Ken W Allan

Ken lived in the village between Feb 1945 and August 1951, when his father has the baker in Water Lane. Ken (head prefect in 1948-49 at Raunds Secondary County Modern school, now Manor school) recorded village life on his Box Brownie camera at the time.

Born in 1934 and now living near Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, Ken has provided a series of articles on village life during the 1945-51 period.

Ken in 2008

A Baker's Tale

Chelveston 1945

Mum, my brother and I arrived in Chelveston from a small village called Hatley St. George, Cambs, where we had been living with my step uncle after being evacuated again from London when the Flying Bombs started. As I remember we were met at Higham Ferrers station by dad and driven back to the village to meet Mr Baldwin, the previous owner of the bakery. He didn't move out until the beginning of April.

It was like stepping back in time, the village had no utilities i.e. water, electricity, gas or telephones. The only water source was the village pump just outside the Bakery, virtually on the crest of the rise of the Raunds road. The bakery was fortunate in that it had it's own well, although dad always insisted on using water from the pump to make the bread. The well water was used in the house for washing, laundry and flushing the toilet. It was one of my jobs to take two pails on a yoke and ensure there was always sufficient water in the bakehouse. The bakery was quite a large property, viewed from the top of Water Lane you had the two storey living area consisting of a very large kitchen to the right of the entrance door which stretched from the street front to the back garden. This was hub of the house, everything happened here from eating, playing, cooking, drying clothes etc. To the left of the entrance was a lounge room that only got used on high days and holidays. Directly in front of you as you entered was a flight of stairs, at the top to your left was a bedroom which was occupied by mum's mother and father (Ada and Henry Edwards) who had moved in with us during 1946. To your right was a narrow corridor with two small rooms on your right and at the end of the corridor, the main bedroom.

Adjacent to the kitchen as you moved down hill was the shop which was entered from the house through a door from the kitchen. Entrance to the shop for customers was through a door on the street front. Mum managed the shop which sold groceries, and dad managed the bakehouse. Food rationing was strictly controlled and I remember at the end of the day trying to balance the coupons you had taken against the stock you had sold. At the end of each month these were sent in to the Ministry of Supply so that more produce could be purchased, many an hour was spent balancing the coupons. I remember often searching through draws and boxes to locate certain coupons. It was a nightmare and panic stations were the order of the day at times. Butter, sugar, flour, cheese all came in bulk packages and these had to be cut, weighed and packaged for sale.

The bakehouse was entered through a door on your right as you entered the shop. On your left as you entered was a large round drum on a frame that the dough was made in, since there was no power this had to be turned by hand. Flour was put into the drum though a chute from the loft above, a full batch of bread took two sacks of flour. It was easy when you first started to turn the drum to mix the flour, water and yeast, but as it became more solid and the drum reached to top of it's turn, the dough would drop to the bottom causing an uneven turning of the handle. Sometimes if you miscalculated when the dough was going to drop you would get a whack on the arm, or hit under the chin by the handle. How we never got broken bones I'll never know. Next to the drum was a long wooden trough that the dough was put into to rise over night.

To your right as you entered the bakehouse was a bench that stretched form the doorway right up to the oven, this had a metal top where the bread tins were put as soon as they came out of the oven. Bread was knocked out of the tins by turning the tin end-on and tapping it on the edge of the bench, the loafs were placed at the door entrance end of the bench to cool. It could take up to an hour before all the tins were taken out of the oven because they were continually moved around so that they baked evenly, if you weren't careful those nearest to the fire box could get burnt.

The bakehouse from Water Lane.

The bread tins were put into the oven by using what was called a Peel, this was a long pole with a flattened blade that was tapered at one end and could hold two tins. Dad had two of these, one was five foot long and the other about ten feet, these were kept on two "U" brackets that hung down from the ceiling and directly in line with the oven door. When you wanted to use them all you had to do was raise your arm to get hold of them, select which one you wanted, move the blade back away from the bracket push it so that it angled down and rested on the apron of the oven, place the tins on it and thrust them into the oven.

Dad made what was known as "eight hour doughs" and we would start making the bread at 8.00 pm, he would be up at 4.00 am. preparing it for the bread tins. The dough had to be weighed, and kneaded before putting into the tins. The oven held 240 high tin loaves, which was the only type made when dad first took over, he gradually introduce sandwich loaves and bread rolls, when flour rationing eased and he was able to access brown flour he introduced Hovis.

Next to the bakehouse and oven was a small scullery with a large copper where the laundry was done. Water was heated by a fire box under the copper and was drawn from the well in the garden outside the scullery door. It was another of my jobs on washing day to light the fire and fill the copper by drawing water from the well by dropping a bucket down on a rope and pulling it up. Abutting the oven and scullery was the coal shed where baker's nuts as they were called, were stored for the bakery oven. Next was a garage for the small van, which before motor vehicles housed a horse cart. The stables were next which my grandfather converted to a chicken house and piggery. He kept the house supplied with vegetables grown in the garden and eggs. Occasionally when a chicken stopped laying it found it's way to the kitchen table. The end of the buildings and garden was enclosed by a high stone wall with glass embedded into the cement capping to deter anybody from climbing over.

The bakehouse oven fire was never out, bread was baked six days a week, Monday to Saturday. On Sundays dad would cook not only the villagers Sunday Roast but also the American airmen's turkey or chicken. The oven was always full on a Sunday, the villagers always had the traditional Yorkshire Pudding around the meat and potato's, dad would make up a large batch of Yorkshire Pudding batter and at the appropriate time take the roast out of the oven and pour the batter into the baking tray, then back into the oven to finish it off.

Grain for the flour to make the bread was of a very high quality, rich in protein and came from Manitoba, Canada. The miller in Sharnbrook received the grain at the mill and ground it into flour for distribution to bakeries like dad, who had a standing order that they would deliver once a month. A lorry would arrive with a load of 50 sacks of flour each weighing 120lbs, these had to be lifted from the tray of the lorry up into the loft above the bakehouse window, and was achieved by driving the lorry onto the footpath as close to the wall of the bakehouse as possible and using a gantry and pulley that was swung out from the doorway of the loft and lowered to the tray. The winch was hand operated, with a cogged wheel that had a ratchet engaging the cogs and acted as a brake, as the sack reached the top of the pulley it was swung into the loft, unhooked and stored. The gantry was then swung outwards again and the next one winched up.

Dad had a bakery round during 1945 that encompassed Newton Bromswold, Yelden, Swinshead, Upper Dean, Shelton and Tilbrook. He used a small Austin Panel Van to deliver bread on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. During 1945 and until hostilities ceased the bombers from the airbase would take off over Yelden and occasionally he would have to wait at the boom gate about half a mile from the last house in Caldecott until the last bomber had taken off so that he could deliver. The flightpath was right over the road and the sentry wouldn't let him through until he got the all clear, sometimes he could be sitting there for half an hour. It was a good way of becoming friends with the sentries.

Bread for the village was delivered on Tuesday and Thursday by Ted Eady who rode a tradesman's bicycle supplied by dad. It had a frame in front of the handle bars that held a cane basket in which bread and groceries could be put for delivery, he also did deliveries in the village of groceries on other days as well as helping in the bakehouse. On Saturdays my brother and I shared the bread delivery using trade bicycles, he delivered down Water Lane to the ford, and I had the task of delivering to Caldecott. I felt a millionaire because dad paid me 2s / 6d (12.5p) pocket money for the week, but I had to work for it.

The old Austin van needed a lot of tender care during winter months, there was no such thing as anti-freeze for motor engines in those days and the radiator had to be drained every night otherwise the water would freeze and burst the radiator core and hoses. Dad bought a shallow oil burner that he placed under the sump and radiator at night to keep the engine warm enough so that there was no need to drain the water off, he also put sacking over the engine to keep the warmth in. Even the village pump would freeze during the winter and dad would drain off hot water from the tank above the oven fire, take it out and pour down the pump to clear the ice.

The Austin van used on the village bread rounds.

