were juicy and lovely to eat, but we were not allowed to eat many. Suet had to be chopped and all fruit put through a mincing machine. My father always wanted mincemeat to be made in the evening so that he could turn the handle of the machine and often pop a raisin into his mouth. He bought a Christmas tree - and what a time we had when we decorated it - and holly and other green branches to hang about the house. The most exciting thing he bought at Christmas was 100 oranges for one shilling, not large ones but what a treat!

My father worked at Cunnington's shoe factory on the corner of Park Road and Crabb Street He had gone there at the age of 18 and stayed there until his death following a factory accident in 1933 at the age of 64. When he got married he was thought of as highly-paid, with 25 shillings a week. He became chief sewer-and-sticher so we had a well-furnished house and good clothes. He always used to say: "I never run to work and I never run away".     

Note: This family do not appear in the 1901 Census in Co-op Row. His father's death is not recorded in the cemetery burials.                                 

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