Vickie: So you weren’t born in Ecton. Can you remember where you were before?
Suie: Burton Latimer for three years, but I was born in Bedfordshire.
Vickie: Why did your family come here?
Suie: My father came to be manager of the Co-op Shop. Which is the old school, that John Palmer founded.
Vickie: Did you live in there?
Suie: Yes I lived in there, the house was by the side. It went from an individual Ecton Co-op to being run by Earls Barton. I’m not good on dates. But it was a Co-op shop before my father took it on. I’ve been in the village ever since then. I started married life in the ‘tall’ house. It’s the other side of the High Street, the first house after the bungalow. We never had numbers. It was just ‘High Street, Ecton” and everybody knew everybodies name. Your house (referring to Margaret) was old Mr. Timms and was owned by the Church, and Tom Dicks bought off the Church.
V: It’s funny the change from Glebe farm to rectory farm?
S: The farm was called Glebe Farm and the house was called (ask margaret) The Church paid the Rector’s fees. Old Canon Jephson used to grumble about them he was very poor you see. He used to preach sermons about it. About selling his watch or something.
When he died the Church sold the farm back back to the estate. Broadfields we call it, not this one, or the one beyond me, but the one that goes down to the brook, that used to belong to Rectory farm, but the estate bought that back.
The next place we moved was a small cottage round the lane, it’s now one cottage, it was two cottages, number 21 and 23. They were numbers by then. Reverend Sadler numbered the village. He was the rector at the time. He was also on the rural council.
V: How did he decide where to start?
S: He started at the top and worked down. Actually he gave us two numbers, we’re 4 and 6 here. Because my Husband and I had a contract. We’ve got the shed, well we didn’t have the shed then, but the engine used to stand in the yard and he said you have enough frontage for two numbers.
M: That’s why the High Street doesn’t have consistent numbers.
S: Well, they pulled so many down. From number 1, we always called it May’s house. Used to be the old post office. The first post office I remember was there, actually the post office was two cottages, and then there was the next cottage.1…, 2… 4 in that yard… 6 in that yard. All gone. There’s a block of flats with two bedrooms. On that bit, besides the ones in the street, there were 5 more houses, two more houses in the corner, by Joy’s where the old bakery. The old bakery was Joy’s, it went right through to the street. That was one house, it’s now two houses.
V: Were there people living in the houses at the time?
S: No, they’d become vacant. I can’t remember if they moved everyone out. They all belonged to the estate.
V: I wonder if did this in order to have more people in the amount of space?
S: Oh No! Gracious me! 6 houses, 6 Families. They did have big families but they left home. Girls all went into service. At 14 they went. They grumble about places where there’s a squire, but the squire that lived here then saw that the village people were well looked after and they got jobs for the girls if they wanted to go into service in quite decent places. May stayed at home with the family, one went to Lady Green’s. A lot of people in the village worked at the hall, and where they didn’t, they did influence people. If anyone was ill, they looked after them. You could always go up to the hall and get beef tea for any invalids.
V: Were you connected to the hall?
S: I wasn’t connected to the hall. The Co-op didn’t belong to the hall. But the majority of the village and the farms belonged to the estate.
My husband was an agricultural contractor. We had a steam engine. At one time it was kept down where the youth club is now. That was part of Rectory farm. When it was estate land. Then we moved and rented this bit of land, which was called the woodyard in those days. When Tom Dicks was selling, the council wanted to buy several plots down here and Tom and my husband were friends. He said,” Do you want to buy it?”
After the war they built these other houses. The Swedish ones went up first. And then in 1947 they started to build the bottom.
(at this point Suie Rands mentioned that her daughter lives in the village, and the discussion turned to people whose grown up children have moved to the village, which seems to be a trend that continues. Rodney and Sheila Ingram’s son have moved to the village, buying 2 houses – formerly Mrs. Trelore’s house and Mrs. Clark’s)
Mrs Clark, she used to love her garden. She was a very good gardener. She had only been there 10 years. Uncle lived there. In one of the two houses.
V: Two houses? So the new house will be one house from what was originally 3?
S: That has happened a lot in the village.Our two houses, 21 and 23, they’re knocked into 1 and the next block, over the wall there were three houses along the top there- where the Collins lived. Betty Cunningham lived in one of the three, her Auntie lived in one and somebody else lived in the next one. And they all had big families.
