The following are transcriptions [completed by Ms Joanne Winter in 2005] of video interviews conducted and filmed by Mr Douglas Wright in the 1990s and released on video in January 2000.
[Win Swallow reading from her own written notes]
My name is Winifred Mary Swallow, nee Ellwood. I was born at Mill Farm, Westborough Lane although years ago it was known as Broad Lane. I was born at the end of the First World War and my father was George William Ellwood. He and his brother Thomas Ellwood were in partnership in a business known as Ellwood Brothers, builders, wheelwrights, undertakers. Our family dates back to 1650 being one of the oldest families in the village. The brothers inherited the business from their father Frederick Gaybiould[?] and would be one of the largest employers in the village in the 1920s. They employed three full time joiners, two men coming in daily from Balderton., two bricklayers from Foston and two or three labourers who lived in the village. They worked in a large brick built building which was well furnished with machinery and tools. At the beginning of the First World War my father started up the farming side of the business, buying extra land in different parts of the village. We kept cows, horses, a few pigs and a bit of poultry. Any surplus milk was taken to the local milk dairy and later on when the milk dairy closed it was collected daily and taken to the Co-op dairy in Nottingham.
I attended the village school which was an all-age school from the infants to the leaving age of 14 years. Several children came from the villages of Westborough and Dry Doddington. I left the village school when I was 10 and went to the Lilley and Stone Girls High School at Newark. In those days about 100-105 children attended the village school and we had a visiting dentist. I can’t remember whether he came once a year or once every two or three years but he certainly visited - inspections one day and any treatments would be carried out the next day. There was a schoolhouse but [this was] rarely used by the reigning headmaster. I can only remember one headmaster living there and that was in the 1930s. When I was in the infants class the policeman and his family lived there, his young daughter attended the school. It was usually rented to local people and later before the new school was built I think it was used as a school store. Most of the children leaving the village school at the age of 14 would find employment either in the village or in Newark and Grantham.
It was always a busy village and almost self-sufficient. There were three general stores, all on the Main road. The one on the main road now named Potts Stores was run by a Walter Barnes and his family. He sold everything from foodstuff to domestic and household utensils, even paraffin, as all the houses in the village in those days had to use oil lamps for lighting. Electricity came to the village in about 1934 or 1935. Coal was always readily available as several people sold household fuel in the village. Mains water came to the village in about the 1950s and mains sewage not until the early 1960s. Two of the other shops on the main road, one named Frederick Winter, he sold food and was also a baker and, on the opposite side of the road, the other shop was in the name of Charles Ablewhite and he was a general grocer and a baker. There was also another bakers shop in Church Street. There were two butchers, one on the main road, Mr Thomas Kenworthy and one in Church Street, Mr Joe Swaine. There was also a little shop near the Royal Oak which used to be open a few hours every week. A man came to sell meat but it didn’t last very long. Later on it became a bicycle repair shop. There was one or two house-shops, one at the corner of Lilley Street run by a Miss Wilkinson who sold sweets. There was another small house-shop in Kirton Lane selling food and tinned goods. All shopkeepers did house deliveries by horse and cart and later on by motor car. The Post Office was run from a private house on the Main Road which had a manual telephone exchange. We always had a telephone and my father had a motor car in the 1920s. There was always a full-time policeman who was housed in the main street in a private house until the police house was built in the early 1940s.
[Win speaking without notes]
These little shops - you see there was a little plumbers shop on the North side in the name of Herbert Rigg and Son, well of course that shop has gone but he was there in my day.
He was also clerk to the Parish council.
So that was a shop there. There were two cobblers. As you come out of the Wheatsheaf Lane, Wheatsheaf Yard, there was a little building, a little one-storey building with a kind of half stable door and that was a cobbler. And the Wheatsheaf has changed - there was a little garden in front of there. But the cobbler was there and there was one on Costa Row. And there were two blacksmiths. You couldn’t imagine what it was like. If anybody was killed on this road, and many were, they were always brought down to our house, to our garage. And the doctor, if it was necessary, did the post mortem there. They used to come into our kitchen use our bowls, our hot water and towels and that.
[Interviewer] Can you remember what kind of motor car your father had?
[Win] It was a Cluely[?]
[Interviewer] Never heard of that
[Win] It was a Cluely, and it was a open topped car with a little dickie at the back - oh we were very with it in those days!
