Ecton Village

Jean Axeford

I was born on April 4th 1950 in Ecton in my Grandmothers house, which is now the hairdresser Jayne Wiggins home (not the shop) and where funnily enough I went to work many years later in 1988. Mrs Sioue Rands delivered me as, according to my mother the midwife who had to come on her bike from Billing, did not get there on time! My first memory is of going to school when I was 4 ½ and the teacher was Mrs. Salter, who I am afraid I did not like very much. Mrs Schofield (who lived in Franklins Close) was also a teacher in the infants and she was lovely and very good at crafts. When I went up to the “Juniors” which really meant going into the “big room”, Miss Green was my teacher and I liked her very much. There was a big solid fuel fire and my uncle, Mr Sid Dartnell used to stoke it up. I remember my mother knitting all the time for us and she knitted me a bottle green jacket with wooden toggles, which I loved and wore all through the winter, with short white socks. Miss Green obviously didn’t think I was warm enough, as she asked me if I had any long socks! We would go into her house and watch the school programmes on her T.V. Mr. Gardiner was the headmaster before Miss Green came and he left just as I went up into the Juniors. He had a son Richard, - who would have thought that 30 years later, in the mid-1980’s, Richard would be teaching my daughter Rachel at Earls Barton Junior School. We used to do Maypole dancing at school and once I was the May Queen. We had tests at the end of the year, and one year I came top by just half a point! The following year Jennifer Hull beat me to first place! When I was about 9 years old, a new boy came to the school called Mark Aveyard and we sat together for that year. His father took over the running of the shop in Blacksmiths Yard from Mr Short, and later the Post Office moved there after Miss Johnson retired. Funnily enough, I met up with Mark and his wife Mary a few years ago when they came to live in Earls Barton - he didn’t recognise me! - well it had been about 30 years since I had seen him. We spent ages reminiscing about our childhood. I now see him regularly as he has joined the badminton club I belong to and funnily enough another Ecton lad, John Fulker has started to come too. I went to Sunday School every Sunday morning and then I joined the church choir. I remember Mr. Percy Baker looking very sternly at us if we chatted during the Rector’s sermon! and Mr Line was the organist. I was married in Ecton church in March 1971. In 1953 when I was 3, we had our first television to watch the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. It had just BBC 1, and did not show many programmes. It had a light brown plastic screen to put over it when it was a sunny day so we could see the picture better. When ITV was launched my Dad wouldn’t get a TV with that channel on as he said “There’s nothing wrong with the one we have”, so my friends were talking about “adverts” and programmes I had never seen. Even when we did get a TV with ITV programmes, we weren’t allowed to watch all of them - one being “Till death us do part” - I think because Alf Garnett called his wife a “silly old moo”! In the winters (which seemed to be always snowy) we used to go sledging in the field behind my house in West Street, and we would see just how many people we could get on top of each other on one sledge. Once there were quite a few of us and we went so fast we ended up in the stream which ran along the bottom of the field! We would go home for our meal at lunchtime, put our gloves to dry on the Rayburn, then go back out again until it got too dark. We also went “ice skating” on the pond in the field next to Barton Fields. We would throw stones on to the ice to make sure it was safe to hold our weight! - my Mum never knew that - she does now!

