When I was young

Photo:Dorothy A Bagstaff (nee Pearce)

Dorothy A Bagstaff (nee Pearce)

By Dorothy Alice Bagstaffe

Early memories

Queen Victoria’s Jubilee

The earliest thing I can remember is hearing people talking about Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. But I don’t know how Orwell celebrated; I was in bed with a sore throat and any way a little girl of four wouldn’t really understand what it was all about.

I went to the village school, there were no school outings then, but every summer the Rector gave a school treat on the rectory meadow. The best part was when the Rector threw handfuls of sweets and we scrambled for them in the grass.

Photo:Dorothy at school

Dorothy at school

At Christmas the Rector gave a choir and Sunday school supper, and on Good Friday all the children got an orange and a hot cross bun. St. Valentine ’s  Day came next and we went round the village singing ‘Valentine’. We each had a cotton bag with draw strings and as we sang our way from house to house, we were given fruit and sweets to put in our bags. I remember the words and the tune we sang

we were given fruit and sweets to put in our bags

‘Good morning Valentine,

Good morning Valentine,

Curl your locks as I do mine,

Two before and two behind,

Good morning Valentine’.

I’ve often wondered how Valentine singing began.  I seem to remember dancing round the maypole on May Day, and I believe maypole dancing used to be held on Toot Hill (The Clunch Pit) but that was before my time .

We used to play on the Mash, where Meadowcroft Way is now.  I suppose it was once a marsh. Anyway, it was a lovely meadow, and the walk along the path by the stream from Lotfield Street to Malton was really beautiful.

Shopping in Cambridge or the Village?

A carrier's cart went twice a week to Cambridge; it was an open cart and when it rained the drips from someone’s umbrella trickled down your neck. We didn’t go very often, the village shops sold most of the things we needed or could afford. We had a butcher and two grocery shops and a general store, and in the

Hepzibah Breed, the dressmaker

High Street there was a baker in the old post office, he made and delivered all the bread himself. Mr Scott the cobbler was in the High Street, and so was Hepzibah Breed, the dressmaker. We didn’t have many new clothes (there wasn’t the money,) so it was a real high day when you went to Hepzi for a new dress.

There were eight pubs in the village, The Old English Gentleman was also the coal merchant, and you went to The White Hart if you wanted a carpenter or a wheelwright; coffins were made there too.

Putting childhood behind me

There was a Salvation Army barn in the High Street. We children loved their open air meetings on the Clunch; it was like a concert to us sitting there on the grass, listening to the music. It was so lively and cheerful. In the winter it was very quiet; when the dark evenings came we played games in each other’s houses, but when we were older there was always plenty of mending and sewing to do. When I was in my teens there were dances over at Shepreth , but I wasn’t allowed to go; my friend went and I envied her very much.

When the boys left school they worked on local farms; if they were apprenticed to a trade, such as carpentry, they had to go into lodgings where they worked (perhaps in Royston). At one time some of them went fossil digging along Malton Road but I don’t know who employed them.

The girls usually went into service. I was fourteen when I went to my first place in Cambridge. Later I went to London; I got ten shillings a month, my keep, with Sunday morning and one evening a week off. I don’t remember what my employer did, but he went to the City in a frock coat and a silk hat.

My return to Orwell

I came back to Orwell when I was twenty, just before the Great War started. A year later I married a local boy. It was a beautiful, wonderful wedding day; I wore a white dress and my bouquet was made of white narcissus. A week later my husband went off to the war. We were lucky, he came safely home when the war ended

Campaign for village hall

Just about this time a young man called Wilmott began to campaign for a Village Hall for Orwell. It was built and you can see his picture on the wall if you go inside. Things were beginning to change, but very slowly. Sometimes I wish we could have kept some of the good things we had. For instance, in those days we had two doctors coming to the village; they held three surgeries a week, in The Old English Gentleman and in a cottage in the High Street. We had Doctor Young and he came on a bicycle from Harston, he was very highly thought of and if anybody deserved a medal - he did.

The bad bits

I’m glad we didn’t keep some of the things I remember, like carrying every drop of water from pumps and wells, and filling and cleaning oil lamps. We’ve got a lot to be thankful for these days.  






This page was added by Pat Grigor on 17/10/2012.

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