[Win - reading again from her notes]
There was always a resident doctor living on the main road. There were two cobblers - one near the Wheatsheaf, his name was Fred Allwood? and one on Costa Row, his name was Jim Seymour. Jim Seymour was also a postman at that time. There was a plumber on the Main Road named Herbert Rigg and Son and a saddler who wasn’t there for many years and he used the bow-windowed shop as a saddlers. There were two blacksmiths, one behind the Wheatsheaf pub and the other on Costa Row. The one behind the Wheatsheaf was called Dring and the one on Costa Row was a relative of his named Robert Arnold. There was also another joiner, an undertaker on Costa Row, the Harvey brothers. The newspaper shop was run from a home on the Main road by the Leach family. And there was also a dressmaker named Mrs Martin who lived on the Main road. Most people in those days made their own clothing. My mother was very clever making clothes - she made all our clothes when we were young. A lady named Mrs Bottsford ran a tea garden on the main road, opposite the Ablewhite shop. That was a very popular venue for people to come out on a sunny Sunday afternoon and have afternoon tea on the lawn. And there was also a little café on the Main Road next to the Reindeer (Ayrshire House) . It was run by Miss Buckle and when the café closed she used to sell sweets. There was also two small builders on the Main road, one named George Kirton, the other named George Dawson. There were three pubs, the Wheatsheaf, the Royal Oak and the Reindeer. There was also another pub next to the Royal Oak called the White Swan I think it lost its licence when I was very young. I think there were very many more public houses years ago but I don’t even know where they were except for one of them which was called the White Lion. That was an old coaching inn with its own brewing copper and that became the milk dairy run by Ripon and Son. This was a very up and coming dairy in those days.
Photograph supplied by John Abbott
They could do sterilised milk in bottles and cream and used the water from the river. They also transported milk daily to Newark by horse and dray. When it closed down it became an ordinary house with a bit of land and my own family and I lived there for quite a few years. When we lived there it still had the brewing copper and the bake oven. Further along the road there lived a man called Horton who ran a threshing machine business and who was also the local pig killer. All the farmers and many of the villagers killed their own pigs and cured their own bacon in those days. A little bit further on at the corner of Sparrow Lane that was a slaughter house and later on it became a fish and chip shop, after that a small bakers and is now a hairdresser. There was a painter and decorator in Church Street called Chalk and Sons, a chimney sweep in Wheatsheaf Lane called Joe Fenton. There were two chapels: the Wesleyan Chapel and the Primitive Methodist Chapel and of course the Church. The Wesleyan Chapel had a storeroom next to Potts shop which has now been turned into a dwelling house. When we were children we all attended either church or chapel Sunday schools. I went to the church and we had our meetings in the village school. The Vicarage was a large house in vicarage Lane and every year we had a garden party in the vicarage grounds. The Sunday school children usually had a Christmas party and we were taken by bus in the summer to Skegness - that was our yearly outing. There were four garages all on the main road, one of them being Fords transport café and , when the primitive Methodist chapel was sold, the transport people bought that and turned it into overnight accommodation for lorry drivers. On the corner of Church Street, which is now two bungalows, that was Walker Brothers garage and on the left hand side, where Tony Wild is now, that was Kenworthy’s garage and they had a bus. It was known as the K bus. Down Lilley Street another man had a bus but I think they only ran that on market days. Then the other garage was Whitcombe’s which is opposite where I live now. Later on we had a bus service which ran from Grantham to Newark - the Silver Queen. I don’t know how many times a day it ran but they were open topped double decker buses. By the time I went to the Grammar School in Newark there was a more up-to-date service that ran quite a few buses a day and I think that was the Lincolnshire Road Car company by then. I can remember the pinfold that was in a field between the doctors house and the school almost opposite Lilley Street where Doctor Spencer Gregson lives. I think they’ve called their house Pinfold House. Well it [the pinfold] was a wooden shack to house any stray calf until the owner came to collect them but I never recall seeing anything in there, but it was there when I was a child.
We made our own entertainment. There was the girls friendly society, church choir practice - I was in the choir - and the WI was formed in 1918 and my mother and my aunt were members. They used to hold concerts in the village hall and the members with children did a lot to get their offspring involved.
My mother and lots of other mothers who were clever with sewing machines used to make all the costumes and we children loved doing our party pieces on the stage. A dear old lady named Mrs Kirton used to teach us little dances etc. Some of the grown ups were very good actors and performed some very funny sketches.
