Reminiscences Mr Clayton of Thorpe House

Mr Clayton speaking with Frank Ryan.

“Well, of course, this house is in the parish of Braughing;  all this side of the High Street from the Crown & Falcon up to the White Hart is in Braughing.   There should be a triangular stone on the corner near the Crown & Falcon Inn denoting the boundary.  [This has gone and the boundary changed in 1921.]  My father lived in this house from 1870 onwards – and father occupied it as a shop for the first time as a watchmaker.  Previously it was an Inn – the White Lion.

Opposite was Taylor’s – now The Old George and on Fordham’s corner was the Rising Sun.  The shop next to Thorpe house was the Post Office and grocers from 1870 onwards.

The pavements were cobbled stones and Mr Thorpe senior used to buy old railway sleepers to make a curb in front of his shop.    I can remember the Rising Sun being burnt down – the oak beams glowed red hot  like long pieces of coal; also the place where Brycetons is there was an old cottage with some sheds which was burnt and I remember playing as a lad on the building site of the present three storey house.

The fire engine was housed in a shed alongside Arthey’s the baker.  It was hand pumped by men of the village.   In the barn of Thorpe House was stored paper from the Paper Mill at Standon and I have the original Star insurance plaque which was fixed on the wall outside.  Paper Mill closed 1851-1861 as a paper mill.   The premises were occupied by Mr Gauldie who did engineering work there afterwards.  The old wheel has now fallen to decay – but it was still working in 1903.  The mill pond was full of fish – especially ‘jacks’ – the local name for pike.

1910 – Mr Clayton formed a drum and fife band for the young men of the village.  They practised once a week and played across the village at Christmas time and for celebrations –e.g coronations.   These events in the open air took place on a field belonging to New Street Farm at Standon.   They used to play at Hammonds Park, occupied by Mr Sheppard-Cross, for which they were given £3.

When I was a little boy I spent hours turning a big wheel in a shed in Taylor’s yard.   He was a rope maker and the rope used to come right across the road through our front door out through our house to the bottom of our garden.   The rope maker used to signal to me to stop winding and used to offer me a penny – always tomorrow!  This yard was at the Old George opposite our house and his name was Bob Messinger.”    [He was landlord of the Old George in 1882.]

December 1st, 1961.  Mr Clayton continues…

“Talking about the Puckeridge Fair – the last time it was held was in 1894 and my sister took me as a little lad.  There was one stall on that occasion an old woman called Mrs Tant and she sold coloured rock (sweetmeat);  before then lots of coconut stalls and booths.   It was always held in the Blue Anchor yard opposite.   This pub was owned by a man called Joselyn and he had a coal business, a hearse and one or two broughams which he used to hire out for functions.  He had two men working for him and quite a few horses.    He closed down the pub in 1919 and the Barbers, the present owners, who sell milk to the village, took it over.   The walls were blue and there was a huge lantern projecting over the front door and the pavement on a bracket.

There were two iron foundries, one was at the back of Chequers Inn [Mrs Nunn’s house.] kept by ACF Day, he made and cast plough shares.  Then his cousin set up down Park Lane.

My father used to tell us how he and the other village lads of Buntingford went to meet the first railway train when the railway was first opened.   It was a terrific event and the boys laid bets with each other as to who could run faster than the train.  Needless to say no-one was the winner.

Standon Fair was always held on April 25-26th.  There were many stalls with kerosene lights and a fun fair and great drinking in all the pubs, it was held in the main street and on the meadow opposite the butchers.  My father and I have wound the church clock at Standon for 90 years.

We used to have Sunday School week on the Park in Puckeridge – lovely horse chestnut trees and it was a favourite walk for all the village.  My mother used to refer to it as going up Ashcoates.   There was a pond at the bottom of the lane near the Hoppitts where the waggoners used to wash their carts.

Near to Cannons garage was the Bull Inn in Wigfield’s garden and a house was on the site of Cannons – it was pulled down even when in good condition.”

Mr  Clayton showed me two photos of cottages pulled down :

1. Rose Cottages: – pulled down 1904 replaced by terrace of several cottages on left hand side going towards Ware.

2. Brycetons & Reddings now – old house pulled down 1900 was Dunhams the plumbers.

“There were two forges in the village in a yard alongside the Blue Anchor next to the small sweet shop.  It was kept by Henry Barron who always struck his anvil at 6am;  every morning but Sunday.  On Sunday he was a smart man dressed in a bowler hat and gold watch chain, but he was very fond of beer and after his wife died he went to pieces and became like a tramp.  He lived in the little cottage up the Blue Anchor yard and he always made a two stroke beat on his anvil and when that was started it was time to get up.”

Reproduced with the kind permission of Frank Ryan.