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Personal Memories

No history can be recorded without the personal statements of those here in the village.

Here villagers recall memories of Harby. You can view the originals by clicking on the Pdf's

Here Christine Booth tells us about her life in Harby 

Within Living Memory Harby 1940 to 1960

(Village Life)


The Home

Our home was a 200-year-old cottage cum farmhouse with very low beam ceilings, a distempered kitchen with cream-painted woodwork. The cream paint went throughout the house with some rooms papered, others walpamured which was an improvement on distemper.

There were some old cheese rooms at the back of the main rooms, where the Stilton Cheese was made years before. One room had been turned into a pantry, with the hastener shelves still standing, they were used for the storage of huge serving dishes, bowls etc. plus the butter churn with which we made our own butter.


The other cheese room was used for storing all sorts of equipment including a Eubank washer which had a handle that was wound first one way then the other by hand to clean the clothes then the clothes were put through the wringer and then rinsed and wrung again. We also had an old wringer, painted green with large wooden rollers which really took out the water. (We also had a fire heated copper in a corner of the kitchen, it was lit every Monday morning for the weekly wash.)


Also in the second cheese room were long tiled leads, (which were originally used for the cheese curd) these were used for salting sides of bacon and hams when we killed pigs. After so long in the salt, the bacon and ham would be hung to dry out before we began to eat them. We made pork pies and brawn too, my Granny’s Braun was better though. We made up pigs fries (a selection of pork liver kidney etc. and took this round to our friends. We had a large sausage machine and made our own sausages. This was a very busy time; sometimes we would kill two pigs a year.


We had coal fires and a cooking range in the kitchen, graduating to a cream Belling electric cooker in the late 40s.


There was an outside WC which was emptied weekly by the night soil man and their waggon. At one time it was done at night but latterly in the daytime. We didn’t have to overfill the large bucket or it would splash onto the garden path as it was carried to the waggon. Our WC or lavatory had two holes a large one and a smaller one. One day my sister dropped her beautiful new blue and Pink Panda into the large hole while sitting on the other. It was never the same again!

We had a bathroom suite put into one of the bedrooms in the early 50s, all white with an airing cupboard too!


All the windows of the main rooms had cotton blinds in white.


We had lots of cats, but first we had a dog called Paddy. I used to dress him up in clothes and ride on him. I was heartbroken when he died. One of the cats – Ginger, was always having kittens. She once had some in a hole up a tree and kept them there until they were quite big.


Sometimes baby pigs and lambs were revived in the oven when cold or born early. My dad would bring them home in a blanket.


Childhood Days

We used to play at “Houses” in our orchard. We would make a square of bricks on the ground and divide sections into rooms and make beds, cookers, furniture and spend endless happy hours with pots and pans, water and anything we could think of that made a house.

Shopping in Childhood Days

Our shopping was done on market days at Melton Mowbray. During the war, when we used the ration books at the grocer’s, an assistant called Miss Miles would hide goodies under the counter for her favourite customers. She might not like the next person in the queue, and would say no to them!


This shop always smelled of ground coffee. They had a large red coffee mill and would grind it for you, and weigh it into brown paper bags. Sugar will be built into the blue bags. Dried fruit was also sold loose, as were most dry goods.

We would shop for clothes and shoes mainly in Nottingham.


In winter we seemed to have lots of snow and ice and used to skate and play games on the hard packed ice on the road. In summer we skipped with a long rope, I was always out! My friends used to laugh at me.


We had relatives in Sheffield and Skegness. I can vividly remember seeing the bomb damage after the war particularly at Sheffield. When are Sheffield relatives came to visit us I remember how their clothes smelled of smoke, we being non- smokers really noticed this. They smoked themselves and had to travel on the train and bus to get to us


My uncle had a number of stalls in Butlin’s amusements at Skegness. When we stayed with him and my aunt he would bring me a prize every night. Later we would hire a home house there for two weeks.


World War Two


During the war I remember hearing the drone of bombers (Lancaster’s) as they took off from the local airfield. One day one crashed, it was an awful explosion. Eight men were killed. We had a metal air raid shelter in the kitchen. At nights my dad was on the observer post in the village. I can well remember seeing the gliders being towed on their way to France from Langar Airfield.#


My great aunt lived with us, a real old lady who had great influence on us all. When she died, another aunt came to be looked after. I remember her on her deathbed one morning and while I was at school I heard the passing bell ring, and it was for her. (She left me money in her will to buy a doll’s pram).


When someone died a little old lady from the village, with a bun of hair each side of her head, would come and lay the dead person out. (The dead body would remain in the house until the funeral). This lady would also officiate at the funeral tea, always dressed in deepest black for these occasions.


We had a funeral director in the village. He was the wheelwright and carpenter, who would make anything required by the farmers.


We also had a village blacksmith who was very clever with shoeing horses to wrought ironwork .