There was also two very good lady singers. We sometimes had a concert party from Newark from the firm of Ransome & Miles. We also had some sixpenny hops in the village hall and many a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers started from there. There was a tennis court in Church Street, on the corner of Acklands Lane and also a cricket team. The boys used to play in a farmers field down Vicarage Lane, not a proper cricket pitch. When it was Bennington Feast Week, which I think was in July, I’m not sure, we usually had a few roundabouts and some open stalls in a field next to the Royal Oak and also sometimes a small visiting circus which pitched in one of my father’s fields.
We used to swim in the river near to the water mill. Before farming became modernised and tractors and trailers became the norm brothers were always busy making farm carts and other farming implements such as chicken coops, hen houses, pig and cattle troughs. They worked very closely with the blacksmith who would make the iron work, particularly the rims to go around the finished cart wheels. To put the rim onto the cart was quite a big operation. We had a hooping iron in the middle of the workshop and on hooping day a large fire was built and the new rim would be placed in it until it became red hot. Then about four or five men would lift it off with large handled tongs onto the wooden rim and then they’d hammer these little iron pegs between the rim and the wooden rim to get it level. Then they’d have to race to the hand pump to get water to shrink it onto the rim. It was a very hot and hard job and they had to be very quick doing it all and of course it made a few tempers fray. But after a glass of beer they soon cooled down and everything was back to normal but it was quite a big operation.
Coffins were handmade in those days and coffin boards were bought in quantity and the wood stored to allow them to season. Oak coffins were the most expensive and the cheaper ones were made of ash or elm. The A1 ran through the village and, although the volume of traffic was nothing like it is today, we still had some nasty road traffic accidents. If somebody was killed, the body or bodies were always brought down to our premises and housed in my father’s garage, never taken to the local hospital or mortuary. The local doctor would come down and if a post-mortem was required he would do it on the spot. My mother was always on hand to provide water or towels for the doctor’s needs. Several children and one or two adults were also killed on the road but not so many coming across from the school. There used to be a little cottage hospital in Washdyke Lane. I can’t remember it but I heard my parents talk about it. When the second world war broke out the village became a very different place. Some of the land on the Bottesford Road was bought from my father by the Air Ministry to build the Aerodrome and Wimpy [the construction firm] came in to build the runway and hangars and this brought a lot of outside labour into the village and lots of the men lived with families in the village for quite a time. When it was completed it was a Lancaster base and the village was full of airmen. When off duty the pubs and shops flourished. They were crowded every night until the beer ran out. They used to attend the village dances and enjoyed themselves with the local talent, sometimes they brought their own RAF band. Bennington had a Home Guard and an ARP service. The Home Guard was a bit like “Dad’s Army” but they all did their bit as did the special police constables - my dad was a special constable. With local lads going to the war, local labour could be difficult, particularly at busy times such as hay-making and harvesting. Farmers were encouraged to employ prisoners of war. We had two German prisoners of war who lived in one of our cottages on Mount Pleasant. We furnished it and provided food for them. They cooked for themselves and did their own washing and kept the cottage clean. They were allowed to get into the workshop to use the tools to make wooden toys -beautifully made they were. Every Christmas they would make us a gift . We also employed Italian prisoners of war from Allington. They came in daily, only on very busy times. There were no council houses in those days but lots of small cottages. We owned quite a few, mainly to house people that worked for us and rents were very cheap, the highest being 5 shillings per week.
Also I don’t think I’ve told you, when we had the farm we employed cowmen and stable hands and so on. I should think for the farm we employed about 6. Looking back, farms were the biggest employers.
The only thing I haven’t said up to know is about a lady who lived in the manor house. She was Mrs Grote-Joyce, she was the lady of the manor. She died in 1920 so I was too young to know her but my parents used to talk about her. It was then turned into a private residence and then it was the Manor Hotel and Restaurant, which, after that was closed, was pulled down and now it’s a housing estate.
[Ends reading from notes]
[Summary of Win’s further recollections by Joanne Winter - direct quotes are marked accordingly]
Describes her father’s workshop. All the coffin stuff was in there. Remembers liming coffins when a girl. Remembers how rare cremation was and that it couldn’t be done locally. When someone was killed on the road they had to arrange for someone in Newark to take the body through to Golders Green to be cremated. Quite a few tramps are buried in the churchyard with nobody knowing who they are. Also she remembered an old lady who was very poor and her father said that he’d known her all his life so he’d bury her for free. Notes that it was always a very happy village, that everyone knew everybody else. “You could go out and leave your door unlocked. There was no thieving. Even the poor wouldn‘t thieve from you. There was the odd bit of poaching”
Children all walked to and from school - four times a day. Including the children from Dry Doddington and Westborough. Some of the children were from poor families and would walk across wet fields whatever the weather “and there was no absenteeism” and would have to sit all day in wet boots. In the summer we’d cycle to school and “we got a very good school meal for eight pence a day in the old money”.
