Mary Stedman - How we used to live

I was born at North Kelsey but we came back here when I was very young. I can only remember living here. We lived in one of a row of cottages up the Bourne Road called Canister Hall Cottages. When they were pulled down the stone went to the British Steel works. My name was Johnson. My father did not really do anything. He was not a well man. At one time he used to go to Easton Golf Course and help there. Sometimes he would bring us some golf balls to play with. If he got a job he was poorly. My mother really did all the work. My mother came from Derbyshire. She came with the Blands to Colsterworth House where the Woodlands Estate is today. The Blands came here for the hunting. My mother was the cook. She had left school at 12 years old and went to live with her aunt who had a farm in Derbyshire. I do not know how she came to work for the Blands. Captain Bland had some stables built but he never used them as he was killed in the Great War. My mother was wrapping up a cake to send to him when Algy Skillington came with the telegram that said he had been killed. Mrs Bland was still in bed recovering from the birth of their daughter, Patricia. He never saw her.

Mrs Bland may have been affected by his death. She could never keep servants after and she came to church with her little Scottie terrier in her arms. She hugged and carried it all the time. My mother left when she got married but still went up sometimes to help with the washing. My father lived in one of the cottages by the George. When I started school, Mr Ball was about to retire. He was very nice; organist and choir master. Miss Ball used to teach. She had a chair spindle to punish children with. Miss Money was the infant teacher. She was disabled and she came from Burton Coggles in a wheel-chair which had no engine. She had to propel it herself by the use of her arms. She had irons supporting her legs and could walk only with sticks. Miss Money had two sisters, one, Mrs Pepper lived at The Limes where Colin Dickenson now lives. The other, Mrs Addlesee later Mrs Townsend, lived down where the Underwoods lived. We learned our ABC and our tables. We did have slates but not for long. Mr Harrison came after Mr Ball though a Miss Mackintosh was temporary head in between them. In sewing we made things for Mrs Harrison's daughters. If you didn't do it right she used to push up your sleeve and smack you with a ruler. It didn't half hurt.

The Harrisons had three daughters, Barbara, Kitty and Jimmie. Mr Harrison had the extra piece built onto his house for Jimmie. We went carol-singing there once and we stood on the lawn. Someone pulled open the curtains and we could see Jimmie in bed. It must have been when she had her baby. She married a man in the RAF and later went to live in Canada. I left school at 14 and went in service to the Rectory where the rector was the Rev. (Paddy) Mahon. I was at the Rectory for 4 years. I did everything, there was no other help. They had 5 boys and 1 girl but they were grown up and left home when I was there. One of the boys became a clergyman. Mrs Mahon did the cooking. They were here for 29 years, and he was still Rector when he died. Next, I went to Grantham to Tindall Lodge to work for Lawyer Thompson, the solicitors. I was parlour maid and I liked the job. I never really thought of doing anything else. All the girls went into service, it was the accepted thing. I liked waiting at table; it was a real occasion. Every night the family gathered round the dining room table, Major and Mrs Thompson, 2 girls and a boy, all adults. They used to get dressed up with the table set with the best silver and cut-glass table-ware shining in the light of the candelabra, and the finger bowls to hand. In the mornings I wore my working clothes, a gingham dress and a mob cap but in the afternoons I changed to my best dress and a proper maid's cap white with black velvet ribbons and an afternoon apron, also white and starched with a little lace decoration round it. I ate afterwards what was left. There was always plenty and very good food. They always had 6 courses: soup, fish, meat, sweet, savoury, cheese and biscuits and fruit. I was once taking in the savoury when I slipped on the kitchen floor and the scrambled egg on toast with an anchovy on top, went scattering all over the floor and the cook had to make some more quickly. They only ate small portions of everything but they did take a lot of preparation and a great deal of washing up.

The between maid had the job of cleaning the silver. Afterwards I was cook and I liked that as well. Mrs Thompson used to come every morning with her little note book and she would write things down and we would go into the pantry to see what was needed. Then Mrs Thompson would go down the town and order the items. Later errand boys would come up to the house on their bikes with baskets fixed to the front, to deliver the goods. When I was cook, I got home every Sunday. I had to leave a cold meal ready and the parlour maid had to serve it. I used to walk to the bus station and catch a bus. Sometimes I met up with Elsie Jessop who also worked in Grantham. Once we missed the bus and we walked home to Colsterworth. It took 2 hours. I have walked it twice. When I was the parlour maid, I got half a day off a week and every other Sunday. I met George at school I was 13 and he was 15. He used to hang around the school on his way to work and Mr Harrison used to clear him off. George used to work at Froddies as we called it. Appleby and Froddington it was really, and it ran the ironstone working before United Steel. George was drummer-up boy, making the tea and running the errands. Later he went into the electric shop and became an electrician. He also drove some of those great digging machines. I got married in February, 1940. Hilda and Fred Branston got married the same year on a Saturday in June, and Elsie and Charlie Jessop the next day after them. We lived with George's parents for 5 months at the shop and then moved to my present home where I have lived for 65 years. It was the Police House and it stood empty for 5 months until the Police relinquished it. The shop belonged to the Fosters but Mr Foster got killed in the Great War. They had Jim, Ellen and Emily. The 2 girls both died of consumption. Jim was ill but he went away and recovered.

