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."
"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
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."
."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
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