My breakfast was a boiled egg or an equivalent to today’s cereal, bran or porridge but that wasn’t typical. Other people were not as well off for food and [Win’s] family would sometimes give them free milk.
“It was a very busy, self-sufficient village. My mother she never did any shopping. Old Mr Barnes used to come to the house every Monday to take the order. She’d [Win’s mother] would start off with so and so and then say have you got so and so Mr Barnes? and he’d say well I haven’t got it on the cart Mrs Ellwood but I’ll see that you get it before bed time. As a little kid I‘d used to think, I wish she‘d ask for something and fox him and he couldn‘t get it. But then about 9 o’clock there would be a knock and he’d be there. I used to think where on earth did he get these. It’s like being on a magic carpet.”
[Interviewer] - “For years after Potts had the shop the word Barnes was still up above it . Where Arnold’s shop is now, which was then Ablewhite’s, the bakehouse wall, which now doesn’t exist, fronted the pavement level with the shop windows and on a cold morning, waiting for the A30 bus to Newark, you could stand with your bottom against the wall and get warm”
Discussed how drinking water was brought around daily by a ’tanker’. Each dwelling had a white bucket that you’d hang outside on a railing to be filled.
- doesn’t remember there being much illness in the village apart from just after the war when there was an outbreak of diphtheria. She herself got it. Several people died and her father was making coffins every day. Doctor Jones came to see her during the illness and told her father that he’d be making a coffin for her. They found that the person who was more or less spreading the disease because they were a carrier worked in the post office. Win caught it from this person’s daughter. Was supposed to go into an isolation hospital but it was November and a thick fog meant they couldn’t come and collect her. So she was isolated at home. Nobody else in the household caught it.
Describes walk-in pantry at home and how it had a bench big enough to take a whole pig when they killed it. Father hated pig-killing day. Mother would cook and cure the entire pig. They’d ensure neighbours and friends all got a plate of ‘pig fry’ or a pork pie and then when they [the neighbours] killed a pig themselves they’d reciprocate.
A man used to walk from Newark to the village with a coster-barrow of wet fish once a week.
Winter the grocer and the other Winters in the village -were nothing to do with each other. Winter the grocer and his wife had no children. They did live down Winters lane though, hence the name.
Big fishing matches weekly - people came even from Sheffield steelworks for a day out. The family at the White Lion pub [Dring] used to put a meal out for them.
[Interviewer] - tramps would spend the night at the Newark workhouse then walk through to spend the night at the Grantham workhouse.
[Win]- they’d never really bother you. You’d give them tea and food but they’d not break in or anything. and people were poor generally. Farmers could never pay their bills on time - they’d have to wait until they’d sold stock or harvest.
Wheatsheaf Lane - we never called it that we called it Dring’s Lane.
Lots of little farms and farmsteads throughout the village rather than big farmers only.
Colonel Younghusband - couple not sure if he was in the Indian army or Indian civil service, they lived in Priory House and Win says did a lot to try and help people in the village.
[Interviewer]- before the by-pass in the 1960s Main Road was a difficult road to cross at times
[Win] - it always amazed me that more children weren’t killed.
Discussion of victims of road accidents.
[Interviewer]- lorries would come in from the north into Fords transport café for a meal, “walk up to the pub for a half pint, sleep in the old primitive methodist chapel then head off to London” in time for the London markets.
Rumour about Dick Turpin having slept in Peacocks Farm.
[Interviewer] - “Dr Wilkie, he was a nice old boy. Rumour has it he only had two types of medicine, pink and white.”
[Win]- “He probably did. And he’d always say ’there’s a lot of it about’. I used to think if you went in with a broken leg he’d probably say ’there’s a lot of it about”.
Doris Edlin and Kathleen Newton - sisters.
[Direct quotes are marked accordingly. Otherwise transcription is close to the video interview but not verbatim.]
Born in a house where Woods Court now is - Daunt Road. Eight children in the household.
KN - Father was a bell ringer and in the choir
DE- Sunday mornings were a special time. We all used to have to be down in front of the fire, all of us together and say our prayers.
KN -never went to the doctor. If we were poorly we took a penny ha’penny worth of tincture of rhubarb.
DE - couldn’t afford the doctor, each visit was 7 shillings and sixpence.