One afternoon I was in the back garden of the bakery when I heard an airplane approaching which was most unusual. The engines didn't sound right; it didn't take long for it to come straight over the bakery. It was a bomber from the base really in trouble, the two outer engines were stopped and the inner port engine was coughing and spluttering sounding as if it was going to stop any moment. I have never seen a plane so full of holes, it was like a sieve. Pieces were hanging off the rudder and there were great chunks missing from the wings and fuselage, how it was still flying I don't know. Dad found out a few days later that it had been attacked by several German fighters whilst on a bombing mission, every member of the crew including the pilot were badly injured. Despite his terrible injuries the pilot was able to land the plane, none of the crew were fit enough to get out of the plane themselves, all had to be helped by the medics.

The Allan family in the summer of 1948 at the back of the bakery — Alice and William (Bill) are sitting in the chairs, with Robert (Bobby) and Ken (Kenny) standing behind.



Lighting in the village was primitive to say the least, when we first arrived in March 1945. Public lighting consisted of one hurricane lamp on the fenceline inside the garden of the house with the washing on the line in the attached photo. The owner of the house was responsible for the lighting and maintenance of the lamp (the washing line is attached to the pole holding the lamp). When the war finished this was changed to an Aladdin mantel lamp with a glass funnel and enclosed in the glass case which is just visible. This was the meeting place after dark in the winter months (after dark meaning 4.30 pm.) and we used to play beneath it's light until meal time.

There were three main lighting sources for houses, the most primitive was the humble candle which was mainly used when you went to bed. When we first moved into the bakery a Hurricane lamp was hung from the ceiling in the kitchen, these didn't throw out much light and dad purchased an Aladdin mantel lamp which was a bit better, at least you could see across the room if you hung it from the ceiling and could read a book if you set it on the table. It was also used in the shop and the bakery. The only problem with these lamps was the fact you had to keep the wick trimmed or you would burn the mantel out.

The best lamp was a Tilley mantle lamp, this required pressurizing the fuel bowl by pumping air into the bowl, not only did it throw out a white light compared to the Aladdin but also gave off a certain amount of heat, it too could be stood on the table or hung from the ceiling. All of the above were fuelled by paraffin; the Tilley lamp requiring the mantel to be pre-heated with mentholated spirits before pressuring. There was no such thing as reading in bed.


The main heating source for houses was the cooking range, heat from the range only heated the kitchen and this was why people lived their life's in the kitchen area. A chore at the end of the week was to clean out the fire box of the range and to polish the whole range with stove blackening.

Open fire places were also in use but used sparingly because of the lack of suitable fuel to burn. Most burnt wood; coal only being available to businesses such as bakeries. The shop was always reasonably warm because of the heat from the bakery oven.


The primary source of water for those houses with a slate or tiled roof was the water butt, this was a wooden barrel that held about 50 gallons and was set on a timber base against the wall to enable water to drain into through a down pipe from the roof when it rained. Most houses had at least two of these, some had larger capacity butts. Those people who had a thatched roof obtained their water from the village pump.

Another source were wells, the bakery was fortunate in that it had one in the back garden, so too did the Star & Garter and Middle farm. Most house properties were too small for a well to have been dug.


The only telephone in the village was the public call box situated on the pavement opposite the Baptist Chapel and just outside the original village hall. I believe the post office had one but it was for post office business only.

Radios were few and far between, if you did have one it was powered by a wet cell accumulator which had to be charged to provide power. It was usual to have two of these so that you always had one to power the radio whilst the other one was being charged. The only place that would charge them was a garage in Rushden.


Private vehicles were not allowed to be used in 1945, any private vehicles were put up on blocks for the duration. Not only was petrol rationed, but there were strict controls on where and how far you could travel. As far as the bakery was concerned dad was only allowed to drive as far as St Mary's church at the end of the square in Higham Ferrers. I remember he was fined once for going beyond his designated area, he had dropped me off near where the bus depot was located in Rushden so that I could catch the bus to London. He completely forgot that he had stopped right outside the police station and they nabbed him straight away.

Taking the Kimbolton Road he was only allowed to go as far as Tilbrook and in the other direction as far as St Lawrence church in Stanwick and the village square in Raunds. He was not allowed to go through the square.

Public transport was one bus from Rushden that only ran on a Saturday, pickup and letdown were at the school on the corner of Caldecott Rd and the (then) A45. The bus turned around at Poplar farm and there were no pick-ups between Chelveston and Rushden. Pick up was at 12 noon and you returned at 9.00 pm. which was just right to go to the cinema in Rushden.

In the summer of 1946 another bus was allocated to do one run on a Wednesday leaving at 10.00 am. and returning at 4.00 pm. so that villagers could go to the market in Higham Ferrers. The market had been suspended during the war and only started up again during 1946.


The Baptist Chapel

The Baptist chapel as seen from the junction. The Reading room and two other cottages had been knocked down, leaving the open ground that remained until the 305th BG memorial was built. The gas valve hut is on the left.

The Baptist Chapel was located on the Higham Ferrers Road, adjacent to the rear of the Star and Garter. You can see the telephone box that I mentioned on the other side of the road. Beyond the church was open fields, the nearest one was used by the children of the village as a playing field, where we could erect a tent or kick a football and play rounders when we weren't playing under the large chestnut tree in front of the Post Office. The church was just like one large hall with pews and a rather simple alter much like a carpenters bench. There was no pulpit such as you would get in the C of E. I don't recall whether it had a specific name.

The greater majority of the village children including my brother and I, attended Sunday School here from 10.00 am. until 12 noon because the C of E didn't offer this service. Mr H Watts was the Sunday School teacher. I remember the Christmas of 1946 especially because I received a prize of a pocket edition of the New Testament signed by Mr Watts, which I still have. Can't remember what it was for now. It's amazing what you keep and cherish over the years!

Christmas Eve was a time we older ones would gather outside the church and start our carol singing, we would progress throughout the village including Caldecott, visiting every house. We were always given money for our efforts, usually a penny, sometimes a thrupenny piece (1p). Most times there were six of us, rugged up with an overcoat and scarves to keep us warm. We took it in turns to carry the Hurricane lamp so that we could see where we were going. It was one of those activities you did because you enjoyed doing it and the villagers appreciated it too, sometimes you were asked for an encore, which really gave us a thrill.

St. John the Baptist C of E

The Church as seen from the south west - note the old boiler chimney to the left of the West window (now removed).

The Church was located on the Caldecott Road, entrance was through a wire door to keep the birds out, and a porchway. As you entered the church itself, to the left was an open area where the font was located for baptizing babies. To your right were the pews, with a walkway going through the middle as far as the nave steps. On the extreme left of the pews was the organ and to your right at a 45 degree angle to the pews was the raised pulpit. Going up the two steps of the nave to the chancellery and alter were two choir stalls on either side. The left hand side being for the male voices and the right-hand side for the females, each stall could hold six choristers, during my time as a choirboy only the front stalls were used on the male side. The girls used the two, they always out numbered the boys. Continuing through the choir stalls you went up two steps to the alter where the vestments were set out, a large candle on either side, the offering cup and plate in the middle.

The organ was powered by hand operated bellows at the rear which required an even push and pull to give a proper flow of air to the pipes. Whoever was pumping the organ was given two knocks on the organ foot pedals to denote when to start pumping. The initial start up required three to four quick pumps to get the bellows full then you got into a rhythm.

Behind the organ was the vestry, where not only the vestments were stored when not in use but also cupboards for the surplice and cassocks for the vicar and choristers. Entrance to the tower was also gained through the vestry in addition to an outside entrance. Access to the tower was up a very narrow winding staircase of well worn stones, the floor immediately above the vestry was the bell ringers room where the sallies came through the ceilings of the floors above and the bell ringers actually rang the bells. Above this was the clock room where the mechanism of the clock was located, it was a seven day clock and was wound up once a week by using an enormous key. There were two springs that had to be wound up and these controlled the large pendulum that hung down almost into the bell room. Above the clock room was the belfry itself, with five bells of varying sizes. Apart from the five minute bell (the small hundred weight tenor bell) that was rung five minutes before the start of the service, the other four were not used whilst the war was on. From the belfry you could get onto the roof by negotiating six rather rickety wooden steps and get a magnificent 360 degree view.

