Ecton Village

Fred Johnson

The top of High Street looking down

This account is intended to show what village life in Ecton was like in the first years of the 20th century - and very probably with very little change for many years before that. It is based on my own memories, those of my older brothers and sisters and of contemporaries.

The house where I was born in 1908 was at the end of a row of cottages. It and three others were served by a yard some twenty yards wide with the houses on one side and barns and outdoor lavatories on the other. All the houses were thatched and one at least had bedrooms which had no ceilings and were open to the thatch. It is difficult to think of sleeping in such a room where anything might drop down from the thatch. I do not remember one case of a thatch on fire in the village, although I was told that, before I was born, part of our thatch slipped off once. Three or four other thatched houses continued the row and were served by another yard. Most of these houses are now pulled down, or are likely soon to be demolished, including my former home where one of my sisters now lives.

Our house was the only one in the row with a garden - my mother was a very keen gardener. At the bottom of the garden was an outhouse with a double earth closet, (known as Woodbine Cottage) and next to it a pigsty. I can just remember the youngest of a litter of pigs being brought indoors to be hand-fed. At the bottom of the garden was an open manure heap or `muckle’ on to which the contents of the earth closets and all the other rubbish was emptied. There was also a wash-house shared between my family and another. In this were two coppers, mangles etc. and into which all water had to be carried for washing purposes.

The village was served by a series of taps at regular intervals down the two streets. One was close to our house, but as we were at the highest end of the village, whenever there was a drought, the pressure fell and sometimes we had to carry water up from the second or even third one several hundred yards down the street. There was a pump to serve the four houses in the yard, which could be induced to work if primed, but it was not used much and the well in the garden was not used in my lifetime.

Life at Home

I was the youngest of ten children, and as the family grew, permission had been obtained to knock through the adjoining wall to make one large house. On the ground floor the two parts of the house were joined by a three or four yard long low passage, and a shorter one upstairs (the well scrubbed living room table also had an extension put on). The ground floor rooms consisted of the Post Office (my father and his mother before him had kept the Post Office in the village ever since there had been one), the living room, then through the passage, the little used sitting room and `round the other side’ - a small partitioned off section used for housing the mangle, bicycles and the zinc bath which had to be filled and emptied by hand. The sitting room was used in the early years of his marriage by my father as a shoemaking workshop. The leather was supplied to him from the next village and he cut out and made boots to be finished off in the factory. His skill in this work was of great use in mending his children’s boots. All children wore boots - I only wore `low shoes’ as they were called when I was in my teens.

The food larder or pantry led off a small space partitioned off the Post Office for the use of customers. A tiny scullery, with just enough room to stand at the sink, led off the living room. It had a coal range with an oven on one side and a small hot water tank on the other. The chimney was enormous and, when young, one of my special pleasures was to see the chimney sweep climb up into the chimney to stand on a ledge out of sight, and then to rush outside to watch the brush come out of the chimney pot. In one corner of the living room was a copper, later taken out, used for providing hot water for washing and baths. The walls of the house were very thick and most of the bedrooms had cupboards in the thickness of the walls into which one could walk. There were two of these known as pantries, downstairs. One realised how uneven walls were when one came to paper them. The staircase to two of the four bedrooms led up opposite the front door. The staircase in the second house was simply a wooden ladder opening into the floor of one of the bedrooms. In my time this staircase was boarded over - access to the two bedrooms in this part of the house being through other bedrooms. There was one bedroom (my parents’) to the left of the staircase, then, to the right , three others, each leading out of the other, which arrangement had its difficulties. There was no lighting other than the oil lamp and candles in the village. We graduated from ordinary oil lamps to the Aladdin variety, which was a vast improvement.

The living room fire warmed that room; only on Sundays in cold weather would the sitting room fire be lit. Bedrooms were of course unheated and we used a brick heated in the oven and wrapped in a piece of blanket, a warming pan or a stone hot water bottle, notorious for leaking, for warming beds. There were cloth made rugs on the brick floor. Later my mother used to make wool rugs and we children were called in to help. We had a few childrens books, ‘Norse Fairy Tales’, ‘Children of the New Forest’ and annuals. I think I read anything and everything. When I was about twelve, my mother bought me a set of Cassell’s ‘Book of Knowledge’, a real treasure. I know this had to be paid for over a long period of time. It was still being used in the school where I was teaching when I retired nearly fifty years later. We were able to borrow from the Rector’s library too. I remember also my mother reading to me on Sundays from the ‘Family Herald’.