School 1945-1952

At the village school we had a buxom infant teacher called Miss Buxton. (She was also the church organist) . She always kept her hanky in her bloomers leg, fetching it out as required. At first we used slates to write on graduating to exercise books.


The senior teacher and headmaster was a cripple on crutches, but that didn’t stop him using his cane, which he made to whistle as it came down on your hand or wherever!


Head lice were around during this time and we had visits from the “Dickey nurse”. The unlucky ones had a lotion put on their heads, it smelled of paraffin. Special combs were used to comb out the dead objects and eggs.


A school dentist called each year horror of horrors! We had outside lavatories at school. The girls used to peep round the boy’s building and vice versa!


The girls wore gym slips or skirts and jumpers and cardigans with lace up shoes usually and three quarter socks or stockings. Liberty bodices were mostly worn, but I had to wear combinations as well! My leg was pulled endlessly. Even now I am reminded of it! We took the 11 plus exam to determine whether we went to grammar school or secondary modern. I had bronchitis at the time of the exam and ended up at the latter. However I enjoyed every minute of it, travelling the nine miles by bus every day.


We had a school choir of which I was a member, (also of a recorder group ). We went to the Leamington Spa music festival each year and won several shields. I enjoyed the choir until one day I couldn’t stop laughing and the music teacher turned me out. I returned a few weeks later.


I took piano lessons in the village. The teacher was a bit of a dragon and used to rap my knuckles with a ruler, consequently I hated the lessons and made very little progress in three years. Much to my regret in later years.


During the war years food was rationed. Farmers were a bit better provided for i.e. pigs to kill, milk, eggs, poultry etc. When we took food and enormous kettles full of hot tea to the men working in the fields at harvest, or threshing times, we were allowed extra rations. We used to help out our neighbours with milk and eggs as they had big families .


When rationing ended I remember going round each of our three village shops, buying sweets in abundance from each. One of these shops had an adjoining fish and chip shop. Nothing like the smell of those fish and chips, or the taste!


Farming 1940-1960


On our small farm we had lots of hens, some were used for breeding. The eggs were put into incubators and turned every day for three weeks. It was lovely to see the chicks began to chip away the shell with their beaks and emerge all wet and sticky, within a short time they would dry out like a yellow ball of fluff. They soon grew into beautiful young birds, the females soon to begin laying eggs. The males were sorted and the unlucky ones eventually went to market for the table. The poultry were kept in huts in the fields. Eggs were collected in buckets sorted and taken to the local packing station. When feeding the poultry, the sheep would try to eat their food, by putting their heads into the pop holes . If they ate too much wheat they will blow up and die, as happened to my favourite cade lamb. We milked cows by hand, the milk being taken by an old wooden wheelbarrow a few hundred yards down the street to the local dairy, there to be made into Stilton cheese.


We also kept a few pigs, who would try to dodge when being fed or cleaned out . I have enlisted neighbours on a number of occasions to help round them up and put them back into their stys!

Haymaking and harvest time were very busy and required a great deal of hard work, no combines then. They were very happy times though, and with no cares in the world.

Transport up to 1960

We had an old grey Vauxhall car, used mainly for the trips to market. Sometimes we would go to the local agricultural show in Oakham and have a ride round the countryside sometimes with my Granny and Grandad.


The buses ran regularly to both Melton Mowbray and Nottingham, every hour. The return journey to Nottingham in the 50s was two shillings and one penny! A mile away was the local rail station, we could get to Melton and Nottingham easily, and also there were trips to Skegness. The station closed around 1960 .




Health up to 1960


A nurse lived in the village coping with anything from delivering babies to tending the dying. Gradually most ladies had their babies in hospital.


There were two local doctors each three miles away in different directions. Ours was an old doctor called Dr Roche who was Irish. He lived in a beautiful house in Colston Bassett with peaches growing on the high garden walls. His surgery was painted green and was highly polished and smelled of TCP. He saw me from a baby until I was expecting my first baby in 1960 and was a grand old man.


Bonfire night late 40s to late 50s


We always had a few fireworks and a bonfire. The fireworks were bought singly then, not in boxes. I used to look at mine every day they were like toys and when the 5th of November finally came, I didn’t really want to let them off! After they had been let off and the bonfire gone, my friends and I would go round the village looking at other people’s. We always had bonfire toffee which my mother would make.

Entertainment 1950s

The nearest cinema was in Melton Mowbray. The only time I was allowed to go was with my friend and her mum to see the film “Mandy” the story of a small deaf girl. We usually went to see the annual pantomime at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham. I also remember seeing White House Inn there as a child.


Tradesmen 1940 to 60

When I was very young my friend and our next door neighbours all brought their milk daily from an elderly man with a pony and trap who came from the next village. He carried churns of milk in the trap. The neighbours would bring out their jugs to have the milk measured into them, by the measure being dipped into the churn. He had to be watched that he gave a full measure and that his milk wasn’t watered!


