Ecton Village

Jean Leigh

Probably not Pearl the Fisher Maid

Jean: I was born here and I wrote something down here for your interview, about how we used to take our dinners to the bakehouse way back, before the war. In those days there was no gas or electric in Ecton, therefore you took your Sunday joint to the Bakehouse. There were two bakehouses, one just here, and the other one was down on Barton corner. Those at the bottom end took them there, and us further up the top went to there. You used to take your joint in the tin and take either your jug or can with your batter in it for your Yorkshire pudding and the man used to take them out . He always seemed to know whose was whose! Around lunch time you would just toddle up there with a cloth to put over the top and pootle off back to your house to have your Sunday lunch. There weren't any gas cookers or electric cookers. The better class houses might have had a range you could cook in, but that was what I used to do.

Jill: What sort of date would that have been?

Jean: Before the war, I'm not quite sure because gas came into Ecton first, because I remember my father wouldn't have gas. He didn't trust gas, so we didn't get anything until electric came. I don't know how long after that it was. It was way before the last world war.

Vickie: Would people have cooked on gas, or was it just for lights?

Jean: Originally it was just lights. I always wonder how people managed to do such intricate sewing all by candle or oil lamp. I always think to myself, how did we manage? But we did. You didn't even get water in the houses until...must have been 1949 before the average cottage had a cold water tap inside. My son was two years old when we first got a cold water tap in the house otherwise you went down to the street to fetch your water. On a frosty morning the first one down had to thaw the tap out. So you didn't waste water. I still can't bear to hear a running tap and to hear water being wasted.

Another thing I wanted to tell you about was that the Sotheby's used to give a children's party every Christmas, and all of the children used to get a present. All of the children in those days went to school until they were 14, so there was quite a lot of children, and the Sotheby's were very good to the village, and you did really miss them as a sort of focal point and looking after and that sort of thing. I've got a mug up here.... They were married in 1923, and I had just started school, I don't know how many ...see on the side side, it says MS and HS, June 1923, as I said, I must have been one of the youngest to get it. I would be between four and five then, and just started school.

The commemorative mug
Stamp on the bottom of the mug
The other side of the mug

Vickie: There's a mark on the bottom. Royal Doulton. So they went and commissioned Royal Doulton to do this. And these are their dogs?

Jean: Originally all of the children at the school would have had one, and as they are all older than I am, most of them are no longer in the land of the living, are they?

Vickie: About this cooking at the bakehouse. During the week did you just use the fires in your house?

Jean: I couldn't really tell you. In those days you used to have Joint on Sunday, and Monday you had it cold Tuesday you either stewed it up or something. In those days the joint lasted the best part of a week.

Vickie: I suppose it does in our house. By Thursday it's soup.

Jean: May day here in Ecton. I don't know if anybody has talked to you about May day. The children used to have a day off from school, and the older boys used to make a garland thing, and the older girls used to put flowers on and we used to troop around the Village singing songs and collecting money off of various people. We used to go to one or other of the farms and in the afternoon we used to have tea which was presumably paid for by the money we collected in the morning.

Vickie: So the entire village contributed to your May day party.

Jean: Yes. The May queen used to be voted for by the school children. I'm afraid I never attained that dizzy height.

Vickie: Was the May queen from amongst the schoolchildren?

Jean: Yes. It would be the May queen and probably a couple of attendants. In their white dresses. My sister made May queen one year, but I don't think I ever did.

Vickie: Did you have a May Pole?

Jean: Not actually a May Pole, we didn't dance around it. They used to make more like a sort of bower type of thing and then smother it with flowers - they got the children to bring flowers from their own parent's garden. It used to be a day we looked forward to. It was a day off from school anyway!

Vickie: But first of May is a national holiday. Wasn't it then?

Jean: No. Some schools, well I was talking to a friend in Earls Barton and she said, “Ooh, we didn't, we used to go and have May day before we went to school.” So they must have had to get up at the crack of dawn!

We also used to do a lot of school plays. The school master then, I don't think he was frightfully good academically, but he was a great man for putting on school plays. There's a photo of one, it has 'Pearl the fisher maid'. 1929-30 written on the back in my mother's handwriting, but I don't see how it can be that one, because there weren't farm hands and milk maids in 'Pearl the fisher maid'.

30-31 this one. I was mother.

1930-31  play  photo

That's my father. That one is in the Book of Ecton.

Jean Leigh's Father

Vickie: Your father was the gamekeeper?

Jean: No he wasn't. He did that kind of part time when there wasn't any work about. He was the undertaker, the decorator, the carpenter, you name it, the wheelwright.

Vickie: So he did anything to do with wood?

Jean: That's right. When business was slack he would help the game keeper. Here's an old photograph opposite the pub. That's my sister. My parents lived in these two cottages which my father bought and made into one and my mother lived in there 55 years.

Vickie: Your father made that into one cottage! I thought that trend was recent.

Jean: Oh no. We moved in there when I was five, so that was 1923.

Jill: These school plays your were in, did they take place in the schools itself?

Jean: Up this end of the school there used to be a stage. He was a great man for plays and painting. But academically. He was there an awfully long time, because he was there when I was a kid, and he was still there when my son went to school. My son only did one term up here, then we sent him to Earls Barton, which was a much better school.

(Note: this interview was 2 hours long! More to come... )