Mrs F Van Stockum's letter

Response to article on Orwell

The following letter will have been written in 1992. You are also referred to a separate page on Mrs Florence Van Stockum celebrating her 108th birthday.

Squeaky Shoes in Old Orwell

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Mrs F Van Stockum's letter' page
I have read with great interest your recent article on Orwell in “Heart of the Village”.

I must be the oldest living person born in Orwell...

Since I believe that, at 97, I must be the oldest living person to be born there, I might possibly have a few more facts to convey.

Orwell was a very self-contained village when I was born in 1894 but no doubt many changes have been made since I left England in 1920.

There were two bakeries, one owned by Mr Stallabrass and the other post office bakery combined was run by Mr and Mrs Parcel, with an assistant named Mr Bagstaff who lived next door to Mr Wagstaff close to the public pump and pub on Town Green Lane (Road).

You failed to note what was then the most significant feature of the village, the Huddlestone general store.

That shop was also on Town Green Lane (Road) next to the larger of the two schools, and almost anything could be found there. The shop had two sections, one for drapery and dress materials and the other for groceries.

the little ruffians of Orwell

Children from the surrounding villages were often sent by their parents to do their shopping there. They were usually boys of nine or ten, and as soon as their heads showed above the chalk hills beyond the church they were set upon by the little ruffians of Orwell and sent in tears back home.

The Butchers

There were also two butchers. One was Mr Oliver, whose shop was on High Street, and the other was Mr Pearce on Town Green Lane (Road) opposite what was then the Wensleyan Chapel.

There was also a carpenters' shop on Town Green Lane (Road), run by two other Huddlestone brothers , William was an undertaker who measured the corpse, made the coffin and walked with dignity at the head of the funeral possession. He also owned a bicycle repair shop and rented bicycles for tuppence an hour.

The home where I was born was on Stocks Lane, and was built in the early 1600s. It was demolished about 1970 due to dry rot. The house was set back from the road and the land surrounding it was given over to agriculture.

When I visited Orwell in 1959 I was told by the then vicar of the church that it had its beginning in the Saxon era, and now only one bell was used for fear of the strain on the steeple.

Mr Arron Scott was the sexton when I left, it was his duty to ring the bell for services and toll the bell for the dead. He also dug the graves.

delightfully squeaky shoes

Mr Scott was a very fat man and had delightfully squeaky shoes which he had wore on Sundays.

I am afraid that my chief entertainment in church as a child was the moment when the minister would take his place, the organ would cease and in that great and solemn silence the belfry door would open, Mr Scott would emerge, and with resolute firmness of step squeak his way to the very front seat, and only when he was firmly settled would the service begin.

I have no knowledge of the reading room in Orwell, nor did I ever hear of one, and knowing all the residents, I feel sure that it would have made itself evident somewhere. I am a great reader and always had to go to Cambridge for books.

Mr Breed's farm that you mention must be the one that I remember as a small dairy and is at the end of High Street towards Barrington.

Mrs F Van Stockum  

Allen Dale,  Shelby Ville,  Kentucky,  USA.

This page was added by Martin Grigor on 19/07/2013.

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