Winchmore Hill : Memories of a Lost Village
by Henrietta Cresswell
Chapter II: IN THE VILLAGE
The old gabled house between the village pond and Hoppers Road was the baker’s. It was very picturesque, built of weather-boarding and roofed with mossy tiles, and had an extensive yard and huge barns and granaries. There was a bakehouse of the old sort with an oven heated by burning faggots within, and there were long kneading troughs under the window.
White and purple lilac lined the fence of the yard. At one end near the gates stood the tall sign of the “Salisbury Arms,” and at the top of Compton Lane was a triangle of grass, a fenced-in shrubbery of straggling hawthorn bushes, and a fine horse chestnut tree in full bloom. At one time Mr and Mrs Burns had the bakehouse, but they moved to the Farm near the Doctor’s to keep dairy cows, and turned all their attention to milk instead of bread. Mrs Burns made hay herself, in the field with the oak trees beyond the carrier’s garden, and she made it with a hay fork of her very own, with handle painted in alternate lengths of red and green. Oh, that hay fork! Little Winifred, the Doctor’s daughter, thought it very nice to turn over the sweet hay with a forked stick, cut for her by her father, but how she longed for that scarlet and green implement! At last there came a glorious hour when the good-natured Quakeress lent it to her to use herself. She felt that if ever she had a field of her own she would have a fork exactly like that and her hay would be all the sweeter. Mrs Burns made butter in a churn and Winifred learned to turn the handle slowly round while the cream went swish, swish. In time the swish became a duller sound and the churn turned more heavily. After that there came a feeling of something flop, flopping, and behold, there was the golden yellow butter! It was very interesting making butter in a bottle, only it was so difficult to get the butter out of it when it was done; but to use a real churn was something to be proud of.
Before Mrs Burns had the baker’s shop the two Miss Catchpoles owned the business. They, like the Burns’, belonged to the Society of Friends. Friend Lydia and her sister kept bees, and kept them most successfully. They had so much honey they hardly knew how to use it, so it occurred to their minds to make some mead. They appear to have imagined that it was, what we should now call a temperance drink, a sort of eau sucrȇe of the most harmless nature. One cold winter’s evening as they sat over the fire they thought they would try their new brew. It was certainly very good. The sister retired early, but Friend Lydia felt so cosy by the fire that she had another glass. She had never felt better in her life, but when she awoke in the grey wintry morning in her armchair with the fire out and the cold grey ashes looking dismal and forlorn, amazement entered her soul. When she met the Doctor the next day she told him about it, and how good the mead had tasted, but added she “I fear, Friend John, I must have been powerfully refreshed.”
There was another gabled wooden house on the north side of the green, and it was a very peculiar dwelling, as it was not built on ordinary foundations, but stood on a frame-work resting upon wheels. It was a long low cottage with two or three gables facing the road. The wheels were heavy discs of wood, sunk in a flower border to the axletrees, and it is said that its first owner intended to remove when he wished, house and all, as they now do in America, but alas, in an unlucky moment he (or was it she) planted a row of lime trees in front of it, and by law those trees could not be cut down without permission from the landlord, and the house could not be removed while the trees obstructed the way, so it remained a “Tennant’s Fixture,” not in the usual sense of the word, in spite of the wheels, until Suburbia improved it off the face of the earth.
On the east side of this cottage a low ceiled archway led to the blacksmith’s forge, and westward was the “King’s Head” garden, where lavender and rosemary and white pinks flourished, and where there was a pond, on which floated waxen water lilies. In spring the rent oak fence by the roadside was overhung with white and purple lilacs and guelder roses-Whitsun bosses, as they were called. At the corner opposite the King’s Head a huge walnut tree overshadowed the footpath.
The old Inn, with its small window panes, was built long enough ago to have seen many changes. The square white house on the south side of the pond had a large garden and fields, which reached down Middle Lane to the back of the Queen’s Head. There were several cows and an old piebald pony, said to have been in work for thirty years. At one time the cows were in good milk, and yet morning after morning, one or the other was dry. It was evident some one was stealing the milk, and the village constable was set to watch, but without any result. The mysterious loss continued, and Mr Feltham, who lived in the white house, grew more and more annoyed. At last some kind neighbour hinted that he would be wise to watch the watcher. He did so, and in the early dawn of the next day, greatly to his delight, he caught the thief in the act- the honest policeman was milking the cows himself.
On the west side of the green, near where the road goes up the Wood gate, was a large and important shop. In the old days “Udall’s” was well known for many miles around. Travellers’ carts took drapery and haberdashery to all the county houses and villages. People were frugal in those days. One year the Doctor’s wife, the Brewer’s wife, the Stockbroker’s wife, and the Papermaker’s sister would all appear clothed from the same length of material, and the following summer the junior members of each family appeared in the remainders of the garments. There was not much variety in the old shop. The Doctor’s wife would take a piece of stuff she had purchased two or three years before to be matched, and if there was a delay in finding it, would point to the shelves and say calmly, “I had it from the second box on the third shelf,” and there, sure enough, it would be found. On one occasion some alterations were made in the building, and stores of foreign laces and silks were discovered hidden in a secret place, long forgotten. No doubt, they had been there since the old smuggling days. Enfield Chase was a wild and lawless land, and Udall’s, an easy stage from London, and only a few miles from the Essex Marshes, was a convenient place for the pack-horses to stop unquestioned.