Wheelwright cottage, that was 2. The little tiny house where Mrs. Sommer??? used to live, you can see the doorways***
Then there was David Penn’s shop next to that. It was in the yard. Eric and ???. He was a barber and a watchmaker. One of the games we used to play, I’m afraid, was to rub his window. His bald head used to pop up out.
There was another barn behind it. It didn’t look possible that they could be there, but they were only little ditties (??).
The games we used to play. We used to play one called ‘Fox and Hounds’ there were all little ditties and little walls you could hide behind. You could play in the streets in those days. Skipping and with Hoops and whips and tops and various things. And in the evenings we would play ‘Fox and Hounds’. One used to hide, this was the fox and the others were the hounds looking for him. We played all around the village. Sort of Hide and Seek.
Lots more alleyways went through from West Street to the High Street. Mrs Collins’ house, that had a little entry that went up through to the Chapel. And everybody had a right of way from the street through. There was a right of way where number 21 and number 23 are now.
No water was laid on in the houses, only in the big houses. The hall had it’s own pumping station from the reservoir that is now. The Rectory had a pumping station down by Billing Brook. But we always got our supply from the street. Which came from the reservior under the field at the crossroads. On the right as you go up Sywell Road. A huge tank under there. It had an overflow. We we got the steam engine, we used to fill the water from there. There were taps in the Village for the people.
A lot of houses had wells. There were two wells in number 23, one at the top and one at the bottom. We did have lavs that you could put water down, but lots of houses had just buckets. Had to empty them into the muckles (??). Most people had a muckle, of bricks. A soakaway sort of thing.
We had a pump down at 23 and to wash clothes, very often we used to stand buckets and baths for a day to soften, by standing out in the air and the sun, and then use them. Very hard water it was from the wells and if you left it, it would soften.
We used to have water shortages, and then we would be restricted to one tap in the village and we used to go down and queue up. The tap that was always on was at Mrs Pistells (Now Mumbles Cottage). They put the water in the houses in 1947. My son was born then.
It was quite an upheaval to have it. Especially because Ecton has so many yards off the street. It wasn’t that easy to get the water to them.
V: Behind us in 54 there is an alleyway that goes through to West Street, and we had a tap in the garden and we assummed the pipe came from the Kitchen. But it didn’t. It comes all the way from that path, through/under the garden! It must be the same pipe that supplies those little cottages.
S: Yes. Down the ditty.
V: Did they have a lot of summers where there were shortages of water?
S: Yes. It’s changed so much, the seasons. We used to have deep snow in the winters. We haven’t seen that for years now. And hot summers. Thunder storms. We get Thunder storms all the year ‘round now, where we used to get them only in the hot summers.
V:Was there always electricity in the Village?
S: No. When we first came to Ecton in 1923, it was oil lamps. The Church was lit by oil lamps. Gas came to the village first. We never had anything at the Co-op, but the street was lit by gas lamps and a lot of the houses that go onto the street. One converted only fairly recently. The one we call ‘The Butlers Cottage’ Where Meakins lived – above that was the butlers cottage.
V: Was the Gas used for heating, or just for the lamps?
S: They never had Gas heating. It was all open fires on Grates.
V: Did your husband work only on farms in Ecton?
S: No he went further afield. He went to Little Houghton, Great Houghton. He used to drive the engine there. Our old engine that we found a year or two ago. Somebody bought it, and then sold it on to somebody in Shrewsbury. A year or two ago the phone rang and somebody said,” Hello Mrs. Rands. Did you own an engine once?”,. and I said ,”Yes”. and quoted the number of it. He was so thrilled. He’s done it all up and now he’s showing it. He goes to rally’s around Shrewsbury.
V: What would you say is the biggest change you’ve seen in the Village?
S: People travelling more. Families spread about more. I always said that the Village was like a big family. Everybody knew each other. There were little bickerings like there is in a big family. But if someone was ill, everybody rallied round and helped. There was no welfare state. If a man couldn’t work we would hold whist drives to help them out. It wouldn’t be acceptable anymore. The welfare state finished all that.
The hospital – all the villages around Northampton and Northampton itself kept the hospital. Easter Monday used to be Ecton’s day. Hospital Day. It was always held in the school and started getting ready for it in the mornings. Have a bring and buy sale. Crafts. Teas. Like a fete. Then we had a whist drive, and end with a dance. That went on until about 1 o’clock in the morning.
There is a plaque somewhere to say what Ecton had done for the Hospital.