When I was seven my eldest sister died in childbirth and her baby son came to live with us, and my mother started to bring up the eleventh child in her life. She was herself the youngest of a sizeable family; her father had been a farmer and carter in a village some eight miles away. Because she was near the tail end of her family and I was the youngest of mine, three of my grandparents were dead when I was born and I only have a slight memory of being taken as a small child to my remaining grandmother’s funeral. My mother’s father was born in 1830. I have a photo of him with his hat at a rakish angle, with a face very reminiscent of my mother.

Photographs of me at this time show first a baby in a lace cap and frock sitting on a chair. It was common for boys to be dressed in frocks until they were three years old. Then a year or two later, a rebellious looking child in what look like breeches, standing scowling by a little wicker chair which had been made for me, outside the door. Another a few years later shows me as a very fair haired six or seven year old in white shirt and shorts as a page at my sister’s wedding. There was a lock of this hair preserved somewhere that I saw later.

All doorways were obviously made for people not much over five feet six inches and some beams were as low. Or perhaps the floors had been built up over the years. My father, who was a tall man, some of my brothers and, later on I , frequently knocked our heads as we went through doorways.

The Village

The largest house in the village was the Hall, a long and rather low house, built in the same brown sandstone, parts of it very old, and occupied by `the General’ and Mrs Sotheby. The gardens had a very fine summer house with two storeys, designed, it was claimed, by Inigo Jones. There was also a little summer house paved with an inset design of sheep’s knuckle bones. Mrs Sotheby was very much the `grande dame’ presiding over a feudal state. All the farms, land and houses belonged to the estate. On her occasional visits to the village from her fastness at the Hall, she used to give children she met a penny stamp. This was, I suppose, to prevent them spending the money. The Hall grounds were opened on one Sunday during the year for villagers to walk round the gardens at daffodil time, and a beautiful sight it was to see the sheets of flowers everywhere.

A sports day was also held in the grounds, and I remember being told what a good runner my mother had been. A splendid red glass jug I still have, was proof of her success. An annual tea for the school children was provided by the `Hall’ and I remember the awful rancid taste of World War I margarine on the bread. At least we didn’t have that at home.

The church was much too big for the congregation using it in my time, but doubtless not for the mediaeval one. The church had a gallery, which in my time, was used only at the annual Feast Sunday when the band used to play there. One of my sisters tells me that in her time as a child it was used by the congregation, and how she shrieked during a service on seeing a large spider near her. She was fetched down by a churchwarden to the outside door, marched through the churchyard, up the nave and placed in front of him. She had no cake for tea that day. The gallery has now been pulled down because it became unsafe. The six church bells used to chime a tune for Sundays and another for weekdays. The popular words to the latter were:

Poor old John Brown is dead and gone

He’ll never come no more

He played the organ in the church

6,8,10,12 & 4.

There was, when I lived in the village, both Baptist and Methodist chapels.

The Co-op shop in the village was originally, as a large inscribed stone told, a school for Poor Children built by John Palmer in 1752. Here girls, having finished their formal education at the age of eight, went to learn the craft of lace-making, working a twelve hour day for about sixpence a week. The great Dr Samuel Johnson quoted Ecton as `an example of a very savage parish which was civilised by a decayed gentlewoman who came among them to teach in a petty school’. In my childhood time one could still see hanging in the shop, tallow candle dips, although they had largely given way to wax candles. Black treacle could still be bought from a barrel with a tap, sugar and other dry goods were still made up into paper pokes twisted by the shopkeeper. One could spend a farthing on sweets and get quite a lot of broken biscuits which were sold off cheaply.

There was still a village cobbler working in his little dark room, mending and making boots, a watchmender and a thatcher - or rather a family of thatchers who also did threshing and other farm jobs. A village carpenter would do jobs for nine pence or a shilling. Many village men would do this sort of thing because wages were so low. Most kept allotments to grow vegetables and soft fruit, and many kept a pig and a few hens. The earlier cottage lace-making industry had quite died out.