At Christmas the mistress of the shop made a beautiful entertainment with a fine Christmas tree, and sometimes a conjurer, to which were invited the children of her customers, in and near the village. These parties were great events to Winifred, and she enjoyed them far more than many grander affairs of later date.
The old village was a primitive place. In a little low house near the forge was a school-not a mere dame school, but a select day school for boys and girls. It was decidedly a liberal Academy, at which the sons and daughters of the butcher, the baker, and candlestick-maker learnt their Christcross row with those of the class above them. Winifred only went there for breaking-up parties and great festivities, but she learnt some wonderful facts which had been taught to the other scholars; for instance that the climate of Central Africa is so hot that all the natives have to do to heat their flat irons is to stand them out in the sun. It was the custom of the little girls to bring flowers to their teacher. Emily and Marien from the nursery garden brought a rose bud and a spray of maidenhair fern. Medora from Fillcap’s Farm brought some sweet peas and mignonette, and each bouquet had a piece of silver paper wrapped neatly round the stems. Winifred’s cousin from Devonshire felt it behoved her to follow the fashion, and begged her grandmother for a nosegay; and a nosegay she had. Such a beaupot as never was seen. All the best the garden could produce- and such a garden! It was no meagre offering but a real Cook’s bunch. Some of its chief glories were oriental poppies and huge white peonies. It was a proud child who bore it to school, but at the moment of making the gift she was covered with confusion. All the stems were naked and unashamed, the decent covering of tissue paper having been, forgotten, and every girl in the school was sniggering at the gaudy vulgarity of the glorious blossoms, and mentally comparing them with their own refined little button-holes. No doubt, Miss T. appreciated her present at its true value, for the grandmother’s garden was well known to fame. In that garden was an enormous weeping ash. One lady visitor, who was over strong in her “h’s,” spent half an afternoon expressing her admiration of the “hash harbour.” At the end of the garden was a tall yew tree, which may still be seen behind the houses near Vicar’s Moor Railway Bridge.
Before Miss T. had the school old Miss Watkins was the mistress, and on the day the Prince of Wales (King Edward VII.) was married, she gave a party. The Doctors’ wife, who was ill at the time, sat up in bed to make a most refined little wedding favour for Winifred to wear-a white satin bow with a spray of myrtle and orange blossom from her own wedding wreath; but, alas, its glories paled and withered into home-made simplicity when it was side by side with gay red, white, and blue rosettes with gold or silver Prince-of-Wales’ feathers in the centre worn by the other young ladies. The crowning glory of that day was the first sight of an Air Balloon. It floated into sight high in the blue sky in the far south, beyond the pond and the willows, beyond the bakehouse-a pear-shaped ball turning slowly as it travelled in the cold March air. The news that it was in sight spread quickly, and groups of villagers and children gazed open-mouthed while it showed now pale pink, and now blue and iridescent, in the afternoon light like mother-of-pearl. It passed steadily westward till it disappeared beyond the trees of the wood, “lost to sight, to memory dear.”
Near the “Salisbury Arms” was a tiny shop kept by two ancient spinsters, the Misses Lowen. One of them was quite deaf, and as bald as an egg- a rather forbidding old lady from whom to make purchases. The other had no legs! She travelled on her hands down the two steps from the small back parlour and along the floor behind the counter, and there raised herself acrobatically on a high stool to serve customers. She wore a most palpable front kept in place by a band of black velvet across the forehead. She was a kind old lady, and a favourite with children. The Misses Lowen sold tobacco, snuff, short clay pipes, and long churchwardens. There were also various primitive toys, Dutch dolls and Paradise dolls, and long snakes made of horn turnings, with black bead eyes and red cloth tongues, which were packed quite small in conical wooden boxes. They kept beads and marbles, stoneys at twenty a penny, and glass allys at a whole farthing a-piece, boxes of dominoes, hoops and hoop sticks, and stocks of tin whistles.
The Doctor attended these old ladies entirely for the price of his tobacco, giving each time a curiously twisted note which represented a payment.
People in Chapter II
The two Miss Catchpoles (lydia and ..) - owned The Old Bakery before Mr and Mrs Burns
Mr and Mrs Burns - Previous owners of The Old Bakery
Mr Feltham - owner of the White House on the South side of the Green
Medora from Fillcap’s Farm
Emily and Marien from the nursery garden
Miss T. - Teacher at the select day school on The Green
Miss Watkins - mistress of the select school on The Green before Miss T
Prince of Wales (King Edward VII.)
The Misses Lowen - owners of a tobbaconists and sweet shop shop near to The Salisbury
Places in Chapter II
The Old Bakery, Winchmore Hill Green
The Salisbury Arms Pub
The Horsechestnut tree in the triangle opposite the end of Compton Road
A gabled long wooden house on the north side of The Green - on wheels, with the Kings Head Garden to the west and an archway to the Blacksmiths forge to the east.
The Kings Head Pub
The square White House on the South side of the pond had gardens up to The Queens Head
The Queens Head Pub
Middle Lane (Station Road)
Udalls - on the west side of the Green, drapers and haberdashers
A little low house near the forge was a select day school for boys and girls
A tall yew tree, which may still be seen behind the houses near Vicar’s Moor Railway Bridge
Tobbaconists and sweet shop shop near to The Salisbury
Events in Chapter II
A policeman is caught stealing milk by milking the cows in Middle Lane
Prince of Wales (King Edward VII.) was married
Observations of local characters in Winchmore Hill
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