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Helmdon
from Northamptonshire Within Living Memory, 1992
 
….."Helmdon doesn't possess a village, hall only a reading room. This was given to the village by the Fairbrothers in 1887. It was for the men to use and this rule has never officially been altered. The better-off people donated newspapers and weeklies and it was open every day of the year, except for Christmas Day, Good Friday and unofficially, the Thursday of Banbury Fair. At first, the "gentry" used to sit at one end and the working men at the other. This room was left under the jurisdiction of the rector and churchwardens and was not endowed. Monday evening is still the Working Men's Club night, when they hold their billiards matches."

The Poultryman
"Mary Turnham's grandfather had the first commercial van in Helmdon from Henry Oliver's, Mercers Row, Northampton. He used this van for his egg, butter and poultry business. Norman Osborne, who worked at Oliver's, stayed at Helmdon to teach Hedley Owen to drive the van.

She remembers Christmases between 1920 and 1939. This was a busy time for her grandparents, Arthur and Edith Humphrey. Poultry was bought from surrounding farms and kept in barns. Her grandfather also bought prize-wining birds from the local shows. During the Christmas period of about three weeks, they employed many local people to help with plucking and drawing the birds and Will Duncombe did the killing. The feathers were put in sacks to be sent to Wisbech on the train. Mary and her grandfather were usually weighing and labelling the birds before taking them down into the cool cellar or the front room which was cold. Many of the birds went to the shoe factories and clubs in Northampton as well as to shops and hotels. Mary usually delivered local birds on her bicycle. When the work was finished they all had port and mince pies in the kitchen and the hand bell ringers would come and play."

Self-Help
…."Many older Helmdon people remember the Benefit Society. It was registered on 5th July 1884 and dissolved at the outbreak of the First World War. The object of the society was "to raise funds by entrance fees, subscriptions, fines and donations and interest on capital, for the relief of members, and for the funeral expenses of the wife of a member." Once a year, a club dinner or Feast Day was held "but no portion of the expenses was to come out of the Society's funds".

The Whit Friday Feast Day was the highlight of the year. The men paraded through the village, each carrying a stave about eight felt long. The band was playing ahead of them, but it never played while they were walking over the bridge. They all went to church but the children had to stay outside as the church was always full of men."

Off to School
"One of the earliest memories of Helmdon came from Mrs Holloway, aged 91 years. She remembers her husband's grandfather telling her about the dame school, which existed in the place now occupied by the war memorial. It cost a penny a week to go to the school and as old Mrs Humphrey had six daughters, she could only afford to send the girls, her son had to stay at home and help do the work. He never went to school and couldn't read or write. When the dame school was knocked down, the site was used to break up stones to go on the road.

Miss Barnes seems to be the head teacher remembered by most people. She was head from 1918 to 1947. People remembered how red her face and neck went when she used the cane. They remember George Turnham pulling his hand away so her cane knocked over the ink well. Subsequent generations of children remembered the big ink stain on teacher's desk. Miss Barnes told Mrs Holloway that during the war she wanted a vegetable garden at school to teach the children gardening. When she requested a plot of land for this purpose from school governor Sidney Bartlett, he said that gardening was nothing to do with school, "let their dads larn 'em".

During the war the evacuees came and brought their own teacher. The children boarded with village families and the teacher lived at Falcutt.

Every year, the children had a party given by Mrs Lees of Falcutt House. There was a Christmas tree and every child had a present and an orange.

When the hunt met in the village, the children had time off from school to go and watch. Canon Bartlett, with his dog Bingo, used to pay the occasional visit to check the register and Mr Viccars was the school attendance officer who kept an eye on the truants."

Nibble and Clink
"Helmdon was a village with two railway stations. The bottom LMS station opened in 1871 and closed in 1951. This was known as the "Nibble and Clink" line. The top Great Central and later LNER station opened in 1899 and closed in 1963. The viaduct on this line, which is now a great local landmark was built before the embankment was built. Alan Watson's grandfather told him that all the village boys used to laugh because they didn't think a train could possibly get up to it. They didn't realise that the soil from the cuttings would be used to make an embankment so that the track would run across the valley."

Published jointly by Northamptonshire Federation of Women's Institutes and Countryside books.

Reprinted by permission of Countryside Books www.countrysidebooks.co.uk
 
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