A hardware man called each Saturday, with his big yellow van which smelled of paraffin and Vim! We called him the Saturday man. The van was packed full of everything under the sun. He always came at lunchtime when we were listening to Tommy Hanley in “Irma” on the wireless. The Saturday man was a Christadelphian and was often trying to put over his views which sometimes caused a bit of friction!


A baker from the next village called two or three times a week. (sometimes my mother made her own bread) . Another baker would buy his bread from this baker, and bring it on the bus in a very large square basket. He would leave the bread on his customer’s door steps! He also had a great big carbuncle on his neck! We didn’t fancy his bread!


A butcher had premises in the village, (he killed our pigs) we bought meat from him. When he died, butchers from surrounding villages traded in the village.


The occasional knife grinder and gypsy called, also a rag and bone man.


Church Life 1940-1960

When I was small I went to church three times a day each Sunday. Sunday school followed by morning service. 2:30 PM Sunday school and evensong at 6:30. My old great aunt was a Sunday school teacher for many years and in the early days took me to church. She dressed in a black dress with flowers on, everything else was black.


I was in the church choir too. We also had choir outings and suppers when the rector, a lovely old man, (his like never to be seen again) sang Simon the Cellarer. It was always requested on these occasions and something I will never forget.


Another event was the Sunday School’s annual flower service. It was held early in July when we took flowers and gifts, mainly eggs to church. The flowers were placed on family graves during the “clipping” of the church when the congregation would surround the church holding hands singing “We love the place o God”. They usually joined up too. The gifts were taken to the local hospital and children’s home. Bibles were given to the eldest boy and girl.


We always had the new dress for the flower service and sang lovely little hymns, some are still here today.


We had outings to the seaside, also village trips mainly to the Wicksteed Park, where there are lots of swings, and slides and a Watershoot which was always the favourite attraction.


We had a village chapel, they had their anniversaries too and silver services when the collections were supposed to be in silver!


There were village socials in the Institute, but I wasn’t allowed to go . Nor was I allowed to go to the girl guides when they began.


The Church had an annual Garden Fete, held on the old Rectory lawn. Working parties spent months sowing and embroidering the most beautiful cloths and knitting garments of all shapes and sizes .


My future husband provided the music and visiting dancing schools performed, an old piano was wheeled out for the pianist to accompany them. The costumes were always very pretty. The stall holders wore their best summer outfits with straw hats, some large and with flowers and fruit on . I remember one with black cherries on, (artificial of course) .


The ladies who provided these superb teas were kept busy with their teapots and all wore pretty coloured aprons.


In winter we had a Christmas fair (and other new dress) in the Institute. Also a Sunday School party when Santa Claus came.


We went Carol singing all around the village, ending up at someone’s house for hot mince pies and a glass of Sherry (perhaps a sip for me) we called at the pubs. I wasn’t allowed inside though I did have a quick peep sometimes!


The annual Harby Feast was celebrated in September. The highlight being the harvest festival service in the church. The church was decorated and the choir sang an anthem such as “Ripened Grain”. Again all the hats would be on view and the best clothes worn.


On the Monday, the WI would hold its competition complete with teas and the tea ladies! There was often a lot of falling out over who won the prizes. I remember a major upset over whose eggs were whose. I think they’d been swapped around. Even my Granny became involved!


We would also have a visiting fun fair at that time. How I hated the swinging boat!


At one time a dance was held after the WI competition, but it must have ended during the war.


Whist drives and the occasional beetle drive would be held in aid of the church, long before bingo became popular.


At Rogation Tide churchgoers would follow the Rector and church wardens round the village blessing the crops, allotments etc. Something which has recently been revived.


The bells were rung each Sunday by the villagers with their shirtsleeves rolled up and red faces. The sound was beautiful, always in time no clashing of the bells. The team would ring for weddings and visiting teams would sometimes ring on Saturdays and employ the services of the tea ladies again.


When someone died one of the ringers would toll the “passing bell” and would toll the bell at the funeral too.


Easter was a lovely time. The church being decorated with spring flowers. Nearly all the ladies and children had new outfits including lots of Easter “Bonnets”. My dad would wear his very best suit too. One year I had a grey and green check coat with a belt that could be worn half round the coat at the front, then disappeared into a slot and round the waist, leaving the back of the coat like a swagger. I had grey shoes to match, very smart I thought. The Choir sang an Easter Anthem.


I can remember watching our local football team playing, they were a good team and often won. How muddy they were sometimes. There was also a cricket team. The field was close to the church, with a little pavilion and a large roller.

We were given a television by yet another aunt who came to live with us and it really brought a lot of enjoyment. It had about a 12 inch screen and of course was black and white. I used to enjoy lots of films and serials one of which was Quatermass, really scary and I watched it on my own. We were not allowed to watch much on Sundays nor do any sewing or knitting on a Sunday, it was a quiet day. I remember sitting on my dad’s knee every Sunday night listening to the hymns, on Sunday half hour before going to bed.


Sometimes my aunts and grandparents would spend some day with us, especially at the feast and we would all go to church.

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