Childhood memories

20th Jan 2024

Northamptonshire Archives has been in touch to tell us about a competition promoted by Joan Wake CBE, an illustrious member of the Wake family who grew up at Courteenhall. In 1958, Joan invited villagers to write to her with their childhood memories. Residents from more than 70 villages sent in their memories, two of which we feature below.


Life in Blisworth by William Whitlock (born 1873)

As was the custom for tradespeople and farmers' sons, I went to Courteenhall School as a day pupil. I walked daily to and from and took my mid-day meal. The master was Mr. Thomas Hasker. Old Parson Wake often looked in at school and it was my belief that he was the gaffer. Just before 12 o'clock each day it was my job to go to the wheel well in the wood and draw the drinking water for the dinner break. Some boys came and went on pony back.

Years ago, the Bell Ringers had an annual outing, we rang a 'change' and had a good dinner at some neighbouring village. Often the choice was between Wicken and Courteenhall. The latter always got the vote for Parson Wake was more generous with the ale. At Christmas we went round with the handbells, and there was nothing sweeter than the sound of these on the cold frosty nights. The trouble was that we had to drink at all the places we visited, and we were often the worse for wear at the close of the evening.



Memories of Courteenhall by Mrs Reynolds

It was about 32 years ago, when I was three years old, that my family came to live in one of the sweetest villages in Northamptonshire; this was a place called Courteenhall near Roade. An ideal place my parents thought to bring up a family of young children as we rarely saw any traffic.

The whole of the estate, including the school, was owned by Sir Hereward Wake. We were taught by a schoolmistress who dealt with all ages from 3 ½ to 11 years, which must have been a remarkable feat, as perhaps there were a dozen pupils, but not more than a couple in the same age group.

All this in one classroom, and yet lessons to others didn’t seem to distract one’s attention from whatever we were set to do. How well I remember getting a handful of sweets for a composition well done and for sums all correct when school was over for the day.

The walk to school was always a delight through woods and a large park, tulips, aconites, violets and many other flowers grew in these woods, so it seemed there was hardly a season when something wasn’t in flower, and these were hardly ever touched.

We didn't see many outsiders. There was no through road, and we had no bus service. A bus did call on Saturdays for a time to take people shopping to Northampton but through lack of support this fell through. Somehow it didn’t seem to matter that we had to walk about 1 ½ miles to catch a bus. After all, on a sunny day, one could always start out early and spend the time waiting sitting on the old stone seat beneath the village cenotaph.

I remember attending our lovely little Church with its beautiful stained-glass windows where the lesson on many a Sunday morning was read by Sir Hereward Wake. On Saturdays I sometimes earned 3d by pumping the handle of the organ so the organist could get in some practice in readiness for Sunday. I remember too, lovely Christmas parties at the Hall, where there was a huge tree filled with presents and decorated with tinsel and lit with candles, and on Bonfire Night grand displays of fireworks.

Yes, life in that quiet little village seems like a dream after the hustle and bustle of today.


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