Grandmas Gleanings from Newton's Woolsthorpe

Recollections from a Lincolnshire Hamlet By Margaret Anne Winn Published in 1994 Copyright M. A. Winn 1994

This is a collection of stories and facts, recording the childhood of the Robinson children and their way of life growing up in Woolsthorpe in the early 1900's.

Chapter 2 Going Gleaning

Whilst Fred was serving at the Front in the Great War Lizzie went out to work to help feed her family. She went to Weston's Farm, Stainby, where she cleaned, cooked and washed. On churning day she earned 2/6d and on Mondays, wash days, she got 2 shillings. She had to walk or cycle, there and back, about 3 miles each way. At harvest time she went to work in the fields, stooking the corn, tying up the sheaves and gleaning. Gleaning meant going round the fields after the reaper, picking up the ears of corn which had been missed or dropped. For this work the gleaner was allowed to keep a percentage of the gleanings. Wheat was milled into flour for the family to make into bread and barley was milled and used to feed the family pig. The gleanings were taken to Watson's Mill on top of Merrycock Hill.

This hill is no longer there now as it was removed during the iron-ore mining. It ran up from Water Lane, opposite the footpath known locally as Giles' Hill, and went around the Post Lane Cemetery to join up with the road again. As a child my Mother remembered two mills at Woolsthorpe: Thompson's Mill was on the hill at the top of Spring House garden. It was a ruin, a huge thimble, with stone steps leading up to the sky and no roof. The children used to play in it. Watson's Mill was a working windmill, with wooden sails. It was set on a smallholding with a paddock. Earlier, in the 16500s when Isaac Newton was a small boy, it was recorded that three Post Mills were constructed in a similar area of Woolsthorpe. He made a diagram on the wall of the Manor kitchen and, according to his notebook, constructed a working model of such a windmill. During the time that Lizzie worked in the fields Annie, the eldest, looked after the home and the younger children. A difficult job no doubt! And Helen recalled that sometimes Annie was a hard taskmaster.

Once, being smacked by Annie for some disobedience and feeling unjustly punished, she said, I'll tell mother of you!! Throughout the day the smack mark began to fade, so she kept hitting herself to make it red and keep it visible until teatime when Mother came home! Later on, when Annie had gone to live at Pond Farm, with her Mother's cousin Lucy Fovargue, nee Pell, the rest of the family would be taken gleaning and my Mother often remarked that it was no wonder that she suffered from backache in later life, with whole days spent in the fields with backs bent and heavy loads to carry or push home on the old pram. Sometimes when Annie was in charge of the younger ones she would decide that they would bake cakes and have a party. This could not happen immediately as extras were just not available for such events, so the girls would save up the ingredients butter from their bread and butter, sugar from their tea, etc..

When enough had been gathered and bits borrowed from Mother's pantry, they would bake the cakes and treat themselves to a Party! Eggs were never a problem as the family always kept hens. Later on during the Second World War (when fresh food was scarce) my Mother used to say the only way to get through a crowd, was to shout loudly, 'Mind these eggs'. everyone would part to let you pass and no doubt follow to see if there were any eggs to be had! Another favourite war-time saying was - 'If we had any bacon we could have bacon and eggs' - if we had any eggs!!

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