View of the old school (now Village Hall) from the Church Tower.

The church was rated as "High Church", it's services being very close to Roman Catholicism. The vicar at the time was the Rev C. Ayton-Williams, his wife was the organist. His sermons were of the old "Fire and Brimstone" type, it seemed strange because normally he was a quiet spoken man. Pollie Simpson did all the flower arranging and cleaning of the vestments and lamps for the church, ably assisted by ladies from the WI.

Lighting within the church was from Aladdin lamps suspended from the beams, these were raised and lowered on a counter levered chain by using a pole with a hook on the end shaped like a letter "S' on it's side. With the downward facing part of the hook you were able to pull the lamps down, and with the upward facing hook, push them up. Heating for the church was by circulating water heated by a three chambered coal fired furnace just outside the rear entrance to the vestry and tower. Entrance to the furnace was down three stone steps, and through a heavy wooden door which you required a key to open. The water radiators in the church were placed at strategic places around the church to give the maximum amount of heat.

Services were every Sunday, starting with Matins at 11.00 am. and Evensong at 7.00 pm.

Prisoners of War

Italian and German POW's were brought from the St.Neots area [possibly Beeson House POW camp 141] to work on the local farms, and arrived together in a covered lorry. The Italians were accompanied by two armed solders and worked on George Britten's farm helping with harvesting and other farm duties. The Germans never had guards and helped Joe Brritten and with his dairy and sheep farm and also Alf Carr with his dairy and crop farm. The end of hostilities was not a signal that the POW's would instantly go home, quite the contrary, they were still busy on the farms until early 1947. The Germans in particular were not interested in going back to Germany, many were demobbed in England and stayed.

VE Day on Wednesday May 8th 1945 saw some of the Germans rejoicing as well. The main celebrations were held in the market square of Higham Ferrers, where stalls and trestles were put up for food and enough space left for dancing, which went on during the day and well into the night. Chelveston had it's own celebrations with a party in the village hall.


The School on the junction of Caldecott Road.

The traffic island has since been removed.

The only school in Chelveston when we arrived was the endowed school on the corner of the junction of the Caldecott, Chelveston and Higham Ferrers roads. Miss Baker was the teacher, and she taught children between the ages of four and half, and eleven years of age. The school day started at 8.15 am. and finished at 4.15 pm. with a ten minute break at 10.30 am. to drink your milk, and an hour for dinner at 12.15 pm., there was no afternoon break.

I attended there for three months until one day I went home and told my mother I knew more than what I was being taught and I wanted to be moved. It was usual for students to sit for examinations in their final year to enable them to go to Grammar school or if unsuccessful to go to the Secondary in Raunds. At the time I was to sit for my exams I had an accident and was in a coma for ten days, when I was fit again mum applied for a supplementary exam which meant I was transferred to the junior school in Raunds for two months. The headmaster informed her the day before I was to sit the exam that I would not pass because the exam that had been set was for was a child two years my senior. Sure enough I had no idea what many of the questions were about and failed, in hindsight I think it was meant to be.

Free milk was given to all children whether you liked it or not. The milk came in a third of a pint glass bottles and was usually left on the doorstep of the school, it was the task of the older boys and girls to carry them into the classroom. These students were given the grand title of "Milk Monitors". It was not only their task to take the milk into the school but also to hand it out at the mid-morning break. During the winter, nine times out of ten it was frozen, and had to be thawed out in front of the fire. In summer it got hot standing out in the sun and started to go off, didn't matter, you still had to drink it.

A midday cooked meal was provided at a cost of threepence (1p) per day, and came from Higham Ferrers in large metal containers already cooked. One container would contain mashed potatoes, another mashed swede or turnip, another a green vegetable such as cabbage or mashed up sprouts. This was followed by Semolina, Tapioca (frogs spawn as we used to call it), Cornflower or if you were lucky - custard. Jam was provided so that you could swirl it into whatever you received to make it look a bit more appetising. Sometimes it would turn up and be nearly cold.

Law and Order

Except for a little "scrumping" and harmless small scale poaching, crime was none existent. A police sergeant used to cycle from Raunds once a week to put in an appearance. You never knew when he was coming and the first thing he did when he arrived in the village was to use the public phone box and report back to the police station that all was quiet. I remember he was a very tall, solid, well built man. The sight of him was enough to deter any wrongdoers.

Dad had quite a bit of contact with him, particularly doing the winter months. I remember on very cold days he would come into the bakehouse, take his great coat and helmet off, and thaw out in front of the oven. To help him thaw out dad would provide a brandy, he wasn't supposed to drink whilst on duty but by the time he arrived back at the police station it's effects would have worn off. He quizzed me on one occasion about something that had happened in Stanwick, although I had heard rumours and knew the person concerned I couldn't help him.

Amusement / Entertainment

During the day, after school, and at weekends, the boys and girls of the village amused themselves by playing a wide range of games including: skipping, rounders, marbles, jackstones, hopscotch. One of the most popular games during the season when the Horse Chestnuts were dropping their seed was Conkers, we used to try everything to dry them out and make them hard, from soaking in vinegar for several days, to drying them slowly on the range so that they wouldn't crack. A really hard one could last several weeks before it shattered.

Girls would also play with their dolls and the boys would play at cowboys and Indians. In the evenings when it was too dark to play outside card games were very popular, shove halfpenny, bagatelle, hookey, darts. If you ran out of these there was always the back stop of "Eye Spy" or singing nursery rhymes or rounds. The adults played darts, skittles or cards.

Saturday nights was always looked forward too because you could go into Rushden to the pictures. Pictures in those days wasn't just one film that you get now, but a combination. First you would have a Walt Disney cartoon, followed by a Cowboy film with either Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, Wild Bill Hickok, Gene Autry or the Cisco Kid. An Interval would follow then a news reel, another short film such as the Dead End Kids and finally the major film. Entry was 3d [1p].

After the pictures we always went and had fish and chips, doused in vinegar and salt, and wrapped up in newspaper. Many was the time I missed the bus and had to walk home because there was a long queue in the fish and chip shop. Never thought anything about it, I doubt if you could do that now.

The photograph below is of me with a group of the village boys, for the life of me a cannot remember their names, maybe some of the older residents of the village may be able to name them? Somebody coined the phrase "king of the kids" for me; if ever anybody wanted to find me they always looked for a group of boys and nine times out of ten I would be in the middle. Looking back I always seemed to be a leader, somehow it just came naturally.

Current suggestions for the lads are (from left to right) -

Kenny Smith, Paddy (the dog), Bob Bridge, Ken Allan, Cliff (Tyke) Saddington (back), Alan Parton (front) and either Dennis Conquest or Tony Dunnett.

The image is self evident, I had a boy soprano voice and sang in both the school and church choirs, joining the church choir in 1946, mostly as a solo voice.

Around the Village

Chelveston of 1945 had a population of about 230 and was a close knit, interbred, suspicious and superstitious community whose inhabitants did not welcome or encourage "outsiders". Having said that it had an innocence of a bygone era that is gone for ever, never to return. It took mum and dad nearly three years before the villagers started to accept them, even then I think it was mainly the bakery and grocery that broke down the barriers, although there were other factors too which will come to light as I progress through the years.

One thing that has stayed in my mind from our first contact with the village was the absence of fit and healthy men between the ages of 18 and 50. The only adult males I can remember were Joseph (Joe) Britten who employed a shepherd (can't remember his name), George Britten who employed a man called Art (I think his proper name was Bert) See, who lived in the one of the Pretoria cottages on the Raunds Road. He was what we call today intellectually disabled but had a marvelous way with horses. Alf Carr of Poplars Farm in Caldecott, Bert Saddington of the Star and Garter, the Rev C Ayton-Williams and Mr H. Watts (the Sunday School teacher).

