Flora Thompson,'Lark Rise to Candleford'
This was my childhood........this is what I miss. In Michigan where we have bears (that I never get to see) and even a Panther (that I have yet to see) and crazy people, well, it's not safe anymore to do the things I did as a child.
I would catch the bus up to Shelly Rd and walk over to my Nan's house. After awhile of bugging her I would go up to Skimpot Rd or cut across another road that ended up at the same place. I found my way on my own from an early age and never got lost. I would then saunter across the Downs to my Aunt Ivy's house on Downside Estate in Dunstable and eventually get a bus home. Goodness knows what they all thought because no phones and no way to let them know, I would just show up and walk in. Times they sure have changed. My parents would be at work and never knew where I was, and as far as I knew never worried. No one could let them know. I knew to be home by supper time I suppose or dark, whatever came first. How did we manage without cell phones, or even a house phone?
Some days if I was not down the farm I would wander the fields behind our houses. There were chalk pits back there. Very dangerous but us kids never cared about that.
Dunstable is a Market Town, that means it was given a charter to hold markets, at least that's a simple explanation. The Romans built a road from the south to north of
England and it was called The Watling Street. It ran straight through Dunstable behind the chalk pits and onwards. Later to become the A5. Well in the olden days the hill back there was so tough to navigate that horses and wagons, stage coaches would get stuck, and so they made the "Chalk Cutting" to make life easier. Back in those days we had a notorious Highwayman named Dunne, they say maybe the towns name originated with him. Dunnes stable?
Back in the days of the Roman occupation the locals were Saxons mainly at least around our way. There was a small settlement at Puddle Hill where the chalk was being dug later by the Blue Circle Cement company. They made a great playground for us kids. Some of the chalk pits held water and there were rabbits and all sorts of wildlife there. We were taught in school to find fossils in the chalk and had a day there looking for them. I found a huge one when I took Gerry to show him exactly what I meant.
Again I digress. One day they were digging the chalk out extending the boundaries and low and behold a human skull fell down into the quarry. Guess that guy was freaked out.
Still later on the pits were a favourite playing area and more than that was Blue Waters just a little further away from Puddle Hill.
The thing is, my Dad was raised in Houghton Regis as was his father and all before him. How I would love to know how far back we went in that general area. I got back as far as 1745 I think. I bet if I got DNA done I would have a good old mix of Roman, Viking, Saxon and Celt in my blood. That's what the English are made of.
This next picture is of my Grandfather's (on Dads side) house.
I never knew them but he was a Shoemaker and apparently my Grandmother was not approved to marry Bert Hines who was just a laborer. The Hines were all farm laborers one way or other. He also enjoyed the pubs a bit too much apparently. So Great Grandfather Spittle was not happy about the match. They had 10 children including my dad. My Dad played in the same places I did, went to the same school and wandered the same fields. Back in his day the Windmill was intact in Mill Lane and the cement works were not yet there, there were fields instead and those fields tilled by Shire horses.
The fields and mill before the Pits were dug out for the cement works
My Dad would have known these places before and after. We could walk to Dunstable via Houghton Road as we did to go to school, or to go to town we would more often walk
"Up Dog Kennel" named for the places that Colonel Part would keep his hunting hounds. It was a nice walk, you could see way over the Pits and over the railway line where I was found after I ran away. We lived at St Omere then so I could only have been about 3, not sure but apparently as the story goes I took off with a little boy down the road and my dog Gerry. I was playing down on the tracks when found and accosted. Gerry was not at all happy and my Mother would have smacked me but he took her hand they say. Later years we would enjoy standing as a steam train would go under the bridge. We would come out of Dog Kennel walk by the Grove House Gardens.
Lovely memories of those gardens and playgrounds. The Priory Gardens are at the other end of town and I will talk more about those another time.