The school used to have a bell. It rang at quarter to nine in the morning to get you up to school. And after dinner. It was rung by the caretaker of the school who lived in one of these cottages that got pulled down.
M: Didn’t he live in the house that used to be the Reading Rooms?
S: That had just about finished when I came first came to Ecton. It used to be part of the school, I think they used to do some dancing classes down there.
V: Wasn’t there a reading room at the other end of the village?
S: Now that’s the Institute Reading Rooms. That was built Jubilee, Queen Victoria was it? The Men’s institute they used to call that. It had a boys club and a billiard table. The men used to meet there to play billliards, not snooker.
V: Doesn’t sound like much reading went on.
S:I remember my father played billiards down there, then the Womens Institute used to meet down there when that was formed.
V: Isn’t a Reading Room a Library?
S:The Library I remember was, Canon Jephson used to let his dining room at the Rectory. It was full of books. You sat down there by the fire, and he used to let anybody in the village borrow his books. As children we had a book to put your name down that you’d taken a book. And if you didn’t take it back within a certain amount of time, he charged you tuppence. That’s where I read Anthony Trollope, and those sorts of books. He was very generous like that. He used to have a boys club in there on a Sunday afternoon. That was all Bible reading. But he used to supply them with cigarettes. Woodbines.
V:Were cigarettes considered to be, kind of naughty like they are now?
S: Well No. That was just a little treat for them. Like a chocolate. What we know as the Drawing Room at the Rectory was the village room. He never furnished it, and we used to have Girls Club and dancing classes and all sorts in there.
We didn’t used to have to wonder what we were going to do at nights cause we were back at school, learning some play or something. The SchoolMaster spent all his time with the school. He was very musical and loved to do it.
V:Did you put the entertainments on in the Village Rooms?
S:We used to build a stage in the school – wooden boards on trestles. It used to shake about. In this play there was a fishermans dance and the stage used to shake.
I went into the Choir. They had to get extra chairs into the chancel, because there wasn’t enough seats for the choir.
The schoolmaster helped a lot with that. We sang ‘The Messiah”. We had a huge choir. There used to be 60 village children at the school.
Being in the choir you had to go to choir practice once or twice a week. You perhaps had 2 shillings or half a crown. But if you didn’t go to choir practice, you owed tuppence. That was in Canon Jeston’s time.
V: What happened if there was a solo to sing?
S:One or the other of us sang it. I never sang any solo’s but I was in quartets because I used to sing alto. Mercy Johnson was the soloist. She lived in the Reading Room. Her mother and father were caretakers of the building.
V: So would a Reading Room be like the Village Hall is now?
S:Yes.It was the Reading and Recreation Room.
V: I have seen one in Wales which was called the Reading and Cocoa Rooms. That seemed like a good combination.
S: That reminds me that when we used to have Girls Club, we were allowed to go down and make cocoa.
V: Much nicer than being given a cigarette.
S: We learned country dancing. May Johnson helped with that. And the schoolmistress at Billing used to come over and help. And Miss Wrigley who lived in the last house down the street, she taught us to play whist. She taught us what Whist meant. It meant Silence. Can you imagine, a group of schoolkids. Silent.
There used to be whist drives all the time in the village.
V: It’s a good game – the easy version of Bridge.
S:Yes. They still have them during the winter, They had one last Thursday. They have one a month.
V: How old where you when you started at the School?
S: I was 10 when I came to Ecton, I was at the school 4 years. I left at 14. My daughter was the last one to leave at 15, then they wen 16.
V: Did you have any more schooling after that?
S: Oh yes, I went to learn typing. Up the old Arcade. Then I went into an office in Northampton.
V: How did you get there?
S: 8 pence return if you went before 9 o’clock in the morning on the Bus. We used to have to go to Earls Barton once a week for Cookery lessons. And the Boys used to go to for woodworking lessons.
V:So there was a reasonable amount of travelling.
S:We went on the bus.
V: Were there busses every hour?
S: Every 20 minutes. Open top busses. If it rained you put an umbrella up.
V: What were other reasons for travelling, you’ve mentioned working, school..
S: There used to be dances in the villages around. My husband was one of the first to have a car. An old tin lizzy. An Open Ford. It used to have a cover you could pull right up. We used to pile into that and go to Overstone. They’d bought one of the army huts from the first world war and that was their Womens Institute and they used to let it out for dances.
V: What was the music supplied for the dances?
S: We had a band. My husband’s cousin used to play the piano and another fellow had a drum set, and an accordian.