Alms houses

The Alms houses consisted of one room and a scullery/toilet attached to the back. The occupants cooked, ate, slept, dried their washing, did their ironing and entertained in this one room. There were only three of the alms houses occupied by widows during 1945/51. Mrs Parker lived in the one closest to Water Lane, she had been a Nanny in Oxford during her working life. Mrs Smith, who we knew nothing about, lived in the next one. I can't remember the name of the lady in the third one, she didn't mix at all with the other two widows and didn't want to be involved with cards or anything else, so we left her alone.

The fourth one closest to the Raunds Road contained an emergency food supply for the village which was drawn on once to my knowledge and that was during the Blizzards of 1947 when the village was isolated for about ten days. Dad had the task of checking the contents about every three months to make sure none of the tins had started to go rusty, nor any of the packaged food such as powdered egg and milk had been attacked by rats or mice. I don't recall it being used as an emergency food source after 1947.

Douglas Saddington and I used to play cards in the evenings during the winter months with both Mrs Parker and Mrs Smith. We would alternate the nights; one night with Mrs Parker who loved to play Cribbage. The next night with Mrs Smith who liked Gin Rummy. Both had Hurricane lamps or candles to see by and we used to huddle close to the range to keep warm, it was difficult to see the cards but at least we entertained them in the long, cold, winter evenings.

Red Row

Red Row was a block of four cottages just past the Working Men's Club that were separated from the Club and the Bakery garden by the brook. They fronted directly onto the laneway and had a small garden at the back that went down to the edge of the brook. Can't remember who lived in the first one, but the second one was occupied by the Felce family, can't remember the third, but the last one was occupied by a Mrs Smith.

At the end of Red Row, facing up the lane to the Working Men's club, were two stone cottages. One was occupied by Betty Odell and her daughter Penny; the other by Ben and Elaine Webster.

Water Lane

At the bottom of Foot Lane there was a walkway through to Water Lane, passed the rear of the bakery, which I see still exists. The Brook was the boundary of the bakery and Red Row and flowed under the pathway and Water Lane, to exit just down from the Alms houses, thence flowing down the right-hand side of the lane to a point across from Hillside. There used to be a ford across the road on the bend heading towards Higham Ferrers Road and it was at this point that the Brook flowed into a stream that flowed across the road.

The area you now call Duchy Close was the Threshing yard of George Britten, there were no houses this side of Water Lane until you got down to Hillside where there were three cottages in a row. One of which was occupied by Mr & Mrs Twelvetrees who moved in sometime during 1946, as far as I can recall .

Sawyer Crescent had a row of four houses [St George's Row] fronting directly onto the roadway, and facing the open field where Joe Britten pastured his cows. Can't remember the names of the occupants.

Raunds Road

The six cottages you now call "Pretoria Cottages", had small front gardens that faced directly onto Raunds Road. Bert (Art) See lived in one, another occupant I think was Joyce Parsler. Further up the hill, on your righthand side and just before the Stanwick turn-off was the Bettles family. There were four children, the only two I can remember were Brian and Doreen. Brian was a year younger and Doreen a year older than me. There were no other houses on this side of the road until you entered the village at the Alms Houses.

High Street

Across the Raunds Road from the Alms houses were two cottages, looking from the bakery, the lefthand one was occupied by the Dunnit family, and the righthand one by the Dunmore's. Immediately opposite the bakery were the Baxter's, who, although they had a taxi license couldn't operate their taxi service until 1948 when petrol rationing was eased. Mrs Baxter was the village nurse.

The house next door to the Post Office (the one that caught fire) was occupied by Bernard Dunn and his partner. He was my History, Geography, and Physical Education teacher at Raunds Secondary County Modern School during the whole time I was there. He was a very quiet, tall slim man. His partner I recall was a blonde. Joe Britten occupied the only house in what is now known as Disbrowe Court. There were no houses in Kimbolton Road that I recall.


There were no houses either side of the road from the Baptist Chapel to the Caldecott turn off. The Church House we have already mentioned, so too the Vicarage. The Rev & Mrs C Ayton-Williams had two children; Monica and Trevor. Trevor was in boarding college learning theology in preparation to becoming a missionary and going to Africa in 1956. There were no houses between the church and the "T" intersection of Caldecott. To the right of the intersection and on the lefthand side of the road was Alf Carr's farm, and to the right was a house occupied by the Stewart family. They had a daughter called Wilhelmina, known as Billie.

Taking the road out to Yelden I can only recall two houses on the righthand side, the furthest one owned by Jimmy and Connie James. Can't recall who lived in the other one. Jimmy was a very good artist and presented mum and dad with a pencil sketch of the Bakery as a farewell present when they left. My brother has inherited it.

The Farms

Although the farmers received help from the POW's, they relied very heavily on those boys in the village aged between 10 – 14 to help with farm duties when school had finished for the day. My first exposure to farm activities was with Joe Britten who owned the farm (Top Farm) on the corner of the Kimbolton Road. He had sheep and the only dairy herd in the village of twelve cows, that were milked twice a day. The milking shed was the white building on the left hand corner, his cottage was in the laneway directly in front of you as you went to turn the corner and opposite where the Eady's lived.

My first job after school was to bring in the cows for the afternoon milking from the field behind the Alms Houses, they really didn't need much herding. Usually they were always waiting at the gate, Bluebell was the lead cow and none of the others would move until she did; then it was single file to the dairy to be milked. Joe only had two stalls for milking and it was amazing to see the pecking order, Bluebell first, then each one by name followed. I don't ever recall them getting out of sequence. Milking was by hand and villagers would collect their milk in jugs or whatever they had available, about an hour after milking had finished. My next job after milking was to muck out the yard with a shovel and wheelbarrow, it was another year before I was taught how to milk a cow by hand, fortunately I never got kicked only swiped across the face with the tail on numerous occasions.

My main exposure to farming was with George Britten who owned Middle Farm in the main street of the village. Double Summer Time was invoked by the government which allowed farmers to keep working till 11.00 pm. during the summer and autumn months in order to get the harvest in. I was 11 years old and couldn't get home from school quick enough to swallow tea and work on the farm with other children from the village.

George had a John Deere tractor (the model that had the front wheels set close together with spiked rear wheels) and two Clydesdale horses. The tractor and horses were kept at the farm. He needed ration coupons for fuel for the tractor which was in short supply so it was used sparingly. Art See used the Clydesdales to pull the reaper and binder, we would follow behind picking up the sheaves and standing them in stooks ready for the POW's to load them onto a dray and take them to the threshing yard. A stack was created as the sheaves were unloaded from the dray and were not threshed until all the crop was gathered. The threshing yard was located downhill from the bakery in Water Lane opposite the field behind the Alms houses. There was an open sided, roofed building facing into the yard, that backed onto the lane where the threshing machine, and reaper and binder were stored when not in use.

The threshing machine was belt driven from the power take-off of the tractor. I had the dirtiest job of all to remove the full chaff bags from the back of the machine after the wheat was separated from the ears. Dust from the chaff was everywhere, up your nose, in your mouth, down your clothing which made you itch like mad. I wore a handkerchief over my nose and mouth to try and stop breathing it in.

The August school holidays found me on the farm everyday and it was during this time that I had my first contact with the Italian POW's. George had a lot of difficulty getting them to work, for some reason the days I had contact with them they worked like navvies, doing the equivalent of two days work in one. From then on, every time he knew the POW's were coming he would contact dad and asked if he could spare me because I was the only one who could get them to work. I don't know why or what it was that made them work whilst I was there, maybe they didn't like an eleven year old shaming them.


1946 saw the start of change within the village; all be it very slowly. The most notable change was the gradual withdrawal of the American personnel from the airbase, the Flying Fortresses had departed during the later part of 1945.