School

The village school which celebrated its centenary in 1976 had a ‘Little Room’ for Infants and a ‘Big Room’ for all the others. The whole school with over a hundred children was managed by the ‘Master’ Mr. Barnes and his wife. They had been there for many years and had taught all the older members of my family. They were both highly respected members of the little community. He was the old type of disciplinarian. To be late for school, Jim Drummond, a comtemporary of mine remembers, would really bring down his wrath on one. The bell was rung to give everyone warning. He remembers standing on the side line (a white painted line by the door) if one was late or misbehaved in any way, and wondering if it would be a reprimand or a whack with the cane. To miss school was a mortal sin, unless one was at death’s door. He remembers Ernest Grey being absent one morning, and Wallace his brother saying that he couldn’t come to school because he had no shoes (his only pair were being mended). Old Barnes said that that was no excuse and sent Wallace and Jim to carry Ernest to school minus his shoes. Any children kept in after school would have to watch the master having his tea, brought in to him by Mrs Barnes. But he was a very conscientious man and took his work very seriously. The visit of the School Inspector was a worrying time for him. He was forewarned of the Inspector’s coming by seeing the driver of his hansom cab perched high on top, through the school window.

I started school at the age of three; I had only about fifty yards to walk. The heating in the Big room from one big `tortoise’ stove was quite inadequate in cold weather. So we were all lined up and marched all around the room intoning our tables until it was thought we were warm enough to sit down. I can remember being taught the system of sections on a railway by being trains all round the room. Once a year we were allowed to write a letter to whomsoever we liked in the school, post them in a school made letter box, from which they were taken, sorted and delivered to the addressees. I have few other recollections except of the long splintering benches from which an incautious movement could lead to painful results. There were drawing lessons with squares of stale bread instead of rubbers, and the Master demonstrating to those with dirty hands, just how dirty they were by pressing their fingers across the page leaving tell-tale dirty marks behind. I must have been an avid reader because by the age of ten I had moved on from standard school books such as ‘Coral Island’ to books such as ‘Pickwick Papers’ and ‘Oliver Twist’ which were really too old for me. I remember being entranced by Kingsley’s ‘Water Babies’ in a very good illustrated edition. Amongst school songs we had were ‘Men of Harlech’, ‘Hearts of Oak’, ‘Three cheers for the Red, White and Blue’, ‘Robin Adair’ and ‘Tom Bowling’.

The Master was a keen cricketer and in playtimes we often played cricket in the sloping asphalt playground (boys only - girls and infants remained in a separate playground). The wickets stood in wooden blocks. We also played a version of deck quoits with long handled pushers, round wooden discs and a series of white painted circles that one progressed along. I think we played football in a nearby and very rough field. Flicking cigarette cards against a wall was favourite game and we also played the equivalent of `knuckle stones’ with five pebbles. The traditional games, each played in its own season, were the old ones that must have been played by generations of children, and were fiercely contended, success being a matter of great pride. We were not subject to the outside influences that children are today and, consequently, we made our own amusements. I heard my first radio broadcast at the grammar school and in a friends house in the village in about 1922. Visits to town for the cinema or pantomime were rare. The Rector occasionally showed Magic Lantern slides on religious subjects in the church. It was some years before the `wireless’ became a part of our lives.

Childrens’ Games

For whip and top we made our own whips and often the tops as well - castle tops and peg tops which could be made to jump some distance. There were two marble games; one played along the gutter trying to hit your opponent’s marble and the other where you had a shallow depression and flipped your marble into it from a distance. But I can’t remember the rules. Marbles were not often the coloured glass ones but ordinary glass ones out of pop bottles and little clay ones with one or more stripes to show their value. Conkers were of course played in season, with sometimes some surreptitious baking of them to make them harder and so break your opponent’s conker. The boys of the village - those who could get their parents to pay the cost - went to the village blacksmith to have an iron hoop and hook. Although roads and pavements were rough, it was an exciting game racing along with them. I remember losing my last one by racing it downhill in a field. It ran away from me and plunged into a pond where I never succeeded in finding it.

Hopscotch - with either ball or flat stone was played in any fine weather by both boys and girls. Toys, including balls, were hard to come by. Most people hadn’t the money and supplies were scarce in this period of World War I and immediately after. We boys used to go to the village butcher (whose left hand fascinated me because he had accidentally chopped off the ends of two fingers when he was younger) and ask for a pig’s bladder. This could be blown up and used as a football as long as it lasted. Putting the end to the mouth to blow it up was very unpleasant to me and I avoided it if possible. I cannot remember anyone having skates or even roller skates because of the expense and, in the case of the latter, the unevenness of the roads, so I never learned to skate. But we did enjoy sliding on the snow and ice whenever the possibility was there. The usual singing and counting games were also very popular amongst young children.

Boys in these early years of the century wore either long trousers or shorts rolled down to below the knee, with stockings rolled over the knee in the winter. I remember my mother lining the insides of the legs of my shorts to stop chafing in winter. Girls wore white pinafores over their rather long frocks. The shoulders of these pinafores were gophered with a hot gophering iron. Women’s skirts reached down to the ground.