V: Did a lot of people have pianos?
S: Quite a few people had pianos. You had to have music lessons. A french lady who lived in the Middleton’s old house, the Laurels, that’s where I had my music lessons. She was an English lady, but her husband was french and he used to teach french lessons. I was playing the piano one day and it fell through the floor.
V: How did you practice inbetween lessons?
S: We had our own piano. Most people did. It was my mother’s piano.It was one of the bits of furniture.
When the wireless came along, the ‘cat’s whiskers’ we didn’t play it so much. But there was always somebody who could play the piano.
The village has always been very musical Mercy Johnson played. Her father played organ in the Church. Then she played after him. Her Bert husband made some tubular bells for the reenactment of Franklin coming over to England.Have you seen that film? David Dicks has it.
S:We did a Pagaent in the Hall which we used to call the summer house
V: Were you in the Pageant:?
S: No, I was getting teas. And doing first aid. The Maypole came into it. It happened by the Gazebo We were used to going all round. Especially one day a year they used to open it. Daffodil Sunday that used to be. Everybody, the whole village would go wandering around.
M: Was the Laundry House up at the Hall ever a Reading Rooms?
S:No it was just a laundry. They used to have a great big thing…it had stones in the bottom, it was huge. That’s why it’s called ‘Laundry’ now.
It was the Dairy behind. That’s where they used to hang the pheasants and all the rest of it.
It’s advertised again now, but these buildings they’ve done and said it was the Coach house – part of the Coach house. Well it never was, because they pulled the Coach house down.
In my day they were where the pheasant things were kept and some of the fruit was in there from the gardens. Apples and things. And the Stables were the buildings that went up one side of them. And the top were garages. The farthest one was a rifle range. This one in the courtyard were the garages, then there was the office, the little bit that comes down joins onto that, then there was a separate building that was the coach house. That’s what they pulled down. Those buildings that almost join the Rectory that come down the road – their where the horses were kept. Then these other bits, I suppose they were store places. I remember fruit being kept in there, then the pheasant cages were kept in there when they weren’t wanted.
There are some wonderful trees up there. By the Gazebo there’s a Holme Oak. And there’s sequoia. We used to call it the ‘punch’ tree because it was like cork. They’re really soft. And there’s a handkercheif tree. And the Colonel set some beautiful rhodedendrons and azeleas. All colours and beautiful smelling things. One day a year everybody could wander around there. There is a summer house up there, the whole floor is Knuckle bones of animals. Called the Knuckle bone house.
From the gazebo their was a walk and down that path was the knuckle bone house. Then there was another path that went along the top where all the daffodils and snowdrops were.
There was another walk that went up towards Beesley’s farm. Mrs. Sotheby’s summer house was up there. That was up the daffodil walk we used to call that.
V: Why the knuckle bones of animals? Didn’t that strike you as curious?
S: We were only children when we knew it and it was called the knuckle bone house and that was it. It was there before the late Colonel Sotheby came, because old General Sotheby was here. That was before my time. Then the old Lady Sotheby, she was the one that built the jubilee hall, the institute. When Colonel Sotheby married, that was the same year we came to Ecton 1923. She had been married before and her husband died in the war. She was a McCorquodale. She wasn’t allowed to live here when the Colonel died on account of being a McCorquodale. While she was here her brother was living here.Her favourite nephew, Alec McCorquodale married Raine….
S: The Hall went to Lionel Sotheby, didn’t it, after Colonel Sotheby died. I don’t know if he was his brother or cousin or what. They came from Shrewsbury way. They got it and stayed down there. Never really lived here. After the Colonel died they had a huge sale, pictures and everything. It was a two day sale. I spent two days up there.
M: Did you buy anything?
S: Yes. Bought a screen and a bidet! Somewhere I’ve still got the catalogue with prices.
M: You’ll have to look around your house and think of all of the things we might want to see, then we’ll come back.
S: Well, I’ve been here 80 years. When war broke out, my husband didn’t go into the army, but they’d formed the home guard, he was in there. We also formed a first aid company. Then I joined St. Johns. There was two or three of us first aiders in the village. So the children were looked after if they fell in the playground and they came to me to be wrapped up. They are grown up and have children of their own. Some of them say: Oh I remember you fixing my so and so, broken knee or something. St Johns weren’t in Ecton, they were in Earls Barton, and we used to go there. I was secretary of that for some time, then I was superintendent. I’ve been made a serving sister. It’s been a good life really.