Dad introduced some additions to the style of bread he offered from the "High Tin"; to the "Square Tin Loaf", which we now call "Sandwich Loaf", and the "Coburg", which was a round loaf with a smaller roundel on the top. He also introduced bread rolls which included the traditional round roll and the finger roll as he used to call it, which was about 120mm in length, and buns. He had a name for these which I think was "Sticky Buns", they were sticky because as soon as they came out of the oven I had the job of using a bakers brush, a bit like a paint brush but a lot softer, to paint beaten egg white onto the top. Not only were they sticky but they also had a high gloss on them, you could almost see yourself. These all proved to be very popular with his customers.

Men were starting to trickle back from the war. The first one was a man who lived in the first house up the hill from Water Lane in Sawyers Crescent, he had been in a prisoner of war camp in Germany. (Try as I might, I can't remember his name). He had TB and was so thin and ill, dying within eighteen months of being home.

Boys from the village were still required to work on the farms. We were allowed a maximum of four weeks from school to help with the potato crop. Alf Carr was the main grower, six of us from the village were picked up at 6.30 am. in an open lorry, with most times only a tarpaulin as cover against the cold wind. Extra boys were picked up en-route to the potato field. We usually arrived just at day break to start work, and not returning home until after dark. The foreman had a simple system worked out so that everybody did their fair share, he paced out 22 yards, the length of a cricket pitch for each one of us. A tractor was used to draw a spinner behind, which spun the potatoes out to the right-hand side of the mounds. You were given a bucket to fill and as soon as that was full you emptied it onto a large piece of sacking which two men could lift and empty into a horse drawn dray.

There was only just enough time to pick up your allotted area before the tractor and spinner returned to spin out the next row, I devised a method of jamming the bucket between my knees and waddling along like a duck as I flicked the potatoes in, most times I had a bit of a breather before the return of the tractor. To ensure we were potato picking the school required the farmer to fill in a book about the size of the modern day passport for each boy. The day of the week was entered, hours worked and duly signed at the end of the week. We were paid the princely sum of 1s / 6d (7.5p) a day. At the end of the week we would line up outside the back door of the farm to be paid, and came away thinking we were millionaires. At the end of the four weeks we returned to school and handed in our books for checking.

In addition I still worked on George Britten's farm at weekends and after school, learning to plough, scarify, cut hay etc.

The most important thing to happen during the later part of 1946 was the installation of a water main through the village, water was not connected to houses until nearly a year later. The only installation put in at the time of the main was the standpipe/faucet which was located next to the village pump. Villagers boycotted this for quite some time because they didn't like the quality of the water, preferring instead to use the pump.


The beginning of 1947 saw the worst snow storms and blizzards the area had seen for a long time, the village was cut off from the outside world for nearly ten days. I remember the second day of snow fall dad sent Ted Eady with the van to pick me up from school in Raunds. It had was snowing heavily and dad had put chains on the wheels for traction. We were on our way home when Ted was waved down by the driver of a vehicle that had become stuck in the snow. He had slid off the road and couldn't get a grip to get back on again. Fortunately Ted had put a couple of shovels in the van before he left the village and we dug him out. Being good Samaritans we followed him to Stanwick just to make sure he got home safely.

We did our Samaritan act another couple of times and found ourselves in Irthlingborough where we became stuck and ran out of petrol. We had to enlist the aid of a farmer to borrow petrol and tow us out with his tractor, he wasn't very pleased at having to give us fuel because it was still strictly rationed. However he did on the proviso we get dad to pay him back in kind, which he did. We didn't get home until after 10.00 pm. having to drive slowly because visibility was so poor, and it was dark. Dad was furious, worried, but thankful that nothing had happened to us. It was another week before we were able to use the van again because of the snow.

The next morning when dad got up to work in the bakehouse he went to go outside from the back door of the kitchen, but when he opened the door he was met with a solid wall of snow right up to the top of the doorway. Not being able to get out this door he went to the back door of the bakehouse, and when he opened the door he found the snow halfway up the doorway. During the night there had apparently been a strong wind which had blown the snow against the house, somehow he managed to get out and dug the snow away from the bakehouse door. When my grandfather got up he had the task of digging a pathway from the bakehouse back to the kitchen back door, creating enough space so that we could get out and get water from the village pump.

I was told that the snow was too deep for me to go to school but when I saw Bernard Dunn (my teacher) walk past the window, I said to my mother "if he can walk to school so can I". Off I went and caught him up just before Victoria (Pretoria) Cottages, we were almost to the Bettles house when we came to a gap in the snow and realized we had been walking on top of the hedge on the righthand side of the road and what we had come across was the top of a five barred gate into the field.

Dad couldn't get out of the village to deliver bread to his customers, so he enlisted the help of Alf Carr who had the only crawler tractor in the village. He had contacted his customers and told them to get to a certain place where Alf Carr would have their bread for them. How long it took Alf to get to the drop off point and home again I don't know. It was the strangest sight to see this crawler tractor towing a small trailer behind loaded with bread, which was under cover. As far as I recall this was done on three occasions.

All the kids of the village had a ball during this period, sledging down the bank outside the bakehouse. It was amazing how much speed you could get up on the back of an old wooden chair or two pieces of wood nailed together as runners with a cross boards, one to put your feet on at the front, and the other towards the back to sit on, with two pieces of rope to cling onto. As kids we were quite adept at creating something out of nothing. Naturally there were always tumbles, but I don't recall anybody getting seriously hurt.

It was well over a week before the snow stopped falling and started to melt, when the melt did finally start it was a right mess on the roads. The brook flooded and raged like a torrent across the back of the garden and down Water Lane which became impassable at the fords for about five days. It was an experience I hope I never have to go through again. On a couple of mornings the village pump and the standpipe/faucet froze and I was sent out with hot water to melt the ice so that they could be used.

Seaside outing

During 1946 mum and dad found out that a large number of the older residents, and none of the children had ever been out of the village, they didn't know anything about the seaside; and had never seen a train or the sea, apart from pictures in a book. 1947 saw them arrange, with help, an annual outing to the seaside during the school holidays for all the children and any adults who wanted to go.

The first outing was to Hunstanton in the Wash. They hired a coach which picked us up about 6.30 am. and got back about 11.00 pm. This continued until at least 1950 that I recall, the places we went to over the next three years in turn were; Lowestoft, Felixstowe and Clacton-on-Sea. Needless to say that by the time we got home just about everybody was sound asleep.

In the later part of 1947 dad had the water laid on to the bakery premises, as far as I know he was the first in the village. It took the villagers quite some time to realise the benefits of having water laid on and all you had to do was turn a tap. It is hard to realise today just how hard village life was 60 odd years ago, but it was a time I shall always cherish. There were no stresses of modern day living or trying to keep up with the Jones. Life went on at the same pace and you were only governed by the seasons.


The gas main was brought through the village during the later part of 1947, just after the clean up had been completed from the installation of the water main. Things haven't changed as far as utility companies are concerned; first you get one come through and dig a trench and then barely twelve months later another company comes along and digs a trench almost next to the first one. Dad had the gas installed to the bakery in 1948.


The 1st Chelveston Scout and Cub group was formed during 1947; as far as I recall the vicar C. Ayton-Williams was the first Scout Leader and we met in the school. Just about all the boys in the village belonged to either one or the other depending on our age.

I will always remember our first scout camp, Alf Carr had picked us up in his lorry and taken us out along the Kimbolton Road, almost to Kimbolton as I recall and dropped us off in a field near a spinney. I don't know whether he owned it or not. We had barely got off the lorry and unloaded our gear when it started to rain, not much fun erecting a tent in the rain.

The camp was supposed to be for seven days to teach us map reading, how to start a fire with only one match, woodsman's and cooking skills. It had rained solid for three days when it was decided to go home because everything was saturated; our bedding, clothes, food etc. we looked like a lot of drowned rats when Alf Carr came to pick us up. It was still raining when we loaded all the gear, I don't recall his tarpaulin offering us much protection apart from the wind. The amazing thing was nobody caught a cold, which was a miracle.