Being only about two miles from the River Nene this is where we learned to swim. I don’t think my mother approved of my going without an adult, but I sometimes hid my costume (one which reached from neck to knees) under my clothes and went down with the other boys, probably relying on borrowing a towel or getting dry in the sun afterwards.

In the early stages of learning we pulled rushes and made them into a thick bundle, bound with a rush rope at each end. We used these as water wings until we dared try without. The height of bravery was to plunge into the lock on the river where the water was of course quite deep.

Bird nesting in those less enlightened days was a favourite occupation in summer, and we all knew a good deal about our local birds. We made egg collections and I added to mine by buying the eggs of less common birds after I had transferred to the grammar school. One sound I remember very clearly is the sound of Swifts racing down the village street in the evening. They used to nest in holes in the thatch and one could sometimes reach in from a bedroom window and risk being pecked in search of eggs. There seemed to be, and I am sure were, far more bats flying in the dusk than there are now. We boys were great tree climbers, as boys are at all times. I remember several of us lighting a fire on top of a nearly dead tree - it was only a stump about fifteen feet high, but broad at the top and holding several of us. The wood was dead and the fire began to spread. We got it partly under control, but then dinner time came. My dismay was great when I was not allowed out in the afternoon, although my mother knew nothing of the fire. However my companions did succeed, in my absence, in putting out the fire by natural means!

The boundaries of the village, east and west, were small streams flowing down the valleys to the river. We loved playing there along streams winding into the woods, although I think keepers tried to keep us out because pheasants were sometimes reared there. One of the streams ran under the main road through a pipe of, I guess, two feet in diameter. I remember clambering through this, probably during a dry period, in some trepidation, doubtless being dared or led by others. A much more dangerous game we played, was putting coins on the railway line near where we bathed, and seeing the effect of a train running over them. The Boy Scouts must have channelled off some of our energies. We had a small pack but had difficulty in obtaining a Scout Master and in the end it broke up because of this , just as I was about to take my Naturalist’s badge. But we did camp one year, walking all the twelve miles there, being washed out by heavy rain and being fetched back by horse-brake.

There were no street lights in the village and both in daylight and at night in winter we played `blow your horn’, an exciting game, especially in the dark, when one or more boys went off and after a given time the others followed to try to catch them. When the hunters called `blow your horn’ the others had to reply with a call. Sometimes the `kill’ was made quickly, sometimes never in one session, but it had many thrills.

Our Daily Bread

Sunday lunch - or dinner as it was called, was a special one. Few cottages had facilities for roasting, so we (and even some from the nearest village a mile away) took our beef and Yorkshire pudding to one of the two bakehouses which baked the cottage and tin loaves we bought during the week. It was fascinating for a small boy to watch the baker push a small paraffin flare into the oven by a long pusher called a peel, then push the peel under the dishes and draw them out. We hurried home with them. Those dinners that were being taken back a mile on a bicycle would have to be warmed up at the other end. Sunday morning at the bakers was a social occasion when you met everybody else waiting their turn. A speciality of the baker was dough cake, a sort of sweet bread with dried fruit, rather like a lardy cake, and a favourite of mine was bread pudding, made by my mother and baked at the bakers. It was made of left-over scraps of bread with dried fruit mixed in.

I don’t think my father ever earned from the Post Office much more than a farm labourer. He was even expected to provide his own string for tying bundles of letters. I think postage rates at that time were 1½d. for letters and 1d. for postcards. Telegrams were sent and received on a machine with a large circular dial with letters and numbers round the outside. You turned a key to the letter and pressed and slowly it spelled out the message. Because of this low wage and the needs of a big family, every means of supplementing food and clothes was used. Allotments were absolutely necessary and grew nearly all our vegetables and some soft fruit. My father like many householders used to keep a pig and fed it for up to a year. Food was supplied and paid for when the pigs were sold later. Small potatoes were cooked in their skins (I used to help myself because I thought they were delicious) and these and scrap food gave them a good diet. In the Autumn the pig would be killed, and salt would be rubbed into the meat to cure it. My brothers and sisters had to help in this unpleasant job. One of the litter of pigs would be kept for future fattening, the others would be sold. My mother made marvellous pork pies from the fresh meat. It was a general practice in village communities for one family to help another at pig killing time, and part of the meat would be given as payment.