KN - Father was in the 1914-18 war and after that he came to Long Bennington to work for Bagleys at Priory Farm but he had to find other work because he was earning 30 shillings a week and that needed to keep ten people. Father grew all the vegetables “and what he didn’t grow we didn’t eat”.
DE - father died of pneumonia - demise was very quick.
KN - Mother was only 39 when he died. Confirms that the Sunday school outing to Skegness was their annual holiday.
DE - Left behind eight children under 15.
KN - sacred nature of Sunday. No newspapers, no knitting. If father hadn’t got the potatoes in he wouldn’t have dug any on a Sunday, but he’d always got them in.
KN - food was a joint [of meat] on a Sunday, a “Quaker Oat” pudding at lunch every day and evening was vegetables, potatoes, just gravy if there was no meat - because the men got the meat
DE - and a lot of rhubarb and custard when it was in season. Pancake day was the highlight of the year.
KN - mother would bake on a Friday - Cakes and pasties. A lettuce sandwich at night was a treat for high summer.
Discussed how none of them in this large family have ever been on the dole.
DE - One of my brother’s main ambitions was to work on the railway but he would have been without pay for a little while so my mother couldn’t afford to let him go.
KN - another [brother] won a scholarship to grammar school but mother couldn’t afford for him to go. A brother went to work in London - postmark of first letter was Shepherd’s Bush “Is he living under a bush?” the mother asked.
DE - Christmas Eve the carol singers would come around at 3 am and wake you up.
KN - and mother would decorate the tree after you’d gone to bed so we never saw it until Christmas Day. That was the only time you had a chicken as well.
KN - Whit Monday. Mr Johnson would drive around the village in his van with an organ on it singing hymns and the children would follow.
The ladies confirm Feast Week as being in July - July 15th they think.
KN - could have been a trainee pattern cutter in Newark but she would have only been paid half a crown and the family couldn’t afford that so she had to go into service. She left school on a Friday and went into service (and therefore left home) on the Saturday. She worked in Newark.
DE - also in service and later on during the war worked in a ball bearing factory in Newark [the well-known one but I‘ve forgotten the name]. According to a wage slip she has for 1940 she was paid £2 17s for a 67.5 hour week.
KN - gave a room to bombed out people from London. She hosted a major and his wife and through that managed to save £300. Her husband was a groom and “second horse” (ie brought out a fresh horse mid way through the hunt) to the Belvoir Hunt which meant they would have been in a tied cottage with little way to earn extra money to save. So she used the £300 to buy a newspaper round. Early hours of the morning at Bottesford station the papers would come in from London. She sorted them, delivered them and then on a Saturday collected payment. This was her start
DE - family received money left by Mrs Grote-Joyce to help the poor. Her mother had to dress up and go to church for a service once a year for a stipend of only 5s. They also received an annual 12s and 6d from another charity.
KN - if you collected newspapers and took them to the fish and chip shop (at this point was where the hairdressers is now) they’d give you a few chips for free.
[Several interviews with Ernie Dring were recorded, as well as a couple of comments from Geoff Swallow and Arthur Southern. Only Ernie Dring’s interview used here.]
Ernie Dring’s father was a blacksmith with a forge behind the Wheatsheaf pub. His mother ran the pub during the day while Mr Dring would finish a day of work and then still work in the pub in the evenings. He also bought some land and began farming. He expected his three sons to work as hard as he did. Many of Ernie’s stories relate to feats of strength, shown either by his father or by him and his brothers.
ED - we worked from the age of 8 or 9. Cleaning the horses or the yard and helping with hooping. Eventually of course he worked on the land. From being a good scholar at 12 and with the opportunity to go on to grammar school he deliberately let his school performance slip because he was so desperate to get out and work on the land, rather than carry on with school.
He remembers the fishing parties. They were every week during the fishing season. Miners would come from Sheffield and Mansfield, that sort of area. His mother provided them all with a meal [at the White Lion pub] and would allow 1 and a half pounds of beef per person so she would buy 75 pounds of meat for fifty people. This beef and two large hams would be cooked in the bakehouse. Each was charged half a crown but often the men would come back for several servings and they wouldn‘t be charged any more. His mother didn’t mind losing money on the food side as the men would more than make up for it in drink during the course of the evening.
Boxing was one thing they entertained themselves with of an evening, sometimes putting on boxing matches, taking on other people or just training.
Father and all sons were in the Home Guard.
ED comments that he really wanted his hard working mother to be able to rest and retire away from the pub. That eventually happened but she only lived for two years in her new bungalow.