Bakery expansion

Towards the end of 1947 dad bought out a small bakery in Raunds which extended his delivery rounds to include Raunds and Stanwick and out to Hargrave, Covington and Ringstead. This required him to buy a new and larger delivery van, with registration number EBD 925. His business motto was "Quality Tells, Quality Sells", and was painted on the two back doors. Quality Tells on the left hand door and Quality Sells on the right. W.Allan Baker and Grocer was on the side panels of the van, the Baker and Grocer being in a curve above his name.

In addition to the above he had to have the oven thoroughly renovated, the fire bricks in the floor were all uneven, those directly in line with the fire box had crumbled to the stage where they were sticking up in the air making it dangerous to put the bread tins into the oven. Major works like this required the oven fire to be extinguished and the oven to cool down so that the maintenance man could get into the oven to carry out repairs.

This was carried out during the second week of September when the fire was put out and the fire box emptied, the oven and fire box doors left open to help it to cool. It took three days for it to sufficiently cool so that the floor could be worked on. Dad engaged a company from Wellingborough to carry out the work. The man who arrived was short and wiry and needed to be to get into the oven. He set up a table directly in front of and against the oven door, with fire bricks, mortar and everything else he needed to carry out the repairs.

It was fascinating to see how he went about getting into the oven, he had left enough room on the table so that he could lay lengthways, and then wriggled his way in. There was not enough room between the floor and the ceiling for him to kneel or squat, barely enough for him to turn over; so all floor work was carried out laying on his stomach, if the ceiling need any work he would roll onto his back. His materials were dragged on a tray into and out of the oven. Took him three days to renovate the entire oven, he couldn't spend more than an hour at a time inside because the oven was still quite warm.

Whilst this work was in progress mum and dad took the opportunity to have a bit of a holiday in Eastbourne for the week, mum had arranged for Betty Odell to look after the shop. Dad arranged for a baker friend in Higham Ferrers to bake bread for him so that his customers were not without bread whilst the oven was being renovated. He had told them what was going to happen, and that Ted Eady and I would picking the bread up and delivering it to our customers. As far as I am aware we never had any complaints, obviously we must have done everything right.

On the Friday before they were due back I received a postcard with instructions for me to light the oven fire and make the dough for the bread. I was only 12½, but had the responsibility for carrying this out.


With the war over there was no need for the emergency food supplies to be kept in the top Alms house, the last time they were used was during the blizzards of 1947. The Alms house was emptied during the spring of 1948 and as far as I recall was never occupied, remaining empty certainly up to the time we left in 1951.

The ban on the use of private vehicles was lifted at the beginning of 1948, but petrol was still strictly rationed. In the image (below right) the car shown belonged to Mr Farrar who lived in Farrows Yard [Pokas Cottages], it had been up on blocks during the war. There was just enough room for him to drive his car through the arch; I used to get a lift from him as far as Higham Ferrers when I started work.

Bell Ringing

The peal of five bells at St John the Baptist were finally brought back into service for Evensong during the summer of 1948. I was one of the five bell ringers, the only other person I can remember was Ben Webster. Initially the bells were only rung in rounds; that is; they were rung one after the other only because we were still learning. The leader of the ringers was known as "The Conductor" (we called him the foreman) and usually rang the number five or tenor bell, I started with number one, the treble bell which was the smallest and lightest weighing approximately 1cwt. When I had proved that I could ring the bell properly I was given the number three, which weighed just over five cwt. which I retained until we left in 1951.

We were arranged in a semi-circle so that we could see "the Conductor" and each other. After about three months he started to teach us how to ring changes, so that instead of ringing in sequence i.e.12345, we started to change the order in which each bell was rung i.e. 13425, 14325, 15432, 54321. He started by calling the number of the bell that was to be rung, then graduated to writing the move order in chalk on a blackboard that we could all see.

In 1949 we were given a "Bell Ringers" handbook, and when I first saw it I thought it was a code. Rows and rows of numbers with headings such as "Kent Trebles", "Bob Doubles", or "Plain Bob Minor", these were the formal names of changes that bell ringers learnt. We would practice on a Friday night for two hours from 7.00 to 9.00 pm. and for Sunday services we would ring for an hour up to five minutes before the service began, at which stage the five minute bell, which was always the treble, was rung.

An interesting thing about changes with five bells is that the sequence 14235 is called weasels because it is the tune to Pop Goes the Weasel. We must have been reasonably good because we were invited to ring the bells at Hargave, which we did once a month for matins. Though the only way we could get to Hargrave or Higham Ferrers to ring the bells was to cycle.

When we rung for funerals we would peal with muffled bells, felt pads were tied around the clapper so that you had a dull resonance instead of a clear note when the hammer hit the inside of the bell.

In 1949 Higham Ferrers had their eight bells recast and we were honoured with an invitation to participate in their rededication. When they were rehung the wooden trunnions were replaced with ball bearings which made for much smoother movement of the bell.

The outstanding event of the year was New Years Eve when we would ring for an hour before midnight, to ring out the old year, pause for a minute before and after midnight was struck by the clock, and then ring for an hour after to ring in the new year.

One incident that has always stuck in my mind was the night the vicar came to bell ringing practice, he had never rung before and asked if he could have a go. The foreman gave him number two to try, explaining that you stood with your feet only slightly apart with the bell rope directly in front of your body. He was told to pull downwards on the rope and not to push it away from his body, being a rather portly gentleman he extended his arms too far out from his body; I don't know exactly what happened but the next minute the rope had gone around his body and the swing of the bell lifted him off the floor by about three feet and dumped him on the floor on it's next swing. Fortunately no physical harm was done only dented his pride, needless to say he never came back again.

The Chelvestonians

1948 witnessed a lot of activity in the village, from water and gas being installed to houses, electricity poles being installed ready to bring power to the village; and the establishment of a theatre/play group called the "Chelvestonians".

Mrs Ayton-Williams (the vicar's wife) and my mother got together and decided it was about time the village had something in which the villagers could participate; after a meeting was held to discuss this with the villagers the decision was made to establish a play group with the aim of presenting a pantomime at the end of the year. Everybody was very enthusiastic and we found a lot of hidden talent we didn't know existed.

Mrs Ayton-Williams apparently had some experience in this area and undertook the production of "Sleeping Beauty" with the aim of presenting it in the village hall for Christmas. Dad and Mr A.Farrar designed and made the scenery and on the night of performances were the stage and scenery managers.

The performance was so successful that the "Chelvestonians" became a permanent feature of village life. 1949 saw the presentation of "Jack and the Beanstalk" not only in the hall of Chelveston, but also in the church hall of Stanwick. Attached are two photographs of this pantomime. We had arrived as a competent theatre/play group. To keep up the enthusiasm we started to include short plays during the year before starting rehearsals for the pantomime at the end of the year.

In 1950 the "Chelvestonians" performed "Cinderella", our fame had gone beyond the village because we were invited by the vicar of Irthlingborough to give a performance of "Cinderella" in their church hall.

The pantomimes usually had a cast of 30 and the plays a cast of 10, so we were all kept busy during the year.

Programmes and photographs from "Jack and the Beanstalk".


During the August school holidays a football team was created and called the Chelveston XI. The RAF were very good in creating a football pitch on the edge of the taxi ways on the aerodrome, I played Outside Left and I have been trying to remember who on earth we played against. I know we played the RAF and I'm almost certain we played against a Higham Ferrers team as well, not sure about Rushden. Our results were always rung through from the phone box in the village, to the local newspaper.

The player's positions were the old 5 - 3 - 2 - 1 configuration; that is;

Outside Left, Inside Left, Centre Forward, Inside Right & Outside Right;

Left Half, Centre Half & Right Half;

Left Back & Right Back;

and the Goalie.


Electricity was starting to be installed, however it was seen as the "devils work" by a lot of the older residents of the village and they resisted it's introduction into their homes for a long time. I think they only started to see it's advantages after seeing the benefits that the bakery and shop enjoyed by it's installation.