My mother occasionally served teas to people in the nearest town in a little rustic arbour in the garden, and very good value they were. It goes without saying that she regularly made cakes, jams, stewed fruit and blackberry vinegar for colds. We worked hard at blackberry time, and in a good year, we were able to sell some at a penny a pound. My mother was a splendid cook with, when I was young, a long experience of cooking for a big family. There was always cake but we had to eat three pieces of bread and butter before we could qualify for cake. I remember also meat stew with dumplings which were taken out and eaten first with sugar on. We had roast beef and Yorkshire pudding on Sundays - my father always made the pudding, followed by a fruit pie. Roly poly puddings were another speciality of my mother’s. These would be filled sometimes with meat and vegetables, sometimes with jam or currants. There was always pastry. I am sure we never went hungry. We were rubbed with goose grease in winter and dosed at appropriate times with brimstone and treacle.

When my father had the opportunity he would buy for a small sum the roots and stump of any tree which had blown down. The wood from these provided firewood for a long time. It must have been hard work. In connection with firewood, it was taken for granted that apart from any outing for the specific purpose of `sticking’ a walk, except on Sundays, would always include this useful aim. I occasionally helped at harvest time and earned a little money. My mother called on as many as possible in the family to help with the gleaning in the cornfields after the corn had been carried and the field raked. This sometimes provided enough grain to be ground into flour to last us a good part of the year. At least it helped to feed a few hens we kept.

Once a year an ancient charity provided loaves of bread for poor people in the village and another provided sums of money annually for children to say the commandments, and so on up to questions on the whole Catechism. My mother rehearsed us diligently and I am quite sure we won whatever there was for us to win. The amounts were quite considerable in purchasing power in those days and could provide new boots for some of the family. All my sisters had gone into service at one time or another, which was the aim of families who were unwilling for their daughters to work in a shop or factory. The addition of second hand clothing from these sources to the usual cutting down of older children’s clothes for younger ones, was invaluable. My oldest brother worked at the Hall as a gardener, but was passionately fond of horses, as well as acting as coachman to the General. Like other coachman, he lived above the stables at the Hall. A gale would mean a sackful of apples for us from the orchard, and apple puddings. The only fire engine available in the village was kept at the Hall. It was horse drawn and had to be filled with water from a well before it could be used.

Red Letter Days

The Schoolmaster must have been keen on the old customs and Empire Day was celebrated with great pomp. May Day was one we looked forward to for a long time ahead. Two poles in the form of a cross were covered with flowers, generally topped with Crown Imperials the day before, and then on the day, this was carried round the village, with stops at certain places for the traditional songs to be sung. We children, dressed in our best, followed it and a collection was taken which was used to provide a treat later. I suppose a May Queen was chosen although I cannot remember this. I am told that the may pole had two wooden hoops crossed in the centre where four dolls were fixed in the flowers. As well as being carried round the village the procession also visited outlying farms. I was interested to see, much later, one of these songs, `This morning is the First of May,’ quoted in the Book of English Festivals by Lawrence Whistler. The succeeding Master replaced all these traditional songs by others, more modern, and the tradition was broken. In my older brothers time the old Plough Mummers used still to go round the village with faces blacked, singing the old songs to celebrate the start of ploughing after Christmas. On All Souls Day in November, the rector used to get the help of the children to put a flower on all the untended graves.

We remembered too Oakapple Day, when King Charles II is said to have hidden from Cromwell’s men after the Battle of Worcester. If you were not wearing an Oakapple up to noon on that day, May 29th, you could be given a nasty pinch by anyone wearing one. Our great summer occasion was the annual celebration of the Feast of St Mary Magdalene after whom the church was named. On the nearest Sunday to the Saint’s day, the village members of the Ancient Order of Oddfellows paraded in their coloured sashes with banner and ceremonial axes. We had all been members of this friendly society which, for many years until the 1911 National Insurance Act, had been the villagers only security against sickness. Led by the Earls Barton Old Silver Prize Band, they made a procession through the streets of the village and on to the church, where the band played during the service from the gallery at the west end of the church. Later in the day this band played on the little square called the Leys outside our house, while people gathered round to listen. My sisters used to sit in the bedroom watching the scene. About this time too, the Fair came with its roundabouts, swings and side-shows, sometimes in the field near my home, sometimes elsewhere. All the fun of the fair was really something to us in those days - squibs, like paint tubes filled with water to squirt at the girls, sherbet suckers, brandy snaps and the noise of the steam organ, the shouts of the stallholders and the hiss of the naphtha flares later in the evening.