In the summer I played with Lynne Robinson (Mavis Robinson’s daughter) and her brother Ian and Christopher Dowsett and we used to go over the fields and just enjoy being in the fresh air. We used to collect flowers and keep a type of scrap book. Lynne and I used to put on concerts in her garden (she lived in the end council house in West Street). Her Dad made us a stage and we performed plays on some Saturday afternoons and charged the other children to come in and then gave the money to Dr. Barnardo’s Homes. One day we were taken to the Home in Northampton to be thanked for the donations. We were always dressing up and it is something that has never left me, because I have been entering the Earls Barton Carnival for over 20 years. Mrs Freda O’Connor who lived in West Street used to dress up some of the children (me included) and we would enter the Ecton fete, and also go to other fetes. They used to have a motor bike and sidecar. Enclosed a photo of us as soldiers. Lynne and I used to go on picnics in the summer, and one day we were coming back from a picnic in the field at the bottom of High Street, when the bees from Mr. Smith’s hives came after us! We started running but I actually got stung by seven of them on my head, but Mrs Smith’s daughter Joan (Mott as she is now) took me in and picked the bees out of my hair. We played skipping, hop-scotch, marbles and whip and top (we coloured the tops with chalk) and I think I was about 11 when we all had hula-hoops. There was a nationwide competition once at the Spar shop and you had to make up a poem. I entered and won first prize, which was a pair of roller skates. We also belonged to the G.L.B. (Girls Life Brigade) which was held in the Chapel in West Street, (now the studio of Mr Rodney Ingram) - we had a wind-up record player for music. I also played with Linda Fenn and we bought a tandem and painted it - it cost us £10. We went all over the place, but Linda was much better at riding it than I was, so she always sat on the front. One day we were going down West Street on it and came to the alley (“jitty” as we called it). Linda’s seat was attached to my handle bars and I forgot and turned my handlebars to the left to go up the alley. Of course she fell off with me coming down on top of her! We went collecting chestnuts, walnuts & blackberries and while at school we would go and pick rose hips and haws and the school would sell them to the manufacturer to make rosehip syrup (we got paid for them). If you opened up the hips the seeds inside made you itch and some of the children would put them down your back! There were 3 shops in Ecton - the Co-op (Manager Monica James, who always wore a spotless white smock), Post Office and the “Spar” shop -run by Bill & Dora Reynolds. Every Saturday morning I went round to the Co-op with the brown notebook with Mums shopping order, our divi number was 1543! I also used to go down to the Spar shop most evenings to get cooked meat for Dads sandwiches. We never bought vegetables as we had a garden and allotment full of them and we also kept chickens at one time, but I would go down to Mrs. Hull (who lived in High Street) at the weekend to buy a big bunch of flowers for about 10p. I did the shopping for Mrs Dora Patching and she gave me 12 ½ p per week, which was a good amount. I also collected the dirty washing from Mrs Tipler in High Street and take it to my aunt Phyl who would wash it for her, and Mrs Tipler gave me a small bag of sweets - always fruit drops and always sticky! In the evenings a group of us would meet up at the playing field and we would play games - Fox & Hounds was a favourite, or kick off tin etc. or cricket in the summer. The children from High Street would play down the bottom of the village and we would play up “our end!”. We went to the Youth club which was held in Mrs Wetherall’s house (The Cott). We used her kitchen to make coffee and we played table tennis.  The saddest time I remember was when Robert Tebby died, I was about 18 years old. I was visiting my Grandma in the Co-op yard, and she told me. On bonfire night we often used to have a bonfire in the garden at home and I would make toffee apples, and we would put potatoes in the fire, also there used to be a big bonfire at the bottom of Franklins Close.

There used to be dances on some Friday nights in the school hall with a “live” group - no discos then!. I must have been trying to impress someone one Friday, because my sister Rita made me an outfit in her lunch hour at work specially to go in!! I can’t remember who it was - honestly! I was quite a tom-boy and used to go climbing trees with the other boys. One day I climbed along the branch of a tree and it snapped and I fell to the bottom, catching my arm on the barbed wire fence! I still have the scar. I think John Key helped me that day. One day we were not allowed out to play was a Sunday afternoon - we always used to visit my Grandmother who lived in Northampton, every other Sunday. One Sunday my parents were out and I was supposed to stay in, but the girl from next door (Rita Dubb) persuaded me to go out. We went over the fields and it had been raining, I slipped over and scratched my leg quite badly on some more barbed wire! You would think I would have kept away from it. I had to tell my parents because it was along scratch and I couldn’t hide it. Usually we would be sent to see Mrs. Rands for that sort of thing and I remember my brother Stephen going to see her as he had a fish hook in his finger.

During the summer school holidays a group of us boys and girls would walk to Cogenhoe Mill and go swimming in the river. That’s where I learnt to swim. Mrs. O’Connor had a chalet there. Years later when I had my own children, they learnt to swim in the swimming pool at the home of Monica James (from the Co-op), who I met up with again in 1977 in Earls Barton. When I went to Senior School (The Technical Grammar), during the summer holidays my friends would cycle over from Wellingborough to Ecton and then we would all cycle up to Overstone Solarium and spend the day swimming. We used to go into the restaurant and ask for a pot of tea for three and five cups!! When Mark, John and I were talking a few weeks ago, we all agreed that we had a really good and happy childhood in Ecton.

Left to Right: Val Patching, Rita Buswell, Judith Dubb (who was a twin), Jean Buswell, The other Dubb twin (unknown), Rita Dubb in front.