Housing development

With the coming of electricity to the village and the other utilities over the past two years, the 20th century had finally caught up with Chelveston. Electricity was the catalyst for development, and developers were not slow in taking advantage of it.

The first new housing to be erected in the village occurred during the spring and summer and was on the site of the charity field behind the Alms houses and enclosed within Water Lane and Sawyers Crescent. These were Oundle & Thrapston Rural District Council (now ENC) houses and were all the same design and configuration externally and internally, being double storey and made of prefabricated sections and put together like a mechano set. It was amazing how quickly they were erected. The first families moved in during late 1949, early 1950.


My grandfather, William Allan, who was a Builder, Bricklayer and Stone Mason and lived with us for about eighteen months, was employed by George Britten to rebuild his stables. The back wall of bricks and stones was collapsing and had become very dangerous. I was only fourteen and did the labouring for him, hand mixing the cement on a 6'x6' board and making sure he had the mortar right where he needed it. After the wall had been rebuilt it was then rendered and plastered with cement which was eventually white-washed with lime. I'll never forget this time because he taught me how to lay bricks and plaster, which held me in good stead over the years.

Alf Carr installed the first milking machine in Chelveston and also a large gas fired drying oven for drying grass. Grass which would have been left under normal circumstances to form hay, was cut green and dried for stock feed. It was placed on a wide travelling belt and moved slowly through the oven, coming out the other end looking very much like hay but not as brown. You always knew when the machine was operating and the wind was in the wrong direction, because this awful smell would waft over the village.

As far as I am aware he was the first to introduce the Combine Harvester to the district, it fascinated everybody to see this huge machine driven by one man, cut the stalks of wheat to about a foot from the ground, separate the corn from the husk, and discharge the unwanted stems out the back. The stems came out in such a way that it was easy for the Baler to follow up and bale it for straw. There was no more following the reaper, picking up the sheaf's and stooking them, etc. The wheat varieties used were tall growing to about four feet in height, modern varieties only grow to about two to three feet and can be cut closer to the ground.

During the winter of 1949/50 the company I was working for was employed to manually dig the trenches for the installation of mains water to the farm. I remember it being very stony and rocky, requiring pick and shovel to dig a trench two feet deep and a foot wide. Can't remember the distance we dug, but I do know it took a week of working in wet, windy, wintery conditions.

The Bakery

As soon as the electricity was available dad had it installed to the house and bakehouse. The first thing he did after having lighting installed was to install an electric motor to drive the dough making machine, thus doing away with the manual turning of the handle. It gave him the opportunity to purchase electric mixers for the bakehouse and cutting machines for the shop to slice bacon, etc. With the introduction of these "modern" appliances dad introduced confectionary and cakes to his business. Cakes included meringues, brandy snaps, cream horns, chocolate éclairs and scones, his confectionary included chocolate coated almonds and chocolate coated almond paste as well as other forms of chocolates.

Personal decisons

1949 for me was a time when I had to leave school, which I did not want to do, but the secondary school system had no provisions for keeping students on after they had attained the age of 14. When school resumed after Christmas those of us who had to leave were interviewed by staff from the careers section of the labour exchange and given forms to fill out as to our choice of occupation. If you had not already decided what you wanted to do, you only had two choices in Northamptonshire at that time, and that was farming or the Boot and Shoe industry.

I had made up my mind what I wanted and that was to work in the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, so I was provided with the necessary contacts. I discovered it was not easy, you could not just apply for a position. Their criteria for employment was that you first must have at least two years previous practical experience at a recognised nursery, three years at an Agriculture/Horticulture College, and then sit for their entrance examination.

I had set everything in motion by initially obtaining a position with G.A.T. Mayes (Geoff) of Rose Acre Nurseries, Doddington Road, Wellingborough. His father owned the nursery and a shop in the high street of Wellingborough. Geoff had a small section of the nursery where he specialized in growing Dwarf Conifers and Clematis as well as doing small landscaping jobs and garden maintenance. I started working a 48 hour, six day-a-week for the princely sum of £2 and thought I was made. I couldn't have wished for a better company within which to start my career. I was well on my way to completing my practical experience and was due to start at St Albans Agriculture College in 1953.

Church duties

In the winter of 1948/49 the vicar asked me if I would take on the duties of what should have been the verger's responsibilities. Apparently he had nobody to light the furnace to heat the church, fill the lamps with paraffin and be a general dogsbody. I usually filled the lamps on a Saturday afternoon and the lighting of the furnace required me to be at the church at 6.00 am. on a Sunday morning to light the fire and have the church sufficiently heated for the matins service at 11.00 am. and to keep it lit for Evensong.

The biggest problem was that after about an hour of first lighting the furnace I had to go round all of the radiators and bleed the air out of the system otherwise the heated water would not circulate. A couple of visits during the day was all that was required to make sure the fire was burning properly and air hadn't got back into the system.

During 1949 my voice broke and I was unable to sing solo's in the choir, so to help me get over this time of puberty the vicar asked me to be alter boy, which meant I had to change the hymn numbers on the board near the pulpit, light the candles and snuff them out at the end of the service, lead the choir out of the vestry carrying the cross, read the two lessons, and take the collection plate around.

Although it may seem they were a lot of tasks, I took them in my stride and thoroughly enjoyed doing it. I only just had enough time after ringing the bells to dash downstairs, put on my cassock and surplice and be ready to carry the cross. I seemed to spend a lot of the remainder of my time in the village at the church, looking back I have often wondered how I fitted everything in that I did, I was never home.



The biggest event to take place during 1950 was the marriage of Cecil Webster to Eileen Mary Kennell on 15th July. It had been many a long day since the church had seen such a crowd, I think just about everybody in the village was there. The attached paper clipping gives the details, the vicar really did himself proud.

I recall that at least half the village went to see them catch the train for their honeymoon. Even the vicar was there, he had taken off his dog collar and became one of the villagers. I remember dad spent hours on the wedding cake, a part of his trade in which he was very proficient and proud.

We even played a joke on the vicar at the reception. Over the past two years when dad had introduced cakes, confectionary and other goodies, the vicar used to come into the bakehouse to "sample" the wares. He developed a sweet tooth, especially for Brandy Snaps. Dad's Brandy Snaps were usually about four to six inches in length and crammed with fresh cream, but to play a joke on the vicar he made one that was the best part of two feet in length, again filled with fresh cream (see below). The joke sort of backfired a bit because not only did he like it, but insisted on being photographed. I don't know how long it took him to devour it, somehow I don't think it was very long. These types of things made village life.

Rev C Ayton Williams with the giant Brandy Snap!

Bus service

Around about the time of the wedding the bus company decided to introduce a double decker bus service on a Saturday from that of the single decker terminating in Caldecott, to a through service from Raunds to Rushden. The timetable was left untouched and from Raunds it used to stop outside Bernard Dunn's house to pick up passengers and on the return journey would drop you off at the street light in the centre of the village. It was still operating when we left in 1951, how long it continued after I don't know

Family decisions

Despite the fact that dad had enlarged his business, he came to the conclusion that the days of the small business man were numbered because of the expansion of the Co-op. He therefore started to make inquiries about migration, his first choice was Canada but they weren't looking for bakers at their stage of redevelopment after the war years, his next choice was New Zealand, where he got the same answer. All of this had taken quite some time to negotiate with writing of letters and waiting for replies. Mum's sister, husband, and son had migrated to Australia during 1948 and were always singing it's praises and said they were more than happy to nominate us. So during 1950 an application for migration was lodged with Australia House.

It was March 1951 before approval was finally given and dad was told it could be anywhere from six to twelve months before we could get a birth on a ship. He was told not to sell his business until he was notified by Australia House, that was not good enough for dad, he promptly put the business on the market and when it sold; the family, without me, went and lived with his parents in Willesden.