Getting About

It must be remembered that World War I covered the period of my boyhood between the ages of six and ten. One was very much cut off from the outside world and by that I mean, even from the next village. There were no buses and the nearest station was over two miles away. To get to Northampton or Wellingborough one either walked the five miles or went by carrier cart on the days when it went. One was really in much the same position as people had been centuries before when one either made one’s own amusements or enjoyed to the full the outside ones which came on rare occasions.

After my eldest sister died soon after her baby was born, we were given her piano and when I was about ten years old I started going to Earls Barton, two miles away, for lessons. My brother Sydney walked with me across the fields and carried me part of the way on his shoulders. After this I went on my own. I was small and must have been a rather timid child. There were three things I disliked. I had to cross the last field, a very big one with a steep hill where there were generally cattle, which in the summer were often driven crazy by the maggots hatched out under their skin from the eggs of the warble fly. The cattle would charge about the field, and I looked very carefully for their position before deciding my plan for crossing. Then just before the teacher’s house, I had to go along a short lane where there were often bigger boys playing. They often appeared hostile though they never did me any harm. A third trial, for a short time, was a large gander, nearly as tall as me, which lived in the garden of my teacher’s house, and which grabbed me by the clothes once. I found a different entrance after that. I never learned a great deal at these music lessons. My teacher spent a long time talking and sometimes gave me a drink of port wine. Still I was able to pick up enough to enable me to play a fair amount, and, more important, to read music and accompany songs.

My father, in his earlier years, had ridden a penny farthing, and we still had an old bicycle with solid rubber tyres. But this was far too heavy to ride, so when I was about ten years old and soon to start at the Grammar School in Northampton, my parents bought me a second-hand bicycle. It was, at first, much too big for me, but I could just reach the pedals when the saddle was fixed to the bar. I couldn’t ride it but I walked 2½ miles to the village where it was being sold and walked back wheeling it and very pleased.

When I first started at the Grammar School at the age of eleven, I used to go by milk float. I was very self-conscious about this and got down from it about 200 yards from the school and walked the rest of the way. I came back by a van chartered by the parents of boys going another two miles, which was used during the day for carrying meat. I remember too, walking to a village two miles away on the occasion of a Roman Catholic fete there, in order to hear the famous tenor Gervase Elwes sing.

My father used to deliver letters round the village, starting at about seven o’clock (the mail was brought in at 6-15am, so that the day started early, and then, having done that, he would have to start off for the outlying farms. Delivery of telegrams was paid for by the Post Office and this was another source of pocket money when I could ride my bicycle. Threepence was paid for delivery in the village and one shilling or more according to the distance, to nearby villages on their early closing day. Some weddings would produce a stream of telegrams and then one would be desperate to find someone to take them all. I had some cousins who lived in one of the two cottages by the Baptist Chapel. It is to the credit of the Post Office of those times, that a letter addressed to 2 Chapel Gardens, England arrived safely. The Post Office also handled the distribution of Ration Books during World War I.

Life During The Great War

I have very few memories of the War itself, although this is not to be wondered at, living as we did in a small village in the centre of the country. The Master had predicted the War since 1912 and was most patriotic. I remember a visit to the school by one villager who had been a prisoner of war and told some rather gruesome stories of his imprisonment. The three of my brothers who were of age, volunteered and one of my sisters joined the V.A.D. All came back safely, though one of my brothers was badly wounded. All of my brothers were enthusiastic bell ringers and there used to be a photo of the bell ringing team in their uniforms taken at the beginning of the war, in the church vestry. I remember seeing German prisoners-of-war working on farms in the village.

There must have been, sometime during these war years, a very bad blizzard with heavy snow, because I recall walking along the turnpike road and being helped to climb over trunks of trees blown down across the road. I was a victim, in a mild way, of the 1918 ‘flu which swept the world and killed off a greater number of people than had been killed in the hostilities, both combatant and non-combatant.

The Village Now*

Many parts of the old village have changed greatly now. The Hall has been empty for many years, many houses have been bought by outsiders and modernised, and there have been groups of new houses near the main turnpike road and down Back Lane. But many of the old houses still stand and the shape of the village is unchanged. As in most villages, agriculture has declined in importance, or at least employs fewer workers, most of the old craftsmen have gone and many people work in neighbouring towns. Without new industry, Ecton is becoming mainly a residential suburb of Northampton, now only a mile away.

Fred Johnson 1978

*These reminiscences were written by the late author before the redevelopment of the Hall.