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Monday, December 19, 2016

An English Village.......................................

I was looking at a picture painted by Terry Harrison. He paints wonderful pictures of England and the countryside. His work reminds me so much of the village I grew up in. Houghton Regis may not have been quite as idyllic as the ones he portrays but those of us who grew up there remember it fondly.
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This village that Terry has painted looks more like some of the other villages one might see in the Cotswolds or some of the less industrial areas. Houghton Regis is only 30 miles from London. It did not change much over the years until right after World War 2. So much changed "after the war" all over the British Isles. Especially for us, when it came time to rebuild London. So many people displaced as always when there is a war. It took them into the 1950s to begin to sort things out. New housing had to be built and there had to be work as well. We villagers hated what happened to our village but in reality, what were the planners to do? People needed jobs and houses and if not us then who? So they built factories in places like Luton and Dunstable, the car industry was the boom we needed then. Before the war, cars were not something one would see often.
....A view along the High St.........
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....The Church, showing the fire station etc.......
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I was born in 1946 the beginning of the baby boom. Our fathers came home from the war and needed work. We already had factories in the area and my grandfather worked at Skefco who at that time made ball bearings (I think) the factory was bombed a couple of times and lucky for Granddad he was not there at the time. Two of his sons rode their bikes up to the factory to check on him, but he was safe at home.
Anyway, I remember going to London as a young girl and seeing derelict buildings and lots of craters and ruins. I didn't realize at the time that it had anything to do with the war,the war for me was ancient history at 10 years old. I didn'nt know that they were bomb sites. That was nothing I knew about. Our village was intact. I think a couple of bombs may have fell around about but was rather a cause for excitement than concern. Children from London were living on farms and with villagers away from danger. Soldiers as well as prisoners of war were billeted with families and everyone chipped in.

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......The road passed the Village Green with my Grandfathers house in the center view........
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Our village was still agricultural mainly, one would see tractors in the high street and our milk came from the farm. As I grew up it began to change. Probably the first change in a hundred years or more, although I suppose electricity was a major change, I remember the gas lights.
Then they tore down our wonderful Tithe barn, and Tithe Farm.They built a housing estate by the same name. It was to accommodate the London "overspill". In England they have "council" houses. You can get on the "list" and get a rented home from the local council. Mum and Dad got theirs on Bidwell Hill when I was about 4 years old.
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Well at that time too, one could have an "allotment" a piece of ground to have what they called "Victory gardens"..........this is still possible in some areas even now. My Uncle Eddie enjoyed one right up until he died. He had a little shed with his garden stuff in it and it was just a short walk from his house.
Well, when they build Tithe Farm Estate, they built over the allotments too. There was a little resentment needless to say.
.......Tithe Farm.........
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It is apparent that in every country village there are several Public Houses. Houghton Regis was no different. They came and they went. Some still remain but not like it was back then. There was a need really because the way the houses were heated was by coal fire. Winter was cold and damp and the local pubs became gathering places. The local villagers would meet in the pub of their choice and play games and enjoy a hot fire, friendship, and a beer or two or three and it was more like a family gathering. It was a way to socialize and stay warm as well. Later pubs served food when the economy required a change of pace. The villages surrounding us all had their pubs and the clients has teams of men who would play darts or dominoes or whatever and compete against other pubs. My dads local was down the Hill at the Red Lion. He seldom went to one in the village itself. My Uncle chose the one closest to him, The Crown. At Christmas when I was older we would walk down to the Crown and meet family there for a drink at noontime while waiting on Christmas dinner. You always knew people in there neighbours or other villagers.
.....The Old Red Lion....
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It was my dads routine, come 8pm to walk down to the Red Lion and stay till closing time or around 10.30ish. I do remember a big fight between my mum and dad when the Red Lion went up for sale, my Dad and Mums brother Ray talked about buying it. Mum told Dad he may as well take his bloody bed down there then........Dad said " pack my suitcase" Mum said "Pack your own bloody suitcase" ......I was worried because the suitcase in question was under my bed with all my Elvis Presley pictures in it. Well anyway, next day it was all over and done with and Dad had apparently slept somewhere in the car. Went to work and came home as usual. There was no more talk about buying a pub.
.......The High st.........
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Everything began to change. Not really for the better in retrospect. The local small shops whose owners we knew by name and by tradition became supermarkets. The early closing days were gone and Saturday mornings opening became all day affairs, and then Sundays too. You no longer took in your weekend shopping list for delivery Saturday morning (to get us through the weekend). We had no refrigerators and so shopping was an every day thing. The baker and the milk man delivered and at one time so did the butcher. We used a "safe" for meat to keep flys off and milk and butter were left on the table. Or in the larder in a shady dark spot to keep it cool.
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I look at the pictures of the old village and see what it's like today. One can not go back and most people now would not want to. We had two phone boxes in the village. No one had a phone that I knew. They built a shopping center and put in chain stores like Woolworths but in doing so they demolished the Alms houses and the old fire station and jail.
......The old lockup behind the fire station and at the end of the church cottages........
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.......The old fire station hut, later the bus shelter.......
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....The Pond, wagons would go through it to keep the wooden wheels from drying out.....
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When I grew up everyone knew everyone else and once the estate was built that all changed we got some refugees after the war who were looked at dubiously but accepted. We had Polio rear its head and learned all about not playing near stagnant water. We had Foot and Mouth disease and saw the poor farmers having to kill and burn livestock. Fowl pest came and went and we would have to walk through disinfectant to go on and off of the farms. Smelling the burning piles hovering in the country air. Childhood was a time of learning many things besides what we learned in school. It equipped us in ways we never knew to get through tough times in our lives. We learned that hard work and diligence paid off in the end and was it's own reward. We grew up learning country ways that probably in this modern world are not so useful but still good to know. A lot will be lost once my generation has gone.
....An old painting from way back......
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My village is gone now and there are still some of us "kids" left just now who remember and reminisce.

1 comment:

Magic Love Crow said...

Wow Janice! What an interesting post about your life! Thank you!