The spring of 1951 saw the first part of installation of electricity to the church in the form of an electric motor to drive the bellows supplying air to the organ pipes. It was quite an event because it meant that the organist had complete control for the first time over the air supply and didn't need to tap on the pedals to tell the person who was pumping (which happened to be me at the time) that she wanted to play the organ. The motor was concealed behind the paneling at the rear of the organ. Lighting was not included at this time and as far as I am aware wasn't installed until sometime in 1952.


During the spring of 1951 "Modern" media finally came to the village. As far as I can recall the Saddingtons at the Star and Garter were the first to install a television set. The first television sets that were available only showed black and white images and quite often the picture would scroll either up or down. During the day they would set it up in the window of the pub so that the adults and children of the village could view it if they wanted to. Naturally the kids of the village would gather around to see what this square box was, and to hear sound of voices and music. The window had been opened a little from the top so that you could hear the sound quite clearly.


I left the village at the end of June 1951 to board with my employer until such time as dad informed me we had a birth on a ship bound for Australia. He said I would have plenty of notice to allow me to return to the village and say goodbye to my friends, alas it was not to be.

On the day that dad, mum and my brother left Chelveston never to return; the villagers gave them a rousing send off. Mum spoke often of that day which left a not to be forgotten impression on her mind, all the villagers gathered in what she described as being like an avenue of honour through which Baxter's taxi drove them. Apparently they clapped and sang "For they are Jolly Good Fellows", she found it very moving!

The family caught the train to London where they stayed with dad's parents in Willesden for two days before going to Bournemouth for a holiday, they didn't like it there and moved on to Eastbourne, returning to Willesden on Friday 24th August.

The next day mum and dad went to Australia house to advise them of the change of address and to inform them we were ready to go. The official thought they were joking, but couldn't give any indication of a sailing date. Over the next three weeks dad went to Australia house just about every other day and pestered the life out of them. The officials eventually asked if he would be prepared to accept a moments notice if they received any cancellations? Not being one for letting grass grow under his feet he said yes.

Late on the afternoon of the 17th September dad received a telegram to say we had passage on the SS.Ranchi leaving Tilbury Dock at 4.00 pm. on Wednesday 19th. At six o'clock that evening when I got home from a days work there was a telegram waiting for me to say I had to be at St. Pancras by 4.00 pm. the next day. It all happened so quickly I never had time to say goodbye to anybody except my boss and his wife. Mum and dad never had a chance to say goodbye to their brothers and sisters, consequently nobody saw us board the train for Tilbury Dock or to see the ship depart.


All of the preceding comments, observations, recordings, with the exception of newspaper clippings are entirely my own. I have attempted to be factual and present happenings in what I remembered as a proper chronological order. I make no apologies for my grammar and composition for which my English teacher would have been horrified, preferring to write as things came to mind.

What became of the Allan Family?

Our departure from Tilbury Dock at 4.00 pm. on Wednesday 19th September aboard the SS.Ranchi, despite being a lonely send-off as far as family being there to see us depart, was an exciting time. We were going into the unknown but fortunately had my aunt, uncle, and cousin to greet us when we landed on 3rd November 1951.

Before leaving England dad had purchased a quarter of an acre of land in Australia on the advice of my uncle and had prepared plans for the building of a house. Within the first week of our arrival he lodged these with the local council with an application for a permit to build. It was January before he received the permit and we were able to start building; all houses at that time were of timber construction, with timber weatherboards as cladding.

Dad and I physically built our house from the ground up, working at weekends and holidays, the only work we not allowed to do was the plumbing and electrical wiring, for which we had to get qualified tradespeople in. It took us eighteen months to get it to a stage where we could move in, but another year before it was completed.

Within two weeks of arrival in Australia dad found employment with a local baker and confectioner who just happened to be a Scot, exactly what he wanted. After 6 years he looked around for other work in his field and obtained a position with one of the large biscuit manufacturers where he stayed for 10 years. From here he had the offer of a position as Food Technician in the laboratory of Kimptons, the largest flour miller in Melbourne, which he found very stimulating.

The position required him to test grain, for protein, moisture content and other factors that came from the growers and from his analysis give instructions to the mill for the blending of grains to make flour. Apparently he was so proficient at his job that he could tell by looking at, and smelling the grain, where it had been grown within Victoria. He held this position until his retirement in 1974.

During his retirement he became an A grade Bowler and captained his club for a number of years, he was also a keen gemstone fossiker, making some beautiful dress jewellery.

Mum worked in the laboratory of Kimptons Flour Mills as a Technician's Assistant three days a week and it was through her that dad was offered the Food Technician's position. When she wasn't working she undertook voluntary work with Better Hearing Australia which was an organization that helped people with a hearing impairment.

Upon their retirement mum and dad moved from Melbourne to a seaside village called Rosebud, an hour and half drive south of Melbourne. She continued with voluntary work for the Red Cross and the local hospital auxiliary, which recognized her 27 years of contribution to the working of the hospital by making her a Life Governor in 2001.

My brother Bob who has remained a bachelor, obtained an apprenticeship in Ladies Hairdressing and eventually opened his own business which he sold after about 15 years, deciding to have a change of occupation. He held the position of Head Storeman at one of Melbourne's top hospitals and moved from there to the Lung Function Unit in the same hospital, a position from which he retired in 2003.

What happened to me? I was fortunate in finding a position within a month of landing with a Landscape Construction Company, they also had their own plant nursery and retail shop. I started working a 44 hour, six day week for 6 pounds. The rate of exchange with the pound between England and Australia was fixed at 25 shillings Aussie for the English pound, so I was clearly better off.

When it was too wet to do landscaping I was sent to the nursery to take cuttings and pot-up plants, after four years I was made manager of a Florists Shop that the company had purchased. I didn't want to be involved with sales and left after a year to start my own Landscaping and Maintenance business which lasted barely a year. Unfortunately I chose a bad time economically, my clients couldn't pay, so it was back to earning a wage. Again I was fortunate in finding a position with the Parks and Gardens Department of the State Government and was put in charge of 5 acres attached to Government House in Melbourne.

Within this area the Royal Botanic Gardens had a Native Plant experimental section and the chap who was in charge of it, (whom I had become very friendly with) informed me that there was a vacancy in the nursery of the Gardens and he could arrange an interview if I was interested. I jumped at the opportunity because at the time it was very difficult to get a position there. One week later I was working in the nursery as a Senior although I was only a few weeks off my 21st birthday.

I spent 37 years at the Royal Botanic Gardens, living in for 27 of those years and being promoted through the three grades of Gardener, Assistant Propagator and Nurseryman, Propagator and Nurseryman, Assistant Superintendent and eventually Superintendent.

In 1968 when Garden Apprenticeship was introduced to Victoria I was asked if I would write and teach a Post Apprenticeship course in Advanced Propagation to be run in the evenings for those students who wanted to get an additional qualification, this I did for 5 years.

Along the way I attended night school to get my Garden Trades Certificate, and in 1973 attended a summer school at Australian National University for Parks Management. They attempted to cram a three years course into four weeks which was impossible, so I undertook an off-campus course with Melbourne University. It was supposed to be a three year course, but I finished it in two, at the end of it I wrote a scathing letter to the course co-coordinator about it's content. The result being that I was invited to rewrite the whole curriculum; when I submitted it in person I was asked if I was prepared to tutor it. This I did for 10 years on top of my fulltime job.

In addition I also judged Horticultural and Garden Shows, and lectured on Horticulture to a wide range of societies.

In 1989 the State Government decided to privatise the Gardens by establishing a board to control its activities, I realized the writing was on the wall and decided to take an early retirement in 1992 at the age of 58. Word had got around the industry that I was retiring and I was approached by the owner of a ten acre private garden to see if I would be interested in working three days a week as Garden Manager with a staff of four. To cut a long story short my original agreement of only working there for three days a week for three years turned out to be full time for 10 years!

I tried to retire again, but a local nursery found out I was free and asked if I would work for them at weekends and holidays, this I did until a year ago. Finally I am now fully retired but still give lectures and judge flower shows.

Somehow I did find time to marry my wife Jill in 1957 and have two children. Keryn born 1958 and David born 1962.