Memories - Mrs M Childs
Mrs M Childs
Brief Summary of Mrs Childs’ Memories (full version below)
Mrs Childs recalls happy memories of her childhood as the daughter of the Station Master at Twywell, Mr Allen, in the period from 1929 to after WWII. She mentions many local people, businesses and railway workers.
These memories are recorded in headed paragraphs, which can be grouped broadly as:-
- The close relationship between the railway and its station with Twywell village and the wider rural community, much of which depended on it. The seasonal goods that were carried by the railway, from or through Twywell, their places of origin and destinations for sale. The duties of the station master and tasks which had to be undertaken regularly and occasionally, in some of which she and other children became involved.
- The annual festivals and holidays such as Christmas, May Day, Summer and Harvest Time which often presented opportunities of unexpected windfalls for the local children, as well as the excursions leaving for ‘faraway’ places, the posters for which fascinated her as a child. Even WWII left her with happy memories of a relationship formed by her family with a US Army truck driver – to their mutual benefit.
- She concludes with her experience of leaving school and finding gainful employment, making reference to the wage rates of the day, and the eventual closure of the station in 1964 after being in service since 1865.
This is a vivid and uplifting insight into a bygone age that was clearly a time of joy and happiness for its author.
(Summary prepared by David Green)
Memories of Twywell
Father came to Twywell Station in 1929 and lived at the Pub – the Red House – for 6 months until mother and the rest of the family arrived. There was a large clock on the front of the station house. Albert Short and David Bridge were the signal men. Sometimes they let us pull the signal levers but we always had to have a duster over the lever because they were polished brass. It was a block system and a bell rang when the train entered the next section and guards used to exchange tablets on the platform. Dad had to put up paraffin lamps in the signals, and sometimes we children were allowed to go with him. The distant signal was near Twywell Lodge that was blown up when the area was going to be mined for ironstone. In dry weather we used to watch for smoke – if sparks from the engine set the embankment alight we had to go and beat it out. We rather enjoyed that!
Twywell station is really in Woodford parish, but was probably called Twywell because there are so many places called Woodford in the Country.
Fruit & Flowers
In the summer the last train of the day, the 9.15 from Cambridgeshire, was the ‘fruit train’ carrying whatever fruit was in season. As kids we were allowed to stay up to see it and then to bed. The guard often used to throw us some fruit and it was lovely when the train had passed leaving the smell of strawberries or other fruit behind. Mr Tom Wilson the market gardener from Woodford sent cut flowers to Covent Garden by the 6.20 pm train to Kettering. He was always late – if we saw his lorry coming along Mill Terrace as the train ran in my brother and I would run to tell Dad to hold the train and when he arrived we all had to run with his flower boxes and put them in the guard’s van.
Christmas was always very exciting. Dad only earned 32/- a week as Station Master, so the presents Dad got were always welcome. Pheasants, hares and sometimes a box of tea from the ‘gentry’ (Mr Plevins and Sir Edward de Capell Brooke) and a hamper of fruit and other things from Mr Tom Wilson.
At times the station was a hive of industry. At harvest time farmers queued up for grain sacks. Shunting was always going on – loaded trucks had to pass under the gantry to make sure they would go under the bridges. I used to run home from Twywell school at dinner. time and there was always a train shunting. I was told never to go underneath but always to go round however far. it was. But one day I went through and just the other side a great big guard caught me by the scruff of the neck and made me go back again. I was about seven then.
Ice cream used to come to the station in big insulated boxes. One day it arrived late and the firm at Woodford refused to accept it. Dad rang up the railway yard to know what he should do with it. They told him to dispose of it. This was marvellous! Dad phoned the village Post Office and told them that if they saw any kids about, to send them down and have some free ice cream. They came in dozens; we ran out of things to put it in. We used all our plates, saucers, cups and basins and eventually the kids got tired of it and began to throw it at each other.
During the war there was extra traffic, gravel etc. for Grafton Underwood airfield and later bombs went through the station. American lorries from Liverpool used to pass along the road. One day a lorry broke down and the driver. came to the station for assistance. Dad gave him some eggs and ever after that he would stop for eggs. The lorry frequently broke down in front of our house the officer in charge would say “What’s the matter boy?” the driver responded “I think I can handle it, Sir.” “Right, carry on”. Of course there was nothing wrong with the lorry and as soon as they were out of sight. he came down to the house for. his eggs. On the return journey he would throw biscuits and chocolate into the bottom garden and give a big blast on his hooter, a sign for us to go and look for them.
Sometimes the Railway ran excursions. It was 1s 7d return to Leicester and 1s 3d return to Bedford, arriving back at midnight. In the summer there were excursions to the seaside. Once the train overshot the platform and an elderly lady wanted to get out. Albert Short told her to stay there a minute while the train was set back, but she said she would get out and jumped straight at poor old Shorty who was rather fat and they both fell into the stinging nettles!
Manual Fire Engine
One day we got a manual fire engine from Derby. Two men had to pump – one on each side – using water from the brook. We gave everything a good wash-down. My brother wouldn’t let me have a go with the hose and put the nozzle in his pocket when he had to move something. The men started to pump and filled his trousers with water! He was cross!
We had great fun on May Day. In the morning we went to Twywell and Slipton, singing songs at every house – then to stopped for fizzy drinks and
sandwiches – then to Islip furnaces where flames were belching out. We used to get quite a lot of money there. Then back to the road and up to Plevin’s and Charlatan’s and about 5 o’clock back to school for tea. We had a huge garland of bluebells with a pole through it – it took 4 boys to carry it. The money we collected was shared out, the May Queen and Maids getting most of it to cover the cost of their clothes. We sang :
Buttercups and daisies, Oh the pretty flowers, Coming in the spring time, To tell of sunny hours.
I went to Twywell school, Mr Harrison was headmaster. When I left I started work at Cawdells in Thrapston. I got 7s 6d a week for the first 2 years. 2/6 went towards my bike, 2/6 for my board and 2/6 for myself. The wages were poor in those days, farm labourers got only 14s a week. My sister married a carpenter who worked for the Stavery Iron Works, he got £2 a week, that was top rate.
At one time there were three farms in Twywell now they are all in one. There used to be several shops – Mrs Welch and Mrs Bird had sweet shops, Mrs Loax sold draperies in her front room. There were 2 butchers, Coales and Jones, Stapleton’s stores and bakehouse and a post office – now only Coales the butcher remains.
We used to help father hang posters on the station. We didn’t mind scraping the old ones off but we never could get the new ones on level. We used to sit and look at the posters. Some advertised seaside holiday. One I particularly remember showed people coming out of a theatre on to the wet streets – I was fascinated by the ladies in their long evening dresses.
The station opened in 1865, the date was cut on the window in the front room but sadly the station closed in 1964 after 99 years. Now the activities and the station garden for which my father (Mr Allen) won prizes are only a memory.
Mrs M. Childs, Twywell (Written in 1980s)
This is an extract from an article in “Strapetona“, the magazine published by Thrapston District Historical Society and is reproduced with the permission of the Society.
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