George's parents lived in one of a row of cottages where Mrs Deamer lived. George's dad used to come to visit his sister who lived next door to George's grandmother. He fell for George's mother and he used to walk from Morton to see her. They were married at Colsterworth church. George's father was in the Navy and as they had to keep moving about, they left George with an aunt at South Witham. He was ill-treated there and when his mother heard, she fetched him and he was taken with his parents wherever they went - Scotland, Isle of Wight, Southampton etc. He came home here to finish his education at Colsterworth School. By then, Mrs Foster could not keep the shop. She and George's parents exchanged and George's mother ran the shop, and his father left the Navy. During the war she gave up the shop and ran a hostel for girls who came to work in the offices at United Steel, about 6 or 7 of them at a time. The shop sold everything you could think of: wallpaper, groceries, cigarettes, drapery and lots of other stuff. Under the plastic sheeting high on the wall on Stainby Road are paintings of saucepans and kettles. The house was condemned at one time before being bought for 500 and done up. The Bartletts used to live here with son Joshua and daughter Rosy. Now there is a couple whom I don't know. They had a thunderbolt down their chimney not long ago. They were going on their honeymoon that weekend. They still went. There was no electricity or water supply at the Rectory when I worked there. Soft water was collected in tanks and drinking water was fetched from the spring at the bottom of School Lane at the junction with Spring Lane, named after the spring. It is lovely water. Some people even came down from Back Lane to get their water. The spring now falls into the river from a pipe.>/p>

The lamps were kept in the kitchen window when not in use, about 8 of them. They had to be cleaned every day as the glasses would get sooty deposits on them. On a Monday morning I would often clear out 5 grates of their ashes and clinker. When it was really cold fires were lit in the bedrooms. Most bedrooms had a fireplace then. Though you didn't notice the cold. I slept over the north door. I actually had a carpet on the floor. There are 7 bedrooms there. I also had to empty and wash the chamber pots each day. It is a lovely house. We tried so hard to keep it from being sold off by the Church Authorities. As a rectory it was exactly in the right place. Babies were had at home; no-one went into hospital. There was a resident nurse in the village then. We had the British Isles here in those days - the school master, George Harrison, was English; the doctor was Scotch; the nurse, Mrs Young, was Welsh and the rector, the Rev. Paddy Mahon was Irish. I remember the opening ceremony for the new surgery on Back Lane. When the children were older, Susan was 9, I went to work at Froddies. Mr Rudd came and asked me to go and help in the canteen. Marjorie Reed had cut her hand on a broken tea-pot and Miss Stuart who lived in Jo`s house which she bought for 1000 - I went for a week and stayed 23 years, dogsbody at first and then as cook.

Later I went to work at Stoke College for 2 years and then for Mrs Stafford up at the doctor's house. I went 4 mornings a week for 10 years. It is a huge house. Dr Styles had it built. Before that the doctor's house was Acacia Cottage down the High Street. Doctor Heaven was there. His wife was the organist. George's grandma was the first to be buried in the School Lane cemetery. The farms in the village belonged to Smith, White, Woolerton, and the Modds, and the Doves were before the Modds in the Dean's house. The maid at the Harrison's used to sleep in the little box room and wave to me up at the Rectory through the tiny window. Alice was her name. Mary Simms lived at Woolsthorpe at the shop where Margaret now lives. There is nobody left that I was at school with. The last one was George Hollingsworth; wife Annie on Back Lane. He was one day older than me. Mrs Preston who lived down the Stainby Road from us, we called her Mrs Chukkie Preston because she kept chickens. She used to keep the pig on her hearth. We used to go and buy a 1d`s worth of apples. She went to Grantham market on a Saturday and take bits and bobs from her garden. Another old chap who lived behind Mrs Deamer, used to go over to the Foxhole Springs and collect water-cress to sell in Grantham. I was told that there were 13 pubs in Colsterworth at one time; I can recall 5. Jo's house was a pub called the Drum and Monkey. Miss Manton lived there when I was young.

We used to go and earn a few pennies for the Sunday School outing by picking the gooseberries for her. We used to stuff some up our knicker legs. One day she came out to see how we were getting on and when we walked they started to fall out. She said` You're spilling them` The Sunday School outing was to Skegness usually. We went in a coach: either a Rex bus run by the Porters, or a Gem bus, run by the Blankleys. The Rev. Mahon took the Sunday School and Mrs Mahon played the organ. It was quite a big Sunday School. It was lovely. The church gates were broken long ago in some feud or ill-feeling, I don`t know what. They have never been properly repaired. Old Charlie Symmonds (C P Symmonds) had something to do with it. George and I were married on a Sunday morning at 9 a.m. by special licence. Mrs Gadsby was there. My mother and sister went to Holy Communion at 8 a.m. and dad and I went down in Hilda Branston's brother's car, and met them there. It was all snow and ice. I wore a 3-piece suit and a long coat to match, in petrol blue. I carried a prayer book. In the old days special licenses were issued by the Bishop. There were no bells and no confetti. We had a reception at the shop, just the family. At church, Sunday services were: 8 a.m. Holy Communion, 9 a.m. Sung Holy Communion, 11 a.m. Matins. Sunday School at 2.30 and Evensong at 6 p.m. Some people and children went to them all. There were over 30 in the choir, only men and boys, no females.